Mothballing an Assembly Line

The last F-22 Raptor will roll off the assembly line in Marietta, Georgia next year. While there are no plans to restart the line, the existing 184 planes are expected to be in service until 2040. Over the next 30 years, the planes will be repeatedly upgraded and overhauled. In order to smooth the process, the Air Force ordered Lockheed to place the tools, dies, and other equipment needed in manufacturing into storage.

As the last plane moves through the line, workers will disassemble and crate each machine. Each crate gets labeled with an RFID tag indicating its contents, and then placed in shipping container, and shipped off to the Sierra Army Depot for storage.

However, Lockheed is going a step further. Not only are they archiving all the material and technical plans needed to make a Raptor, they’re also attempting to record all the unwritten knowledge that the assembly workers have learned in their years of building these planes. Archivists are filming, photographing, and interviewing workers performing their jobs. All this knowledge will then compiled into what Lockheed terms a “smart book.” Lockheed hopes that this record will help preserve some of the institutional memory about the Raptor, especially since Lockheed claims to have reduced the manufacturing time of a single plane by a third since production started eight years ago.