Without right to repair, the military can't fix its own battlefield equipment

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/11/22/sabotage-by-warranty.html


The equipment supplied these days is a far cry from the tech of the '90s and prior. The level of expertise necessary to maintain modern avionics has gone way up, but the standard of O-level and I-level maintenance and training has not followed suit, for many reasons.

Could the fleet be trained on supplied adequately to perform maintenance themselves? Perhaps, but this decision to forgo self-sustainability and instead rely on contractor support was made by the Military branches years ago. So long as the availability metrics are met, nothing will change.

I work at a large company that makes things that go zoom and whoosh.


other reasons notwithstanding but:

ship their faulty gear back to the USA for warranty repair

if you repair it yourself, you loose the warranty, simple as that.

That is categorically, positively, absolutely untrue:


Maybe the real issue with having to ship expensive equipment all the way back to the other side of the world isn’t DRM but, you know… imperialist warmongering?


Exactly! Finally we have a positive side to the death of the right to repair.


By any standard, the US military budget is obscenely bloated. And this story gives a clue to how that works-we aren’t buying any real extra capability with all that treasure, its just a givaway to military contractors.

Its kind of like a high tech version of the old problem of over reliance on mercenary forces. While these companies are technically domestic, its not as if they have any real skin in the game…


This was a really big reason why the war on terror was such bullshit too. GWB and all his buddies were deeply involved in military contractors and he decided to wage a few wars of convenience to line all his friends’ pockets.

In the eyes of GWB, and Cheney and pretty much anyone in the GOP these days, a few tens of thousands of brown foreigners’ lives is certainly worth a few hundred million dollars. Just put them right up there on the combo altar to mammon and moloch and we got ourselves a barbecue.


how does fly with plowing the fields and scatter the land guys

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Late-stage capitalism eventually starts eating its own guard labour.


Poor Private Snafu…


I fully support right to repair, but I interpret that article very differently than Cory. It sounds like the primary issue is that the military has become locked into bad contracts (perhaps due to economic forces, or perhaps due to trying to reduce costs) with manufacturers. They are contractually prevented from repairing the gear, not legally or physically prevented from doing so. This isn’t a story about the evils of DRM. It’s a story about the sad state of the military industrial complex, and the people at the top choosing not to enable the troops to repair their gear.


That’s pretty much it, but theres another layer. The military has switched from low-tech, high volume products to high-tech, low volume. Back when the air force would buy 10,000 of a thing it made sense to have trained repair technicians. But now the air force may buy less than 200 of a thing, and deploy them all over the world, and it doesnt make as much sense to have trained repair techs for that thing.


I work in radio astronomy, but I used a Curtiss-Wright military-style circuit board for a spectrometer because they were the only company with the wherewithal to build a product capable of meeting the speed requirements. There was no competitive offering.

Well, the thing died after 2 years. Now I’m getting ready to send this board back to have it repaired. Never mind the right to repair, these things are not easy to repair. And I say that as a person who once designed, built and repaired circuit boards such as this, for a company that was bought by C-W.

The previous generation of spectrometer filled several racks and had a small fraction of the capabilities, but it was repairable on site. On the other hand, it needed lots of maintenance, so never worked well after the original maintenance person retired.

It’s a series of trade-offs. I’d prefer that our county’s priorities were on domestic well-being rather than ‘world policing’ or whatever this imperialistic behavior is called these days.


If your and your fellow soldiers lives depend on having equipment that works, it makes a lot of sense to be able to repair it in the field rather than having to send it back to USA and hope the enemy is polite enough to wait until you get it back.


Indeed. There are three levels of maintenance though: Operator level, intermediate level, and depot level. For complex modern avionics, o-level repairs is pretty much “box swapping”. I-level is mainly “card swappin” within the boxes, and d-level is done by the manufacturer and involves card rework and repair.

So long as there are sufficient O-level and I-level spares on hand the parts can be kept serviceable. Repairs aren’t prevented, but complex repairs are kept at a level that makes sense for the military


Totally- this makes a lot of sense, and I see that now in the article as well. Thanks for the additional context!

If that’s not on your business card, it should be.


Honestly, if this restricts the capability of the US military to kill people overseas, that is very good.

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