RFID Talk Blog

RFID could save the U.S. Navy $250M in annual maintenance costs

In a day and age when the government is trying to trim its budget, RFID can offer a significant savings. Placing RFID tags on missiles used by the U.S. Navy and by NATO, for example, could save up to $300 million in unneeded maintenance costs a year.

Ten months after awarding a contract to ODIN to outfit NATO SeaSparrow missiles with RFID technology, the first RFID-enabled missile left the manufacturing facility this week en route to its port destination.

The RFID system will provide NATO with comprehensive tracking of humidity, vibration, temperature, shock and other vital information for the unit, potentially saving NATO millions when it comes to maintenance procedures. According to sources, each NATO missile undergoes an annual maintenance program, at a cost of approximately $100,000 per missile. More often than not, the missiles are in perfect working order and end up getting the expensive tune ups much earlier than actually required.

An RFID-enabled NATO missile leaves its manufacturing facility for an unnamed port.

By deploying RFID to measure environmental factors like temperature, vibration, humidity and the amount of salt air the units are exposed to, NATO can push those inspections out to 24 to 30 month intervals, resulting in huge cost savings while at the same time ensuring those missiles that have had a tough life get serviced when they need it. This could prevent premature failures that are a danger to the warfighter.

“What we are doing for the Navy is developing a system that gives timely feedback on moisture, humidity, temperature, and the number of times g-forces exceed 1.5 Gs,” says Patrick Sweeney, CEO and founder of ODIN, which has transitioned from small weapons tracking to working on large defense projects like the missile program.

When any of the above readings reach a pre-determined threshold, the RFID tags and sensors trigger a signal indicating the unit needs maintenance. The system relies on a combination of active tags and sensors, as well as passive RFID technology.

According to the paperwork the Navy submitted to Congress to gain funding for the project, each missile costs between $1 and $2.5 million to build. Proper maintenance tracking and handling can have a material impact on missile useful life and warfighter safety by preventing pre-mature failures in the missile systems, for example, which renders them inoperable.

For every one percent decrease in missile failures driven by RFID technology, the government estimates a savings of up to $10 million. The Navy first began to look at RFID technology for this use case back in the 1990s. However, the technology wasn’t mature enough at the time and was too costly. The major development in this area was the vast performance improvement of on-metal tags.

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