NARRATIVE BY ADDO ADDISON & IMAGES BY MARK ROURKE WITH ADDITIONAL IMAGES KINDLY SUPPLIED BY RUAG
RUAG develops and markets internationally sought-after technology applications in the fields of aerospace and defence for use on land, in the air and in space. 57% of RUAG’s products and services are destined for the civil market and 43% for the military market.
The Group is headquartered in Berne, Switzerland. It has production sites in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Sweden, Hungary, Australia and the USA. Around 8,100 employees, of whom 410 are trainees, generate sales of some CHF 1.8 billion.
The RUAG Group is comprised of five divisions, of which Pixelsnipers have reported on the first three.
Pixelsnipers.com was privileged to visit the Space, Aviation & Aerostructures facilities in Emmen, Switzerland. There are approximately 800 employees working in Emmen (next to Emmen Air Force Base) of which approximately 10% are apprentices.
Aerostructures (Emmen site)
RUAG Emmen Aerostructures are the preferred partner of OEM’s ( Original Equipment Manufacturer) for the design and production of peripheral wing components such as the winglets for the Airbus A330 and the wing tip & fences for the Airbus A320 and A380 airliners. Also produced and repaired on site are underwing components such as fuel drop tanks for the French built Rafale and for the Swedish SAAB Gripen C/D aircraft. RUAG Aerostructures are the global first-tier supplier for the design and production of complete fuselage sections at their German site located at Oberpfaffenhoffen.
Another building at the Emmen site is dedicated to making the outer fixed trailing edge for the Airbus A380 wings. Some of the components are milled from solid blocks of aluminium in sophisticated automated milling machines, assembled on site and shipped by truck to Airbus Final Assembly Lines in France and England, where they are fitted to the wings. In an adjacent building they manufacture the front ends of the engine nacelles for General Electric (GE) engines. These are also milled in multi-million CHF milling machines from forgings of aluminium, hand finished to exacting Swiss standards.
RUAG also manufacture the basic fuselage and wings for the PC-21 on behalf of Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. Whilst on the tour Pixelsnipers.com saw six such assemblies in the same building as the winglets for the A330 and the wing tip fences for the A380’s. Once the basic fuselage & wing manufacture is completed these parts are then taken by road to Pilatus Aircraft Ltd at their facility in Stans-Buochs.
There is practically no waste of materials at RUAG, with all of the milled aluminium(spoil/waste) being collected in large containers throughout the plant. These are then taken to a compressing area within the facility and compressed to an aluminium “nugget”. The nuggets are then sent to a smelting plant off-site where they are made back into solid aluminium blocks, that are ultimately then reused as part of the manufacturing process again.
Customers and partners of RUAG include Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Dassault Aviation, GE Aviation, Northrop Grumman, Pilatus and SAAB.
To complete the tour of the Emmen facility we were permitted access to the aviation elements of the site. RUAG Aviation is a leading supplier, support provider and integrator of systems and components for civil and military aviation.
The company’s core competencies include: maintenance, repair and overhaul services, upgrades as well as development, manufacturing and integration of subsystems on aircraft and helicopters – throughout their entire service life. RUAG Aviation is a partner to the Swiss armed forces as well as many other international air forces.
It is also the sole manufacturer (OEM) of the Dornier 228, a versatile aircraft designed for specialist missions as well as passenger and cargo operations.
In a dedicated building at the RUAG Emmen site, RUAG Aviation workers perfom routine maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) tasks as well as modifications and mid-life upgrades on the Swiss Air Force’s F/A-18C/D fleet. Those undergoing routine MRO are being returned to service again in flyable condition and the same configuration compared to when they arrived at RUAG. The mid-life upgrades however will ensure that the aircraft will be fit to continue for many years to come and or until a suitable replacement airframe can be found to meet the requirements of the Swiss Air Force.
The Swiss have three operational F/A-18C/D Squadrons; Fliegerstaffel 11 at Merinigen and Fliegerstaffel 17 & 18 at Payerne. The Swiss Air Force also has a significant number of F-5E Tiger II aircraft on their inventory.
44 former Swiss AF F-5’s were sold to the United States Navy due to the still very good condition of aircraft and the relatively low flight hours they had. To date these aircraft are still in service.
Until recently (2014) RUAG Aviation was also responsible for the upgrade and integration of new sub-systems (mainly a glass cockpit) into the Swiss AF AS.332-M1 Super Puma fleet. This programme has been successfully completed and all 15 helicopters are back in operations with the air force. In the meantime, another mid-life upgrade programme for the AS.532UL Cougar helicopters is being defined as RUAG Aviation was awarded the contract for the prototype work. The Swiss AF has six Squadrons of AS.332M-1, AS.532UL and EC635 helicopters located at three bases within Switzerland. LT St 1 & 5 at Payerne, LT St 3 & 4 at Dübendorf, & LT St 6 & 8 at Alpnach.
RUAG Aviation offers the following services and products to all customers;
- Independent life cycle support for selected military and civil aircraft.
- Services for military aviation
- Maintenance, repair and overhaul
- System upgrades & engineering
- Factory flight tests
- Interior modifications & painting
- Support & consulting
Services for business aviation include;
• Maintenance, repair and overhaul
• System upgrades & engineering
• Interior maintenance
• Support & consulting
• Dornier 228 including life cycle support
• Self-Protection Solutions
Customers and Partners of RUAG Aviation include the Swiss Air Force, German Bundeswehr, Royal Australian Air Force, Bombardier, Dassault, Embraer, Airbus Group, Airbus Helicopters, Pilatus, Boeing, General Electric, Northrop Grumman and Saab.
RUAG Aviation has several bases around the World including, Switzerland, Germany, USA, Australia, Malaysia & Brazil that as of 2014 has produced net sales of CHF 525 Million and EBIT CHF 38 Million.
In another building (which is climate controlled), the outer payload fairings are assembled for the Ariane 5, the Atlas V and a number of other launch vehicles. Each half of the fairing weighs approximately 1 tonne and is constructed from lightweight carbon fibre reinforced honeycomb materials.
The outer payload fairings are a “once only use” item used to protect the payloads atop either the Ariane 5 or the Atlas V space vehicles.
Since the inception of the programme, RUAG Space has been responsible for the development and manufacture of payload fairings, which as stated, protect satellites or other payloads on the nose of the launch vehicle from the immense forces to which they are exposed on their journey into space.
The fairings are assembled in two sections, once completed they are shipped in their matching two halves first by road to a port (normally in France as Switzerland is land-locked) and then by sea either to the United States of America (Atlas V) or to French Guiana (Ariane 5) where they are attached to the launch vehicles.
Pixelsnipers.com would like to extend out thanks to Reto Ambauen, Rachel Gisiger, Fabian Kölliker and Marc Wenger for their assistance and arranging our very comprehensive and very informative visit at RUAG, Emmen.