During World War II, aerospace manufacturing became a cornerstone of military strategy. Aircraft, ranging from fighter planes to bombers, were essential for gaining air superiority and executing strategic bombing campaigns. The United States emerged as an industrial powerhouse, producing vast quantities of aircraft to support the war effort. The success of the Allied air campaign? Aerospace supply chains.

One notable instance is the rapid production and delivery of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. The B-17 was a critical long-range bomber used extensively in strategic bombing missions over Europe. The efficient supply chain ensured that these bombers were not only produced in large numbers but were also consistently equipped with the necessary spare parts and munitions.

The ability to manufacture, assemble, and maintain aircraft at an unprecedented pace was a testament to the effectiveness of aerospace supply chains. The United States' industrial infrastructure, coupled with well-established logistics networks, allowed for the seamless flow of materials and components from various suppliers to assembly plants. This, in turn, enabled the mass production of aircraft that played a decisive role in achieving air superiority over the Axis powers.

Whether it's a seasoned veteran in the skies or state-of-the-art aircraft fresh off the assembly line, the key to keeping your program soaring is a top-notch logistics chain and a seamless supply of parts. Look no further than Greenwood Aerospace — your go-to expert in:

We're not just a company; we're your wingman in the world of aviation support.

What sets us apart? Everything from fixed-wing aircraft and their essential support systems to aircraft parts and accessories, we've got you covered. Dive into the intricate world of military aircraft parts. Need a safe haven for your aviation essentials? Think of us as your personal hangar, offering storage and distribution services tailored to meet your organization's every need.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Greenwood Aerospace can do. Curious about how we can elevate your defense and military operations? Explore the full spectrum of our services and capabilities.

Ready to take your aviation program to new heights? Connect with us to learn more about our services. Email us at sales@governmentprocurement.com, or reach out through our contact page.

Join us as we explore the aerospace supply chain and its tiers, as well as what Greenwood Aerospace provides for all your supply chain needs.

A jet engine turbine is presented stripped of its casing to give viewers a clear view of its inner workings

What are the Aerospace Supply Chain Tiers?

The aerospace supply chain has won the most pivotal parts of the entire aviation operations process. Without a strong supply chain, there is no aviation operation.

The supply chain is not one object that works in a single direction; it is made up of multiple tiers of operation, which is what we’re going to be talking about today.

There are three primary tiers in the aerospace supply chain process: Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. Each one plays a different and crucial role in aerospace parts' overall supply chain system.

You can think of the first here in the aerospace supply chain as the real prime mover. These are the original equipment manufacturers. These are Pratt & Whitney, Rolls Royce, Textron, and so on. The first-tier suppliers make the end products like engines. 

The second tier of the supply chain system is the manufacturers of systems and their components.

First-Tier Suppliers

First-tier suppliers are the manufacturers of major systems. So these would be the landing gear; it’ll be the engines and any major control surfaces that the OEM manufactures.

While Tier 2 aerospace parts suppliers bear a significant burden in ensuring the timely delivery of large parts for the total tier, one component, Tier 1 suppliers, ultimately holds all of the liability.

A Tier 1 supplier like Rolls-Royce must meet their deadlines with Boeing, Airbus, Raytheon, etc.

Other examples of first-tier suppliers include: 

  1. General Electric Aviation (GE Aviation): GE Aviation is a leading provider of aircraft engines, systems, and avionics. They play a crucial role in powering various commercial and military aircraft.
  2. Boeing: While Boeing is a major aerospace manufacturer, it also operates as a supplier to other aerospace companies. Boeing provides various components, systems, and services to the aerospace industry, including avionics and defense systems.
  3. Airbus Group: Similar to Boeing, Airbus is a major aircraft manufacturer, but it also serves as a first-tier supplier, supplying components and systems to the broader aerospace industry.
  4. United Technologies Corporation (UTC): UTC, now part of Raytheon Technologies, was a diversified company that provided aerospace systems and components, including aircraft engines through its Pratt & Whitney division.
  5. Safran Group: Safran is a French multinational aerospace and defense company known for its involvement in aircraft propulsion, landing gear, and other critical aerospace systems.
  6. Raytheon Technologies: Formed through the merger of Raytheon and United Technologies, Raytheon Technologies is a major player in the aerospace and defense industry, providing a wide range of products and services, including avionics and missile systems.
  7. Northrop Grumman: While primarily a defense contractor, Northrop Grumman is involved in the aerospace supply chain, providing various systems, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and aerospace electronics.

It doesn’t matter what happens in the second tier and the third tier of the supply chain, first tier suppliers bear the ultimate burden of delivering that jet engine or that flight control service to whoever they are designing and manufacturing it for.

Second-Tier Suppliers

Second-tier suppliers are suppliers of major structural components and major mechanical components.

So this could be anti-icing boots, this could be tires, this could be brakes.

And this is to say nothing of the entire electronic suite on the aircraft. Thousands of different electronic components make up the entire avionics suite.

The symbiotic relationship between Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies cannot be overstated. Tier 1 assets never are produced without a reliable supply chain from Tier 2 assets.

The second tier and the aerospace supply chain process is the middle of the funnel if you will. These vendors have a tremendous amount of liability and responsibility in the overall process of supplying Tier 1 suppliers Tier 2 assets are critical for the overall build of Tier 1 products. 

Tier 2 suppliers must ensure that all Tier 3 suppliers provide them with the right parts and the necessary quality of parts.

An aircraft sits docked in a warehouse, as maintenance crews provide comprehensive service

Third Tier Suppliers

Third-tier suppliers are every bit as critical as Tier 2 to the Tier 1 process, although certainly not on the same scale.

There includes hardware for the windows, AN fittings, hydraulic lines, and tens of thousands of other various small items to make up the sum of the whole aircraft.

A detailed look at the inner workings of aircraft equipment

But nobody can argue that a failed AN fitting can’t ruin the entire day. A single failed AN fitting can dump an entire hydraulic system in seconds if it’s under pressure.

Tier 3 products in the aerospace supply chain system work, though, is that they are generally shipped directly to Tier 2 providers.

Tier 3 parts are individual parts or components that are always used to make up the greater sum of an entire system or subsystem, so for the assembly of an aircraft, they are going to go to the Tier 2 supplier to be built into the component before the ship to a Tier 1 supplier.

While Tier 3 aerospace part suppliers do not carry as much of the overall burden and liability as Tier 1 and Tier 2 aerospace parts providers, they still have an enormous responsibility to deliver parts. After all, all major aircraft systems and major components are just the sum of their parts. Third-tier items are the building blocks, the very foundation of every major system, and major component.

Why Supply Chain Tiers are Crucial

Whereas MROs are focused on one specific area, they have a niche. They are not supporting or servicing the whole aircraft. The entire market is broken down into little tiny pieces if you look at it.

Major aviation or aerospace parts suppliers cannot keep up with the millions of parts and pieces required to make up an entire aircraft. It is best if Tier 1 aerospace parts suppliers focus on major components like engines. This is where they shine.

A close-up of an aircraft turbine.

Tier 2 suppliers excel in providing major components for the systems. Tire manufacturers generally don’t delve into avionics systems, and vice versa, and for a good reason also, the legal requirements of liability are stifling.

There are a series of very specific ISO certifications that these suppliers must obtain in order to produce aerospace parts.

Mostly, the supply chain tiers are important to ensure timely delivery of parts. There is no way that a single supplier could manufacture and control the input and output of the tens of millions of parts and components that go into every finished tier-one product be impossible for them to track that with any level of efficiency or speed.

How Greenwood Aerospace Supports All Supply Chain Tiers

It is hard to understand the complex ecosystem of the aerospace supply chain, especially the tiers of it. But when you look at them, they didn’t make sense: Tier 1 aerospace supply chain suppliers are there to deliver the largest completed items like engines. Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers are there to support that overall goal. But how do you get access to any of these? How do you procure them?

Greenwood Aerospace is your trusted partner in all aerospace supply chain procurement issues. We also handle MIL-SPEC packaging, delivery, and warehousing. Call us to start the process or start an online quote; we will be thrilled to help you!

Want to learn all about the aerospace supply chain? Read these News stories from GovernmentProcurement.com next: 

  1. What Does the U.S. Navy Supply Chain Have to Do With Aerospace?
  2. Understanding the Government Supply Chain for Aerospace & Aircraft Industries
  3. Staying Compliant: Understanding Government Regulations on Supply Chain Management
  4. Supply Chain Resilience: Ensuring U.S. Naval Aviation Readiness