The United States Air Force is not satisfied with how jets, satellites, and missiles are designed. It now wants to change how new aircraft and weapons are made.
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Will Roper, the Air Force’s top acquisition and technology official, saw how Boeing and Saab designed its new fighter jet. After seeing the process, he realized that the military’s way of devising new planes, missiles, and other weapons should be changed.
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Boeing and Saab relied on computer models to test system designs of T-7 Red Hawk trainer aircraft and to solve the plane’s inconsistencies. This kind of approach is less time-consuming compared to physically arranging the aircraft’s advanced system together.
Currently, Roper wants to change this kind of process using computer-generated models, powered by artificial intelligence to test millions of possible designs in a virtual format before developing prototypes.
At first, he was impressed because of T-7 Red Hawk’s low price.
“For me, the Sputnik moment was looking under the hood at T-7,” said Roper.
“The airplane came in at a much lower cost than we expected, which begs the question: How? That took me on the odyssey of how it was designed and assembled,” he added.
Roper was surprised after discovering that T-7’s design process used “digital threading.” The designers used this technique to create the jet’s digital twin before manufacturing it.
The process allows them to test and modify the aircraft’s systems with various configurations throughout its design. Roper recognized that the new digital design process removed the traditional way of creating an aircraft.
He added that digital thread allows automated checks to happen in the background while the product is being modified. On the other hand, manually designing an aircraft enables the designers to see small differences in parts of an airplane or jet, preventing future accidents since they could quickly fix it.
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Written by: Giuliano de Leon.