Taking a page from the Cold War, the US Air Force has announced that it is introducing a new “eSeries” classification for US military air and space hardware. At the virtually-held 2020 Air Force Association Air, Space, and Cyber Conference, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett told attendees that the new classification, which will be indicated by an “e” prefix”, would be used for aircraft, weapons, and satellites that have been digitally engineered and virtually tested before a physical example is ever built.
In the 1950s, the US Air Force was introducing new fighter aircraft so frequently that the hangars looked like a car dealership in the middle of a battle for market dominance. However, this wasn’t due to sales competition or an overenthusiastic defense budget, but rather a way to very rapidly bring new technologies online.
Informally called the Century Series, these aircraft, which included the North American F-100 Super Sabre, McDonnell F-101 Voodoo, Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, Republic F-105 Thunderchief, and Convair F-106 Delta Dart were a way to produce supersonic fighter-bombers and interceptors with advanced avionics and airframes and get them into service quickly without having to wait a decade or two for all of the mature technologies to come together in a single, super-advanced aircraft.
Now, the Air Force is trying for a similar paradigm shift by copying the process that is being used to develop the Boeing eT-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer. Instead of the conventional method of relying heavily on prototype aircraft and physical models for development work, the eSeries will use digital twins that by way of computer model-based engineering and 3D design tools will be fully designed and tested virtually before the physical version is assembled.
By doing so, the Air Force says that it can reduce assembly hours by 80 percent and software development time by 50 percent. This means that an aircraft, as demonstrated by the eT-7A Red Hawk, can go from first design to first flight in only 36 months. In addition, thousands or even millions of iterations of an aircraft, satellite, or weapon can be made digitally and tested before the best one is selected for actual manufacturing.
“To inspire companies to embrace the possibilities presented by digital engineering, today the Department of the Air Force is announcing a new weapons system designator – the ‘e’ series,” says Barrett. “Aircraft, satellites, weapon systems, and more that are digitally engineered will receive an ‘e’ prefix.”
Source: US Air Force
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