The U.S. Air Force now flies, but very secretly a sixth-generation stealth fighter jet; the new Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM); and the U.S. Army’s emerging Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle as successful examples of accelerated, high-tech programs that exploded on the scene earlier than expected.
This is due to the fact that computer simulations are now able to mimic weapon performance parameters and key technical details with great fidelity and accuracy, a technical breakthrough that enables developers to weapons the opportunity to evaluate many designs without having to spend years of “bending metal” to make construction prototypes. The design details and specifications of the weapon can all be examined in great detail through “digital engineering,” a high-tech method of weapon inspections using computer simulation to optimize progress.
Bell’s Invictus 360, a scout helicopter currently being offered by the U.S. Army’s Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program, is also rapidly advancing digital computer simulation. The new, sleek, stealthy-looking helicopter is already 90 percent complete awaiting the new General Electric-built Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) engine, but many of the subsystems, weapons, sensors, and its communication system has been refined and further improved. by computer simulation. Bell built a dedicated Systems Integration Lab (SIL), described in part as a deconstructed version of the aircraft, which includes advanced computer modeling and a cockpit simulator.
“Actually, we flew the plane today in this simulation lab and all the same components that were on the plane. We used power generators and so on, and really flew the plane now. It was a high fidelity. “We will fly every mission that we fly on an SIL prototype. Before we fly, the pilots will first do all the testing of the SIL aircraft, and then they will fly,” Chris Gehler said. , vice president and director of the FARA program at Bell, said. The National Interest in an interview.
Part of SIL’s work is naturally dedicated to what Bell’s weapon developers call “pilot assist,” meaning safety features built to protect pilots and advanced computing that are engineered to make the organization’s vital. data and cockpit analysis functions.
“What we want to do is have a lot of pilot assistance available on the plane, weapon systems, and mission equipment to help the pilot on the plane but also help him stay safe while he manages the field. in battle. , ”Gehler explained.
Some of the safety tests, for example, are designed to identify and refine “emergency” procedures based on how the aircraft may be damaged over time or affected by enemy weapons.
“It has divided partitions for safety reasons for flight aspects and for mission equipment, but runs in the same type of tunnel with open standard parameters. The Army provides everything. “in the design space so they can carry weapon systems, a new update to aircraft safety. It’s an integrated modular avionics approach rather than a federated standalone system,” Gehler explained.
Bell engineers explained that part of the Invictus development has to do with specific synergies of technologies also developed for the V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft currently being offered for the upcoming Long Range Assault Aircraft. Army program.
“Between our 360 and our 280, we have a common digital backbone and very common flight control computers. In fact, this is an approach that is really part of integrated modular avionics, with different aspects of system safety. for flight controls, and mission equipment, ”Gehler said.
Kris Osborn is the Editor of Defense for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army — Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn also works as an anchor and on-air military specialist on national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
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