Video Above: Navy Connects Air, Surface, Underseas Drones
The use of digital engineering has exploded onto the scene when it comes to weapons developers, testing and assessments as well as design modeling for major new platforms and technologies.
Many credit the digital engineering process as largely responsible for why the Air Force’s 6th-generation stealth fighter has taken to the skies nearly 10 years earlier than expected. The services’ Ground Based Strategic Deterrent new ICBM and several hypersonic weapons have been massively accelerated due to the success of digital engineering techniques.
Computer simulations can now very closely replicate performance parameters of large weapons platforms and enable extensive testing, a process which enables weapons developers to analyze multiple design possibilities without having to “bend metal” and build prototypes.
Algorithms, and computer modeling has become so precise that many advocates explain it can replicate the operational impact and performance of weapons systems and new technological systems, without anything needing to be built.
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DDG X Next-Generation Destroyer
This process is also likely a key reason why the Navy is making rapid progress on conceptual work on its DDG X next-generation destroyer program. While a hull design has not as of yet been decided upon, Navy and industry weapons developers are now using advanced computer simulations to assess different design configurations.
“For the whole farm, we are doing modeling and simulation for multiple different versions of a hull form. Once we lock down the actual configuration of the hull, we'll do more modeling and simulation and more testing of the hull in the basin to see how it performs.” Katie Connelly, the deputy program manager for the DDG X program office, told an audience at the 2022 Surface Navy Association Symposium.
Modeling and simulation is also now being pursued for the Navy’s Integrated Power Systems (IPS) being developed for the ship, Connelly said. The IPS is an electric drive propulsion system which brings the added advantage of generating unprecedented volumes of power and energy to support the ships weapons systems, command and control, computing and radar.
Technological advances have enabled developers to engineer weapons with greatly improved capacity, however many of them rely upon much greater amounts of expeditionary power. A ship electric drive can help support this, and it is yet another area of focus for digital engineering efforts.
“With the integrated power system, we're starting with modeling and simulation using different models that have the components and integrating them together and seeing how they perform as hardware becomes available. We'll start integrating that as hardware and then eventually we will have a land based test site that gets stood up in Philadelphia to do all of the IPS integration testing,” Connelly said.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven - the Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.