Wichita St. lands $100 million US Air Force award for aeronautical research
WICHITA — The B-1 System Program Office (SPO), Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, on Wednesday awarded a six-year, $100 million follow-on contract to the University’s National Institute for Aeronautical Research (NIAR). of Wichita State to pursue the digital transformation of B-1 Engineering (DE), according to a press release from WSU.
The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) helped form the strategic partnership and created a flexible contract structure, which allows NIAR and B-1 SPO to adapt requirements in real time to meet critical warfighter needs .
According to Lt. Col. Joseph Lay, B-1 SPO Materiel Manager for Structures, “This project brings the B-1 into the same realm as newly designed aircraft and allows numerical modeling to predict future areas of concern. This will allow the OPS to proactively develop repairs, reduce the cost and schedule of parts procurement by eliminating the burden of interpreting old Air Force (AF) drawings, and increase the number of suppliers capable of producing parts for the B-1 platform. . DE will not only help reduce the time needed to develop repairs but also to install them. We will be able to develop and test repairs well in advance, virtually guaranteeing first-time success and improving aircraft availability.
While new AF systems are born digital, the transition to DE for legacy systems is complicated by a variety of factors, including return on investment throughout the platform lifecycle, vendor lock-in with the manufacturer of original equipment (OEM) and understanding where to start on a job of this size and complexity. The B-1 proves that legacy aircraft can find an advantage and has become a trailblazer for other legacy platforms to follow.
Creating flexible requirements with a cost cap allows the B-1 to perform only those tasks that provide the maximum benefit to the combatant. Initially, B-1 chose to focus on structures, one of the main issues impacting fleet availability. With successes in Desert Fox, Allied Force, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and Inherent Resolve, the B-1 quickly flew more hours than expected, accelerating the need to extend the life of the original certified tests earlier provided that.
While the SPO has made significant progress in the areas of structural life, maintenance and reliability, DE will breathe new life into the fleet, rejuvenating the B-1 to fly until the future bomber force is ready. Even in such a short time, the OPS has already started to benefit from ED activities. B-1 models have been delivered to aid in the design and manufacture of support devices for use in depot maintenance facilities and the first set of models are being supplied to third party vendors to provide digital fabrication data for complex components.
“NIAR looks forward to continuing to support the DE transformation of the B-1 SPO by reducing costs, expanding the supply base, and increasing aircraft mission readiness. Over the past two years, the B-1 program team has been developing smart ways to implement DE for maximum impact on legacy platforms. The flexibility provided by the NCMS contract has allowed NIAR to adapt to changing warfighter priorities,” said Melinda Laubach-Hock, NIAR B-1 Program Director.
The B-1 SPO began its digital transformation in early 2020, creating a structural digital twin of a single wing. Since then, the effort has expanded to include the structure of the entire cell, the launch of an integrated digital engineering environment including a product lifecycle management (PLM) tool, efforts Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) to create System Modeling Language (SySML) representations of various mechanical systems, engineering control digitization, system and weapon integration to enhance the digital twin structural, the development of predictive structural and aerodynamic simulation tools, and other DE efforts.
“Wichita State’s partnership with the DoD supports efforts to sustain legacy weapon systems, like the B-1, that will have an immediate impact on warfighter readiness. Additionally, these programs provide unique educational opportunities for students to work with seasoned professionals, developing a talent pool that the DoD is capitalizing on, particularly in the emerging field of digital engineering,” said Dr. John Tomblin. , senior vice president for industry and defence. at Wichita State University.
“We are thrilled to continue this partnership and move the B-1 forward into the virtual world. We could not have achieved this without the great partnership and team between the SPO, NIAR and NCMS to make sure everyone happen,” Lt Col Lay said.