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AFTC kicks off new digital engineering efforts

  • Published
  • Air Force Test Center Public Affairs

Hot off the publication of its Digital Modernization Strategy, the Air Force Test Center kicked off three digital-engineering efforts to provide on-ramps for the Air Force’s evolving digital-engineering technology ecosystem.

These programs will evaluate digital test methods for weapon systems to address the desire to decrease overexertion on physical (ground and flight) test infrastructure, identify root-cause failures earlier in the developmental test process, compress schedules for large national test programs, limit open-air testing of highly sensitive programs, and correlate to acquisition digital engineering models.

“I believe the AFTC is uniquely postured to create data-driven models to aid decision-making before a program bends metal,” said Dr. Thomas Fetterhoff, AFTC technical advisor for aerodynamics, propulsion, and ground test and evaluation. “With modeling and simulation, we can assess and manage the uncertainties of system performance. This allows the program manager to buy down risks in a quantified way.”

AFTC has partnered with Ansys to connect system design and performance through authoritative source data.

“Commercial engineering simulation is proven to significantly reduce cost, schedule, and risk in DoD programs," said Kevin Flood, Ansys vice president of digital mission engineering. "Ansys is proud to partner with AFTC to help field capability at the operational tempo the warfighter requires. Our Ansys Government Initiatives subsidiary continues this mission with dedicated support of the national security mission."

The first digital engineering effort will see the Arnold Engineering Development Complex partner with Ansys to synthesize multi-fidelity data sources together with digital models to aid in early design processes. These models, along with uncertainty quantification techniques, will provide programs with performance predictions, an assessment of the veracity of those predictions, and a plan to improve those predictions though additional testing and modeling efforts.

John Grigaliunas, AFTC technical advisor said, “AFTC is also looking to exploit the power of modeling and simulation to overcome geographic and environmental shackles to help shape current and future capabilities.”

The second digital engineering effort will help determine how simulation can augment physical testing in the delivery of models, as an output of developmental test. In this effort, the 412th Test Wing will provide simulation capabilities and develop workflows to perform virtual testing of Infrared Search and Track systems which present unique challenges in flight test.

“Using advanced M and S extends performance predictions for these systems that are otherwise flight test prohibitive while providing orders of magnitude more information to the warfighter,” said, Ronald Hardgrove, 775th Test Squadron electro-optics/infrared flight chief/technical advisor.

Lastly, a team led by Kevin Sura, the 96th Operations Group technical advisor, will spearhead a modeling effort aimed at improving test point density, re-fly rates, and rapid analysis to support efficient acquisition planning earlier in a program’s lifecycle.

Sura said, “Dynamic and interactive test planning and post-flight analysis in a flexible ad-hoc modeling environment will go a long way in aiding the T and E community in providing data faster, and with more insight, Sura said.”

By applying internally developed and commercially available physics-based simulation technology to these three projects which showcase applicability across disparate technologies, AFTC develops open connectivity and portability to T and E specific digital environments and supports requirements across the weapon system lifecycle.