Dr. William Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, revealed that the U.S. Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) next generation fighter program has achieved e-Series status as the service’s next e-Plane.
Digital engineering allowed the service’s first e-Plane, the eT-7A Red Hawk, to be digitally-designed and built in just 36 months – a feat not accomplished since the 1950s with third-generation fighters. The same digital approach was applied to NGAD, and enabled the Air Force’s most advanced sixth-generation flight demonstrator to fly in the real-world years ahead of expectation.
In order to receive the coveted e-Series designation, a program must apply digital engineering principles and achieve authoritative virtualization that replaces, automates, or shortens formerly real-world activities.
Roper also released a sequel essay that establishes criteria for digitally-engineered programs, in a follow-on to his Matrix-themed “There is No Spoon” treatise.
“Digital engineering takes computer creation technology to the next level, rendering not just the design of complex systems, but their assembly, environment and even physical performance in high-powered virtual reality,” Roper wrote in the sequel essay titled, “Bending the Spoon.”
According to Roper, NGAD isn’t the only program to have recently met the 14 criteria and achieved e-Series designation.
“A-10 Re-wing Program, B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement Program, and Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent [GBSD] have all met the e-Series bar,” Roper wrote. “They all leveraged authoritative virtualizations to significantly replace or truncate real-word activities, and have achieved paradigm-shifting performance.”
Roper indicates this is only the beginning, and if the Air Force and Space Force can fully embrace digital engineering, a true digital evolution could follow.
“Each new e-System invites us to reimagine both its acquisition and operationalization,” Roper wrote. “e-Series should guide the Air Force and Space Force’s analog-to-digital metamorphosis. Given the adversaries and challenges these two Services face, that metamorphosis had better be fast.”