At an Air Force Association conference, the U.S. Air Force announced a new weapons system designator – the ‘e’ series. The secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, told attendees that the future of Air and Space technology will include aircraft, weapons, and satellites which will be digitally engineered and virtually tested before ever taking physical form. And these aircraft, satellites, weapon systems, and more that are digitally engineered will receive an ‘e’ prefix.
The concept of digital engineering is becoming a key factor in reducing the costs and time required to develop new weapon systems, using modeling and simulation tools. It can allow the U.S. Air Force to bypass the normal part manufacturing process, give developers the ability to design and modify designs with greater flexibility while creating armaments or instrumentation.
Boeing T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer will be the first aircraft to receive the new eSeries designation. The first U.S. Air Force aircraft designed using the digital approach, the eT-7A Red Hawk, embraced digital engineering based on 3D modeling and design tools that have reduced assembly hours by 80% and halved software development time. The eT-7A went from the computer screen to the first flight in just 36 months.
According to Air Force officials, “an eSeries digital acquisition program will be a fully-connected, end-to-end virtual environment that will produce an almost perfect replica of what the physical weapon system will be. It will bring unprecedented speed and agility to help compete in the technology battlespace by enabling thousands, even millions, of virtual iterations at machine speeds to design the best possible system – but only build the single, best design.”