BECOME A MEMBER DONATE TODAY

Air Force seeks a radical shift in how jets, missiles and satellites are designed

When Will Roper, the top acquisition and technology official at the Air Force, first saw how Boeing and Saab came up with the design for the Air Force’s new training jet, he realized the way the military devises new weapons, planes, satellites and missiles needed to change.

When designing the T-7 Red Hawk trainer aircraft, Boeing and Saab relied heavily on computer models to test system designs and iron out inconsistencies, a far less time-consuming approach, Boeing executives said in an interview, than physically piecing together the plane’s advance system. Though the company has long employed various forms of digital modeling, Boeing executives said the T-7 relied more heavily on it than any of the company’s previous aircraft.

Now Roper wants to make this sort of process a requirement for companies building any of the Air Force’s premier systems in the future. He is hoping to usher in a new era of weapons development in which computer-generated models — owned by the government and enabled by artificial intelligence technology — can test millions of possible designs in a virtual format before ever creating a prototype.

READ MORE