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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.

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AI-infused training coming for drone pilots, sensor ops

The Air Force is expanding its experiment with advanced, artificial intelligence-infused pilot training to the pipeline for creating drone pilots and sensor operators.

The program, called RPA Training Next, takes some cues from the Air Force’s Pilot Training Next program. In a June 1 interview, program director Maj. Adam “Boomer” Smith said this new, high-tech system of learning has the potential to teach new remotely piloted aircraft aircrew faster and more efficiently than the old system, and fine-tune their lessons to what they actually need.

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Air Force has high hopes AI can boost aircraft readiness, cut maintenance costs

In April 2018, an Air Force KC-135 tanker landing in Rota, Spain, suffered a failure on one of its hydraulic pumps. No spares were available at the base, so instead of performing its missions the tanker sat on the tarmac for five days waiting for repairs.

That same scenario ? involving the same pump ? repeated itself two dozen times over the last four years, and the Air Force estimates the downtime costs involving failures of one single part amounted to $6.6 million.

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These Air Force Trainees Spend Less Time In the Cockpit, More Time In Flight Simulators

In a makeshift classroom in Austin, Tex., 20 hand-picked airmen may represent the future of Air Force pilot training. They’re spending less time in the cockpit and more time in front of screens.

They’re the first participants in Pilot Training Next, an experimental program that relies heavily on virtual reality and artificial intelligence tools. The first class graduated this month.

“We haven’t really changed our pilot training for at least 20 years,” said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. “Yet technology and our understanding of how adults learn has changed quite a bit.”

The Austin classroom houses two rows of flight simulators. But they’re a far cry from the $2 to $3 million-dollar ones the Air Force normally uses. Each unit is made from an enhanced Windows PC, an HTC Vive headset, a gaming joystick and throttle. They cost about $10,000.

KPBS.org