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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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Mitchell Weighs In: More F-35s or New, Old F-15s?

The Air Force needs to buy more new fighter planes. The constricted size and increasing age of the Air Force?s fighter inventory is the product of long-standing deferred investment; the 2009 decision to prematurely curtail the F-22 buy at less than half its required inventory; failure to boost F-35 production to originally planned rates; and the fact that 234 of 1970?s era F-15Cs will be hitting the end of their service lives in the next decade. Maintaining the current fighter inventory size demands that the Air Force buy at least 72 fighters per year into the 2020s.

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Marines’ Classic Hornet Jets to Get Upgraded Radar

The U.S. Marine Corps’ F/A-18C/D Hornet fighter fleet is getting a radar upgrade. The service selected Raytheon Co. to upgrade the aircraft to the APG-79(v)4 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, according to a company announcement.

The radar is a scaled version of the APG-79 AESA, which has been integrated into Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. The APG-79 gives pilots additional situational awareness, high-performance targeting and extended range. A contract amount was not disclosed.

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Mattis orders fighter jet readiness to jump to 80 percent ? in one year

WASHINGTON ? Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has ordered the Air Force and Navy to get mission capable rates for four key tactical aircraft up above 80 percent by the end of next September, a daunting challenge given the current readiness rates of America?s fighter fleets.

In a memo issued Sept. 17 to the secretaries of the Army, Air Force and Navy, along with acquisition head Ellen Lord and acting Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Stephanie Barna, Mattis acknowledges ?budget constraints and shortfalls in aviation squadrons across the force? have led to ?systemic underperformance, overcapitalization and unrealized capacity? in the fighter fleets.

DefenseNews.com