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USAF/US NAVY 6th Generation Fighter Programs - F/A-XX, F-X, NGAD, PCA

Foo Fighter

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No, just human failings and politics, they rarely fall far from the apple tree.

Sorry, badly written. human failings, politics, a recipe for failure.
 
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Josh_TN

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Well one question answered...I always thought perhaps that the NGAD demonstrator was a drone component of the program for it to exist so quickly. But:

“We still have to make it real, and there’s a lot to do in the program, but when you see what is going on, and you hear it from the Airmen who are flying it, you get a chance to really understand … where we’re going.”

That makes it sound like it isn't a UAV or a technology surrogate flying avionics equipment but some kind of actual manned fighter prototype. Perhaps I'm reading too much into that. So weird post cold war for there to be a project this big and know nothing about it; I feel like even in the bad old days there was never this level of secrecy for fighter programs. The Streak Eagle broke all sorts of speed and acceleration records and the USAF was hardly shy about it.
 

bobbymike

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The article says “politicians were somewhat impressed” knowing how easily impressed the average politician is the exterior must not be too “exoticly” shaped just guessing.
 

skyblue

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Second NGAD type? Congressmen already saw demo system? WOW!!

That is wild, a successor to the successor is already in the work?! They aren't kidding around about going fast. If true this is encouraging, it feels more like a SpaceX pace of development than what we're (painfully) used to.
 
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sferrin

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B/w the F-35 and NGAD they a have comfortable margin (the NGAD is said to be flying already).
Don't know how it could be. They haven't even run the engines yet (or likely even started building them).
 

Firefinder

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B/w the F-35 and NGAD they a have comfortable margin (the NGAD is said to be flying already).
Don't know how it could be. They haven't even run the engines yet (or likely even started building them).
That we know of.

It will not surprise me if we are seeing the return of the COLD WAR testing.

AKA we are not finding out shit happening until months later if that.

NDAS and Classified stamps everywhere.

Will be heartening if true cause that means the we can still keep shit secret in this age of everyone having a camera or twelve with access to everydamnwhere on this planet.
 

TomcatViP

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Hood

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When they say 'fly' they probably mean in a simulator.
 

Ingraman

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It can even be a stealthy tanker demonstrator, a la KC-Z. It would be pretty useful in the Pacific... and put the project under the NGAD umbrella would make it more "digestible" to the politicians...
 

flateric

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Stealthy tanker demonstrator breaking which exactly records?
 

Josh_TN

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Second NGAD type? Congressmen already saw demo system? WOW!!

That is wild, a successor to the successor is already in the work?! They aren't kidding around about going fast. If true this is encouraging, it feels more like a SpaceX pace of development than what we're (painfully) used to.
My impression is that at least two different platforms are being developed, one of which is manned or optionally manned, another of which is a UAV. So I think the second aircraft would probably be a complementary platform, not a further outgrowth of the first. I think we'll see something like a manned fighter paired with something like a 'loyal wingman', possibly with additional smaller UAVs carried and launched by the parent aircraft in support.
 

Josh_TN

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When they say 'fly' they probably mean in a simulator.
The NGAD demonstrator? In the first paragraph of the article it quotes Roper saying:
the full-scale flight demonstrator has already flown in the physical world.
Furthermore the general was quoted as saying 'the airmen who fly it' in the article, which means either there is a manned prototype flying or he is being intentionally misleading.
 

sferrin

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It can even be a stealthy tanker demonstrator, a la KC-Z. It would be pretty useful in the Pacific... and put the project under the NGAD umbrella would make it more "digestible" to the politicians...
No. That would not be an acceptable F-22 replacement.
 

Hood

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Depends what exactly the demonstrator is and how far it represents the NGAD technologies beyond the airframe and proof of concept for rapid prototyping; “We still have to make it real, and there’s a lot to do in the program, but when you see what is going on, and you hear it from the Airmen who are flying it, you get a chance to really understand … where we’re going.” [My italics] Sounds like there is a long way to go before this represents NGAD, it could be much closer to Boeing's Bird of Prey in terms of prototyping scope out the way ahead.

And presumably quite a bit of simulator work would have already been undertaken and ongoing to refine the design.
 

DrRansom

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It seems like the heart of the NGAD program is "digital engineering" the airframe and the internal systems so as to cut development cycles. The major question is if a computer model of the mechanical system (a fighter plane all modeled in Simulink?) is an accurate representation of the final product.

So when they say NGAD is flying, or gen. 1 of NGAD is flying, what they could mean is that they're flying an airplane where (at least) some key component, if not the whole vehicle, has been "digital engineered." With that, the USAF can demonstrate that it is possible to convert the "simulink-style" model into a real system that flies, and do so quickly. The prototype would show that the predictions of the system's behavior are in fact representative of the final vehicle.

Which would explain the disconnect between "we have a plane that's flying" (which is always huge news) and "they were at least very impressed" which sounds less then amazed. The airplane may look completely unremarkable, what is remarkable is the process which got them there.
 

bob225

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“We still have to make it real, and there’s a lot to do in the program, but when you see what is going on, and you hear it from the Airmen who are flying it, you get a chance to really understand … where we’re going.”
 

sferrin

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“We still have to make it real, and there’s a lot to do in the program, but when you see what is going on, and you hear it from the Airmen who are flying it, you get a chance to really understand … where we’re going.”
Yeah, that doesn't sound like a flying article to me. Anymore, the liberty with which the government stretches words, I won't believe one is flying until we see it flying.
 

Ogami musashi

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Yeah, that doesn't sound like a flying article to me. Anymore, the liberty with which the government stretches words, I won't believe one is flying until we see it flying.
Just nitpicking:
That we see it or not doesn't add any weight to the probability it already flies or not. (Of course I get what you mean).
 

skyblue

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Just how special is 'digital engineering', is this something only the U.S. is doing? Or is it a buzzword slapped on modern practices everyone everywhere is doing anyways, Europe, Korea, Japan, China etc.?
 

Josh_TN

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Digital engineering in this context seems to imply modeling complex structures up to and including the entire aircraft in a simulated environment. I suspect everyone is/has been doing this to some degree for a bit now, I guess it comes down to the expensiveness and fidelity of the model - what level of detail can you simulate and how accurate is the performance of the simulation. It seems like companies have achieved very high degrees of this lately and it is allowing programs to skip a lot of testing and prototyping steps, particularly in the area of aerodynamic performance. One article I read mentioned that the B-21 has already had its engine intakes redesigned as a result of this process, without significantly delaying the project.

I think this is happening across the aerospace industry, though I would guess Western companies are a bit ahead in this area. When it comes to military projects in particular, US companies have a bit of a leg up in terms of the shear number of projects and amount of money the DoD is willing and able to spend.

I’d love for aerospace engineer to actually describe a digital testing environment and explain how things have changed in the current environment, if we have a resident expert.
 

LMFS

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Just how special is 'digital engineering', is this something only the U.S. is doing? Or is it a buzzword slapped on modern practices everyone everywhere is doing anyways, Europe, Korea, Japan, China etc.?
From what I read pretty much everybody out there is using it, because of course it makes a lot of sense, so I don't know to what extent the US approach is unique. In Russia its use is already widespread, used in the PAK-FA and most aircraft engines currently being designed and deployed.
 

TomcatViP

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Digital engineering is what's beyond CaD. A lot of the CAD entreprise for the worst has been resumed to 3d graphic. That's what you see for example in all those startups rendered animation. There is often no more than that.
Essentially it's came from the split in competences that came with the generalisation of CAD in the industries. A lot of Engineers didn't make the jump (being proficient with that new tool) leaving drafter as the main user of CaD systems. Hence you had the CaD entreprise and the analytical world enhanced by dedicated finite elements analysis tools. Every body worked on their own side, leaving basically sciences, maths and coding away from the core process.

As an example, you still have big companies outhere where CAD is segregated b/w engineers and drafters. That's not quite efficient in term of innovation and lean.

The revolution came with the wide access to remodeled multi-physics simulation tools popularized thought Universities. Instead of having complex tools dedicated to one or a couple of domain that required a lot of dedication (hence formation time) to master efficiently, more generic software hit the market opening new horizons.
Those tools were also enabled by the improvements in meshing technologies, at the epicenter of analytical simulations (from rigid to auto-adaptative meshing to meshless (based on Fourrier functions)) way more than often presented raw computing power).

With those tools, any analysis is made quicker, easily and more accurately (better mesh, better accuracy).

So, when all the above is combined (and the right amount of money is available - those complete solution are above the 50 000$ mark), multi-domain analysis can be run efficiently and iterated in a synchronized manner. The aerodynamic department can take the day iteration of the model, run its day simulation and send the right inputs to other departments. Before that (and in 99% of the industry), each department would run their own iteration of a representative model of the model...That leads to an asynchronous process where inaccuracies grows until simplifications are made to temper with.

The segregation of domains also led to the simplification of cross-domain analysis with a direct results of a loss of efficiency. For example instead of having a thinner bulkhead, you had to make with something stronger that would take into account the necessary margins in each domain. As a well known example, thermal analysis lacked the fidelity that could led to refinements and better results.

Today, Digital engineering is essentially the Cadization of the engineer's work with an open domain for core scientific simulations.

See what's SpaceX presentation show of their work on their engines. It's sciences simulation applied to full CAD models when often, simplified models are run at that stage (with the inherent divestment of ressources in lengthy testing iterations).

Now It seems simple to you and you wonder why this had not been made available or used earlier. But beyond the improvements in numerical simulation (I already mentioned the improvements in meshing as an example), Engineering is heavily prone to the status quo. There is nothing more conservative than an assembly of engineers challenged in their domain. Cross-functional, muti-domain approach, beyond the indomitable group leaders meeting has too often been a whisper in the chaos.
 
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skyblue

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How current are the Chinese with these new ways of doing things? Might they actually be more receptive to digital engineering since they're doing so much from scratch? For them, oftentimes there is no status-quo/conservatives to battle against in the first place.
 

sferrin

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How current are the Chinese with these new ways of doing things? Might they actually be more receptive to digital engineering since they're doing so much from scratch? For them, oftentimes there is no status-quo/conservatives to battle against in the first place.
Wouldn't be surprised if they were ahead of the West. (CATIA files wouldn't be much use to them otherwise. ;) )
 

Dragon029

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“We still have to make it real, and there’s a lot to do in the program, but when you see what is going on, and you hear it from the Airmen who are flying it, you get a chance to really understand … where we’re going.”
I interpret that as Roper saying they still need to turn this physical demonstrator into the real deal final product, like how after they flew the X-35 demonstrator Lockheed then had to go and spend several years making a jet that did more than just fly.

Frankly I have no expectations about the demonstrator that flew; maybe they flew a fancy tailless X-plane airframe for validating the aerodynamics, maybe it was a legacy fighter with some new vehicle systems like the AFTI F-16, maybe it was a business jet with some new mission systems planned for the jet, etc.

I could see a trial implementation of the digital twin manufacturing concept (with whoever's won the NGAD contract) being a big part of the demonstrator, but while that might apply more to a clean sheet design, you could still apply structural / thermal / RF / assembly simulations and considerations to the design of a vehicle or mission system and its integration onto an existing platform for example.
 

Josh_TN

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How current are the Chinese with these new ways of doing things? Might they actually be more receptive to digital engineering since they're doing so much from scratch? For them, oftentimes there is no status-quo/conservatives to battle against in the first place.
Wouldn't be surprised if they were ahead of the West. (CATIA files wouldn't be much use to them otherwise. ;) )

I’d be a touch surprised if they were ahead of the game. China is making J20s and is the new Cold War competition, no doubt. But how many J20s are deployed and how many f35s are deployed?
 

bobbymike

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Apologize if this should be in a separate thread under Speculative but I see a large LM type, two AX100/101 45k thrust class ACE, long range, large internal (12+ AIM-260s) carriage aircraft with an off board “Noble Wingman” under its control.
 

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UpForce

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I don't quite know what to make of all these statements about "flying demonstrators" and "making things real", but the USAF and its contractors do have the incentive to air gap their design and prototyping operations to the utmost. Having been rather thoroughly hacked or otherwise compromised nigh on three decades, I wouldn't put it past them having finally learned a lesson or two in that regard.

Besides, R&D methodology has become vastly lighter, more portable and thus also concealable. A fighter sized prototype, especially if not too dissimilar in appearance from known airframes, might go unnoticed even when observed from afar. That the "5th Gen" ambitions of South Korea, Turkey, India and the like do not seem like such pipe dreams anymore speaks to both the opportunities and necessities of coming up with superior technologies.

Extrapolate of these what you will.
 

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Testing on GE’s First XA100 Adaptive Cycle Engine Concludes, Proves Out Transformational Capabilities
May 13, 2021

EVENDALE, Ohio – GE has completed testing of its first XA100 adaptive cycle engine, ushering in a new era of combat propulsion. GE initiated testing at its Evendale, Ohio, altitude test facility on December 22, 2020. The engine’s performance and mechanical behavior were consistent with pre-test predictions and fully aligned with the U.S. Air Force’s Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) objectives. This successful test validates the ability of GE’s XA100 engine to deliver transformational propulsion capability to fighter aircraft.

“We were exceptionally pleased with how the engine performed throughout the test,” said David Tweedie, GE Edison Works’ General Manager for Advanced Combat Engines. “Bringing a new centerline fighter engine to test for the first time is a challenging endeavor, and this success is a testament to the great team that worked so hard to get us here. We’re looking forward to working with the Air Force and other stakeholders to identify the next steps toward bringing this revolutionary capability out of the test cell and into the hands of the warfighter.”

The XA100-GE-100 engine combines three key innovations to deliver a generational change in combat propulsion performance:

An adaptive engine cycle that provides both a high-thrust mode for maximum power and a high-efficiency mode for optimum fuel savings and loiter time
A third-stream architecture that provides a step-change in thermal management capability, enabling future mission systems for increased combat effectiveness
Extensive use of advanced component technologies, including ceramic matrix composites (CMC), polymer matrix composites (PMC), and additive manufacturing
These revolutionary innovations increase thrust 10%, improve fuel efficiency by 25%, and provide significantly more aircraft heat dissipation capacity, all within the same physical envelope as current propulsion systems.

“This was the most heavily instrumented engine test in both GE and U.S. Air Force history. We were able to obtain an immense amount of high-quality test data proving out the engine’s capabilities and demonstrating a good return on the Air Force’s investment,” Tweedie explained. “The Air Force has been an integral part of the team throughout the entire design and test process. That extensive involvement has been key in reaching this milestone. It has been an incredible partnership and collaboration.”

Full-scale prototype engine testing in the AETP program is the capstone of a multi-year technology maturation and risk reduction effort to bring adaptive cycle engines to full maturity in close partnership with the U.S. Air Force. Efforts began in 2007 with the Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology (ADVENT) program, continued in 2012 with the Adaptive Engine Technology Development (AETD) program, and culminated in the launch of AETP in 2016. This development work provided GE a solid foundation of design analysis and empirical test activities to successfully achieve a full-scale prototype engine. GE is the only engine company to compete for, be awarded, and complete both the preceding ADVENT and AETD programs.

Assembly of GE’s second prototype XA100 engine is well underway, with testing on that engine expected to begin later in 2021. Once complete, that will conclude the major deliverables of the AETP program.

The XA100 is a product of GE Edison Works, a business unit dedicated to the research, development, and production of advanced military solutions. This business unit has full responsibility for strategy, innovation, and execution of advanced programs.

 
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