Build on experience: investment in digital design reduces risk, cost and increases efficiency of future vertical lift systems


Q: Sustainment is a critical part of any defense technology program, but especially with FVL. How will digital technology transform maintenance in the future?

A: A sustainment digital twin represents all of the parts, elements, and capabilities that go into an aircraft. This allows us to understand how we can leverage capabilities faster through factors such as the Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) or software upgrades.

By developing a digital twin – for example, virtual models of our RAIDER X and DEFIANT X – the Army can understand how a platform will behave and set up predictive maintenance. Sikorsky used digital twins and data analytics to predict when parts need to be replaced or serviced, giving us the ability to create a very personalized maintenance schedule. Having this information about every part of a rig is essential to building a robust predictive maintenance capability.

We have the ability to derive this information through aircraft sensors that feed real-time data into their digital twins. This opens the door for us to understand exactly what is happening with an asset during flight – and even deploy technologies like real-time 3D printing to customize and print parts that address damage so an aircraft can return to the scrum as quickly as possible. This is also made possible by MOSA-like architectures, which allow the customer – or the system integrator – to replace or repair only the parts of the platform that require it.

Q: Speaking of MOSA, what is Lockheed Martin’s approach to digital technology?

A: At its core, MOSA provides great flexibility to the military in that it can integrate the best capability as quickly as possible. At Lockheed Martin, we have many examples of applying MOSA to various platforms – but perhaps the best example of how we enable it is through our Software Factory.

Our Software Factory enables very fast development – ​​or, depending on the need, very fast certification qualification – so that software evolutions or evolutions can be made as soon as the customer expresses the need. Having a modular, adaptable, and open system allows them to seamlessly enter and use our products to effectively counter these ever-changing threats.

Q: Defense digital transformation must also require workforce transformation. What is Sikorsky’s approach?

A: The most exciting aspect of digital technology is what it means for our workforce. Our team members can go beyond just one aspect of their specialty to embrace what it really means to be a model-based systems engineer. In fact, it goes beyond engineers to encompass every person who plays a role in developing, building or supporting a product, because in a truly integrated digital fashion, we are all connected. Model-based systems engineering enables systemic thinking and collaboration across the digital thread, enabling all of our people to become more fully integrated with our customers and key stakeholders to deliver the best value and do it much faster, offering more capabilities.

Additionally, because we are now able to look at things in real time, across multiple dimensions, we are able to advance technologies at a rate we have never seen before. This is because we all think as an integrated system.

I credit the diversity of ideas and breadth of experience at Lockheed Martin, and our engagement and inclusion with suppliers and customers, for these advancements. The digital thread begins with our customers and the requirements they identify as they adapt to a changing world. An example of how we operate as a system is when we place factory workers in virtual reality labs to see how the parts will fit together. We pass this information on to our manufacturing and design engineers and take their feedback to adjust the model. We ensure that the supply base is directly involved in the design of the parts and we use our customer maintainers to experiment and provide feedback on the design. All in a virtual reality environment, before anything is built. It just opens up this completely new and exciting world of technological possibilities that frankly didn’t even exist ten years ago!

It’s all incredibly exciting and rewarding – seeing the potential in our fighters and at the same time realizing the potential for even greater contributions in the future!

DEFIANT X® and RAIDER X® are registered trademarks of Lockheed Martin

First published July 14, 2022


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