Bottom Line Up Front: The Air Force is moving full-steam-ahead with Digital Engineering, opening an office to coordinate efforts with Space Force.
why Digital Engineering?
It’s not because the DoD loves Product Lifecycle Management software or because they’re big fans of AutoCAD. It’s being done with a larger purpose in mind.
Digital Engineering will enable the goals the DoD really has in mind, which is to create computer simulations of equipment from Day One. Submissions to bids will no longer be binders full of documents, they’ll be interactive computer simulations of the proposed product. The Program Office will receive them over the DoD Cloud, and evaluate them by running them through their virtual paces using extended-reality goggles like IVAS. When the contract gets going, production will be continuously monitored by the DoD because all the data will be in the cloud, and always available for virtual evaluation. When the product fields, it will become part of the internet-of-all-military-things, living in an all-encompassing high-speed 5G cloud. Software patches and upgrades will happen seamlessly, and performance data will be continuously monitored.
Air Force Major General Kimberly A. Crider, mobilization assistant to Chief of Space Operations Space Force Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, says:
“The government owning the development environment and the tech baseline that goes along with that and making that available to industry and programs throughout,” she said.
“Platform One deployed on Cloud One—to provide that environment, that tech stack—for continuous development of models, integration of models, and then infusion of data associated with those models. And that data is brought in from Data One—so a common enterprise set of services for hosting, storing, managing, securing, and protecting data.”
When Will This Happen?
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering Kristin Baldwin says old programs will take a while, but new programs need to get with the times:
Baldwin acknowledged that existing programs may not be able to incorporate many of the forthcoming changes, such as the common digital environment. An assessment will help determine what’s possible. New programs, meanwhile, are expected to go all in on digital engineering from the start.
What Does It Mean For Me?
Digital Engineering is coming. The old ways are ending, and Digital Engineering is the future. This new office will provide us with the blueprints of tomorrow.