9–13 January 2017
Gaylord Texan, Grapevine, Texas

Ensuring Resilient Weapons Engineering That Can Keep Pace with Changing Threats

Posted: 6 January 2016, 3:05 p.m. EST

Speaker: Jeffery Holland, director, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center

by Kyung M. Song, associate editor of Aerospace America

From its first flight in 1954, the B-52 has served as the dominant U.S. heavy bomber. It has been modified, retrofitted and upgraded since then to reflect changing missions and technologies, carrying gravity bombs to precision-guided missiles to drones.

Could the Boeing-built bomber have been designed from the get-go to make those adaptations cheaper and quicker?

Ensuring that the answer is a “yes” for all of the Pentagon’s weapons procurement was the topic of Jeffery Holland’s keynote speech Jan. 6 at the 2016 AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition in San Diego.

Holland, director of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, detailed the U.S. Department of Defense’s shift to engineered resilient systems, an acquisitions strategy that aims to harness data, supercomputers and other tools to ensure that weapons designs are agile from the start to meet constantly morphing threats.

JefferyHolland_Keynote_SciTech2016Jeffery Holland, director, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, delivers remarks on January 6, at AIAA SciTech 2016, taking place 4–8 January, in San Diego, CA.

Holland, who also is the chief scientist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said resilient engineering is the Pentagon’s first effort to marry modern computational engineering tools — such as advanced modeling and data analytics — to shift away from the traditional procurement process in which the initial mission requirements or design concepts can hinder subsequent innovations.

The Pentagon plans to apply the engineered resilient systems approach to procurements across all the services, including new Virginia-class submarines for the Navy and the upcoming project to develop disposable unmanned attack drones for the Air Force.

Holland said the Army had one success when it used engineered resilient systems to assess Boeing’s rotor-blade design changes for the CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Army researchers concluded that the design was so efficient that it would significantly increase the helicopter’s range.

That data, Holland said, could be fed back to the supercomputers, and perhaps might find its way into the rotor design for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program, which envisions replacing aging helicopters from all four armed services with a joint, multi-role variant.

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