Computer simulations define the Army’s search for a new helicopter
The US Air Force’s now airborne, but highly secret sixth-generation stealth fighter aircraft; the new land-based strategic deterrent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM); and the US Army’s new optionally manned combat vehicle have all been massively successful examples of high-tech accelerated programs hitting the scene sooner than expected.
This is because computer simulations are now able to reproduce weapon performance parameters and key technical specifications with high fidelity and precision, a technical breakthrough allowing weapons developers the ability to evaluate multiple designs without having to to spend years “bending metal” to construct construction prototypes. Design details and weapon specifics can all be evaluated in detail through “digital engineering”, a high-tech method of weapon evaluation using computer simulation to optimize development.
Bell’s Invictus 360, a reconnaissance helicopter currently being offered to the US military under the Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program, has also made rapid progress with digital computer simulations. The sleek, stealthy new helicopter is now 90% complete awaiting its new General Electric-built Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) engine, but many of its subsystems, weapons, sensors and communications systems are still being refined and improved. through computer simulation. Bell has set up a specific Systems Integration Lab (SIL), described in part as a deconstructed version of the aircraft, which includes advanced computer modeling and a cockpit simulator.
“Essentially we fly the plane today in this simulation lab and on all the same components that are on the plane. We’re using the generators and everything, and really flying the plane now. It’s such fidelity that we’ll fly every mission we fly in a prototype SIL. Before flying, the pilots will do all the testing of the aircraft in the SIL first, and then they will fly,” said Chris Gehler, vice president and FARA program manager at Bell. national interest in an interview.
Part of SIL’s work is naturally devoted to what Bell’s weapons developers call “pilot assistance”, i.e. built-in safety features to protect pilots and advanced calculations designed to perform key functions of organizing and analyzing data in the cockpit.
“What we would like to do is have as much pilot assistance as available in the aircraft, in the weapons systems and in the mission equipment to help the pilot in the aircraft, but also the help keep him safe while he actually runs the battlefield,” Gehler explained.
Some of the safety tests, for example, are designed to identify and fine-tune “emergency” procedures based on how the aircraft may degrade over time or be hit by enemy weapons.
“It has segmented bulkheads for safety reasons for flight aspects and for mission equipment, but running on the same type of tunnel which has open standards settings. The military gives everyone the design space to bring weapons systems, a new upgrade in aircraft survivability. It is an integrated modular avionics approach rather than a federated stand-alone system,” explained Gehler.
Bell engineers explain that part of the progress made with the Invictus relates to specific synergies with technologies also developed for the V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft currently proposed for the Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft program. .
“Between our 360 and our 280, we have a common digital backbone and very common flight control computers. It’s basically an approach that’s really about integrated modular avionics, which has separate system safety aspects for flight controls and mission equipment,” Gehler said.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a highly trained expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air military anchor and specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military pundit on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
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