Magazine article National Defense

Soldiers Train for Future Wars in High Tech, Virtual Climate

Magazine article National Defense

Soldiers Train for Future Wars in High Tech, Virtual Climate

Article excerpt

Simulation based acquisition, a new strategy for developing and delivering systems to the Defense Department, holds out the promise for achieving revolutionary advances. This approach tosses together process, culture, environment, and technology to develop, field, and sustain quality products quickly and economically.

A subsidiary benefit flowing from simulation based acquisition is the opportunity for the military and contractors to work much more closely together-eliminating an inefficient, arm's length relationship that marked weapons development in the past.

Simulation based acquisition (SBA), requires major change in culture, process, and environment.

Culture means a different way of interacting. No longer do the players come to the table wearing poker faces. Now government and industry representatives participate on integrated product/process development teams (IPPD) to share ideas and concepts.

The user is no longer ignored until hardware is ready for testing. In a virtual environment, the user is involved from square one. SBA can shorten the acquisition cycle from 15-20 years to eight-10 years, according to some analysts.

Design to Test

Officials at Oshkosh Truck Corporation, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, say that the simulation based acquisition process allowed the Army 5-ton truck to go from design to test without a hardware prototype. During the test, the vehicle met all performance requirements and exceeded by three times the reliability-availability-- maintainability requirement.

Dan Hancock, president of Allison Transmission, Indianapolis, says SBA is a paradigm shift, rather than an upgrade in process. Suppliers, working from computer databases containing solid model representation, have delivered parts for the prototype advanced amphibious assault vehicle 40 to 60 percent faster, depending on the difficulty of casting.

Hancock raises some red flags about SBA. Small business may not have or may not be able to afford the technology to participate. A short list of eligible suppliers could hamper competition. Of greater concern is the potential for the compromise of a company's sensitive information and processes. But overall the potential for SBA is dramatic.

The full potential of simulation based acquisition is not yet realized. General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), Sterling Heights, Michigan, is applying much of the concept to the development of the advanced amphibious assault vehicle. Art Veitch, president of GDLS, says SBA techniques are helpful in conducting trade studies for the whole system and subsystems. Decisions on technology options and design experiments are abetted by the approach. He claims hundreds of thousand of dollars of savings in design costs and increased productivity are benefits already realized.

Companies also are undergoing cultural shifts as they adapt to new business climates. At United Defense LP, Arlington, Virginia, the moniker of metal-bender diminished as the company became an integrator of systems, electronics, and software during the past decade. Software engineers now outnumber mechanical engineers.

The process has been dramatically altered. Application of information technology is a major change factor. Hardware and software allow immediate sharing of technical data bases, models, and process. The development process can follow a spiral rather than a linear path. The process is iterative, where multiple options are repetitively developed, analyzed, and evaluated with ever increasing levels of fidelity and detail until the optimal solution is derived.

IPPD team members represent many disciplines. Even when the team is dispersed geographically, all are linked electronically. Shared data bases, processes, and tools permit comment, alterations, and change on a real-time basis.

A key enabler of SBA is modeling and simulation. The tools available today realistically portray the form, function, and fit of systems. …

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