Systems engineers earn their keep by translating performance requirements of tactical systems into affordable and optimal design solutions, solutions that often must meet particularly challenging operational requirements. The risk of inserting new technology into a system is often traded against cost until a substantial improvement to operation capability that outweighs the associated risks is achieved.
In our feature article this quarter, Rick Luzetsky discusses one such scenario with the selection and application of advanced composite material technology (based on fiber-reinforced thermoplastic materials) that not only improves helicopter system performance but also significantly improves the aircraft’s survivability. Mr. Luzetsky discusses how a U.S. Naval Air Systems Command Small Business Innovation Research program was leveraged to provide a lighter weight, more durable, and highly reliable composite drop-in replacement helicopter drive shaft design solution. The developmental risk reduction measures employed as part of the verification and validation process for this effort are a textbook example of the correct way to insert new technology into a fielded system.
Such new technology is not only helping to improve systems performance and operational capability; it is also helping to improve the operational availability of tactical systems. Additive manufacturing, more commonly referred to as 3-D printing, has received a lot of attention recently and is showing promise as a tool that can be used to economically create one-of-a-kind or limited availability parts. The technology has advanced to the point that it is no longer limited to plastic parts. Ceramic and metal parts are now being 3-D printed using a variety of different techniques. But just how good are these parts? In our article on the nondestructive inspection of additive-manufactured parts, Michael Mazurek and Russell Austin discuss techniques for inspecting such parts to answer that question.
Ensuring our high-performance tactical systems remain operational is no easy task, especially when these systems are involved in a fight. In our article on self-sealing fuel tank technology, Kyle Bates discusses an interesting technology that does just that. Self-sealing technology has been around for many years. In fact, you may have experienced similar technology first-hand if you have ever discovered a nail in your tire. However, the concept of self-sealing technology in fuel tanks has evolved considerably over the last five decades. Mr. Bates details the latest evolution of a newly developed technology that is ensuring our tactical systems remain as survivable as possible.
And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate Eugene Fleeman’s and Ralph Teague’s nostalgic review of the evolution of missile technology. There is no clearer example of how technology has changed warfare. Missiles today can now fly further and faster and strike with greater precision than was ever imagined a few decades ago. While the U.S. currently maintains an advantage with tactical performance that is periodically advanced with block upgrades, new hypersonic technology is looking to once again disrupt the status quo and transform warfare.
Finally, Bruce Simon provides a review of the 17th Annual National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Science & Engineering Technology Conference that was held in Tampa, FL, this past April. During the conference, Government leaders shared their visions for maintaining technological superiority during this period of financial austerity. The call for action has been sounded, and the need for industrial defense innovation has never been greater. And, as always, DSIAC stands ready to support your research and development analysis needs.