U.S. Air Force Embraces Digital Twin Technology

Military weapons designers within the WeaponONE program at the Air Force Research Laboratory can now analyze real-time feedback from in-theater weapons within a digital engineering environment. Known as digital twin technology, it mirrors the activity of a weapon or other machine and analyzes incoming data for the purpose of fine-tuning future operation. This allows researchers to identify problems and test solutions digitally so that they can be adopted rapidly during military operations.

Rapid Weapon Adaptations and Improvements Possible

Powerful computers supported by artificial intelligence look for ways to upgrade hardware performance and precision based on the data supplied by real-world conditions experienced by a system in action. The discoveries revealed by a concurrently running digital twin can translate into immediate or near immediate software adjustments that increase weapon efficacy.

Air Force Research Lab rocket engine test stands at Edwards Air Force Base, Mojave Desert, California.

Gray Wolf Demonstration

The WeaponONE program demonstrated this marriage of hardware and machine-learning software on Jan. 21, at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida with the Gray Wolf prototype. Gray Wolf is an experimental cruise missile meant for clustered deployment against enemy air defenses.

Gray Wolf involves a 24-hour Air Tasking Order cycle that enables the missiles to collaborate. During the demonstration, officials saw how WeaponONE gathered in-flight data and cross-referenced it with information about the battlefield. This data went through the Advanced Battle Management System and then entered the digital twin for analysis.

Emblem of the Air Force Research Laboratory of the United States Air Force

New Era of Digital Weapon Engineering

Military scientists expect the digital twin concept demonstrated by WeaponONE to herald the next generation of military weapons engineering. The process speeds weapon development and results in products capable of rapid adaptations in the face of fluid military operations.

Digital twins certainly have applications beyond military purposes. The insights possible by analyzing a virtual representation of a real-world operation can assist manufacturers in many industries by helping them speed up product assembly and increase factory efficiency. Which military and nonmilitary sectors do you think have the most to gain from digital twinning?

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Article Sources

https://breakingdefense.com/2021/02/afrls-weaponone-aims-to-rapidly-build-d…
https://www.wpafb.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2478391/weaponone-dem…
https://www.automationworld.com/factory/iiot/article/21259456/how-the-digit…

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