Modernizing, Streamlining Life Cycle Process of Air Force Platforms and Systems
by Marisa Alia-Novobilski, Air Force Materiel Command
June 9, 2020
The Air Force Materiel Command has launched a new digital campaign to modernize and streamline the life cycle process of Air Force platforms and systems, ensuring warfighters have the technology required to maintain a competitive advantage over adversaries.
Air Force Materiel Command is leading a digital campaign to leverage modern digital capabilities to decrease the time it takes to move a weapon system from a concept into the hands of a warfighter, while providing the ability to adapt capabilities at speed to meet the requirements of today’s dynamic warfighting domain. This illustration represents a digital twin--a virtual representation of an instance of a physical object that shares data with its physical twin throughout the system life cycle. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Chris Quinlan and John James)
“Transitioning to a digital AFMC enterprise is a priority for our command and is foundational to our success in today’s adversarial environment,” said Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., AFMC commander. “To continue to be the critical enabler for our Air Force and deliver capability at the speed of relevance, we need to leverage digital technologies to better enable a fully interconnected Air Force research, acquisition, test and sustainment enterprise.”
With a vision of, “ One Team…One Digital Lifecycle Enterprise,” the campaign is an AFMC-led, coordinated effort with the goal to create an integrated digital ecosystem that provides enterprise access to the data individuals need to develop, test, field and maintain complex weapon systems.
The goal is to leverage modern digital capabilities to decrease the time it takes to move a weapon system from a concept into the hands of a warfighter, while providing the ability to adapt capabilities at speed to meet the requirements of today’s dynamic warfighting domain.
“This is a significant but essential shift in the way we have operated in the past and will impact every aspect of our mission—research, engineering, contracting, financial management, test, and logistics,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, campaign lead. “Our adversaries are moving rapidly to develop and field capabilities that threaten our military dominance. Digital tools and processes can improve our time and efficiency in every acquisition phase, and we need to embrace the adoption of innovative capability development methods, tools and processes across the enterprise to deliver warfighter capabilities faster and smarter.”
The campaign is focused on six lines of effort to achieve a digital ecosystem that supports agility, flexibility and speed in delivery of Air Force current and future needs. These lines of effort include integrated information technology infrastructure; models and tools; standards, data and architectures; lifecycle strategies and processes; policy and guidance; and workforce and culture.
By digitizing and integrating the lifecycle enterprise, the command will be better positioned to deliver capabilities at the speed of relevance as it executes its mission in support of the National Defense Strategy.
“A number of defense and many non-defense industries have made a culture shift to incorporating digital tools and processes in every part of their organizations in order to deliver capabilities at ever increasing speed and efficiency. They do this by designing, sustaining and modernizing capabilities in an integrated digital ecosystem. The Air Force needs to embrace 21st century capabilities to be faster, more efficient and more effective throughout the entire acquisition life cycle,” Cooley said.
While the quality of Air Force capabilities is excellent, the time to field complex systems has continued to increase over the years. For example, in the 1970s, the F-16 Fighting Falcon averaged six years from concept to field delivery. In the 1990s, the C-17 Globemaster III saw timelines of about 12 years. Work on the F-35 Lightning II began in the early 2000s, with final full operational capability estimated to exceed more than 20 years at this time.
“We need to streamline the design, development, fabrication and testing to get platforms to our warfighters faster. This is critical to our support of the National Defense Strategy and what our Air Force needs to continue to effectively fly, fight and win today and in the future,” Bunch said.
The effort will leverage the expertise of AFMC Airmen across the enterprise in collaboration with industry partners, the U.S. Space Force, Space and Missile Center and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
“This is a team effort, and every functional domain is crucial to the success of our transformation,” Bunch said. “We’re building the infrastructure to support the Air Force we need for the future.”
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