The US military needs to completely rework the design and development of military aircraft and other military systems. The problems with military aircraft is particularly large because it is often not possible to retrofit advances into military jets. A jet built for stealth or hypersonic speed has to have those capabilities designed from the start.
The F35 is the poster child for bad procurement with many years of delays and cost overruns and design flaws.
Lockheed Martin and Boeing are the main builders of military aircraft for the United States but they also make rocket launch systems. Atlas is manufactured by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company, formed in December 2006.
Spacex is vastly smaller company but they produce new rocket engines and new rocket designs at about ten times the speed of Lockheed and Boeing.
Spacex has only been in existence for fifteen years but they have gone through several rocket engines and rocket family designs Design and development was cheaper and faster.
The F35 began design in 1996.
The first F35 production models started in 2006.
They are still not fully certified as militarily operational
The software is still not working properly.
Deliveries of the F-35 for the U.S. military are scheduled until 2037 with a projected service life up to 2070. This plan would mostly freeze the design for 40 years and then keep flying it for another 50+ years.
The Spacex Raptor engine began design in 2009 and had a test firing in 2016. This was done in parallel and overlapped with the Merlin engine work and the Draco engine work.
Tesla is Elon Musk’s company for electric cars and new capabilities can be delivered with software patch upgrades that are transmitted overnight.
Spacex is leveraging a lot of 3d printing of parts to enable fewer components and fast and flexible design and development.
What really matters to accelerate a sustainable future is being able to scale up production volume as quickly as possible. That is why Tesla engineering has transitioned to focus heavily on designing the machine that makes the machine — turning the factory itself into a product. A first principles physics analysis of automotive production suggests that somewhere between a 5 to 10 fold improvement is achievable by version 3 on a roughly 2 year iteration cycle. The first Model 3 factory machine should be thought of as version 0.5, with version 1.0 probably in 2018.
The Tesla factories can rapidly incorporate new batteries and model changes.
US Military aircraft engine development is still improving but should have faster development. However, there is an even larger lag of several years between when new more powerful or efficient engines are used on existing aircraft designs.
A US military that was producing new fighter or bomber aircraft design within 6 years and with multiple designs being created in parallel would be able to fly aircraft that was state of the art instead of 20-40 year old designs.
A US military that had working software that kept pace with a fast design and modification cycle would have flexibile and robust systems. Especially if software patches could be delivered within weeks of a problem being noticed and then patched in overnight updates.
China is copying US military technology. However, they are ahead in terms of rapidly fielding many new designs and modified designs. China produced the J20 and the FC31 stealth fighter designs in parallel. They have been more rapidly modifying and improving systems.
The goal should be additive manufacturing from design to finish. The detailed computer models of the designs should be allowed to be updated up until the point when they are committed for the production build. The 3d printing build should be days. The modifications to the design should have automated validation and simulation testing to prevent faulty designs.
All aspects of what military systems are produced, if new technological capability could be rapidly integrated and fielded into operational systems.
* new materials
* new engines
* new weapons
* new computers
* new sensors
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.