Boeing Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) have advanced the operational readiness of the Airpower Teaming System aircraft, successfully demonstrating multiple payloads, semi-autonomous behaviours and crewed-uncrewed teaming in the digital environment.
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In a multi-day exercise that expanded upon a similar activity, RAAF operators worked with the digital twin to develop and test autonomous behaviours in operational scenarios and against threats provided by Defence.
According to Air Vice-Marshal Robert Denney, RAAF head of Air Force Capability, the state-of-the-art digital twin concept has allowed for evaluation and integration of smart human-machine teaming systems in our force structure.
“We are working closely with Boeing Australia on the integration of advanced payloads and operational requirements to ensure the Airpower Teaming System capability will be mission-ready to support air combat operations,” AVM Denney said.
Testing included validation of the teaming aircraft integration and payloads as they operated alongside Defence crewed platforms, as well as the effectiveness of the distributed sensors across the Airpower Teaming System uncrewed team.
The test scenario involved several aircraft operating in a threat environment, executing mission aims in coordination with crewed aircraft being operated by RAAF personnel, and builds on working to develop the crewed-uncrewed interface during earlier activities.
This work also contributes to the development of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being offered to global customers.
"The digital engineering expertise has enabled us to accelerate the Airpower Teaming System’s product lifecycle development of the aircraft design through to production," according to Brad Thompson, airpower teaming system chief capability architect.
“Creating the digital environment has also enabled us to test the mission systems code in a realistic operational environment so we can rapidly iterate our crewed-uncrewed teaming concepts and payload implementation to meet the threat environment.
“Taking a digital twin approach delivers an agile, cost-effective test program to keep pace with the future battlespace, and we’re well along the path to drive towards initial operational capability,” Thompson said.
Progress on the Airpower Teaming System’s mission system and payload development has included ground-based hardware and software in-the-loop testing, followed by surrogate flight testing of the onboard systems to support verification of the digital models.
According to Thompson, these elements have enabled the team to rapidly roll in lessons learned into the digital environment, accelerating development towards an operational capability.
"We’re excited to test elements of payloads against appropriately spectrally representative targets in field trials,” Thompson added.
A digital twin of the entire aircraft has been "flown" thousands of times under different battlespace effects to test aircraft performance and maximise its deployment capability independently and in support of other aircraft.
Boeing aims to continue to progress payload development and flight tests under the development program.