Navy Looks to Improve Development Process for Aircraft, Weapons

Kevin Smith | October 27, 2017


The United States’ Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is looking to advance its development process for aircraft and weapons, and at least one commander believes ditching paper will be the path forward.

That’s according to Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, the keynote speaker at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Systems Engineering Conference earlier this week, according to a report by USNI News.

Grosklags is heavily in favor of moving away from paper-based product development. Instead, he’s advocating for transitioning to a model-based systems engineering approach that would foster the creation of specifications, digital drawings and testing in virtual environments.

USNI News reports that Grosklags thinks model-based systems engineering would help decrease the time and headaches associated with designing, vetting, reworks, and testing of new aircraft, weapons and ships. Plus, it would also assist with integration and training issues, which he specifically called out as current pain points for the operators of these products.

Moving NAVAIR to a model-based systems engineering approach would offer increased visibility for engineers into the actual environmental conditions these products would be operating in, for instance. Currently, NAVAIR is managing requirements through a less precise process.

“We write a 500-page specification with 20,000 shall-statements,” Grosklags said, according to USNI News, “and we give it to industry and go, here, (design) this. We don’t give them the threat models, we don’t give them the blue force models, we don’t give them that system of systems family model we just built. We give them a 500-page document with 20,000 shall-statements.”

Better requirements management could also help improve NAVAIR’s move to model-based engineering. And the benefits of migrating to a more modern product development process would extend through testing and evaluation.

“In the end, capabilities-based test and evaluation is about testing the capabilities – it’s not about ensuring industry met every one of those 20,000 specs,” Grosklags said, via USNI News. “That’s where we spend all our time today during T&E, validating that industry met the specs. The fleet couldn’t care less, the fleet wants to know that the attributes and the capabilities that they’re counting on will be met.”

While Grosklags expressed his enthusiasm for moving to a digital, model-based process, he noted it’s a lot easier than implementation. That said, NAVAIR intends to begin adding model-based engineering any way it can, including implementing it into into new designs and sustainment programs, and learn quickly through the process.

Read full coverage of Grosklags’ talk at USNI News, and check out our e-book, “All Systems Go,” on how to unify systems engineering processes and people.