Another system benefitting from digital technologies is the StormBreaker smart weapon, which can see through fog, smoke and rain, and it can glide more than 45 miles. The Air Force cleared the StormBreaker weapon for use on the F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft in 2020.
“Emerging threats are on a shorter cycle than our design lifecycle, so digital technologies allow us to be more agile and respond to emerging threats,” said Matt Bradstreet, lead systems engineer for the StormBreaker smart weapon at Raytheon Missiles & Defense.
Digital engineering (design, production and support for sustainment) of this weapon was underway long before the Air Force transitioned to a digital acquisition structure.
“Agile software development has always been part of the core of what we do on the program. Add in modeling and simulation to prove out the capability features and you can easily see how digital transformation is a logical next step,” said Steve Milano, who leads requirements and capabilities for Tactical Strike at Raytheon Missiles & Defense.
Raytheon uses a model-based architecture for StormBreaker’s software design. The modular approach to development allows them to apply lessons learned from one product to another, offering efficiencies across the business.
To verify system performance, the team uses an integrated flight simulation, or IFS, and literally runs thousands of iterations in tandem with the Air Force.
“It [IFS] touches the core of what digital transformation tries to do – predict performance and inform the next iteration of the design,” said JD Word, technical director for Tactical Strike at Raytheon Missiles & Defense.
The benefit – time and cost savings.
“Hardware and assets are expensive. Digital clock cycles are cheap,” Bradstreet said. “We can actually reduce the number of flight tests we have to execute because our model has been validated against the flight tests we’ve already flown. That’s really a powerful tool.”
The advantages do not stop there. The business can then run scenarios in the IFS to create tactics for operational squadrons.
As the Air Force moves into the tech refresh phase for the next iteration of the system, Raytheon will look to these digital technologies to help make the StormBreaker smart weapon a true e-Series effector.
“The StormBreaker program will take advantage of the company’s more than $65 million investment in digital transformation over the next two years as we move into the next phases of the weapon’s lifecycle,” Milano said.