Product development decision support at Lockheed Martin

by Silicon Graphics Staff

In 1994, when the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, together with allies, announced their Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program to develop and field an affordable next-generation strike fighter aircraft, the team at Lockheed Martin Corporation competing for the contract knew that extensive modeling and simulation technology would be required.

Affordability through commonality was a key criterion outlined in the mission of the program. The military customer wanted three different designs that would share key, high-cost components--e.g., engines, avionics, and many of the high-cost structural components. Common components would not only save money in the manufacturing, but also in common depot maintenance and service interoperability. The JSF program projected that the new family of aircraft would have commonality in the range of 70-90%, with emphasis on commonality in higher priced parts.

The demands for this new family of aircraft were complex. While sharing common characteristics--such as common fuselage lines, structure, systems, and software; a single-seat cockpit; a side weapons bay; and a blended swept wing--each of the services had also outlined specific characteristics for the JSF. The Navy wanted the JSF to be a multirole stealthy strike aircraft, the Air Force needed a multirole (primary-air-to-ground) fighter, and the Marine Corps required a multirole, short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) strike fighter. The United Kingdom Royal Navy and Royal Air Force specified a supersonic STOVL craft.

To reduce costs in the development and testing of the JSF family of aircraft, Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics Company (LMAero) turned to SGI for its powerful, advanced suite of computers to simulate complex aircraft systems in every stage of design and testing.

Using SGI computing technology, Lockheed Martin has developed piloted simulators at the LMAero Flight Simulation Lab (FSL) in Fort Worth, Texas and Palmdale, California, which support design and evaluation of the flight controls and aerodynamics as well as the integrated tactical performance of the JSF.

Three flight control simulators support design and evaluation of the JSF advanced flight controls and aerodynamics. The Vehicle Management System (VMS) Control Law simulator in the FSL permits pilot assessment of the handling qualities of the designed aircraft, using simulations of the flight control and actuation systems. The VMS Hot Bench Simulator, also in the FSL, permits evaluations of the actual flight control computers with embedded airborne software. The VMS Integration Facility at the Palmdale facility integrates the flight controls, cockpit, and actuator hardware into a manned simulator located on a motion base platform. These simulators permit assessment of aircraft flight characteristics over the full spectrum of flight conditions, from taxi, takeoff, aerial maneuvering, and air-to-air refueling to landing on carrier decks and runways.

Wide Angle Single eyePoint display
The Wide Angle Single eyePoint display provides the
pilot with an all-aspect field of view.

The Tactical System Simulator (TSS) facility supports assessment of the JSF tactical combat capabilities, and includes integrated models of all primary on-board systems, including propulsion, aerodynamics, flight controls, weapons management, sensors, communications, pilot-vehicle interface and avionics. In the TSS, pilots climb into the JSF cockpit and fly the aircraft in highly realistic simulated battlefield situations, including targets, threats, terrain, weather, and friendly forces. This allows pilots to evaluate system design in a realistic tactical environment and recommend changes early in the design process.

The heart of the TSS facility is the pair of full field-of-view displays, which surround the simulator cockpit with high-resolution imagery. The combination of Silicon Graphics® Onyx2® computers and MultiGen-Paradigm image computation software presents the pilot with an all-aspect visual display suitable for both air-to-air and air-to-ground engagements. The photo shows one of the Wide Angle Single eyePoint (WASP) displays used in the TSS. While there are eight channels of display, two are projected onto the rear two panels, which open to allow access and close during operation. The photograph is taken through the open back panels.

Simulated Battle Conditions are displayed in the Virtual Battlefield Management
Simulated Battle Conditions are displayed
in the Virtual Battlefield Management
The TSS also includes a large tactical visualization center, which is the heart of the Virtual Battlefield Management Center (VBMC) in which all the battlefield elements are represented. This visualization includes projections of pilot's displays (both heads-up and heads-down), god's eye views of the battlefield, viewpoints of any entity in the battlefield, and tactical map displays. Again, the large SGI computer complex provides the many sources of display that are projected in the VBMC.

The VBMC also includes several stations with simulated-piloted or human-operated Red and Blue tactical entities. The Manned Interceptor Control Station (MICS) provides heads-up and heads-down displays as well as primary flight controls for the simulation of friendly or hostile piloted aircraft in the simulated battlefield. Two Silicon Graphics® Octane® workstations power each of the four MICS, computing the aircraft dynamics, sensors, and avionics as well as the graphics for the two displays.

The use of simulation to support aircraft design at the Ft. Worth facility began with the General Dynamics B58 Hustler, says Matt Landry, manager, simulation programs at the LMAero Flight Simulation Lab. But since then, the complexity of tactical simulation has increased to the degree of sophistication where pilots who fly the TSS say they cannot "game" the simulation due to the high degree of realism. "They said, 'The workload in the simulator is comparable to that in the battlefield,'" Landry said.

The ultimate test for virtual reality is actual reality. The Navy version of the Lockheed Martin JSF demonstrator, X-35C, had its first flight test on December 16, 2000. It was the second Lockheed Martin JSF Concept Demonstration Aircraft to undergo flight-testing. The X-35A, designed for U.S. Air Force use, successfully completed its flight-test program on November 22, 2001. A third JSF variant, the lift fan-equipped X-35B, also completed flight testing.

The JSF simulators have passed the reality test. "When we flew our first aircraft, the X35-A, the senior test pilot said it flew just like the simulator," Landry said proudly. "We are seeing a much stronger correlation between the simulator and the real world." The X-35A also set several flight test records, one of which was directly related to the simulator. The entire test program successfully concluded without the need to change any of the flight control system software. This was a result of the intense, detailed testing of the software in the simulator, in which all flight modes, failure modes, transitions and interfaces were thoroughly tested before going to flight.

"All of LMAero's simulators use SGI computer horsepower," Landry said. "With recent improvements in processing power, SGI is now able to do computations that used to take a Cray system to run. This permits us to use system models of unprecedented complexity, which significantly increases the fidelity of the simulation."

Lockheed Martin's X-35A in Flight Test over Edwards AFB
Lockheed Martin's X-35A in Flight
Test over Edwards AFB
Landry said one of the obvious advantages of using SGI machines is that more of the simulation tasks can be run on a single computer. Older simulators relied on special-purpose compute engines for computation of the complex, wide field-of-view display; nonlinear aerodynamics; in-cockpit graphics, and sensor imagery. With the new generation of SGI technology, all these computations can now be done on a single computer, reducing the cost of ownership, necessity for multiple development environments, and maintenance costs. A specific advantage of SGI, according to Landry, is its application to the full field-of-view display used in the TSS. This display immerses the pilot in a wrap-around visual scene consisting of eight back-projected images. Our fully immersive simulation environments require extremely powerful hardware to do distortion correction and image computation in real time using open-format databases. This is an ideal application of the SGI and MultiGen solution.

Manned Interactive Control Stations
Manned Interactive Control Stations represent
Red and Blue Forces in the Simulated Battlefield

Simulations such as the TSS are beneficial to Lockheed Martin because they allow the company to assess the tactical effectiveness of its weapon systems. Before building a physical prototype costing millions of dollars, simulations allow Lockheed to test its designs in virtual space. "You want to quantify and demonstrate that the vehicle is controllable, lethal, and stealthy while assessing its tactical effectiveness," Landry said. "These models are high enough in fidelity to satisfy our goals. We are meeting our own high standards."

The current simulation technology is at an unprecedented level of fidelity, Landry said. A major area left for improvement is the out-the-window visual system, where the transport delays and resolution still need improvement. According to Landry, however, this is a narrow niche and he doesn't expect innovations to develop quickly. Another area where Landry sees improvement needed is the speed of computer interfaces.

Lockheed Martin's simulation initiatives are paying off. In November 1996, the JSF program entered the concept demonstration phase and selected two contractors, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to build and fly concept demonstration aircraft. The successes realized in the first phase of flight test of the X-35A are in part due to the investment in the simulators. In October 2001, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded a $19 billion contract to Lockheed Martin to produce and test an initial 22 F-35 JSF aircraft during the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase.

In August 2002, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. purchased additional SGI® advanced visualization technology. The new technology includes SGI® Onyx® 3000 series visualization systems as well as Silicon Graphics FuelTM and Silicon Graphics® Octane2TM workstations. SGI workstations run CATIA® engineering and design applications, while SGI visualization systems power Lockheed Martin's JSF flight simulation laboratory in Fort Worth, Texas.

"Our JSF approach, enabled by SGI technology, will radically reduce the cost of sustaining U.S. airpower by ensuring affordability during SDD, production, operations, and support and by achieving operational excellence throughout the program," said Tom Burbage, executive vice president and general manager, Lockheed Martin JSF Program.

"From the start of the JSF program in the 1990s, SGI advanced visualization and high-performance computing technologies have been instrumental in helping Lockheed Martin generate the most cost-effective, risk-free and performance-driven designs possible for this stealthy next-generation multirole strike fighter," said Tony Celeste, national director of defense business, SGI Federal. "With affordability and performance issues at the core of the F-35 JSF program, Lockheed Martin has come to rely on SGI visualization and HPC technologies to engineer higher-quality, lower-cost and more-competitive designs."

Foreign interest in the program is high, and a number of agreements are in place for the current phase of the program. The United Kingdom became a full collaborative partner in the program in 1995. Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Canada, and Italy subsequently joined the program as cooperative partners.

About Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin, headquartered in Bethesda, MD, is a global enterprise principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture and integration of advanced-technology systems, products and services. The corporation's core businesses are systems integration, space, aeronautics and technology services.

About SGI

SGI, also known as Silicon Graphics, Inc., is the world's leader in high-performance computing, visualization and the management of complex data. SGI products, services and solutions can enable its customers to gain strategic and competitive advantages in their core businesses. The company is headquartered in Mountain View, CA, and has offices worldwide. Check

Questions for Analysis and Discussion

  1. What DSS technologies is Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics Company (LMAero) using? What hardware? What software?
  2. What type of DSS was implemented? Is this a model-driven DSS?
  3. What does it mean to say "these models are high enough in fidelity to satisfy our goals"?
  4. What caused LMAero to purchase and build this DSS?
  5. How successful has the DSS and technology change been?
  6. What are the claimed benefits of the system?
  7. What is the Tactical System Simulator (TSS)? the Virtual Battlefield Management Center?
  8. How will this change in technology affect other companies in the aerospace industry?
  9. Do you anticipate any problems with this system? If so, explain them.

Shelley Miller , SGI PR Programs Manager, provided permission to use an SGI case study at DSSResources.COM on Wednesday, July 31, 2002. She provided final permission to publish this updated case originally titled "SGI® Technology Supports Lockheed Martin Weapon System Simulators" on Tuesday, October 15, 2002. This case was posted at DSSResources.COM on Wednesday, October 16, 2002.

Please cite as:

Silicon Graphics Staff, "Product development decision support at Lockheed Martin", Silicon Graphics, Inc., 2002, at URL DSSResources.COM.

Original case © 2001 Silicon Graphics, Inc. Used at DSSResources.COM by permission. Product names and trademarks may be trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective companies.

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