Northrop Grumman and the US Air Force have signed an industry-first data rights agreement, opening B-21 data access and collaboration across the programme, including the launch of a digital twin shared environment.
The agreement establishes a level of access to common data and data environments that had not yet been accomplished on a programme of this scale or this early in the lifecycle. It creates greater transparency and collaboration between Northrop Grumman and the Air Force, helping to deliver greater affordability and rapid upgradability throughout the program lifecycle.
Northrop Grumman says it has placed a high priority on driving digital engineering further into the B-21 programme.
Also earlier this year, Northrop Grumman and USAF successfully demonstrated the migration of B-21 ground systems data to a cloud environment. This demonstration included the development, deployment and test of a suite of B-21 data, including the B-21 digital twin, that will support B-21 operations and sustainment.
This successful test proved the ground systems footprint can be significantly reduced at main operating bases and in deployment packages. This approach will drive affordability and readiness advantages in operations and sustainment.
The B-21 programme’s achievements in data access and data management are best practices Northrop Grumman is using to benefit other programs across the company.
“The B-21 Raider is a true digital native, and this data rights agreement coupled with the cloud based digital twin allow us to drive down risk in the EMD phase, will enable rapid capability upgrades and lowers sustainment cost over the life of the program,” said Doug Young, sector vice president and general manager, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems.
As the B-21 continues its ground test phase, the team will power up the aircraft, test its subsystems, and apply coatings and paint. The next steps will include carrying out engine runs as well as low-speed and high-speed taxi tests, and then on to first flight.
Northrop Grumman has invested in a robust production programme — one that is foundational to the National Defense Strategy — to deliver the B-21 at a rate that will have a real effect for USAF in meeting evolving threats.
Innovative application of digital engineering and commercial off-the-shelf digital tools continue to deliver an advanced degree of precision and efficiency in the build process, with production risk reduction progressing every day as B-21 test aircraft move down the actual production line.
On 20th September, Northrop Grumman announced it will unveil the B-21 Raider during the first week of December at the company’s Palmdale, California facility, in partnership with the Air Force.