Digital twins and modelled design: the defence industry’s data-vision

Defence industry innovation is driven by new technologies, digital twins, model-based design and software-defined technologies. The example of Northrop Grumman Italia (NGI) offers solutions for the evolution of future systems

Keeping up with technological development is one of the prerogatives of the defence industry. Companies can exponentially accelerate development times, while also increasing effectiveness and efficiency, by implementing new processes to build future systems and taking advantage of cutting-edge digital design technologies and methods.

The digital equivalent. This engineering revolution’s main system is the so-called “digital twin,” a data-built model.

  • It can reproduce the behaviour of a given system and verify its own correspondence to the starting model at a later stage while also predicting the long-term effects.
  • This accelerates performance analysis, evaluated according to the different operational scenarios in which the product will operate.
    • The process optimises development thanks to historical and real-time data, which can also simulate the future.

Digitised design. Another cutting-edge solution is model-based design, through which the behaviours of the single components of a system are mathematically modelled.

  • Engineers can verify at any time both the detailed response and the overall performance of the system – or of a “system of systems,” such as an aircraft.
  • It’s both a methodological change and an engineering mindset allowing for the optimisation of the entire process, from teamwork to collaboration between different functions during the product life cycle.
  • Increasingly, DD also makes systems inherently digital, as it moves them naturally towards new types of architectures that facilitate adaptation to specific applications or operational scenarios that leverage software-defined technologies.

From hardware to software. Northrop Grumman Italia (NGI) embraced the “digital vision” introducing new technological solutions in which hardware-based architectures are converted to a software-defined vision.

  • New systems evolve through software upgrades that aim to improve their capabilities and increase their functions by getting the most out of the hardware they are based on.
  • NGI reinforces this approach by associating these enabling technologies with open architecture hardware platforms, which use standard interfaces and open modular systems.
    • The approach will allow for the projection of the products in a scenario where the available hardware platforms are multifunctional and allow them to operate in multiple operational domains, adapting to unforeseen tactical needs and requirements.

Italian innovation. All these technologies are developed by NGI, which has implemented these innovative solutions in its production processes so as to combine the new disruptive systems with the experience it gained in the world of defence electronics.

  • The digital twin, the model-based design and the software-defined technologies, are produced in the Pomezia plant. They are ITAR-free (i.e. not subject to export control by the United States).
  • NGI aims to maximise the value of its solutions and use them in the development of sixth-generation fighters, from the Tempest, in which Italian industry already plays a leading role, to the French, German and Spanish FCAS joint project.