One of the missions of the United States Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) is to develop and assess technologies for next generation aerospace systems. Currently, the assessment is achieved using empirical relationships and historical data associated with systems developed previously. The assessment is done in this fashion due to resource constraints on time, personnel, and funding. Performing technology assessment in such a fashion, although timely, is not necessarily accurate. This is due to the fact that many of the technologies and system configurations being evaluated have no historical or empirical information associated with them. Hence, traditional assessment techniques produce misleading results and subsequently ill-informed decisions by Air Force leadership associated with technology investment and potential future system capabilities. To address this issue the Multidisciplinary Science and Technology Center within AFRL's Aerospace Systems Directorate is developing physics-based design exploration and technology assessment methods and processes. The new methods and processes utilize physics-based analyses and a distributed collaborative computational environment to predict vehicle performance which in turn is used in mission level simulations to assess the impact of a given configuration or technology on the combat effectiveness of a system. The new methods and processes will be executable within the same time and resource constraints of the traditional process. This enables AFRL technology developers to have a quantifiable and traceable trail of the impact of their technologies on system performance parameters such as weight, lift, and drag into terms that Air Force leadership measures system effectiveness – lethality, survivability, sustainability, and affordability. This leads to well informed decisions concerning technology investment and achievable capabilities.
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