The Art of Bringing Combat Vehicles to Life

Modeling and simulation’s role is crucial in designing and building combat vehicles far before they hit the production line.
Modeling and simulation’s role is crucial in designing and building combat vehicles far before they hit the production line. (Getty Images photo)
 
In what world would you log into your Zoom meeting, turn on your camera, and jump behind the commander’s station of a next generation combat vehicle? Under the rim of your helmet, you give feedback to an engineer, also in the meeting, to change the design for troops’ ease of use … seeing technology flying in and out of the frame.

You’ve just entered the world of modeling and simulation (M&S) at BAE Systems, with a cup of coffee in your hand.

M&S is a multi-faceted environment that enables BAE Systems engineers and customers to use models and simulations to trade requirements, assess technical performance, and make engineering and design decisions. Essentially, M&S is the backbone of how combat vehicles are built and it provides a key element in the digital engineering environment that is leveraged throughout the development process.

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words,” said Chris Wentland, an engineering director of modeling, simulation & analysis at BAE Systems. “If you multiply that by the amount of data captured in a simulation, our teams are providing information far beyond anything a written or verbal word could convey.”

For new vehicle designs where the requirements are being finalized, M&S provides the deep analysis necessary to predict the physical stress, strain, and vibration frequencies developed within the system to predict how it will perform against its mission.

Getting an early start
Leveraging a simulation environment early in the design phase before you build any aspect of the vehicle allows the team to compare and analyze the models against existing test data to help build confidence in the success of the first unit built. This significantly reduces the cost and schedule of the early design and production phase of a new program. Critical decisions are made  tied to real data, versus just making educated guesses based on past experiences or builds.

“You can’t build everything to test it … you have to be able to predict. Ultimately, we have to study as much as we can prior to the vehicle being built so that we ensure that we meet the needs of the warfighter,” Wentland said.

Once the mission is analyzed, the visual aspect of M&S comes into play. Allowing customers to experience the design in real-time, without having to wait for a physical vehicle to be built, provides the opportunity for reaction to requirements they may want to reconsider. It also allows BAE Systems to identify additional technologies and capability for the vehicle that were not yet considered based on analysis.

Managing the lifecycle
Training support, maintainability, and vehicle operations are also made infinitely easier through M&S. Leveraging the digital models to support the full life cycle of the vehicle, including how upgrades can fit into your design far before they’re necessary, help ensure our end goals can be met even before receiving our first material shipment for production.

The benefits of M&S continue to prove themselves, and our team continues to implement the technology into our everyday processes for current and future programs. At the end of the day, we know the M&S environment will help drive more efficiently in reaching our ultimate goal: design vehicles that are highly capable and survivable for our troops.

Best of all? It’s a collaborative process with the greater team that can be done while you’re finishing your first cup of coffee in the morning.