NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER AIRCRAFT DIVISION, Patuxent River, Md.– The Department of Defense (DOD) will provide rare access to its supercomputers for a NAWCAD engines project that could change the future of naval aviation testing.

A computer simulation of an aircraft engine undergoes testing on a computer. The Department of Defense (DOD) will provide rare access to its supercomputers for engineers from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division and its Army Research Lab partners for promising research performing risky engine tests virtually on computers without risking hardware and aircrew during live physical testing. This method of test has significant potential to save time and money during the acquisition lifecycle. (U.S. Navy photo)

The NAWCAD project selected for inclusion in this year’s High-Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP) Frontier Project portfolio uses computer simulation to test naval aviation engines before physical tests are conducted in a lab. For example, engineers can use computers to simulate sand ingestion in helicopter engines to improve performance in harsh environments without risking actual engines, aircraft, and aircrew in live testing. Such predictive modeling also significantly reduces aircraft lifecycle costs and improves readiness.

“NAWCAD’s groundwork in predictive modeling has the potential to transform DOD acquisition,” said NAWCAD Commander, Rear Adm. John Lemmon. “Leveraging advanced computer simulations will help reduce cost and save time during the development of expensive aircraft, weapons, and subsystems and reduce risk during in-person testing – this can be game-changing for programs across our services.”

Every year, the DOD designates a handful of computationally intensive projects in research, development, test, evaluation, and acquisition as Frontier Projects because they promise engineering outcomes not achievable using typically available HPCMP resources. The Frontier Project designation gives the warfare center’s Propulsion and Power department, as well as its U.S. Army Research Laboratory partners, access to significant supercomputing resources that will advance the team’s modeling and simulation research. Findings will determine whether the technology applies to engines across both services and other technologies in the DOD’s inventory.

“Breakthroughs in computational fluid dynamics, computing, and artificial intelligence have changed how naval aviation does research, test, and evaluation,” said NAWCAD aerospace engineer and project co-lead, Dr. Russell Powers. “We’re excited to demonstrate what predictive modeling brings the Navy, DOD, and industry.”

“The advanced design tools resulting from this project will lead to quantum leaps in the performance, efficiency, and reliability of next-generation gas turbine engines,” said Army Research Lab’s Dr. Luis Bravo, the engines project co-lead.

The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division is the Navy’s largest warfare center, employing more than 17,000 military, civilian, and contract personnel. It operates test ranges, laboratories, and aircraft in support of test, evaluation, research, development, and sustainment of everything flown by the Navy and Marine Corps. Based in Patuxent River, Maryland, the command also has major sites in St. Inigoes, Maryland, Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Orlando, Florida.

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