Industry 4.0 is Revolutionizing the Aerospace & Defense Industry

Industry 4.0 is Revolutionizing the Aerospace & Defense Industry

Technology—and the speed at which it’s developed—is greatly influencing customer priorities. Customers, allies, and partners, particularly government entities and the intelligence community, want new technology in their hands “at the speed of innovation,” or, as quickly as it can be developed. Embracing new models like open architecture, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and advanced manufacturing can make that happen.

The U.S. aerospace and defense community must invest in digital engineering and technologies like AI/ML to accelerate development cycles and deploy new products at the rate needed to meet the Defense Department’s evolving requirements and help the U.S. maintain its dominance in the global A&D community. Integrating high-tech, breakthrough technologies can empower people to make faster, more informed decisions that make the world a safer place.

“While the creation of new solutions through digital engineering processes is a major part of Industry 4.0, the industry must also upgrade legacy systems to fit into the new digital-first defense environment.”

The Role of Smart Factories

Industry 4.0, also described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is making headway within the defense industry, with major players harnessing digital tools and smart manufacturing processes to produce products and services and create interconnected defense solutions to communicate threats in real-time. 

To develop these solutions effectively and, in a cost-efficient manner, businesses must invest in the backbone of smart manufacturing: smart factories.

In September 2021, Raytheon Intelligence & Space opened its Advanced Integration and Manufacturing, or AIM, Center. The 178,000-square-foot facility harnesses the power of connected data, digital engineering and advanced analytics combined with digital and physical automation to deliver breakthrough technologies, products and services that are affordable and can be deployed by the U.S. military faster than ever before.

The center’s “clean sheet” design is key to accelerating the development cycle, as it uses space in a more efficient manner, keeping necessary tools and tasks within a six-foot radius – enabling materials to travel 80 percent less. It also has built-in safety and ergonomics throughout, allowing our employees to work more efficiently, effectively and safely. 

Smart factories like the AIM Center are critical to meeting the DoD’s modern requirements. Moving forward, the industry must be agile and open to transforming traditional processes to include digital capabilities that tackle the challenges of tomorrow today.

Upgrading Legacy Solutions

While the creation of new solutions through digital engineering processes is a major part of Industry 4.0, the industry must also upgrade legacy systems to fit into the new digital-first defense environment.

The U.S. military has partnered with Raytheon Technologies to develop Active Electronically Scanned Array radars for the past 40 years. In an effort to meet modern battlefield demands, RI&S recently introduced an affordable, lightweight and compact AESA radar. This radar harnesses the capability of a heavyweight AESA fire control radar in its lightest form factor ever at just over 100 pounds—and at a fraction of the cost.

The team used an open-architecture software design that allows for instant upgrades while keeping operational and maintenance costs low. The radar’s digital backbone ensures that it can be optimized for platforms in the air, in the sea and on land, without sacrificing its trusted capabilities.

Advanced digital manufacturing is the future of the industry, whether it’s utilized to develop innovative new mission systems or to upgrade current solutions that soldiers rely on. There must be widespread investment in smart factories and digital tools to ensure that U.S.-made products will remain the gold standard within the global defense landscape.

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