The U.S. Air Force is moving forward with a program to create a full-scale 3D model of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Once completed, the F-16 “digital twin” is expected to serve as a virtual test bed for “future modifications and other sustainment actions prior to physical implementation.” The project is being conducted via a new contract with Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) in partnership with Lockheed Martin.
“Maintainers and engineers work diligently to deliver aircraft to the fight, and it costs a lot of time, money and effort to break out an aircraft for updates and repairs,” said F-16 structural engineer Capt. Jamee Boyer. “It also costs money to develop a solution that doesn’t really work. With a 3D model, we can model different solutions in a virtual environment and see if they work, before having maintainers remove parts that may not need to be removed.”
To create the digital model, two F-16s from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Arizona’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base will be disassembled and scanned. The project is expected to last four years. Although not part of the current program, NIAR says the model could eventually see use in augmented reality and virtual reality training for F-16 aircrew members and maintainers.