The Air Force awarded a major digital engineering contract to 55 companies that aims to increase the service’s ability to work on digital designs of its future platforms.
The $46 billion indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity initially only obligated $55,000 in research and development funds for fiscal 2020 and 2021 at the time of award, according to a Department of Defense press release. Air Force Officials have previously stated high interest in developing the ability to digitally design and test hardware like airplanes before they go into production, a capability served by digital engineer.
The procurement is for digital engineering and model-based systems engineering. Contractors will also provide services to support agile processes, open systems architecture and weapons and enterprise analytics.
By building virtual environments that simulate the physical conditions a weapon system or airplane will sustain during use, the Air Force could optimize designs before they are physically created and tested in the real world. The prospective tech that could save the department both time and money, officials have said.
The service has been working to advance digital engineering practices internally and with contractors. Former head of acquisition, technology and logistics, Will Roper, pitched companies on using the Air Force’s own tech stack to mixed reactions.
Companies selected for potential future task orders include both major defense contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton and Lockheed Martin, and smaller startups like Shield AI.