NIAR secures $100 million contract for digital transformation and technologies to support USAF operational readiness

The office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Logistics and Product Support has sponsored a contract through the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) to award Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) a five-year $100 million cooperative agreement for digital engineering and technologies to support sustainment of legacy U.S. Air Force platforms.

This cooperative agreement provides for an indefinite quantity of supplies or services during a fixed period of time. Initially, it will be used to develop digital engineering solutions to support the sustainment and modifications of the B-52 Stratofortress and the C-130 Hercules aircraft; as well as complete the development of the F-16 Fighting Falcon and B-1 Lancer digital twins.

The principal investigator for the program is Melinda Laubach-Hock, director of NIAR’s Sustainment Lab.

“This contract will extend our reach in military sustainment R&D efforts, growing the Wichita workforce and providing additional applied learning opportunities for Wichita State students," said Laubach-Hock. “It is a natural extension of our existing digital twin work, and will expedite the DoD’s digital transformation initiative across legacy airframes, providing contemporary methods to manage sustainment and improve mission readiness rates.”

The initiative will include:

  • Development of digital models and data for selected aircraft systems and components
  • Integration of digital data across multiple commercial platforms (not limited to a single solution)
  • Prototype capabilities for match drilling, robotics, and automation
  • Evaluation and development of advanced manufacturing and additive manufacturing capabilities
  • Demonstration of modeling and simulation tools to address a wide range of sustainment and maintenance challenges
  • Demonstration of how the commercial market, working with the DoD, can develop new concepts and capabilities that create value, lower cost, and increase mission success

Since 2018, NIAR has steadily grown its digital engineering portfolio to include the U.S. Air Force B-1 and F-16; the U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk and AH-64 Apache airframes; and U.S. Army ground vehicles and engines. NIAR’s digital engineering team employs approximately 400 hundred technicians, engineers, inspectors, and program managers; over half of which are students in applied learning positions.

About Wichita State University

Wichita State University is Kansas' only urban public research university, enrolling almost 22,000 students between its main campus and WSU Tech, including students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Wichita State University provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the Wichita State University main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.

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