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 NCMS
NCMS is a cross-industrytechnology development consortium dedicated to improving the competitiveness and strength of theUSindustrial base for 35 years. NCMS leverages a network of industry, government, and university partners to develop, demonstrate, and transition innovative technologies efficiently,with less risk and lower cost. NCMS enables world-class companies to work effectively with other members on new opportunitiesmatching highly capable companies with the providers and end users who need their innovations and technology solutions. The NCMS network benefits from an accelerated progression of idea creation through execution. Learn more at, at NCMS's LinkedIn, and @ncmsmfg. 

About NIAR
Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research provides research, design, testing, certification and training to aviation, defense, and manufacturing industries.  NIAR has a $217 million annual budget, 1,200 employees, two million square feet across Wichita and a satellite office in Huntsville, AL.  Areas of expertise include Additive/Advanced Manufacturing; Advanced Coatings; Aerodynamics; Ballistics/Crash Dynamics; Composites/Advanced Materials; Digital Twin; Environmental/EME; eXtended Reality; Flight Simulation; Full-Scale Structural Test; NDT; Sustainment; Reverse Engineering; Robotics/Automation and Virtual Engineering.