Virtual carriers aim to sink design errors

The Ministry of Defence has launched a computerised virtual prototyping system that should eliminate expensive engineering prototypes and design errors early on in big military projects. The MoD’s Procurement Executive (PE) revealed details of its Vitesse technology at its Abbey Wood headquarters near Bristol this week. Its costs are said to be in the ‘low […]

The Ministry of Defence has launched a computerised virtual prototyping system that should eliminate expensive engineering prototypes and design errors early on in big military projects.

The MoD’s Procurement Executive (PE) revealed details of its Vitesse technology at its Abbey Wood headquarters near Bristol this week. Its costs are said to be in the ‘low order of millions’ of pounds.

Virtual prototyping takes engineering designs and turns them into 3D computer images that can then be manipulated in computer- simulated environments.

‘They behave like the real systems, so designs can be fully tested before anything is actually built, allowing trade-offs in cost and performance to be explored early on,’ an MoD spokeswoman said.

Vitesse is being used in a joint MoD study with industrial suppliers to see how virtual prototyping can support development of Britain’s future aircraft carriers. It will let the MoD judge how different designs affect the numbers of aircraft used on carriers, how much room they need and how weather affects operations.

‘Because warships are such enormous weapons platforms, there should be big savings as a result of using virtual prototyping,’ the spokeswoman said.

Vitesse was developed by Systems Engineering & Assessment (SEA) in Bristol. It uses a Silicon Graphics Onyx 2 computer with images projected onto a curved 6m x 1.5m screen. With 3D goggles, users can ‘walk through’ a design.

‘The system is shared between the MoD and SEA, but we’ll be working in future in integrated project teams with everybody that has an interest in a project,’ the MoD said.

The system remains at a technology demonstrator stage. Carriers were selected for the programme because of their expense and complexity. ‘We’ve already had a number of our land and air system project teams asking to use this type of technology, for example for the Tornado bomber’s replacement,’ the MoD said.