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US Air Force introduces “eSeries” aircraft designation in nod to digital shift

Photo: US Air Force

The US Air Force is introducing a new designation – “eSeries” – for digitally designed aircraft and weapon systems, the Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett announced at the Air Force Association conference.

This means that eSeries systems being considered for acquisition will be designed, developed and manufactured on a digital foundation, just like the Boeing eT-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer. The new process is part of the department’s digital eSeries approach, it was explained.

The secretary made her remarks during the keynote speech at this year’s Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference, which is being held virtually due to the global pandemic.

“To inspire companies to embrace the possibilities presented by digital engineering, today the Department of the Air Force is announcing a new weapons system designator—the ‘e’ series,” Barrett said. “Aircraft, satellites, weapon systems and more that are digitally engineered will receive an ‘e’ prefix.”

The first US Air Force aircraft designed using the digital approach, the eT-7A Red Hawk, embraced model-based engineering and 3D design tools which reduced assembly hours by 80% and cut software development time in half. The aircraft moved from computer screen to first flight in just 36 months, according to the service.

According to Air Force officials, an eSeries digital acquisition program will be a “fully-connected, end-to-end virtual environment that will produce an almost perfect replica of what the physical weapon system will be.”

The decision has led to discussion on social media as the “E” designation is already used for the electronic warfare and early warning aircraft. The service noted that the e in “eSeries” should always be in lowercase as a way of differentiation.