What technological advances allow us to keep creating better and better versions of things like fighter jets?

164 views

Is it all in computer hardware and software, or have we learned more about aerodynamics, material science, and engine construction between say, the F16 and the F35 Lightning II.

In: 0

17 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

[deleted]

Anonymous 0 Comments

[deleted]

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s actually a mix of it all!

As an example, when designing these highly advanced aircraft, engineers will use computers and mathematical models to optimize the designs for various things.

Aerodynamics is one thing they will try to optimize for. They want aerodynamic drag to be as low as possible for as wide a range of airspeeds as possible. Simulating aerodynamics is very computationally heavy, so as computers get faster at doing calculations and the algorithms they use improve, so does the result improve.

Materials science improvements could for example improve the composite materials used for the fuselage and wings.

Engine design is also constantly improving. The efficiency gets better, the power gets higher. A huge part of this is because the process of designing something as complex as a fighter jet is largely iterative and builds on all the ground work laid before it. This means that they will constantly design, test, redesign, test more, and redesign more.

The engineers will constantly be learning new things and applying them to new designs. This process happens all over, all the time – which can accumulate into an overall better design in the end.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The way the US military is funded makes it an inevitability that there will always be new fighter jets (and all the other stuff), even if they’re not necessarily better. Billions flows to military contractors who do R&D on all the things you mentioned and more. Maybe they have a big breakthrough in a few of them, maybe they don’t, but that doesn’t dictate the schedule for developing and producing new equipment. There’s no sense that the military will stick with the F-35 until there’s a good technological reason to switch. They announced development of a “sixth-generation” fighter jet just 2 years after the F-35 entered service.

Anonymous 0 Comments

[deleted]

Anonymous 0 Comments

The way the US military is funded makes it an inevitability that there will always be new fighter jets (and all the other stuff), even if they’re not necessarily better. Billions flows to military contractors who do R&D on all the things you mentioned and more. Maybe they have a big breakthrough in a few of them, maybe they don’t, but that doesn’t dictate the schedule for developing and producing new equipment. There’s no sense that the military will stick with the F-35 until there’s a good technological reason to switch. They announced development of a “sixth-generation” fighter jet just 2 years after the F-35 entered service.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The way the US military is funded makes it an inevitability that there will always be new fighter jets (and all the other stuff), even if they’re not necessarily better. Billions flows to military contractors who do R&D on all the things you mentioned and more. Maybe they have a big breakthrough in a few of them, maybe they don’t, but that doesn’t dictate the schedule for developing and producing new equipment. There’s no sense that the military will stick with the F-35 until there’s a good technological reason to switch. They announced development of a “sixth-generation” fighter jet just 2 years after the F-35 entered service.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s actually a mix of it all!

As an example, when designing these highly advanced aircraft, engineers will use computers and mathematical models to optimize the designs for various things.

Aerodynamics is one thing they will try to optimize for. They want aerodynamic drag to be as low as possible for as wide a range of airspeeds as possible. Simulating aerodynamics is very computationally heavy, so as computers get faster at doing calculations and the algorithms they use improve, so does the result improve.

Materials science improvements could for example improve the composite materials used for the fuselage and wings.

Engine design is also constantly improving. The efficiency gets better, the power gets higher. A huge part of this is because the process of designing something as complex as a fighter jet is largely iterative and builds on all the ground work laid before it. This means that they will constantly design, test, redesign, test more, and redesign more.

The engineers will constantly be learning new things and applying them to new designs. This process happens all over, all the time – which can accumulate into an overall better design in the end.

Anonymous 0 Comments

There’s a number of factors that change aircraft design over the decades

**Mission profile** – The mission profile (the job) of jets changes.

An F-35 is meant for a different type of combat than an F-16 or an A-4. War changes over time.

Modern jets prioritize Stealth vs Top speed and dogfighting, and that affects everything about how a jet is designed from materials to shape. In a lot of ways the performance of jets like the F-35 and F-22 are compromised to make them stealthier, but the technology has improved so much that the jet ends up being net-positive in terms of performance over older jets regardless. Better missiles, tighter turns, better engines, etc.

**Material science** – Newer materials and manufacturing techniques allow for better aircraft.

Early jet engines were mail from cast parts which made them prone to balancing issues, bubbles, catastrophic failures, etc

Modern jet engines are made with milled parts that are X-ray tested, and the latest stuff can even be 3D printed.

Parts today are stronger, use less materials, can be in crazier shapes, and are lighter.

Composites are another big advancement. Crazy wing shapes and stealth aircraft are only possible because of composite materials.

**Design** – Development of 3D CAD and CFD simulation software (Computation Fluid Dynamics) has also changed the game. Most of a plane can be tested in a computer today before they even make a wind tunnel model.

**Aerodyanmics science** – Today we just understand aerodynamics better. Back in the 40s and 50s designers would be much more likely to try random ideas because we just didn’t understand aero that well.

The reason that airplanes (and cars) today all kinda look the same is because of converging design. They are that shape because we have nearly a century of science and experimentation that tells us that’s the best shape to make an airplane.

**Cost** – Don’t forget about cost considerations. The US military operates as if it has no budget, which is part of why it’s able to make such crazy jets.

While more budget conscious countries have to come up with different innovative ideas to keep costs down. Tell engineers they need to achieve certain performance figures on a budget and they can sometimes work miracles.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s actually a mix of it all!

As an example, when designing these highly advanced aircraft, engineers will use computers and mathematical models to optimize the designs for various things.

Aerodynamics is one thing they will try to optimize for. They want aerodynamic drag to be as low as possible for as wide a range of airspeeds as possible. Simulating aerodynamics is very computationally heavy, so as computers get faster at doing calculations and the algorithms they use improve, so does the result improve.

Materials science improvements could for example improve the composite materials used for the fuselage and wings.

Engine design is also constantly improving. The efficiency gets better, the power gets higher. A huge part of this is because the process of designing something as complex as a fighter jet is largely iterative and builds on all the ground work laid before it. This means that they will constantly design, test, redesign, test more, and redesign more.

The engineers will constantly be learning new things and applying them to new designs. This process happens all over, all the time – which can accumulate into an overall better design in the end.