Air Force Armament Directorate and DIU partner for modular ETV prototypes using AM

June 14, 2024

June 14, 2024

An Enterprise Test Vehicle (ETV) design rendering from IS4S (Courtesy Integrated Solutions for Systems, Inc.)
An Enterprise Test Vehicle (ETV) design rendering from IS4S (Courtesy Integrated Solutions for Systems, Inc.)

The Air Force Armament Directorate (AFLCMC/EB), Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, USA, and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), Mountain View, California, have partnered to identify and prototype commercial and dual-use technology solutions for an Enterprise Test Vehicle (ETV) that demonstrates modularity for subsystem upgrade testing. The technology is also planned to serve as a foundation for affordable, high-rate production.

Initial flight demonstrations will occur within seven months from the agreement award dates, after which one or multiple of the most promising prototypes will continue development toward a production variant capable of rapidly scalable manufacture.

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“We are excited to partner with DIU. The ETV presents an opportunity to leverage promising ideas from industry to create and refine affordable designs for test capabilities that can be produced on a relevant timeline,” said Andrew Hunter, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Vendors are incorporating commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components wherever possible to mitigate supply chain bottlenecks and keep costs low. Vendors will also leverage modern design for manufacturing approaches, ensuring air vehicles are not over-engineered for their intended mission, minimise use of expensive materials, and enable on-call high-rate production that is not possible with more exquisite counterparts.

“While the Armament Directorate remains committed to our highly-capable legacy products, we have become convinced that widening the aperture to include more non-traditional aerospace companies offers the best chance at accomplishing our cost-per-unit goals, project timeline, and production quantity goals,” said Cassie Johnson, the Armament Directorate’s ETV Program Manager. “We eagerly anticipate bringing respectable capability to our warfighters.”

Design renderings of the ETV prototype optimised for high-rate production from Zone 5 Technologies (Courtesy Zone 5 Technologies)
Design renderings of the ETV prototype optimised for high-rate production from Zone 5 Technologies (Courtesy Zone 5 Technologies)

Prototypes are utilising an open-system architecture reference to enable future design improvements and rapid integration of subsystems. Capable of deployment en masse **through multiple launch methods, ETVs create an overwhelming dilemma for any defending adversary.

“This award is a great example of how we are partnered closely with the Air Force to drive innovation for the warfighter, with the focus, speed, and scale necessary to achieve strategic impact. Together, we are harnessing the power of commercial technology to meet a critical operational need for straightforward, affordable, and quickly scalable autonomous systems in the air,” said Doug Beck, Director, Defense Innovation Unit.

“DIU is committed to pursuing a number of initiatives to accelerate autonomy within the Department including the adoption and scaling of trusted commercial autonomy and improving our ability to counter adversarial systems.”

DIU and EB selected Anduril Industries, integrated Solutions for Systems, Inc; Leidos Dynetics; and Zone 5 Technologies to develop prototype solutions for flight demonstration in late summer/autumn 2024. These vendors were selected from a highly competitive field of more than 100 commercial and dual-use technology company applicants.

Prototype vehicle design from Leidos Dynetics (Courtesy Leidos Dynetics)
Prototype vehicle design from Leidos Dynetics (Courtesy Leidos Dynetics)

Additional ETV government project collaborators and evaluators include the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Special Operations Command (SOCOM), Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), and US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM).

Kevin Czinger, CEO, Divergent, commented, “IS4S will develop prototype ETV systems for flight testing on an accelerated timeline. Future design improvements will be rapidly generated through the integration of subsystems across an open systems architecture. This technology will serve as a foundation for affordable mass production moving forward and provide an overwhelming dilemma for defending adversaries.”

“IS4S has partnered with Divergent to design, build, and assemble the vehicle’s functionally integrated airframe. Divergent’s end-to-end software-hardware manufacturing solution called the Divergent Adaptive Production System (DAPS) provides for rapid iteration and low-cost production of the IS4S ETV airframe. Through this partnership, IS4S and Divergent can deliver fast, flexible design, with the ability to quickly scale production and meet warfighter needs,” Czinger added.

“The IS4S ETV vehicle is paired with an adaptable and scalable production system. The use of DAPS enables IS4S and Divergent to design, build, assemble, and test the vehicle cheaper, faster, and more flexibly than the traditional manufacturing process.”

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June 14, 2024

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