Empowering F-35 Digital Engineering Transformation

The Challenge

In response to rapidly advancing threats and new requirements from the three participating military services—the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps—as well as partner nations, the JPO is introducing new capabilities as a part of its modernization program. Upgrades will continue each year, with new capabilities integrated into the F-35 air system on an annual basis. These include new weapons, enhanced survivability, networking, software, advanced technology, and improved maintenance.

Introducing these advanced capabilities into the F-35 air system mid-stream in production is an unprecedented challenge. Traditional paper-based engineering approaches take too long and can’t handle the complexity. Furthermore, the JPO requires deeper insight into the impacts of adding new capabilities across a growing fleet of more than 650 aircraft spanning dozens of configurations.

In response to these challenges, the F-35 JPO is transforming its engineering practices to accelerate development and improve quality. Model-based systems engineering (MBSE) practices will enable the JPO to outpace the threat with the rapid delivery of new capabilities into what is already one of the most complex aircraft in history.

The Approach

As a leading part of a combined team including government, industry, and federally funded research and development centers (FFRDC), Booz Allen is empowering the F-35 transformation to MBSE along three critical lines of effort: processes and methodologies, technology and infrastructure, and people and culture. The team is supporting the JPO’s development of new capabilities through a “born-digital approach” while simultaneously transitioning a critical mass of ongoing engineering efforts—initiatives already in the program of record—to MBSE development.

The Solution

MBSE Processes and Methodologies Empower Transformation

The JPO began its systems engineering transformation in 2018 to digitize its key development practices, asking Booz Allen to lead the critical theme of MBSE. Within months of initiating work, the team had helped the JPO develop the F-35 Technical Approach to Implementing MBSE. Now in its second revision, the F-35 MBSE Technical Approach outlines in strategic terms how the JPO, in collaboration with prime contractor Lockheed Martin, would apply MBSE to develop advanced capabilities for the air system. Now demonstrated on multiple engineering efforts, this approach is being applied to a critical mass of the capabilities set for integration across the air system. 

The F-35 MBSE Technical Approach digitizes prior paper-based approaches to engineering, enables the JPO and Lockheed Martin to share digital models on multiple classification levels, and allows the key engineering processes (design, verification, requirements, certification, and compliance) to occur in a single set of federated models. This approach enables the JPO to better understand the impacts of new capabilities across the air system, gain real-time web access to engineering artifacts, and the ability to perform digitized technical reviews.

Early on, the JPO recognized that simply transitioning existing development work to a digitized process was insufficient. New capabilities had to be “born digital.” The JPO team of partners is applying an approach using a series of knowledge points and early systems engineering that Booz Allen had successfully applied on other acquisition category (ACAT) 1 programs.

The early systems engineering approach applies MBSE development to all new, pre-program of record capabilities to be integrated into the air system. Successfully demonstrated by a Booz Allen-led team, and now in implementation, the early systems engineering approach digitizes JPO development work in the MBSE systems model for F-35.

Booz Allen is helping the JPO institutionalize the MBSE-driven process through a multi-pronged approach: directives, training, infrastructure and technology, and cultural transformation. These methodologies enable the JPO to formalize development and integration work through models representing a single source of truth.

Technology and Infrastructure Forms the Foundation of Transformation

Digital transformation and MBSE implementation require the right tools and infrastructure. From the beginning, Booz Allen assisted the JPO by leading an MBSE tool selection study and then helped the JPO procure and deploy the software. The software is now deployed across multiple network classification levels and is supporting the development of new air system capabilities in collaboration with industry as well as pre-program of record capabilities internal to the JPO.

The tools and infrastructure enable the JPO to share design and requirements data internally via a federated set of systems models and with external industry partners according to the F-35 MBSE implementation strategy. Booz Allen partners with FFRDC contributors to generate other elements of the JPO’s MBSE infrastructure, such as the model architecture, model federation, modeling standards and naming conventions, and software implementation.

People and Culture Are Fundamental to Success

With the Booz Allen team as a partner, the F-35 JPO is training its staff and transforming its culture. With input from key partners, Booz Allen helped the JPO develop and implement an MBSE Training Strategy.

Once approved by leadership, Booz Allen helped the JPO “take the training strategy digital” by moving the course descriptions and signup process to an immersive webpage. Experts from Booz Allen and industry partners have now trained more than 100 JPO staff in MBSE, with courses ranging from the systems modeling language (SysML) to Rhapsody software tool use and JPO-tailored MBSE capability development methodologies.

The JPO is also transforming its culture to embrace digital engineering. The Booz Allen team is helping the JPO migrate the technical review process from a paper-based approach to a model-centric approach. The team helped the JPO establish and manage user access to web-based portals where all key JPO stakeholders can access design artifacts directly in the systems model, which the team demonstrated on multiple capability development efforts. Technical reviews are increasingly being held directly out of digital models instead of the traditional paper-based style.

Critically, JPO engineers are now starting to do their development work for new air system capabilities directly in the MBSE environment, following the F-35 MBSE Technical Approach and early systems engineering processes. The team is also helping the JPO transition away from sending and receiving paper-based artifacts to and from industry participants. Instead, systems model elements become a key data exchange between the JPO and industry—accelerating the speed and quality of development efforts.

The cultural transformation includes all key JPO stakeholders. This entailed helping the JPO collaborate with key stakeholders to ensure the entire F-35 team is cross-functionally synchronized to meet the institutional goals of transitioning to MBSE. Numerous technical exchange meetings were held to gather input and gain concurrence on the MBSE approach, tools, infrastructure, and contractual mechanisms.

The Impact

The F-35 program is embracing MBSE and digital engineering across the entire enterprise. This transformation enables the institution to seize advantage of key MBSE and digital engineering benefits such as:

  • Better understanding of the impacts of design changes and new capabilities
  • Digitized means of sharing requirements, verification, design, and development data in a modeled construct between the government and industry across multiple networks
  • Real-time access to digital engineering artifacts in the systems model
  • Formalized rigorous means of involving the entire JPO enterprise in development through models representing a single source of truth
  • The ability to get to key development milestones faster with a higher quality product through increased efficiency in engineering and acquisition
  • Ways to find and resolve deficiencies sooner, and in some cases, avoid higher cost verification activities such as flight testing

Through MBSE, we help DOD ensure the F-35 continues to play a leading role in keeping the U.S. and its allies at the forefront of defense—year after year.

Learn more about our work with the F-35