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eT-7a earns digital designation

  • Published
  • By Daryl Mayer, AFLCMC Public Affairs
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio (AFLCMC) – “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means,” goes the oft-quoted line from The Princess Bride. 

Clearly not wishing “digital engineering” relegated to meme status, Leadership Log this week delves into understanding what it means by speaking with Joe Baker, Director of Engineering for the Mobility and Training Aircraft Directorate, and Lt. Col. Jameson “HEAThER” Locklear, Deputy Program Manager for the eT-7a Red Hawk.

“Digital engineering is not changing the engineering approach,” Baker said.  “It is providing new tools for the engineers to do their job better and faster.”

He related taking a college visit 30 years ago where a potential freshman would have used folding paper maps for navigation, listened to favorite tunes on a cassette tape or read a book actually printed on paper. 

“Today, everything I want is on my smartphone or on my tablet.  I’ve digitized my books, I've got streaming services for movies, television and music.  For navigation, I now have GPS with oral cues rather than trying to look at a map when driving,” Baker said. 
“Digital engineering is sort of the same thing. I'm still going to be doing the same engineering tasks I have today.  But I'm going to have far better tools.  I'll be able to understand my weapon system better, I'll be able to iterate on changes and really fine tune the weapon system, long before we start bending metal or moving from the digital world into the physical world.”
Drawing into a current example, the eT-7a Red Hawk, Locklear said, was able to go from final draft to flying the aircraft in three years.  It is also the first “digital pathfinder” for the Air Force meaning the program is making leaps forward while outlining ways future programs can grow even more. 
“So I personally have never built an airplane,” Locklear said. “I have built pieces of furniture and I couldn't say that any piece of furniture that I've ever built is devoid of shim or it's just not flat or square or anything like that. The idea that they [Boeing] were able to design digitally this aircraft and get those pieces together without having to adjust anything … that's amazing to me. 
He added the impacts of digital engineering will continue into production. 
“We haven't even gotten into the production of this aircraft at a large scale,” Locklear said.  “Once we get into that phase of the program, they're going to be able to use this design method to pump out aircraft at a very high rate of speed which is pretty phenomenal.”
To hear the full conversation, you can watch Leadership Log on YouTube at  You can also listen by searching “Leadership Log” on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, Overcast, Radio Public or Breaker.