US Air Force sticking to Roper’s vision

Harry Lye 25 February 2021 (Last Updated February 25th, 2021 10:21)

Despite former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper leaving the service in January, the US Air Force (USAF) does not plan to deviate from the path he started it on.

US Air Force sticking to Roper’s vision
Former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper. Image: US Air Force.

Despite former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper leaving the service in January, the US Air Force (USAF) does not plan to deviate from the path he started it on.

During a press briefing, Roper’s acting replacement Darlene Costello told reporters: “With Dr Roper’s moving on, there’s a lot of people who’ve asked me every day, what does that mean? Are we no longer going to proceed down the path that he had us going? And the answer to that simply is no.”

During his tenure, Roper pushed for a digital acquisition approach that would see aircraft designed and brought into service faster by employing more digital design methods.

Roper also made the case for a “Digital Century Series” – taking its name from the 1950s century series which saw the USAF purchase six full production fighters. The Digital Century Series would see the USAF develop and buy aircraft more frequently than under current acquisition programmes.

Costello added: “The initiatives that were started under him [Roper], and that we all believe in and our Secretary and our Chief believe in; we are going to be continuing. Now we’re in the implementing them and so there’s a few details we’ll work through. But we believe strongly in digital acquisition and how that will help us down the road.”

Last September, Roper highlighted the benefits of digital acquisition, telling the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference that the service had already built and flown a prototype next-generation fighter jet under the next generation air dominance programme.

At the time, Roper said: “NGAD has come so far, that the full-scale flight demonstrator has already flown in the physical world and it’s broken a lot of records in the doing.”

Key to achieving this, he added, were digital processes that allowed for aircraft to be built as if they had already been built 100 times before.

Commenting on digital acquisition, Costello said: “The digital acquisition methodology is comprised of three parts, of course, the digital engineering, the agile software development, and the open architectures.

“They’re critical, and we believe important to emphasise for all of our new programmes, and any major mods and efforts going forward. Because that’s going to give us a chance to execute faster in our programmes, and that’s really important, we have to keep our programmes on track from a schedule and cost standpoint, and we think that’ll be a big area of help.”