With modernization and upgrades of military ISR capabilities receiving increased focus, Northrop Grumman [NOC] is placing an emphasis on data analytics to improve the post-delivery logistics process with its customers.
Northrop Grumman officials are working with military partners to devise metrics aimed at better predicting the mission effectiveness of its software defined systems and unmanned aircraft, including the Global Hawk.
“First and foremost, data is at the heart of future military logistics,” Gulu Gambhir, CTO of Northrop Grumman’s technology services division, said in a meeting with reporters last week. “We’re doing our research and development today, which is based on forecasting failure modes that’ll occur in our systems. We’ve applied that and real-time analytics that ultimately result in higher mission availability and increased mission effectiveness.”
Much of the logistics focus will be placed on developing software-defined, hardware-enabled systems that allow for continuous upgrades to the ISR platforms Northrop deliver to the military, according to Gambhir.
The company also plans to take advantage of the DoD’s Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) program to deliver advanced manufacturing solutions closer to the point of need.
A CRADA would allow Northrop Grumman to develop new data analytics tools meant to improve modernization of already deployed products and reduce logistical risk.
“Within our R&D programs, the idea of having a CRADA with the government customer has a benefit for us to allow us to mature the technology and also benefit for the government,” Gambhir said.
Alfredo Ramirez, director of research, technology and engineering for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, pointed to a previous CRADA with military customers to develop new data capabilities for Global Hawk’s Optical Bar Camera sensor.
“This cooperative agreement proved that risk reduction is possible and you can implement sensors to get new information capabilities on legacy platforms and put in open systems architecture components,” said Ramirez.
Improving logistics is also critical to remaining a step ahead of adversarial attempts to disrupt lifecycle sustainment of Northrop Grumman’s military products, according to Chris Jones, president of the company’s technical services division.
“Given the investment levels of some of our partners of interest, there’s now a little bit of a recognition from an acquisition standpoint that we need to go a little bit faster. That’s as applicable for buying new products as it is for sustainment,” Jones said.
The areas of particular concern for gathering larger data for logistical purposes include additive manufacturing, cyber security, robotics and machine learning, according to Jones.
“We’ve met with our military customers and talked about data analytics, what it would it take to transform some of their systems that exist today, which work but they’re not designed to accept technology in the future,” said Jones.