DARPA headquarters at 3701 N. Fairfax Drive in Arlington. Image: Wikimedia

ARPA’s researchers want to figure out a way to bring the typical weapons systems’ development time from 10 years to two years, by following the lead of the IT industry. The agency’s Advanced Vehicle Make (AVM) project is focused on — as the name implies — vehicles. But its researchers are trying to develop a framework that could work for other big Pentagon systems too.

Lt. Col. Nathan Wiedenman, AVM’s deputy program manager, said one huge reason programs tend to exceed their budgets is that they take so long to complete. And the reason they take too long is they have to be close to fully-assembled before designers can see whether they work properly.

“So how do we currently design these big, complex systems? We do it the same way we’ve been doing it for over 50 years,” he said. “We break down the systems we need, typically along engineering disciplinary lines. This is a power system; this is a thermal system; this is a drive system, for example. And we make sure that all the parts are the best possible for their individual tasks. And then we put it all together, and we build it. After we build it, we test it to see if it works the way we expected. And of course, invariably, it doesn’t, so we have to go back and redesign, rebuild, retest and so on. That takes a lot of time and a lot of money to iterate like this.”

Source: Jared Serbu for Federal News Radio.

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