Tech Yeah! Skunk Works!
This week on tech yeah, we're actually going to report on one more news story. Because it leads us into our tech yeah pick of the week. Popular Mechanics reports that the Skunk Works division of Lockheed Martin will start testing a new type of aircraft soon. Skunk Works is the division responsible for many of Lockheed Martin's successes over the years including the U2 bomber and the SR-71 blackbird. This project is called Speed Racer, though reporters are unclear if that code name means it's a fast aircraft, it was developed quickly or doesn't mean anything at all.
But the cool thing about this aircraft is that it was entirely designed using a process known as Digital Engineering. Digital engineering is a process in which engineers use software to construct a digital twin of actual aircraft being built so the engineers can use the twine to figure out how the craft will fly, stand up to stresses, etc. Basically, you're using software to put an aircraft through all kinds of variables without having to physically reconstruct the machine when and if it fails. This allows engineers like Skunk Works to develop and build aircraft much quicker and more cheaply. For example, the Air Force used digital engineering to develop and build a new kind of fighter jet in under one year. Most planes take years if not decades to design and build. During that time, fighting environments can change drastically, so reducing design and build time can dramatically affect an aircraft's ability to work under current mission specifications.
So what does this have to do with Tech Yeah? Well, I believe I have mentioned this on the podcast before, but over the summer I read and quite enjoyed the book Skunk Works by Ben Rich. Ben was the operational head of Skunk Works for decades and basically the father of modern stealth technology. The book is a fascinating look at the development of two key aircraft that skunkworks produced - the U2 bomber and SR 71 blackbird. You'll go inside Skunk Works and discover how stealth technology was initially developed and how it changed everything. You'll hear from Rich, of course, but also various contractors, military leaders, test pilots, and more. It's really a great book and I highly recommend it. Naturally, there's a link in the show notes and on Benefit of the doud.com, so give it a look. You'll thank me.