Jet Project Kept Aloft

T-Systems' CMI software helps defense contractors, global suppliers hold same flight path.

A little-known subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG, T-Systems Inc., is helping to streamline the design and engineering of a new virtual defense project.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., a unit of Lockheed Martin Corp., the contractor on the Joint Strike Fighter plane project, had major issues with product data and design integration before it could even begin thinking of taking on a project the scope of the JSF.

Lockheed plans to produce 22 JSF aircraft for the United States over 10 and a half years in conjunction with a number of aerospace and defense subcontractors and up to 200 global suppliers.

Each partners and suppliers data will be integrated with Lockheeds JSF CAD data in what will be the first virtual development of an aircraft, with partners located in nine time zones.

Complicating the arrangement is that the International Traffic and Arms Regulation has to be applied. ITAR limits the amount of data that can be exchanged between U.S. companies and countries.

The problem for Lockheed became clear in the pilot of the JSF program, before the contract was awarded. The data Lockheed needed to get and share with partners Northrop Grumman Corp., BEA Systems Inc. and Fokker Aircraft BV was in IBMs CATIA CAD database and Electronic Data Systems Corp.s Metaphase Data Management system.

As partners and data were added, mapping became harder. "We went through a series of demos and pilots of the tools we were going to use in the JSF," said Vaughan Morris, manager for Lockheed Martin aerospace product data management development, in Fort Worth, Texas.

"During that time, the architecture we developed worked OK, but it was known there would be more partners added if we won the program," Morris said. "Every time we added another partner, we had to make sure all that filtered information was replicated again and again. It kept adding more complexity."

After checking several middleware vendors, Lockheed licensed T-Systems CATIA Metaphase Interface integration tool, which will help streamline the design and engineering of the JSF. T-Systems is readying the release of Versions 8.1 and 8.2 of its CMI integration software, expected this month and next, respectively. Although both versions of CMI will be commercially available to the aerospace and defense and automotive vertical markets, T-Systems has incorporated into Version 8.1 13 customizations specific to Lockheed Martin and the JSF program.

With CMI, changes in the design of the JSF are instantly reflected in the product data accessed by suppliers.

Lockheed will use CMI to electronically design the JSF with its three principal contractors: Northrop Grumman, BEA Systems and Fokker Aircraft. That data can be accessed via Lockheed Martin by its partners and select Tier 1 suppliers. While there are some 200 suppliers in the program, fewer than 100 will have access to the design data.

One of the first major changes Lockheed is implementing is the incorporation of F-22 fighter jet technology with Direct Lift engine specifications, which govern lifting the JSF vertically from the ground.

"From a risk perspective, we went with CMI because it embedded on the metaphase side," Morris said. "You can manage your CAD data like you do the rest of your data." He said his team can manage solid models from CAD and produce a virtual assembly where he can "create it once and use it anywhere."

Hans-Peter Schroop, manager of configuration management at landing-gear manufacturer Messier-Dowty Inc., in Toronto, is looking at a global rollout of CMI over the next year. Schroop uses CMI Version 7.1 to design landing-gear systems, including components, electrical sensors and black-box designs.

Messier-Dowty had a previous integration for a two-dimensional CAD system. "We didnt want to introduce customization efforts" with the new system, said Schroop. CMI presented the least amount of middleware. "There were many options of using more data management components and doing data mapping between two sides," he said. "We found the ... most straightforward solution [with CMI]."