Tuesday, 6 January 2015

BBC - Future - How to design the fighter cockpit of tomorrow

BBC - Future - How to design the fighter cockpit of tomorrow

If you think your office needs a lick of paint and some new furniture, spare a thought for fighter pilots. Those who fly fighter aircraft like the F-16 or the Tornado are still, in effect, working in a 1970s office - because that's when those aircraft were originally designed.

It takes a very long time to build a new fighter jet. Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor is currently the only supersonic stealth fighter in active service ‒ but when the contract for the first prototype was signed in 1986, Apple's top-of-the-range Macintosh Plus computer had a mere 1Mb memory and no hard drive. The F-22 carried out its first combat mission on 22 September this year – three days after Apple released the iPhone 6. Technology has transformed in those intervening 28 years, and nothing dates faster than yesterday’s vision of the future.

Today’s aircraft designers must guess what the world of 40 years’ time might look like – a task that even the innovators in Silicon Valley might baulk at. "At the moment, I'm looking at stuff out to at least 2040," says Mark Bowman, chief test pilot for BAE Systems at Warton, Lancashire...
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