Delivering HPC Power to Researchers Enhancing the F-35

F-35 Engility Case Study


The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, a critical program for the DoD, is DoD’s largest cooperative program with eight Partner nations participating. Power and Thermal Management System (PTMS) and the Aircraft Fuel Thermal Management System (AFTMS) are integral to the successful execution of the F-35’s mission set. Modern tactical aircraft subsystems face challenging weight and volume limitations, and future heat load increases will be added to the F-35 which will require improvements to the PTMS and AFTMS.

The DOD’s Flight Systems Integration Branch is leveraging modeling and simulation to determine the most promising technologies that will improve these systems. To conduct the studies, researcher use models of all the major F-35 subsystems, leveraging a combination of MATLAB and Simulink serial-based processing frameworks. These complex multilayer coupled dynamic models are too computationally intensive to achieve enough throughput for significant studies in conventional PC or high-end Linux workstation architectures; therefore, researchers want to leverage HPC solutions to support these studies.


Engility contractors, working in DOD’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP) under the User Productivity, Technology Transfer and Training (PETTT) Program, performed a comprehensive analysis of the F-35 model requirements to leverage scalable HPC capabilities. An Engility scientist developed an effective workflow that runs the F-35 models as standalone executables in one or more nodes of DOD HPC resources. The computational scientist enabled optimal HPC processing by (1) devising innovative techniques for inter-model communication, (2) enabling the passing of state information or parameters among models (including initial states) without recompilation, and (3) provided advanced custom-made PBS scripts, detailed documentation, and expert advice for researcher production runs on HPC resources—allowing for the computing power needed by researchers to improve the F-35.


The tri-service F-35 is what is known as a fifth-generation aircraft, which means it integrates advanced stealth, sensor fusion, digitally-optimized flight performance, net-enabled operations and automated logistics in a multirole aircraft far superior to anything that has come before. Compared with a Cold War fighter, the F-35 will be six times more effective in air-to-air combat, six times more effective in suppression of enemy air defenses, five times more effective in destroying ground targets, and four times more effective in evading enemy air defenses. It will need all of those gains to sustain U.S. global air dominance in the decades ahead, because potential enemies have not stood still in their own military investments. Whether the mission is defeating adversary fighters or striking heavily defended surface targets or providing close air support to ground troops or collecting tactical reconnaissance or delivering non-strategic nuclear weapons, F-35 is central to joint warfighting plans through mid-century. Modeling, simulation and HPC solutions as the one supported by PETTT in this narrative play an increasingly important role in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

This material is based upon work supported by, or in part by, the Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP) under User Productivity, Technology Transfer and Training (PETTT) contract number GS04T09DBC0017.