Check out this year's top 5 features
Read Raytheon Intelligence & Space's most popular stories of 2021
What were the most read feature stories on Raytheon Intelligence & Space's website in 2021? Predictions from RI&S experts on the possible capabilities of the sixth-generation fighter drew, by far, the most interest as well as how digital engineering might speed the development and manufacture of the futuristic fighter jet. Other hot topics included how weapons-grade lasers down drones, how small satellites might improve weather forecasting in the future, and a profile on a mathematician, who became the company's first female African-American engineering fellow.
You can browse through the entire feature archive here, and the top five features are highlighted below.
Six predictions for the 6th-gen fighter
The U.S. Air Force is planning to deploy a “sixth-generation” fighter in 2030. Prototypes of this aircraft, never before seen by the public, have already flown in secret. There is not a lot the public knows about the U.S. Air Force’s new fighter jet.
But one thing’s for sure: technologists and engineers at Raytheon Intelligence & Space are working on the very same kinds of systems they believe will bring the kind of technical superiority the military wants its new plane to deliver. They are not designing the aircraft. They are designing systems (sensors, communications, electronic warfare and more) that they hope will one day provide overwhelming technical superiority over enemies in the air.
Our experts have six bold predictions for sixth-generation fighters. Read the story and watch the webinar.
How a laser defeats hostile drones
A small quadcopter, just like the ones they sell for a few hundred dollars at big-box stores, flies against a cloudless blue sky. On the ground, atop a dune buggy, a glass-paned turret pivots in the drone’s direction.
Inside the vehicle, there’s a motorized whirr. Moments later, flames start to flicker near a microscopic hole in the center of the drone’s wings, and the hard plastic begins to melt. A few seconds later, it crashes to the ground.
This is what it looks like when Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business, demonstrates the use of lasers to defeat hostile drones. Counter-UAS lasers such as RI&S’ High-Energy Laser Weapons System give military service members and public-safety officials a relatively inexpensive way to defeat swarms of cheap, weaponized drones.
The Raytheon Intelligence & Space High-Energy Laser Weapons System offers a cost-effective counter-UAS solution rather than firing a multi-million dollar missile to disable a $500 commercial quadcopter. Furthermore, commercial, small drones have become much more sophisticated, fly faster and can navigate autonomously without using radio frequencies, making them jam-resistant.
Weather prediction for any condition
Today’s weather forecasts can help people decide whether to grab an umbrella on the way out or get ready for a big storm. A new class of small satellites in development at Raytheon Intelligence & Space could provide even better data to inform those decisions.
The new Earth-observing small satellites have enhanced capabilities including higher fidelity weather imaging, cloud characterization, ocean surface winds, soil moisture content, tropical cyclone intensity and other key data sets needed to improve weather observations and forecasting.
“If a tropical cyclone started to develop at night, we would still be able to see it with these enhanced capabilities,” said Shawn Cochran, senior manager for Space & C2 Systems at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. “That improves forecast track error, allowing us to better understand of the lifecycle of hurricanes and tropical storms. This adds days of early warning instead of hours that could save lives and property.”
In September 2020, the Air Force's acquisition lead, at the time, made a surprise announcement. Will Roper, then U.S. Air Force assistant secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, announced that the Air Force's next-generation combat aircraft had already made its first flight. The aircraft, which has never been seen by the public, will replace the F-35 and F-22 as the service’s premier fighter jet.
It was designed and prototyped quickly, and in secret, using a concept called digital engineering.
Engineers at Raytheon Intelligence & Space are embracing the concepts of digital engineering to fast-track development of the innovations that will make up next-generation aircraft systems.
“We will use our digital capabilities in three ways – it's transforming our products, it's adapting how we work, and it's optimizing our operations,” said Roy Azevedo, RI&S president.
A mathematician from the start
It adds up that Dr. Nandi Leslie became a mathematician.
During her childhood in Evanston, Illinois, her father – a full professor of mathematics at Northwestern University – enrolled her in the university’s math programs. She would tag along with him to math conferences, workshops and speeches around the country.
“On school nights when I was growing up, there was no TV and no hanging out,” said Leslie, a Raytheon Intelligence & Space engineering fellow who holds a Ph.D. in applied and computational mathematics from Princeton University. “It was homework and studying, because my parents were proponents of us getting a good education. I am one of seven children, and whenever one of us would get bored, our parents would say ‘Pick up a good book.’”
In 2019, Dr. Nandi Leslie became the first African American woman at what was then Raytheon Company to hold the distinction of engineering fellow – the company’s highest technical honor. Only 3% of the company’s engineers achieved it.
“I am very honored and delighted to be selected,” Leslie said. “It’s amazing recognition from my peers, advisers and mentors, who helped me along the way to get there.”