“Trust me,” said Sukh Sidhu, vice president of the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI). “It’s going to be huge.”
The Air Force is changing the way it does business, and Dayton and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are changing with it, said Robert Fookes, chief engineer for Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), the major Wright-Patterson-based command which arms and equips the Air Force.
The United States must get faster at delivering warfighting capabilities, Fookes said. China, the nation’s principal peer competitor, has demonstrated it can deliver those capabilities in around six years, Fookes said.
But it can take the United States closer to 15 years, he added.
That means China is about 2.5 times faster in fielding military technology. That disparity will not win a great-power contest, Fookes said.
“It’s really about speed at this point,” he said. “It’s really about keeping ahead of our near-peer adversary.”
The nation is moving from the manufacturing age to the digital age, where everything is interconnected digitally, Sidhu said.
The imperative means using tools such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze problems and data.
“The way I look at this is, this is like a community digital toolbox,” Sidhu said of the center before making his public remarks. “This is a community capability, where all the community members — academia, industry, Air Force, other government agencies — they come in, they have their digital challenges. We all work together to solve them.”
Just as Dayton was and is a manufacturing leader, it must also blaze a trail in the digital age, he added.
Wright State University, Sinclair Community College, Ohio University and others will be welcome at the new center, he and others said.
“If it’s just UD and the Air Force, it’s really good,” UD President Eric Spina said. “But if it’s all of us as a community, it becomes great.”
The new center represents the commitment of the Air Force and its industry and academic partners to advance digital transformation by tearing down barriers to collaborative innovation, UD said.