Aerospace vehicle design has progressed in an evolutionary manner, with certain discrete changes such as turbine engines replacing propellers for higher speeds. The evolution has worked very well for commercial aircraft because the major components can be optimized independently. This is not true for many military configurations which require a more integrated approach. In addition, the introduction of aspects for which there is no pre-existing database requires special attention. Examples of subsystem that have no pre-existing data base include directed energy weapons (DEW) such as high power microwaves (HPM) and high energy lasers (HEL). These devices are inefficient, therefore a large portion of the energy required to operate the device is converted to waste heat and must be transferred to a suitable heat sink. For HPM, the average heat load during one ‘shot’ is on the same order as traditional subsystems and thus designing a thermal management system is possible. The challenge is transferring the heat from the HPM device to a heat sink. The power density of each shot could be hundreds of megawatts. This heat must be transferred from the HPM beam dump to a sink. The heat transfer must occur at a rate that will support shots in the 10–100Hz range. For HEL systems, in addition to the high intensity, there are substantial system level thermal loads required to provide an ‘infinite magazine.’ Present models are inadequate to analyze these problems, current systems are unable to sustain the energy dissipation required and the high intensity heat fluxes applied over a very short duration phenomenon is not well understood. These are examples of potential future vehicle integration challenges. This paper addresses these and other subsystems integration challenges using a common currency for vehicle optimization. Exergy, entropy generation minimization, and energy optimization are examples of methodologies that can enable the creation of energy optimized systems. These approaches allow the manipulation of fundamental equations governing thermodynamics, heat transfer, and fluid mechanics to produce minimized irreversibilities at the vehicle, subsystem and device levels using a common currency. Applying these techniques to design for aircraft system-level energy efficiency would identify not only which subsystems are inefficient but also those that are close to their maximum theoretical efficiency while addressing diverse system interaction and optimal subsystem integration. Such analyses would obviously guide researchers and designers to the areas having the highest payoff and enable departures from the evolutionary process and create a breakthrough design.

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