ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. – Maj. Zachary Owen, Secretary of the Air Force International Affairs office, recently presented a briefing on collaborative foreign research and development opportunities to Arnold Engineering Development Center, Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., Air Force and contractor engineer and scientist workforce.
“I came down to Arnold to talk to AEDC’s engineer and scientist community about three programs I manage for SAF/IA that is designed to foster international cooperative research and development,” he said. “Two of the programs – Coalition Warfare Program and the International Cooperative Research and Development program – provide seed funds to research and development efforts that involve international partners.
“The third program is the Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (ESEP) where Air Force civilians and officers can be placed in a foreign lab for two years.”
He added, “I’m happy to talk to anyone who is interested in these programs, but my target audience is the 62 and 63 communities on the active duty side and their civilian counterparts. We’ve had some involvement with AEDC in the past, but there may be room to grow that.”
Regarding eligibility, CWP and ICR&D are available to DOD, active duty and contractor engineers. ESEP is available to DOD and active duty engineers only.
Tyler Neale, a Propulsion Wind Tunnel Ground Test Complex and Small Business Innovation Research project manager, said, “This was the first I had actually heard of all three of these programs, so I am still learning about them. However, based on my initial impression, these programs appear to be an excellent way to interface with international partners and build valuable relationships that can prove mutually beneficial.”
Owen and Neale acknowledged some of the inherent challenges when working with foreign entities in an increasingly complex and uncertain economic and global security environment.
A recurring challenge to cooperative technological research and development work between the U.S. and its allies is the need to comply with the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
“It definitely is a challenge and folks have to realize that as they come into each of these programs, that [ITAR] is something they have to address, they have to bring a coherent security plan,” Owen said. “They [all parties] have to be willing to address any security concerns, ITAR considerations, potentially proprietary information as well. So, there are a variety of different concerns that they bring but what we found is that the more folks do this stuff, the better they get at it.”
Neale agreed, saying, “As with any programs that require partnership and collaboration with other parties, team work and communication always pose challenges. The physical distance between the two parties could also affect communication. However, these challenges are easily overcome.”
They both agree that the benefits of these programs, including technological, economic and improved professional relationships, far outweigh the challenges.
“It appears these programs provide an abundance of opportunities [including] working closely with foreign partners, gaining a different perspective on approaching problems, developing low TRL (technology readiness level) technologies by collaborating with researchers around the world, and even gaining a unique exposure to a different culture and country,” Neale said.
Ron Lutz, senior aerodynamic engineer at AEDC’s Propulsion Wind Tunnel Ground Test Complex (Technology Branch), said it is important to put Owen’s briefing into context.
“AEDC has not been very active in international programs in recent years until the Technology Branch began focusing on them as a means to bring in supplemental funding for planned technology efforts, starting in fiscal year 2009,” Lutz said. “A project for doing space chamber comparison testing for combined effects with Germany was awarded for fiscal 2012/2013 and a project for comparing flow visualization techniques for transonic testing with Australia was awarded for fiscal 2013/2014, both under the SAF/IAPQ ICR&D Program.”
Lutz described tangible gains expected of the upcoming collaborative projects.
“The space chamber project will enhance the ability to correlate results within this technical community and support work planned for the new STAT (Space Threat Assessment Testbed) facility at AEDC,” he said. “The flow visualization project will provide needed verification and validation of the recently developed digital system, Background Oriented Schlieren, with traditional Schlieren.
“It is expected that this will enhance RBA (Reimbursable Budget Authority) income at AEDC because more customers will elect to use BOS during testing.”
Lutz said the three programs will provide engineers at AEDC with several advantages.
“These programs allow access to additional funding streams, foreign technology and equipment, and personnel exchanges for technology transfer and experience building.
“Both AEDC and the coalition partner will benefit. We select project subject matter that directly supports the AEDC mission.”
Owen said the American taxpayer comes out ahead when eligible engineers take advantage of the three programs offered.
“Certainly the tax payers benefit because we’re saving money, but not only saving money,” he said. “The technology that we’re developing isn’t just done for the sake of research. When folks apply for these programs, we want them to tell us what [technological] gap they’re addressing, what shortfall they’re going to overcome, and what it is that they’re going to deliver to the war fighter.