June 27, 2012

New AFRL Aerospace Systems Directorate takes shape

A 23 percent-scale turbofan-powered model of Lockheed Martin’s Speed Agile powered-lift STOL airlifter concept for AFRL was tested in the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex at NASA Ames Research Center in California. This consolidation effort brings together experts in scramjets engines, alternative fuels, unmanned vehicles, hypersonic vehicles, collision avoidance, and aircraft energy optimization.

The Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate will officially take shape on July 1 as the newest research organization at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The new directorate combines the former AFRL Propulsion and Air Vehicles Directorates into one entity with a new approach for advancing Air Force science and technology.

The consolidation of the two directorates was first initiated by the Air Force as an efficiency measure. As the organizational plan progressed, it became clear that the two entities were a natural fit, as they focused on many similar research efforts. Among the technologies in development in the new Aerospace Systems Directorate are scramjets engines, alternative fuels, unmanned vehicles, hypersonic vehicles, collision avoidance, and aircraft energy optimization.

The Aerospace Systems Directorate brings together world-class facilities including a fuels research facility, structural testing labs, compressor research facility, rocket testing facilities, supersonic and subsonic wind tunnels, flight simulation lab, and many other cutting-edge research labs.

The new organization comprises 1,800 employees in two research locations. Primarily based at Wright-Patterson, the directorate also includes a smaller research facility at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., which focuses on rocket and space craft propulsion systems.

With the consolidation of the two entities comes a new vision for the future.

“We are poised to solidify our position as leaders in aerospace systems science and technology,” said Douglas Bowers, Director of the Aerospace Systems Directorate. “As separate organizations, we boasted world-renowned scientists and engineers. Now as one organization, we can better combine our talents and resources to achieve our greatest potential.”

To help achieve this goal, directorate leadership consulted with nationally and internationally-known companies to study their approach and organizational structure. They then drew from these experiences a set of best practices, which have been put into place in the new directorate.

With the joining of the two directorates’ resources and people, Bowers predicts a bright future for the new organization and AFRL as a whole. “Our vision is to be the nation’s premier source for aerospace system science and technology,” he said.

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