Two groundbreaking teams from the Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate have been recognized with the 2020 Aviation Week Network Laureate Award in the category of Defense.
The Medium Scale Critical Components team has been honored in the Propulsion subcategory. Comprising researchers and technicians from the AFRL Aerospace Systems Directorate, Arnold Engineering Development Complex, and Northrop Grumman, the team recently set a record for the highest thrust produced by an air-breathing hypersonic engine in U.S. Air Force history.
The 18-foot-long engine successfully completed a nine-month series of tests at the AEDC Aerodynamic and Propulsion Test Unit facility in July, achieving over 13,000 pounds of thrust. To make the technology come together, the team planned, collaborated, and refined the design over a number of years, overcoming various challenges along the way, including a two-year facility upgrade to enable testing under the conditions necessary for this type of engine. The successful conclusion of the test brought the technology one step closer to enabling a new class of high-speed vehicles.
“The Medium Scale Critical Components team achieved a tremendous milestone and advanced hypersonic capabilities for our nation,” said Colonel Maurice Azar, chief of the High Speed Systems Division. “This amazing team of professionals spanning multiple organizations worked tirelessly to overcome numerous technical challenges and make real what had existed only in innovators’ imaginations. I’m proud of what this team has done and thrilled they are being recognized for the development of pioneering technologies that unlock more hypersonic possibilities for the future.”
The Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie team has been honored in the Technology and Innovation subcategory. The team, which partners AFRL and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc., proved that low cost can be achieved while maintaining high performance. The XQ-58A is the pathfinder for the attritable class of aircraft that provides the warfighter the capability to project air power with mass, complexity, and unpredictability.
Part of the AFRL’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, the vehicle was collaboratively conceived, designed, built, and tested to be a tactically relevant platform that augments manned systems. Kratos and AFRL demonstrated procurement agility by moving the attritable concept from contract to flight within two and a half years.
“The XQ-58A Valkyrie is a great example of what happens when a dedicated government and industry team works toward a common vision,” said AFRL program manager Doug Szczublewski. “The Valkyrie is a remarkable accomplishment requiring a highly collaborative approach to meet the program’s performance and cost objectives, all while achieving first flight in 30 months. Completing three flights that successfully accomplished all flight test objectives, the XQ-58A provides the Air Force another model for the way we build and buy aircraft. Our team has a lot to be proud of and is honored to be recognized by Aviation Week’s prestigious Laureate Award.”
The Aviation Week Network Laureate Award recognizes the extraordinary achievements of individuals and teams within the aerospace industry. Awardees are selected based on their accomplishments, innovation, and vision that inspire and enable progress within the field.
The Medium Scale Critical Components team and the XQ-58A Valkyrie team will be recognized in a formal ceremony held in the spring of 2020.