Roessig taking AEDC experience to Air Force Test Center

  • Published
  • By Jill Pickett

Col. Keith Roessig will hand over leadership of the Arnold Engineering Development Complex Test Operations Division on June 25 and head to Edwards Air Force Base, California, to serve as Vice Commander of the Air Force Test Center, or AFTC.

Roessig’s time stationed at Arnold Air Force Base, headquarters of AEDC, has been marked by a significant increase in workload.

“Over the last couple years, the 2018 National Defense Strategy has driven a lot of new weapon systems development, and AEDC has been asked to do more and more,” Roessig said.

As chief of the Test Operations Division, or TST, he has managed the increased operations tempo at Arnold AFB, the AEDC Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 located in White Oak, Maryland, the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex at Moffett Field, California, the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, and the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Combined Test Force at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

He noted that Arnold AFB executed the most arcs shots ever in the high-temperature materials test facility in a single year and more hours have been logged in the 16-foot transonic wind tunnel at Arnold in the last year than in the last couple of decades. This happened while Team AEDC has been executing the Service Life Extension Program and other infrastructure projects, while also adding completely new mission areas to expand capabilities.

“It’s been impressive to see the team pull together to get the mission done under difficult circumstances,” Roessig said. “With the support of the other Divisions at Arnold, the team was able to accomplish the mission at a level of productivity we haven’t seen in decades or in some areas ever.”

The weapons systems being tested are some of the highest priority for the country, Roessig said, which drove TST to push forward with certain tests during the coronavirus pandemic.

As much as TST has been accomplishing, the test infrastructure and workforce at Arnold and across the GSUs, hasn’t been funded at the amount required, he explained.

“We’ve been squeezing what we can out of the resources we do have,” he said

As a graduate of the USAF Test Pilot School, Roessig already knew of the importance of early tester involvement in developing weapons systems. His time at AEDC provided an up close look at the impact of ground testing. 

“For a certain class of weapons systems, Arnold and AEDC is where it happens,” Roessig said. “A whole lot of folks will focus on flight test, but the ability of AEDC to affect weapon system design is much greater.”

He explained that money spent executing ground test and correcting system deficiencies found during ground testing can be orders of magnitude less than the funding required to make the same corrections later in systems development. 

“My time at AEDC has provided me concrete evidence I can share of how ground tests have helped solve problems for System Program Offices early on,” Roessig said. “It’s much cheaper to find things here than years later during flight tests or even in operations.”

Roessig said he is unaware of any of the previous AFTC vice commanders that have been stationed at Arnold, putting him in a position to be the first to provide that personal knowledge of AEDC.

“AFTC has only existed since 2012, so from an organizational perspective it is still learning how to integrate the three different wings,” Roessig said. “It’ll be interesting to see how we integrate all aspects of testing – ground, flight and new areas being added, such as cyber.”

As he leaves, Roessig cautions Team AEDC to plan for an extended effort.  

“The ramp up in workload for AEDC isn’t a momentary spike or couple-year surge,” he said. “This is going to be, as the test workload ebbs and flows, the beginning of a longer cycle. AEDC will be busy for the next five to 10 years, or possibly longer. Folks need to balance taking care of the mission, themselves and each other. We will never be able to do everything we want, so the focus must be on what is most important going forward.”