AEDC Team’s efficient actions support Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon testing

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. John McShane
  • AEDC Flight Systems CTF

The Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) program recently requested a time-sensitive test at Arnold Engineering Development Complex to inform a milestone decision.  Recognizing the importance of the weapon system to meeting the demands of the National Defense Strategy (NDS), AEDC rose to the challenge and provided validated hypersonic aerodynamic data in record time.

The 2018 NDS requires that the Department of Defense provide combat-credible military forces to deter war and protect the security of our nation. Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern of U.S. national security. The central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by China and Russia. These nations are rapidly modernizing their militaries with the goal of displacing the United States.

U.S. military advantage, which allowed the U.S. to enjoy uncontested superiority in every operating domain, is challenged by rapid technological advancements and the changing character of war. The emergence of hypersonic weapons represent a capability that can enable the U.S. to maintain a decisive military advantage. According the NDS, the joint force must be able to strike diverse targets inside adversary air and missile defense networks to destroy mobile power-projection platforms. The Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon does precisely this; it is a hypersonic development and test program capable of launch from an aircraft with the ability to penetrate long-range air defense areas.

As a medium-tier acquisition rapid prototyping initiative, HCSW has an aggressive schedule and is leveraging numerous innovative approaches to acquisition, technical development, integration and test. 

It was determined that testing in the AEDC von Kármán Gas Dynamics Facility (VKF) was required to succeed.

In order to meet the accelerated schedule, numerous hurdles had to be overcome in a short timeframe to include designing and fabricating a test model, putting together a test plan, and performing high-fidelity modeling and simulation. Leveraging longstanding partnerships and relying on some unique capabilities, the team leaned into the challenge to obtain time critical data necessary for the rapid development of this game-changing technology.

AEDC Test Operations Division, Test System Sustainment Division, the AEDC Model Shop and the AEDC Safety Office worked together to push hard to accelerate the planning, build-up, installation, test execution and reporting of the system under test.  A Hypersonic Systems Branch team consisting of Ben Mills, Sarah Adams and Ancie Dotson worked closely with the AEDC Model Shop, local Security and IT personnel in the development and execution of the model fabrication and acceptance plan. This team’s collaboration across multiple disciplines enabled the AEDC Model Shop to deliver two sensitive models in less than six weeks, much faster than originally scheduled.

Similarly, a team from the Test System Sustainment Division, led by Adam Fanning, performed a System Safety Hazard Analysis and Safety Review to bring an elevated risk sub-system back on line temporarily to support the stressing test conditions within the tight schedule.

The Flight Systems Branch test team, led by Test Manager John Hopf, worked over eighty-hour weeks for multiple consecutive weeks in the VKF to obtain the data required.

The AEDC team’s efforts paid off. The team validated weapon system performance predictions and filled gaps in knowledge where predictions were not available. Additionally, the test surge allowed the program to stay on their accelerated schedule.

The Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon testing at AEDC was crucial to the program’s accelerated development schedule and in meeting the demands of the NDS. AEDC recognized this and prioritized efforts to provide quality decisions and information within an accelerated timeline. This was accomplished through the tight collaboration across the AEDC enterprise.

The knowledge gained from AEDC’s efforts was instrumental in proving the superiority of the weapon system to meet the demands of the NDS. This success is just one of the many times in its history that AEDC has risen to meet the demands of the NDS by quickly adapting to meet a program’s accelerated testing schedule.

Hap Arnold’s legacy is alive and well; “Second to None.”