Test Technology, Analysis and Evaluation: Sourced from the heart of AEDC – our people

  • Published
  • By Brandon Lucy
  • AEDC/Test Technology, Analysis and Evaluation Branch

Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stated in 2018, “Great power competition – not terrorism – is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.” This could be a summary statement of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which serves as the inspiration for AEDC’s 2020 Strategic Plan. The NDS harkens a DOD-wide refocusing; one which aligns national priorities with the nature of our work at AEDC.

The NDS sends a clear message: we could be contested throughout the fight by a near-peer competitor and, thus, we must prepare a technically-advanced warfighting capability to combat and minimize the threat.

Perhaps we are entering a sort of “New Cold War,” and thankfully our strategy is defensive. We seek to blunt and counter any aggression by China or Russia quickly, compelling them to make a choice between unfavorable escalation or entering negotiation.

Any sample of AEDC’s work reveals our utility in this strategy: wind tunnel and propulsion cell testing proving air capabilities for Anti-Access, Area Denial (A2AD) environments, a range of different tests proving hypersonic weapons for prompt strike and hypersonic defense, Intercontinental Ballistic Missile systems testing for modernizing our deterrent, and space environment testing to ensure robustness of our space assets, among many others.

How have we positioned AEDC to already test weapon capabilities for tomorrow’s threats, as well as continue to evolve the Complex to meet the demands of the NDS years into the future? The answer lies best in our roots. The final point in Theodore von Kármán and the Scientific Advisory Group’s 1946 report, Toward New Horizons is that: “… problems never have final or universal solutions, and only a constant inquisitive attitude toward science and a ceaseless and swift adaptation to new developments can maintain the security of this nation through world air supremacy.”

We at AEDC must possess this desire to continuously improve and to increase our technological know-how in order to best fulfill the NDS.

This “inquisitive attitude” and the theme of “no universal solution” is embodied in AEDC’s Test Technology, Analysis and Evaluation Branch. Aligning with AEDC’s Vision, the Branch’s vision is: “Second to none in aerospace analysis and test and evaluation enabling technology development.”

The driving force within the Branch is easy to see – our people, be they government, National Aerospace Solutions or Quantitech team members!

The recent contributions of the Branch are too numerous to fully list, but a sample includes modeling and simulation experts modernizing the DOD’s standard Computation Fluid Dynamics (CFD) tool, CREATE™-AV Kestrel to handle the coming onslaught of work in hypersonics; an integrated team working to deliver a new missile, rocket, small arms and similar signature capture capability to aid all DOD Services in countermeasure development as part of the Joint Standard Instrumentation Suite (JSIS) project; proving an additive manufacturing process viable for arc-heater segments and also developing test techniques to greatly increase arc-heater productivity; providing defense partner insight and analysis for hypersonic demonstrator testing in the VKF tunnels, arc heaters, and even testing occurring outside of AEDC; expert analysis of scramjet thrust production for the Aerodynamic and Propulsion Test Unit’s recent record-breaking run; analysis giving the U.S. Navy insight into engine/airframe integration for their new MQ-25 unmanned, carrier-based aerial refueler; and last, analysis provided to the Missile Defense Agency as they explore kill-vehicle lethality.

What allows the Test Technology, Analysis and Evaluation Branch to accomplish all this and continue to posture AEDC for support of the National Defense Strategy? Easy – our people!

The best minds are tirelessly working to make inferences, recommendations, share results with our defense partners and to also constantly improve AEDC through technology enhancements. Developing and empowering personnel to pursue this mission is a key enabler for AEDC to reach its full potential in executing the NDS.

A tenet espoused in the NDS supporting the building of a more lethal force is to “cultivate workforce talent.” It challenges the DOD in areas of Professional Military Education, Talent Management (developing leaders) and Civilian Workforce Expertise. Leaders of Team AEDC must commit to the purposeful cultivation of our people, while all team members should set their own development goals. Not doing this risks falling to second place – a dangerous proposition!

Gen. George Kenney was a pilot veteran of both World Wars and commanded Allied Air Forces under Gen. MacArthur in the Southwest Pacific, 1942-45. He stated, “Air power is like poker. A second-best hand is like none at all – it will cost you dough and win you nothing.” This certainly holds true in today’s Great Power Competition. The AEDC workforce must continue to be the best, innovate the best and strive to be Second to None!