Air Force Research Laboratory: Celebrating a Century of Scientific Excellence

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AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate



MATERIALS AND MANUFACTURING DIRECTORATE Celebrating a Century of Scientific Excellence 1 9 1 7-201 7

Published by Faircount Media Group 701 N. West Shore Blvd. Tampa, FL 33609 Tel: 813.639.1900 EDITORIAL RX Lead: Amy Whitney-Rawls RX Editors: Marisa Alia-Novobilski, Mathew Couch, Amber Gilbert, Jeremy Gratsch, Randall Hodkin, Holly Jordan, Allan Katz, Karen Kettler, Daniel Miracle, Ruth Pachter, Rebekah Sanders, George Schmitt, John Welter, John Wertz RX Alumni Editors: Warren Johnson, James Mattice, Merrill Minges, Bob Rapson, Vince Russo, John Williamson Writers: Craig Collins, Holly Jordan, Dr. Dan Miracle, J.R. Wilson Editor in Chief: Chuck Oldham Managing Editor: Ana E. Lopez Editor: Rhonda Carpenter DESIGN AND PRODUCTION Art Director: Robin K. McDowall Designer: Daniel Mrgan Ad Traffic Manager: Rebecca Laborde ADVERTISING Ad Sales Manager: Art Dubuc Account Executives: Lorri Brown, Steve Chidel Chris Day, Bryan Saint Laurent, Doc Lawson, Ken Meyer Andy Moss, Robert Panetta, Bonnie Schneider, Geoff Weiss OPERATIONS AND ADMINISTRATION Chief Operating Officer: Lawrence Roberts VP, Business Development: Robin Jobson Business Development: Damion Harte Financial Controller: Robert John Thorne Chief Information Officer: John Madden Business Analytics Manager: Colin Davidson Publisher: Ross Jobson

©Copyright Faircount LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction of editorial content in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Faircount LLC does not assume responsibility for the advertisements, nor any representation made therein, nor the quality or deliverability of the products themselves. Reproduction of articles and photographs, in whole or in part, contained herein is prohibited without expressed written consent of the publisher, with the exception of reprinting for news media use. This is not a U.S. DOD, U.S. Air Force, or AFRL/RX publication, and none of the advertising contained herein implies DOD, U.S. Air Force, or AFRL/RX endorsement of any private entity or enterprise. Printed in the United States of America.



Mr. Thomas A. Lockhart

Director, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (Currently Deployed)


Col. Charles D. Ormsby Acting Director, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate


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AFRL/RX: Achieving the Air Force Mission By Dr. Dan Miracle

AFRL/RX: A National Asset By Holly Jordan

AFRL/RX International Collaborations By Craig Collins


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AFRL/RX Directorate Organizations By Dr. Dan Miracle and J.R. Wilson

AFRL/RX Research Staff and Facilities By Dr. Dan Miracle

AFRL/RX Directors

AFRL/RX: The First Century AFRL/RX: A Vision for the Future By Dr. Dan Miracle

Thomas A. Lockhart – Message from Afghanistan Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, Executive Director Essential Function 5


am so, so, so very fortunate to be even a small part of the 100th anniversary of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. For the past 100 years, RX’s materials and manufacturing expertise has been at the forefront of almost every piece of military equipment used from WWI to here at Afghanistan. As the directorate looks to its next 100 years, the directorate can and will be responsive to future warfighting game changers such as directed energy, hypersonics, and autonomy, as well as “third offset” technologies. As for the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, I know you are here with me in spirit and materials and manufacturing teams are working technology solutions for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. World-class leadership in Materials and Manufacturing for our Airmen - Hooah!!

CHARLES D. ORMSBY, Colonel, USAF Acting Director, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate


ew organizations have the ability to cover the entire life cycle of a system. The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (RX) in the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is one of those rare organizations. We are the only organization that covers the entire life cycle of aerospace materials for the nation – from discovery through processing, development and manufacturing, to sustainment of fielded systems. For 100 years, RX’s materials and manufacturing expertise has been a true national security asset. Materials, processes, and manufacturing are frequently the enablers for technology advances and often the barriers to further advancements. Materials and manufacturing first make weapon systems possible; then they make them better! RX is the Air Force’s one stop for expertise in metals, ceramics, polymers, semiconductors, composites and bio-technology. We discover, develop, process, characterize, manufacture, and sustain legacy, current and future aerospace systems. RX personnel are world-class leaders in materials and manufacturing for our Airmen, which is demonstrated by understanding the warfighter needs, understanding the state-of-the-art and connecting, developing and exploiting science and technology. RX’s mission is to drive Air Force systems innovation, design, production, operation, and sustainment by coupling computation and experimentation to envision, create, deliver and support materials and manufacturing solutions. We accomplish this mission through our expertise in four technical areas: functional materials, structural materials, manufacturing technology and support for operations. RX’s long-term success is based on our ability to recognize areas where we lead, leverage and watch. We aren’t the experts in every area, and where we can’t lead, we collaborate and work with our industry and academia partners to leverage and watch. We also have over 80 international collaborations that have been important to our success. The last century has proven RX’s important role as the only organization with the mission to serve and meet the legacy and advanced materials and manufacturing technology research and development needs of the Air Force. With nearly 1,000 highly-skilled, innovative, and dedicated scientists, engineers and support, and a balanced portfolio of programs, RX will continue to be a national asset. Without materials and manufacturing, you’ll never make it…

CHARLES D. ORMSBY, Colonel, USAF Acting Director Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

AFRL/RX: Achieving the Air Force Mission By Dr. Dan Miracle


or the last 100 years, the mission of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (RX) of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has remained the same. In peace and in wartime, during economic growth and through recessions and the Depression, under many different names and in different locations, it has supported current Air Force operations, developed materials and manufacturing technologies for Air Force customers, and created new materials and processing technologies that enable future capabilities. Building upon a direct heritage from Orville and Wilbur Wright – the founders of aviation – the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate has helped build the world’s most powerful Air Force. Along the way, it has contributed significantly to the economic strength of the United States by creating many major technology advancements, enabling U.S. industries to thrive and surpass international competition. RX has consistently achieved this daunting, top-level mission by weaving together three interconnected roles. The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate is a laboratory; it is a technology contract organization; and it is a rapid-response support organization. It is also a trusted advisor to national leadership to help establish technology policy for the Department of Defense (DOD). Connecting these different roles hasn’t always been easy, and to many outside of the laboratory it can seem a little unusual that so many roles are funneled into a single organization. However, these complementary and sometimes conflicting roles produce a dynamic atmosphere that synergize into a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. As it is embedded within one of the largest operational commands in the United States (U.S.) Air Force, the Air Force Materiel Command, the directorate gains invaluable purpose, motivation, inspiration, and value. Daily exposure to the Air Force mission and operational needs as well as interaction with Air Force leaders sparks passion, dedication, and innovation for mission-relevant solutions. This direct connection to the Air Force mission significantly improves relevance and technology transition, and it sets


the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate apart as a national asset. This introductory section briefly describes the major roles of RX, emphasizing how they work together to achieve the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate mission, ultimately producing the unique vision of AFRL/RX. Laboratory (“Revolutionary”). The laboratory role lays the foundation for all of the other undertakings of the directorate and is vital to achieving the RX mission. Formerly called the Materials Laboratory (ML), it was integrated with other Air Force laboratories into the single Air Force Research Laboratory of today in 1997. As a laboratory, research is performed “in-house,” with a total staff near 1,000, including more than 330 Ph.D. holders on the team. There are more than 300 lab modules at RX that dominate the five buildings of the main facility. Even for longtime veterans of the lab, the range of research and development (R&D) topics is staggering. The materials studied here include polymers, biological compounds, ceramics, metals, and composites. The functions performed by these materials include load-bearing structures, sensors, coatings, low observable materials, and energetic materials for fuels and explosives. And, the maturity levels of the studies include basic science, applied research, systems engineering, technology demonstration, and scale-up. To tackle this spectrum, researcher backgrounds cover as many as a dozen different disciplines that include physics, chemistry, microbiology, electrical engineering, materials science and engineering, operations research and systems engineering. William (Bill) Woody, former Functional Materials Division Chief (1988-2002), captured complexity with his well-known quote, “R&D is not one word!” In fact, in-house research teams also perform engineering, giving rise to the term RD&E. In-house RD&E focuses on innovative, high-risk, high-payoff topics – big bets that benefit the Air Force in many ways. The decision to work internally is fueled by several considerations. There are no established commercial interests for some technologies, eliminating the

ability to contract outside, and issues of national security or limited access to company proprietary information also favors internal projects. In-house work also builds a cadre of Air Force employees with personal, hands-on expertise in critical Air Force technologies of enduring value. This talented workforce is the foundation on which other roles in RX rely. In fact, a research position here is often a launch pad to almost any other career track in AFRL. The in-house program is strengthened by the partnership with universities and a robust on-site research team whose members often contribute important, complimentary and unique expertise. Perhaps the most valuable feature of the in-house RD&E program at RX is the ability to focus a team of experienced scientists and engineers on extremely difficult, and really important, technical problems for long durations. The ability to carry out long-term research at corporate labs has essentially disappeared in the United States, and university research is usually conducted by teams of students and just-graduated scientists led by a single, experienced researcher. Funding stability is essential for long-term RD&E projects. Although budget fluctuations are a way of life in government-funded research, RX minimizes this disruption by covering salaries for scientists and engineers from its core budget. This allows researchers to better focus on the science and technology, a unique feature among other DOD and Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories.

Of course, the in-house program at RX doesn’t do it alone. Scientists here work together with a broad ecosystem of collaborators and partners, including universities, corporate laboratories, other government laboratories, and international partners. These connections allow scientists to exert leadership and to fill gaps in competencies by leveraging excellence in domains not covered within the directorate. Technology contract organization (“Relevant”). RX is an internationally respected contract organization for aerospace materials and manufacturing technologies. The range of contracted technology efforts initiated and conducted by the directorate is truly amazing. Topics not only cover the full spectrum of aerospace materials, but also address processes to manufacture the materials reliably; techniques to form those materials into useful shapes and parts; and technologies for the “ilities” – join-ability, repair-ability, inspect-ability, afford-ability, and sustain-ability. The contracted research spans a broad range of technology readiness levels, from research to prove feasibility, to technology development and demonstration, and ultimately, validation in systems and subsystems. These technology contracts are principally for military applications, but dual-use for commercial applications expands the benefit of the developed technologies. The long-held U.S. dominance in the international aerospace commercial market comes in large part from many materials innovations developed in RX contracted technology programs.































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AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

The directorate portfolio engages with the entire aerospace materials and manufacturing enterprise in the United States. Contracted companies range in size from very large, major industrial aerospace “prime” contractors, to very small, touching all aspects of the U.S. aerospace materials supply chain. This chain includes materials producers, components producers, systems integrators, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). RX also has special programs to strategically engage some sectors. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program takes advantage of innovation and flexibility often found in domestic small businesses. The Title III program, managed by the directorate for all of DOD, helps build a U.S. technology base for key defense technologies. The Manufacturing and Industrial Technologies (ManTech) Division attacks the critical issues for scaling up new materials or processes from the lab to the industrial scale. Innovation at the directorate is also not limited to materials, and new concepts for contracting have paid substantial dividends. One example is the Metals Affordability Initiative (MAI) – a public/private partnership between RX and the U.S. aerospace metals industrial base. This novel contracting approach brings together major U.S. OEMs and their supply chains, working together in a pre-competitive environment. Industrial cost-share is an important part of this partnership, favoring dual-use of the technologies proposed and developed. MAI technology


developments in the past 17 years include more than 85 project participants, and more than 50 small businesses and 22 universities working together to produce 87 new technology applications, with a return on investment of nearly $1.5 billion. Air and space industries are a natural target for the technology contracts from RX. However, in many cases, the technologies developed have far-reaching impacts that spill over into other industries. Many of these “banner technologies” have originated in RX. For example, less than 10 years after the lab was formed, it developed a high strength steel for improved armor plates. This became the basis of 41xx steels, more widely known as chrome-moly (chrome-molybdenum) steels, that are used now for aircraft tubing, automotive crankshafts, gears and piston pins, and bicycle tubing (circling back to one of the Wright brothers’ first passions, the bicycle). Rare earth magnets, including samarium-cobalt, were developed here in the 1960s for traveling wave tubes to amplify microwave signals in radar systems and satellite communications. These materials are now used for biomedical equipment, high performance electric motors and generators, sensors and actuators, and highend electronic components (including pickups in legendary Fender Stratocaster guitars). In 1958, scientists here began developing advanced composite materials using epoxy glue as a matrix that was reinforced with boron fibers. The first applications of this new technology came in the early 1970s

Carbon-fiber composite. AFRL/RX played a major role in the development of composite materials.

on the U.S. Navy’s F-14 fighter aircraft, and by the end of the 1970s, boron fibers were replaced with graphite fibers 1/10th the diameter of a human hair. These graphite/epoxy composites are now used in most new commercial and military aircraft and make up 50 percent of the weight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner structure. Graphite/epoxy is also a household product used in sporting goods that include skis and ski poles, bicycle frames, and fishing rods. Rapid-response support (“Responsive�). The Systems Support Division is a unique organization within the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate as well as within all of AFRL. It provides materials and processing expertise and support to solve urgent needs of customers across the Air Force ranging from program offices to field units. Expertise in this division is broad and deep, covering legacy as well as new materials using highly qualified personnel often having decades of experience in the operational use of materials. Division personnel routinely travel to depot and field units to assist with issues including proper material selection and substitution, nondestructive inspection, adhesive bonding, protective coatings, and much more. A specialized function that the

division performs is analogous to a CSI (crime scene investigation) team for the Air Force; it joins lab coats with mishap investigations. It started as a small applications branch to give technical support to the major operating commands, Air Force repair depots, and offices that develop new weapons systems. Over time, this role has grown to give realtime investigation of important operational failures by subject matter experts who are trained to find the root cause of a failure. Broken parts are carefully collected from crash sites or hangars and brought back to the laboratory, where electron microscopes and other advanced scientific equipment help investigators to determine the cause of failure. More than that, systems support engineers recommend new materials, new processes, or even new designs to prevent future mishaps. This is the only rapid response investigative organization in the Air Force, and the Air Force is the only organization in the DOD to provide this capability in the laboratory. Systems support staff are more effective by having quick and easy access to all the specialists in RX, and the lab researchers gain exposure to important, real-world problems affecting the force.


U.S. Air Force photo by Marisa Alia–Novobilski

AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Mission-enabling synergy. The separate roles of the RX teams are captured in the three Rs: “revolutionary, relevant, responsive,” which was first coined by Maj. Gen. (retired) Thomas Masiello, AFRL Commander (20132016), to describe the breadth of work in AFRL. Like mixing the three primary colors to produce an almost infinite variety of hues, a special synergy comes from mixing these roles in a single organization that’s focused on a unified mission. The systems support and contracted technology roles are significantly strengthened by sharing the same building with so many leading scientists and engineers. This gives a handy resource, just down the hall, for quick and expert consultation on a broad range of materials and processes, improving the quality and quickening the pace of technical advancements. As an even more tangible benefit of this organic association, many of the staff who fill systems support and technology contract roles are drawn from the scientific and technical workforce. In fact, it’s not unusual for technology contracts to be led by the same people who have conducted, or are conducting,


in-house research on the same topic. This dual role ensures that technology contracts are led by highly qualified subject matter experts with current, firsthand knowledge of the state of the art. This is different from many technology contract organizations that simply fund RD&E, where program managers are physically and organizationally separated from the laboratory function and are not currently involved in performing research. Scientists and engineers in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate also benefit from this close association, and have a broader range of career options to explore and develop other talents and interests. In addition, a close connection to the problems and needs of today’s flying Air Force provides RX scientists with purpose, inspiration, and motivation. This direct connection fuels creativity and strengthens relevance in the laboratory, and distinguishes the directorate from academia and other contract research organizations. Integrating these roles isn’t always easy. Former RX Chief Scientist Wade Adams (1996-2002), now an associate research professor and associate dean of engineering at

The flexible lithium-ion batteries developed by researchers in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate are able to maintain a steady voltage discharge following extreme mechanical stress testing. The flexible batteries have the potential to power countless flexible electronic devices under development, including human performance sensors and flexible displays.

Rice University, said, “It’s a constant trade-off between putting resources into basic research, trying to anticipate a new material that might be useful, even if you’re not sure how, versus supporting materials already in the field. So, you have to reward everyone, from basic research to manufacturing support to sustainment. Since we work on resolving Air Force problems, we work at all those levels.” Adams’ observations are echoed by former RX Photonics Materials Branch Chief Dan Brewer (2011-2014), who stated, “A balanced mix of long-term basic research, mid-term applied research, and current/near-term state-of-the-art expertise has been maintained since the beginning, often against heavy odds. All three are essential to maintaining the directorate’s value, not only to the Air Force, but also to all of DOD and even civilian technology developments.” The diverse roles across the lab also have varying timescales for results, ranging from “tomorrow morning” for systems support, to 20 or 30 years into the future for basic scientific concepts. This requires distinct ways of thinking and approaching technical problems, since each role has diverse methods for assessing risk and measuring return on investments as well as unique ways of defining customers and implementing successful technology transition. There is no “one size fits all” solution to managing this technology mix. Another function of RX that is strengthened by this synergy is its role as the trusted technology advisor to national leaders in government, industry, and academia. Major decisions of national policy or programs often require supporting knowledge in basic science, technology development, current operational needs, and future operational capabilities. It can sometimes take as many as half a dozen different individuals, each with experience in their own domains, to fill these knowledge roles. But in RX, some of the best performers have personal experience in many or all of these realms, enriching their experience base and enabling them to speak with authority over a broader span of the science, technology, and application spectrum. The three main roles that make the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate effective also enable it to consistently achieve its Air Force mission. Like building blocks, these roles are the major “moving parts” of RX and are manifested

in its organizational charts. Nevertheless, there are three traits that run through all of these roles, making the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate something more. Like a personality, these traits aren’t immediately apparent, but they are absolutely essential in making the parts work together. These three traits are teamwork and leadership, unity, and heart. Teamwork and leadership. Leadership is a defining element in each of the directorate roles. Organizational leaders – Branch Chief, Division Chief, Director – lead by the authority that goes with the position. But, the idea of scientists, engineers, and technologists as leaders is not as widely understood. These “thought leaders,” as noted in our technical report “RX Research Culture, Structure and Organization: Assessment and Recommendations for Excellence,” “… have the ability to translate innovative scientific ideas into compelling visions of high Air Force relevance. They lead by conceiving new ideas; linking these to Air Force needs; initiating proposals; building and leading collaborations among peers that explore and develop these ideas; personally contributing to the research; effectively communicating this vision outside the peer group; and establishing support (strategic, financial, staffing) for contractual development and implementation. These leaders often tell the Air Force what is needed before the Air Force knows it is needed and before something becomes a threat. They apply leadership in academia, in the international scientific community, in professional societies, in the U.S. aerospace industry, across the DOD, and in other government science and technology (S&T) organizations.” Teamwork is equally valued, and it is natural to lead in one domain while being a team member in another. This is understood in layered organizations – for example a Division Chief leads a Division and is also a team member of the Directorate Executive Group. In the same way, “thought leaders” in RX each lead in their own domain, and all work together on the Research Teams, Branch Teams, and Division Teams to achieve the overarching mission of RX. One member of the Division Team may lead an AFRL Research Team, another may lead cross-service engagements to integrate technologies with the


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Army and the Navy, another may lead the insertion of an important technology into Air Logistics Complexes, and yet another may lead the formation of an international agreement to leverage foreign technologies. This teaming arrangement is especially potent between the in-house program and its industrial and academic partners. RX establishes a capability with the industrial base through scientists and engineers who conduct research while simultaneously working with industry. Those two groups sometimes are viewed as competitors in other organizations, says Woody, so having the science and technology together, “… is one of the great things about the labs at Wright Field.” Ed Hermes, retired Systems Support Division Technical Director (2007-2015), agrees. “A lot of what the lab does is done in partnership, but eventually some other organization will work it and the industrial partners will produce it.” The time between a major new technical concept and a flying part is sometimes measured in decades, and so the early, often seminal, contributions made by the directorate’s scientists and engineers can be overshadowed by the products they made possible. “This includes composites, stealth, rare earth magnet technologies, non-destructive inspection, silicon carbide, and gallium arsenide for different kinds of semiconductors, up to current efforts leveraging biotech and computational science,” Hermes said. Still, partnerships are essential to achieving the mission, and RX has devised special “co-locate” positions by placing researchers in the Systems Program Offices (SPOs) of


major Air Force acquisitions, like the F-35 and KC-46. These co-locates build a stronger understanding of the materials and manufacturing needs of the user community, influencing the AFRL/RX technology program and giving rapid and expert advice to decision makers in the field. Unity. A strong, unseen bond connects the entire workforce in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. A recent cultural assessment at RX concluded that, “Pride of service to country and supporting the ideals of personal liberty and freedom give our efforts meaning beyond a satisfying career or a profit motive. This purpose also gives us a strong sense of community and belonging, and the feeling that we’re in it together as a family.” This sentiment is echoed in the OneRX philosophy found on briefing charts and on bulletin boards throughout the complex. OneRX embraces much more than the S&T workforce that usually draws much of the spotlight – it also includes the talented and dedicated Financial Management and R&D Contracting Divisions that enable the S&T workforce to focus on the technical parts of the problem; the Integration and Operations Division that ensures processes, facilities, and information technology functions ease the S&T workload; and the Management Operations Division that ensures effective hiring, training, and career advancement of the workforce. In-house research teams also rely on contracted onsite professional scientists, engineers, technicians, and lab support staff. These on-site contractors share the same lab facilities, work together on the same technical problems, and co-author scientific papers and patents as a vital part of the in-house research program. Together, all of these parts make up OneRX. Across the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, all of these are seen as equal partners in achieving the mission and taking pride in the success of the organization. As former RX Director Vince Russo (1988-1996) summed it up, “The most important component to success will be what it always has been: the people.” Heart. The three roles within RX are the heads and the hands that determine what needs to be done, and gets the work done. They are easy to see. But, the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate also has a heart – a passion for supporting the country, for achieving the mission, for supporting each other, for doing the right thing. The heart of RX extends beyond the technical mission and includes economic, social, and interpersonal dimensions. It’s difficult to see but can be felt by those who spend enough time in the organization. It can be seen and felt by the number of volunteers for education outreach programs and in the passion and excitement in the eyes of the volunteers. It can be felt during the annual Combined Federal Campaign charity drive to support local, national, and international causes. It can be felt in the responses to support co-workers

who are sick or going through a crisis, and in the donations of vacation time to co-workers with extended illnesses. Some of the more tangible signs include the strong programs in RX for diversity and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) outreach. Materials and Manufacturing is also the only directorate in AFRL with an alumni association. The Air Force Materials and Manufacturing Alumni Association (AFMMAA) is a group of current and former RX employees who continue to advocate and support the ideals and mission of the organization. The AFMMAA annually awards as many as half a dozen scholarships to the most talented college-bound students of RX employees – a truly unique statement of passion and dedication. And, it’s hard to miss the fact that RXers have fun with what they do. The passion for science and technology in the lab often spills over into hobbies at home and extracurricular activities. As just one example, researchers on composites materials and technology banded together after hours to design and build an onager (torsion catapult) called “The Phoenix.” Blending cutting-edge materials, advanced engineering design, and state-of-the-art instrumentation and statistical analysis has given this team the world championship in pumpkin chucking. Today, the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate continues to research, explore, experiment, create, and innovate at the cutting edge of materials science, undergirding a range of technologies that support the nation’s Air Force as it ventures into a new century. The challenges are immense. Protecting assets in space, developing a functioning hypersonic capability, and reversing the ever-increasing cost curve of advanced aerospace systems are all huge goals for the future. The unique talents, resources and organization of the directorate are already focused on solving these problems. Fueled by passion and dedication and directed by experience and talent, the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate “… provides the Air Force with an intelligent group of people who really understand the purpose of materials to the future of flight, giving the Air Force a place to go where the people live and breathe Air Force and really know what’s needed for the future of aerospace flight,” said Russo. Former RX Chief Engineer Bob Rapson (2008-2013) added that for 100 years, RX and its predecessors have built the core technical competencies, development capabilities, agreements, and collaborations needed to do their mission effectively and efficiently, getting new materials to market and providing a strong sustainment foundation and competency. The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate has “… a culture and pride that makes RX an exciting place that people are reluctant to leave. That is what has made and will continue to make RX so unique and successful,” Rapson concluded.

Chronology of Chief Scientists in the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio Before 1937, the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate predecessor organizations were run by a single individual. The Assistant Chief position was added at the top organizational level in 1937 and was filled by a technical person. From 1953 to 1963, the Technical Director role was added to Chief and Assistant Chief for the laboratory. The earliest mention of Chief Scientist was in 1963, when Dr. Alan M. Lovelace was appointed to that position. Assistant Chief • C.J. Cleary 1937 – 1945 • Unknown 1945 – 1949 • M.R. Whitmore 1949 Technical Director • Unknown 1953 – 1960 • E.M. Glass 1960 - 1961 • Dr. A.M. Lovelace (Acting) 1962 Chief Scientists • Dr. Alan M. Lovelace 1963 - 1967 • Dr. Stephen W. Tsai 1968 - 1973 • Dr. Frank N. Kelley 1973 - 1976 • Dr. Norm Tallan 1977 • Dr. Harris M. Burte 1978 - 1995 • Dr. George St Pierre 1995 – 1996 • Dr. Walter “Wade” Adams 1997 - 2002 • Dr. Barry L. Farmer 2002 - 2014 • Dr. Daniel B. Miracle 2014 - 2015 • Dr. Timothy Bunning 2015 - Present


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

AFRL/RX: A National Asset By Holly Jordan

From its inception in 1917 and through its entire 100-year history, the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate has been an invaluable national asset. Like a financial asset, it’s important to have money in the bank in case you need it, but even more important are the dividends paid by that asset day after day. The talent, passion and experience of the dedicated RX staff; the capabilities and the uniqueness of the RX facilities; the close physical mixing of basic in-house research, contracted materials development and transition, and systems support; and the unique RX vision, leadership and culture are all “money in the bank.” The dividends paid by this capability are the dozens of banner technologies conceived, inspired, developed and transitioned by RX over the past 100 years. These major materials breakthroughs have not only successfully defended the United States through two world wars and numerous other conflicts, but they have also made major contributions to the economic strength of our country, ensuring that America has retained leadership as the most innovative and successful industrial country in the world. Expertise. Subject-matter experts throughout the directorate cover a vast range of materials science, from the development and characterization of new materials to the investigation of aging or failing materials, to the efficient production of materials to better meet warfighter needs. Because of this exceptional scientific and engineering expertise, RX stands as a leader in many areas, including high-temperature structural materials, materials and processes rules and tools, directed energy materials, systems support, and Integrated Computational Materials Science and Engineering. Because of the directorate’s unique capabilities and expert personnel, RX is often sought by outside organizations to contribute expertise and technical direction for collaborative efforts or to solve urgent warfighter needs.


Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds

An F-35A makes a night flight in 2013. AFRL/RX developed the materials that made the F-35 possible, from its engine and structural components, to its low-observable materials and coatings.


Air Force photo by Bryan Ripple

AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Julia Ward (left), a student attending Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, and Chelsea Marcum, a Ph.D. student attending the University of Dayton, process silk cocoons at the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate’s Biological Materials Lab. The silk fibroin obtained from the cocoons is used in making biocompatible thin films to embed nanoparticles and other materials made using synthetic biology approaches.


“The unique ecosystem that exists in RX in terms of expertise across different materials, not only established, but also evolving materials, is truly unmatched. So, it truly is a national resource,” said Dr. Morley Stone, AFRL Chief Technology Officer and former RX Hardened Materials Branch Chief (2006-2007). The human capital within RX has always been one of the directorate’s greatest assets, so to ensure a continuing legacy of expertise, RX engages in an active mentoring program that leverages the knowledge of the senior professionals and instills that expertise in the next generation of researchers. RX Enterprise Learning Officer Heather Marshall said the mentoring program helps achieve that goal.

“Our mentoring program provides a personalized opportunity for this growth and development, while building professional relationships,” said Marshall. “These relationships span well beyond the transfer of technical knowledge and expertise; they allow our mentees to receive personalized feedback and encouragement, while furthering their interpersonal and communication skills. Our mentors, in turn, reap many of these same rewards as they develop the next generation in RX.” Breadth of experience. While most U.S. advanced research labs doing classified work for the government find it difficult to find new, qualified U.S. citizens with Ph.D.s in the needed science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) specialties,

U.S. Air Force image

The X-37B is the United States’ newest and mostadvanced unmanned reentry spacecraft. AFRL/RX materials science and engineering underpinned thermal materials, solar cells, and advanced lightweight structural materials in U.S. spacecraft from the Mercury program to today.

RX has more qualified applicants than it can hire, according to Stone and RX Chief Scientist Dr. Tim Bunning. Both credit the level of research being conducted, the facilities available, and the mentoring offered within the directorate for drawing an abundance of qualified researchers into RX. “Most of AFRL’s directorates have labs of one type or another. What distinguishes RX is we are the most pervasive of any of the directorates and have more labs than the others, covering an extensive breadth of R&D,” Bunning said. “In part, that is because we are earlier in the food chain – not an integrating directorate, but providing new

ideas to all the others. Some of our labs are a bit more fundamental, perhaps academic, than the others.” Stone said he hopes this unique research environment contributes to the wide array of expertise RX continues to cultivate. “I want [RX] to be in the center of our materials research and expect them to continue to be our premier science organization internally, but I also want RX to continue to be the source of organizational swagger,” Stone said. “That is, the place where people know they are peers with the best in the world and can go out and interact with their professional colleagues knowing they are second


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AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Midwave-infrared laser radiation is important for many scientific, medical, industrial, and military applications, including spectroscopic diagnostics and surgery. This picture is of a laser cavity set up to generate high-power continuous-wave midwave-infrared radiation, starting from a commercial high-power laser.


best to no one, which breaks the mold of working in a government lab ‘because you couldn’t get a real job in industry or tenure in academia.’” RX comprises experts from a wide variety of scientific specialties and from diverse professional and personal backgrounds. Many of the researchers within RX have spent their entire career with the Air Force, while others joined RX from academia, industry, the military, or other governmental research entities. This diversity of experience creates a wide base of knowledge as well as professional networks that can prove beneficial for future collaborative endeavors. Former RX Chief Scientist Wade Adams (1996-2002) notes that the directorate has grown its breadth of experience by bringing in these good people and

growing them professionally within the organization. “Bringing in world-class people – as fulltime RX employees; military researchers assigned to RX, either full-time or temporarily; scientists and engineers brought in on a temporary basis to help solve problems for which RX does not have sufficient in-house capability – and later giving them the opportunity to continue in leadership roles – has been a powerful option for the directorate. It also has made it possible for RX to stay abreast with or even ahead of the technology explosion of the past few decades.” Uniqueness. An organization with solid and wide-reaching collaborative relationships with industry, academia, and other governmental organizations, RX stands in a unique position to draw from an extensive base of knowledge and skill sets. RX brings

together a vast range of materials science expertise into one ecosystem that includes both established and evolving materials. The directorate also includes the entire life cycle of materials and manufacturing research, from basic materials science to manufacturing to sustainment. Finally, the organic efforts in RX span in-house research, externally contracted R&D, and systems support. Most other organizations separate these different roles. Academia is physically separated from organizations with an operational mission, and most industries have either eliminated in-house R&D or have this work sequestered at separate facilities. In RX, these roles all live and work in the same facility, and the different parts of the R&D spectrum are often addressed by the same researchers. These characteristics make RX truly unique among research organizations. Additionally, RX brings together topnotch experts and world-class facilities, some of which are one of a kind. Among these facilities are the Refractive Index Characterization Laboratory, 3D Materials Characterization Laboratory, High Energy Diffraction Microscopy Test Frame, Nondestructive Systems Support Facility, Special Test and Research Lab, Polymer and Character Synthesis, Functional Additive Manufacturing, Microscopy, Laser Hardened Materials Evaluation Lab, and several coating and erosion test facilities, including the Particle Erosion Test facility and the Supersonic Rain Erosion facility. RX is also engaged in a number of unique collaborative research and data-sharing endeavors that allow scientists and engineers to engage and build on existing research. Among these efforts are the Materials Characterization Facility’s Remote Collaboratory, a virtually linked microscopy capability; and the Integrated Collaborative Environment, a scientific data platform enabling the collection, recording, and archiving of test data. Additionally, RX was a leader in the establishment of the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute, a cooperative agreement between industry, academia, and government to share knowledge and resources to advance flexible hybrid electronics technologies. Perhaps the most important factor that makes RX unique, however, is the nearly 1,000

people working within the directorate. Coming from a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, the scientists and engineers, as well as the support staff, bring with them a solid knowledge base and connections throughout the government, industry, and academia. A spirit of community and cooperation pervades the directorate, and extends far beyond. The people of RX embrace the value of working cooperatively with experts within and outside the directorate to leverage and share expertise to achieve world-class results. Dr. Dave Walker, former RX Director (2006-2008), stated, “The Air Force depends on the directorate to provide the insight and understanding to build advanced systems. There are other places that can do that, in pieces and parts, but bringing it all together in one place for air and space systems is what makes RX an asset.” Approach. A big part of what makes RX so effective in its mission is the deliberate thought and care that goes into choosing projects and allocating funding in a way that sets a positive direction for the directorate. Most projects within RX fall under three different categories: 6.1 funding is basic research, which encompasses fundamental development efforts similar to what may be seen in a highend university laboratory. 6.2 funding is applied research, which takes the results of 6.1 basic research and builds it to a higher level of understanding, by testing in different environments. Finally, 6.3 research is advanced technology development, which focuses on the development of a product that is capable of implementation in a fielded system. To determine which and to what extent projects are funded, RX leadership conducts an annual “Buy Plan” to review the directorate investment plan and prepare for the next budget execution cycle. During this meeting, the executive group reviews the RX investment plan and identifies issues and opportunities to be addressed in the next fiscal year. At the conclusion of this process, the directorate moves into the next year with a clear direction as to which technologies will be prioritized, along with an understanding of associated challenges and execution strategies.


NextFlex, the newly established Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute, will help enable a new class of stretchable, conformal devices that can add greater utility to existing products and make possible new tools and technologies. The institute is managed technically by AFRL/RX.


According to Dr. Vincent J. Russo, former RX Director (1988-1996), while the allocation of funding changes from time to time, the basic approach stays mostly the same. He said the director listens to ideas, then meets with a board composed of senior division representatives, where the projects are prioritized. The goal is to fund as many projects as possible based on an understanding of Air Force requirements and what the scientists and engineers felt they

could accomplish toward those requirements. Long-term projects could be established that would span three to five years, ensuring a constant stream of research and development for projects deemed of the greatest necessity to the warfighter. Adams said that the guiding principle for an organization such as RX is having a clear mission and the people to perform it. He said this is a combination that gives RX “an extraordinary aura about it.

U.S. Air Force photo/James Deneault

AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Systems Support Division’s field investigations and quick-response efforts as examples of this innovative spirit. Often given less than 30 days to investigate, re-create, analyze, and report on accidents or failures, the materials integrity teams are required to think on their feet and work in close coordination to arrive at solutions that benefit safety investigation boards, airframers, and the Air Force as a whole. “You could say our systems support function essentially is what started the lab. There were three branches in that organization: physical testing, liaison, and chemical. So not only do we trace our roots back to 1917, but those core functions are still part of what we do,” said Calcaterra. Calcaterra went on to say that the rapid-response demands of his group’s mission drives the need for innovation. “When the U-2 [reconnaissance aircraft] crashed in California [in 2016], we were given 30 days to figure out what happened, per

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The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate is a one-stop shop for materials and manufacturing expertise spanning the entire life cycle of aerospace systems.

You can’t attract good people without a well-defined mission, and you can’t do the mission without the right people. Do both and you will succeed. To me, we have a clear mission of being the materials experts for the Air Force, and we attract and work hard to keep the best people to do that mission.” The combination of relatively consistent funding, research decisions made by those closest to the labs, and a stable, highly qualified workforce are critical to the success of RX’s work for the Air Force, the future of aerospace, and the directorate’s standing as a national asset, according to AFRL and directorate leaders, past and present. Innovation. In the eyes of many former directorate personnel, RX’s long and diverse history of innovation solidly establishes it as a national asset. Former RX Chief Engineer Bob Rapson (2008-2013) and Principal Materials Engineer and Team Lead Dr. Jeff Calcaterra both identify the


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

the Air Force safety process, from the moment of the mishap to final report. So we are like a SWAT team. When the call comes in, we drop everything else, go on site, triage the aircraft, return here with the debris, and work with everyone involved, including some who aren’t well-enough versed in the intricacies of materials and processes to ask the right questions. So we have to know not just which questions to ask, but how to find the answers,” Calcaterra said. “A lot of times we reconstruct the aircraft in a hangar as a first-level triage to determine details about what we really need to look at back at the lab,” he continued. “In 2007, an F-15 broke in half over Missouri and we did reconstruct that plane, but we found the root cause of the mishap in the lab, not with the reconstruction. NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] may look at a reconstruction for months or years – we have to get the right answer fast.” But RX innovation doesn’t end there. Rapson cited other pivotal material developments that have emerged from RX. “One is advanced composites development, which clearly came out of RX and has become fairly pervasive. Today, almost every aerospace system uses composites, and you even have commercial aircraft, such as the 787, that are largely composite. That’s pretty remarkable in something that has developed since the 1960s,” Rapson said. “[Another] is the manufacturing technology work RX has done, where they learned to go from piecemeal operations such as CAD [Computer-Aided Design] to additive manufacturing and other things that came out of ManTech [Manufacturing Technology], such as numerical-controlled machining.” Additionally, Bunning pointed to the directorate’s role in the development of lubricants and adhesives, as well as the investment in the gallium nitride industrial base, helping to enable its use in high-power radar and commercial lighting. Those kinds of relationships, as technology continues to evolve at a seemingly ever-increasing speed, will mark the future of RX, its role as a national asset, and its contributions to the next generation of aerospace. Longevity. Given its 100-year legacy of excellence in people and product, it’s no


surprise that RX is regarded by many as a national asset. According to Stone, as the U.S. continues to lead the way in areas such as nanotechnology, biomedicine, flexible hybrid electronics, and other emerging sciences, the groundwork that RX has laid in these areas will play an increasingly important role, and so will the work the directorate does in those areas. Russo said RX has been and remains at the root of the technologies critical to the Air Force today. “I think RX is the foundation of everything. You can’t develop a new sensor unless it is more sensitive and has lower cooling requirements than the old sensor – and that is a materials issue. Corrosion is a large systems and materials sustainment problem. 3D printing and hybrid manufacturing technologies are and will continue to be a main RX thrust in materials and manufacturing technology.” Likewise, Stone emphasized the criticality of RX as a hub of materials expertise. “RX is a unique gem, not only in the Air Force, but for the nation, in the role it plays in our nation’s defense,” Stone said. “The culture of RX is central to how they do business and, because materials are so important to our future, I want to ensure that remains and is even exported to other AFRL tech directorates.” He added that although there may be future changes to the way the organization does business, he projects that the RX people, budget, and mission will remain relatively consistent. For the past 100 years, the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate has set the standard for materials science, enabling many of the technologies that are commonplace on today’s military aircraft. Those who have walked the halls of RX predict a continued tradition of innovation and excellence. With world-class facilities, people, and partnerships bolstering the effort, there is little doubt that RX will remain a national asset for years to come. As Russo summed it up, “In aerospace materials, I would say RX is at the national asset level of labs such as JPL [Jet Propulsion Lab] and Lawrence Livermore. If you look at the experimental equipment inside the labs, people from all over the country would love to come here and use what RX has. So I would say RX is a national asset – and has been for years.”

AFRL/RX International Collaborations By Craig Collins

AFRL/RX photo


hen the U.S. Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) opened a small Western European office in Brussels, Belgium, in 1952, it was the beginning of a new era of collaboration between aerospace materials researchers at home and abroad. As the European continent continued to rebuild itself after World War II, its universities and research laboratories would combine their knowledge and expertise with aerospace scientists and engineers at the Air Force’s Materials Laboratory at Wright Field. International collaboration on materials science took another major step five years later, when the United States and the United Kingdom formed a broader effort to cooperate on defense science and technology – a bilateral agreement that grew into what’s known today as the Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP) and includes the two founding nations and Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (AFRL/RX) forms an important part of this multinational collaborative, which includes military research agencies from all branches of the armed forces. The Materials and Processing Technology Group, in which the AFRL/RX plays a leading role, is one of 10 technical groups within the TTCP. George Schmitt, a chemical engineer who has worked with AFRL/RX for more than 50 years, is the director for International Programs. The fact that the directorate and its counterparts in other countries work on basic materials science, without getting into discussions about systems requirements or hardware, he said, makes it easier for RX to form such relationships. “Very often we’re kind of out front, compared with other directorates within AFRL, simply because we’re able to keep the activity where it is mutually benefiting both countries, but it’s not getting into sensitive areas.” Today, the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate participates in more than 80 international collaborations – which vary in intensity from preliminary discussions to fully integrated research initiatives – with 20 different countries. Several of these initiatives are simply bilateral collaborations on specific projects – with its counterpart in the United Kingdom, for example, RX combines its expertise to leverage solutions in a variety of materials areas, such as metals, ceramics, and composites. Relationships with other nations – such as Israel, which doesn’t have a military research laboratory comparable to AFRL – are facilitated in part by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR),

which funds research grants, workshops, and exchanges to identify areas of common interest. “We do have a few project agreements with them,” Schmitt said. “Israel has excellent, really first-class materials research at their universities, and we’ve been working with them for at least 15 years, advancing various materials technologies to really good effect.” Several of these international collaborations have yielded results that have directly benefited the U.S. Air Force – for example, a joint exploration of ultra-high-temperature ceramics with engineers and scientists from the United Kingdom. “These are materials that would find application for thermal protection of hypersonic systems,” said Schmitt, “and through our project arrangement we’ve explored a number of potential materials that can be adapted and used for thermal protection of, for instance, sharp leading edges on hypersonic aircraft, which see extreme thermal loads.” Another project agreement with Swedish engineers has resulted in the development of optical systems and sensor arrays that have been incorporated into American and Swedish military aircraft. “Because of how much the level and quality of research in so many places around the world has grown and improved,” Schmitt said, “it only makes sense to leverage that technology by combining resources and intellectual power to develop these technologies that are of interest. Of course, we see our involvement primarily in terms of its benefit to the Air Force. That’s our mission. That’s what we do.”

RX employees tour the nanotechnology facility at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India, in 2007.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate


Formal Informal Both



AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

AFRL/RX Directorate Organizations By Dr. Dan Miracle and J.R. Wilson


lthough its history is long, stretching back 100 years through two world wars, the Great Depression, a protracted Cold War and many world events, organizationally RX’s history is surprisingly linear. The Airplane Engineering Department of the U.S. Army Signal Corps was assigned functional responsibility for all aeronautical experimental and technical work on Nov. 5, 1917. This included what became, after four organizational name changes in only 16 months, the Material Section of the Engineering Division in the Army Air Service on March 13, 1919. The Army Air Corps was formed from the Army Air Service on Oct. 15, 1926, and the Material Section became the Materials Branch of the Experimental Engineering Section within the Materiel Division. Within a year, the Material Section, with a total staff of a little over 30, moved from McCook Field to Wright Field in the spring of 1927. The Great Depression in 1929 severely curtailed growth for most of the 1930s, but by the end of the decade the United States was clearly recovering and industry was going through a period of modernization and growth, especially the aeronautical industry. Posturing for growth, the Experimental Engineering Section reorganized in 1939, and the Materials Branch became the Materials Laboratory (ML), a name that would resonate throughout the international aerospace materials community for the next six decades. In the same year, the Service Liaison Unit was spun off from the Metallurgical Unit of ML to address the growing workload in service support, forming the nucleus of what would later become the Systems Support Division in RX. The following 20 years were tumultuous in the United States, with World War II, the post-war drawdown, formation of the U.S. Air Force, the Korean War and the start of the Cold War. This brought numerous organizational changes at higher levels, but the Materials Laboratory remained a stable organization throughout this period. Learning from the past and building for the future, a Long Range Plan was established in 1956 to improve the way in which materials research and development was being conducted. It called for a more integrated materials program, for more rapid exploitation of important materials discoveries, and to attack more challenging and impactful scientific problems rather than focusing on


low-risk, incremental improvements. The organizational concept to implement these improvements was called “Materials Central,” drawing a parallel with a “telephone central switchboard” where ML would be “plugged in” to all relevant materials efforts across the globe, and its accomplishments would be “wired” to the operational organizations and industry that would benefit from the technologies and information. The Materials Laboratory became Materials Central on March 30, 1960. Materials Central looked very much like ML, except that each of the four former ML Divisions (Applications, Metals & Ceramics, Non-metallic Materials and Physics) became laboratories. The 1956 Long Range Plan also included a major cultural change – increasing research staff levels and strengthening the in-house laboratory environment. The Air Force wasn’t alone in its concern for the quality of in-house research in government laboratories; the Department of Defense (DOD) also supported positive actions, which began in 1960. For the next two years, specific management, budgetary and personnel changes were made to strengthen the competence and environment in DOD laboratories. The Air Force Systems Command was established on April 1, 1961, and the Aeronautical Systems Division (ASD) was part of this new organization. Materials Central was one of four line organizations within ASD, and was renamed as the Materials and Processes Directorate, but was still commonly referred to as Materials Central for many years. As part of this reorganization, the Materials and Processes Directorate acquired the Manufacturing Methods Division from the Aeronautical Systems Center, which became the Manufacturing Technology Laboratory in its new organizational home. In the middle of 1962, ASD was reorganized as the Research and Technology Division (RTD). On Aug. 5, 1963, the Materials and Processes Directorate was included in RTD and was named, once again, the Air Force Materials Laboratory. The three other line organizations that were formerly in ASD were also moved to RTD and renamed as the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory, the Air Force Aero-Propulsion Laboratory and the Air Force Avionics Laboratory. ML was otherwise organizationally unchanged by this move.

U.S. Air Force photo by Marisa Novobilski

Dr. Benji Maruyama, a senior materials research engineer in the Functional Materials Division (RXA), Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, displays a model of a carbon nanotube structure. Carbon nanotubes are of great interest to materials scientists due to their strong, lightweight structure and ability to conduct heat and electricity better than many other materials. These nanotubes can be used in a number of different applications, from airplane wings to computer fiber, dental implants and even for oil spill clean-up.

While ML’s parent organizations changed several times in the following three decades, the major organizational trend was the consolidation of the numerous laboratories across the Air Force. In 1975, the four laboratories at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFB) were combined to form the Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratories (AFWAL). As part of this consolidation, the Aerospace Research Laboratories (ARL) that was formed in 1948 as the Applied Research Section of the Engineering Division was disbanded, and parts of the staff and facilities were transferred to ML. AFWAL was reorganized on Oct. 1, 1988, as the Wright Research and Development Center (WRDC), and the Manufacturing Technology Division was split off from ML as a separate organization within WRDC, the Manufacturing Technology Directorate. Laboratory consolidation received additional motivation with defense funding cuts following the collapse of the Soviet

Union (the “peace dividend”), and WRDC was reorganized as the Wright Laboratory in 1990. This was one of four Air Force “super labs,” the others being Armstrong Laboratory (Brooks AFB), Rome Laboratory (Griffiss AFB) and Phillips Laboratory (Kirtland AFB). ML was renamed as the Materials Directorate and remained separate from the Manufacturing Technology Directorate. The final major consolidation affecting ML was the aggregation of the 22 technical directorates across the Air Force into a single laboratory, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Completed in 1997, AFRL created ten directorates. The Materials Directorate was once again joined with the Manufacturing Technology Directorate to form the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (RX), which also gained environmental and airbase technologies located at Tyndall AFB. Major organizational changes are disruptive, so AFRL’s stability in the 20


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

years since its formation has allowed its scientists and engineers to better focus on achieving the mission. Two organizational changes within RX include divesting the environmental and airbase technologies functions and reducing the number of technical divisions from five to four in 2012 to better focus RX technical competencies. Now working through four technical and four mission support divisions, RX’s dedicated civilian, contractor, and active duty personnel support and perform comprehensive research and development (R&D) to advance the technologies of flight. A brief look “under the hood” at the current RX divisions is given below. THE FRONT OFFICE GROUP (FOG) Senior leadership teams have existed since the times of Homer and the Trojan War, with the distinct role to provide sound strategic advice and counsel focused on attaining enterprise success and victory. Just as ancient Greek leadership propelled early civilizations to great feats of triumph, the success of RX over the past century is directly related to the consistent top-level support provided by the directorate’s senior leadership team, the Front Office Group (FOG), who provides guidance and direction for research strategy and technology development, thereby enabling enterprise excellence across the spectrum. Led by the RX Director, typically a member of the Air Force Senior Executive Staff, and supported by a military Deputy Director, Chief Engineer, Chief Strategist, Chief Scientist and Senior Scientists and Executive Staff, the FOG enables synergy across the research disciplines, ensuring stability and productivity for the “body” of which the FOG is the “head.” This team-centered approach focuses the activities that enable RX to deliver the state-of-the-art in materials and manufacturing technologies for Air Force, Department of Defense, academia and industry customers. Director and Deputy – The RX Director and Deputy Director lead the directorate in maintaining a strong internal and external view of science and technology efforts, focusing the diverse talents and energies of RX teams to develop, connect and exploit science and technology to ensure our warfighters have the state-ofthe-art to meet current and emerging needs. Leading from the front, the Director and Deputy ensure the RX portfolio is balanced carefully among evolutionary and revolutionary technologies, external contracts and in-house research, and they ensure that RX teams are able and ready to respond to time-critical problems and the ever-changing technology landscape of today. The leadership team is responsible for RX accountability and excellence, advocating for the workforce and RX innovation before AFRL leadership, senior DOD and congressional team members and more, while maintaining a focus on Air Force strategic goals


and the AFRL Commander’s intent. The complementary strengths of the Director and Deputy, augmented by the FOG team, results in an RX team in which the whole is much stronger than individual parts. Chief Scientist – The Chief Scientist is the RX technical authority for science and technology, championing research excellence by maintaining a strong awareness and understanding of advancements and opportunities to advance RX expertise in research and technology. In addition to ensuring high-quality science and technology is practiced across RX activities, the Chief Scientist provides guidance, tools and strategies to the staff in order to ensure scientific best practices and information sharing is a regular practice across all in-house disciplines. The Chief Scientist promotes advanced technical training for RX research staff and advocates for team members to attain fellowships and gain recognition across various circles in the scientific community. By identifying research gaps, fostering collaborations with external government organizations, academia and industry and by maintaining a pulse on potential future Air Force needs, the Chief Scientist helps RX teams to understand the realm of possibility and opportunities to promote science and knowledge for current and long-term needs. Chief Engineer – The RX Chief Engineer works closely with the Chief Scientist to transition basic scientific research to customer-focused, application-driven programs able to address current and mid-term Air Force technology needs. With a primary focus on systems engineering and program management in RX, the Chief Engineer helps increase the potential of successful technology transition by ensuring high-quality engineering is practiced across the enterprise and brings an external user perspective to the maturing technologies that are part of the RX science and technology portfolio efforts. A key role of the Chief Engineer focuses on maintaining strong working partnerships with the system managers and end users across the acquisition and sustainment enterprise to ensure RX efforts are informed by the right requirements to enable the best possible technology transition success. This RX leader also represents the directorate on headquarters and cross-directorate councils, transition teams and more to maximize the success of RX in collaborative efforts across AFRL, DOD and more. Chief Strategist – Whereas the Chief Engineer and Chief Scientist are primarily focused on ensuring the strength of internal science and technology programs and staff, the Chief Strategist leads the directorate in management of external issues and engagements by maintaining a pulse on Air Force priorities and efforts, ensuring RX plans, programs and strategies are aligned to meet Air Force Research Laboratory headquarters guidance as well as Air Force needs and those of partners across the spectrum. In addition to providing advice and counsel to the Director on strategy development

and implementation, the Chief Strategist is the forward face of the directorate’s customer engagement program, responsible for building and maintaining relationships across the acquisition and sustainment enterprises as RX executes its mission. Resource programming and budget prioritization are a primary responsibility of this leadership team member, who also ensures that the directorate portfolio is aligned with science and technology capabilities and customer needs. The Chief Strategist also leads RX marketing and communication strategies, advocating RX accomplishments and capabilities to government leaders, industry and external audiences, ensuring RX is properly positioned to meet demand signals from above and around. Executive Support Team – To augment the ever-increasing demands and unimaginable levels of complexity in managing an enterprise as large and successful as RX is today, the FOG executive support team plays a critical role in optimizing mission success in all areas. The Director’s Assistant, Assistant to the Chief Scientist, Assistant to the Chief Engineer and the Military Executive Officer all maintain advanced science and engineering degrees, and each plays an important role in executing the vision of senior FOG leaders in day-to-day short- and long-term tasks. These critical FOG members focus intensely on executing the specific details of multiple, big picture tasks which could be overwhelming for an individual to execute on one’s own. In some ways, the assistant position is the direct link between the FOG leader and directorate personnel throughout the directorate, effectively cradling the close-knit relationships that have become an essential part of RX’s success throughout the century. The 50,000 Foot View – Each member of the RX front office team plays a critical role in ensuring a strong awareness of internal and external science and technology efforts. Without this strong awareness, it is difficult to maximize the delivery of the “right” technology at the “right” time to our customers. By leveraging collaborations, relationships and by maintaining a team-centered approach, the FOG helps maximize RX’s ability to create materials, processes and technologies that enable the technology of today and for future capabilities. FUNCTIONAL MATERIALS DIVISION (RXA) The Functional Materials Division (RXA) was formed in 2012 through the merger of two former operations – the Non-Metallic Materials Division and the Survivability and Sensor Materials Division. The purpose of the merger was to ensure our national leadership in research and to accelerate technology development by maximizing synergy between traditional disciplines and emerging science and technologies. Functional materials controls and generates information and energy, whether it is photons for communication,

sensing or directed energy; electrons for radio frequency (RF) or data processing; or biology and chemistry for interfacing the warfighter with our machines. RXA’s mission is to identify and risk-reduce the crucial functional materials, and associated processing technologies, for next-generation Fight-Through Capability and Warfighter-System Teaming. This mission is achieved through two activities. First, maintaining a world-class in-house research program to explore and assess international discoveries, concepts and innovative solutions to address the unique challenges of defense aerospace. Second, fostering partnerships with industry to create a stable supply-chain eco-system capable of reliably delivering these game-changing materials and processing innovations to Air Force systems. Since functional materials are at the heart of all Air Force systems, the division works collaboratively across RX, AFRL, and DOD, as well as academia and industry. The foundation of the division’s work is to quantify the relationship between processing, structure, and properties, and thereby develop the tools to assess the potential of emerging functional materials for legacy, developmental, and future Air Force systems. Each of the division’s three branches is tasked with maintaining this competency and external partnerships in specialized areas, as well as working with system designers to establish requirements and analysis of alternatives to maximize transition and integration potential. Nanoelectronic Materials Branch (RXAN) – RXAN is the home of materials for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and electronic warfare (EW) systems. They lead research in nano and microfabrication, solid state physics, novel semiconductor material synthesis, and device integration. “The team works with academia, industry and other DOD labs on very fundamental quantum materials research, to electromagnetic meta materials, to novel testing techniques to understand failure mechanisms occurring during device operation,” RXA Technical Director Dr. Rich Vaia said. “For example, their ability to validate models of operating microwave transistors is pushing the use of gallium nitride to higher temperatures and powers, enabling more efficient and powerful RF systems. Additionally, they are constantly exploring alternative materials and concepts, such as gallium oxide and twodimensional nanomaterials, which promise order-ofmagnitude performance improvements.” “Our people are doing incredible work with industry and DOD labs on next-generation infrared detectors - developing new semiconductor and metamaterial solutions to enable low-cost attritable sensors with greater sensitivity and functionality,” added Dr. Tom Nelson, RXAN’s Advanced Development Lead. “They are pushing revolutionary concepts where electronics,


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

RF, and light interact in one material (integrated photonics) – enabling compact, and agile RF systems supporting sensors, electronic warfare, and beginning to address the issues surrounding ultra-large bandwidth data transfer around networks of platforms.” Vaia continued, “Nanotech will be a critical part of everything the division does, at least for the next decade, because it is an enabling tool to develop and understand functional materials. It has become part and parcel of functional materials.” Photonic Materials Branch (RXAP) – RXAP is the home of optical materials for protection from, generation of, and survivability using directed energy (DE). They lead research in structured optical materials and coatings, switchable filters, electron emission, nonlinear optics, and characterization of light-matter interactions. “RXAP handles a diverse array of functional materials to solve extremely challenging issues facing operation of our platforms in the future. Lasers are extensively used on the battlefield today – for designating, range finding, and communication, and will increase in the future as power levels enable countermeasures and force projection,” Vaia said. “All material innovations are on the table,” said Dr. Tim White, one of RXAP’s Research Leads. “Our in-house team has made major contributions to ultra-fast liquid crystal filters, processing innovations for photorefractives, verylow threshold electron emitters, and the development of nonlinear limiters.” Dr. Dean Evans, RXAP’s Advanced Development Lead, added, “These novel optical materials provide new options in our tool box, which is used with our industrial partners to demonstrate and integrate tailored solutions to an exponentially increasing array of needs.” Soft Matter Materials Branch (RXAS) – RXAS is the home of polymers, chemistry, nanoparticles, printing, and biology. They lead research in stretchable and conformal circuits, encapsulation of vaccines and therapeutics to minimize refrigeration for remote deployments, development of revolutionary concepts to sense bio-macromolecules for warfighter readiness, and establishing the impact of microbes on Air Force systems. “RXAS drives innovations to revolutionize the warfightermachine interface. Today, many times, human capabilities limit operational effectiveness. The challenge is determining which technologies, and the associated material challenges, are needed to optimize the partnership between the warfighter and our advanced technology,” Vaia noted. “Our in-house teams are developing the key disciplines necessary to tackle this challenge,” said Dr. Mike Durstock, RXAS Branch Chief. “Research ranges from creating autonomous experimental robots to more effectively optimize processing conditions and validate theories, to


employing cutting edge optimization and path-finding algorithms to simultaneously design circuit layout, processing steps, and mechanical performance, to engineering proteins harvested from natural systems to assemble nanoparticles or stabilize enzymes for chemical sensors.” “Rapid transition is key,” added Dr. Ben Leever, RXAS’s Advanced Development Lead. “Public-private partnerships such as NextFlex (Institute for Manufacturing Innovation in Flexible Hybrid Electronics) enable us to lead the development of industrial ecosystems with commercial outlets so that a supply chain with these solutions is available when the Air Force needs them.” Today, approximately 50 percent of RXA’s 300 people (about 100 civilians, 200 on-site contractors, and a small number of active-duty personnel) and 70 percent of its $80 million-a-year funding focuses on reducing the risk of enabling materials technologies and shepherding them through the “valley of death” to ensure a sustainable industrial capability. “Our workforce is simply outstanding,” said Vaia. “The passion, the culture, the dedication, the teamwork and the camaraderie makes RXA what it is. It is the source of our success and the reason we are world leaders.” According to RXA Division Chief J. Mark Coleman, military R&D has changed significantly since the beginning of the technology explosion some three decades ago. “In the past, the military drove innovation in the industrial base, but today it’s commercial markets. So we have to make sure we are well-networked. This allows us to determine the most impactful product of our inhouse teams and external investments that will ensure new weapons systems are fielded as quickly as possible,” Coleman explained. “We have a lot of passionate people willing to work as long as it takes to get the job done, with people at all levels talking to each other to reach solutions and focus on the mission.” “Our primary job is to make sure we are aware of the competencies and capabilities in industry and identify what are the additional innovations needed to ensure material solutions are available to feed Air Force requirements – not to internally solve a materials problem for the Air Force. We must understand what drives future Air Force capability needs, identify which enabling technologies are limited by functional materials, and partner with academia and industry to foster investment in the right strategic place to build the bridges to ensure performance, availability, and manufacturing meet requirements,” said Vaia. “Our crystal ball must be the very best to ensure Air Force tech superiority.” As with all elements of RX, the Functional Materials Division is continuing to look to the future and new areas of S&T development.

Air Force photo/Michele Eaton

Dr. Adam Pilchak, Materials Research Engineer in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, loads a piece of a fractured titanium disk into a scanning electron microscope. By looking at the microscopic features on the fracture surface, researchers are able to determine how the crack initiated and spread through the component to cause the failure.

Vaia explained that the other 50 percent of RXA’s employees do very high-risk exploratory work on future functional materials, and even on the processes of materials research. “We have a very strong technical inhouse team that constantly pushes the state of the art and the state of the possible,” he said. For example, “Synthetic biology is the technology of programming cellular function. Understanding and manipulating cellular processes at multiple levels – DNA, protein, metabolites – is faster than ever before. Using various molecular biology techniques, we can ‘re-code’ the DNA, piece together new ‘bio-circuits,’ and thus engineer novel cellular functions. Synthetic biology is being applied widely throughout the biotech industry. Here in RXAS, our team is specifically interested in how

can we use these innovations to address Air Force material supply challenges, control contamination, or even help our warfighters recover faster,” said Dr. Wendy Goodson, Research Lead for BioMaterials. “Quantum technology is another exciting frontier,” added Dr. Augustine Urbas, Research Lead for Integrated Opto-Electronics. “Commercial investment will drive revolutions in encryption and computation; however, similar revolutions in military-unique positioning, navigation, and sensing are possible if material solutions for room temperature single photon emission, single photon sensing, and photon entanglement could be realized.” “The intersection of big data, analytics and modeling is not only fundamentally altering commercial banking, insurance and weather forecasting, but will profoundly


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

change materials discovery and engineering,” commented Dr. Ruth Pachter, Senior Scientist for Computation. “The integration of these emerging tools with synthesis, processing and characterization could accelerate our discovery of new optical materials and their integration into high-performance, robust filters.” Vaia concluded that the division maintains its focus on future solutions for the warfighter. RXA researchers who engage industry gain an understanding of what is needed in terms of product development. He said RXA encourages young researchers to go out and talk to users and special operations forces, which ensures staff keep their eyes on the ultimate customer. “Awareness of real-world problems is key. It not only focuses long term research, but provides the key ingredient for those ‘eureka’ moments where failures in one effort become solutions for another, and foster a different way of addressing a previously impossible challenge.” “The division was established with long-term needs in mind, and I think we’re on the right track. Ten years from now the big problems we talk about will still be highly critical to the Air Force to create the right defense posture in 2030, things like human/machine interface, ultra-small autonomous satellite swarms, and surviving in the anti-access/area denial [A2/AD] environment will only be solved by a long-term, sustained investment in functional materials.” STRUCTURAL MATERIALS DIVISION (RXC) As mentioned, approximately four years ago, the RX research divisions were reorganized. The reorganization resulted in consolidating the RX research divisions to be centered on its primary material outlet – Structural Materials (RXC) and Functional Materials (RXA). The primary focus of RXC is on materials that carry structural and/or thermal loads when used in practice. The Structural Materials Division plans, conducts, and directs in-house and extramural research and development on materials technologies, with an emphasis on structural applications. RXC collaborates with other divisions, directorates and external organizations to develop, mature, and transition the highest-priority products needed by the Air Force for legacy, developmental, and future Air Force weapon systems. Priority is given to materials technologies that enable increased performance and/or flight efficiency, reduce variability and defects in processing, and lower life cycle cost. “RXC’s job is twofold: to maintain Air Force competency in structural materials and to develop structural materials technologies for application on the full range of USAF systems,” Division Chief Tim Schumacher said.


RXC has approximately 90 government employees, mostly civil servants, with a few uniformed officers, and a contingent of nearly 100 on-site contractors. “About 70 percent of our government personnel have Ph.D.s, in a wide range of engineering and science disciplines. About one-third of that workforce has been hired since the reorganization in 2012, ensuring a strong foundation of technical capacity for the forseeable future.” RXC offices and laboratories occupy about one and a half of RX’s five interconnected buildings. “In-house research is done on-site, but we also contract out much of the research to universities and industry, from small businesses to large OEMs. In-house, we have the capability to process experimental quantities of metal, ceramic, and polymer materials; characterize the structure of these materials; assess mechanical properties at the coupon and feature level; and interrogate samples and small components using nondestructive methods,” Schumacher said. “Stage one research, which is mostly in-house, is probably about 20 percent of our investment and 70 percent of our workforce, pushing the envelope in those same application areas, but in technologies that are not quite ready for application, demonstrating the feasibility for advanced technologies,” he added. RXC currently consists of three branches: Materials State Awareness Branch (RXCA) – RXCA’s primary objectives are to improve detection and enable characterization of initial and evolving material and damage states in the full range of structural materials. Enhanced material state awareness provides increased safety and aircraft availability, reduces maintenance cost, and accelerates certification and transition of advanced structural materials. According to Schumacher, RXCA has a legacy developing advanced nondestructive inspection (NDI) technologies, but since 2012 has also focused on developing methods to accelerate and automate the characterization of materials via destructive methods. By using advanced automated methods and techniques, researchers are able to more rapidly quantify the basic building blocks of a material. “What a titanium- or nickel-based material can do is ultimately governed by the atomic/crystal, grain, and defect structures. These are operating at length scales from angstroms to millimeters,” Technical Director Dr. Steve Russ said. “How well does a material hold load and stress; how does it fail? It is controlled by its [micro] structure. We can assess that destructively to get to the real truth, although ideally we are interested in non-destructive methods to get equivalent materials information.” “Integrated Computational Materials [Science] and Engineering is about marrying specific knowledge at the microstructure level with engineering design and/or

sustainment activity and decisions,” Schumacher said. “A lot of what we learn in science is not yet in the engineering environment, so marrying those opens a whole new perspective for future Air Force developments.” Composites Branch (RXCC) – RXCC’s primary objectives are to develop the next generation of ceramic and polymer composite materials, optimize processing for reduced variability in the end product, and understand and predict the behavior of current and future composite materials under use conditions. The suite of composite technologies currently being investigated enables new capabilities (from hypersonic flight to advanced propulsion and munition concepts), drives down manufacturing cost by increasing yield, and changes the paradigm for certification and life management of composite structures. “The composite branch addresses challenges in both ceramic and polymer matrix composites, from designing higher-temperature-capable ceramic matrix composite materials to understanding how they fail. A key challenge is how the environment interacts with the material that leads to failure,” Russ said. “The polymer group is exploring slightly higher-temperature materials that could provide replacements options for titanium for reduced weight, for example.” In addition, Russ said, the branch conducts research in materials that can withstand the extreme conditions of hypersonic flight. “A lot of the work we do in hypersonics is focused on taking what is possible in science that enables short duration flights, seconds to minutes, but we need to develop materials that can withstand the temperatures for a long period of time and at a more affordable price. So we also need to affect the industrial base, and ensure it exists so that these materials can be produced.” Russ says the branch is also involved in research on multifunctional structures. These are structures that can carry load while also incorporating embedded capabilities such as health monitoring, batteries, or sensors. Additive manufacturing is a great enabler in this effort. Metals Branch (RXCM) – RXCM’s primary objectives are the exploration of novel metallic compositions and processes for enhanced capability, optimization of processing to reduce defects detrimental to performance, and development of capabilities that enhance our ability to predict behavior/life in service. Similar to the Composites Branch, the technologies being investigated enable new capabilities (from hypersonic flight to advanced propulsion and munition concepts), drive down manufacturing cost, and affect life management strategies for metallic components. For life prediction, there is an emphasis on moving away from deterministic predictions toward probabilistic methods for risk management.

The branch investigates materials that will provide higher-temperature capabilities, a more flexible supplier base, and greater affordability. They research materials such as alloys that can be made less expensively and work to optimize design for greater performance and durability. In the early 1990s, the Metals Branch pushed the state of the art in titanium aluminides, a near-equal composition of titanium and aluminum (plus additional elements in minor fractions). Those materials are just now beginning to see commercial applications. “It typically takes a decade or more for new materials to make it into service, but for the past decade we have been trying to accelerate the timeline from discovery to application through modeling and simulation, especially through driving advances in computational and experimental capabilities,” Schumacher said. MANUFACTURING AND INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGIES DIVISION (RXM) RXM is responsible for planning and executing four programs supporting the defense industrial base and Air Force weapon system development and sustainment: • Manufacturing Technology • Industrial Base Planning • Defense Priorities and Allocations System (i.e., Defense Production Act Title I) • Title III of the Defense Production Act The division identifies, prioritizes, and integrates USAF industrial base requirements with program execution authority to provide advanced manufacturing processes, techniques, systems, and equipment needed for timely, reliable, high-quality economical acquisition, production, and systems repair. “Our job is to strengthen the industrial base for the Air Force by developing new technologies for manufacturing. It’s a three-pronged approach. We work directly with weapons system programs and the USAF sustainability effort, such as the F-35,” RXM Technical Director Dr. John Russell explained. “We also are a technology transition partner for the entire AFRL, working with the other technology directorates as they have S&T coming forward. Finally, we are always looking for disruptive, transformational manufacturing, such as additive [manufacturing].” RXM is made up of two branches that support these goals: Electronics and Sensors Branch (RXME) – RXME plans and executes manufacturing technology programs to establish the capability for effective processes, materials, and procedures needed to affordably manufacture sensors, electronic devices, assemblies, and subsystems. It is responsible for


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

developing an interdisciplinary investment strategy for electronic design and engineering, materials and materials processing, fabrication, assembly, integration, test and quality improvement, and serves as Executive Agent for the Defense Production Act Title III Program; the mission of which is to “create assured, affordable, and commercially viable production capabilities and capacities for items essential for national defense.” “We worked more than 15 years to improve the efficiency of manufacturing advanced radars – AESA [Active Electronically Scanned Array] today – with more automation on what used to be largely hand built, so now it is on most aircraft rather than just high-end [systems],” Russell said. “Another was solar cells for satellites, working with the space program to make sure those could be built in a timely, cost-efficient manner. “And [we helped] enable surge production for the JDAM [Joint Direct Attack Munition], which involved a lot of electronics, especially the fuzes. The timing of that was pre-OIF/OEF [Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom] and we worked with the industrial base to make sure we had enough bombs when the need arose, without having a lot of layoffs.” Looking to the future, AgilePod™ is a major effort being spearheaded by RXME. “AgilePod™ is trying to develop a new way to make aircraft sensor pods,” Russell said. “Current single-function pods, hanging off our planes to do ISR missions, are expensive to produce and maintain. And if you want to use that same airplane for two different missions, you need two different pods. With open system software, AgilePod™ will have easy plug-and-play sensor stations.” Propulsion, Structures and Manufacturing Enterprise Branch (RXMS) – RXMS plans and executes manufactur-


ing technology programs and investment strategies for effective, affordable processes, materials, and business practices in manufacturing weapon system engines and structures. The Digital Thread program seeks to link and utilize the vast amounts of data generated throughout every Air Force system’s lifecycle, particularly in manufacturing environments. Currently, much of that data remains unused and unrelated to the processes and components which generated it; applying analytics to the data enables the Air Force to improve its approach to development, production, and sustainment of its systems. Notably, although the idea of Digital Thread originated from efforts in ManTech, it is now becoming a standard consideration – even a requirement – across the DOD and beyond, particularly in developing new components and systems. Russell added, “We are the program manager for the Office of the Secretary of Defense [OSD]-funded America Makes, a part of Manufacturing USA, which is the Obama administration’s network of manufacturing institutes designed to reinvigorate manufacturing in the United States. America Makes was launched in 2012 to develop and advance 3-D printing for industrial and defense applications. We work with the industrial base and academia to make it mainstream for major manufacturing, such as molds for casting, ducting for fighter jets and, 10 or 20 years from now, flight-critical hardware.” RXM’s time lines for transitioning new developments into USAF weapons systems can range from a decade on long-term projects to a three-year window on the F-35. To accomplish that, Russell said, the division tries to be forward-thinking as well as responsive to urgent needs. RXM has historically played a critical role in bringing modern manufacturing approaches to Air Force organizations and the USAF industrial base. Their Integrated

U.S. Air Force photo

AFRL/RXM’s AgilePod™ is a multi-intelligence, open architecture, reconfigurable prototype pod destined to be a game changer for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and Air Force Special Operations communities.

Computer-Aided Manufacturing (ICAM) program in the early 1980s developed discrete event simulation tools which are the basis for commercial software now used by industrial engineers across the globe, as well as information modeling standards that are still in use today in the development of modern data systems. In the 1990s, RXM’s Lean Aerospace Initiative brought Toyota’s lean production practices to the Air Force industrial base, leading to significant efficiency improvements in manufacturing for Air Force systems. The subsequent application of these same principles to the depot maintenance environment resulted in enormous reductions in depot maintenance flow days for operational aircraft such as the C-5 and the F-15. Another major contribution that emerged from RXM was the creation of Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRL). Similar to Technology Readiness Levels (TRL), this numerical scale measures the readiness of a material, component, assembly, or system to be manufactured efficiently and at a reasonable cost. As Russell noted, just because a product is at a high TRL level does not mean it is at an equivalent MRL level. “Some specific things we are working on include the Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft, which will be so cheap you make hundreds or thousands and send them out to punch a hole in enemy defenses, then follow up with high-value assets. A lot of current requirements imposed on manned aircraft you want to last 40 years will be waived, which opens you up to many designs and manufacturing processes you wouldn’t use today with military aircraft. We’re exploring how to actually do that. We also will need sensors that don’t cost more than the aircraft.” Russell also explained that evolving cyber technologies and threats have created new areas of investigation for RXM. He said the branch even conducts research into protecting advanced machine tools from cyber intrusions, such as malicious equipment tampering, through our partnership with the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, another member of Manufacturing USA. SYSTEMS SUPPORT DIVISION (RXS) RXS provides quick-reaction materials and processes support to a wide range of Air Force customers throughout the life cycle of weapon systems and the supporting infrastructure. This quick-reaction response to customer problems and needs includes support to program offices, air logistics complexes, test organizations, operational commands, airbase wings, and other Air Force organizations. The division performs structural and electronic/electrical root cause/failure analyses, recommends solutions, and provides lessons learned to developers and end users. When requested, it also rapidly engineers solutions, conducts near-term development programs, and provides technology transition support to deliver technology solutions to customers. The division aims to be the Air Force resource of choice for ensuring effective and timely use of materials and processes to keep new and legacy weapon systems safe, suitable and affordable. The division also supports materials manufacturing and processing needs resulting from production assessments and field services. RXS manages the Air Force Electrostatic Discharge Program, the Special Test and Research Laboratory, the Coatings, Corrosion, and Erosion Laboratory (formerly the Air Force Coatings Technology Integration Office [CTIO] and the Air Force Rain/ Particle Erosion Facility) and the Advanced Power Technology Office.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

The RXO, RXR, RXF, and RQKM divisions keep the facilities, laboratories, and computer and business operations working so employees can focus their time on research and development.

“We are the tip of the spear when it comes to materials and support to the end user – those who make the aircraft and those who fly them,” said Principal Materials Engineer and Structural Materials Evaluation Team Lead Dr. Jeff Calcaterra. “So we have to have a breadth of knowledge that is unlike anything else, which is why we are unique. We have to know about aluminum alloys made back in World War II, as well as the most cutting-edge materials. We interact well with all the divisions here because we need to know what they are doing. “When a question comes in from the field – a program office, a maintainer, a pilot – it often can be a legitimate matter of life and death. We don’t get to say, ‘we don’t know.’ And we don’t get to call anyone else. We often get materials questions that are ill posed and we have to come up with the right response, with the onus that we have to be right. Our job is answering questions and that means you have to be curious. That’s why, in this environment, personality is the most important thing for success,” said Calcaterra. Systems Support is widely praised within RX, AFRL, and beyond, as a unique division that, in turn, makes RX and AFRL unique. Former RXA Division Chief Bill Woody (1988-2002) said the division arose from a need for materials experts that would provide expertise to the Systems Program Offices (SPO). “When they formed the Systems Center at Wright-Patt, they had an engineering functional group that supported all the center’s SPOs and moved among them. They discovered there was a terrible shortage of materials people, across the board, so when they formed the


Materials Lab, one of the agreements was that lab would support the SPOs with engineering expertise,” Woody said. He added that this mission has lasted through the history of the directorate. He says the system support function is unique to RX and well respected among Air Force leadership. As with all RX components, RXS has gone through a number of changes, primarily related to technology evolutions and USAF policies, but the core mission has never wavered – supporting the end user in the field. The legacy of the material and processes support to the field dates back to both world wars, the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, the Cold War, and continues to provide important support to operations today in the Middle East. Pursuing this mission are three RXS branches: Materials Integrity Branch – RXSA provides materials/ processing consultation services to Air Force product centers, air logistics complexes, and the operational commands. It investigates aerospace accidents for potential materials- and processing-related problems and performs laboratory failure analyses on structural and electronic components and systems. The branch also solves materials processing problems associated with operational and experimental USAF systems, provides analytical chemical analysis support for quickreaction efforts and manages the Air Force Electrostatic Discharge Program. “[Materials Integrity] is really the epicenter of materials and process support to our program offices and fielded units,” Calcaterra said. “When the Air Force calls 911 for materials, they get us on the line.”

RXSA is asked to participate in investigations when materials or processes are suspected, although not all involve crashes. About 10 percent of the division’s work is mishap investigations, but the vast majority is materials consultation to the field. Calcaterra said the branch receives approximately five consultation questions a day and typically provide answers within 24 hours. Mishap questions are answered in approximately 20 days. “RXS projects are all customer-driven, from mishaps to customer questions. If we discover a problem was not specific to one type of aircraft, but involved other aircraft, as well, that can lead to more projects. So we do initiate our own projects if an evaluation indicates it is needed to avoid mishaps in the future,” Calcaterra said. “That is our overarching mission – no more crashes.” RXSA’s top recent projects, according to Calcaterra, consist of the following: • The Sept. 20, 2016 crash of a U-2 spy plane, with loss of life (Class A), while on a training flight over California • The June 2, 2016 crash of an F-16 following an Air Force Academy graduation fly-over by the elite Thunderbirds demonstration team • A series of other Class A crashes in 2015-16 involving an RC-135, a C-17, a C-130, an F-16, an F-22 and an E-8 “Our job isn’t really mishap analysis, but mishap prevention. And each of those investigations led to findings we farmed out to the rest of the fleet to ensure their safety, because they were fleet problems, not individual incidents,” he said. “We put out close to 100 reports a year; this year has been pretty busy, probably 120 in total. “Within the Air Force, there is a heightened drive to own the technical baseline. A lot of our engineering was previously contracted out and we’re trying to make that more organic. As a result, I think RXS will have an increased role in supporting our USAF customers as they look for materials expertise to make the best decisions. So in the next five years, there will be an increased reliance on the organic materials expertise we have within RX.” Sometimes what appears to be a typical non-mishap query can turn into a major investigation, as happened in 2004, when the USAF Office of Special Investigations called asking why RX had different specifications for bar and plate titanium, thinking they were the same thing. “What he thought was a two-minute question turned out to be a 10-year investigation. They were investigating someone who was selling plate titanium certified to the bar materials spec. A major contractor had said that was okay, but it wasn’t; yet when we started digging into it, we discovered every contractor was doing the same thing. So we had to write new requirements to send out to the entire

aerospace industry based on that two-minute question,” Calcaterra said. “It took 10 years because we were using bar, plate, and billet material in ways that were never intended. So we had to generate data, including a year and a half of testing. Then we had to figure out how that impacted every part on every aircraft – and when it was determined it did matter, we were called back in to help figure out how to fix it. So that non-mishap call led to a major effort and a worldwide aerospace industry change.” Acquisition Systems Support Branch – RXSC provides a connection to the Air Force user with co-located materials and processing engineering personnel to select Air Force acquisition offices for consultation and support on materials and processes selection, usage criteria, manufacturing/fabrication procedures, and nondestructive inspection and quality assurance criteria. It also executes the Advanced Power Technology Office (APTO) program to transition and integrate advanced power and alternative energy technologies into the USAF’s inventory of ground vehicles, aerospace ground support equipment, Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources, base infrastructure, and aviation systems. RXSC has notable success developing and demonstrating alternative energy and power sources, microgrid power management capabilities, and uninterrupted power to aircraft. The collocated engineering team supports key Air Force SPOs and customer organizations to provide dedicated on-site support in materials and processing and to serve a corporate liaison role to connect RX S&T and RXS systems support functions to Air Force customers and their needs. Over the last 50 years, the team has supported almost all major aircraft acquisition efforts and has been at the forefront in identifying new weapon system needs and coordinating RX activities which have developed/ transitioned new M&P solutions and technologies to meet SPO customer needs. Because of this team, RX has maintained a highly successful and collaborative partnership with the customer, allowing RX to better serve the M&P needs of the Air Force. Materials Durability & Sustainment Branch – RXSS provides materials and processes consultation to resolve issues through the application of best practices, the use of advanced technologies and the development of new test methodologies and standards. The branch supports DOD product centers, logistics complexes and operational commands. The branch performs materials research and development to reduce sustainment costs with more durable, environmentally friendly materials. RXSS scientists


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

and engineers provide research on sealants and elastomeric materials, low-observable materials, environmental particulate impact durability, coatings technologies for corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and durability and corrosion prediction, mitigation, detection and prevention. RXSS’s top recent projects include: • The development of the first-ever testing protocol to pinpoint a coating reversion failure mechanism and supported the transition of a 3- to 5-times more durable coating. Implementation of the coating has begun on key weapon systems and will result in a cost avoidance of $2 billion over the life of one aircraft fleet alone. • The development and testing of chromium-free coating systems in direct response to Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) directives as well as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates which have placed substantial risk on the continued operation of the Air Force’s Air Logistics Centers (ALCs). • Development of three OSD standard environmental particulate test media as well as development of modern test standards for helicopter blade erosion (MIL-STD-3033) and gas turbine engine acceptance testing (Joint Service Specification Guide). • The development of a combined effects test chamber which allows for the first time ever the laboratory testing of corrosion protection coating schemes in an operationally relevant, dynamic environment. RXSS has earned a strong reputation from 50-plus years directly supporting the warfighter’s needs. The branch is recognized for its expertise across all DOD services, as well as with our defense industry partners and internationally. INTEGRATION AND OPERATIONS DIVISION (RXO) The Integration and Operations Division (RXO) manages the directorate’s programmatic, operational and business areas, seeking to balance the facilitation of innovation with internal and external regulatory compliance. Facilities, laboratory, computer, and business operations support are the foundational and mainstay elements of the division. Division teams work to integrate efforts and information among functions and organizations. RXO also supports the RX director in strategic planning and corporate investment management; enables technology transition, transfer and protection; and promotes sound information architecture and electronic records management. As the directorate evolved over the years, so too, did RXO. The division grew in technical expertise and functional diversity as it expanded into new mission


support areas. The scientists, engineers, architects, analysts, business managers, technical writers, and other professionals of the division possess advanced degrees and specialized licenses and certifications. Although categorized as a non-technical division, RXO employees are highly skilled and solve complex issues every day in the labs, offices, hallways, mechanical rooms, collaborative spaces, and digital environments. “We provide critical support to the [technology] divisions. We divide things into about 10 areas and 80 to 100 distinct functions, making it possible for the divisions to have more time to do what they need to do,” said RXO Division Chief Tim Strange, adding that the division’s priorities come out of the RX strategic planning process and discussions with groups the division supports. The division strives to provide tailored infrastructure and laboratory support for research and development. Scientific discovery and cutting-edge research demand more than traditional utilities and systems can deliver. In addition, all work areas require a secure, reliable, and capable information technology (IT) environment. RXO maintains today’s facilities while designing the labs and configuring the networks of tomorrow. The division’s safety and emergency management programs complement its engineering and IT services. RXO leads the directorate in preparing for a variety of natural disasters and other emergency situations, with a goal of maintaining essential operations for lab personnel and the warfighter. Civilians, military members and contractors make up the 120-person staff providing these essential laboratory support services. Their efforts span multiple engineering disciplines, skilled trades, and professional areas. Three RXO branch offices support the division’s goals and missions: Information Operations Branch (RXOC) – This branch provides secure and reliable information technology and information management solutions. Through acquisition, policy and procedural support of computer hardware, software and network infrastructure, the branch meets RX requirements for data collection and communications, modeling and simulation, and administrative and technical reporting. “They make sure we operate all our IT systems in line with all Air Force regulations, particularly with respect to security, which is no small task. They support about 1,000 users, 2,500 machines, and three networks, and handle everything from video teleconferencing to phones to tablets. They were behind the establishment of the research network,” Strange said. This separate research network provides interconnectivity and access not achievable with other Air Force systems. “With much of the branch centrally located in the main RX complex, this branch is a primary conduit

Researchers in RXSA investigate aerospace accidents for structural and electronic system failures.

to our internal customers – those relying on RXO for support,” said RXO Deputy Division Chief Pam Schaefer. “From day-to-day business services and IT, help desk support to major upgrades in scientific computation and wireless interconnectivity, RXOC answers the call across a wide spectrum.” For decades, individuals in RXO provided the central hub of business services. While still offering in-person assistance, much of the support comes today via the intranet and online applications. Engineering Services and Support Branch (RXOE) – This branch works with researchers in the technical divisions to provide chemical, equipment, and facility life cycle support, from initial concept to final disposal. Aiming to minimize the load on the directorate’s scientists and engineers, this branch provides inventive solutions to compliance issues for all aspects of research affected by laws, directives, codes, and regulations. “They take care of our infrastructure, make sure the lab guys have what they need, that the labs are clean and up to code, plus they upkeep all the administration spaces,” said Strange. “RXOE uniquely contributed to the directorate adopting collaboration spaces. Spaces in the complex were turned into areas for S&Es to seek new solutions to problems outside of the lab, which was something new 10 years ago, but today is key to our success.” The branch also manages programs for safety, chemical hygiene, occupational health, and R&D equipment management, with problems and opportunities often requiring a quick response. To properly manage one of the

largest chemical inventories on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and comply with all environmental regulations, RXO co-locates materials handling experts across the complex. “Central environmental management with distributed expert support is a proven combination, with over 20 years of demonstrated success,” said Schaefer. RXO teams also study alternative approaches to central support that balance technology division involvement. The ideal approach generally evolves over time, as is the case with laboratory logistics. “In 2005, the Air Force decided the lab needed to handle equipment management the same way the rest of the Air Force handles it. We had existed for 90 years without such a program and now had only months to put one in place. Engineering Services and Support took that on and continues to manage the program today. They are recognized as the go-to folks on how to run a logistics program with as little burden as possible on the S&Es,” said Strange. With process automation and online databases, the laboratory logistics program covers R&D equipment, support stock and tools from acquisition through removal, tracking calibration, maintenance, and inventory along the way. Plans and Programs Branch (RXOP) – This branch oversees corporate-investment strategic planning, science and technology portfolio management and communications for the directorate. The branch maintains budgeting system processes and future-year planning. “They bring a great deal, including small business support,” Strange said. “Recently, the Air Force decided to get


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

a lot more serious about intellectual property (IP) management, but RXOP, anticipating that, began building a system three years ago. The branch’s IP management approach has become a benchmark for how that type of work is done.” Strange explained that RXOP handles a broad portfolio of tasks in addition to IP, including front office staff support, strategic planning, budget development, Small Business Innovation Research coordination, technology transfer facilitation, corporate R&D and services contract management, systems engineering and program management guidance, and scientific and technical information (STINFO) administration. RXOP also provides program management and services for communications, marketing, photography, graphics and displays. As a valuable corporate information resource, hundreds of requests flow through RXOP each year, with responses coordinated, tracked and archived for future use. “They also have a long, rich legacy in technology transfer outside of the military. Public law requires us to consider any research findings for possible commercial applications, unless strongly tied to a crucial Air Force need. For the past 20 years, P&P [Plans and Programs] has been a leader within the Air Force on technology transfer, illustrated by hundreds of cooperative research and development agreements, education partnership agreements and other transfer instruments,” Strange continued. “We also have a very robust diversity program run out of this branch – the research collaboration program – working with historically black colleges and universities on mentored research and summer internships.” “With effort from all three branches, RXO supports agreements, physical places, and virtual spaces to enable effective endeavors within and across divisions, directorates, and agencies,” said Schaefer. The division pursues operational efficiencies via partnership with other AFRL organizations residing on the base. When AFRL was formed, the directors established the Site Operating Council (SOC) for AFRL’s Wright Research Site (WRS) units. WRS Integration and Operations (I&O) Chiefs are the dayto-day working arm of the SOC and provide oversight to common support such as the technical library, the research network, the quality assurance office and a variety of services and base interfaces. I&O Chiefs assess centralized versus distributed support, periodically making adjustments to optimize for current needs. Just as many R&D areas did not exist 100 or even 20 years ago, several mission support fields have emerged or appreciably evolved in the last decade. For example, dynamic cyber operations and the accompanying cyber-


security, more stringent and technically complex environmental compliance and occupational health management, with advancing nano and bio materials represent just a few of the growing operations support challenges. Strange also noted the division has a number of significant projects in its history. “For example, getting the Air Force to allow us to stand up our own computer network rather than just using the large, shared network on which the Air Force as a whole operates, was a big deal. We moved a large bureaucracy to a non-standard solution. Having our own research network, in addition to the standard Air Force network, allows our researchers to do things that would be almost impossible if they only had the bigger network to use,” said Strange. In a sustained effort over many years, RXO helped develop and maintain tools and processes to employ systems engineering principles and strengthen sound program management. RXO was instrumental in raising the bar in program management through targeted support to pilot affordability programs and advanced technology demonstrators, and most notably, in 2006, through the “Project Manager Survivor” course with “survivor island” themed exercises. The course was later adopted by AFRL and elements continue in required training today. In the past decade, RXO has made a concerted effort to build an appreciation across RX for operations and how the entire organization functions. With mutual awareness, RXO can better support others as a back office function, according to Strange. “This has helped our credibility. The technology divisions now understand us as part of their activity. We have also worked hard to determine how to gauge the value of our efforts. The director has a finite number of S&Es, who are the only people in RX who can really recognize what the Air Force needs technically, conceive solutions for those problems and run programs to deliver them. We started seeing those S&Es as the precious primary resource of the directorate,” he said. To serve those primary resources, Strange stated RXO also focuses on how the division can work to free up S&E time, emphasizing customer requirements and delivering solutions that will make sure they have time to do what they need to do. RXO underscores internal partnerships with other mission support offices such as Finance, Procurement, and Human Relations. Interaction among functional experts enables comprehensive and seamless support for directorate personnel. From cyber-operations to program support to ensuring the facilities can support the RX research mission, RXO has partnered with the technology divisions to enable cuttingedge research for our warfighters now and into the future.

RXO is poised to continue to respond to the changing dynamics demanded by our challenging research mission now and 100 years from now. FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT DIVISION (RXF) RXF, the Financial Management Division, consists of two branches: The Materials Support Branch and the Manufacturing Support Branch. Their mission is to provide sound, accurate, and timely financial management to RX. They also strive to ensure financial integrity and visibility is accomplished in all Air Force appropriations and outside funding transactions. They maintain financial data in all the official accounting systems, while challenging, training, and equipping the financial workforce of AFRL. RXF oversees and interacts with more than 20 financial process areas. In many of these areas, they work side by side with RX scientists and engineers, while in many of them they work behind the scenes to ensure RX can accomplish its mission. Processes that are more visible to the RX workforce are analyst support to divisions, cost change action request (CCaR), unfunded requirements, civilian pay & reimbursements, external funds approval and conference package processing. Other processes include loading and reprogramming funds, triannual review, funds control and management, fiscal year end (FYE) closeout, and contract analysis. These are just a few of the processes RXF manages to enable the RX mission. RXF is seeing a paradigm shift in financial management from data processors and gatekeepers to funding strategists, knowledge experts, and creative problem solvers. One of the other main emphasis areas for RXF is tracking execution status of all RX funds. An execution study was kicked off to understand why we care about expenditures, why our program elements (PEs) are behind historic expenditures (budget inconsistencies, contract, programmatic), and what we do (analysis, overplanning, buydowns) that may exacerbate or help. RXF wants to ensure the decisions made regarding funding and policy are done intentionally, with known impacts. MANAGEMENT OPERATIONS DIVISION (RXR) RXR, the Management Operations Division, supports RX for all matters pertaining to manpower, organizational structure, human resource management and security management. The RXR mission is to enable RX to attain and maintain a world-class workforce in materials and manufacturing. They provide, enable and support

recruiting, hiring, training, developing, recognizing, assessing workforce, and developing optimum organizational structure. RXR also has a security mission, which is to protect human, information, and physical assets. The RXR human resources team performs several functions to support the RX mission. They oversee and perform recruiting and hiring, manage Contractor ManYear Equivalents (CMEs), performance management (Lab Demo and General Schedule [GS]), training focal point, awards focal point, employee labor relations, and special programs. RXR also contains the RX Security office, which provides support for information protection, industrial security, personnel security, operational security (OPSEC), force protection, special access programs, foreign affairs, and security and policy review. R&D CONTRACTING DIVISION (RQKM) RQKM is the materials and manufacturing contracting branch within the RQK Contracting Division that services all of AFRL. RQK has a mission to provide innovative, high-quality contracting and business support for our customers to advance the technological superiority of our Air Force. Their vision is to have the best people leading the most exciting, innovative, and agile S&T acquisitions. The RQKM branch specifically supports RX R&D contracting needs. They are structured in four sections, with each supporting a technical division within RX. Looking ahead, RQKM is striving to improve the acquisition time line for the various types of contracting actions. They are tracking metrics each step of the way to help uncover any issues that can be resolved. At this time they process many different types of contracts, each with their own policies and regulations: closed Broad Area Announcements (BAAs), open BAAs, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIRs) I and II, assistance awards, single task orders, multiple task orders and funding and administration modifications. RQKM has established several contracting agile business efforts. The AFRL Joint Training Team is a multi-functional team developing a training tool to step members through the acquisition/assistance process. The legislative proposal for FY 18 National Defense Authorization Act will extend BAA authority from advanced component development up to initiation of a major defense acquisition program. SBIR efforts include streamlined Phase II awards using firm-fixed-price versus cost plus fixed-fee contract type and fully funding SBIR II awards and exploring an Air Force SBIR Contracting Center of Excellence.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

AFRL/RX photo

The 3D Materials Characterization Laboratory (LEROY) is an exploratory, world-unique research laboratory targeting the aerospace structural design and lifing enterprise. This laboratory quantifies 3D microstructural features in materials resulting from manufacture that drive behaviors of Air Force interest and ultimately component performance.

AFRL/RX Research Staff and Facilities By Dr. Dan Miracle


he nation’s oldest military research laboratory, the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (RX), is embedded in the nation’s youngest service, the U.S. Air Force. Despite being established in a hurry and moved many times, often to buildings with inadequate space and not intended for a laboratory, RX research facilities have become among the best in the world for aerospace materials research and development. The directorate now occupies a campus complex of five interconnected buildings with nearly 400,000 square feet of total


space and 220,000 square feet of lab space with over 300 lab modules, and a replacement cost for building and equipment approaching half a billion dollars. Besides the 650 complex, RX is also housed in three other buildings: Building 71/71A, Building 1661, and Building 620. With humble beginnings studying wood, wire and fabric, today RX investigates materials undreamed of by the scientists and engineers of a century ago, using a vast collection of advanced research equipment that includes several major equipment facilities that are unique in the world.

AFRL/RX photo

The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate’s Autonomous Research System, or ARES, uses artificial intelligence to design, execute, and analyze experiments at a pace much faster than traditional scientific research methods. This robotic research machine is revolutionizing materials science research and demonstrates the benefits of human-machine interaction for rapid advancement and development of knowledge today.

Choosing Dayton: Although invented here, powered flight in the United States was far behind Europe when America entered World War I in April 1917. Driven by urgency, the U.S. needed to catch up with the rest of Europe, and priority was given to identifying a site where an engineering and research activity could be located. Many Midwestern cities were considered, including Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. Langley Field, in Virginia, was also considered, but it dropped off the list when Langley was selected as a major tactical base. In a bid to keep the Wright brothers’ heritage at home, the city of Dayton offered a small tract of land on the north edge of the city of Dayton to the Army Signal Corps. The 254-acre plot was named McCook Field, in honor of Gen. Alexander McCook and his seven sons (the “Fighting McCooks” of Civil War fame), whose farm previously occupied the site. Construction

of facilities began in October 1917, and the field was opened on Dec. 4, 1917. The laboratory takes shape: To catch up with the rest of the world, the fledging Material Section of the Engineering Division at McCook Field had a lot of work to do. For more than a year following the opening of McCook Field, the Materials Section focused on designing new materials such as fabrics, establishing new materials specifications for aircraft, making new instrumentation and identifying new sources of critical raw materials. These initial materials advancements proceeded without any dedicated laboratory space and were accomplished using a model still partially followed in RX today, where technical experts initiate and lead materials developments through external contracts and connections with the U.S. industrial base. Due to a shortage of space at the small McCook Field site, many of the new Materials Section staff worked in


U.S. Air Force photo by Marisa Novobilski

AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Ryan Kohlmeyer, a materials research scientist at the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, subjects a flexible battery to mechanical stress testing.

leased offices in the Dayton Savings and Trust building in downtown Dayton. By April 1919, the first laboratory operations at McCook Field took place in airplane hangars that had been modified for chemical and metallurgical operations. By the end of 1919, a wide range of activities were performed in these new laboratories, including alloy development, materials characterization, research to recycle lubricating oil and the exploration of improved manufacturing techniques. The Materials Section facilities included chemical analysis, textile- and rubber-testing capabilities and a large machine shop to produce test specimens and to support the building of unique lab equipment. Metal alloy research was conducted in a large foundry, a heat treatment lab, and a microscope facility to explore the microstructure of new metals. Materials were characterized under tension, compression, fatigue and impact and with X-ray diffraction. Important aircraft sub-assemblies were characterized for deflection, and the stiffness of streamline wires used to reinforce wings was measured. The deflection of pneumatic rubber aircraft tires was quantified and extensive work to develop wood laminates, plywood and new wood adhesives was pursued. The Materials Section research was critical, not only to support the war effort, but helped to establish a technical foundation for a growing domestic industrial aircraft program in the United States.


Austere years and Wright Field: The Materials Section staff grew through World War I and the early post-war years, increasing from 20 members in 1919 to 48 in 1921. Although funding and staff decreased through much of the 1920s, a new site was needed to accommodate larger aircraft. Once again, Dayton community leaders, businesses, and residents banded together, this time offering a 4,517 acre tract of land to the U.S. government at no cost. This site included Huffman field, where the Wright brothers perfected controlled flight in the years immediately following the successful Kittyhawk flights. Designated Wright Field, the site was cleared in 1925 and construction began in 1926. In early 1927, the buildings from McCook Field were moved to Wright Field, which was dedicated on Oct. 12, 1927. Renamed the Materials Branch in 1922, the laboratories were moved again in the spring of 1927, before the streets and sidewalks were paved. To help conserve resources, the Materials Branch staff helped move equipment from McCook Field and assisted in the installation of chemical hoods, workbenches and partitions in the new facilities. Again, the spaces occupied by the newly named Materials Branch were not designed as laboratory facilities. Initial plans for new lab facilities were abandoned in a cost-cutting measure, so most of the laboratories were moved from the hangars of McCook Field to a modified office building – the

northeast corner of the current Building 16 in Area B of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Building 16 had wooden floors and posed a special fire hazard for the foundry and heat treating facilities, which were placed instead in Building 46. Although this building had a concrete floor, it was nevertheless designed as a temporary structure with a steel girder frame and corrugated steel walls and roof. The building was upgraded many years later with brick walls, metal-framed windows, and a permanent roof. Now designated as Building 51, this “temporary” structure is 90 years old! By the end of the 1920s, the Materials Branch staff had dropped to a total of 32 staff members, through attrition. Although the research program also decreased, some of the work was replaced by an expanding aircraft procurement program that relied on the laboratory for materials characterization in support of qualification testing. This early example highlights the perennial dynamic tension between the need to balance nearterm requirements and long-term research. Facilities during the Great Depression and World War II: The largest impact on laboratory resources during the Great Depression was on the staff. Furloughs were established in 1932, but they were eliminated and replaced by a pay cut in 1933. Research staffing levels grew modestly by the end of the decade – to about 40 – and the amount of lab space was stable through nearly all of the 1930s. To help provide desperately needed jobs for Americans during the Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) sponsored several projects at Wright Field. One of these touched the Materials Branch. A basement was dug – by hand – under Building 16, a section at a time. Steel girders were placed to support the building, while concrete foundations, walls, and floors were poured. Finished late in 1939, the Materials Branch now had additional workspace that nearly equaled the space it initially occupied on the first floor of Building 16. The machine shop, textile and rubber lab, and part of the metallography facility moved into this new space. This was the only facility expansion for the Materials Branch in the 1930s, and it came just in time to support a major buildup leading to World War II.

By 1933, nearly all production aircraft were built almost entirely of metal. As a result, research on wood products was phased out, and new equipment was purchased to study important problems associated with metal aircraft. Some of the new facilities included spot welders and equipment to measure corrosion. Although lab space remained constant, new equipment was purchased to support the novel materials under study, to include rayon fabric for parachutes, methyl methacrylate plastic windshields and synthetic rubbers. Renamed the Materials Laboratory (ML) in 1939, staff grew rapidly with the U.S. entry into World War II. By the end of 1941, ML staff increased to 100, and by Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day), the number of staff members was at 214, with over half being military. As the staff grew, so did the need for facilities. In the summer of 1944, ML moved out of Building 16 and into the newly vacated Building 32. Originally built for the Engineering Division, the space was converted for laboratory use as in previous moves. Building 32 gave the Materials Laboratory much needed additional lab space, and it was organized in three separate wings, each occupied by a separate branch. The end of the war brought significant reductions in force, and the lab was reduced to a total of 120 staff members by the end of 1949. No new lab space was acquired, but the facilities within the labs continued to adapt to the changing nature of materials studied. Notable additions to the ML portfolio included studies on refractory metals (hafnium and zirconium), structural ceramics for high-temperature applications, new light metals (beryllium and titanium) and fluorocarbon polymers. The Korean War and the start of the Cold War: The 1950s saw the Korean War and the escalation of the Cold War, with the race to space as a rallying competition of both national security and national pride. Staffing tripled in the Materials Laboratory, expanding to 360 members at the height of the Korean War, dropped slightly through most of the 1950s, and then jumped again to 425 in 1961, the year of the first U.S. suborbital manned flight. Extreme pressure was placed on the current lab space, and


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

a campaign was initiated to build a new, state-of-the-art laboratory. Referring to the situation where the Materials Laboratory’s top-notch staff and equipment were housed in make-do buildings, the slogan was, “You don’t keep a Cadillac in a cow shed.” This was the start of a decade-long push to acquire a purpose-built laboratory. In the meantime, additional space was added to Buildings 46 and 51. This new space created a polymers laboratory to support work on new solid rocket propellants, funded by the newly formed Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). The Materials Laboratory was the first Defense organization to receive funding from ARPA. Major new capabilities were established in this time frame. The Nucleonics Task Group and the Radiation Instrumentation Test Laboratory were brought to the Materials Laboratory. These supported concepts exploring a nuclear powered aircraft by studying nuclear effects on aerospace materials, especially organic materials and lightweight shielding alloys. The Materials Laboratory also initiated the acquisition of a small nuclear reactor. Initially planned as a 100 kilowatt unit, the final unit grew to 20 megawatts by adding requirements from other organizations. The final acquisition, construction, and operation was


turned over to the Wright Field Nuclear Engineering Test Facility, which was eventually transferred to the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT). Other major equipment added in the 1950s include a 600-ton forge press and a 700-ton extrusion press. The extrusion press had the fastest ram in existence at the time. Now over 60 years old, the same extrusion press has been upgraded and instrumented and is still a centerpiece of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate’s Metals Processing Laboratory. After repairing minor bombing damage from World War II, a 60-ton Schenck fatigue machine, formerly operated at the Messerschmitt plant in Bavaria, was put into service at the Materials Laboratory. As the largest fatigue machine in the world, it was used to characterize fatigue in samples that approached actual hardware sizes. A water-stabilized high-intensity arc, and an air-stabilized electric arc, produced exceptionally high temperature plasmas that could study the effects of hypersonic boundary layers on advanced materials for new weapons systems. A cryostatproduced liquid helium was used to study radiation chemistry, thermo-physical properties and electronic properties of materials at temperatures near absolute

U.S. Air Force photo/David Dixon

Test specimens are prepared for coating with the Aerocron® 2100 Electrocoat Primer during a recent demonstration at WrightPatterson Air Force Base. This water-based, chromefree primer offers protection comparable to chrome-based coatings, while curing at a lower temperature than conventional automotive and industrial electrocoats, making it possible to electrocoat aluminum alloys without affecting their physical properties.

zero. In 1960, the Fuels and Lubrication Branch of the Propulsion Laboratory was transferred to the Materials Laboratory. The Materials Laboratory campus complex dream comes true: A concerted, persistent effort to design, fund and construct a world-class laboratory facility to house the exceptional staff and equipment began in earnest in 1961. Internal planning matured by 1963, receiving full support from senior Air Force leadership, including Gen. Bernard Schriever, Commander, Air Force Systems Command. The plan was submitted for inclusion in the 1966 fiscal year Military Construction Project (MCP). Due to economic considerations, construction was broken into three separate projects, to be started in three different fiscal years. However, numerous deferrals and delays pushed the project to later dates. The main resistance came from the House Military Construction Subcommittee. Chaired by a congressman from Florida, the subcommittee recommended moving the Materials Laboratory to existing facilities at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida or to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California rather than building a new facility in Ohio. For six years, the construction project was denied or deferred. The MCP request to build the new facility at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was finally approved in the FY 72 Military Construction Projects Appropriate Bill, but only after another denial from the House Military Construction Subcommittee was over-ridden by the full House Appropriations Committee. While many people contributed substantially to this major accomplishment, Bernie Chasman, Chief of the Air Force Materials Laboratory Plans Office, helped push the project to final approval. In recognition for his tireless efforts, Chasman was awarded the Air Force Award for Meritorious Civilian Service, the highest honor an Air Force Command can bestow on a civilian. The new facilities were located “up the hill,” along the ridge that bisects Area B of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 22, 1972, with great fanfare. Buildings 651, 652, and 653 were tackled in the first phase. Construction proceeded with no major delays and was completed in December 1974. Once the buildings were turned over to Civil Engineering, several months were needed to move all the lab equipment – and nearly 250 people – from the former lab spaces “down the hill.” Moving large or sensitive laboratory equipment was a tricky and costly project, and in some cases, the move was taken as an opportunity to replace outdated pieces with new equipment. The dedication of the new facilities was made at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 16, 1975. Representing technologies from the Materials Laboratory current portfolio, the scissors were graphite/epoxy composite materials with cutting edges of boron composites, and the ribbon contained bands of graphite, boron, polybenzimidazole (PBI), boron nitride and titanium.

Groundbreaking for the second phase, Building 654, was held on July 22, 1983, and for the final phase, Building 655, May 17, 1985. Building 654 was completed soon after, and staff and minor equipment were moved from Buildings 32, 46, and 51 into the new lab space. The heavy equipment was moved in December 1985, completing the move for the new Nonmetallic Materials Division. The final building, to house the Metals, Ceramics and Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) Division, was completed on schedule in 1987. Dedication for Buildings 654 and 655 were combined with the 70th anniversary of the Materials Laboratory in a threeday celebration, Aug. 13-15, 1987. Home at last: For the first time in its 70-year history, RX teams conducted their mission in state-of-the-art laboratories that were specifically designed for top-notch research. The laboratory modules now included controlled temperature, humidity and shielding from electromagnetic fields that could play havoc with sensitive and expensive equipment. The buildings also controlled vibrations that could disrupt sensitive experiments, and Building 655 actually had two separate foundations to isolate the vibration-producing metals processing facilities (including a 1,000-ton forging press and the 700-ton extrusion press purchased in the 1950s) from the vibration-sensitive electron microscopes, capable of resolving individual atoms, at the other end of the hallway. Adaptability of lab space was also “baked in” to the design. Standard-sized lab modules were separated by non-load bearing brick walls that could be removed if necessary. The corner where four lab modules united had a common core to provide essential utilities (electrical power, chilled water, pressurized gas lines, fume hood exhausts, heating and air conditioning and so on). The utilities provided to each lab module could be changed relatively easily by access to these cores, with minimum disruption to the experiments underway in the labs. RX teams maintain several capabilities that are unique in the world, distributed throughout the more than 300 lab modules. Just a few of the many unique laboratory facilities and capabilities are described below. Laser Hardened Materials Evaluation Laboratory (LHMEL): Characterizing materials behavior under very high heat loads has been an important objective in RX for many years. In 1976, RX established the Laser Hardened Materials Evaluation Laboratory (LHMEL) to do just that. The centerpieces of this facility are two carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers, one with a maximum output of 15 kilowatts, and the other with an output of 150 kilowatts, the most powerful in the United States. Samples can be tested in a variety of environments, including inert gas, static air, and highpressure/high-velocity air streams. Space environments can also be simulated in a two-story cryogenic vacuum


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

chamber. LHMEL’s main workload currently focuses on understanding laser effects on Air Force assets, development of asset survival strategies, characterization of laser-resistant materials and lab scale validation of counterdirected energy weapons technologies. LHMEL is also available to the U.S. aerospace industry through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) and has supported a wide range of studies. Some of the studies conducted for external partners throughout its history include ablation experiments for space reentry vehicles for NASA, and measuring the susceptibility of titanium alloys to combustion in gas turbine engine environments. Optical Materials Laboratory: Even at much lower powers, lasers pose a threat to aircraft sensors. By far the most important sensors are the pilot’s eyes, and with commercial aircraft already impacted by troublemakers with cheap and available hand-held laser pointers, it isn’t hard to see that this could be a real problem to warfighters when a determined adversary makes a concerted effort. Coatings to protect against these threats must filter out the harmful laser radiation while allowing through other wavelengths so the pilot can see the instruments and the world outside the cockpit. A unique facility exists in RX to characterize these “laser eye protection” materials. These facilities support not only crucial Air Force research, but also help characterize materials for the other DOD Services, for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and for eye protection devices used by our foreign allies. Special Test and Research (STAR) Laboratory: Working on classified or proprietary materials is usually a problem in a standard lab environment, since access to the lab space needs to be controlled and data needs to be protected the moment it is generated. RX is home to the Special Test and Research (STAR) Laboratory, which provides a one-of-a-kind facility for the government to independently evaluate specialty coatings and materials in a secure environment. The facility can process materials according to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specifications and then test them in a variety of simulated aircraft environments to evaluate durability and other material properties. This facility has the capability to perform detailed characterizations using state-of-the-art equipment on classified


or proprietary materials, making it a unique capability. Three Dimensional Microstructural Analysis (LEROY): Materials properties depend very sensitively on microstructure, which has conventionally been measured by polishing a piece of material and then observing the structure on that polished surface. This gives a single two-dimensional (2D) picture, and many important details are lost. It’s like trying to characterize a multi-story building with a single floor plan or a single elevation view. The total number of rooms, the sizes and shapes of the rooms and other important information simply cannot be shown on a single 2D drawing. For the last 15 years, RX has been a world leader in designing, building and using machines that can characterize materials in three dimensions (3D). By taking hundreds or thousands of parallel 2D images with an automated robot, a 3D virtual image can be reconstructed digitally, allowing the material to be characterized and modeled in more exquisite detail. The first three generations of such machines (Robo-Met.3D™) only measured microstructure features that could be observed with an optical microscope, but the current generation (LEROY) combines local chemistry, local crystal structure and grain orientation with optical microscope images to give a much richer materials description. Robo-Met.3D™ has been patented and commercialized, and units have been sold around the globe to support basic research and industry. The LEROY capability in RX is unique around the world. High-energy Diffraction Microscopy (HEDM): Even to a scientist experienced in the use of diffraction techniques, high energy diffraction microscopy (HEDM) gives far more detailed information from a single technique than it seems should be possible. A patented rotation and axial motion system (RAMS) loads a sample axially, in tension or compression, while simultaneously rotating the sample around the loading axis. Concurrently, the sample is struck with a high-energy photon beam from the Advanced Photon Source (APS), Argonne National Laboratory, or the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS), at Cornell University. Using exquisite analysis of near- and far-field diffraction signals, HEDM provides the same basic information as Robo-Met.3D™, including grain size and shape throughout the sample volume.

While it doesn’t give the same level of detail as Robo-Met.3D™, it collects this information non-destructively – without destroying the sample – and it provides something much more. RX scientists have developed algorithms and analyses that enable the elastic stress and strain to be measured in each grain while the sample is being loaded. HEDM can also give information on the nature of dislocations responsible for plastic deformation and on the presence of voids and cracks as the sample is being loaded. HEDM offers scientists a unique opportunity to study the complex response of a sample by understanding the elastic and plastic response of every grain as the sample is being loaded. This technique is being used to explore material responses and to calibrate and refine crystal plasticity models that are an essential component of the integrated computational materials science philosophy pursued throughout the world and embedded in the U.S. Materials Genome Initiative (MGI). Metals Processing Laboratory: For six decades, RX has been the home of an exceptional metals processing laboratory capability. The facilities currently include a 1,000-ton, computer-controlled forge press, a 700-ton instrumented extrusion press and a rolling machine. However, more than the hardware, it’s the research performed within the facility and the knowledge and experience of the scientific and technical staff that set this facility apart as a national asset. Basic studies have included the exploration of streamlined flow extrusion dies, equal channel angular extrusion and extensive materials development studies on a very wide range of materials ranging from lightweight aluminum and magnesium alloys, titanium and titanium aluminide alloys, to high-temperature nickel and refractory alloys and high-entropy alloys. This facility has not only processed materials for basic scientific studies, but it also regularly supports a wide range of commercial and industrial efforts. Systems Support: While most RX facilities support basic and applied research, RX is also committed to rapid warfighter technical support through its Systems Support activities. The Systems Support mission is to ensure flight safety by determining how and why aircraft components fail, assessing materials and process issues affecting weapon systems performance and advancing the science of failure analysis. The Systems Support Division

has a range of dedicated lab suites that focus on structural failure analysis; electronic failure analysis; adhesives, composites and elastomers characterization; and coatings, corrosion, and erosion evaluation. These capabilities are supported by a range of advanced characterization test equipment in a dedicated facility that ensures immediate turn-around for urgent Air Force problems. This is a unique capability within the Air Force. Next-generation RX facilities: For many years, research conducted by RX staff within the 300 laboratory modules has helped define the cutting edge of technologies that span the breadth of aerospace materials. Though state of the art when they were completed in 1987, accelerating changes are redefining the layout and structure of today’s RX world-class materials research laboratory. New, less invasive security measures, floorplans that encourage dialogue and collaboration between a workforce that’s becoming more multi-disciplinary and a more highly connected workspace are all major trends that challenge current RX facilities. Tim Strange, Chief of the Integration and Operations Division, says the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate is facing a “digital tsunami.” Although it was evident that the world was becoming digital when the facilities were initially designed, the degree of connectivity between people and equipment wasn’t yet clear, nor were the impacts of this connectivity on the facilities. The 2,000 connected devices within RX have grown to more than 10,000 in just a few years, and the space needed to run cables and to house connections, servers and switches has run out. “Right now, we’re in about the third generation of materials-building, and it’s probably time to look at the fourth as we look at nano and bio and how to bring the lab up to date to become the leading edge in transitioning those materials to the warfighter,” said former RX Director Dave Walker (2006-2008), and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology and Engineering. Whatever the changes in equipment, instrumentation, or facilities, the one constant that remains is the dedication to excellence of the talented RX staff who employ the tools and work in the facilities to make a new series of discoveries and breakthroughs as the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate moves into its second century.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

AFRL/RX Directors










































COL. CHARLES D. ORMSBY, PH.D. 2016-Present


Col. Charles D. Ormsby is the acting director, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He is responsible for more than 900 personnel developing the next generation materials and processing techniques for our nation’s defense, providing world-class leadership in materials and manufacturing for our Airmen. Prior to his current assignment, Col. Ormsby was the Military Deputy to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. There, he was responsible for preparing policy, guidance, and advocacy for the Air Force’s annual $2 billion science and technology program. Col. Ormsby began his career in 1993 as an analyst at the National Air Intelligence Center. Throughout his career, Col. Ormsby has served in intelligence, test, two laboratory directorates, Air Combat Command staff, and the Air Staff. Col. Ormsby earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 2003.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

An Army Signal Corps Aviation Section poster seeks skilled workers for the war effort during World War I. The war delivered the impetus that was needed to form the earliest ancestor of AFRL/RX.


he Wright Brothers’ 1903 breakthrough at Kitty Hawk spurred worldwide fascination with the airplane, but for several years afterward, human flight was viewed skeptically by the American military. Leaders generally considered it a novelty, a circus act, with little promise for practical use. Nevertheless, with many European powers investigating applications for military aviation – among


them Germany, France, and Great Britain – the U.S. Army Signal Corps, in 1907, created an Aeronautical Division, consisting of a Signal Corps captain, two enlisted men, and a civilian clerk. This new division, under U.S. Army Brig. Gen. James Allen’s Office Memorandum No. 6, was created “to study the flying machine and the possibility of adapting it to military purposes.” It was the world’s first heavier-than-air military

Library of Congress image

AFRL/RX: The First Century

organization and the ancestor of the U.S. Air Force. Despite the Aeronautical Division’s formation, however, a protracted lack of funding reaffirmed the Army’s continued ambivalence about military aviation. It wasn’t until Aug. 2, 1909, that the Aeronautical Division acquired its first airplane, a Wright Model A biplane built by the Wright brothers to Signal Corps specifications. This first Army plane was designated S.C. (Signal Corps) No. 1. Then-Maj. Samuel Reber II, one of the Signal Corps’ aviation pioneers, decried the slow progress of U.S. aviation. In a December 1912 Popular Mechanics essay, “Must America Trail Europe in Aviation?” Reber wrote: Whatever may be the cause, no motor of American make has remained in the air half as long as the best of foreign production. To place the development of mechanical flight on a correct engineering basis, the cut-andtry methods of the pioneers must give way to both theoretical and practical investigations of the laws of aerodynamics, and the correct principles of design, and to careful tests of the machines and the materials entering into their construction. This can be done only in suitably equipped aeronautical

laboratories by a trained staff. Unfortunately there is no such laboratory in this country ... American aviation might have remained stagnant for years after Reber’s lament were it not for the sudden prospect, in the summer of 1914, of U.S. involvement in World War I. The Signal Corps was compelled to acknowledge it lacked the background, personnel, and facilities for aeronautical research and development, and in July 1914, Congress significantly expanded the Signal Corps’ aviation work, creating the Aviation Section, which absorbed and replaced the Aviation Division. In the spring of 1916, the Aviation Section released the first specifications for military airplanes. These were broadly-worded requirements for metals, protective coatings, wood, and the doped fabric stretched over airframes to form the skin of aircraft. When the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, American military aviation wasn’t ready to fight an air campaign in Europe. Early in 1917, the Army Signal Corps established an Airplane Engineering Department within the Aviation Section to oversee aircraft development and production. The Aviation Section consisted of 131 officers, 1,087 enlisted men, and about 280 airplanes, and aeronautical engineering and experimental activities were scattered among several cities. To consolidate these efforts, the Aviation Section selected a site just north of Dayton, Ohio, where Edward A. Deeds and a group of investors had formed the Dayton Airplane Company, and where an airfield had been graded on a little more

Through the years Air Force Research Laboratory Time line

1903 The Wright brothers’ first flight was in 1903. It wasn’t long before aviation was a booming industry. But with the evolution of flight came many challenges. There was a constant need for lighter, stronger, more reliable materials. In 1917, this need was addressed with the creation of the Materials Laboratory.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Library of Congress image

Aviation students with officers at the Wilbur Wright Aviation camp at Wilbur Wright Field, near Riverside, Ohio, during World War I. The original 4,524 acres of grass airfield at Wilbur Wright Field became home to the Materials Division of the Air Service in the 1920s, after McCook Field had been outgrown.

Time line

than 254 acres of farmland that had belonged to Union Army Gen. Anson McCook. In August 1917, the Airplane Engineering Department became the experimental organization of the Equipment Division. The flying field, named McCook Field, officially opened in December 1917, and promptly became the center of U.S. research and experimentation in the field of military aircraft. While there would be various designation and organizational changes in the future, the Airplane Engineering Department could be considered the earliest forerunner to today’s Air Force Research Laboratory

Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (AFRL/RX). By this time, the name “Air Service” was being informally used to collectively describe all aspects of Army aviation, a designation made official by 1920 legislation. The Air Service’s wartime experience made clear the need for domestic innovation and sourcing of aviation materials. During wartime, many traditional supply sources were cut off, forcing American engineers to improvise, and in order to keep pace with European engineering, U.S. aircraft needed to constantly improve per-




RX started out at McCook

The use of metals was becoming more

Aluminum alloys, magnesium,

Field, in Dayton. The first

important, as they were used for

environmentally resistant coatings

airplane structures

wheels, crankshafts, engine bearings,

and cold weather lubricating oils were

were constructed of

propellers and landing gear. RX

investigated. Processes and finishing

wood and doped fabric,

investigated metallurgy and foundry

treatments to protect structural

so the early years of

practices, and conducted research

aircraft materials were actively

research were spent

in textile and rubber technology as

investigated. Plastic substitutes for

looking for stronger,

well as other forms of organic and

glass windows and windshields were

lighter and more flexible

inorganic chemistry. In 1927, RX moved

investigated to improve visibility and

wood products .

to Wright Field.

impact resistance.


formance with stronger, lighter, and more flexible materials. In 1918, the Airplane Engineering Department and Production Engineering Departments were renamed divisions, and in 1919, the Engineering Division absorbed the Production Division. Along with this change, the division reorganized itself into several smaller sections: the Airplane Section; the Power Plant Section; the Equipment Section; the Armament Section; and the Materials Section. A year later a Lighter-than-Air Section was added. By October 1919, modifications were made to existing buildings to enable laboratory work, and more than 40 people were working within the Materials Section. Under the leadership of its first director, Col. H.C.K. Muhlenberg, the Materials Section was divided into branches devoted to specific areas of materials research, according to the Oct. 1, 1919, edition of McCook Field’s publication, Slipstream. “This Section is composed of the following branches: Liaison, Chemical, Physical Testing, Metallurgical, Wood, Textile and Rubber.” The Liaison Branch was charged with maintaining relationships with the rest of the Airplane Engineering Department, and with staying abreast of new manufacturing processes and materials innovations in academia and industry. Because of the predominance of wood in airframe structures, much of the section’s early work was associated with wood, including the investigations of specific species, laminates and glues. By the 1920s, however, the use of metals was becoming increasingly important to aeronautics, particularly in the use of wire and tie rods used as wing bracing. Work in metallurgy accelerated at the section’s aluminum foundry, where personnel cast experimental parts such as pistons and cylinder heads. By the time J.B. Johnson had assumed leadership of the Materials Section in December 1922, aeronautical research, including materials research, had lost considerable momentum, as postwar research budgets were slashed. Nevertheless, the laboratory – renamed the Materials Branch in 1926, the same year the Air Service became the Army Air Corps – achieved several notable achievements during this period

of postwar retrenchment. McCook Field metallurgists developed a case-hardened, or carburized, steel plating that resisted bullets traveling as fast as 2,200 feet per second, as well as a unique aluminum alloy containing copper, silicon, and magnesium that resisted cracking and was used for engine parts. The Textile and Rubber Branch developed an affordable cloth to form the skin of airships and balloons, evaluating exposures at McCook Field and in the humid climate of the Panama Canal Zone. While the laboratory was responsible primarily for materials, not end products, the branch also produced aircraft tires for use by the Air Service, a role that was maintained well into World War II. During the 1920s, the laboratory’s physical evaluators began using X-ray technology to expose internal flaws in materials. It was during the 1920s that the Materials Section became a leader in fatigue testing, evaluating the effects of metalworking, heat-treating, and other formation processes on the strength of alloys. Richard R. Moore, Chief of Physical Testing, in collaboration with Harold Caminez of the Power Plant Section, developed a two-bearing machine that supplied uniform loading on test specimens. Moore’s rotating beam fatigue machine became the world standard for fatigue testing, and is still used today. By the end of the decade, the Materials Branch’s fatigue properties program had been adopted by the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics and the Aluminum Company of America. Along with such successes, however, it had become obvious that the Air Service and its Materials Branch had outgrown McCook Field. The 254-acre airfield was too small, and its buildings, many of them built ad hoc and of temporary construction, were inadequate for many research applications and costly to maintain. While Congress was reluctant to fund either an expansion or relocation of the facilities, the citizens of Dayton stepped in, purchasing a 4,520acre plot northeast of the city and naming a flying field after one of the Dayton’s favorite sons, Wilbur Wright. New facilities were built at Wright Field to accommodate all the research functions being relocated from


The Charles J. Cleary Award was established in 1951 to stimulate technical activity within AFRL/RX by recognizing the outstanding reports and papers published by personnel and to honor the memory of Charles J. Cleary, who made many significant contributions to the materials sciences.

McCook Field, and the Materials Branch completed its move to Wright Field in 1927. PRELUDE TO WAR: THE 1930s Though the organizational structure of the Materials Branch remained relatively stable during the 1920s, there was one significant difference in its emphasis by the end of the decade: Metal, not wood, was now the most important structural material in heavier-than-air aircraft. By 1930, the importance of wood had declined to the point that wood research was absorbed into the Physical Testing Unit. While the 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression significantly slowed the production and acquisition of aircraft as well as the pace of work at the Materials Branch, revolutionary advances were being made in aircraft design and development. In 1933, when nearly all aircraft were made of metal, the branch acquired its first spot welder and seam welder, and began intensive studies of methods for welding aluminum alloys. Research gained momentum during the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt and had expanded greatly by the end of the 1930s. The branch’s chemical analysts acquired and learned to use the sophisticated instruments that helped to refine the composition of aluminum alloys.


As these alloys grew in complexity, and strength and temperature requirements became more rigorous, analysis became more dependent on these sophisticated instruments. By 1938, the laboratory’s metallurgists had produced an experimental welded aluminum alloy wing for an A-17 airplane, which was flight tested and observed at Wright Field. A Physics Unit was ultimately established in 1939, the same year the section was redesignated the Materials Laboratory (ML). The laboratory’s investigations into fuels and lubricants also increased in the 1930s, as performance varied widely in different geographic locations and temperatures. Gasoline-powered aircraft engines in the humid Panama Canal Zone, for example, had a tendency to gum up, and vapor lock was a common problem. Cold temperatures, on the other hand, hindered the effectiveness of lubricants. A variety of evaluations and alternatives were investigated. Another area of focus during the 1930s was the search for substitutes for glass windows and windshields. Shatterproof glass had notoriously poor visibility, and the existing synthetic alternative, cellulose acetate, was brittle. By 1937, Air Corps materials scientists had developed a methyl methacrylate plastic that performed well in evaluations of bomb bay windows and turrets. The laboratory also intensified its efforts to develop finishes and coatings that would protect the basic structural materials of aircraft, particularly their aluminum skins. These efforts resulted in the development of a zinc chromate primer that would become the principal protective coating for aluminum, used throughout the military. While there were several active and prolific researchers during this period (e.g. T. T. Oberg, R. E. Bowman, L. D. Bonham, D. M. Warner), the most noteworthy was J.B. Johnson. His research included exploring the effects of surface imperfections such as cracks and pits on the strength of heat treated chrome-molybdenum steel tubing and the effect of bullet holes in aluminum and magnesium propeller blade alloys. In addition, he played a key role in the investigation and use of magnetic particle inspec-

AFRL photo

AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Charles J. Cleary Scientific Award – This award recognizes scientific achievement of Air Force government personnel at all levels assigned to the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate and has been established to stimulate internal research excellence by recognizing individuals or teams who have made the most outstanding research contributions as evidenced by reports and papers published by these personnel. It is based on the professional research contributions of the nominee(s) for his/her own individual work. At least one paper, which has been published or accepted for publication in a refereed journal, or, in unusual cases, a Directorate technical report (typically, classified work), is a prerequisite for this award. 2016: Benji Maruyama 2015: Team: Gail Brown, Brandon Howe & John Jones 2014: Todd Turner & Paul Shade 2013: Team: Rajesh Naik & Jonathan Spowart 2012: Chris Szczepanski 2011: Jaimie Tiley 2010: Michael Caton 2009: Benji Maruyama 2008: Jeremy Knopp 2007: Mems Team: Andrey Voevodin & Richard Vaia 2006: NO CEREMONY HELD 2005: Team: Andrey Voevodin & Jeff Zabinski 2004: Michael Uchic & Dennis Dimiduk 2003: James Blackshire 2002: Daniel Miracle & Capt. Wynn Sanders 2001: James Grote

2000: Mark Blodgett 1999: Jeffery Baur & Morley Stone 1998:Matthew Seaford 1997: Ruth Pachter 1996: Randall Hay 1995: Jeffrey Zabinski 1994: Gail Brown 1993: Ronald Kerans & Paul Jero 1992: S.L. Semiatin & Paul McQuay 1991: Douglas Dudis 1990: Bruce Reinhardt 1989: Robert Spry 1988: Loon-Seng Tan & Fred Arnold 1987: Thomas Moran & Charles Buynak 1986: James Larsen 1985: Fred Arnold 1984: William Mitchel

Time line

tion of ferrous aircraft and engine parts. He went on to be the first civilian director of the lab and later served an additional nine years with the Aeronautical Research Laboratory attaining the position of Chief Scientist. As war in Europe and Asia began to seem increasingly inevitable, military leaders were reminded of the materials shortages that occurred during World War I. Materials Branch personnel, alert to the possibility, began to investigate alternatives. At the outset of the war, two problems fell squarely on the shoulders of Charles J. Cleary, who led the Textile and Rubber Lab-

1983: Walter Johnson, Charles Strecker & Conrad Phillipi 1982: Nicholas Pagano 1981: Thaddeus Helminiak 1980: Theodore Nicholas 1979: Ivan Goldfarb & Charles Lee 1978: Lawrence Drzal 1977: Dennis Corbly & Dennis Macha 1976: Charles Browning 1975: Harold Rosenberg 1974: Alten Grandt Jr. 1973: Cyril Pierce & James Hall 1972: NO AWARD GIVEN 1971: John Henderson 1970: Nicholas Pagano & James Whitney 1969: Nicholas Pagano 1968: Terence Ronald 1967: Karl Strnat, John Olson & Gary Hoffer

1966: David Jones, John Henderson & George Burns 1965: Richard Van Deusen 1964: William Baun & David Fischer 1963: Sidney Allinikov 1962: Warren Griffin 1961: Robert Ault 1960: David Kirk 1959: Benjamin Wilcox 1958: Warren Griffin 1957: Marvin Rausch, Martin Vogel & Harold Rosenberg 1956: Douglas Rausch & Alan Lovelace 1955: David Roller 1954: Freeman Bentley & George Rappaport 1953: William Rector 1952: Albrecht Herzog

oratory. The vast majority of the world’s natural rubber, as well as the silk still favored for use in parachutes, was produced in Asia, and supplies were cut off by Japan in the late 1930s. Domestic silks and synthetic rayon served adequately, if not spectacularly, but Cleary went all out to promote the use of a new material of which he had recently become aware: nylon. Laboratory tests revealed nylon not only had a 25 percent greater strength-to-weight ratio than natural silk, but also better resistance to mildew, salt water, and acid and alkali exposures. The nylon parachute,



Following the outbreak of World War II, RX provided technical

RX research

assistance to industry to speed up production and quality for

in polymers

military aircraft. Considerable time and resources were spent

and coatings

investigating malfunction or failure of Air Force equipment.


Much of the research during the war was in developing substitutes

vacuum work.

for aircraft materials in short supply, such as for rubber, which was

rx performed

replaced by Butyl rubber. Nylon was developed to replace natural

research into

silks in parachutes. The fiberglass radome was developed, which

rare earth

provided better capability and lifetime.



AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Time line

still in use today, is a legacy of Cleary’s contribution to aviation. Cleary’s problem with rubber wasn’t simply that he needed to find another source that could be scaled up to mass-produce aircraft tires — he also needed to find a more durable alternative to natural rubber for use in high-temperature applications such as hoses and valve seats. The principle synthetic rubbers tested during the 1930s were polysulfide and neoprene, and Cleary pressed these into use for Air Corps equipment. Butyl rubber would later be one of the primary synthetics used in the production of aircraft tires.

The first and most prestigious award for outstanding achievement in the Materials Lab was established in 1951 and is designated the “Charles J. Cleary Award” to honor his memory and achievements. WORLD WAR II AND THE 1940s Before World War II, Wright Field had been a uniquely civilian armed forces post. In fact, only about 11 percent of the personnel stationed there were military. But as war loomed for the United States, staffing and structure began to change and accommodate the laboratory’s wartime footing. In 1939, the year the branch was renamed the

1950s Developments in structural adhesives were applied to aircraft, missiles and helicopters. New polymer materials resulted in improved hydraulic fluids, lubricants, plastics, fibers and rubber materials. Pioneering efforts for iMproved high-temperature materials for turbine engines and materials such as titanium and improved aluminum to withstand the effects of aerodynamic heating caused by hypersonic/ supersonic flight were pursued. Applications included the SR-71 aircraft. Greases, oils and hydraulic fluids with broader operating temperatures and improved performance were developed and transitioned. RX researchers developed nose tip materials for use on IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles). Early missiles had a metal heat sink on the nose cap, which was very limiting because the missile would decelerate in the air atmosphere quickly and the wind forces would shove it off target.


National Archives photo

Materials Laboratory research into aluminum and other lightweight alloys, alloy welding, structural fatigue testing and a range of new materials made possible aircraft like the 1933 Boeing 247, the first airliner to incorporate all-metal, semi-monocoque stressed skin construction, a fully cantilevered wing, retractable landing gear and other advanced features for the time.

Materials Laboratory, its work requirements had expanded beyond the capacity of its existing personnel. For the first time, the laboratory began to hire private contractors to research and develop materials with specific properties. After Roosevelt personally visited Wright Field in October 1940, the Materials Laboratory underwent an unprecedented expansion, more than doubling in personnel, from about 40 to 100 people. Its organizational structure also broadened to encompass 11 distinct units: Administration Unit; Chemical Unit; Machine Shop Unit; Metallurgical Unit; Physics Unit; Production Test Unit; Services Liaison Unit; Special Test Unit; Structural and Mechanical Test Unit; Textile and Rubber Unit; and Welding Unit. In June 1941, about six months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II, the Army Air Corps was subsumed by the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF), which established a new unified command structure for all Army aviation. The AAF procurement program escalated rapidly, calling for an increase from 1,000 first-line airplanes of all types to 10,000 by the time of U.S. entry into the war. A problem emerged as military procurement accelerated: Analysis and testing of aircraft materials acquired by the Army, a procurement support function assigned to the Materials Laboratory, took on greater importance due to wartime demand for speed of production and sheer numbers of aircraft. Laboratory scientists provided technical assistance to industry to speed up the production and improve quality con-

trol for military aircraft. Considerable time and resources were spent, throughout the war, investigating malfunctions or failures of AAF equipment; more than 2,000 separate investigations were launched during the war, resulting in about 2,400 engineering reports. Meanwhile, much of the wartime research in the Materials Laboratory was devoted to developing substitutes for aircraft materials in short supply, including not only silk and rubber, but also leather, jute fiber, the mineral mica (used in radios, heaters, lanterns, and more); kapok (a water-repelling, cotton-like material used in life jackets), asbestos and lumber. The supply of aluminum, which comprised 70 percent of military airframe structures by weight, became critical early in the war. Laboratory metallurgists intensified their work in developing magnesium alloys, and in finding substitutes for alloying elements that were in short supply, such as nickel and chromium. A shortage of cadmium, used to form corrosion-resistant plating on steel, compelled researchers to develop coatings of zinc, oxide, and phosphate, the most well-known being the ubiquitous yellow-green zinc chromate primer painted on thousands of aircraft. As early as 1941, the Materials Laboratory had begun to invest considerable effort in developing plastics for special applications, including glass fiber composites for experimental wings and fuselages. During the war, glass fiber reinforcement materials were used primarily in the fabrication of durable aircraft radomes; for the most part,

1950s The fust programmable fatigue machine was obtained from Germany following World War II. It was used for full-scale forming of metals such as titanium. Faster aircraft would eventually exceed the structural limitations of aluminum , so new metals, such as titanium , were investigated. The development of airborne radar in World War II resulted in the need for a more stable polyester material for transparent radome material to protect airborne radar units. Throughout the 1950s, RX led the effort to develop glass fibers with higher stiffness to enable lighter weight composite materials to compete structurally with aluminum. A higher strength, slightly stiffer glass fiber called “S glass� was developed and was used in filament-wound rocket motor cases for the third stage of the MinuteMan II ICBM.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

National Archives photo

Factory lights are reflected in the noses of A-20 attack planes at Douglas Aircraft’s Long Beach, California, plant in October 1942. Army Air Corps materials scientists helped develop clear methyl methacrylate plastic during the 1930s for use in turrets, windshields and noses of aircraft.

Time line

other applications wouldn’t be exploited until after the war. To accommodate the growing wartime workforce, the Materials Laboratory moved to a much larger building, Building 32, on the Wright Field grounds in 1944. From Pearl Harbor to V-J (Victory over Japan) Day, the manpower of the Materials Laboratory more than doubled from 100 to 214 people. The organization made maximum possible use of its military personnel, but in keeping with its longstanding tradition, its assignments were made more on the

basis of ability than rank. The many technological advancements of these scientists and engineers helped to create the world’s strongest air force, which was able to gain control of the air in both theaters of the war. Though they may have seemed mundane, compared to the exploits of other American airmen, these advances were every bit as important. For example, Maj. Robert J. McLachlan’s program to develop an effective corrosion inhibitor for use in ethylene glycol cooling systems culminated in the use of sodium mercaptobenzothiazole, which


The Systems Support Division started out as a

Researchers discovered a new class of

small Applications Branch, providing strong

materials called Advanced Composites, which

direct technical support to the offices

included boron and carbon fiber reinforced

responsible for developing new weapons

plastic composites that had the strength of

systems, the maintenance depots, the major

steel, the stiffness of aluminum and the density

operating commands, and other Air Force

of beryllium.

activities. The unique, quick reaction support provided by the division has been extensive and

Research at RX in phenolic materials resulted in

critical. The urgency of finding root causes and

the Heat shields used on the Mercury spacecraft.

recommending solutions to the growing list of aging aircraft problems continues to be a challenge.


greatly reduced maintenance problems for liquid-cooled engines. The innovation earned McLachlan the Legion of Merit. THE POSTWAR ERA The National Security Act of 1947 created the Air Force as a distinct branch of the U.S. armed forces and resulted in the consolidation of Wright Field and adjacent grounds into Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB). These changes signaled the beginning of a new era for the Materials Laboratory. The inevitable postwar drawdown in manpower and workspace compelled the laboratory to expand its contracting program to qualified laboratories associated with universities, nonprofit institutions, and industry. Overall, the organization lowered its risk profile, focusing most of its work on applications that showed the most promise. However, several visionary advances emerged from the laboratory’s postwar years. An urgent need for new, high-temperature materials coincided with the advent of jet propulsion at the end of World War II. Many of the ideas on the drawing board for jet aircraft and engines were hindered by material limitations. Some research had already been underway during wartime on materials resistant to the high temperatures developed inside jet engines, but, in 1948, the Materials Laboratory launched its ceramics initiative. It also developed cobalt alloys to meet the anticipated thermal requirements for jet engine components such as afterburners, combustion inner liners and transition pieces. Around 1947, the Materials Laboratory began its enduring record of investigations into rare and unusual metals when it began experimenting with zirconium alloys, which evolved naturally into work with hafnium and titanium. Beyond new materials for engines, materials also had to be developed for the skinning and structure of aircraft fuselages and flight surfaces in order for a new generation of jet and rocket powered aircraft to cope with the tremendous heat and other forces generated by high-speed flight through the atmosphere. The laboratory worked to develop new aluminum alloys as well as

research the use of titanium for supersonic and hypersonic airframes. The laboratory also developed textiles, rubber, paints and other coatings necessary to adapt to the demands of this new generation of aircraft. The forerunner to another research program that has become a cornerstone of the organization’s portfolio began with a contractual relationship in 1948, a fluorocarbon research program sponsored by the Petroleum Products Unit. This was the first Materials Laboratory activity involving polymer research. By 1950, the nucleus of an in-house polymer group, the Polymer Branch of the Nonmetallic Materials Division, was formed within the Materials Laboratory. THE 1950s: BEGINNING OF THE STRATEGIC BALLISTIC MISSILE SYSTEM In December 1949, after 27 years as chief of the laboratory, Johnson was reassigned, in accordance with the new requirement that the Materials Laboratory be led by a military officer. The new decade, with advances in jet propulsion, the start of the United States Intercontinental Ballistic Missile System (ICBM) by Gen. Bernard Schriever, and nuclear energy and weaponry, would usher in unprecedented technological changes. Elsewhere within the Air Force acquisition, production and logistics communities, a refocusing of the Air Force Manufacturing Methods program (then residing as an Air Force program in Air Force Logistics Command [AFLC]) was being accomplished to support the desired technology upgrade and eventual sale of government-owned, contractor operated (GOCO) plants that had previously supported wartime production. This was a harbinger of the later move and evolution of the Manufacturing Methods Program into the Air Force Manufacturing Technology Program and organization within Materials Laboratory in 1961. On Jan. 23, 1950, the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) was established to ensure next-generation research and development programs would have a clear and unified sense of direction. The activation of this command center cre-


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

ated new organizational layers at Wright Field. The Wright Air Development Center (WADC) became a central locus for Air Force engineering and flight testing, and the Materials Laboratory was placed under the WADC’s Research Division. While all these changes were underway, the United States entered into the Korean War in summer 1950, and the Materials Laboratory’s manpower consequently tripled in the next two years. Many programs also expanded in scope. To better leverage technological advances occurring in Europe through technical partnerships, the ARDC established a Western European office in Brussels, Belgium, in 1952. This was the beginning of many subsequent international collaborations between the Materials Laboratory and its counterparts around the world. Emerging technologies created new problems for laboratory personnel to solve. As jet engines propelled aircraft at increasing speeds, for example, plastic radomes and antenna housings were severely damaged, and even metal surfaces suffered erosion at supersonic speeds. In-house and contractual research programs were launched to develop a new generation of protective coatings. The laboratory increased its efforts to improve high-temperature materials for turbine engines, and to develop titanium and improved aluminum alloys to withstand the effects of aerodynamic heating caused by supersonic flight. New polymers were developed to improve the performance of hydraulic fluids, lubricants, plastics, fibers and elastomeric rubbers. These efforts in developing materials for faster aircraft were aided by the laboratory’s postwar acquisition of its first programmable fatigue-testing machine. The 60-ton Schenck machine, acquired from Germany, was the world’s largest at the time. It could correlate results from small laboratory specimens and specimens approaching full size. As jet aircraft approached the structural limitations of aluminum, the machine was used for full-scale testing of metals such as titanium. After the ARDC established a division to develop the Atlas ICBM in 1954, the Materials Laboratory became the first WADC


laboratory to provide the program with technical assistance. The laboratory’s work in high-temperature materials and glass fiber composites led to the development of filament-wound rocket motor cases for the ICBM fleet, and nose tip materials for the intermediate-range ballistic missile, which was prone to veering off course due to a heat sink on the nose cap. A Nuclear Materials Task Group was formed within the laboratory to begin evaluating the effect of nuclear radiation on aircraft materials. The laboratory’s high-temperature and unique functional materials work gave it a leading role not only in ICBM development but also in the very beginnings of the U.S. space program, which emerged prominently in the 1960s, spurred by the earlier Soviet Sputnik satellite program. ML had a role in identifying experimental solutions involving phenolic insulation and beryllium heat shields used by NASA on Mercury spacecraft. For the new U.S. ICBM fleet, a revolutionary family of composites emerged from ML – “carbon/carbon” (C/C) – developed by Donald Schmidt and co-inventor from Ling Temco Vought. These new thermal protection system composites were made ready for Air Force use in the extreme hypersonic re-entry thermal ablation environment by the ML Applications Division team members. C/C composites for reentry vehicle (RV) nose tips and heat shields provided vastly superior performance over the first generation materials. Later, this new family of ML developed composites also found many other applications for Air Force, NASA and commercial systems such as rocket nozzles, high performance brakes and electronic circuit boards. Shriever’s ICBM program struggled mightily to establish an effective missile warning system – in this time period there wasn’t an established space capability to adapt for this critical role. With time and new technologies from ML and others the revolutionary United States strategic surveillance capability was finally established. In 1963 Gen. Schriever presented the Cleary Award to Sidney Allinikov. One of the most significant events of the 1950s occurred under the leadership of Col.

Library of Congress photo

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The need for finishes and coatings to protect the aluminum skins and structural materials of aircraft led to the development of the distinctive yellow-green zinc chromate primer seen here on B-25 Mitchell medium bombers being produced at the North American Aviation plant in Kansas City, Kansas.

J.V. Hearn, who called for a long-range plan to direct and unify the laboratory’s growing and increasingly diverse research portfolio. The plan that emerged in 1956 called for a “Materials Central” to be the focal point for all Air Force materials knowledge. One of the problems identified by the plan’s architects was that there was often no driving force that propelled the laboratory’s solutions forward. A follow-on study recommended that a distinct Materials Applications Branch be established with-

in the laboratory. While the Applications Branch was not officially organized until 1959, the long-range plan marked a turning point in Air Force materials research. Instead of aiming for incremental improvements in materials technology, the Materials Laboratory would reach for more imaginative scientific approaches to challenging materials problems. The laboratory began a close working relationship with President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s new Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA,

1957 An RX experimental solution to the reentry Heating problem enabled the Air Force and NASA to thermally protect astronauts upon return to the earth from space. Research took place on ablation tools for missile nose tips, rocket nozzles and other protection against extremely high temperatures.

1958 One-inch thick, lightweight beryllium heat shields, about six feet in diameter, were created to soak up the heat in manned space reentry capsules. Portions of the heat shield were drilled out to find out the penetration depth of the temperature.


NASA photo

AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

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The interaction and quantification of the effects on materials and structures from high energy thermal sources is critical to many Air Force applications. ML scientists and engineers using unique ML facilities make major contributions for applications ranging from missile nose tips experiencing hypersonic reentry to ‘’hardening” of materials against the effects of laser weapons and establishing the “lethality” of the laser weapons themselves.

later to become the present DARPA) in 1959, a collaboration in solid propellant research carried out under the Polymer Section. The Materials Laboratory was the first Department of Defense (DOD) organization to receive a grant from ARPA. It put this grant to use to expand the in-house polymer research program. In August 1959, ML reorganized to more effectively carry out the mission assigned to it earlier that summer by ARDC, which was restated in ARDC Letter 80-4 to be: “Accomplishes, sponsors, promotes and encourages research in materials sciences, procedures, and processes for future Air Force Weapon Systems, including the

environmental simulation incident to materials evaluation; functions as the focal point with the USAF for materials knowledge by maintaining and operating a centralized materials data source.” By 1960, the laboratory had undergone unprecedented alignment. Now known as Materials Central, it consisted of four distinct laboratories within the larger Materials Laboratory: Non-metallic Materials; Metals and Ceramics; Physics; and Applications. The elevation of Applications to laboratory status more than doubled its size and strength within the organization. The expanded mission requirements led to substantial increases in manpower throughout Materials Central.

1960s Carbon-carbon composites pioneered by RX were particularly suitable for very high temperature applications (above 2,500 degrees F) over long periods of time. Carbon­-carbon composites soon found use in aircraft brake disks, solid rocket motor nozzle throats, exit cones, space battery sleeves, missile reentry vehicle nose tips, turbine engines, hypersonic flight vehicle nosecaps and leading edges, semiconductor manufacturing components and electronic circuit board thermal planes. The Composites Advanced Development Program started and was managed by RX. The first five demonstration programs included an F-111 horizontal stabilizer, an engine fan blade, a reentry vehicle structure, a satellite antenna disk, and an OV-10 wing box.


THE 1960s: INTO THE SPACE AGE, PROJECT FORECAST AND MANTECH INTEGRATION The Cold War, and the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of the Sputnik satellite, had a profound influence on the thinking of Air Force leadership. The development of new materials and applying them to new solutions and systems had never seemed more urgent. In a major 1961 reorganization, ARDC gained responsibility for weapons acquisition and was redesignated the Air Force Systems Command (AFSC), first commanded by Gen. Schriever. Materials Central became a directorate under this new organizational structure, and further expanded its mission with the redesignation of the previous AFLC-housed Air Force Manufacturing Methods as a new Manufacturing Technology Laboratory. The new laboratory’s primary functions were to sponsor generic manufacturing technology development (“ManTech”) to facilitate commercially feasible methods for producing new materials and to manage programs for advancing manufacturing processes and products to meet new Air Force high technology systems. Materials Central now conducted a complete spectrum of research, from basic materials science to demonstrated manufacturing capability. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s initiative to strengthen the military’s laboratory structure and improve in-house research capabilities led to further realignment. Materials Central was

renamed the Air Force Materials Laboratory (AFML) in 1963, and became one of four laboratories within AFSC’s Research and Technology Division. Beginning in 1963, AFSC conducted a comprehensive study and analysis of the Air Force structure, projected into the next decade. Project FORECAST, as the initiative was known, was designed to bring the cutting edge of emerging technology to the Air Force and to develop revolutionary advances in U.S. aerospace capabilities. It was the Air Force’s first major planning initiative to focus on materials in addition to advanced weapon systems concepts. In fact, the programs and capabilities that evolved over the next decade would place the laboratory on the cutting edge of aerospace materials and manufacturing technology research and development. ManTech’s integration into the laboratory setting was a challenge as their expertise was more in the industrial specialist and manufacturing engineering skill sets versus the physical sciences of the lab culture. Further, they brought a production funded, $75-$100 million budget into an organization typically managing a research and development (R&D) basic and applied research account, a very different management challenge. Senior laboratory managers made the wise decision to reject proposals to integrate ManTech people and funds into the research divisions in favor of investing their best R&D managers and selected applied researchers into the new organization to create a unified materials and manufacturing technology enterprise.

1960s The important materials parameters for any permanent magnet were discovered by RX researchers in rare earth cobalt magnets in the mid-1 960s. The original magnetic compounds remain important components of the high-end permanent magnet market for items such as traveling wave tubes, ion propulsion engines, and a variety of motor applications. A higher purity silicon developed by RX permitted laser-guided bomb and missile technology to be exploited. It was also the predecessor to the materials that permitted large integrated circuits for a myriad of electronic technologies. RX developed a coating that eliminated detector degradation, and also served as an excellent anti­-reflective coating that improved detector performance.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Some of the many key leaders responsible for the ultimately successful integration of ManTech with the science and technology (S&T) components of the laboratory include: • Hank Johnson, the first newly assigned Chief of the Metals Processing Branch who reoriented the branch to relate to numerous Air Force, DOD and industry programs now recognized as national achievements • George Peterson, who went on to become Laboratory Director, successfully integrated the advanced composites program into the ManTech program and evolved the concept of the Factory of the Future as a common vision of the ManTech program in all technical areas • Dr. Vince Russo (future Laboratory Director) and Dr. Cyril Pierce (future F-16 Chief Production Engineer), both then as Deputy Division Chiefs, who conceived and implemented the F-16 TechMod and Factory of the Future initiatives • Gail Eichelman and Dennis Wisnosky, who devised competing approaches (Air Force Computer-Aided Manufacturing [AFCAM] Master Plan and Integrated Computer-Aided Manufacturing [ICAM]) to dealing with the challenges of factory automation in an emerging digital age (both of which ul-

timately became integral parts of the vision and program) • Lee Kennard (Kennard Award namesake) and John Williamson, each of whom devised an incredible number of successful program initiatives and transitions while also leading numerous support teams to make manufacturing an integral part of systems engineering in acquisition and logistics support program offices. • Jim Mattice, as deputy, then Division Chief (who went on to become Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Research and Engineering), successfully advocated and expanded the ManTech program influence in the Air Force, DOD and industry arena, expanded Sagamore-like cost reduction studies to electronics, munitions and space/missile systems, and played key roles in maintaining the integrity of the program in a research environment, including maintaining its housing in the Building 650 complex to foster teamwork with research organizations. • Dr. William Kessler, as the Division Chief who led the program and organization through the significant changes during the formation of Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratory (AFWAL) and temporary separation as a part of RX, and successfully integrated


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Increased speed of aircraft and operations in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War resulted in severe damage to critical components such as radomes and antenna covers. As a result, RX developed two families of erosion resistant coatings still used by the Air Force. The first of these were elastomeric polyurethanes for protection of radomes, antenna covers, leading edges, and erosion-prone areas. The second family of coatings was based on fluorocarbon elastomers and provided thermal flash and hightemperature operation on advanced aircraft. RX developed a new semiconductor material, gallium arsenide, used to demonstrate the first solidstate X-Band devices. RX led in the development of this material, and continued establishing affordable semiconductor materials in the industrial base. These materials now provide the foundation for virtually all modern radar systems. RX was now responsible for the creation and maintenance of the Qualified Products List (QPL) for penetrant materials under the military specification for these materials. The QPL is the worldwide standard for penetrant materials for critical aerospace inspection processes.


the newly assigned Title I and Title III Center organizations into ManTech and subsequently RX. One of the most significant research programs to emerge from the 1960s and Project FORECAST led to development of a new class of structural materials – advanced composites – which were initially demonstrated using newly discovered boron fiber. Advanced composites were of great significance since they were less dense than aluminum but with higher strength, and most importantly, stiffness many times higher. These capabilities grew out of the laboratory’s work in developing fiberreinforced structural composites during World War II. The development of advanced filaments and structural composites, which can be traced to the 1940s, was greatly influenced by the inspiration and leadership of Robert T. Schwartz or “Mr. R.T.” as he was affectionately known. Schwartz was chief of the Nonmetallic Materials Division and the lab’s coveted “Schwartz Engineering Award” is named in his honor. The Advanced Composites Program established in 1965 would lead to the design, fabrication and testing of flight-worthy hardware. Even the early boron fiber developments had better structural potential than structural metals, at a 20 to 60 percent weight savings. Other materials, such as the versatile family of carbon-carbon composites, highlighted earlier, were more fully matured in the ’60s and thus found many other applications throughout the space systems arena.

Carbon-fiber, a later development, has led to composites for defense, making this one of the most important materials innovations developed by AFML, finding uses far beyond military aerospace in now virtually every commercial product sector worldwide. AFML’s first demonstration programs in advanced composites included an F-111 horizontal stabilizer, an engine fan blade, a satellite antenna disk and a wing box for an OV-10 observation/light attack aircraft. The Advanced Composites Program was led by AFML’s George Peterson, who later became ML Director, strongly supported by chief scientist Dr. Alan Lovelace. Dr. Lovelace would become director of the laboratory the following year, and eventually move to become the Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for R&D and subsequently Deputy Administrator of NASA, where he is generally credited with saving the Shuttle Engine Program. 1966 was also the year when a team led by Dr. Karl Strnat of AFML launched the development of rare earth magnets with their discovery that an yttriumcobalt alloy was by far the most magnetic material known at the time. The laboratory established a Rare Earth Permanent Magnet Materials Initiative to study rare earth compounds with high magnetic properties. Today, samariumcobalt compounds remain significant components of items such as traveling wave tubes, ion propulsion engines, and

1970s RX began moving into its current, modern, five-building complex in the mid-70s. RX developed a Retirement For Cause concept which includes a reliable fracture mechanics/non-destructive inspection procedure that established when turbine engine disks must be removed from service. This resulted in a substantial cost savings and provided greater reliability and safety in turbojet engine operations. Detailed inspections of KC-135 wing skin components were conducted under ultraviolet light, visually and using liquid penetrants. This led to an eventual re-skinning of some of these aircraft. A superplastic forming/diffusion bonding process was developed which was a major materials breakthrough in the fabrication of titanium structures for aerospace applicalions. It demonstrated the potential for revolutionary savings in cost and weight of titanium aircraft structures.


Strategic surveillance is a critical capability provided to the nation by the Air Force and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). The close partnership between the Air Force and MDA leverages the application of material technologies of mutual interests for the Defense Support Program (DSP) strategic surveillance and its successors.


magnetic memory applications such as tapes and computer drives. The AFML contributions to the military space program emerged full force in the 60s and remain very strong today. Exactly what the Air Force role in space should be was evolving dramatically so AFML’s agility to respond effectively with new materials and processing (M&P) technologies was very important. After some false starts in military lifting body space/reentry systems (DYNASOAR) and manned military-in-space systems (MOL) the Air Force established its primary roles leading the nation in military space: communication, weather, navigation and strategic surveillance. AFML made major contributions to all of these, and AFML technologies supporting strategic surveillance for the Defense Support

Program (DSP) system provides one of the best examples. The M&P technologies for DSP were also directly applicable to all the other Air Force space mission areas. The role of NASA as an Air Force space systems partner also evolved and stabilized in this period. For the space systems themselves the Air Force and NASA went essentially separate ways: NASA focused on manned and interplanetary missions while the Air Force focused on the military space missions. For “space access” – the rockets to get to space – the Air Force and NASA were close partners and remain so today. Thus, AFML’s contributions to all the specific arenas of military space and space access directly benefited NASA and the commercial space sector as well. Important examples of AFML contributions to military space in this period include

U.S. Air Force photo

AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Photos courtesy of AFRL/RX

Right: Paul Propp, Director of the ML West Coast Office (WCO), was one of many ML co-locates who still today provide dedicated and effective liaison to the Air Force program offices and warfighters. The WCO, located at the center of Air Force Space and Missiles in Los Angeles, was also a place to relax. Below: Maj. Catherine G. “Cady” Coleman, NASA astronaut and mission specialist aboard Space Shuttle Columbia for Mission STS-73, was assigned to the Materials Directorate’s Polymer Branch from August 1988 to August 1992.

infrared (IR) detectors, high precision space optics, light weight spacecraft structures, space-stable lubricants, elastomeric seals, space power materials, radiation-protected electronics and spacecraft thermal control coatings. An especially unique and important contribution was AFML’s lead role for the Air Force space program offices providing direct space environment performance data on all the new materials listed above. NASA was a vital partner here. Several different Space Shuttle Challenger-launched spacecraft were placed in orbit by NASA to gather long-term space environment materials performance data on Air Force materials. The school bus-sized NASA Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF), returned to Earth by Columbia in 1990, was an important example. There were other important space materials characterization opportunities for AFML, including some on International Space Station missions. The AFML materials from the space station were retrieved and returned from space by the space shuttle astronauts, including Cady Coleman, an AFML alumni. The Manufacturing Technologies Division launched programs to refine production and establish the industrial base for nickel hydrogen (NiH2) batteries and gallium arsenide (GaAs) solar cells, both critical power sources for space applications. The AFML “West Coast Office” established in Los Angeles as part of the AFML

collocated engineering network, was at the center of Air Force space and missile system developments. This AFML presence at the focal point of military space was vital to success. Paul Propp, director of the office for several decades, noted recently that, “having been closely associated with the AFML space technology program, I can say with reasonable certainty that no government laboratory has contributed more applied technology than AFML to Air Force space and missile systems. Some of the highlights I offer as candidates for the 100-year celebration are these: spacecraft contamination and control, C/C composites, advanced


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

NASA photo/Jim Ross

AFRL/RX research in high temperature-resistant materials, from adhesives to honeycombed materials to titanium, made possible spacecraft and aircraft like the superlative SR-71 Blackbird.

1970s The Integrated Computer Aided Manufacturing program was brought about to greatly shorten the implementation time span for incorporation of compatible and standardized techniques and to unify

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direction for industry. rx developed the first immersion contour­following ultrasonic inspection system. Automated tape lay-up machines were developed to fabricate large span composite structures at reduced costs. rx provided a chemical vapor deposition process that reduced the optical absorption and revolutionized the infrared transparency industry, as well as the laser industry. rx achieved a breakthrough in developing ductility in titanium for turbo machines. They sponsored the design and development of streamlined extrusion dies for producing aluminum alloy/silicon carbide whisker powder materials, and explored development of powder metallurgy/rapid solidification technology. rx developed a stiff, electrical insulating polymeric material (rigid rod polymer) I0 times stronger than steel. This polymer is currently used in flak vests, flame resistant clothing, safety shoes and gloves, racing wear and tethers that keep tires and wheel assemblies attached to racecars when they crash. An advanced carbon fiber reinforced polymer composite was created that improves stress and load capacity by as much as 65 percent and which is currently being used in bridges. Tubing for space operations was developed from high-performance liquid crystal polymer, which is lighter and has double the crush resistance of normal tubing.


structural composites, GaAs solar cells and mercury cadmium telluride (HCT) IR detectors.” AFML contributed significantly to the advance of solid-state electronics during the 1960s, developing a gallium arsenide (GaAs) semiconductor that was used to demonstrate the first solid-state devices transmitting in the X-band, defined as between 8 and 12 GHz in radar applications. The laboratory’s expertise in developing affordable semiconductor materials has provided the foundation for virtually all modern radar, electronic countermeasure and communications systems. Major parallel manufacturing technology projects hastened the production availability of rare earth magnets, advanced silicon, gallium arsenide (GaAs), light-emitting diodes (LEDs), traveling wave tubes (TWTs), and other important electronic materials and higher efficiency production techniques, real evidence of value of the 1961 organization change. High-speed flight, the war in Vietnam and the rapid progress of the space program led to advancements in AFML’s unique capabilities in coating technologies. The laboratory also undertook, in collaboration with NASA and other services/agencies, spacecraft thermal control coating, thin film optical coating, rain erosion resistant coating and lightning strike protective coating research. Testing was conducted in lab vacuum chambers and the Propulsion Lab’s 40,000 horsepower engine test stand, providing critical data for various new coating formulations that eventually transitioned to unique functional applications across the Air Force and industry. Aircraft speed and intense operations in Southeast Asia caused severe damage to critical components. Laboratory scientists responded by developing two families of erosion-resistant coatings: elastomeric polyurethanes

used to protect radomes, antenna covers, leading edges and other areas and fluorocarbon elastomers for hightemperature operation on advanced aircraft. The diffusion coatings developed by AFML researchers also contributed significantly to protecting superalloys used in the highperformance engines needed for supersonic and V/STOL (vertical/short takeoff and landing) aircraft. The programs in nuclear weapons and space operations required coatings that would resist oxidation, erosion, corrosion, radiation and other environmental damage. By the mid-1960s, AFML scientists developed coatings that would protect atmospheric reentry vehicles into the 2,000 to 4,000 F range such as experimental lifting bodies that led to the space shuttle. In addition to the coatings that enabled atmospheric reentry for Mercury and Gemini astronauts, AFML scientists developed refractory metal coatings that led to success in other NASA applications. These included a tungsten-silicide coating that was used to protect propulsion components in the Saturn 1B launch system, a chromium-tungsten-silicon coating that protected the experimental ASSET (Aerothermodynamic Elastic Structural Systems Environmental Tests) vehicle on reentry, and a tin-aluminum coating that was used to protect the vector control and attitude adjust thrusters of the Agena Target Vehicle used by Gemini astronauts to practice docking procedures. Another material with great promise for thermal protection was ceramics. AFML researchers had pioneered a new area of research, molecular ceramics, with the potential for the development of new materials systems. A resulting patented product, zyttrite, was developed in 1966. This material, a fully stabilized zirconium oxide, led to the development of high-temperature wind tunnels for the Air Force and NASA.

1980s Development of portable ultrasonic C-scan inspection equipment was developed, which led to other versions such as the Mobile automated scanner (MAUS). Evaluation was conducted under a ManTech project. The directorate gave the Air Force new families of carbon-carbon materials to reduce weapon system acquisition and life cycle costs. New thermal protective materials were developed for reentry vehicles. Improved infrared windows and detectors were created for space surveillance systems. Research was conducted in laser-hardened materials to protect satellite and aircraft components. Improved nondestructive evaluation methods were created to detect smaller hidden flaws in critical structures.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung

The F-117A Nighthawk was the world’s first operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology. Air Force Materials Laboratory scientists and technicians developed and improved low-observable materials and coatings for the F-117 and the stealth aircraft that followed.

1980s RX developed new and improved radar transparent materials for stealth or low observable

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aircraft such as the B-2 bomber and F-117 fighter. Mercury cadmium telluride was developed as the detector material of choice for most strategic surveillance and intercept missions and was used extensively in target acquisition and missile guidance. In order to reduce cost and increase the life of the part, rapid solidification modeling of powdered super alloys was used to manufacture turbine disks. Infrared countermeasures were needed to protect aircraft from infrared missile threats. So rx pursued development of nonlinear-optical (NLO) crystals for wavelength conversion in solid-state laser sources. Successful development of this area resulted in many new crystals becoming commercially available to the military laser designers. A new fire-resistant hydraulic fluid for use in extreme temperatures was developed, which improved effectiveness and provided improved safety. Synthetic coolant fluids were developed for aircraft and advanced electronics. Improved grease for cruise missile engine bearings and B-2 aircraft flight controls were created, which reduced operation and maintenance costs.


In the late 1960s, to maintain the highest level of support to the Air Force, AFML began to send individuals to Vietnam to visit the various Air Force operational bases and identify field system materials problems that AFML could identify solutions for or initiate research to solve. Support was to provide an n-butyl rubber for exfoliation spraying aircraft, non-flammable hydraulic fluids and other solutions. ORIGINATION OF THE AFML/RX ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM AFML was the first organization within the Air Force, and likely the DOD, to openly pursue Organizational Development (OD) with dedicated staff, outside facilitators and funding to achieve long-term permanent change in behavior and outcomes as a result of leadership action. OD, and later iterations such as total quality management (TQM), training groups (T-Groups), management by objectives (MBO) and independent product teams (IPTs), became active to some extent in U.S. industry, some universities, and the National Training Laboratories beginning in the 1950s, but practice in the DOD did not occur until the mid- to late- 1960s. In about 1967, then AFML Director Dr. Alan Lovelace initiated a formal program and assigned Richard Vossler, a retired USAF Lt. Col. and Physics Division Branch Chief, to receive formal OD training and operate a lab-level program out of the Plans Office, led by Bernard Chasman but reporting directly to the Director. Initial efforts, including structured employee interviews, in-house and off-site meetings with division and staff office chiefs were met with passive support and/or outright resistance to needed change (“this too shall pass”). Then, at a 1968 two-day off-site at Hueston Woods State Park, Dr. Lovelace broke dramatically from the mid-afternoon planned agenda to individually and up-close-and-personally confront each

participant with his blunt assessment of their leadership contribution to the lab and needed organizational change. After dinner and a period of self-reflection, the group reconvened for a near all-night (to 2 AM) debate, which literally broke the back of the resistance to change. The result was an individual and personal commitment to “get with the program” or move on. This led to a series of actions involving retaining the recognized national leader of the OD movement, Dr. Herbert A Shepherd of MIT, to devise a tailored program and agenda to be implemented through the Plans Staff, now augmented by Jerome Krochmal, a former researcher in touch with grass roots employees. As a result, the entire laboratories annual agenda, program planning and budgeting processes were all infiltrated with OD concepts, experiences and training. This set the stage for what was to follow – significant cross-division and lab/center personnel mobility as a desired experience – for career development, expansion of the co-located engineer program, the evolution of the Aand T-Area Focal Point System, detailed roadmaps of all current and planned programs showing other laboratories and services/agencies related efforts, critical transitions to advanced development, and ManTech and systems program office (SPO) implementation opportunities. Most importantly, the Executive Group (senior leaders of the Directors Staff and Division Chiefs), became the main owners and implementers of the new OD culture. By the early 1970s the results were both dramatic and enduring, placing AFML in a clear leadership role to adapt to related efforts now emerging within the Air Force and industry in MBO, TQM and IPTs. From Dec. 6-9, 1967, AFML held its golden anniversary celebration to celebrate 50 years of laboratory research and development, but there was even more to look forward to. Beginning with the planning for the FY71 program in the autumn of 1969, the Lead Division/Focal Point Con-

1990s RX developed and produced six survivable robotic transport systems for Operation Allied Force that provided troops in Kosovo with the ability to remotely employ an array of tools and attachments to detect, analyze and render safe large explosive devices and unexploded ordnance. They also provided a rapidly deployable revetment system that makes use of indigenous materials to provide forces a high level of protection from blast, ballistic and fragmentation threats. Research was conducted in ultra pure silicon, high-temperature superconducting films, zinc-germaniumphosphide crystals and silicon carbide crystals for improved semiconductor materials for higher power microwave and electronic devices, as well as on materials for improved space stable lubricating and temperature control for spacecraft.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

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cept was formally adopted as a method of managing the laboratory’s technical program. In essence, the concept was a modified matrix management system. A series of technical areas were established (e.g. aircraft structural materials) which integrated technical effort and expertise across organizational lines. This unique new programming and planning tool established systems, application and technology areas. Each of the technology and application areas was assigned to one of the AFML Divisions as the Lead Division in that area. The Lead Division had the overall responsibility for the area – providing guidance and assuring participation on a laboratory-wide basis. The day-to-day affairs of each area, as well as the analysis, planning and program formulation was conducted and overseen by the designated “Focal Point.” The focal area was thus the basic planning unit within the laboratory and provided the fundamental rationale for resource allocation. The Composites Program established a record of technology growth and demonstrated a high level of technical maturity in a relatively short period of time, but many critical problems remained to be solved. A critical study of the area was initiated in December 1971 in response to recommendations made by the Scientific Advisory Board. This study, identified as Composites Recast, was conducted as a follow-on to the original Project Forecast in 1965. The study resulted in a master plan for next generation strategy. Data gathering for Recast was achieved through six panels. One member of the laboratory was assigned to each panel to coordinate activities and assist the panel chairperson. The panels, chaired by leading authorities in the advanced composites technology field from industry were: materials, manufacturing, design criteria, conceptual design, broadened applications, and economics. The Recast study team consisted of 100 panel members and consultants, who represented 30 industrial firms, six universities, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Preliminary findings were presented to the Advisory Committee in

February 1972. The most significant result of the Recast study was the recognition that the barriers to increased composite utilization were confidence and cost. In June 1972, George Peterson presented the master plan to the AFSC Research and Development Advisory Council. The master plan stressed four areas: technology with required reliability, confidence and cost reduction for a 20 percent vehicle weight savings, extension of technology to provide a potential 30 percent weight savings, demonstration of composites in military aircraft engines and airframes and exploitation of potential for future high-temperature engine/airframe composite systems. The enthusiastic participation among government agencies ensured an outstanding level of coordination and effective planning. Of particular importance, the objectives, the approach and the results of Composites Recast were of such quality and timeliness that NASA decided to participate in the entire study. As a direct result, NASA provided substantial support in a magnitude comparable to the Air Force program for the development of composites. THE 1970s: AFML’S NEW HOME Beginning in the early 1960s, the mission and workload of AFML was expanding significantly. Staffing had increased to peak levels, and more space was being devoted to in-house research, but with scarce funding, this work was impeded by inadequate, run-down facilities needed to house advanced research and testing equipment being procured. Rehabilitation of Buildings 32 and 51 began in 1963, but AFML leadership knew this was a stopgap measure. For as long as the laboratory had existed, it had been confined to buildings that were never totally adequate for conducting materials research with rehab efforts being severely limited by historical building status. The laboratory conceived a long-range plan for incremental improvements that would result in new modular laboratories with maximum flexibility for future adaptation, but the execution took longer

1990s A program developed a diamond-like carbon coating with fluorinated surfaces to coat microelectromechanical structures. The coating process was modified to coat locations not in the line of sight. Improved high-temperature capable magnetic materials have a significant potential for dual use in commercial applications. Research was conducted in design of materials by computer simulation, smart processing for high quality, low cost, energy efficient materials and micromolecular design. Computational modeling was developed to simulate the physical phenomena of the re­melting process.


than anticipated. It was only through the decade plus commitment and tenacity of then Plans Office Chief Bernard Chasman that the facility was successfully incorporated into the Air Force Military Construction Program (MCP), and then over several years as there was an implied greater than $20 million funding limitation as a result of severe funding competition from other base and support needs, such as hospitals, family housing and other critical base infrastructure worldwide. However, “Bernie” would not quit. Every visitor (generals, politicians, the public, etc.) to the laboratory would be shown sophisticated equipment housed in rundown rooms with leaking roofs and be forced to hear the story about AFML achievements and the facility limitations. It was said that Air Force senior leadership finally supported the MCP just to silence Bernie; quite possibly true! After President Richard Nixon signed the bill authorizing construction of a new complex of Materials Laboratory buildings at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a groundbreaking was celebrated on May 22, 1972. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the first part of the new Materials Laboratory complex (consisting of Buildings 651, 652 and 653) was held two years later, in May of 1975. Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Research and Development Dr. Walter LaBerge was the featured speaker. The new facility was a milestone for AFML. It was the first laboratory structure in its nearly 60-year history that had been designed, rather than modified, for materials research. The three buildings comprised nearly 167,000 square feet of floor space and would house five of the laboratory’s seven scientific and engineering divisions, in addition to the offices of the director and his staff. To AFML researchers, probably the

most vital feature of these new facilities was the assurance of environmental control in the research space – a clean and stable working environment in which sensitive samples could be handled and in which the accuracy of critical measurements could be assured and replicated. Shortly after the Materials Laboratory had moved to its new home, a new organization, the Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratories (AFWAL), was formed by AFSC to consolidate administration of the aeronautical laboratories. Four laboratories at Wright-Patterson, the Materials, AeroPropulsion, Avionics, and Flight Dynamics Laboratories, formed the core of AFWAL. With plans in the works for additional facilities to be built over the next decade, inhouse research at AFML gained momentum. AFML metallurgists discovered a method for developing ductility in titanium for turbo machines and explored the development of powder metallurgy and rapid solidification technologies. Additional system-focused ManTech programs provided a dramatic improvement in the production cost of the F-16 through the F-16 Technology Modernization (TechMod) program, which became the model for subsequent SPO funded Industrial Modernization (IMIP) initiatives replicated across all major acquisition programs of the Air Force and other services. At the same time, traditional ManTech projects provided multiple sources for the depleted uranium ammunition for the A-10 GAU-8 gun. ManTech initiatives in laser manufacturing (drilling, cutting and welding) led to many successes. A laser cutting program on titanium sheet metal was used in production of the Grumman F-14, a Navy plane. Laser drilling of holes in air cooled turbine blades was transitioned to the engines produced by General Electric and is now used

1990s The Composite Affordability Initiative (CAI), a collaborative effort between government and industry, achieved revolutionary breakthroughs in the cost, schedule and weight of composite airframe manufacturing. RX’s ManTech program was a key component of this initiative.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Time line

by many engine manufacturers around the world. In the early 1970s, George Peterson, then director of ManTech, in order to better focus future planning, directed the Manufacturing Technology Division of the Materials Laboratory to conduct a conference to identify the costs involved in producing aircraft and engine components. This conference was called the Sagamore Conference, held at Sagamore, New York. One of the most significant costs was found to be assembly operations. This led to a large number of manufacturing technology programs to reduce assembly costs, manufacturing concepts for unitized construction and to automate assembly operations. One such program was in aluminum castings. Working with the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory, aluminum castings technology was validated for the use in aircraft primary structures. During the development of the Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) Program, the Manufacturing Technology Division sent a team of engineers to the two competing contractors on the ALCM to identify potential programs the division could sponsor to help reduce the cost of the ALCM. One of the members of this team, Nathan Tupper, suggested to the contractors that aluminum castings might be a way to reduce the cost of the system. Boeing revised their design to aluminum castings, reducing the cost of each vehicle by about $150,000, winning the competition. The technology was eventually used on the ALCM, Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM), Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) and selected aircraft structures.

Similarly the ManTech Division developed a technology called Superplastic Forming and Diffusion Bonding of Titanium to reduce assembly costs in titanium. Also in an initiative with the Flight Dynamics Laboratory, this technology was validated for aircraft structures and was eventually used in the F-15E and most later aircraft. As defense organizations around the world began exploring applications for the use of lasers as weapons, AFML scientists explored “survivability� technologies for protecting aircraft, satellites and equipment, and even the human eye, from photonic radiation. Another program born in the 1970s was the computer-aided manufacturing initiative undertaken by the reoriented Manufacturing Technology Division of the 1950s/1960s. The central program, consisting of a new 5-year, $75 million investment directly approved by the commander of AFSC, Gen. Robert Marsh, was ICAM. ICAM, led by Dennis Wisnosky, was brought about by needs and pressures in state-ofthe-art technologies, economics, increasing human limitations, changes in aerospace design and manufacturing complexity, computer developments, and competition from abroad. The ICAM program was a logical extension of post-World War II Air Force projects in numerically controlled machine tools. It was a practical effort to greatly shorten the implementation time for incorporation of compatible and standardized techniques and to provide unified direction for industry. ICAM was essentially a program and development plan to produce systematically related modules for efficient

2000s Nanotechnology will provide revolutionary changes not only to weaponry, providing smarter systems that minimize collateral effects, but also substantially improve defensive systems such as more efficient chem/bio sensors and lighter-weight armor. One area of biotechnology involves understanding how biological organisms, such as pit viper snakes or Melanophila beetles, sense thermal or infrared energy. It is envisioned that one day, this teCHnology may be used for personal detectors that can be incorporated into clothing or helmets.


manufacturing planning, scheduling and control based upon defining an overall architecture of manufacturing. The private sector was heavily involved in the program coordination, in which a “wedge” of product fabrication was modeled, employing a newly defined “IDEF” (ICAM Definition) methodology and developed to demonstrate computer coordination at all levels of design and manufacturing. In addition to substantial cost savings and improved management control, ICAM permitted designs in which parts are computer-examined for performance evaluation and economical fabrication, and in which the computer permits rapid examination of management choices in the detailed planning, scheduling and controlling of manufacturing. Perhaps no AFML function gained more stature within the organization during this time frame than the non-destructive evaluation (NDE) techniques used to inspect for material flaws in aircraft. After a catastrophic failure in the wing structure caused the crash of an F-111 aircraft for which AFML provided critical diagnostic failure analysis, the Secretary of the Air Force ordered an increase in NDE research and development. Over the next few years, AFML’s NDE researchers helped develop and conduct inspections of the KC-135 refueling aircraft’s wing skin components, both visually, by using ultraviolet light, and physically, by using penetrants. The process eventually led to the re-skinning of some aircraft. AFML personnel also developed the first contour-following immersion ultrasonic inspection system. A concept that emerged from the laboratory’s work in NDE was the Retirement for Cause program, which included a reliable fracture mechanics/NDE procedure that determined when jet engine disks must be removed from service. Retirement for Cause resulted in a substantial cost savings and provided greater reliability and safety in turbojet engines. The Systems Support Division that had evolved out of the small Applications Branch also increased its workload after being formally established in 1972, providing direct technical support to the Air Force offices responsible for developing new weapons systems, the maintenance depots, and the major operating commands. The division, which included systems support engineers co-located

full time in individual systems program offices, became an indispensible tool for finding root causes and recommending solutions to the growing list of problems associated with aging aircraft and systems. Project Reorientation for the Eighties (PREE), popularly known as “PRE-squared,” was initiated in 1972 by AFML Director Dr. Lovelace as a new two-year planning project. The project goal was to develop a detailed understanding of the key Air Force material technology needs for the decade of the 1980s and the definition of key mid- and long-range technical planning objectives for the AFML program. Members of the PRE-squared team consisted of a senior technical specialist from each of the materials areas involving structures, propulsion, nonstructural (e.g. fluid, lubricants, elastomers, coatings), electronic/ electromagnetic and thermal protection. Air Force-wide customers, as well as aerospace industry technical and management experts, were engaged to provide authentic requirement definition, to the extent possible. 1980s: SDI, FORECAST II AND THE COLD WAR’S FINAL YEARS On July 22, 1983, AFML hosted a formal groundbreaking ceremony celebrating the beginning of construction for Building 654, an 87,200-square-foot space that would house the laboratory’s non-metallic materials research. Building 655, a third construction phase to begin in 1985, would provide nearly 99,000 square feet for metals and ceramics research. The laboratory would expand considerably during the 1980s, along with overall defense spending during the administrations of President Ronald Reagan, who was determined to outpace the capabilities of the nation’s Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union. At a time when the Air Force was fielding new spacecraft, tactical missiles, and advanced fighter aircraft, the laboratory led dramatic advances in target detection and fire control technologies. AFML personnel helped to develop semiconductor technologies that were more uniform and performed better overall. When President Ronald Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in 1983, AFML was uniquely positioned to make important and innovative technical

2000s To mitigate the effects of terrorist weapons on the occupants of buildings, an elastomeric polymer coating was developed, which can be used to absorb blast energy while containing shattered wall fragments. Retrofitting existing structures with this polymer coating will prevent an explosion from damaging personnel within a structure.


U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Deana Heitzman

AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Time line

An F-16 and C-5 at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Aug. 9, 2015. RX was there at the beginning of the F-16 and C-5 programs in the late ‘60s, and for many other fighters, transports, and bombers, too. RX is still there today keeping these large Air Force legacy fleets flying.

contributions. The scope of SDI was immense including directed energy weapons, surveillance, acquisition and tracking, kinetic energy weapons and battle management and systems analysis/support programs. The military systems brought under the SDI umbrella included many in-place Air Force capabilities. AFML had already established close and productive partnerships with these Air Force program offices so the laboratory not only offered new M&P technology but also in-place space systems relevant technology/system teams. At the SDI leadership level there was also direct awareness of AFML’s expertise and contributions. Gen. Abrahamson, chosen

by President Reagan to lead SDI, was aware of AFML capability from the work done for him developing the Air Force F-16, and Dr. William Fredericks, the SDI chief scientist, was a laboratory alumnus who had managed the development of HCT infrared detectors while in AFML. The AFML-unique technical position for SDI had several important dimensions: 1) in-place expertise in space IR detectors based on nearly two decades of work on HCT for DSP and other Air Force systems; in-place expertise on high-performance optics best exemplified by the pioneering development of rugate optical filters by Conrad Phillippi and high precision reflec-

2000s RX provided a second All-purpose Remote Transport System flail for use in removing unexploded ordnance in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They also reduced a real-time threat by developing a procedure for coating stretched acrylic windows on AC-130 Gunships.


NASA photo

Many unique and innovative technologies for directed energy and space surveillance are being provided to SDI (MDA) and other agencies by RX. Seeing and understanding space from the Hubble Telescope is one thrilling example. Today, most of these technologies find their way into many other Air Force system applications as well.

tive optics developed by Larry Matson and others; understanding and quantifying the thermal effects of high energy lasers. This latter expertise was a direct consequence of the ML ICBM C/C thermal protection system work. The thermal effects of lasers on material and structures are very similar to the extreme thermal effects on nose tip/ heat shield materials re-entering the earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. The laser thermal effects where especially important at the outset for SDI because it needed to know how powerful the laser weapons needed to be (materials and structures “lethality”) and how U.S. assets could be protected against enemy lasers (“laser hardening”). This system “hardening” was also required for the surveillance optics, so AFML led the development of a “second” color focal plane for DSP, for example, to provide a strategic surveillance observation window outside the range of possible threat lasers. The Laser-Hardened Materials Evaluation Facility (LHMEL) at AFML for evaluating the thermal effects of high-energy lasers was available for SDI applications

after Gary Denman established the capability in the ’70s. Dr. Denman subsequently became AFML director and later director of DARPA. The revolutionary rugate filter optical coating system has also found wide application beyond laser hardening – for example, in astronomical telescopes. The program was also of major interest to the metals and organic matrix composites communities, since potential components for space environments would need to be lightweight, while achieving the necessary structural characteristics, and as space components materials traded off performance and cost, therefore materials such as metal matrix composites with superior properties could receive favorable consideration. At the same time, the laboratory pursued the development of countermeasures to protect aircraft from missiles that used infrared (heat-seeking) guidance. The laboratory also pursued the development of nonlinearoptical (NLO) crystals, which could be used for wavelength conversion in solid-state laser sources. This development

2000s RX development of spacecraft coating experiments began in the 1960s and continues today. The characterization of the performance of thermal control coatings in space environments has been essential. RX coating experiments flew on Skylab in the ’60s, the Long Duration Exposure Facility in the ’80s and are currently on the Materials on International Space Station Experiment.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

effort led to the commercial availability of many new crystals to military laser designers. Several NDE techniques were refined during the 1980s that allowed AFML personnel to detect ever-smaller hidden flaws in critical structures. One example was a portable ultrasonic C-scan equipment project led by the Manufacturing Technologies Division that permitted detailed inspections of laminated composite structures. This project led directly to industry’s development of later versions. The current Boeing AUSS (Automated Ultrasonic Scanner) is a technological descendant of the MAUS (Mobile Automated Scanner) family of ultrasonic inspection equipment that AFML helped develop. AFML found itself on the cutting edge of another technology development effort in the 1980s as DOD’s pursuit of a stealth aircraft began to bear fruit. Laboratory technicians developed and improved composites and radar-transparent materials for stealth or low-observable aircraft such as the F-117 Nighthawk, the Air Force’s first stealth attack plane, which first flew in 1983, and the B-2 bomber, which first flew in 1989. In August 1985, Gen. L. A. Skantze initiated Project Forecast II. This was a study, like its namesake Project Forecast, initiated by Gen. Bernard Schriever during the early 1960s, organized to identify and promote enabling technologies for revolutionary advances in U. S. aerospace capabilities. Forecast II established thirty-nine project technologies (PTs). AFML was named lead office of primary responsibility for four of the PTs and a participant for two others. The laboratory’s program received new direction from the PTs that included High Temperature Materials, Ultra Structured Materials, Ultra Light Airframes, Advanced Manufacturing Technology and Unified Life Cycle Engineering. As a result of Forecast II, some longstanding laboratory efforts were terminated while others were strengthened. The current home of today’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate was largely completed in 1987, in time for the laboratory’s 70th anniversary celebration. Buildings 654 and 655 were formally dedicated over a three-day celebration in August of that year, giving the laboratory its first-ever suite of fully modern research facilities. In 1988, a reorganization of the Air Force’s R&D efforts replaced AFWAL with the Wright Research and Development Center (WRDC). Manufacturing Technology, a key division of AFML for many years, was spun off into its own directorate within the WRDC. THE 1990s: A DECADE OF MATURING The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a prelude to the dramatic collapse of the Soviet Union on Dec. 26, 1991. The United States, for a brief interlude, had achieved


dominance in what some now view nostalgically as the traditional “peer-to-peer” paradigm of warfare, with traditional Air Force platforms driving the development of materials and processes. The end of the Cold War, however, introduced several factors that presented immediate and evolving challenges for AFML, which was renamed the Materials Directorate in a 1990 consolidation of Air Force laboratories into four “super” laboratories: Wright Laboratory, Wright-Patterson AFB; Armstrong Laboratory, Brooks AFB; Rome Laboratory, Griffiss AFB; and Phillips Laboratory, Kirtland AFB. The inevitable drawdown in defense spending compelled the Pentagon to wring more value from its existing research and development programs. Several initiatives emerged for this purpose that involved the Materials Laboratory. For example, the laboratory led the Lean Aerospace Initiative (LAI), a collaborative research effort designed to lower production costs, significantly reduce development and production cycle times, improve product quality and minimize waste. Another collaborative endeavor, the Composite Affordability Initiative (CAI), achieved revolutionary breakthroughs in the cost, production schedule and weight of composite airframes. The Metals Affordability Initiative (MAI), a consortium launched in 1999, is dedicated to leveraging government and industry resources to reduce metallic aircraft component costs and accelerate the implementation of these components. With more than 85 project participants, including 22 universities and more than 50 small businesses, MAI has funded more than 80 projects so far, resulting in the insertion of more than 100 technologies into military systems defense-wide. These projects have yielded a return on investment of more than $1.86 billion. Meanwhile, the rapid proliferation of information technology, across the computer networks spawned from the DARPA development of the Internet, enabled powerful new tools for the design and manufacture of materials. Materials Directorate personnel conducted research in the design of materials by computer simulation, in “smart” processing procedures for quality improvement, in producing low-cost, energy-efficient materials and in macromolecular design. Computational tools were developed that became part of a continuing trend to be able to tailor a material or process to meet a specific requirement. The move toward this next level of materials, processes and manufacturing, was demonstrated, in the late-1980s through the decade of the 1990s, by the work of key researchers in ML who reduced new computational and analytical capabilities to practical tools for materials and manufacturing science. For example, Dr. Hal Gegel led a team that brought computational methods to metal casting and forging. The processing software, DEFORM and PROCAST, patented from his work, has been in

use ever since and has contributed to the production of both defense and commercial products – an industry standard. Dr. Steve LeClair and Dr. Frances Abrams applied advanced thinking and artificial intelligence to self-directed autoclave curing of advanced composite materials, materials now found in many areas of our lives: aviation, spacecraft, medicine, etc. Other pioneers in the materials computational demonstrations include Dr. Ruth Pachter (Quantum Mechanical Computation of Materials Behavior), Dr. Charles Browning (Compositional Analysis of Composite Matrix Materials), Dr. Lee Semiatin (Metals Processing), Dr. Doug Dudis (Design of High Temperature Polymers), Dr. Walt Haas (Processing of Critical Spacecraft Coatings), Dr. Tia Benson Tolle (Engineered Materials), Dr. Rich Vaia (Behavior of Nanomaterials), Dr. Dennis Dimiduk (Deformation in Metals), Dr. Nick Pagano (Mechanics of Composites), and many more in the teams that are inherent in such work. Post-Cold War Europe, while generally stable, suffered through a decade of bloody conflict in the former Soviet satellite of Yugoslavia, where ethnic disputes resulted in a series of wars on the Balkan Peninsula. When the United States and its NATO allies intervened in the Kosovo War, the Materials Directorate played a crucial role in supporting warfighters in Operation Allied Force. This critical support included, for example, the development and production of survivable robotic transport systems that gave troops the ability to remotely detect, analyze, and neutralize explosive devices and unexploded ordnance. The laboratory also developed and provided a rapidly deployable revetment system, which enabled troops to protect themselves from blast, ballistic and fragmentation threats. Many innovative materials developments for SDI in the ’70s and ’80s by AFML were very mature by the ’90s. When leadership formed a technology team to partner with the Missile Defense Agency in S&T arenas of mutual leveraging interest, a wide range of AFML technologies were ready for consideration. Prominent among these were, GaAs solar cells, rugate filters, high performance ceramic rocket nozzles and high precision optical materials. Larry Matson was one of the lead AFML SMEs in this partnership. His expertise and leadership and that of many other AFML researchers and engineers were highly regarded by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). This AFML and AFRL technical leadership expertise for missile defense is being called on today. Other Materials Directorate programs continued to advance in the 1990s, branching out into emerging technologies such as Micro-Electromechanical Systems (MEMS). With proven expertise in the materials used to manufacture MEMS – silicon, polymers, metals and ceramics – the laboratory continued to refine the materials used in these and other applications. One of

the key capabilities in MEMS processing, the deposition of material films as thin as a few nanometers, was advanced by the Materials Directorate’s research in high-temperature superconducting films. The laboratory developed a diamond-like fluorinated carbon coating for MEMS structures, a process modified to coat locations not in the line of sight. Researchers also investigated Zinc-Germanium-Phosphide (ZGP) and silicon carbide crystals, unique non-linear crystals for higher-power microwave and electronic devices. In 1992, the laboratory celebrated the 75th anniversary of materials expertise for the air services. The celebration was supported by Dr. Vince Russo, the laboratory director, and organized by Robert Rapson, who led a team from across the laboratory. The celebration included activities throughout the year planned to honor the laboratory employees and families, to provide technical and program content to the laboratory’s stakeholders, and to reach out to the larger community with the concluding anniversary banquet. VIPs from industry, academia, government and the Dayton Community were hosted by Dr. Russo on Nov. 5, 1992, with a briefing on the laboratory history and a brief reception. The banquet was held that evening in the Modern Flight Gallery of the Air Force Museum, hosted by the commander of the Aeronautical Systems Division, Lt. Gen. Thomas Ferguson, who was formerly assigned to the laboratory. More than 400 celebrants, including laboratory family and friends, government supporters and industry partners, enjoyed a memorable evening, including a patriotic flag ceremony; music from the Band of Flight, an address from Ohio Governor George Voinovich, and a stirring video presentation. Personnel from all elements of the laboratory worked to make a celebration that was fitting for a team-oriented and “family” organization. The military downsizing that followed the Soviet Union’s collapse prompted a round of consolidations and reorganizations that altered the Air Force’s research and development enterprise throughout the decade, culminating in the activation of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in 1997. In an ensuing round of consolidation, 22 technology laboratories and technologies were combined into 10 directorates, which were later consolidated to nine after the Air Vehicles and Propulsion Directorates were combined. One of these directorates, the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (AFRL/RX), combined the core elements of the existing Materials Directorate with elements from Flight Dynamics, Avionics, Environics and Manufacturing Technology. THE 21st CENTURY: MATERIALS RESEARCH IN THE DIGITAL AGE The wars that began after the terrorist attacks in New York City, Shanksville, Pennsylvania and Washington,


Robert T. Schwartz Engineering Achievement Award - This award recognizes engineering accomplishments of Air Force government personnel assigned to the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, and has been established to honor individuals or teams who have made the most outstanding materials and/or process engineering achievements and contributions for an activity requiring a sustained effort over a period of one to three years. A significant contribution from contractual engineering activities is allowed. This award is based on professional engineering contributions of an individual or team. 2016: Team: J.Daniel Berrigan, Michael Durstock & Benjamin Leever 2015: Team: Brandon Black, Douglas Carter, Alan Fletcher, Ryan Justice and Ryan Osysko 2014: Team: Adam Pilchak, Timothy Swigart, Robert Ware 2013: Team: Patrick Golden & Robert Ware 2012: RXAS Team: Michael Durstock, Shane Juhl & Ben Leever 2011: Christopher Brewer, Walter Johnson & James Theodore 2010: Jay Jira 2009: Timothy Breitzman

2008: John Brausch 2007: Max Alexander 2006: NO CEREMONY HELD 2005: Jonathan Miller 2004: Steven Gerken, Eddie White, Michael Manders & Joseph Kuznair 2003: David Johnson & George Slenski 2002: Lt. Gary Steffes & Charles Buynak 2001: John Jones 2000: Katie Thorp & David Curliss 1999: David Mollenhauer 1998: Capt. Robbie Passinault & Michael Halliwell 1997: Steven Gerken, David

Johnson, Michael Manders, George Slenski & Eddie White 1996: Dennis Conboy, Capt. Jeffery Farmer & Steve Wortman 1995: John P. Mistretta & Keith Bowman 1994: Capt. Michael Holl, Kenneth Johnson & James McCoy 1993: James Malas 1992: Frances Abrams & Steven LeClair 1991: Mark Forte, James Mazza & Master Sgt. Bryan Cramer 1990: Lawrence Matson 1989: Lois Gschwender, Carl Snyder Jr. & Michael Stropki 1988: Robert McConnell

1987: William Lehn 1986: Larry Parsons 1985: Bruce Rasmussen 1984: Alan Hopkins 1983: Sylvester Lee 1982: Charles Browning 1981: Walter Reimann 1980: Robert Urzi 1979: John Koenig 1978: R. Douglas Hutchens & Donald Knapke 1977: Stephen Babjak 1976: Larry Clark 1975: Russell Kennard & Shingo Inouye 1974: Howard Zoeller 1973: John Christian

R. Lee Kennard S&T Manufacturing Heritage Award - This award recognizes the outstanding performance and accomplishments of Air Force government personnel assigned to the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. It has been established to honor individuals or teams who have made significant contributions in establishing a responsive, worldclass manufacturing and industrial base capability which provides affordable, low-risk development and production of weapon systems meeting the warfighters’ needs, throughout the weapon system life cycle. 2016: Team: Brenchley Boden, Amber Gilbert, Pamela Kobryn, & Richard Meyers 2015: Theodore Finnessy 2014: Jamie Hoff 2013: Dilip Punatar 2012: Jamie Hoff 2011: Team: Jason Blake

& Kenneth LaCivita 2010: Jennifer Brown 2009: Team: Howard Sizek & Carl Lombard 2008: Kenny Johnson 2007: Team: James Poindexter & David See 2006: NO CEREMONY HELD

2005: Raymond Linville 2004: James Neely 2003: Pamela Kobryn & Walter Zimmer 2002: Alan Herner 2001: David See 2000: Chuck Wagner 1999: Anthony Bumbalough

1998: Persis Elwood 1997: John Blevins 1996: Mary Kinsella 1995: Tracy Houpt 1994: Alan Herner

Vincent J. Russo Award for Leadership Excellence - This award recognizes outstanding performance and accomplishments of Air Force government personnel assigned to the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. It has been established to honor an individual who has made significant contributions to the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate in the management and leadership of activities, people or organizations. 2016: Benjamin Leever 2015: Mark Forte 2014: Pamela Schaefer 2013: Michael Caton 2012: Christopher Brewer 2011: Charles Ward 2010: Douglas Carter


2009: Jeff Zabinski 2008: Rajesh Naik 2007: William Russell 2006: NO CEREMONY HELD 2005: Lynette Brown 2004: Daniel Brewer 2003: Morley Stone

2002: John Mistretta 2001: Diana Carlin 2000: Katherine Stevens 1999: Timothy Strange III 1998: Joseph Burns 1997: David Beeler 1996: Christopher Ristich

1995: Laura Rae 1994: Gary Waggoner 1993: Charles Browning, Robert Rapson & Scott Theibert 1992: Paul Smith 1991: Joel Casebere

AFRL Fellows Since 1987, the Air Force Research Laboratory has been recognizing its best and brightest minds for their exceptional leadership and contributions to advancing technologies for the warfighter. The highest honor the AFRL bestows on its researchers, the AFRL Fellowship, recognizes its most outstanding scientists and engineers in research, development and technical management annually. The highly prestigious award is given only to the top 0.2 percent of AFRL’s technical professionals. Only 179 AFRL Fellows have been selected since the program’s inception. In addition to the recognition, bestowed at an annual ceremony, inductees are awarded a two-year research grant totaling $300,000 – though they are considered AFRL Fellows for life. Of all the AFRL directorates, Materials and Manufacturing (RX) currently has the most – 16 of the 79 active AFRL Fellows are from the RX. RX personnel who have been awarded an AFRL Fellowship include:

1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1998

Dr. Nick Pagano Dr. Ted Nicholas Dr. George Sendeckj Dr. Steve Tsai Dr. Fred Arnold Dr. Walt Haas Dr. Jim Whitney Dr. Wade Adams Dr. Robert Evers Dr. Lee Semiatin Dr. Ron Kerans Dr. Bill Mitchel Dr. Jim Larsen Dr. Bob Crane Dr. Dennis Dimiduk Dr. Jim Malas

1999 Dr. Mel Ohmer 2000 Dr. Dan Miracle 2001 Dr. Ruth Pachter 2003 Dr. Jeff Zabinski (ARMY) Dr. Gail Brown 2004 Mr. Larry Perkins 2005 Dr. Morley Stone 2006 Dr. Kumar Jata Mr. Ed Snyder 2007 Dr. Tim Bunning 2008 Dr. Jim Grote 2009 Dr. Loon-Seng Tan 2010 Dr. Rich Vaia 2012 Dr. Rajesh Naik 2015 Dr. Reji John Mr. Byron Edmonds

D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001, emphatically appeared to alter the U.S. approach to warfare, but in fact, this transition to “asymmetric” conflicts, fought against stateless adversaries, was one of several that had already been revolutionizing the task of AFRL/RX and other elements of the U.S. defense research and development enterprise. By the 21st century, increasingly integrated global markets, the widespread availability of information, and more competitive STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) capabilities worldwide had eroded U.S. dominance both economically and intellectually. Domestically, the defense industry’s tight control of technology development and the industrial base began to loosen. Meanwhile the armed services’ ongoing trend toward jointness, both operationally and in shared facilities, was a crucial tool in leveraging the knowledge and skills of engineers and scientists throughout defense R&D, and throughout the world as well. While it maintains a robust in-house

research capability, RX has expanded its robust collaboration efforts, not only among other AFRL directorates, but with partners in the DOD, including Reliance 21, Materials and Manufacturing Processes, Community of Interest; other federal agencies, industry, academia, and the international community, including The Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP) Partnership and NATO. Today, RX outsources about 75 percent of its non-salary budget to these partners, bringing the most innovative science and technology to yield solutions for the Air Force. As RX’s way of working evolved, so too did the way it viewed its work. Materials science had matured from an era in which engineers determined desired properties and, to meet a specified function, developed a static material with those properties. The field is now increasingly directed toward the development of complex material systems: nano-tailored, multifunctional “smart” systems that can adapt and self-repair, produced with the most current methods of digital manufacture. This view is illustrated in the current organizational structure of RX, which has consolidated its research operations into four technical divisions, no longer built around the materials themselves (i.e., metallic and non-metallic), but around what those materials do. The directorate’s four technical divisions are Structural Materials (such as composites or metals), Functional Materials (such as electronics or photonics), Manufacturing and


Senior Scientists Within the federal government, senior scientific and professional (ST) positions are a unique category of non-executive professions classified within the Senior Executive Service (SES) – the highest-ranking non-appointed leaders within the federal workforce, an echelon above the GS-15 designation. Fewer than 500 of the federal government’s most renowned scientists and engineers serve in ST positions, which involve performance of high-level research and development in the physical, biological, medical or engineering sciences. Thirty of these STs are leaders within the Air Force Research Laboratory, and five of them are with the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. They are: • Dr. Ruth Pachter, Senior Scientist, Computational Materials Science and Engineering • Dr. Dan Miracle, Senior Scientist, Materials for Micro and Nano Systems • Dr. Jim Larsen, Senior Scientist, Structural Materials for Life Prediction • Dr. Lee Semiatin, Senior Scientist, Materials Processing/Processing Science • Dr. Tim Bunning, Chief Scientist

Time line

Industrial Technologies, and Systems Support. Its four nontechnical support divisions include Financial Management, Integration and Operations, R&D Contracting, and the Management Operations Office. Increasingly, applications are calling for materials that are both structural and functional. This new paradigm has spawned in-house initiatives such as the Adaptive, Active and Multifunctional Composite and Hybrid Materials Program. This effort was a four-year investigation that began in 2010 to map the future development of organic, polymeric and carbonaceous composite and hybrid materials with combined physical properties, such as structural load-bearing, electrical or thermal conductivity, elastomeric shape-changing or phase-changing. A long-term multifunctional program will build on work such as the recent RX development of a Shape Memory Polymer (SMP) composite. The directorate demonstrated the use of this composite as a deployable

solid surface antenna reflector for satellites. SMPs are “smart” materials, capable of returning from a deformed state to their original shape after an external stimulus such as a temperature change. Other newer research areas within RX include increasingly advanced studies in biotechnology or biomimetics. The biotechnology program, begun in the late 1990s with, leadership of Dr. Wade Adams, Dr. Morley Stone, and Dr. Rajesh Naik, focused on the ability of snakes and insects to detect infrared radiation, has expanded to include biotechnology’s broader potential when integrated with materials science. RX biotechnology research now includes topics like the basic structural science of biological materials such as silk or elastin, or unique capabilities such as biological self-assembly, coloration, thermoresponse, or soft-matter patterning. The field of nanotechnology, meanwhile, promises to revolutionize materials science, enabling weapons systems that minimize

2010s RX moved into its current complex in the 1970s, and has conducted state-of-the-art research here ever since. The evolving needs for better materials and research have led to the requirement for a new building dedicated to modeling and simulation. This will help RX provide research that reduces cycle time and leads to greater affordability in support of the warfighter, through integrated use of “virtual-world simulation” and experiments.


collateral effects while improving defensive systems with more efficient biological- and chemical-sensing capabilities and ultra-lightweight armor. Recent RX breakthroughs in nanomaterials science include several advances in the understanding of the “super-material” graphene. This material is a two-dimensional sheet of pure carbon atoms, arranged in a honeycomb lattice, which in its pure form is the thinnest material possible, the strongest material known to exist, and a better electrical conductor than any material known. With its potential to reshape both the structure and function of Air Force capabilities – and of virtually every technological application developed in the past century – graphene promises to be as transformative a technology as the silicon chip. Several RX collaborations have produced new methods of nondestructive and non-invasive materials evaluations, including a laser-based ultrasonic scanner to inspect composite aircraft parts; a hand-held surgical NDE tool for reaching and inspecting the interior of complex systems without having to remove hardware or disassemble structures; and a hand-held sensor system that allows personnel to characterize materials beneath topcoats, such as thick ceramic tiles. RX’s early work in developing spacecraft coatings and in characterizing the performance of thermal control coatings in space has grown into one of the directorate’s most expansive collaborative projects, the Materials on the International Space Station Experiment (MISSE), which began in 2001. The working group, which also includes AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate (RQ), the U.S. Air Force Academy, NASA, Sandia National Laboratories, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, DOD’s Space Test Program, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, The Boeing Company and The Aerospace Corporation, has now deployed more than 1,500 material samples, including not only basic materials such as polymers, coatings and composites, but also components such as switches, sensors and mirrors. The MISSE has yielded valuable insights into the effects of these materials during long-term exposure to the harsh environment of space. A seventh MISSE project, in the planning and development phase, is expected to bring the total experiments count to about 2,500. While constantly maintaining a climate of innovation, RX has kept its focus on the mission of the Air Force and the warfighter. The nature of 21st century expeditionary warfare has presented new threats and challenges to warfighters and military infrastructure, and RX has been instrumental in protecting lives and property, particularly through the work of scientists and engineers at the directorate’s former research facility at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Innovations produced there through the work of RX and its partners over the last decade include: • new lightweight armor, • air-cooled vests for pilots; • lightweight helmet-mounted displays; • fire-resistant tent fabric; • robots for automated ground refueling of aircraft; • ammunition casings made from lightweight polymers; • Transportable Waste-to-Energy System (TWES) to produce electricity at forward military operating locations; • under-vehicle scanning system to search for explosive weapons; • all-purpose Remote Transport System flail for removing unexploded ordnance;

Early Career Award Winners In 2012, as a supplement to its Fellowship Program, the Air Force Research Laboratory established the Early Career Award, honoring the most promising young scientists and researchers in the organization for contributions made early in their careers. Typically bestowed to scientists and engineers within the first seven years of their careers, the award is accompanied by a three-year research grant totaling $300,000. AFRL Early Career Award winners from the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate include: 2012 Dr. Timothy J. White 2013 Dr. Michael Groeber 2015 Dr. Adam L. Pilchak 2016 Dr. Craig P. Przybyla

• protective coating for the acrylic windows of AC-130 gunships, and; • elastomeric polymer coating that can be used to retrofit buildings, absorbing blast energy and containing shattered wall fragments in the event of an explosion. A century later, RX hardly resembles the organization that was activated at McCook Field in December 1917. From that first handful of researchers investigating the properties of wood, textiles, and metals, the directorate has grown into a comprehensive research and development program, with nearly 1,000 scientists, engineers and support staff at work in more than 300 laboratory modules, studying materials for a variety of purposes, from structural support to remote sensing, to energy harvesting, to stealth capability. It’s a world-class workforce that after 100 years is still continually developing the next generation of applications and processes needed to defend the country in a world of rapidly evolving threats.


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

AFRL/RX: A Vision for the Future By Dr. Dan Miracle


FRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (RX) has always had eyes on the future, from the days of improving aircraft constructed of wood and cloth, to current research on bio-nanoelectronics and additive manufacturing. AFRL Chief Technology Officer Dr. Morley Stone believes that the critical role RX and its predecessors have played in the explosion of flight capabilities in the 20th century, from high-temperature titanium to low observable coatings to advanced composites, is only a prelude to what it will achieve in the 21st century. “Most people don’t really appreciate what the aftermath of World War II meant to the materials community. Today’s polymers, coatings, and aerospace structural materials all came out of World War II. The increased functionality of aircraft – weight savings, extended speed and range, and heat resistance – all are part of that period. And, as we look to the future, in some ways, it is back to the future,” Stone said, since a number of critical problems for the future were studied but never solved in past years. In RX, vision is the art of conceiving and developing materials for a new capability before the Air Force identifies a need. These materials can give new capabilities, or they can defend against potential threats that adversaries might conceive. RX must develop these visionary technologies long before anyone else, or before others field a new threat. This is the pre-emptive edge that keeps the U.S. Air Force the strongest in the world. According to former RX Director Vincent J. Russo (1988-1996), the rule of thumb is that it takes 10 to 15 years between the


time a material is first studied in RX to the day that the Air Force finally asks for it. By maintaining a pulse on trends in materials research, technologies and the threat environment, RX positions itself to be ready with materials solutions for that day the Air Force is ready. “When you peel it back, almost every improvement in aerospace functionality is rooted in a materials advance. Without materials research, we wouldn’t have low observable aircraft, which gave us air supremacy in the past couple of decades. Over the past few years, we’ve realized that we need more than just low observable materials – we also need new electronic warfare (EW) capabilities. And when you peel that apart, you find it is a fundamental materials issue in terms of the chips being used to provide more power for the electronic devices,” Stone said. These next-generation materials are rooted in basic science, but achieving a visionary advantage requires much more. The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate constantly hones the major parts of the science and technology (S&T) enterprise needed to maintain its visionary edge. These key components include strategic selection of the most important technologies to develop; a workforce with exceptional talents and capabilities, strategic partnerships outside of RX, facilities to accelerate the innovation process and streamlined processes to make even better use of the technical talent in the laboratory. Strategic selection of game-changing technologies: A key aspect of RX’s success in the future will be continuing the process by which research projects are selected and

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This large vacuum chamber, located in Building 1621 (formerly 71A), is capable of simulating the temperature and pressure conditions of low-Earth orbit. Fully cryo-shrouded, the chamber can reach temperatures of 77 Kelvin and pressures of 10-6 torr. Research on materials and systems behavior in these operational environments enables RX to validate performance and demonstrate technology maturity.

resources allocated. There has never been enough time, money, people or facilities to do everything that RX could be doing to benefit the Air Force, so strategic selection of the most important technologies needed to achieve the mission is absolutely essential. With a strong knowledge of needs from the Department of Defense (DOD), Air Force and other organizations, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) defines a short list of major, gamechanging capabilities. In the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, these long-term capabilities help inform selection of the most important materials technologies that are essential to the success of these game-changers. Other inputs to strategic visioning are industrial needs and capabilities, university programs, and a rigorous evaluation of the technical state-of-the-art around the world. This process requires critical, strategic thinking, and continuous

reevaluation and includes almost all of the RX staff at one level or another. Doing this well requires insight, the ability to take smart risks and a keen knowledge of ongoing technology developments across the globe. RX has extensive experience with this strategic assessment and uses this as its crystal ball to see into the future. AFRL game-changing technologies currently include hypersonic flight and directed energy weapons. Hypersonic flight requires new propulsion capabilities (supersonic combusting ramjet or scramjet) to power aircraft beyond Mach 5. Lasers are the best-known directed energy weapon, but in the future, other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum will be used. Both of these game-changing technologies depend on new materials. Hypersonic aircraft need lightweight structural materials for both the airframe and the engine that can withstand temperatures far beyond


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

AFRL image

RX developed the Integrated Collaborative Environment (ICE) to support ICMSE. ICE, which is built on the RX developed HyperThought™ software platform, provides RX researchers common access to research data and software tools to make the process of materials research much more efficient.

current technologies. Directed energy systems need new solid state materials to produce and channel high-energy pulses of electromagnetic energy. New materials are also needed to produce compact and efficient power sources required by directed energy systems. These technologies are being addressed in work currently underway in RX. Another area that will become increasingly important to RX, the Air Force and society as a whole, is the next generation of electronic structures, Stone added, noting that flexible hybrid electronics are rapidly changing the way we look at design. RX research in 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) is creating flexible hybrid electronic devices that can stretch, twist, and conform to complex shapes. These devices could act as flexible batteries, conformal antennae, and biological monitoring devices and could be used for a range of other tasks. This technology removes the traditional barriers of geometry and allows for conformal designs, allowing for more “personalization” of electronics and weapons systems. “Think of a wearable electronic that recognizes the individual trying to take the controls and adjusts the presentation of data to fit that individual’s skills and preferred mode of looking at information,” Stone said. “This all happens in the background – knowing that John does the job differently from Mary, who was on the shift before him. This enables the system to operate the same way a human would, who automatically knows when a teammate is tired or overloaded. By reengineering that interface, the machine will no longer be a tool but function much more like a teammate.” In addition to specific materials that satisfy a particular need, some of the technologies in RX’s future vision are more broadly based. According to RX Chief Scientist Dr. Tim Bunning, these technology themes include nanotechnology, biotechnology, and integrated computational materials science and engineering (ICMSE). Bunning calls nanotechnology a “new way” of approaching science and technology rather than a new product.


“We think of nanotechnology as an enabler, allowing an expansion of the human understanding of natural physical laws. This ‘new understanding’ will provide new technology transfer programs and concepts of operations, allowing us to maintain a technological edge in new capabilities through the creation and exploitation of engineered materials,” said Bunning. Biotechnology offers immense potential, from understanding how to identify and control biological “pests” that can degrade Air Force systems and capabilities, to harnessing unique biological concepts for new capabilities. Already, efforts in RX are helping overcome problems from biological contamination of jet fuel, and future research may use biological materials as exquisite sensors to warn of biological or chemical agents in the battlefield. ICMSE is building a new way to accelerate science by integrating new computational tools, new high-throughput experiments and a new ability to “data-mine” the large datasets being generated in worldwide research efforts. Part of the national Materials Genome Initiative (MGI), in which RX played a leadership role, ICMSE promises to dramatically reduce the time it traditionally takes to take a new material from initial concept to first application. By using new machine learning tools and mathematical topology to find hidden relationships in the vast amount of materials data already available, ICMSE also offers new tools for discovering important new materials. In the past, advanced materials usually came with a higher price tag, but in the future, these new technologies need to “bend the cost curve.” The RX future vision includes several technologies to do just that. With widespread commercial availability of 3D printers, AM has become almost a household term. This technique promises to revolutionize manufacturing, especially for small parts in low numbers. It’s relatively easy to make parts that don’t need high strength, where failure of the part doesn’t endanger human lives or put a major

Lockheed Martin image

Lockheed Martin’s SR-72 concept for a hypersonic successor to the SR-71 Blackbird. A new generation of materials will be needed to enable sustained hypersonic flight.

aerospace system at risk. However, using AM to produce highly stressed, “fracturecritical” parts remains a long-term challenge. Scientists at RX are working with industry, partners in the Department of Energy (DOE), and companies that manufacture AM machines to resolve major issues so that the most critical AM parts can be produced reliably and consistently. RX has already initiated programs to develop the science needed to “validate and verify” additively manufactured metal parts, giving a technical foundation for eventual certification as flight critical parts. “Other materials technologies are being pursued to drive down the cost of military aerospace systems,” Bunning said. “High-temperature thermo-setting polymers are being developed to replace heavier, more expensive metal parts in the lower-temperature areas of gas turbine engines. Major aerospace systems, like the F-35, are manufactured in a dedicated factory using dedicated tooling. Agile manufacturing

initiatives at RX are developing the technologies that will help production facilities retool quickly and manufacture more than one aerospace system in the same facility, driving down cost. And, RX is working to develop and transition physics-based materials models that can be used to more accurately predict how much life remains in the most critical and expensive parts in gas turbine engines, altering the one-size-fits-all approach to safety of today where turbine blades, vanes and disks are thrown away after a set length of time, regardless of remaining life. By using actual operating conditions for each engine, these new models offer the possibility to predict how much life each engine part actually has left. This allows the parts to safely be used longer, significantly reducing the cost to operate the Air Force fleet.” Identifying and prioritizing strategic technical problems is an essential part of achieving a future vision, but success also relies on the ability to maintain a stable foundation of


Courtesy photo

AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

Students from the Minority Leaders Research Collaboration Program spent time learning about aviation history at Dayton’s Carillon Park. This outing was planned in conjunction with the students’ summer internships, where they worked alongside their AFRL/RX S&E mentors.


talent and funding. Long-term research always competes with near-term urgencies for limited resources, especially in a mission-oriented organization. The longest-term research in RX accounts for a relatively small fraction of total resources, yet this visionary research maintains a high priority in the directorate. Building a visionary workforce: The nature of technical problems and the tools used to solve them are changing fast. More and more, scientific problems require an ability to work with more than one technical discipline. This has been true for a long time in materials science, where traditional fields of metallurgy, ceramics, polymer science, mechanics, physics, chemistry and engineering all come together. More recently, the scientific playing field is becoming even further congested. Computer science, mathematics, statistics, biology and even artificial intelligence and machine learning are all important disciplines in the pursuit of new materials. These additions require a different workforce for the future. Future scientists and engineers will need to be skilled in more

than one discipline and must be able to work with others outside of their own technical comfort zone. Since technologies change rapidly, this new workforce needs to include fast learners who understand the need to seek solutions to problems outside of their primary fields of study. As a result, rather than hiring for skill in a particular field, which is easy to see on a resume, supervisors are looking more seriously at talents that are harder to pick out in an interview, such as adaptability and teamwork skills. These talents augment skills of creativity, self-motivation, communication and leadership, which all remain highly valued as RX looks to the future. Hiring in the directorate has followed a boom/bust cycle. Employment surged with the launch of Sputnik and the start of the Cold War in the late 1950s, followed by a lull during the 1960s and 1970s. Retirement of the Sputnik generation led to a hiring boom in the 1980s, which slowed in the 1990s due to the “peace dividend” at the end of the Cold War and from a reemphasis of operational needs in the early 2000s. That gen-

U.S. Air Force photo

Research Advanced Concepts Division engineers work on a polyimide composite structure. Composite structures are commonly used on a variety of aircraft applications, including F-135 and F-110 engines; B-2, F-117 and F-22 aircraft; missile structures; and sixth-generation engines. Interfacing with academia and industry is important to AFRL/RX research efforts going forward.

eration of recruits is now poised to leave in large numbers, and RX is currently hiring the workforce that will carry out the Air Force vision for the next several decades. A major issue for U.S. laboratories, where a portion of the work is classified, is the low number of U.S. citizens who are getting Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). But, RX does have a strong hand to play. “If you have the most interesting problems – and that is one thing we are blessed with at DOD – and the right environment in which to work on those problems, people will come. In the past two or three years, the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate has brought in about 70 new hires, who have been phenomenal in terms of their quality and caliber,” Stone said. Stone also added that RX is in the enviable position of having more qualified candidates than they can hire, with young talent that is among the best in the world. RX personnel also dedicate a significant number of hours to building our next generation by participating in K-12 programs and university and college student internship programs. In fact, in 2016 alone, RX hosted more than 200 student and university fac-

ulty for summer-long internships and faculty programs. AFRL/RX has a formalized workforce diversity program called Minority Leaders – Research Collaboration Program (MLRCP), which was hailed as “the DOD model” by the White House Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI) Office. RX also was the recipient of the 2014 AFRL Diversity Award. AFRL is working to make it even more attractive for the best talent to choose employers like RX, and the organization recently established an Entrepreneurial Opportunity program that grants employees leave for up to one year to rapidly transition a new idea developed in the laboratory through a start-up business or an existing small business. They are still employed by AFRL, and at the end of the year the employee can return to the laboratory or can separate from AFRL to continue building the new business. Partnerships: It’s not always possible for RX to have the expertise and the facilities to address all the materials topics needed by the Air Force all of the time, so strategic partnerships have always been an important


AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY Materials and Manufacturing Directorate

part of the RX portfolio. Formal partnerships with other directorates in AFRL were formed in the early 2000s through Strategic Technology Teams (STTs), which have more recently been replaced with the Commander’s Research and Development Fund (CRDF). The Air Force, Army and Navy have shared responsibility for different parts of the broad, major technologies needed in the DOD through Project Reliance in the last two decades of the last century, and through Communities of Interest (COIs) more recently. Formal alliances with industry include the Composites Affordability and Metals Affordability Initiatives, the latter of which was started in 1999 and is still in force today. Even more important, industry receives two-thirds of RX funds through contracts, supporting a consistently strong connection with the needs and talents in the U.S. aerospace industry. Centers of Excellence (COEs) connect selected universities with RX on specific topics, expanding the talent and facilities brought to bear on fundamental Air Force problems while training students with skills needed by RX. And, RX has always had a large number of formal international relationships with strategic international partners through The Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP) and through specific Project Agreements (PAs). The accelerating pace of innovation, the globalization of research and development (R&D), and the need to more quickly transition new concepts to actual products drives the need for more and better partnerships in the future. “We need to work more synergistic partnerships, where both sides are contributing equally and working jointly. That includes interfacing with industry-funded Independent Research & Development (IRAD) programs and with academia to help influence where they invest their resources,� Bunning said. RX is already moving in this direction. A recent partnership with DOE includes sharing of staff and facilities and allows both laboratories to address research that neither of them could do on their own. AFRL recently formed a University Relations office to help establish a more visible presence at strategic U.S. universities, and RX is working with selected universities to help develop the multidisciplinary skills needed in the new workforce. RX also continues to build its already extensive network of international connections, which range from one-on-one collaborations between researchers on basic science problems to formal PAs between the U.S. DOD and ministries of


defense (MODs) in allied countries. In addition to the mutual leveraging of technical talents, these partnerships also strive to develop technologies, and the systems based on them that can be used together seamlessly in joint operations. Facilities: Science and technology is changing rapidly, as are the facilities where these advances are made. This includes new scientific equipment that can make and measure things that have never been made or measured before, but it goes much further. New possibilities come from connecting current scientific equipment with data storage, data analysis and communications functions. This enables simple advances, such as the ability to check on the status of a piece of equipment from the office or to receive notification of the unscheduled availability of a high-use microscope that usually must be scheduled weeks in advance. Also emerging is the ability to remotely operate large, expensive pieces of equipment. The number of labs that can afford to purchase and maintain such expensive equipment is limited, so the demand for time is high and sometimes requires travel to other cities. The remote use of such equipment not only makes access easier, but it also maximizes potential use throughout the day, allowing operation from users in different time zones. This capability requires high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity between geographically distant research facilities, but such links are being installed in the United States. The days of porting data from a piece of scientific equipment to the computer at a desk on portable hard drives are mostly gone; rather, the ability to have that data show up immediately on a shared hub that can be accessed by scientists worldwide and analyzed using tools already connected to the same hub is becoming more the norm. The ultimate vision for future research facilities is the integration of scientific measurement devices with artificial intelligence (AI), autonomy and robotics. These devices have the possibility to completely change the way science is done by removing many of the trial-and-error experiments that are still common in the typical research day. For example, a current study might measure the strength of a new metal alloy at eight different temperatures, then reduce the data, plot the data, develop a model to understand and explain the results and finally perform one or two more key experiments to validate the new model. This can take weeks or even months to complete. On the other hand, an autonomous robotic system

AFRL photo

In order to kick off the 100year anniversary celebrations, AFRL/RX revealed a banner signifying A Century of Scientific Excellence to its employees and alumni on Oct. 6, 2016.

can analyze and model each data point as it’s collected and then select conditions for the next test “on-the-fly” based on that instantaneous information. This is already underway in RX, where the Automated REsearch System (ARES) marches through the complex test conditions needed to produce carbon nanotubes 100 times faster than traditional methods. Wider use of tools like ARES have the potential to be a disruptive technology in the research and development facilities of the future. Floorplans in a laboratory are also important. To better encourage interactions between scientists, open areas throughout RX are designed to invite people in and to draw out casual, frequent and informal discussions. These spaces often have notepads, whiteboards or wall-mounted display panels that can be hooked up to laptop computers to further support discussions and idea sharing. Access to the buildings may also change in the future, especially within the DOD, where security concerns have significantly restricted access in the past several decades. Rather than using fences and guards to ensure the needed security for technologies being developed, a layered security approach using advanced technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) is being explored at the Army Research Laboratory Open Campus concept at the Adelphi site. This can significantly improve access by academic, industrial and foreign collaborators, improving partnerships and allowing new R&D networks and business relationships to flourish. Processes: The RX vision for the future includes creative new approaches for supporting the scientists and engineers in RX. A long-held goal is to improve and accelerate the government regulations that surround the contracting, finance and acquisition of R&D and technology.

Much of this is outside the control of RX, but is included in the Better Buying Power (BBP 3.0) initiative in Washington. Still, acquisition regulations are usually formed with billion-dollar contracts for new weapons in mind, and different approaches may make sense for R&D programs that are much smaller and need to get on contract much faster, before the new idea being studied on the contract is no longer new. At the cutting edge of S&T, a new idea can become old in as little as six months, and so agile contracting and finance tools to match this turnover rate are needed. As these new tools come on line, RX will continue to benefit from its talented support professionals who can get the most from changing regulations. Freedom to Innovate: A co-inventor of object-oriented programming and the architect of today’s modern overlapping-windows graphical user interface (GUI), Dr. Alan Kay, said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” As RX embarks on its second century of innovation, it’s already inventing the future of aerospace materials. It continues to conceive and strategically select key technologies for development and transition, to build a visionary workforce, and to pursue new facilities and new ways to do research. But, some things won’t change. “You can’t regulate your way to innovation. If you want an organization to be innovative and continue to push the envelope, it goes back to the culture and the people behind that. With the right culture and giving people the required freedom, innovation will occur,” Stone said. “A lot of what we do right in this country – and especially at RX – is allow people the freedom to innovate.” RX has and will continue to provide World-Class Leadership in Materials and Manufacturing for Our Airmen!





Celebrating a Century of Scientific Excellence 1 9 1 7-2 0 1 7


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