Ready, Aim, Fire: Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Lasers
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued April 25, 2019)
AFRL has completed the critical design review of the X-60A liquid-fuel hypersonic rocket, which will now move to the fabrication phase so it can be dropped for its first flight test in 2020. Note that it is launched by a business jet. (AFRL image)
The Defense Department's enduring mission is to provide combat-ready forces to deter war and protect the security of the United States. One of the ways DOD maintains the competitive edge of its troops is through a diverse system of research and development laboratories.

DOD laboratories design new tools for cyber defense, evaluate new concepts for autonomous vehicles and advance military-critical technology in areas such as advanced computing, "big data" analytics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, robotics, directed energy, hypersonics, and biotechnology.

Some of this innovative work was on display during the third biennial DOD Lab Day at the Pentagon. Lab Day is a chance for DOD to showcase the work being done by its scientists and engineers to benefit warfighters.

Hypersonics
The Air Force Research Laboratory showcased its hypersonic flight research that includes achievement of a major milestone: completing the critical design review of the X-60A liquid rocket. It will now move to the fabrication phase. In 2020, the X-60A will be airdropped in its first flight test.

Directed Energy
The Air Force Research Laboratory showed its conceptual high-power microwave systems, a class of directed energy weapons where a very short, extremely high power burst of energy is transmitted to create a wide variety of effects on a target, often focused on its electronics components.

Lasers

Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command Technical Center's High Energy Laser Project consists of two types of lasers:

-- A High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator, which will consist of a 100 kilowatt-class laser to be tested against a variety of targets in three years; and

-- The Multi-Mission High Energy Laser, which will consist of a 50 kW-class laser to be tested in two years.

The Office of Naval Research displayed an artist concept of its solid-state laser-Tech Maturation Laser Weapons System Demonstrator, which is intended to counter unmanned aerial systems and small fast attack craft.

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Pentagon Showcases Its Organic Laboratories
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued April 25, 2019)
WASHINGTON --- The Defense Department’s organic laboratories develop weapons, medical technology and other equipment. Hundreds had exhibit booths set up in the Pentagon courtyard as part of its biennial DOD Lab Day today.

First and foremost, DOD’s labs develop emerging technologies that make warfighters a more lethal and protected force, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering said at the Lab Day opening ceremony. These emerging technologies are not replicated in the commercial sector.

Engineers who work in the labs must strike the right balance of speed, diligence and quality, Michael D. Griffin said.

Emerging and disruptive technologies are being developed by adversaries, so speed matters, he said.

A better word for speed is velocity, Griffin noted, which is an expression of speed and direction of motion. Engineers need to be working fast, but in the right direction, to develop something that matters to the warfighter and can be integrated with other systems, he said.

Quality also matters, Griffin said. This doesn’t mean an absence of failures, he said, noting that failure is inevitable in the design process.

But there are two types of failures: acceptable and unacceptable, Griffin noted. Acceptable failures can come from calculated risk and things can be learned from them, he explained. Unacceptable failures are such things as sloppiness in program management and ignoring the nature or physics aspects.

Science is Collaborative

It’s important to work across the services, Griffin said. Loyalty to one’s service and organization should come second to engineers’ loyalty to truth, excellence and favorable outcomes for the warfighter, he added.

Air Force Maj. Gen. William T Cooley, commander, Air Force Research Laboratory, provided follow-on comments to Griffin’s emphasis on collaboration.

“We work closely with our partners from the other DOD labs, government agencies like the National Science Foundation and Energy Department labs, as well as industry and academia,” he said.

In the era of great power competition between the U.S., Russia and China, “we have to be on the same team and collaborate,” so good ideas bubble up and best practices are shared, Cooley added.

Lab commanders meet regularly to share ideas and compare notes at a synchronization meeting, he said.

David W. Pittman, director of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, provided an example of a collaborative effort between the Army and Marine Corps on development of an autonomous mine clearing vehicle developed by the Marine Corps and the autonomous component that sits on the chassis developed by ERDC.

There were a lot of failures along the way before success was achieved in the proof of concept stage, he said.

Someday, the vehicle could clear mines and put soldiers and Marine combat engineers out of harm’s way, he said.

Congress Recognizes Lab Day

Defense officials announced today that Congress passed a resolution recognizing the contributions of defense laboratories to the technological dominance of U.S. armed forces and supporting the designation of April 25, 2019, as "Department of Defense Laboratory Day 2019.”

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