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Advance In Hypersonic Research Could Benefit New Warheads

ARLINGTON, Va. --- An Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate science and engineering team has made a significant breakthrough in its hypersonic computational research, which could lead to new warhead technologies.

Funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research here, the team is studying the aerodynamic characteristics of projectiles that deform at hypersonic speeds at sea-level conditions, which is a high-speed flight regime not commonly studied.

Dr. Kirk Vanden, technical advisor for the computational mechanics branch, AFRL Munitions Directorate, is the lead principal investigator on the project.

Recently, the team determined the level of chemistry modeling needed to model hypersonic flows at sea-level conditions. Because hypersonic vehicles normally fly at very high altitudes, the research team had to answer some fundamentally new questions about hypersonic flight at sea-level conditions.

Dr. Vanden's team was awarded the grant to study hypersonic and unsteady flow science issues for explosively-formed penetrator warheads. Hypersonic speed is equal to or greater than five times the speed of sound. Dr. Vanden's work mostly concentrates on studying flows at speeds of around Mach 6, using highly advanced computational fluid dynamics codes.

Dr. John Schmisseur, an AFOSR program manager, oversees AFOSR's boundary layers and hypersonics grant portfolio, which includes this research grant to Dr. Vanden.

"This is an exciting new application of nontraditional hypersonic computational analysis. We are really excited about Kirk applying these new tools to his problem," Dr. Schmisseur said. "If we do that, we'll be able to hopefully revolutionize some of the analysis tools to help develop new warhead technologies for the warfighter."

Although Dr. Vanden's work in this arena is not ready for the application stage yet, Dr. Schmisseur said Dr. Vanden has a solid reputation for taking basic research to the next level. Dr. Vanden's research could lead to increasing the capability of existing warheads.

"We already have things in place with people who are doing the warhead work, so it is not something that we hope to use someday; it is something that the warhead designers in my directorate have already given me problems to work on. We are now trying to develop the capability to go look at those problems," Dr. Vanden said.

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Team Makes Breakthrough In Hypersonic Research