Hypersonic research could lead to future spy drone

Published: Friday, December 01, 2017 @ 6:00 AM


            Steven E. Olson, a University of Dayton Research Institute researcher, holds a hypersonic aircraft model. CONTRIBUTED
Steven E. Olson, a University of Dayton Research Institute researcher, holds a hypersonic aircraft model. CONTRIBUTED

The Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded a $9.8 million contract to the University of Dayton Research Institute to develop materials able to withstand the extremes of hypersonic flight.

The Air Force could use the advanced composites in a high-flying unmanned reusable reconnaissance air vehicle by the 2030s, according to Robert Mercier, chief engineer for AFRL’s high speed systems division in the Aerospace Systems Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“We’re looking for something that will give us more airplane-like operations,” he said. “In our research portfolio, we’re looking at ways to do more frequent and affordable flying of hypersonic systems.”

Flying at five times the speed of sound – the barrier to hypersonic flight – or faster, stresses materials with both high temperatures and pressures, researchers say.

RELATED: Hypersonic vehicle hits over 3,300 mph, started at Wright-Patt

Speeding at up to Mach 6, Mercier compared the hypersonic concept cruising at 80,000 to 100,000 feet to a former reconnaissance drone, dubbed D-21, but “on steroids.” The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drone flew in the range of Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound.

A manned version of a future hypersonic vehicle might follow, he said.

The latest research aims to develop more durable, less labor-intensive materials than, for example, the space shuttle which had thermal tiles covering the space plane to protect it from heat.

RELATED: Drones, lasers, hypersonic weapons will be ‘game-changers’

The three-year contract with UDRI will explore the use of ceramic matrix composites to withstand the pressures in laboratory tests, researchers said. Hypersonics is one of the key technologies the research institute has targeted.

“The goal is to try to inch forward so we can get things flying in the near future,” said Steven E. Olson, a UDRI researcher working on the project.

UDRI has experimented with hypersonic materials off and on for decades, and the contract is a renewed push, he said.

The materials could have both military and commercial uses, he said.

RELATED: Base unveils one of the world’s largest super computers

“Designing vehicles that can survive extreme environmental stresses is critical but challenging, requiring unique structural configurations and advanced materials,” he said in a statement.

UDRI will work with the University of Tennessee and Purdue University on aerodynamic modeling and wind tunnel testing.

The Air Force joined with NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency in hypersonic X-51 Waverider flight tests. The experimental air vehicle shaped like a missile was launched off a B-52 and reached speeds over Mach 5 over the Pacific. The tests ended in 2013.

“We learned a bit from the X-51 but we’re really pushing (beyond) that,” Mercier said.

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From musicians to medicine: AF Marathon recruiting army of volunteers

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 6:10 PM


            Air Force Marathon volunteer Brian Childers, of Portsmouth, hangs race day medals at the finish line at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in September 2016. BARRIE BARBER/STAFF FILE PHOTO
Air Force Marathon volunteer Brian Childers, of Portsmouth, hangs race day medals at the finish line at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in September 2016. BARRIE BARBER/STAFF FILE PHOTO

From musicians to people handing out medals, an army of volunteers run the Air Force Marathon.

May 1 is the first day to register to join a horde of 2,400 volunteers needed to jump start the Sept. 15 event that may draw as many as 15,000 runners from all 50 states and around the world to run a 10K, half- and full-marathons at Wright-Patterson. The marathon’s 5K race is set for Sept. 14 at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.

Volunteers also help run the Sports & Fitness Expo on Sept. 13-14, which attracts 30,000 people every year to the Nutter Center.

“From pre-race, behind-the-scenes opportunities to race day, finish line jobs, our volunteers are the key toour success — we couldn’t have this marathon without them,” Jeannette Monaghan, a volunteer coordinator, said in a statement.

Entertainers, such as DJs, bands and solo acts, are among volunteers the marathon wants to bring on the course, she said.

Volunteers may check available positions and register online at www.usafmarathon.com.

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Australia, NZ, U.S. troops to mark ANZAC Day at Wright-Patt

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 3:07 PM


            U.S. Air Force Col. Trisha Sexton salutes after laying a red poppy next to three wreaths to commemorate ANZAC Day on April 25, 2017 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. In the year marking the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I, about 100 people, some wearing the uniforms of foreign militaries, marked ANZAC Day. The day commemorates the first major battle Australian and New Zealand troops fought in World War I. BARRIE BARBER/STAFF
            BARRIE BARBER/STAFF
U.S. Air Force Col. Trisha Sexton salutes after laying a red poppy next to three wreaths to commemorate ANZAC Day on April 25, 2017 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. In the year marking the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I, about 100 people, some wearing the uniforms of foreign militaries, marked ANZAC Day. The day commemorates the first major battle Australian and New Zealand troops fought in World War I. BARRIE BARBER/STAFF(BARRIE BARBER/STAFF)

Australian, New Zealand and U.S. Air Force troops will mark ANZAC Day in a ceremony Wednesday at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

ANZAC Day commemorates the first major battle Australian and New Zealand troops fought as allies in World War I.

The ceremony is set from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at the Air Force museum’s Memorial Park.

RELATED: Australians mark ANZAC Day at Air Force museum

But it’s symbolism goes beyond the battle in what is now northern Turkey, Royal Australian Air Force Commander Andrew State, who is assigned to the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate at Wright-Patterson, said Tuesday.

Australian and New Zealanders mark ANZAC — Australian-New Zealand Army Corps — Day in services around the world, described as a combination of Memorial Day and Veterans Day in the United States.

“It’s celebrated each year,” he said. “It’s gone way beyond just the battle in World War I and it’s come to mean where we remember all military people (from Australia and New Zealand) who have fallen in operational services and also those who currently serve. … It’s come to mean spirit, inspiration, self-reliance and sacrifice.”

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ANZAC represents thousands of troops from both nations who fought Ottoman Turk forces beginning April 25, 1915, on the Gallipoli peninsula in what was the Ottoman Empire to open the Dardanelles straits to allied navies. Australia lost 8,000 troops in the months-long battle that ended in a stalemate.

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Major Wright-Patt gate will temporarily close today

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 10:00 AM
Updated: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 2:14 AM

Major Wright-Patt gate will temporarily close

A major gateway will close at Wright-Patterson today for maintenance, impacting the travel of thousands of commuters.

Gate 19B off National Road will be closed from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., according to base spokesman Daryl Mayer.

More than 5,700 inbound drivers travel through the entrance and nearly 6,300 drive off base through the gate every work day.

Crews will work on “routine maintenance” at the gateway, Mayer said.

RELATED: Wright-Patt gateway to close as part of security upgrade

“Since that (gate) is open 24/7 normally, they never have a chance to work on it,” he said.

Motorists may use Gates 1B off Springfield Street and Gate 22B off Interstate 675 as alternatives, according to Wright-Patterson.

Gate 19B had a major makeover last year with $1.3 million in upgrades that added overhead canopies, more guard booths and a barrier system, Wright-Patterson has said.

RELATED: Security concerns prompt Wright-Patt to close major gateway

The base closed Gate 26A off Ohio 235 because of security concerns this month. The gate, which had more than 5,000 vehicles a day, remains closed.

A new $10.5 million replacement gate, combining the current Gate 26A and the commercial truck entrance at Gate 16A off Ohio 444, is due to open late next year.

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Air Force urged to pick Wright-Patterson for hundreds more jobs

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 5:10 PM


            The F-35A Lightning II performs at the Vectren Dayton Air Show in June, 2017. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
            Ty Greenlees
The F-35A Lightning II performs at the Vectren Dayton Air Show in June, 2017. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Wright-Patterson could add 400 jobs if Air Force leaders are persuaded by Ohio’s congressional delegation to locate a F-35 stealth fighter office to the Miami Valley base.

The Defense Department and the Air Force have not said how many bases are in contention for the F-35 Product Hybrid Support Integrator Organization. But Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Phil Parker said Wright-Patterson was likely “a top contender” for the Air Force jobs.

“I think it would be a real plus to our continued importance and growth inside the fence and even outside the fence with some of the contractors that might play a role in that development,” he said.

“I can’t speak to that it’s a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly makes a lot of sense with the capability we have” and the military and civilian workforce.

RELATED: Wright-Patt a contender to manage stealth fighter program

Parker said the Dayton Development Coalition is actively involved in working to attract the new jobs. Michael Gessel, Coalition vice president of federal programs, said he could not comment publicly.

Pentagon leaders have concurred with a report to create two separate offices — one for the Air Force and the other for the Navy and Marine Corps — to manage three different versions of the F-35. The Joint Program Office in Crystal City, Md., manages the program today which has been under development since 2001.

Wright-Patterson has an F-35 technical division office, but the additional jobs would add more responsibility for oversight and management.

“Wright-Patt is probably the only base in the entire Air Force where every single skill and competency relevant to the F-35 is already resident,” said Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and a defense industry consultant.

RELATED: Spending plan could give boost to Wright-Patt

In a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the Ohio congressional delegation cited Wright-Patterson’s technical workforce, area universities and command headquarters among key factors to bring the jobs to the region.

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, along with U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, were among those who signed the letter.

“First, we make a good case and Wright-Patt is … the ideal place for this,” Brown, co-chairman of the Senate Air Force Caucus, said in a brief interview Thursday.

The congressional delegation cited the acquisition headquarters of the Air Force Materiel Command, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, which manages aircraft programs, the Air Force Research Laboratory, which develops new aircraft technologies, and the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, which handles foreign sales, among reasons to locate the office at the base.

In a recent interview, Turner, whose district spans Wright-Patterson and is the chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee, said the base should “bode well” in the competition because of an experienced workforce managing aircraft programs and offices for foreign military sales.

RELATED: Wright-Patterson to get new base commander

Wright-Patterson has a “long legacy … of working on advanced aircraft” and is close to Washington, D.C., he added.

“It will be an easy transition if it comes to Dayton, Ohio,” he said then.

The Fighters and Bombers Directorate, which oversees management programs such as the F-15, F-16 and F-22, and the B-1, B-2 and B-52, is headquartered at Wright-Patterson.

The base is the largest single-site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 civilian employees and military personnel. The base has an estimated economic impact of more $4 billion a year.

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