The Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center is the largest of the eight research centers and laboratories comprising CCDC.
While the bulk of its workforce is based at Redstone Arsenal, the center has smaller hubs in California, Colorado, Texas and Virginia. Every location has a different focus.
Approximately 85 scientists and engineers, co-located with NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Federal Airfield in California’s Silicon Valley, make up the center’s Aviation Development Directorate-Ames. Though this group occupies a small fraction of the overall footprint there, the impact of its efforts reaches far and wide.
The stated mission of ADD-Ames includes: manage and conduct basic research, applied research, and advanced technology development; provide one-stop life cycle engineering and scientific support for aviation systems and unmanned aircraft systems platforms; and develop and mature technologies to support the future fleet.
“Basic research typically is research that doesn’t have a defined product or end state,” Oliver Wong, ADD-Ames associate director, said. “The next stage is … where you will start to take a concept and look at the practicality of applying it.”
The Department of Defense states that the next phase, development, “takes what has been discovered or learned from basic and applied research and uses it to establish technological feasibility, assessment of operability, and production capability.”
“All of our activities across ADD are oriented, to some degree, to support each of the four lines of effort for the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team,” Carvil Chalk, ADD acting director, said. The four LOE are Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, Advanced UAS, and modular open systems approach.
“Everything we do fits in that FVL bucket,” Wong said. “Addressing … those lines of effort, there’s the concept design and assessment piece (and) that is helping define the requirements and define the art of the possible.”
The team at Ames develops flight control laws, conducts modeling and simulation to address aeromechanics issues, executes wind tunnel experiments, and researches autonomy and human systems interfaces.
“The problem with aerodynamics is that we have more variables than we have equations,” Lt. Col. J. David Hnyda, ADD-Ames deputy associate director, said. “So we’re really diving into these deep problems, trying to come up with the data (and) new measurement techniques so that we can actually measure the data.”
Chalk referenced a recent example of direct application where a project office encountered issues that it was unable to resolve during development of an updated rotor blade. “Our group at Ames applies computational aeromechanics using a variety of blade, airframe and interactional models.”
Simulations were run to examine the problem and assess a variety of available solutions. “From that, in partnership with the project office, original equipment manufacturer, and ourselves, we were able to help the program get back on track by advising them on what solutions could work best given the current state of the design and a timeline needed to get this solution to the field,” Chalk said.
The acting ADD director said the team at Ames is uniquely positioned within the world of aeromechanics to have access to the National Full-Scale Aerodynamic Complex facilities at Moffett. NFAC, operated by the Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Center out of Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee, houses 40-by-80-foot and 80-by-120-foot wind tunnels. The team at Ames also operates a 7-by-10 foot tunnel almost exclusively used in support of Army basic research efforts.
“If we want helicopters to fly farther, stay in the air longer and go at greater speeds, then there are other technology solutions that have to be investigated before you can determine which ones are feasible and viable,” Chalk explained. “So we apply our wind tunnel, computational aeromechanics and experimental aeromechanics experts to investigate these problems and experiment with solutions.”