The Francis J. McMorrow Laboratories, now known as the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, celebrated its 50th year in 2014.
AMRDEC moved toward new and innovative methods to support the war fighter throughout 2014, in addition to celebrating five decades of historical contributions to science and technology.
The innovation began early in the year when President Barack Obama spoke to the nation Feb. 25 about the next two Department of Defense-led manufacturing institutes. The two institutes, the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, and the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation were lauded during Obama’s remarks. AMRDEC will lead the DMDI.
“America stands on a new manufacturing frontier, where hi-tech products are designed and tested within a virtual environment. The DMDI will get us there,” Obama said.
During the event, the president spoke about the importance of technological innovation, global competitiveness and the power of manufacturing. He highlighted the nation’s ability to innovate and build, which he called “a key to the U.S.’s future, and a key to our economy.”
Celebration of 50th
In March, AMRDEC marked the 50th anniversary of the March 12, 1964, opening of the Maj. Gen. Francis J. McMorrow Missile Laboratories. The ceremony included the burial of a time capsule representing ARMDEC’s 50 years of technology and contributions.
In his comments at the ceremony, Army Materiel Command’s commander Gen. Dennis Via said the event “celebrates a great legacy” of an Army officer and family man who commanded the Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, and whose work in leading missile procurement, research and development efforts continued after his sudden death in 1963 with the opening of McMorrow Labs, which eventually became the centerpiece of the AMRDEC of today.
Even though the nation faces new threats and challenges, “what hasn’t changed is the quality of men and women who work at AMRDEC,” he said, adding that McMorrow Labs has been “critical to many of the successes we’ve had over the last five decades.”
Via said the future will hold even more successes for the Army as scientists and engineers at AMRDEC continue to push technology to the war fighter.
“The purpose of this ceremony is not only to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dedication of McMorrow Labs, but also to recognize a resilient, world-class workforce that succeeds at delivering state-of-the-art war fighter support every day; and to recognize 50 years of excellence in aviation and missile research and development at Redstone Arsenal,” AMRDEC director James Lackey said. “This ceremony highlights the achievements and successes of the dedicated professionals who have supported aviation and missile research and development, and acknowledge the ongoing and future efforts that support our nation’s war fighters.”
In August, Lackey transitioned to his new role as the AMRDEC director, after serving for several months as the interim.
A native of Maryland, Lackey had a near 25-year career at the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Maryland. He was a strike aircraft flight test project engineer for more than a decade.
Lackey’s first senior executive service assignment was with the Office of the Secretary of Defense supporting the undersecretary of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics as the director of Air Warfare programs.
“AMRDEC is all about collaboration,” Lackey said. “I view this as central to our strategic framework and how we operate as an aligned organization. Given what I’ve seen and been part of leading this organization, I have no doubt we will continue to prevail in delivering game changing technologies to promote dominance in ever-increasing complex and evolving battlespaces.”
In September, in conjunction with the Redstone Test Center, AMRDEC completed a historic test program demonstrating the effectiveness of a bio-fuel commonly referred to as Alcohol to Jet in two Army aircraft – a UH 60A Black Hawk and a CH 47D Chinook.
Tests were conducted as a part of a congressionally-funded program to determine whether jet fuel made from non-food stock corn could safely power rotary wing aircraft and perform to Army requirements. The effort was part of a broader Department of Defense strategy initiated in 2009 to reduce dependency upon fossil fuels. ATJ-blends provide a renewable alternative to current aviation fuels, and address the Army Energy Security Strategy and Plans mandate that the Army certify 100 percent of its air platforms on alternative/renewable fuels by 2016. AMRDEC’s Aviation Development Directorate managed the program, while the Aviation Engineering Directorate’s Propulsion Division developed a certification and testing program that was implemented at test facilities throughout the country. The tests consisted of ground runs of engines, ballistic testing of fuel cells, chemical analysis of fuel, inspection of engines and lastly the actual flight in the aircraft.
“As DoD moves toward using commercial jet fuel in the continental U.S. and these fuels become more prevalent in the commercial pipeline, it will become increasingly important that Army aviation be prepared to ensure there are no operational issues with these fuels in our aircraft,” said Dale Cox, an engineer with AMRDEC’s Aviation Engineering Directorate and one of the Army’s experts on the certification of alternative fuels.
The UH 60 aircraft was flown for more than 180 hours using the ATJ fuel. According to AED officials, there were no unanticipated drops in engine performance and engine inspections showed no apparent ill effects caused by the bio-fuel blend.
In the program’s second phase, ground and flight tests were being conducted using the ATJ with a CH 47 Chinook. Upon completion, AED will begin the process of evaluation of both Black Hawk and Chinook data prior to allowing an ATJ blend to become certified as a replacement fuel for JP-8.
In late October, AMRDEC conducted three successful test firings of the Multiple Missile Test Launcher. The launcher successfully fired three candidate missiles at China Lake Naval Weapons Testing Center, California, to verify the MML launch tube design integrity.
The MML is an Army effort to design and develop the next generation launcher in support of the Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept program. MML is a major acquisition program originating with the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space.
MML features an open architecture and the capability to launch a variety of munitions in order to provide comprehensive air defense against both current and future threats. MML will provide 360-degree protection and the ability to simultaneously engage targets arriving from different azimuths, including cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems, rockets, artillery and mortars.
AMRDEC rounded out the year with a Futures Brief to Industry and Academia, presented to 400 participants who gathered to learn how to better partner with the government.
AMRDEC provided a forum with stakeholders and other interested parties to exchange information and learn about best practices to improve industry productivity and provide an affordable value-added military capability to the war fighter. Industry and academia participants included NASA, IBM, Boeing, Auburn University and the University of Tennessee, among others.
“We are here to increase our strategic partnerships and alliance with communications with industry and academia,” Lackey said. “With the emergence and complexities of threats around the globe, we have to think about the quantum leaps of technology going forth. The more we communicate the more we can move forward on a common goal and purpose.”
The free event focused on AMRDEC’s science and technology programs, its core technical capabilities, and their current and future technical challenges. It included remarks by AMRDEC leaders, subject matter experts, a panel discussion, Q&A presentations and hardware displays.
“AMRDEC is committed to doing all we can to make sure the Army continues to be supported with the best and most effective technology available anywhere in the world,” Lackey said.
The way ahead
The coming years promise to be both challenging and rewarding for AMRDEC’s dedicated workforce of more than 10,000 civilians, contractors and Soldiers. AMRDEC will continue to provide state of the art technology – developing what was once unimaginable. Where there is a need, AMRDEC scientists and engineers deliver solutions. It is a tradition that will continue for many years to come.