MEMs

Collapsing and Closing Unmanned Air Vehicle Swarms

AFRL researchers are exploring an adaptive and reconfigurable unmanned air vehicle (UAV) swarm configuration known as "collapsing and closing UAV swarms." This approach to developing UAV swarms is suitable for a number of multifunction radio frequency (RF) applications in challenging environments such as urban and mountainous regions. Figures 1a-1c illustrate the basic approach. In Figure 1a, a long-range search UAV swarm collectively forms a scanning RF aperture. The swarm's scanning RF aperture interrogates a region of interest to detect high-clutter, discrete objects such as buildings or mountains. As depicted in Figure 1b, once the swarm detects these large, obscuring objects, it "collapses and closes" in on the region between the objects. This allows the swarm configuration to interrogate the embedded channels between the buildings or mountains to look for signal leakage points within these large objects, and once detected, these leakage points facilitate cavity interrogation.1 After the swarm has finished interrogating the embedded channels and cavities, it reconfigures itself for RF long-range remote sensing with regard to the next region of interest, as illustrated by Figure 1c.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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Eddy Current Inspection System

AFRL manufacturing technology engineers, working with personnel from the 76th Maintenance Wing's Software and Propulsion Maintenance Groups at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center (OC-ALC) and Wyle Laboratories (formerly Veridian Engineering), delivered a major configuration upgrade and improved the inspection process for the Air Force (AF) Eddy Current Inspection System (ECIS) at OC-ALC, Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), Oklahoma. These ECIS improvements are part of AFRL's Engine Rotor Life Extension program. With investments exceeding $80 million, the ECIS program addresses an AFRL initiative to extend the useful life of turbine engine components and reduce the cost of replacing aging engine components in the AF's fighter and bomber fleets.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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Super-High-Strength Aluminum Alloy

AFRL researchers developed a superhigh- strength aluminum alloy that engineers can use to improve the capability and performance of aerospace components—cryogenic rocket engine components, in particular. They created an aluminum alloy with specific strength and ductility characteristics surpassing those of the alpha titanium alloy currently used in rocket engine turbopumps. The aluminum alloy also demonstrates less sensitivity to hydrogen embrittlement, is lighter weight, and is potentially less costly to manufacture than the titanium alloy.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Recent Advances in Insensitive Munitions

AFRL scientists from the High Explosives Research and Development facility successfully developed, demonstrated, and transitioned a nextgeneration melt-castable explosive formulation. The new formulation, MNX-795, exhibits significantly improved insensitive munitions (IM) characteristics—a requirement for the formulation's intended use in the MK- 84 bomb.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Geopolymers

The use of ceramics in an ancient culture is one measure of that society's overall technical sophistication. Combining the study of ancient ceramics with modern science and technology has led to the creation of new ceramics with superior properties. Victor Glukhovsky, a scientist working in the Ukraine half a century ago, researched differences in the durability of ancient cements and more modern concretes. His work ultimately led to the synthesis of various aluminosilicate binders from clays, feldspars, volcanic ashes, and slags. These binders exhibited properties superior to those of the cementitious materials in common use at that time. Decades after Glukhovsky's discoveries, Ukrainian builders continued to employ aluminosilicate binders in construction applications, confirming their outstanding durability.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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Composites Affordability Initiative

AFRL and Boeing have developed an innovative structural inspection technique for testing bonded structures. This technique provides materials engineers a first-time, validated, nondestructive capability to test for weak adhesive bonds and determine the minimum strength of adhesively bonded aerospace structures. The new method will enable aircraft designers to use bonded structures in a wider range of applications, and industry analysts predict it will provide both a 25% reduction in fabrication and assembly time and a 75% reduction in life-cycle costs.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials
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AFRL Supports Desert Hawk Program

AFRL aeronautical engineers collaborated with the Electronic Systems Center's (ESC) Force Protection Program Office, Hanscom Air Force Base (AFB), Massachusetts, to conduct an in-house effort assessing the Desert Hawk small unmanned air vehicle's (SUAV) performance and exploring potential improvements to that performance. Desert Hawk, also known as the Force Protection Airborne Surveillance System (FPASS), performs air base perimeter defense and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance tasks.

Posted in: Briefs, Mechanical Components
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Low-Cost Transmit/Receive Module for Satellite Control and Communications

A multidisciplinary team led by AFRL scientists is developing a geodesic dome phased-array antenna (GDPAA) for a proposed future Air Force (AF) technology demonstration.1 AFRL is also developing a second-generation S-band electronic scanning array (ESA) proof-of-concept (POC) panel to support the demonstration efforts.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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The Next Frontier of Networking—The Airborne Network

It is the next frontier of networking—a frontier where communication nodes may move at Mach speeds, wireless line of sight covers hundreds of miles, and weather affects communications capabilities such as chat and e-mail. It is the airborne network (AN). In the coming years, the military services and commercial aviation enterprises will internetwork their respective fleets of airborne assets. For the military, these assets range from unmanned aircraft, smart munitions, and fast-moving fighter aircraft to "air stationary" tankers and slow-moving cargo planes. This fast-paced, ever-changing environment presents challenges across all network layers—from basic connectivity and linking/routing challenges to management of the proposed global network. Accordingly, military entities define the AN as the sum total of all capabilities required for conducting airborne network-centric operations to shorten the kill chain and facilitate the synchronized flow of relevant information by extending the Global Information Grid (GIG) to the airborne domain (see figure).

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers
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Military Worth Analysis of New Concept Weapons

Weapon systems analysts traditionally conduct military worth analysis (MWA) to evaluate the warfighter payoff resulting either from the development and implementation of new assets or from the establishment of new concepts of employment for existing assets. Analysis scope ranges from the campaign level to the mission level and thus differs in magnitude, time frame, and level of detail (see Figure 1). While MWA can potentially evaluate hundreds of possible metrics, it typically includes parameters such as time to accomplish objectives, number of targets neutralized, amount of collateral damage, and volume of resources consumed (including dollars). As depicted in Figure 2, laboratory directors must consider both the analytically demonstrated payoff and the clear interest of the user community in making an informed investment decision; therefore, determining the MWA for a particular laboratory technology is vitally important.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Technology
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