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

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

Dynamic Cavity Formation Imaging

When an Air Force bomber drops a penetrating munition, what happens as the warhead travels underground to the target? AFRL researchers at the Advanced Warhead Experimentation Facility (AWEF) recently captured X-ray images of laboratory-scale warheads as they penetrated sand targets at high speeds. These radiographs enhance the weapon design community's understanding of warhead/target interactions and aid in validating computer simulations as well.

To improve future warhead performance, AWEF researchers are striving to understand the physics behind a high-speed weapon's penetration of dry particulate media. The media under investigation undergoes very complex reactions during penetration because without the gluelike presence of moisture, the dry particles move freely with respect to each other. Consequently, the cavity formed around a high-speed projectile throughout its penetration collapses almost immediately after the projectile continues its progress. The diagnostic X-ray techniques that AFRL researchers are refining allow a glimpse of the temporary cavity, which provides a key indication of the penetration loading environment. Without knowledge of the physical interactions that occur during a weapon's penetration, weapon designers are limited to judging a new warhead's performance (e.g., penetration depth) through empirical trial-and-error methods. The incorporation of proven theoretical penetration models into advanced computer simulations will thus shorten the process of developing optimal warhead designs.

The current research effort is an expansion of a related study conducted in the 1970s. The previous study examined cylindrical rods traveling at conventional velocities through an unconfined sand trough. The recent experimental series, conducted in 2005, examined a variety of conventional warhead nose shapes in their highspeed penetration of confined sand targets. The investigated nose shapes included a sharply pointed ogive nose (see Figure 1), a blunted ogive nose (see

Figure 2), and a spherical nose.

Despite the past 30 years' progress in X-ray technology and the advent of digital processing, which enhances image contrast, obtaining useful images remains a challenge. For example, sand both absorbs and scatters X-rays. To maintain image quality, researchers therefore limited the target's diameter to 6 in., and to maximize the energy reaching the X-ray film, they kept the distance between the X-ray-generating power head and the film as small as possible. Due to the proximity of the equipment to the experiment's target location, however, flying fragments occasionally damaged both the film and the X-ray power head. As a result of this same proximity, the simultaneous triggering of the multiple X-ray heads produced shadows on the image. Throughout the experiments, researchers positioned the X-ray heads above and beside the projectile's expected flight path to show orthogonal views. This technique enabled the team to determine a projectile's pitch and yaw prior to its impact with the target and also provided a three-dimensional view of cavity formation during the penetration event. The researchers also found that by triggering a single X-ray pulse, they were able to mitigate the poor contrast and clutter caused by multiple shadow images. Despite the difficulties encountered, the series of experiments produced a dozen quality images.

The preliminary results surprised the research team. For example, the team discovered that the penetration cavity is much smaller than expected. Additionally, the area of the nose in physical contact with the target media is relatively small. In Figures 1 and 2, the light-colored objects are the projectiles and the dark region immediately surrounding each projectile is the cavity. In normal circumstances, the explosive payload would ride in the center of the projectile shaft. The thin white lines are the result of lead crosshairs placed on the film's exterior surface to align the X-ray head. Researchers are planning an additional series of experiments designed to increase the image database and refine the X-ray's diagnostic potential.

Understanding weapons penetration phenomena is essential to the efficient design of future weapons concepts. As a result of experimental efforts such as these, the intelligent warheads and other munitions of tomorrow may one day be capable of morphing their exterior shape to achieve the most efficient penetration of the media encountered.

Lt Christine E. Watkins, of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Munitions Directorate, wrote this article. For more information, contact TECH CONNECT at (800) 203-6451 or place a request at Reference document MN-H-05-16.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics

Switching Chassis Enables Ethernet Control of 3U Modules in LXI Environment

Designed to enable the use of PXI test modules in a LAN extensions for Instrumentation (LXI) environment, Pickering Interfaces' (Woburn, MA) 60-100 and 60-101 chassis are fully compliant with Functional Class C of the LXI standard. They allow 3U PXI switching modules to be supported in a LXI-compliant environment. The 60- 100 is suitable for modules occupying 7 or fewer slots, and the 60-101 can support up to 13 slots.

Posted in: Products, Products, Electronics & Computers


Visualization of geospatially correct, remotely sensed data is a key element of many government and commercial applications. It enables a user to analyze and assess ground activities and other conditions of interest. Because remotely sensed data can include a diversity of data types reflecting many different data formats, users may experience difficulty visualizing and interpreting these varying data types and formats due to data structure complexity. In addition, important supplemental information often accompanies the data. This supplemental information—or metadata— may include pertinent information of significant value to the user with respect to where, when, and how data collection occurred. Whereas some applications require metadata to support geospatial analysis functions such as positioning and measurement, many others are unable to interpret such metadata and it may thus go unnoticed. Multiband data and motion imagery further compound the task of visualization with spectral components and complex video streams interlaced with other geospatial information.

Posted in: Briefs, Software, Data acquisition and handling, Imaging

New Capability to Characterize the Mechanical Properties of Explosive Materials

Improved targeting accuracy and the long-standing desire to minimize collateral damage are causing current and future munitions to become much smaller. As munitions size decreases, the explosive materials packed within bomb cases begin to carry a significant portion of the structural loads experienced by the warhead. In an ongoing program effort to determine the mechanical properties of explosives and other energetic materials, scientists at AFRL's High Explosives Research and Development (HERD) facility (Eglin Air Force Base, Florida) acquired a miniaturized split Hopkinson pressure bar (MSHPB) (see Figure 1). Designed and built by Mr. Clive Siviour under the guidance of Drs. John Field, Bill Proud, and Stephen Walley (of the United Kingdom's University of Cambridge, Physics and Chemistry of Solids Group), the MSHPB is capable of strain rates up to 105 s-1 in material samples. AFRL's European Office of Aerospace Research and Development sponsored the project.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Materials properties, Hazardous materials

Ceramic Matrix Composites Research

AFRL scientists characterized and evaluated the high-temperature mechanical behavior of fiber-reinforced ceramic matrix composite (CMC) materials used in aerospace structural applications. Researchers examined four principal characteristics of a porous matrix composite that General Electric developed for the aerospace industry. Their evaluations resulted in an increased understanding of the materials and their potential for applications in military and commercial aerospace products.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials, Research and development, Ceramics, Composite materials

Characterizing Mechanical Properties at the Microscale

Scientists from AFRL, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, and General Electric Aircraft Engines, working under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Accelerated Insertion of Materials (AIM) program, have invented a new method for characterizing the single-crystal properties of aerospace alloys using micron-size test samples. The research team based the new characterization method on focused ion beam (FIB) microscopy and a commercially available nanoindentation-based test instrument. Further development of these methodologies, in conjunction with their continued integration with simulation methods devised under the AIM program, will enable engineers to consider local changes in material microstructure and their effect on properties in the design process. The integration of advanced mechanical property measurements, materials representation, and simulation methods will dramatically decrease the time required for new materials insertion and will transform microstructure into a design variable for engineered systems. These advancements will directly benefit combat systems and readiness.

A deformed single crystal of pure nickel after measurement of critical resolved shear stress under single-slip conditionsA primary challenge to the rapid insertion of new materials into the design cycle is the need to understand both the intrinsic properties of an engineering material at the microscopic level and the influence of defects on these properties at the macroscopic level. Historically, scientists have been unable to develop model parameters or validate continuum materials behavior models that are based upon discrete microstructural information. Continuum crystal plasticity models are at the frontier of techniques that incorporate direct microstructural information. However, a major deficiency of these models is the need to obtain required input information: the single-crystal mechanical properties of individual grains, or microconstituents. Acquiring this information is particularly difficult when such parameters must reflect the subtleties of material process history or the local influence of material defects.

Under the AIM program, AFRL researchers have sought to measure the single-crystal mechanical properties, such as the critical resolved shear stresses and strain hardening rates, of micro- and nanoscale samples extracted from relevantly processed structural alloys (see figure). Scientists are currently developing direct methods to automatically and rapidly characterize both the mechanical response of relevant microstructural elements and the stochastic nature of material property variation to establish the mechanical properties of a material's representative volume elements (RVE).

It is essential for scientists building continuum models to quickly determine the mechanical properties of RVEs in order to quantify the inherent variability in material properties, the observed variability in experimental measurements, and the uncertainty in predicted properties. They can then establish "confidence metrics" for the data they incorporate into the designer's knowledge base. Without such confidence, scientists can add new materials (or old materials in new applications) to the knowledge base only after extremely difficult and costly testing.

The new characterization method uses FIB milling to isolate and prepare single-crystal mechanical test specimens from individual grains, or precipitates, of a conventionally processed alloy. Scientists then move the prepared specimens to a conventional nanoindenter device outfitted with a flatpunch indentation tip. The nanoindenter imposes uniaxial compression on the microsamples and records highfidelity load-displacement measurements as the samples deform. With the development of this novel mechanical behavior test capability, researchers now envisage sampling the local mechanical effects of material microstructure and statistically incorporating these results in improved constitutive response surfaces, which could be used in simulations of critical component features.

Dr. Dennis M. Dimiduk, Dr. Michael D. Uchic, and Dr. Peter S. Meltzer (Anteon Corporation), of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, wrote this article. For more information, contact TECH CONNECT at (800) 203-6451 or place a request at Reference document ML-H-04-10.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

Response Surface Mapping Technique Aids Warfighters

When weaponeering a target, military planners pinpoint a detonation location that will result in the desired damage to the entire target, or even a particular area within the target. The warfighter then selects the most suitable delivery platform— aircraft, weapon, guidance package, release altitude, and speed— for inflicting the appropriate damage to the target. Determining the proper combination of variables capable of producing the desired effect on a hardened target requires the warfighter to understand the penetration dynamics of the weapon; it also relies on the individual's ability to adjust the variables within his or her control, as necessary. For a scenario in which the destruction of a specific target is often coupled with the mitigation of collateral damage, it is imperative that the warfighter make proper decisions regarding weapons selections. AFRL scientists, collaborating with other Department of Defense agencies, applied innovative data mining and visualization methods to aid warfighter efficiency and effectiveness in making these choices.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Technology, Cartography, Data acquisition and handling, Imaging, Terrain, Military vehicles and equipment

Coordination of Autonomous Unmanned Air Vehicles

Future autonomous unmanned air vehicles (UAV) will need to work in teams to share information and coordinate activities in much the same way as current manned air systems. Funded by AFRL, Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte and his research staff (see Figure 1) at the Australian Research Council's Center of Excellence for Autonomous Systems have been developing mathematical models and simulation studies to understand—and ultimately provide— this future UAV capability.

The team's research focuses on coordination and cooperation for teams of autonomous UAVs engaged in information gathering and data fusion tasks, including cooperative tracking, ground picture compilation, area exploration, and target search. The underlying mathematical model for coordination and cooperation employs quantitative probabilistic and information-theoretic models of platform and sensor abilities. This information-theoretic approach builds on established principles for distributed data fusion in sensor networks, extending these ideas to problems in the distributed control of sensing resources. The researchers have made substantial progress towards formulating, solving, and demonstrating these methods for multi-UAV systems. In particular, they have developed distributed algorithms that enable UAV team-based search and exploration operations. These search and exploration algorithms can incorporate realistic constraints on platforms and sensors—a priori constraints from the environment and weak information from external sources. To date, Prof Durrant-Whyte's research team has successfully demonstrated these algorithms on a flight simulator of midlevel fidelity (see Figure 2).

Recently, the team presented its findings to AFRL researchers at Wright- Patterson Air Force Base (AFB), Ohio, and Eglin AFB, Florida. Based on the promising results of this research effort, AFRL is funding two additional projects to further explore the mathematical aspects of the technology and facilitate real-world application through demonstrations. The first round of demonstrations will involve high-fidelity, hardware-in-the-loop simulations, culminating in a large-scale demonstration involving a UAV fleet operated by the University of Sydney (see Figure 3). AFRL's two research projects will provide significant scientific and technical advancement in the cooperative control of autonomous systems.

The availability of autonomous UAV teams capable of complex cooperative behavior will enable warfighters to execute highly complex missions effectively and safely removed from harms way (i.e., remotely). In addition to providing these advantages, the UAV technology's imaging and atmospheric sampling capabilities have the potential to support both homeland security emergency scenarios and real-time forest fire monitoring tasks.

Dr. Tae-Woo Park, of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and Prof Hugh Durrant-Whyte, of the University of Sydney (Australian Research Council Federation Fellow), wrote this article. For more information, contact TECH CONNECT at (800) 203-6451 or place a request at Reference document OSR-H-05-06.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Technology, Mathematical models, Simulation and modeling, Unmanned aerial vehicles