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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems 5 Elements of an Effective R&D Strategy 5.1 INTRODUCTION Included in the charge to this committee was the key question, “Is the present strategy regarding development of new structural materials for propulsion the proper strategy?” (See Appendix A for the full statement of task.) The direct answer to this question is, No. As described in Chapter 2, this study included an effort to identify the historic process followed for the development of new materials; it was found that there really has never been a single process. Yet, because of the emphasis on materials needed to bring jet and rocket engines out of their infancy after World War II, enormous strides in efficiency and performance were made. These advances all essentially tracked breakthroughs in materials properties and manufacturing processes. Enormous competition among companies gave rise to large materials groups in engine companies and the proliferation of suppliers, facilities, and—because of the demand for graduates in materials science and engineering—responsive programs in U.S. universities. Industry research and development (IR&D) programs within the companies seized on new innovations and ideas coming from within and occasionally coming from universities, which often had ties to the industry if only through their graduates. Performance continued to increase rapidly in metals, alloys, and processes owing to relatively easy development programs that were based on clear paths; however, the curve began to become asymptotic as evolutionary changes in materials no longer led to revolutionary increases in performance.
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems By the 1980s it was becoming clear that the approach to advancing performance that existed during the “engine wars” needed to be organized and directed in order to make the harder-to-discover advances in materials and processes. Some of this direction came in the form of large programs such as the National Aerospace Plane (NASP) and the High Speed Civil Transport (HSCT) Programs but was most successful in the long-term, stable funding environment of the Integrated High Performance Turbine Engine Technology (IHPTET) Program and its concomitant materials development support programs in the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Navy. IHPTET’s structural materials advances did not start from scratch, however. Promising materials candidates identified in the NASP Program, and continued through the High Speed Civil Transport–Enabling Propulsion Materials ( HSCT-EPM) Program (a stable, modestly funded program), ensured a stream of viable materials candidates at the high 6.2 technology readiness level (TRL). Also, IHPTET was created when considerable talent and facility capabilities, left over from the engine-war years, still existed. A “feeder” program that matures fundamental discoveries to high 6.2 TRLs no longer exists (see the discussion in Chapter 2), and talent has been diffused and facilities decommissioned. In addition, the development time to mature fundamental discoveries to high 6.2-level materials candidates has changed little, whereas the time required for engine development has decreased owing to the use of integrated product development teams and computational methods. The fact is that even if a new IHPTET-like materials-development program were linked to a long-term, stable engine-demonstration program, there are few materials candidates remaining to mature. Nevertheless, the successes of the IHPTET Program created a mind-set within both the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate and the Propulsion and Power Directorate of the AFRL that led to the materials development plan addressed in Chapter 3 and discussed below in Section 5.2. It is no surprise, then, that the three critical characteristics of a successful materials development program identified by the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, as discussed in Section 3.6 of this report, primarily concern programs associated with engine development programs, with no real emphasis on stable, ongoing research directed at advancing 6.1 materials and processes to the high 6.2 TRLs required to feed such a program should it materialize. In fact, there seems to be no organization within the AFRL concerned with transition programs; the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), charged with funding all discovery research in the Air Force, places essentially all of its attention on research with “20-year horizons” and has virtually no concern about where its funded efforts go after a 6.1 program ends. In fairness to the AFOSR, its organizational mind-set, like that of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, was formed during a time when talent, facilities, and resources for transition work were abundant and transi-
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems tion programs were taking place in and outside the government. To the committee this presents a most disturbing realization: virtually no attention has been paid to some sort of follow-on to NASA’s HSCT-EPM Program, nor does there appear to be any provision for funding such a program at the national level, either inside or outside the Department of Defense (DOD). It is worth noting that Donald C. Daniel in a 2006 National Defense University report1 voices a similar alarm in a plea for rebalancing funding throughout the 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 science and technology spectrum. Apart from the committee’s concern about transition programs, his concern was that 6.3 funding was overemphasized at the expense of 6.1 funding. However, Daniel did specifically single out materials as one of the critical technical areas. In a sense, the committee has the same concern, that plans overemphasize the 6.3 end of the spectrum while not seeming to take into account that the 6.2 portion of the spectrum appears to have atrophied. In this context, the chapter recommends approaches to address this concern. The fact is that the infrastructural environment for the development of new advanced structural materials for propulsion that existed in the past no longer exists. New strategies must be adapted not only for dealing with the infrastructure, but also for facing the reality that major thrusts for new engines are not likely to reappear in the foreseeable future, although history tells us that the need for new materials and processes must continue, if only to provide increased-performance engines to accommodate mission changes on existing aircraft and new challenges in fuel efficiency. The following sections provide suggestions with respect to what might be done, but the strong recommendation of the committee is that something needs to be done. 5.2 ELEMENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE STRATEGY The closest thing to a structural materials development “strategy” that the committee found in its study is the joint Advanced Materials Development Plan of the Materials and Manufacturing and the Propulsion and Power Directorates discussed in Chapter 3. That plan does an excellent job in identifying many structural mate rials advances required for future Air Force propulsion systems. It ties these to the relevant Focused Long Term Challenges (FLTCs), the challenges that guide AFRL’s research and development (R&D) efforts. In this sense, the directorates’ plan provides an excellent set of near- to mid-term objectives that are needed as part of any strategy. However, as pointed out previously, the plan assumes that the lack of feeder programs and the decline in the development environment 1 Donald C. Daniel. 2006. Issues in Air Force Science and Technology Funding, Washington, D.C.: Center for Technology and National Security Policy, National Defense University, February.
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems are outside its purview. The roadmaps contained in the directorates’ plan make tangential reference to the lack of feeder programs by identifying required developments, which fall on the roadmaps as unfunded lines with appropriately long timelines estimated for maturing a particular contribution. But to call this plan of the directorates a national strategy is to misunderstand the difference between, on the one hand, an execution plan that presumes all of the supporting infusion of technology and, on the other hand, a comprehensive strategy that encompasses the entire structural materials infrastructure that must be assembled in order to execute a plan. This observation leads to the essence of what constitutes the rest of this chapter and provides a response to one of the tasks assigned to this committee: “Describe the general elements of an R&D strategy to develop materials for future military aerospace propulsion systems” (see Appendix A). In this context, the use of the word “strategy” involves more than just the plan of the directorates; it includes the identification and support of all of the elements that may be outside this plan but that are necessary to the achievement of its overall goals. Elements of a strategy are discussed below and synthesized into 10 short recommendations at the end of this chapter that flow from the findings in the preceding chapters and from the discussion below. As noted in preceding chapters, the processes used in previous decades for materials development no longer work. Those processes relied on a number of factors that no longer exist and realistically could not be sustained. In short, the environment has changed significantly in terms of funding, programs, partnerships, and the roles of industry and academia and the globalization of research and technology. The past saw the sudden appearance of large but short-term materials development programs, associated with the NASP Program, for example, that provided substantial injections of technology into the development pipeline. But the continued progress of these technologies required individual champions who nurtured the technology through lean times and were astute about how to take advantage of flush times: materials that continued to mature through roller-coaster funding profiles required a personality-driven champion. Any national strategy may involve champions, but their existence, if they are needed, should be structural and driven by requirements. The characteristics that should be part of a national strategy for developing advanced structural materials to meet evolving Air Force capability requirements are listed below and discussed individually in the succeeding sections: Annual reviews of the Air Force propulsion materials requirements, objectives, and execution plans to adjust for budget changes and the external environment.
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems Better integration of AFOSR programs into Air Force propulsion materials plans and more involvement of academia and industry in the development of the plans. The development of a stable, long-term materials development program that covers basic research through manufacturing and provides for materials insertion into test engines. The development of a sufficiently robust and, most important, a stable funding stream. The continued development of Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) approaches that promise to shorten the materials development time. The implementation of a systems engineering approach to propulsion materials development that includes a risk management plan aimed at inserting materials considerations early in any engine development program. The use of existing engines and demonstrators to expedite materials insertion and technology maturation. The inclusion of academia in transition R&D both to take advantage of talent and facilities that exist at selected universities around the country and to ensure the development of the required workforce. The increased use of government-industry-academia partnerships to conduct pre-competitive R&D. The integration of foreign technology development and research with U.S. efforts. Opportunities for collaborative fundamental research should be pursued. 5.2.1 Regular Directorate Reviews of Propulsion Materials Requirements, Objectives, and Execution Plans The environment in which technology is developed has changed dramatically over the years, and it will continue to change with the ongoing globalization of society and of economies. It is thus important to review and amend the propulsion materials plan, such as the one developed jointly by the AFRL directorates, on a regular basis. Although, as the committee has stated throughout this report, this plan is not by itself a strategy, a national strategy must include within it such a plan. Since flexibility is key in responding to changes, plan reviews should particularly emphasize the impact of changes in funding, making it clear how unfunded feeder programs will affect individual developments and timelines. Adjusted priorities should then be established to ensure that critical technologies advance in maturity. The evolving documents should ensure that the need for and benefits of new and advanced materials are clearly stated, since these documents are likely to be read by continually changing personnel in the roles of fund managers and decision makers.
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems 5.2.2 Integration of AFOSR Programs into Overall Propulsion Materials Plan The Air Force Office of Scientific Research is specifically charged with overseeing all 6.1 research funded by the Air Force. A critical role within this charge is that of finding and funding the newest and most innovative ideas for research in materials. Choosing which of these to fund is tied to future Air Force needs and, as pointed out in Chapter 2, having AFRL input into these choices is already written into AFOSR’s mission statement. However, it is clear from the committee’s investigation that cooperation, at least in the propulsion materials area, between the AFOSR and the AFRL directorates is tenuous and should be strengthened. At present AFOSR’s focus is exclusively on the discovery of new materials with possible long-term implications (20-year horizons), with a limited focus on transition. It seems to the committee that AFOSR’s portfolio should be more balanced, with at least some portion tied to nearer-term needs. Despite the long-term focus of the majority of AFOSR’s portfolio, some mechanism (and adequate resources) must be found for making 6.1 program managers aware of the need for transitioning these to 6.2 efforts, and 6.2 efforts are the responsibilities of the AFRL directorates. One way to do this is to involve AFOSR program managers in the development and review of the Advanced Materials Development Plan. Perhaps, however, the entire model of AFOSR independence should be reinvestigated. Reference has been made in this report to examples of rapid technical progress achieved through close interaction across research at all levels (TRL 6.1 through TRL 6.4), with the need for infusion of 6.1 basic science discovered in attempts at moving selected materials forward. In these examples, the AFOSR was a close cooperating participant in the advanced effort. Such cooperation, which did not hinder AFOSR’s continued support for other long-term projects, could not help but influence the program manager’s view of what the Air Force’s long-term goals really were and what sorts of new discoveries were needed. 5.2.3 Development of a Stable, Long-Term Materials Development Program Most of the advanced materials being used in engines today or being planned for near-term insertion are the result of long-sustained materials development programs such as HSCT-EPM. These programs no longer exist, and the materials that matured to high 6.2 TRLs as a result of these programs are now the only materials candidates available for consideration for insertion into new engines or development engines under the Versatile Affordable Advanced Turbine Engine (VAATE) Program. Without the replacement of a materials development program such as the HSCT-EPM Program, there will be no more advanced materials candidates for insertion into new propulsion systems. There are numerous approaches to creating a new feeder program. It is not
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems the committee’s intention to suggest the exact form that it should take. Whatever the form, it is important that the elements of a successful program as discussed in Chapter 2 be included. While it is important that clear requirements are defined to aid in the selection of 6.1 candidates for maturation and process development, these requirements need not be tied to specific engine developments. In fact, history tells us that similar requirements exist for a number of capability goals; for example, the need for high-temperature materials in the last stages of a compressor is just as applicable to high-Mach-number, high-performance aircraft engines as it is to lower-Mach-number, high-efficiency aircraft engines. In the first case, the final compressor temperatures are produced by a combination of high-Mach-number ram recovery and moderate compressor pressure ratios, and in the second case by high compressor pressure ratios. Thus, these requirements should be developed not only on the basis of the requirement of a specific type of engine, but also on the basis of well-informed projections of materials needs applicable to any number of capabilities that exist or may become important at some future date. The development of these well-informed requirements should be the product of a comprehensive study. The requirements should be reviewed at regular intervals to capture changing needs. A materials development strategy should be almost independent of the need for a new-engine development. A stable, long-term funding environment for transition programs is essential and of critical importance; see the separate discussion of the topic in Section 5.2.4. In any long-term program, regular reviews of progress are critical. During such reviews, materials and processes that promise large impacts on requirements should be identified for enhanced funding, whereas others are identified to be maintained at lower levels that will enable invigoration at a later date. The process of making such down-selections should be sufficiently critical that it recognizes candidates no longer warranting continued development. 5.2.4 Development of a Stable, Sufficiently Robust Funding Stream It cannot be overemphasized that, as stated earlier, stable, known, long-term funding, at whatever level, is critical to the success of a materials development program. This funding stream must be robust in being not only sufficient for the forecasted needs but also consistent over time. Charles Stevens2 pointed out that roller-coaster funding profiles are far less productive than smaller amounts of overall funding that are sustained and stable. Cyclical funding that is unstable and varies greatly from year to year is highly detrimental, resulting in poorly planned and executed programs, duplication and re-creation of technology, waste, and loss of expertise. 2 Personal communication, Charles Stevens, AFRL Propulsion and Power Directorate, July 20, 2009.
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems The funding stream for supporting whatever form the recommended materials development program takes must be stable and predictable over years. This does not mean that funding cannot vary, just that variations need to be coordinated with the plan, and that the plan itself may need to change. Funding levels and stability are determined at high levels in the government and depend on the current economic and political climate. Because the level of funding cannot be controlled at the level of researcher and user, what must be controlled is the response to changing funding levels. This requires that the projected spending plan be flexible and have options for increased and decreased funding levels. Spending money on poorly planned or inappropriate tests can be just as deleterious to the overall health of a materials effort as the loss of knowledge and skills associated with sudden and unplanned reductions. It is equally important that the strategies for the wise use of windfalls and the retention of knowledge and materials options once these funds end be part of an overall national strategy. 5.2.5 Continued Development of Computational Approaches to Shorten Materials Development Time As already discussed, the time to develop materials to the point of insertion remains long compared to the development time for a new engine. Although the committee believes it critical to re-create a stable, long-term materials transition program to keep materials progressing into high 6.2 levels so that there is a pool of candidates closer to being ready for use, approaches to shorten the overall materials development cycle are still needed. Integrated Computational Materials Engineering has been developing rapidly over the past few years and will continue to do so as computational power increases further. Universities have been the home for this sort of development, and university research in this area needs to continue to be supported. Although not yet realized, ICME offers the potential to decrease development time significantly as well as to tailor materials with specific properties and to reduce the number, complexity, and time required for materials characterization and validation. ICME should be an integral part of the propulsion materials development program. 5.2.6 Implementation of a Systems Engineering Approach to Propulsion Materials Development The development of advanced materials is necessary but not sufficient to provide the propulsion materials of the future. A systems-oriented approach is required. It is necessary to have a detailed understanding of the operational environment of potential future engines, and it is equally important to maintain a close interaction among all participants in the engine- and materials-development
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems processes. Specific engine designs and operating parameters will not be available early in the materials development process, but a combined team must understand the range of requirements and bring to bear all of the necessary systems engineering techniques, including requirements analysis, allocation, system modeling and simulation, testing and evaluation, and others, and must also understand manufacturing and sustainability constraints. 5.2.7 Use of Existing Engines and Demonstrators to Expedite Materials Insertion and Technology Maturation Although the committee has emphasized as a primary concern the demise of feeder programs, it is important to continue to make progress as well on the 6.3 efforts and beyond. In briefings and communications to the committee, much concern with respect to maturing technology at the higher levels was voiced by AFRL directorate personnel because of the decline in the number of demonstrator engines into which new-materials components could be inserted. In the present climate, however, it is not likely that a dedicated new engine-demonstrator program is likely to appear suddenly. It is thus imperative that innovative ways be developed to take advantage of existing engine testbeds. Also, some accommodation to allow for risk in expanding the usefulness of future demonstrators for the testing of new-materials components should continue to be explored. As the committee has pointed out, new engines will be needed in the future and, before that, continued spiral improvements in existing engines; thus, using existing engines that can be made available to test new components should be considered as the primary path for bringing new manufacturing approaches and new materials insertion candidates to maturity. 5.2.8 Inclusion of Academia in Transition Research and Development Closer ties among academia, industry, and the AFRL may be able to compensate for some of the continuing decline in the materials and processes research environment in the United States. Such ties might make use of the talent and facilities available in academia for more focused materials and processes research efforts and also help develop a workforce with the appropriate skills and knowledge to pursue related materials development in industry and government. These closer ties will necessarily require coordination and cooperation between the AFOSR and the AFRL, but under the present structure and funding levels, one can expect that adding these goals to existing programs will have only marginal impact. A possible approach that might be considered is a consortium arrangement involving the DOD, academia, and industry, and perhaps NASA, similar to the approach taken by DOD’s Joint Technology Office for Directed Energy, which
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems has advanced many of the technologies associated with directed energy weapons. In Joint Technology Office (JTO)-sponsored programs, universities have demonstrated that their research products can have impact on DOD development programs at the 6.3 level and beyond. In setting up such a consortium arrangement, it would be important to be cognizant of the fact that some AFRL and industry researchers consider university research as “sandbox efforts,” and their attitude is generally that the main role of universities is only to provide a stream of graduates. There also seems to be a misconception that only 6.1 efforts can be performed at universities. In fact a number of universities are integral to industry and government development programs. It is also not the case that universities can only work on low-TRL or 6.1 programs; it is increasingly common for some universities to be involved in 6.2-funded programs and beyond. For example, the charter of the University of Notre Dame’s Institute of Flow Physics and Control (FlowPAC) specifically mentions that the institute’s research will cover R&D programs that range from fundamental to applied research. The fact that applied research takes place in FlowPAC makes research personnel there more aware of how and where products of their fundamental research programs might be transitioned into development programs. The committee encourages organizations charged with the development of advanced structural materials to consider developing some sort of consortium program that attempts to link academia, government, and industry. Such a program could help to bridge any number of shortfalls identified by this study. These shortfalls include the realities of contracting for the availability of research infrastructure. There exist within industry, government, and academia facilities that might be able to be used to test components in near-engine environments. These facilities might be included as part of a consortium that would allow widespread sharing of knowledge at the pre-competitive level. Such a consortium should also allow for the partnering of industry and academia in proprietary agreements that would not be shared with the consortium at large, but could still make use of the shared facilities. It seems essential that a steering committee be part of this type of consortium and oversee its efforts. The steering committee should be made up of AFRL directorate personnel and the AFOSR program managers overseeing the materials area. Among other benefits of such an arrangement, the participation of AFOSR program managers would make them more aware of all of the issues in maturing technology, including process development, thereby providing a mechanism for alleviating the concerns about the AFOSR discussed in Section 5.2.2.
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems 5.2.9 Development and Increased Use of Partnerships Partnerships Within the Department of Defense and with Other Government Agencies A major part of a strategy for developing advanced structural materials should be to partner with other funding agencies within and outside the DOD. NASA was a major player in the materials developments of the 1990s. Although NASA has moved away from basic research to some extent in recent years, there continues to be collaboration between the Air Force and NASA in the area of hypersonics. Whoever the partner, it is important that the Air Force coordinate the materials development program with others. It should also be noted that the Air Force has needs for materials other than propulsion materials, and that at low TRLs there should be synergies with other Air Force programs. Partnerships and collaborations should mean that all the partners have a stake in materials of interest to them, and although the focus at individual agencies will be on their priorities or strengths, it should not mean that effort is conducted at only one agency. The ongoing Defense Science and Technology Reliance 21 Materials and Processes Program, set up to coordinate efforts between DOD agencies, has been somewhat effective. In such a coordination program the emphasis is usually directed toward minimizing duplication, but care should also be taken to emphasize cooperation and taking advantage of synergies in R&D efforts. Additionally, rather than just eliminating infrastructure at one facility in favor of another, it is important to consider sharing with other communities working on similar problems. Such cross-pollination and competition help maintain technical excellence and promote innovation and revolutionary as well as evolutionary advances. This type of coordination between agencies must become part of the strategy for the development of propulsion materials. Development of Partnerships with Industry Just as partnerships within the government laboratories are critical to the success of materials development, so also are partnerships with industry, which has been an active participant in previous materials development programs. Although R&D within industry has decreased and become more focused on specific needs, industrial partnership is essential if materials are to be manufactured in a robust, cost-effective manner, and then to be tested and evaluated in the most cost-effective manner, and finally to be transitioned into specific technologies. The infusion or adaptation of commercial technology to government needs should be another part of the strategy, ensuring that the Air Force is taking advantage of all possible sources for the technology that it needs in order to maintain leadership in propulsion. The discussion in Chapter 4 indicates that intellectual property rights, which are
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems always an issue when involving industry, have been and can be worked out to the satisfaction and benefit of all parties. In this regard, the identification and support of pre-competitive research are essential to the success of a strategy that seeks to leverage industry participation. 5.2.10 Integration of Foreign Technology Development and Research with U.S. Efforts Globalization presents new challenges when it comes to attempting to maintain U.S. leadership in propulsion materials. Globalization has changed the technical development and knowledge environment to the point that the United States must consider different paradigms for staying on the leading edge. No longer can this nation expect to develop all of the required technology domestically and to retain that knowledge. Instead, the United States must consider ways to obtain knowledge and expertise from other countries and must become expert at adapting and synthesizing that knowledge into the leading-edge technologies that are required. Collaboration with foreign entities will become increasingly important; however, U.S. and foreign approaches to the protection of others’ intellectual property (IP) are often different, and foreign approaches do not provide adequate safeguards, leading to legitimate concerns by companies. Also, although the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and other export control laws have successfully protected U.S. technology, they often serve as a barrier to collaboration and to the full leveraging of foreign technology. Ways will have to be found to adequately implement and enforce existing legal safeguards for IP, innovative approaches to the sharing of IP will need to be considered, and the U.S. government will need to provide more clarity and more efficient application of ITAR and of export control laws. 5.3 RISK MANAGEMENT The comments presented in this section cut across many of the topics covered above. However, since risk management has been an important contributor to deemphasizing new materials in the VAATE Program, it is addressed separately here. Risk aversion by program managers has increased as funds have become tighter and the consequences of failures have become more severe. Risk aversion in terms of materials usually manifests itself in the decision to use a material that is already proven in some other applications or that has been extensively tested. Generating the amount of data required to qualify a material for an application is expensive and daunting. Managing risk involves reducing risk by developing and advancing mate rials early, and planning for risk in programs; in both cases the need for materials devel-
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems opment at an early stage is clear. A successful strategy, therefore, needs to include an understanding of materials maturity and a plan for providing materials at higher TRLs to the materials development projects in order to increase the materials chances of insertion. The benefits of a new technology clearly must far outweigh the risks; the materials development program has to define the benefits in a qualitative manner while reducing the risk. A program that goes past 6.2 into 6.3 or 6.4 development should be part of the strategy, as should the use of more sophisticated computation and modeling to reduce the amount of testing and validation of materials needed in order to move the materials to levels of risk acceptable to engine developers. All programs at whatever TRL should have a risk management plan. The plan can identify areas where additional funding, time, or partnerships are needed. Identifying risks and approaches for minimizing them is a major tool for development planning and will increase the likelihood of materials candidates being tested in the first place and the success of eventual insertion. Risk planning is a critical step in developing the path from 6.1 research to use in a system. Financial risk is also an issue, and early partnering with industry to develop manufacturing techniques that are cost-effective and robust is integral to the strategy. 5.4 RECOMMENDATIONS Recommendation: The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate and Propulsion and Power Directorate need to develop a strategy to maintain or regain U.S. preeminence in propulsion materials. The strategy should include the regular review and updating of the directorates’ propulsion materials plan, with an emphasis on the consequences of unfunded items, the changing external environment, and maintaining a balance for the near-, mid-, and far-term activities in response to the Focused Long Term Challenges and funding commitment. Recommendation: The strategy for developing future aerospace propulsion materials should define a materials development program with stable and long-term funding. The program should cover basic 6.1 research through 6.3 development and include manufacturing and insertion strategies. It should involve industry, academia, and other government entities, and it should selectively consider global partners for pre-competitive collaboration. Essential elements of the strategy include a steering committee, feedback metrics, and a risk reduction plan based on systems engineering practices. Recommendation: The AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate and Propulsion and Power Directorate should increase their communication and collaboration with the AFOSR, system program offices, industry, and academia relative
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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems to propulsion materials needs, advances, technology readiness, and the potential systems payoffs of technology insertion. Recommendation: To maintain or regain the U.S. military competitive advantage in the areas of propulsion materials and to keep the United States on the leading edge of propulsion technology, there is a need for advocacy within the Office of the Secretary of Defense/Director, Defense Research and Engineering, to increase activities in new materials development and competitive 6.2 component and 6.3 demonstrator programs. Recommendation: The U.S. State Department should reformulate the ITAR fundamental research exclusion to encompass all such research whether performed in academia, industry, or government. This exclusion should also apply to fundamental research activities encompassed within larger research programs that contain other ITAR-controlled elements. Recommendation: DOD funding agencies should identify and support, both financially and through regulatory and administrative relief, opportunities for pre-competitive collaborative research for structural propulsion materials, both domestically and with global partners. Recommendation: For the special case of pre-competitive research with global partners, the DOD, the Department of State, and other U.S. government entities, including the Department of Commerce, should proactively encourage such pre-competitive research opportunities and develop ways to facilitate knowledge transfer within wide, acceptable boundaries. Recommendation: The research activities of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research should tie more closely to AFRL propulsion materials needs so as to provide a path to insertion. Together the AFOSR and the AFRL should develop a research portfolio that covers a wider range of near-, mid-, and far-term needs. Recommendation: The United States should continue to develop computational methods to shorten materials development time and to reduce the time required for testing and materials validation so as to reduce the risk related to insertion of new materials. Recommendation: The Air Force should fully implement the R&D strategy that it develops, and it should reevaluate its strategy annually.