exhorts the Army to support ARL’s efforts to maintain effective levels of staffing and equipment in order to continue essential work in such areas as propulsion and aircraft structures and materials.
Significant accomplishments were achieved by several divisions and programs of the Vehicle Technology Directorate during the past 2 years. Several parts of the propulsion effort, which is potentially at some risk in the transition from NASA Glenn, showed advances. The Active Stall Control Engine Demonstration (ASCED) (also noted in ARLTAB’s 2005-2006 report1) continues to combine state-of-the-art analysis with full-engine tests to advance the understanding and control of performance changes during service in environments of interest to Army missions. Other programs that have shown promise include the development of technology for high-efficiency wave-rotor-topped gas turbine engines, with initial results showing reduction of the specific fuel consumption by about 15 percent while increasing the power-to-weight-flow ratio by about 18 percent. In the context of increasing cost (and threat of loss of supply) of battlefield fuel, work of this type has obvious importance in reducing gas turbine engine specific fuel consumption while increasing the power-to-weight flow—progress that will make a significant contribution to Army missions. However, this work, which began as a NASA/ARL effort in the 1990s, has a rather long technical horizon for application, and it is also subject to possible disruption by the BRAC activities. In general, the engine research is appropriately focused on a balanced program of near-term and fundamental research. The computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation of compressor stall avoidance and the work on hot restart is excellent work that addresses near-term operational issues and provides a sound foundation for future developments and more refined research.
A second example of a significant advancement is the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance. The Robotics CTA is a well-organized and well-executed interlocking consortium of industry, academia, and government laboratory personnel that seems to offer a best-practice model for VTD and ARL. It was established through a competitive pre-award process and is managed in a centralized but intellectually fluid process capable of adapting to the changing features of the research landscape in this still-maturing field. The Robotics CTA presentations evidenced state-of-the-art and often pioneering results from some of the most qualified researchers in their fields. An example of cutting-edge research is the real-time extraction of geometric and semantic terrain representation from raw ladar point clouds. An example of the intellectual fluidity in allocating new resources to track potentially game-changing advances in technology is provided by the new RIVET simulation environment. A growing number of transition successes into fielded application platforms within the Tank-Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and the Future Combat Systems (FCS) validate the up-front positive impression conveyed by the CTA program portfolio itself. The very high quality research and its record of well-knit practical integration in Army-relevant field demonstrations at the Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, facility suggest that this approximately $10 million per annum investment—roughly one-third of the VTD budget—is paying off.
Finally, VTD is moving toward building its effort in the health and usage monitoring (HUMS)/condition-based maintenance (CBM) field with the addition of the new Mechanics Division chief. This should be encouraged as a real opportunity to apply the existing VTD expertise in rotorcraft, composite materials, fracture/fatigue, and nondestructive evaluation and diagnostics into an area that has a strong potential benefit to the Army. Structural health monitoring, HUMS, CBM, and so on constitute a rapidly