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Materials Needs and R&D Strategy for Future Military Aerospace Propulsion Systems
the initiatives recommended in the strategic plan is not discussed in the document.
Will the strategic plan accomplish its goals, if properly implemented? The detailed roadmaps do not address the complexity and interconnectedness of the development opportunities and the FLTCs. The plan lacks sufficient recognition of the inadequacy of the flow of new technologies from the AFOSR and other sources. The goals are attainable within the strategic plan as written, but there is a risk of loss of efficiency and the variability of funding and the recognition of opportunities for domestic and global collaboration.
The Air Force has in place a development process and organization that have been used for structural materials R&D in the past and that have produced a series of successful propulsion systems and excellent weapons platforms. Some excellent work is currently under way in both the basic and applied materials R&D areas and in planning; however, these areas address only a small part of the propulsion spectrum. The reduced national emphasis on this technology area is exemplified by a reduction in the budgets of the Materials and Manufacturing and the Propulsion and Power Directorates and by the number of competitive demonstrator engines used to transition advanced materials to new and existing systems and does not appear to be adequate to meet future Air Force needs. The deficiency in meeting the needs is compounded by this reduction in emphasis on propulsion and related materials, the increased requirements generated by the broader missions being defined by the Focused Long Term Challenges, and the growing competitive global systems capabilities resulting from other nations’ focused investments in propulsion materials technology. Of specific concern are areas such as composite-fiber manufacturing in which the United States is entirely dependent on foreign sources for materials for future weapons systems.
The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate and the Propulsion and Power Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory and the AFOSR have cooperated in the past through the institutionalized 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 funding categories and formal programs such as the IHPTET Program to provide USAF and the U.S. industry a global competitive advantage in propulsion technology and fielded systems; however, the current VAATE Program does not have the same level of industrial competition and funded materials support as in the past, and indications are that future 6.3 demonstrator programs will see further reductions in these areas.