Naval aviation officials host rotorcraft and vertical lift technology workshop



Jan 3, 2006

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Amy Behrman

NAVAIR Technology and Intelligence Office Public Affairs

The first in a series of naval aviation science and technology workshops was held December 13-14 in Patuxent River, Md. Co-sponsored by the NAVAIR Science and Technology Office and the Program Executive Office for Air ASW, Assault, and Special Mission Programs (PEO(A)), this convergence of military and industry minds was viewed as an important step toward developing a focused S&T roadmap for rotorcraft and vertical lift capabilities.

Navy and Department of Defense S&T and acquisition leaders met with nearly 200 industry and academic research officials in the two-day, interactive strategy session. Their objective was to identify innovative research and technology advancements with relevance to known and future rotorcraft capability gaps – and in some cases, to identify the need for new systems and technologies that would improve safety and survivability at reduced cost.

Acknowledging the uphill climb faced by the rotorcraft community, the group agreed that creating a credible, focused, long-range S&T roadmap is the best method for encouraging investment in critical rotorcraft areas.

“Operations overseas have dramatically illustrated the need for improvements in rotorcraft capabilities, survivability, and safety,” said Tom Laux, PEO(A). “It’s time we pool our collective resources toward a credible, affordable plan…and deliver some early successes.”

Rhett Flater, Executive Director of AHS International and luncheon speaker at the workshop, touted the benefits of establishing networked advocacy groups for rotorcraft safety and survivability, both in terms of reduced duplication and co-investment opportunities. Flater described an existing partnership between the National Rotorcraft Technology Center (NRTC) and Center for Rotorcraft Innovation (CRI) as an effective clearinghouse for cross-service requirements and industry and government research and development. According to Flater, the 2005 NRTC/CRI project portfolio represented $10 million in total investment, over half of which was tied to teamed activities.

For the bulk of the workshop, NAVAIR aviation platform technologists led discussion sub-groups in evaluating capability gaps and related technology developments in the areas of performance, survivability, interoperability, operations and support, and safety. Their collective task was to validate current rotorcraft and vertical lift technology roadmaps, and define or redefine potential technology solutions in the context of technology maturity, realistic transition timelines, and end-user platforms.

“The ultimate objective of the workshop is to link developing technologies with programmatic ‘windows of opportunity,’ enabling us to leverage investment, improve transition rates, and increase the impact of technologies on fleet readiness,” said Lt. Col. Steve Waugh, Deputy PEO(A) for U.S. Marine Corps operations.

In the coming months, NAVAIR and PEO(A) workshop organizers will coordinate with the Chief of Naval Air Forces (CNAF), U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters, OPNAV N706 and N78, DARPA, ONR, OSD and NAVAIR S&T personnel to prioritize, integrate finalize technology roadmaps. A broad area announcement is planned for release in the March timeframe, to solicit project-level technical solutions from industry and create enterprise investment portfolios for rotorcraft and vertical lift.

Capabilities-focused S&T Strategy

The process of matching valid capability gaps with the vast array of developing and yet-to-be developed technologies is a major undertaking. Given requests for S&T dollars are highly scrutinized against an array of competing national needs, justifications must be credibly presented, along with the impacts of various options.

“A successful S&T investment strategy is capabilities focused, guided by a mature technology roadmap, and supported by robust and ongoing collaboration among the Services,” said Dr. Michael Richman, Associate Director for Aerospace Technology, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.” Richman stressed to workshop participants the need for “physics based technology roadmaps” that identify goals and transition timelines, and quantify the impacts (in terms of increased capability) of alternative technologies and investment options.

“The pressure is on to strike the right balance between technology ‘push’ and requirements ‘pull,’" said Dennis Baker, NAVAIR S&T director. “A credible process for quantifying the risks and benefits of candidate technologies, as well as managing the trade space between payoff and probability of transition, is fundamental to achieving the greatest impact for every dollar invested.”

According to Baker, the goal of the Naval Aviation S&T Strategic Plan is to increase the visibility and impact of national investment, and align the Services, agencies, industry and academia toward common naval aviation objectives, both near- and far-term.

“The planning process will enable a linkage between emerging capabilities gaps and a range of technologies (both leap-ahead and sustaining) in various stages of maturity across government and industry,” said Baker

Naval Aviation Technology Roadmaps

Over the past summer, NAVAIR conducted a roadmapping pilot project, which used an automated planning tool to tie capability requirements to technology solutions for several naval aviation platforms and systems. Technology roadmaps were successfully constructed for F/A-18 Advanced Target Recognition (ATR), the Joint Strike Fighter, and a range of avionics subsystems (sensors, processors and displays).

According to Dr. Suresh Verma, head of S&T strategic planning at NAVAIR, over 200 technologies are now being tracked within the Vision Strategist roadmapping database, including 60 Phase III projects under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

Using the tool, individual roadmap “owners” are able to maintain the currency of their technology plans, establish permissions for data access, and link their roadmaps to related projects with an explicit or potential impact to their programs. In this way, all participating entities are immediately notified of schedule or funding changes that might force an adjustment to their programs.

“We’re encouraged that many of our major suppliers, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, are already using the [Vision Strategist] tool,” said Verma. “Linking industry and government technology developments through a dynamic database of joint, platform, and system-level capability roadmaps is a sure way to maximize available S&T investment, and speed the transition of much-needed technologies to the Fleet.”

For more information on the Naval Aviation S&T Strategic Plan and NAVAIR’s roadmapping project, contact Dr. Suresh Verma at 301-342-8100 or


NAVAIR’s Dr. Bill Frazier, pictured far right, leads members of the operations and support sub-group in a discussion of current and long-range O&S technology needs. (subgroup_0041_edited.JPG)

Mr. Tom Laux, Program Executive Officer for Air ASW, Assault, and Special Mission Programs, addresses government and industry representatives December 13, at the rotorcraft and vertical lift science and technology workshop. (Laux_0025_edited.JPG)

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