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AFRL Speed Agile Team
Air Force Research Laboratory's Speed Agile team was honored with the Aviation Week Laureate award for Aeronautics/Propulsion on March 7 in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Team members include (left to right): Cale Zeune (AFRL), Peri Widener (Boeing), Barth Shenk (AFRL) and Al Romig (Lockheed Martin). (Contributed Photo)
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AFRL Speed Agile team recognized as best in the industry

Posted 3/26/2013   Updated 3/26/2013 Email story   Print story


by Holly Jordan

3/26/2013 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Air Force Research Laboratory's Speed Agile Powered Lift System Concept Demonstration team was honored with the Aviation Week Laureate Award for Aeronautics/Propulsion at a ceremony at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on March 7.

The Speed Agile team is led by Barth Shenk and Cale Zeune from the AFRL Aerospace Systems Directorate. In a collaborative effort with NASA, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the team began research efforts in 2002 to explore innovative approaches in the development of next-generation tactical mobility aircraft. Key objectives of such a vehicle were transoceanic range at transonic speed, and Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) performance with loads heavier than a C-130.

In response to these needs, the AFRL team developed the Speed Agile Concept Demonstrator (SACD), a four-engine, multi-mission aircraft that offers speed agility; operates routinely from short, improvised airfields; carries larger and heavier payloads; and employs precise and simple flight controls. The Speed Agile team benefitted from the contributions of Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee and the Large Amplitude Multi-mode Aerospace Research Simulator (LAMARS) at Wright-Patterson AFB.

"Through the combined efforts of such a great team, dedicated partners and tremendous facilities, the Speed Agile concept is poised to make tremendous contributions to the warfighter," Mr. Shenk said. "This award is a wonderful honor at the culmination of this long, collaborative effort."

The SACD's high-efficiency STOL design incorporates a hybrid powered lift system. This lift system features a simplified mechanical design and low-drag integration. This lift system minimizes the engine size requirement so that both propulsion integration drag and power differential between takeoff and cruise are as small as possible, eliminating a major source of fuel efficiency problems and speed limitations in legacy systems.

Through a series of developments and demonstrations, the Speed Agile team concluded their effort in 2012 with large-scale validation tests and transonic validation tests, followed by a flight control simulation in which pilots rated the system highly.

Efficient point-to-point travel enabled by the SACD has the potential to eliminate dependence on major airports and extensive surface infrastructure to save time, fuel and environment. The resulting impact of this ability is a dramatic reduction in logistics footprint, fuel burn and time required to move people and supplies anywhere in the world via direct delivery to a forward base.

Aviation Week's Laureate Awards are awarded annually for extraordinary achievements in aerospace, aviation and defense. Nominees are considered from throughout the aerospace industry.

In receiving the award, the AFRL Speed Agile team joins a prestigious group of pioneering scientists and leaders from around the world.

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