AFIT hosts introductory course on hypersonics

  • Published
  • By Katie Scott
  • Air Force Institute of Technology

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Institute of Technology, in partnership with the High Speed Systems Division of Air Force Research Laboratory’s Aerospace Systems Directorate, recently hosted a short course on selected hypersonic disciplines and fundamentals. 

The June 20-22 course focused on aerodynamics, propulsion, materiel, structures, stability and control, with the overarching theme of experimentation, testing, and multidisciplinary analysis and design.

“We developed a series of tutorials to give a basic overview as a way to bring incoming researchers and engineers into the hypersonics world as quickly as possible,” said José Camberos, AFIT associate professor of aerospace engineering.

Air Force employees, interns and contractors not familiar with hypersonic principles were the primary audience. Over 200 attended the course from AFRL, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, National Air and Space Intelligence Center, and other organizations across the Department of Defense, academia and industry.

“As an aircraft-performance technical expert, I was quite impressed with the material that was covered,” said Barry James, an attendee from AFLCMC’s Flight Technology Branch. “My knowledge of this subject was exactly zero, and now, I have a pretty robust understanding of it and the limitations thanks to your choices of material. It was all very informative and gave a solid foundation for the hypersonics flight regime challenges.”

During the three days, 25 subject matter experts from AFIT and AFRL covered topics on basic hypersonic aerodynamics, propulsion, stability and control, power and thermal management, vehicle design and analysis, and flight research and experimentation applications.

Attendees also had the opportunity for a guided tour of AFRL’s hypersonic test facilities by Mike Brown, principal scientist for the Aerospace Systems Directorate’s High Speed Systems Division.

“The unique part of this short course is the subject matter experts have been working in hypersonics or the subspecialty their entire career; it isn’t one teacher giving lectures all day,” said Ramana Grandhi, AFIT professor of aerospace engineering.

Lunch-and-learn presentations highlighting hypersonic-related programs were included in the agenda. Russ Cummings introduced the Hypersonic Vehicle Simulation Institute at the Air Force Academy, while Bernd Chudoba from the University of Texas at Arlington discussed the need and vision for a hypersonics future programs office.

“The practical insights shared by presenters were as important as the technical content,” said Jack Lesko, director of engineering research at Northeastern University’s Roux Institute.

Attending the course also enabled students to network with subject matter experts to build partnerships, highlight AFRL expertise and learn about educational opportunities at AFIT.

“We’re hoping to make connections, build partnerships, encourage collaboration and communication across the spectrum – it’s true workforce development and research collaboration,” Camberos said.

The course concluded with a visit to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, where students learned about legacy vehicles and technology such as the X-plane collection developed to advance the study of aerodynamics and propulsion.

“Some of the subject matter experts are retired, but they are willing to help transfer their knowledge,” Grandhi said. “Two of them in particular, Bob Mercier and John Schell, gave tours of the X-plane and SR-71 Blackbird to share their success stories and challenges as they worked on those programs.”

Added Camberos: “Because we invite and prioritize participation from summer visitors, interns and students, the course also serves as inspiration for the next generation of incoming researchers.”

The course originated with the High Speed Systems Division in 2016, led by Camberos in his former role at AFRL. This was the second year AFIT hosted the short course and plans for next year’s offering are underway.

For more information on AFIT’s research and education opportunities in the hypersonic field, visit