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Air Force Competition Demonstrates Ground-Breaking Vehicle-Halting Prototypes

  • Published
  • By Space Vehicles Directorate
Servicemen and women fighting the Global War on Terrorism have seen in-theater vehicle checkpoints turn deadly due to uncooperative drivers. Two six-person teams comprising junior scientists and engineers from AFRL entered a competition focused on resolving this chronic, dangerous problem.

The teams worked in a rapid-prototyping environment over a 5-month period to devise innovative, nonlethal vehicle-halting methods. The teams subsequently demonstrated their groundbreaking, rapid-prototype solutions, which could eventually deploy for the use of military commanders overseas.

Major General Ted Bowlds initiated the AFRL Commander's Junior Workforce Challenge to innovatively construct, evaluate, and prove options for US and coalition force use in resolving, without deadly force, the perilous problem of uncooperative vehicles at checkpoints.

The twofold intent of the competition was to establish novel solutions addressing urgent warfighter needs, while providing junior officers experience in developing those solutions. Supplemented by $60,000 funding, each team created affordable, versatile, and portable working prototypes that met the needs of the end user.

The AFRL Commander's Junior Workforce Challenge enables participants to receive practical training on rapid product design and development, as well as mission and requirements analysis.

Such activities represent an unprecedented, invaluable opportunity that not only broadens early career experience but continues to impact the individual throughout his or her Air Force career.

The need for such programs and missions has increased since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Consequently, AFRL has teams working towards other urgent solutions for deployed troops as well, addressing critical capabilities ranging from the identification of friendly forces on the ground to the alleviation of brownouts, a condition that occurs when a helicopter landing (typically in a desert environment) creates a cloud of dirt that engulfs the aircraft.