Researchers harness power of Thunder supercomputer at AFRL Supercomputing Resource Center

  • Published
  • By Bryan Ripple
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The power of Thunder could be felt in the basement of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base during a ribbon-cutting ceremony welcoming AFRL's third supercomputer to its Information Technology complex.

Thunder is part of the DOD High Performance Computing Modernization Program. It joins two other large systems -- Spirit and Lightning -- already located at the center. The Silicon Graphics Incorporated (SGI) ICE X is named Thunder after the Air Force's P-47 Thunderbolt and its subsequent namesake, the A-10 aircraft, both of which have played key roles in significant armed conflict for the U.S. military.

Since beginning operations in October, Thunder has solved complex simulations ranging from hypersonic flight to the limitations of a futuristic electromagnetic rail gun.

"This is a big day for AFRL as we bring Thunder online. Researchers here at Wright-Patterson will use it predominately in physics-based modeling tools and data analytics as well -- another huge area where you need the power of what Thunder brings to the table to be able to support the outcomes that come out of those programs," said Doug Ebersole, executive director of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Thunder is a powerful addition to the AFRL DSRC's computing lineup and a key technology enabler for DOD researchers.

"We're really getting to the point where we can replicate the testing that we do in the laboratories or on the test stands in structural analysis," Ebersole said.

"Thunder's capability is amazing, and reaffirms our commitment to providing our customers with world-class computational tools," said Jeff Graham, AFRL DSRC Director. "The power of Thunder will drive solutions to the most challenging problems facing our nation in today's volatile global environment."

Aerospace engineer Susan Cox-Stouffer used computational fluid dynamic simulations on the AFRL supercomputers to test the X-51 Waverider, a hypersonic vehicle that reached more than five times the speed of sound during flight tests over the Pacific Ocean.

"You can't design these on the back of an envelope," she said. "It takes a lot of simulations."

The newest supercomputer is the 21st fastest high-performance computing system in the world, and can calculate about 3.1 petaFLOPS, or 3,126,240,000,000,000 floating point operations per second, according to AFRL.