Defense Transformation Banner
Breakthrough Could Lead to New Warhead Technologies
An Air Force team has made a significant breakthrough in its hypersonic
computational research, which could lead to new warhead technologies.
By Erin Crawley / Air Force Office of Scientific Research Public Affairs

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 17, 2006 – An Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate science and engineering team has made a significant breakthrough in its hypersonic computational research, which could lead to new warhead technologies.

Funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research here, the team is studying the aerodynamic characteristics of projectiles that deform at hypersonic speeds at sea level conditions, which is a high-speed flight regime not commonly studied.

Dr. Kirk Vanden, technical advisor for the computational mechanics branch, Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate, is the lead principal investigator on the project.

One of the goals of the research is to advance warhead technology and the team is getting closer to this goal.

Recently, the team determined the level of chemistry modeling needed to model hypersonic flows at sea level conditions. 

Because hypersonic vehicles normally fly at very high altitudes the research team had to answer some fundamentally new questions about hypersonic flight at sea-level conditions before proceeding with their broader research goals.

Vanden’s team was awarded the grant to study hypersonic and unsteady flow science issues for explosively-formed penetrator warheads.  Hypersonic speed is equal to or greater than five times the speed of sound.

Vanden’s work mostly concentrates on studying flows at speeds of around Mach 6, using highly advanced computational fluid dynamics codes.

Dr. John D. Schmisseur, an Air Force Office of Scientific Research program manager, oversees office’s boundary layers and hypersonics grant portfolio, which includes this research grant to Vanden. Schmisseur believes Vanden’s work is truly cutting-edge.

“This is an exciting new application of nontraditional hypersonic computational analysis,” Schmisseur said.”We are really excited about Kirk applying these new tools to his problem.”

“If we do that, we’ll be able to hopefully revolutionize some of the analysis tools to help develop new warhead technologies for the warfighter,” he noted.

Although Vanden’s work in this arena is not ready for the application stage yet, Schmisseur said Vanden has a solid reputation for taking basic research to the next level. 

“The key part about Kirk’s research is that he’s really building the bridge between our basic research programs and actual tools for application that will benefit the warfighter,” Schmisseur explained. “He’s a great transitioner of our technology and science.”

Vanden’s research could lead to increasing the capability of existing warheads. 

“Without going into specifics, this research already has a use in mind,” Vanden said. “We already have things in place with people who are doing the warhead work, so it is not something that we ‘hope’ to use someday, it is something that the warhead designers in my directorate have already given me problems to work on.”

“We are now trying to develop the capability to go look at those problems,” he concluded.
DoD Homepage War on Terror News Products Press Resources Images Contact Us
Aug. 03, 2015
  Defense Transformation Banner