An AF first for aircraft research, development

  • Published
  • By Antoinette Smith
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
For the first time the Air Force has a means to conduct airworthiness assessments on non-Defense Department military type aircraft. This process enables the Air Force to gain a much deeper understanding of the state of civil aviation, while providing industry with an expert, independent evaluation of the safety and reliability of their products.

The Air Force is establishing cooperative research and development agreements with industry to perform these airworthiness assessments. CRADAs generally grant the government the ability to provide services, facilities or both to partners to conduct federal research development and engineering activities.

In this case, the Air Force and industry partners work together to define a set of evaluation criteria using MIL-HDBK-516. When the assessment criteria have been established the Air Force performs an independent compliance assessment using design, analysis and test data provided by the industry collaborator. At the end of the process, the Air Force produces a comprehensive risk analysis document, called an airworthiness assessment report.

The Air Force’s new Non-Defense Military Aircraft Office will execute CRADAs with any interested industry partner on a first-come, first-serve basis. Last month, the first CRADA of this kind was executed between the Air Force and Textron AirLand.

Over time, these government-industry collaborations will help the Air Force better understand commercial innovations and support its broader research and development goals.

”These partnerships will help our military maintain its technical superiority while supporting a robust defense industry base,” said Jorge Gonzalez, the Air Force’s Technical Airworthiness Authority.

Industry benefits by utilizing the Air Force’s valuable expertise to receive an expert assessment of the company’s aircraft type design against applicable military airworthiness criteria. This helps to reduce design risk and also results in an official assessment that may be advantageous to future foreign customers. While the assessment procedure follows the Air Force airworthiness certification process to its fullest extent as outlined in Air Force policy and guidance, the aircraft will not receive an airworthiness certification.

The airworthiness process is fact-based and data-driven. The standard CRADA period of performance is two years, but can be completed early, terminated by either party at any time or extended as necessary upon agreement from both parties. Government costs for the assessments are fully reimbursed by industry for all expenses incurred under the agreement.

“This is a win-win for the Air Force, industry, and our national defense,” said Camron Gorguinpour, the Air Force’s director of transformational innovation. “Not only are we gaining insight into technical innovation, we’re also finding innovative ways to collaborate with industry to our mutual benefit.”