For many reasons, Ross Guieb is determined that The Texas A&M University System’s George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex (BCDC) achieves its mission. A military innovation hub like no other in the country, the BCDC promises to be good for the nation, the state and the university. But maybe most importantly for him, it promises to be good for his family.
Guieb, who recently retired as a colonel with the Army Futures Command to become executive director of the BCDC, has twin sons in the Corps of Cadets who will commission in two years. The work conducted at the RELLIS Campus—the Texas A&M System’s 2,000-acre integrated education, research and testing complex—will ensure that his sons and all other military members are safer and more effective as they perform their jobs protecting the United States.
“I’ve got skin in the game,” Guieb said. “If the U.S. goes to war, I want it to be unfair—unfair on our side. The BCDC is all about gaining overmatch.”
Envisioned as a highly instrumented testing center where the Army, other universities and private sector partners can demonstrate experimental technologies intended to improve national security, the $200 million BCDC has quickly become one of the nation’s leading sites for building the military of tomorrow, thanks to research expertise in five key areas:
1. Materials for Extreme Environments
The complex's test range includes hypervelocity impact capability, where researchers can study how materials and structures respond to high energy events. This can help the military build stronger protective buildings, better armored vehicles and safer personal gear, as well as understand how to lessen the chances of damage from extreme speed blasts and shock waves.
2. Directed Energy
Another key strength of the complex is the ability to test laser beams at long distances. As light travels through air of varying density, beams bend and spread through refraction and diffraction. This poses challenges for researchers trying to extend the range and accuracy of lasers for military applications.
A technology known as adaptive optics can mitigate distortions in laser beams. However, adaptive optics systems require a reference light source, which for astronomical viewing can be a nearby star. Hence, Texas A&M researchers are trying to create a laser guide star system for long-distance directed energy applications. “With adaptive optics integrated into combat systems, we can concentrate more laser heat on a target, even from very far away,” said Dr. Chris Limbach, an assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. “That’s much more effective.”
The centerpiece of the entire complex and the capability that makes it truly unique is the Ballistic, Aero-Optics and Materials Test Range (BAM), where evaluating high-energy lasers, hypersonic flight and the hypersonic impact of projectiles takes center stage.
Guieb describes BAM’s design and capabilities as “exquisite.” When complete, the testing range will be the longest, most technologically sophisticated in the nation, where prototypes in the one-kilometer-long range can be accelerated to velocities up to an incredible Mach 15.
“Doing just one full-scale hypersonic flight test costs about $200 million,” Guieb said, noting that hypersonic weapons—missiles that travel at Mach 5 or higher—are a top research-and- development priority for the Pentagon. “We will use BAM to learn as much as we can through thousands of simulations so that when we do a real test, we don’t waste taxpayer money.”
4. Autonomous Vehicles
Researchers are analyzing the future capabilities of autonomous vehicles—both on the ground and in the air—at the Innovation Proving Ground, a 140-acre outdoor test facility. The site includes an obstacle-laden mobility track and an off-road test area with urban, forested and cross-country terrain complete with state-of-the-art instrumentation technology. In this unique testing ecosystem, rigorous challenges assess the effectiveness and performance of autonomous vehicles in the real-world environment where they will be employed.
5. Resilient Computer Networks
On the battlefield, it is critical that the military’s communication systems can withstand hacking and instantly adapt to changing conditions. A slowdown or interruption can be the difference between victory and defeat.
Two teams of Texas A&M researchers from various engineering disciplines, plus computational mechanics, robotics and computer science, are working on breakthroughs in this area. One team is attempting to create an intelligent, intuitive software system that can direct vehicle movement automatically, while the other is developing a portable wireless network that can transmit information reliably between a platoon of air and ground vehicles.
“Everything we do at the BCDC is about protecting soldiers and getting things out of the labs and into the users’ hands as fast and efficiently as we can,” Guieb said.
To learn how you can support faculty and student researchers at the George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex, contact Jay Roberts '05, assistant vice president for development, using the form below.
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