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Efforts of many keep ‘Project Phoenix’ moving forward

  • Published
  • By Bradley Hicks

Numbers help tell the tale of how a major milestone was recently achieved in the refurbishment of the former J-5 Large Rocket Motor Test Facility at Arnold Air Force Base.

On Nov. 21, the final concrete pour was performed for the Block 1 heater pit which will house the heaters that will allow for testing at hypersonic conditions. The pit, which measures 40 feet wide, 80 feet long and 35 feet deep, is supported by approximately 4,000 yards of concrete, 130 tons of rebar, 100 tons of additional steel and more than 130 secant piles.

But, for Hypersonic Test Capability Improvement (HTCI) Project Technical Lead Jonathan Osborne, one number jumps out more than all the others when it comes to overall support for the enterprise.

“There are a lot of people involved,” said Osborne, who works for Perikin Enterprises. “I keep a list of people who have supported the project and, at this point, we’re at over 500 people who have supported the J-5 renovation from its inception.”

A team of Arnold engineers is leading the HTCI project, nicknamed “Project Phoenix.” This project will transform the J-5 facility, which has been mothballed since the mid-1990s, to support research and development of future hypersonic weapon acquisition programs.

“Part of the Phoenix team consisting of Air Force, Perikin Enterprises, National Aerospace Solutions and APTIM Federal Services employees reached a unique milestone at the end of the year that highlights just how well AEDC (Arnold Engineering Development Complex) can work together,” said Elijah Minter, Hypersonic Test Investment Portfolio manager/Air Force project director.

The effort, which got underway a couple of years ago, has been supported by a number of contractors and organizations both within and outside of Arnold. Throughout the J-5 renovation and reactivation process, this team, according to Osborne, has displayed exemplary coordination in getting the project to where it stands today.

“It takes all these people working together,” Osborne said. “The way things typically work in a development world is that everybody has their own space and people become territorial. J-5 is executed with a very different mindset in that we’re all working alongside each other. Whether you have construction companies or engineering services companies, a balance has been created where everybody is working in sync to achieve the objective.

“All of the companies that we’ve had supporting this project so far have just been very easy to work with; they work well together; they work well with us. We’ve built one very large team, and it very much is that – it’s a team – where not one specific person is powering the boat. We’re all rowing together at the same time.”

Arnold AFB Protective Services is among the organizations lending its support to the project. Osborne said Hypersonic Test Capability Improvement Program Project Management Office (HyTIP PMO) personnel regularly coordinated with the AEDC Facility Support Services contractor, then Akima Support Operations, whose team made certain concrete trucks were able to make timely deliveries to fill the Block 1 pit. In some instances, the time to get the concrete from the batch plant to the heater pit was more limited, and truckloads of concrete could have been lost if deliveries were held up. Osborne said HyTIP PMO personnel worked with Arnold Protective Services in these cases to ensure the truck drivers were expeditiously processed at the base gate.

The concrete pours lasted several hours at a time, with some taking 10 to 12 hours to complete. Pours took place at all hours of the day, with larger ones typically performed after sunset.

“During one of the concrete pours, the trucks only had 10 minutes to spare before that batch of concrete would go bad, costing the government more than $4,000 each,” Minter said. “Protective Services performed security sweeps of each truck and monitored traffic flows, resulting in no wasted concrete.

“The FARM (Facilities Acquisitions for Restoration and Modernization) contractor, APTIM, successfully executed each of the complicated sections of the heater pit after completing the design last year.

“The heater pit is a large accomplishment, but there will be many other opportunities in the next few years that require Team AEDC to work together to deliver another world-unique testing capability at Arnold AFB.”