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AEDC Capital Improvements Branch manages restoration, modernization, development of infrastructure

  • Published
  • By Jill Pickett

The Capital Improvements Branch, or TSSI, supports the mission of Arnold Engineering Development Complex by advancing test capabilities through addressing infrastructure needs.

“We partner with our Test Operations and Sustainment contractor, NAS (National Aerospace Solutions), to provide the Test and Evaluation infrastructure necessary for execution of the National Defense Strategy,” said Michael Dent, chief of TSSI.

The Branch is part of the Test Systems Sustainment Division. Project managers within the Branch support all AEDC mission areas – Flight, Aeropropulsion, Space and Missiles, and Hypersonics – at Arnold Air Force Base; McKinley Climatic Lab at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California; and the Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 at White Oak, Maryland.

“The scope of our programs is $100 million-plus,” Dent said. “We take the needs from our customers, turn those needs into requirements then begin the planning phase, move into design and then execute, with the help of sister organizations on base.”

A significant effort managed by TSSI is the Service Life Extension Program, or SLEP, which is addressing critical infrastructure needs.

“AEDC is rich in history and has been supporting DOD Test and Evaluation projects since the 1950s,” said Nathan Harrison, formerly the SLEP program manager for TSSI. “Due to AEDC’s aging infrastructure, there are many critical restoration and modernization needs. Addressing these needs is absolutely crucial for maintaining and further realizing U.S. airpower superiority. SLEP has played an integral role by ensuring AEDC assets can continue to provide test and evaluation capabilities that are second to none.”

An example of SLEP efforts at Arnold AFB is the replacement of nine exhauster motors with five exhauster motors in the A and B Plants which serve multiple test cells on base. Electrical and controls infrastructure was also replaced. The upgraded equipment will increase reliability and maintainability of the system.

Another effort completed as part of the SLEP is a project that implemented an innovative method to repair leaking raw water pipes by lining the interior with a fiber-reinforced polymer. The repair was conducted to meet an urgent need, and its success is being evaluated to determine if this process will be viable across Arnold where appropriate. Implications are cost avoidance in the millions, plus potentially a ten-fold reduction in schedule required to implement.

2nd Lt. Adam Doyle, a project manager with TSSI, oversaw the pipe restoration.

“As a project manager my role is to manage and integrate projects to ensure all cost, schedule and performance requirements are delivered to enhance AEDC test capabilities,” Doyle said. “Along with that, I believe a big portion of my job is delivering the most efficient ways of solving AEDC’s critical needs that could be problematic for the advancement of the National Defense Strategy.”

In addition to restoring and modernizing infrastructure to maintain existing capabilities, TSSI pushes AEDC forward by constructing facilities to meet evermore demanding test needs, such as the hypersonic mission area.

“Open sources tell us that Russia and China have made significant advancements in hypersonic flight in recent years,” said Frank Wonder, Hypersonic Test and Evaluation Investment Program (HyTIP) manager for TSSI. "As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested, and much of that at AEDC, to advance our nation’s Hypersonic Test and Evaluation infrastructure.

“My role includes bringing our Capital Improvements project management tools and a solid foundation of Systems Engineering principles to assist our Hypersonics Test Branch program managers as they lead these efforts.”

One of the HyTIP efforts is the Hypersonic Test Capability Improvement project, which will transform the former J-5 Large Rocket Motor Test Facility at Arnold AFB into a large-scale clean air variable Mach test facility with a longer runtime than any facility of its kind.

TSSI team members meet the unique projects in the state-of-the-art test facilities head-on.

“As a project manager I work every day to have my finger on the pulse of each project,” said Erin Landry, a project manager for TSSI. “This means that every day I’m thinking about what has happened historically, what is happening presently and how to best position for the future.”