Looking back on a great year for local business

According to Inc. magazine, tech companies are feeling the pressure of rising costs in large coastal cities. Businesses and residents are leaving in search of opportunities in less expensive areas.

This is great news for Huntsville which, in 2018, saw new companies planting seeds, older companies deepening their roots, infrastructure branching outward, and the quality of life flourishing as active lifestyles demand more room to grow.

Inc. writer David Brown puts Huntsville No. 2 among the Top Six “Attention-grabbing Cities for Tech Start-ups.”

“NASA’s presence is largely responsible for the Rocket City’s high rankings on the opportunity scale for engineers. The city has also executed well in forging strong public-private partnerships and promoting a thriving technology industry. Software development, electrical engineering, and computer science are top fields, contributing to the city’s 309 percent year-over-year growth in tech jobs.”

With so many sensational “gets” for Huntsville and Madison this past year, the question is whether it is sustainable?

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Chip Cherry, president & CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, answer that question.

“We have spent the past 10 years with a focused, intentional plan to grow and diversify our job base, improve quality of life, and capitalize on the rich assets in Huntsville and North Alabama,” said Battle. “We’ve put an emphasis on workforce development in our schools. Our road projects are designed to keep traffic moving long into the future. We are making Huntsville more appealing and desirable for top talent to move here through parks, music and cultural amenities, greenways and bike lanes.

“We don’t plan just for the next year. We plan for the next 10 to 20 years. For example, we created the Cyber Huntsville initiative and worked with that volunteer group to land the State Cyber and Engineering School in Huntsville. This program, along with many others in our public schools and universities, will help prepare the tech workforce we will need for the future.”

Cherry agreed that diversification is the key.

“A diversified base of businesses coupled with a strong and diversified portfolio on Redstone Arsenal are key to ensuring that we have a dynamic regional economy,” he said. “The community’s economic development wins in 2018 will impact the community for generations to come. 

“The blend of new locations and expansions will provide a broad range of employment opportunities as well as providing business opportunities for local companies to grow.”

Here are the Huntsville Business Journal’s top Madison County business stories of 2018:

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing

Of all the big business acquisitions and developments launched in 2018, Battle said that if he had to focus on a single mayoral accomplishment in 2018, the Mazda-Toyota announcement dwarfs all others because of its impact on our economy year in, and year out.

“I’ve often said the hard work on a project comes after the announcement, and the scale of this [Mazda Toyota] project was no exception,” he said. “It brought enormous challenges from its sheer size and scope. Clearing 1,200 acres, bringing in 7 million yards of dirt, putting a building pad in place with a solid rock foundation, building roads, and all the other challenges associated with a development – many times over.

“Fortunately, we worked in partnership with the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S. team. And we are able to navigate through the challenges together and meet our deadlines. Now the building is ready to go vertical and on track to produce cars in 2021. This plant will provide jobs for 4,000-5,000 workers, generational jobs that will impact our economy for decades to come.”

Being built by Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA, the sprawling site will produce 300,000 next-generation Toyota Corollas and a yet-to-be-revealed Mazda crossover model annually, beginning in 2021.

Investment in the Mazda Toyota plant is being split evenly between the automakers, allowing both automakers to respond quickly to market changes and ensure sustainable growth.

“While there were a number of things that placed our community in a strong competitive position to win this project,” Cherry said. “In the end, it was the ability of our team, and our partners, to be nimble and responsive that made the difference.”

Rocket City Trash Pandas

In early 2018, the City of Madison approved up to $46 million to build a baseball stadium, signaling minor league baseball’s return to the Tennessee Valley.

Highly visible from I-565 off Madison Boulevard at Zierdt Road, the ballpark will seat 5,500 baseball fans, and is part of the Town Madison project.

The team – named the Rocket City Trash Pandas in a voting contest – will officially move from Mobile to Madison after the 2019 baseball season and remain the farm team for the Los Angeles Angels.

Town Madison

Town Madison development, which held several groundbreakings in 2018 after nearly 2 years of dormancy as $100 million in new road construction was built to accommodate traffic flow to and from the development.

Town Madison will include 700,000 square feet of office space; over 1 million square feet of retail space; 700 new hotel rooms; over 1,200 luxury apartments; and 300 single-family homes.

“We’re very pleased to see groundbreakings underway in the Town Madison space,” said Pam Honeycutt, executive director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce. “When complete, it will be a true destination spot, enabling families to spend the day enjoying entertainment, shopping and dining.”

Last February, HHome2 Suites by Hilton was the first to announce it was breaking ground on a 97 all-suite extended-stay hotel as part of the section called West End at Town Madison. The hotel is scheduled to open early this year.

Wisconsin-based retailer Duluth Trading Co. broke ground on its 15,000-square foot store in early December. The company is Town Madison’s first retail partner and will open this year.

As part of The Exchange at Town Madison, local developer Louis Breland broke ground last April on a 274-unit luxury apartment complex called The Station at Town Madison. It is slated to open in the summer.

In late May, Breland confirmed the development of a 150-room Margaritaville Hotel adjacent to the ballpark. It is set to open in 2020.

Madison Mayor Paul Finley said, “Margaritaville is an international brand known for high-quality and fun projects. Not only will this hotel attract guests from across the region, but it will add multiple new dining and entertainment options for Madison residents.”

The Heights and The Commons at Town Madison will provide a mixture of affordable single-family and multifamily homes, townhomes, spacious luxury apartments, and condominiums around a village square. Home prices will range from $250,000 to $500,000.  

MidCity Huntsville

Certain to take significant shape throughout 2019, MidCity Huntsville is a dynamic 100-acre experiential mixed-use community right in the center of Huntsville. When finished, it will consist of a series of interconnected spaces and gathering places.

MidCity will feature dining, entertainment and recreation from names such as REI Co-op, Wahlburgers, Rascal Flatt’s, and High Point Climbing and Fitness.

Already in operation is Top Golf, a sports entertainment center with climate-controlled golf-ball hitting bays, a full-service restaurant and bar, private event spaces and meeting rooms; a rooftop terrace with fire pit, hundreds of HDTVs, and free wi-fi.

The development will also offer bike and walking trails, a park, an 8,500-seat open-air amphitheater, and The Stage for outdoor music and entertainment.

Area 120 is a science and technology accelerator with some 200,000 square feet of space for R&D and startups.

The Promenade with its hardscaped space will accommodate local farmers markets and Huntsville’s growing food truck fleet. You will also find luxury apartments and a hotel.

GE Aviation

Two years ago, GE Aviation announced it had almost cracked the code to mass producing the unique ceramic matrix composite (CMC) components used in jet propulsion engines, and when they did, the company would build two facilities in Huntsville to produce them.

Last May, GE Aviation announced they will open a 100-acre factory complex, destined to be the only location in the U.S. to produce these ultra-lightweight CMC components, which can withstand extremely high temperatures.

Investment in the project is expected to reach $200 million. GE Aviation currently employs 90 people at the Huntsville site and is expected to reach 300 at full production.

Facebook

Facebook will invest $750 million into a large-scale data center in Huntsville that will bring an estimated 100 high-paying jobs to the area.

The Huntsville City Council gave unanimous approval for Facebook to purchase 340 acres in the North Huntsville Industrial Park for $8.5 million. They began construction on the 970,000-square-foot facility in late 2018.

“We believe in preparing our community for the challenges ahead,” said Battle. “Our Gig City initiative to provide city-wide high-speed connectivity is an example of that.”

The Downtown Madison Sealy Project

When the City of Madison announced that changes to the west side of Sullivan Street between Kyser Boulevard and Gin Oaks Court would pave the way for more commercial/retail space, it marked the beginning of a long-term improvement and expansion project for downtown Madison that would pick up steam in 2018.

Known as the Downtown Madison Sealy Project, it is the latest in a series of mixed-use developments about to hit downtown, extending from the east side of Sullivan Street to Short Street.

The city is making improvements to accommodate the 10,000 square-foot development which includes 190 upscale apartments and more than 10,000 square feet of retail space.

GATR Technologies

In April, Huntsville-based GATR Technologies announced it would be quadrupling its production capacity in Cummings Research Park to nearly 100,000 square feet.

The inflatable portable satellite innovator was acquired by Cubic Mission Solutions in 2016 and has grown from 80 employees in 2016 to 157 in 2018. GATR is projected to employ more than 200 people by October 2019.

GATR will soon be delivering systems by the thousands to the U. S. government, military, and any entity that benefits from deployable communications, such as in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Electro Optic Systems

In June, Electro Optic Systems announced it will build its flagship production facility at on Wall Triana Highway in Huntsville.

The Australian aerospace technology and defense company expects to hire up to 100 fulltime employees in its first year and is scaled to grow to at least 250 employees quickly.

EOS has been producing software, lasers, electronics, optronics, gimbals, telescopes, beam directors, and stabilization and precision mechanisms for the military space, missile defense, and surface warfare sectors for more than 20 years.

BAE Systems

BAE Systems, the third-largest defense contractor in the world, broke ground on a $45.5 million expansion of its existing facilities in CRP in July. The growth is expected to create hundreds of jobs.

The new 83,000-square-foot facility is the first phase of a multi-phase growth plan to expand its existing offices on Discovery Drive and develop a new state-of-the-art manufacturing and office space facility in CRP to increase their capacity. An unused adjacent 20-acre lot will provide room for yet more expansion soon. Construction of the new building is expected to be complete in 2019.

Radiance Technologies

Employee-owned defense contractor Radiance Technologies broke ground in July on their first comprehensive headquarters in Huntsville.

The new 100,000 square foot building in CRP will, for the first time, allow the company’s 300 employees, all of whom have operated at remote locations in Huntsville since 1999, to collaborate under the same roof as they provide innovative technology to the Department of Defense, NASA, and national intelligence agencies.

South Memorial Parkway Expansion

The short but significant widening and redesign of the main line of South Memorial Parkway caused many headaches for residents and business owners over the past 2½ years, but in late July, that stretch between Golf Road and Whitesburg Drive officially re-opened.

The $54 million project opened a gateway of uninterrupted traffic through South Huntsville, providing easier accessibility to South Huntsville businesses, schools, and residential areas.

“South Parkway being fully open is a game-changer for businesses and drivers in South Huntsville,” said Claire Aiello, vice president of Marketing and Communications at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Looking to 2019

“Our objective has been to build on the community’s traditional industries such as aerospace and defense, while creating more opportunities in the semi-skilled and skilled sectors of the economy,” said Cherry. “We excelled in all of these areas in 2018. The year will go down in the record books as among the most vibrant economic development years in our history. The companies that selected our community for their new location or expansion will create over 5,400 new jobs and invest over $2.7 billion in new buildings and equipment. These investments and jobs will have a profound impact on our quality of life for decades to come.”

“Cummings Research Park is now at 91 percent occupancy,” said Aiello. “We are making a big focus on new amenities for employees at CRP to keep them engaged and to give them things to do in the park besides work. That will be something to look forward to in 2019.”

And according to Battle, “2019 is going to be a good year. Let’s just keep it at that!”

Turner Construction Renovating TMDE Lab

Turner Construction recently began renovating the Army’s TMDE Activity’s Primary Standards Lab at Redstone Arsenal. The 76,000 square-foot facility is used for primary-level calibration and repair of Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) that the Army uses for its vehicles, weapons and equipment.

“As the agency responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the Army and its military systems, this renovation is crucial for us,” said George Condoyiannis, chief of construction for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District. “The renovation includes updating laboratory spaces to keep up with state-of-the-art, high-tech army equipment that have significant calibration needs.”

The $27,223,895 renovation takes place while the building remains occupied. Completion is slated for January 2021.

“This project is an extension of an incredibly valued partnership between the U.S. Army Corps and Turner, and we are proud to play a part in the incredible work they do for our community and our country,” said Turner’s Southeast Federal Account Manager Tyce Hudson.

Local small businesses go global for defense sales

The theater at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Davidson Center was filled with small, locally owned defense contracting firms eager to learn more about foreign military sales.

They were not disappointed as The North Alabama International Trade Association (NAITA) presented its industry networking event, “FMS Across the Globe.”

The keynote speaker, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Drushal, commanding general of USASAC, discussed the goals for shortening the time between Letters of Request and Letters of Acceptance, as well as the need to combat the perception that FMS is a detriment for Army readiness.

“Our international partners are relying on us to get it right, there are other choices out there; we need to collaborate to increase speed of execution,” Drushal said.

Drushal also emphasized the Total Package Approach and it is a win-win for the army as well as FMS partners. As a component of the “4 Ts”: Trust, Transparency, Teamwork, and Total Package Approach, TPA includes spare parts, equipment maintenance, training, documentation and non-standard equipment.

The first panel discussion, “FMS Around the Globe,” featured a trio of USASAC regional directors: Cols. Jason Crowe, Jose Valentin, and Michael Morton.

The discussion focused on eliminating the competition by providing expert training, maintaining a presence, and providing high-quality American equipment. The panel also touched on the importance of securing prime FMS market, responsiveness, unique regional requirements, and how industry can assist by providing compatible spare parts and training support.

Timothy Schimpp, security assistant specialist for the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Defense Exports & Cooperation, presented the Export Control Update. Heiscussed Technology, Security, Foreign Disclosure, the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy Implementation Plan, and how export control reform is working to create “Higher Fences around Fewer Things,” while lowering “fences” for items, such as spare parts.

The second panel session, “Collaboration to Meet FMS Demand,” was Nancy Small, director of Small Business Programs for the Army Materiel Command. Panelists were Larry Lewis, president of Project XYZ, and Rob Willis, director of Aviation & International Programs for Integration Innovation Inc. (i3). They discussed how businesses must know their customers and what the business’s value proposition means to the customer, the importance of understanding the realities of cultural expectations, differences, and how business is conducted in other countries.

For more information on upcoming NAITA events, visit www.naita.org.

Huntsville’s Business Environment Embraces Veterans

Huntsville is a well-known destination for retiring veterans who want to do business with the government.

In 1992, Rosalyn Thompson-Blackwell and Roderick Herron met during 14 weeks of Officer’s Training at Fort Benning, Ga.

Thompson-Blackwell, president and CEO of Huntsville’s Mb Solutions, had worked as a project manager and acquisitions officer in the Army, stationed in Colorado Springs, Colo. She often came to Huntsville on Temporary Duty because her brother was stationed at Redstone Arsenal.

When she retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel after 24 years of service, she wanted to start a business that supplied services to the Department of Defense. There was no hesitation about where she would go.

Herron, executive vice president of Mb Solutions, had his college business degree but was deeply in debt. Three years in the Army was the quickest means for paying it off. Twenty-six years later, he found his greater purpose.

When he retired, also as a lieutenant colonel, he made a career decision based on Redstone being the closest military installation to his hometown of Grenada, Miss.

Huntsville is the ‘Pentagon South’ 

“For Army veterans, Huntsville is known as the ‘Pentagon South,’” said Rich McAdams, president of Ignite, a certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business government contractor headquartered in Huntsville. “So much Army acquisition work is done here, it is said that if an Army soldier writes it, shoots it, eats it, drinks it, or consumes it, the Army Materiel Command in Huntsville buys it.

“AMC has an annual budget of $147 billion a year, so you can see why Huntsville is so well-known and highly regarded among veterans, and especially those interested in doing business with the government or military.”

The Challenges of Starting a Veteran-owned Business

Initially, Thompson-Blackwell went to work for People-Tec, a Huntsville contractor which specializes in diversified engineering, modeling and simulation, cybersecurity, rapid prototyping, and program support.

“I had received programmatic and engineering services and knew the military structure and the acquisition process,” she says. “I did not know the business from the contractor’s perspective, so People-Tec mentored me even though they knew I wanted to go into business for myself. They showed me how to cost out contracts and how to manage contracts.”

In 2016, Thompson-Blackwell and Herron opened Mb Solutions together.

“It’s not as easy as it may seem,” says Herron. “It takes a lot of work, a lot of knowledge, the right connections, and many blessings. Sometimes the difference between success and failure is luck!”

“We call it procurement-ready,” says Mary Jane Fleming, Procurement Advisor and VA Certified Verification Advisor at the Small Business Development Center and Procurement Technical Assistance Center. “If you want to do business with the government or team up with large companies, we help you understand the business processes.”

“We went through a lot of growing pains, but we used it to our advantage,” says Thompson-Blackwell. “This is where a military background is important. We used that time to set up operating procedures, write policies, and set up an accounting system. We figured out how our company could be beneficial to veterans with benefits and policies that align with that philosophy. We didn’t waste any of that time.”

According to Foster Perry, director of the SBDC, “This is a military town; Veterans own a lot of businesses here and they hire a lot of veterans. The military has its own culture, so if they can bring someone in who knows that culture, it is a benefit.”

Veterans Make the Best Employees

“I admit I am biased when it comes to veterans,” says McAdams with Ignite. “I am biased for business reasons. Vets make great employees.

“At a young age in the Army, you are given a lot of responsibility. At 22 you might be a section leader in charge of five or six soldiers or a squad leader in charge of 10 or 11 soldiers. If you are in Afghanistan, you are going door-to-door looking for bad guys and making life or death decisions. At 26 years old, you can have 100 people working for you and be responsible for over $100 million worth of equipment. Veterans have maturity and judgement way beyond that of a civian peer.”

Herron and Thompson-Blackwell agree.

“We have been on the other side and have a passion for what we do,” said Thompson-Blackwell. “We know the needs of the kids – the soldiers who are still out there on the front lines.

“If I can provide something to make their life easier or that could save one American child’s life, it’s worthwhile.”

“I think once you have done 24 to 26 years of service, it becomes part of who you are,” said Herron. “That service spirit is embedded in you and you still want to be part of it in some way.

“Providing support to the government is like being a part of something bigger than you.”

McAdams said a key to hiring veterans is their strong work ethic.

“If I have two candidates, all things being equal, but one is a veteran,” he said. “I will hire the vet in a heartbeat because of their work ethic, maturity and judgement.”

 

Sentar awarded $12.1 Billion U.S. Army contract

 

Sentar, a Woman-Owned Small Business, was recently awarded a potential, nine-year, $12.1 billion contract from the Army.

The Huntsville-based company specializes in advanced cybersecurity and intelligence services and technology. The award is an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for Information Technology Enterprise Solutions-3 services, known as ITES-3S. The program  is expected to be the Army’s primary source of IT-related services worldwide. The contract ceiling value is $25 billion.

“Sentar is excited to be recognized as a leading small business that can provide the innovation and agility required in today’s cybersecurity-intensive IT environment,” said Bridget Abashian, CEO and president of Sentar. “We look forward to strengthening our relationship with our Army customers and delivering services essential to the soundness of our nation’s most critical programs for years to come.”

 

VT Miltope Opens Headquarters in Huntsville

VT Miltope is a maker of rugged computers and wireless networking systems with military and commercial applications.

VT Miltope, a producer of rugged computers, is setting a new course and, with it, moving to the Rocket City.

The company announced Wednesday it is moving its headquarters to Huntsville from just outside Montgomery.

market leader in ruggedized computers and wireless networking for tactical and aviation applications, is expanding its operations to Huntsville, Alabama.

“Our company is setting a new course with a new vision. As we build upon and enhance our current core product lines, we’ll be expanding into new related products and markets,” said retired Army Brig. Gen. Jack Haley, CEO and president of VT Miltope. “That’s why Huntsville is the perfect setting for our new headquarters.  “Additionally, Huntsville will give us excellent access to our military and corporate customers as well as a highly skilled technical workforce.”

VT Miltope, which also provides wireless networking for tactical and aviation applications, is expanding from Hope Hull to 7037 Old Madison Pike in Huntsville.

“VT Miltope is well known for their … products that meet the warfighter’s needs in difficult environments,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “We’ve visited with the company through the years, and we’re happy to see them become a part of the Huntsville landscape. The Rocket City is the ideal place for VT Miltope to expand.

“Our city has many competitive advantages with its highly skilled and highly educated workforce in a dynamic and low-cost community.”

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong cited the area’s infrastructure and the skilled workers.

“In choosing Huntsville-Madison County for the new headquarters, VT Miltope aligns their core strengths and products with the fundamental assets of our region, including Redstone Arsenal, our established infrastructure, and especially our advanced workforce,” Strong said.

“VT Miltope is an excellent company with a great product line, and we fully expect their team to succeed here,” said Chip Cherry, president/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber. “They join a highly skilled community around Cummings Research Park, too, and we are  happy to welcome them as a new Chamber of Commerce member as well.”

VT Miltope has been dedicated to the innovation and improvement of its rugged computers and wireless networking solutions for more than 40 years. The company prides itself on ensuring that its products and systems are capable of withstanding demanding environmental conditions.

Visit http://mymiltope.com/

 

Leading Researcher and Top Commentator to speak at SMD Symposium

Among high-powered military leaders who will speak at the 2018 Space & Missile Defense (SMD) Symposium will be two prominent national security issues commentators and researchers.

Think tank fellows Dr. Thomas Karako and Rebeccah Heinrichs are scheduled speakers for the symposium at the Von Braun Center, Aug.7-9.

Karako will speak on Adapting Joint Air an Missile Defense Operations to the Near Peer Threat at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Heinrichs is scheduled to speak at 10:30 a.m. Thursday on Space and Missile Defense Imperatives.

Karako has been with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) since 2014 when he was named a fellow with the Project on Nuclear Issues. CSIS is an organization regularly called upon by Congress, the executive branch and the news media to explain the day’s events and offer bipartisan recommendations to improve U.S. strategy.

Karako is a senior fellow with the International Security Program, which is considered a constant source of reliable analysis on the threats and opportunities shaping U.S. security interests at home and abroad.

He is also the director of the Missile Defense Project, in which research considers the most pressing problems of the day, such as homeland missile defense, integrated air and missile defenses for U.S. forces and allies abroad, offensive strike capabilities, and investments in high technology to defeat missile threats through new and innovative means. The project also hosts a variety of events to shape the debate about policy, budgets, legislation, and both current and future programs.

Heinrichs is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a nonprofit for more than 50 years established to challenge conventional thinking and help manage strategic transitions to the future through interdisciplinary studies in defense, international relations, economics, health care, technology, culture, and law, according to its website.

As a senior fellow researcher for the Hudson Institute, Heinrichs provides research and commentary on a range of national security issues, and specializes in nuclear deterrence, missile defense, and counter-proliferation.

A former Senate advisor on military matters and foreign policy, Heinrichs worked to help launch the bipartisan Missile Defense Caucus and will be speaking Aug. 9 to Symposium attendees on imperatives for space and missile defense.

Heinrichs has regularly appeared on Fox News and her work has been published in major newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Times, and Investor’s Business Daily as well as political journals such as Politico and The Hill.

SMD Symposium: Technology Track to Innovation & Breakthroughs

Every year, the Space & Missile Defense Symposium chooses two topic areas pertinent to that year’s SMD focus, and they provide members of the space and missile defense community the opportunity to submit and present innovations and technical ideas.

For the program known as Technology Track, the committee sends out a call for entries several months in advance for two-page written abstracts describing the basis of their work with enough detail to allow for an evaluation of that work in the two major topic areas. This year, the committee received more than 25 submissions for which the panel chose five in the area of Cyber Resiliency, Testing, and Development; and six for Weapon System Performance Testing and Evaluation.

“These are submissions to present their work and have a discussion about that work at the conference, and not submissions for funding, so there is no ‘Big Reveal’ so-to-speak,” said Stephen Cayson, chief operating officer for CFD Research and a member of the SMD planning committee. “The topics can really run the gamut between someone wanting to present new work they have developed, and someone wanting to report on the status of something they have been working on.

“Research and development work can quickly become classified and we are working in a public forum, so we usually lean toward established work, since a lot of the new work is sensitive and often, not something that can be discussed in an open setting.”

Cayson said the committee has scoring criteria for the submissions and, sometimes, it can get very competitive.

Technology Track is a 2-day event at the 21st Annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium which runs Tuesday through Thursday at the Von Braun Center.

On Tuesday, Paul Page with the Space & Missile Defense Command presents “Cyber Hardening by Replicating and Simulating”; Yaron Shragal with Draper Labs presents “CHROME: A State of the Art System for Comprehensive, Non-intrusive Cyber Resiliency”; Rob Goldsmith of SMDC/ARSTRAT presents “Cyber Resiliency and Mission Assurance”; Denise Jefferson of Northrop Grumman presents “A Tool to Inject Credible Warfighter-focused Non-kinetic Attack Effects into the BMDS M&S Environment”; and Connor Wood and Justan Provence, also of Northrop Grumman, present “Micro-service Data Pipelines”.

“We encourage our Technology Track presenters to keep their presentation down to twenty minutes to allow for ten minutes of questions and discussion,” said Cayson. “We really have a lot of great discussions come out of these presentations.

“Technologists are an underserved class in our community and we like to give them the opportunity to get together with other professionals and give them a chance to meet others working on similar projects, to develop that network, and to learn from each other.”

Wednesday, James Buford, Gary Freeman, and David Mallett, all from the Aviation & Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center at SMDC/ARSTRAT present “New and Improved Advanced Measurements Optical Range (AMOR) Capability for Advanced Sensing Capabilities”; and Perri Nejib of Northrop Grumman does a presentation called “Resiliency by Design, Defeating All Threats Cyber and Ballistic Missile-start Secure, Stay Secure, Return Secure”.

Phil Carey of the CMDS Project Office; Craig Burrow with Intuitive Research & Technology Corporation; and Bruce Peters from Torch Technologies present “Accelerating High Energy Laser System Capability for Air and Missile Defense”. Later that afternoon, E. Blair Carter and his team from the Aviation & Missile Research, Development, & Engineering Center present “A Simulation Toolkit for Rigorous Interceptor Design and Evaluation”; Northrop Grumman’s Connor Wood does a second presentation on “Modeling and Simulation Integration with Hardware and Software Development”; and Mike Curry with Draper Labs finishes up with “A Unified Framework for Interactive Tradespace Exploration”.

 

Going Hypersonic in the Back Rooms of SMD Symposium

The X-15 Hypersonic Research Program flew more than 200 flights and set unofficial world speed and altitude records. (NASA Photo)

They may not be a lead topic on the 21st Annual Space & Missile Defense Symposium agenda this week, but out in the hallways of the Von Braun Center, among exhibitors on the show floor, and over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres before every meal, people will be talking about current hypersonic missile threats from Hypersonic Glide Vehicles, sometimes referred to as Boost Glide Vehicles.

“Our near-peer adversaries and our own nation have been working on technology that will enable us, but hypersonics are not really in the mainstream of our military arsenal at this point,” said retired Air Force Brig, Gen. Kenneth Todorov, vice president of Missile Defense Solutions at Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. “They are potentially a very dangerous weapon and something that we need to take very seriously.

“The challenge for the defense industry is two-fold. One is the offensive side, that is, our nation’s capability to develop a hypersonic weapon of our own, which would help deter others from attacking us; but what will be a hot topic at SMD is the defensive hypersonic aspects we’re calling counter hypersonics.”

Todorov said that what makes hypersonic weaponry difficult for this nation’s current missile defense architecture is they fly at very fast speeds, they have very long ranges, they have maneuverability, and they are capable of looking like a traditional ballistic missile.

“A ballistic missile has a predictable trajectory and our current system can discern where an incoming missile might be headed, making it possible to intercept it or shoot it down,” he said. “A hypersonic threat could maneuver so fast and so rapidly that it outpaces our systems ability to see it, to detect it, and to intercept it.

“So that’s the real concern I think for the nation and for us as an industry as we work to come up with answers to that.”

A Quick History

Hypersonics are not new. In fact, they go back 50 years.

“We haven’t had constant focus in this area because, in the past, the U.S. was leading in that technology while, today, other countries have made breakthroughs,” said Ragini Acharya, Hypersonic Lead at CFD Research Corp. Her company is just one of several Huntsville-based companies pioneering the offensive and defensive sides of hypersonic boost glide vehicles using their expertise in modeling and simulation.

In 1967, NASA, the Air Force, Navy, and North American Aviation Inc., joined forces to create a manned hypersonic mission called the X-15 Hypersonic Research Program. Over a 10-year period, they flew more than 200 flights and set the world’s unofficial speed and altitude records flying at 354,200 feet and at more than 4,520 mph – nearly Mach 7.

The purpose of that program was to investigate all aspects of piloted hypersonic flight, which was instrumental in the development of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs, as well as the Space Shuttle program.

“The space shuttle and re-entry methods all use hypersonics,” Acharya said. “It’s not that the older work is not valid, but we just have a lot more challenges today. For instance, those missiles were rocket-powered but, today, companies like Aerojet Rocketdyne work tirelessly on different propulsion systems to replace it.

“Also, it has to be an unmanned vehicle, and we need longer duration because they went into space and came back from space, they couldn’t work in Earth’s atmosphere for very long. We need something that can operate in Earth’s atmosphere, and that can travel from one point to another. That is where most of our challenges lie.”

Todorov said there is a lot of work remaining from the anti-missile features.

“On the defensive side, there’s a lot of hard work yet to do,” he said. “A boost glide vehicle that rides a rocket into space and then re-enters the atmosphere and glides to its target at Mach 5 to Mach 10 speeds needs an answer – that is, a defensive capability to defeat them.

“It’s going to take a wide swathe of expertise across multiple disciplines to find that answer because they are so fast, so hard to detect, and they maneuver so rapidly. The first piece of the equation is, ‘Are you able to detect them?’, ‘Are you able to quickly identify them as a hypersonic threat?’, and ‘Are you able to see them not only through their launch, but through its flightpath, so that you can then affect the defensive solution and be able to counter them.”

Todorov is concerned that many people think developing an interceptor is the answer but although that is true and necessary in part, it will not be sufficient.

“It’s going to take an end-to-end solution that starts before they are launched, follows them through their launch window, and is able to detect, see, track, and monitor them,” he said. “That is likely to require a space layer.

“Whenever we talk counter-hypersonics, we really have to ask, ‘what are the assets we may already have, or that we may have to supplement in the space layer, to be able to look down and see these things – to be able to detect them?’

“In talking about counter-hypersonics, it’s much, much more than an interceptor.”

Space, huh? That Space Force idea begins to come a little bit more into focus does it not?

 

AEgis wins laser weapons contract

Huntsville-based AEgis Technologies has been awarded a $29 million contract for high-energy laser weapons.
The contract, awarded by the Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, is to support the High Energy Laser Division of the SMDC Air & Missile Defense Directorate.
 
AEgis and its partners will conduct an array of high-energy laser technology research and development efforts to support the transition of HEL weapons to the battlefield.
“AEgis has been providing HEL R&D and weapon system development support to the Department of Defense, the Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Air Force for almost two decades,” said Pat Cannon, AEgis vice president of distributed operations. “As a retired Army officer, I am thrilled AEgis and our team can now apply that knowledge and experience to help SMDC solve Army HEL problems and give our soldiers the weapons they need to fight and win our nation’s battles.
“The Army is at the forefront of transitioning HEL to the warfighter so this a strategic win for AEgis as it extends our directed energy line of business into Huntsville and SMDC.”