The U.S. Department of Defense announced Monday that a state agency of the Texas A&M University System will lead a $100 million national research consortium for modernizing hypersonic flight capabilities.
The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station will manage a five-year,
$20 million-per-year initiative involving many of the nation’s top research universities. The University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics will gather scholars from more than 40 universities as well as other federally funded researchers and industry leaders. The number of institutions involved is expected to rise.
Mark Lewis, acting deputy undersecretary for the Department of Defense, explained that hypersonic refers to flight speed at least five times the speed of sound.
On a Monday afternoon call with reporters, Lewis and Gillian Bussey, who is the director of the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office for the Department of Defense, praised Texas A&M for its proposal to head the consortium and its hypersonics research. Lewis said such research is one of the U.S. military’s biggest priorities.
“By choosing Texas A&M, I felt like we weren’t choosing a contractor. We ended up getting a partner and a valuable member of our team,” Bussey told reporters. “They really presented a great proposal that shows that they really understand what the hypersonics community needs — and how the university system can affect that.”
The announcement comes at a time when Texas A&M — along with the University of Texas System and other universities in the state — is working with the Austin-based Army Futures Command to help modernize the U.S. military. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy visited the RELLIS Campus Sept. 30 and viewed construction underway at the George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex.
The forthcoming RELLIS Campus complex will include a hypersonic and directed energy testing range called BAM, which stands for ballistic, aero-optics and materials. McCarthy told reporters in September that BAM would be one of only four locations in the country with its research and testing capabilities, which will include long-range precision firing capacity.
“When we look to states such as Texas, we see incredible support. They understand the importance of these technology areas for our warfighter partners and frankly, they’ve risen to the challenge,” Lewis said Monday. “Texas A&M is also doing some really impressive research across our priorities.”
In an A&M System press release, Texas A&M officials celebrated the consortium announcement.
“Tell us how we can help protect this nation and we’ll be right there,” A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said in the statement. “We have experience managing consortiums and our hypersonic research capabilities are second to none.”
Rodney Bowersox, professor of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M, will serve as manager of the consortium.
“Texas A&M has become the hypersonics research center of the nation,” Texas A&M Vice Chancellor and Dean of Engineering M. Katherine Banks said Monday in a written statement. “Our researchers and partners are unmatched and our new, state-of-the-art facilities will fill critical gaps in U.S. testing capabilities.”