BY JOLEY ABRAMS | MGMWERX MARKETING MANAGER
January 30, 2023 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONTGOMERY, AL – Agile Combat Employment (ACE) is one of the most talked-about concepts in the Department of the Air Force. The ability to rapidly deploy and establish forward operating locations, manned by multi-capable Airmen, is the way the Air Force is crafting the future of warfare. As the United States military shifts the way it trains and fights using ACE, the efficient use of aircraft cargo loading equipment and capacity becomes an issue. The size and sustainability of the current MHE (Materials Handling Equipment) render adaptive basing under ACE doctrine difficult.
The Air Force Chief of Staff, General CQ Brown, signed the service’s first doctrine publication on ACE, codifying a proactive and reactive operational scheme of maneuver to increase survivability while generating combat power throughout the integrated deterrence continuum. Air University’s Innovation Accelerator unit (AUiX) sought novel engineering solutions to help the Air Force leverage adaptive basing concepts through more sustainable efficient use of aircraft cargo loading equipment and capacity. Msgt Ryan O’Meara, AL Air National Guard describes the challenge as “closing a logistical capability gap hamstringing Agile Combat Employment.” He further comments, “Operational readiness, agility, and lethality hinge on the logistical capabilities of the Force and the Auburn University ACE/MHE project bolstered that readiness eliminating the need for limited, outdated, and cumbersome “one-note” legacy equipment.”
MGMWERX, an Air University innovation hub, facilitated an assessment event on behalf of Air University and in partnership with AUIX. The event searched the MGMWERX vast ecosystem for qualified academic institutions to submit solutions. The desired outcome produced MHE ideas and/or prototypes with 1) a small logistical footprint, 2) is effective in moving cargo, and 3) is easily sustainable (i.e., powered by and powers available equipment—aka. multi-use) which enables greater agility, efficiency, and effectiveness of the ACE concept. “MGMWERX helped to accelerate the ACE MHE project. The innovation hub provides a streamlined and efficient way to bring together resources and expertise and enabled rapid prototyping and testing” commented Lt. Col T.J. Ablay, AUiX Program Manager.
MGMWERX’s non-FAR-based acceleration process enabled Air University, by way of AUiX, to select an Auburn University student team at the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering to move into the detailed design phase and engineer an innovative MHE system. This collaborative project with Auburn University will serve as a model for the next wave of USAF innovation methods with Academia. “Academia typically provides a more theoretical and experimental approach to design and prototyping, whereas industry and the military tend to focus on practical, real-world applications and implementation,” Lt. Col Ablay said, “The Auburn University student researchers used the freedom of academia to explore new ideas and concepts and were not constrained by commercial or operational considerations.”
Following the successful completion of the project’s Phase 1 preliminary design and prototype, and in collaboration with the Alabama Air National Guard, the 187th Fighter Wing will utilize the equipment during ACE-type exercises allowing the university team and warfighter to continue design iteration.
“Seldom do the students get to work with a customer that is so invested in the outcome, that is also local and serving their community, while also having national and global impacts,” said Kyle Schulze, Asst. Professor Auburn University Mechanical Engineering. “Many of these future engineers will go on to support the defense industry, and this is a unique opportunity to learn from a warfighter first-hand and expose them to the unique culture.”
MGMWERX was created under a non-FAR based Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) to align with the education initiatives of Air University. MGMWERX augments ongoing Air University programs, through events like Pitch Night, to enhance the production of high-quality, innovative research and ideas that span issues of importance to the Air Force. This includes, but is not limited to, doctrine, strategies, capability needs, operational concepts, training, education, and science and technology.