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Air Force Featured Stories

AMC chief scientist receives Harold Brown Award

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Lesley Waters
  • Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Operating Location – P
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James presented Dr. Donald Erbschloe, the Air Mobility Command chief scientist, with the 2014 Harold Brown Award during a ceremony at the Pentagon, Dec. 9.

The award, established in December of 1968 as a tribute to Dr. Harold Brown who was the eighth SecAF and 14th secretary of defense, is the highest award given by the United States Air Force to a scientist or engineer who applies scientific research to solve a problem critical to the needs of the Air Force.

“Each year we do this to recognize significant achievement in research and development by a single person who has demonstrated promise and substantial improvement in the operational effectiveness of the Air Force,” James said. “Don really epitomizes the spirit of this award. He has translated research and development into increased operational capability.”

During her remarks, James highlighted four of Erbschloe’s accomplishments. The first was precision airdrop. Erbschloe provided critical leadership and expertise in the development of the High Speed Container Delivery system which allows air drop bundles to land in a very small area and a Wireless Gate Release system which helps improve performance by decreasing variability in the air drop release sequence.
She said these two field-proven innovations were used during the recent humanitarian efforts for those trapped at Mount Sinjar in Iraq.

“The ability to put a package exactly where it needs to be, when it needs to be there is a very important capability for the Air Force,” James said.

The second accomplishment was the ability to defeat biological agents. Erbschloe developed the Joint Biological Agent Defeat system. He used a mixture of hot and humid air to decontaminate aircraft against the most robust of biological agents.

“This is important if, in the future we have to enter and then exit a contaminated area, in either peacetime or wartime,” James said.

The chief scientist’s third accomplishment revolved around the wind turbines and their effects on the air traffic control radars at Travis Air Force Base, California. The radars use Doppler technology, which relies on motion to identify aircraft. The large wind turbines in the local area were impacting air traffic operations, because they reflected radar energy back to the controllers which caused increased clutter and the loss of identifying real targets/aircraft in the area
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Erbschloe led a review and established a mutually beneficial research agreement between Travis AFB and the local wind farm developers, which will help research and evaluate technical solutions to overcome radar target degradation.
“This will lead us to improved air traffic control ability and a better relationship between Travis (AFB) and the surrounding community,” James said. “He took what was a major tension and made it a win-win for all parties.”

The fourth and final accomplishment is called Surfing Aircraft Vortices for Energy or ($AVE). James compared $AVE to cyclists competing in the annual Tour de France. Cyclists work together as teams in drafting off each other, which is a strategy to reduce wind resistance and help cyclists conserve energy throughout the course. Erbschloe applied the same principle to two aircraft flying in formation and at an optimal distance, reducing wind resistance and providing a five to six percent fuel savings without any significant disruption to passenger comfort.

James said five or six percent might not make a big difference, but when compared to a return on a savings account or less cost the Air Force will have to pay for aviation fuel in the future, the numbers get really big, really fast.

“This not only shows the creative intersection between technology and our operational needs, but Gen. Spencer (Air Force vice chief of staff) and I have this initiative called Make Every Dollar Count, where we are looking for efficiency – this is a really good one,” James said.

Erbschloe acknowledged the Secretary of the Air Force’s remarks and thanked her and everyone else present during the ceremony, to include AMC commander Gen. Darren McDew, who watched the ceremony from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, via video transmission.
“I didn’t do this by myself,” Erbschloe said. “This award represents the hard work of dozens, if not scores, of individuals throughout organizations.”

Erbschloe concluded the ceremony as it began, by recognizing the award’s namesake, from a reference made by Dr. Robert H. Cannon Jr., who was the chief scientist for Brown. He said when Brown was the secretary of the Air Force the general officers on the air staff really appreciated his leadership. They liked him because he was smart, he would champion their projects and he got things done.

“What a role model, Erbschloe said. “It is in that spirit and on behalf of a lot of other people; I am privileged to accept this award.”