AFMC Command News

AFRL receives $4M grant to build Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Research Center

  • Published
  • By Erica Harrah
  • Air Force Research Laboratory

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate was recently awarded a $4 million Office of Secretary of Defense, or OSD, Centralized Laboratory Investment Program, or CLIP, award to build the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Research Center Capability Project, or AIMR-2C. This is the first CLIP award given at AFRL.

The AIMR-2C will be a 6,000 –square-foot lab space dedicated to interactive data visualization. The building will be built as an addition adjacent to the main entrance of building 653 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Building 653 is home to the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate’s headquarters.

“AI/ML is rapidly being incorporated into facets of our everyday lives, from things as mundane as the way we unlock our phones to complex systems like self-driving cars,” said Dr. Eric Harper, a research materials engineer in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate and technical lead of the AIMR-2C project. “As researchers at AFRL, we need to understand how to leverage this massively disruptive capability to accelerate the materials design process. AIMR-2C does more than simply provide AFRL researchers and collaborators access to cutting-edge hardware. It allows us to more rapidly learn the latest methods and techniques, assist each other in developing the next generation of models, apply those to multidisciplinary materials science problems, and share our results more effectively, thereby accelerating our ability to identify, develop and transition the next generation of stuff that makes the future.”

AFRL has a physical presence in 10 states and accomplishes its mission through nine technology directorates, the 711th Human Performance Wing, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and AFWERX. Since scientific collaboration and experimentation often requires experts from several locations to be present, progress is often slowed by the need to travel.

The AIMR-2C will offer a number of features that will help make remote collaboration more seamless, offering AFRL and its partners the ability to maximize collaboration, data sharing and model development.

“The on-site research server cluster provided by the project will be a dedicated high-power computational tool enabling researchers to process, visualize and interact with large datasets collaboratively in real-time,” said Kurt Lamm, facility engineer at AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. “Research co-location with data visualization provides dedicated subject-matter expertise in AI/ML, data analysis, and visualization to assist researchers in accelerating the development of next-generation models, workflows, and visualization pipelines. Primarily, this project builds technology capability, but it also has second-order effects in construction job creation and STEM job creation. When finished, this advanced laboratory will be a talent recruitment and retention beacon. AIMR-2C is a win for the Miami Valley.”

Additionally, the lab’s location at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, will serve to maximize over 100 existing partnerships. It will also benefit local academic institutions such as the Air Force Institute of Technology or AFIT and Wright State University, based on new and existing partnership agreements. AFIT’s Hangar 18 Software Laboratory is a unique asset that can help facilitate rapid digital solutions and pipelines for data visualization and research.

“The ability to collaborate remotely and conduct research, experiments and data analysis in real-time will dramatically speed up the progress of research and prototyping,” said Dr. Lauren Ferguson, Digital Transformation Lead at AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. “Currently, we must either send someone to the location to run an experiment or there must be experts already on site who can run it and ship the data back to us to analyze. The AIMR-2C collaboration space will not only allow experts to collaborate on an experiment while in different locations, but it will also allow them to share and analyze data in real-time as well as correct and re-run experiments without the need for travel.”

Prior to winning the award, the directorate had already invested $6.2 million in information technology upgrades to expand data speeds from 100MB per second to 10GB per second at the main facility campus. Technological advancement is occurring at an unprecedented rate and scale, and connectivity is often the limiting factor to the depth of advanced research collaboration. This upgrade was necessary to accelerate the speed of research and leverage infrastructure as a tool for modernizing laboratory environs into research projection platforms for the AFRL. Upon completion of the project, AFRL plans to employ AIMR-2C as a catalytic tool to expand the prevalence of artificial intelligence and machine learning as a force multiplier for novel defense research gains.

The tentative timeline: design start -

  • April 2024, design start
  • April 2025, construction begins
  • June 2026, project completion

About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit