United States Air Force Academy

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Research at Academy is unparalleled among undergrad institutions

Story by Lt Col Don Rhymer, Nov. 1, 2018

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The United States Air Force Academy is a cutting edge academic and military institution where innovation, warrior ethos and character development are a foundation of our heritage and the guiding priorities of our future. These pillars of our transformative experience make it possible to train and educate the future leaders of our Air Force to meet the challenges of a complex, sophisticated and fast-paced modern profession of arms.

At the heart of the Academy’s innovative spirit is our research enterprise. Research at USAFA is unparalleled among undergraduate institutions, bringing in more than $55 million in academic year 2016-2017 and earning the Academy the title of the #1 undergraduate research facility by the National Science Foundation. These efforts are central to our curriculum and vital to our faculty development, and provide high-impact practice to augment our cadets’ growth in becoming informed, critical-thinking officers.

One of the most remarkable and unique attributes of USAFA’s research is the facilities available to undergraduate students. The labs and equipment at the Academy rival those at graduate level institutions.

One example is the Ludwieg tube recently added to the wind tunnels in the Department of Aeronautics. A Ludwieg tube is a wind tunnel that produces supersonic flow for short periods of time. There are less than a handful of these unique wind tunnels nationwide and USAFA is the only military academy to have one. This equipment puts USAFA and our cadets in a position to make substantial contributions to hypersonic vehicles. With such exclusive research opportunities, it is no wonder our program is the best in the country as the #1 Aeronautical / Astronautical program on the 2017 U.S. News Best Colleges list.

Research plays a major role in the way we develop future officers of the highest caliber, capable of shaping the future of modern warfare, and making our Air Force their own.

We are preparing cadets to lead in battlespaces more complicated and volatile than they have ever been. Modern warfighting relies as heavily on innovation and collaboration as it does on strength and firepower. To meet these challenges, our academy must continue to be a place of creative freedom and constant innovation. This includes an emphasis on technical disciplines and centers, but our Academy is also a place where research in the humanities, social sciences, and leadership are making direct impacts to Air Force readiness and the lethality of our military.

Through the coordination and facilitation of our entire research enterprise, from our cadets to the nationally acclaimed research experts among our faculty and staff, we can and will continue to maintain the advantages necessary to outpace our adversaries.