By: Mark Couch

The Joint Aircraft Survivability Program (JASP) is pleased to recognize LTC Richard E. Huffman Jr. for his Excellence in Survivability. Rich is currently on assignment as the Chief of Information Operations Plans and Assessments Branch at Headquarters U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). Additionally, he is an adjunct assistant professor of aerospace engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT). He has also served in the Air Force for 23 years as a developmental flight test engineer, working envelope expansion, avionics, and survivability testing on numerous weapon systems.

Rich was plugged into the survivability community after inheriting the weapons design and aircraft survivability course sequence as a new faculty member at AFIT in the fall of 2007. For many years, the only school that taught aircraft combat survivability was the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) at Monterey. However, in the early 2000’s, through some interchanges between NPS and AFIT, aircraft survivability was added to the AFIT program as well.

As the third instructor to teach the course in 4 years, Rich took the opportunity to revamp the curriculum and integrate it into the survivability research programs running at Wright- Patterson and Eglin Air Force Bases (AFBs). Thanks to Rich’s efforts, the class now includes hands-on demonstrations and tours at Sensors Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, and the survivability ranges of the 704th Test Group. Additionally, the class travels to Eglin AFB to participate in the Threat Weapons Effects Seminar.

In 1994, Rich received a B.S. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue University. While at Purdue, he was also a cooperative education student with the Foreign Technology Division, now known as the National Air and Space Intelligence Center. After graduation, he received a commission from the Reserve Officers Training Corps Program and entered the Air Force. His first assignment was to AFIT as a graduate student. Rich graduated from AFIT in 1995 with an M.S. in aerospace engineering. His thesis, which was given the department’s Best Thesis award, was titled “Mach 2.9 Investigation Into the Flow Structure in the Vicinity of a Wrap-Around Fin.”

The follow-on assignment for (then) 2LT Huffman was to the Demonstration Branch in the Air Vehicles Directorate of AFRL. The flight test bug bit him in that assignment, having to miss graduation from AFIT to support test planning at Edwards AFB. Rich worked primarily on the Advanced Fighter Integration Technology (AFTI) F-16, which was a research testbed managed in Dayton but flown out of Edwards in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Dryden Flight Research Center. Despite Rich’s two aeronautical engineering degrees, the Air Force tried to turn Rich into an electrical engineer as he developed antenna, navigation, and flight control systems. His favorite demonstration program to be involved in from this assignment was the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto- GCAS). This system, which was installed into the F-16 in 2014, overrides pilot control of the aircraft at the last minute to prevent imminent collision with nearby terrain.

Rich’s next assignment was to the Air Force Test Pilot school as the Chief of Instrumentation, where he was responsible for the calibration and maintenance of the special instrumentation systems on the fleet of test aircraft for training test pilots and flight test engineers. Rich also applied to be, and was accepted as, a student at Test Pilot School while at the schoolhouse, graduating with class 2000A.

Next, he was assigned to the 411th Flight Test Squadron, where he executed test missions on the F-22 Raptor as a test conductor and test director. He spent the next 4 years as part of the Secretary of Defense-directed test acceleration program, testing the airframe, avionics, envelope clearance, and weapons separations of the aircraft.

In 2004, Rich was accepted into AFIT’s faculty pipeline program, which sent him to the University of Illinois with a follow-on requirement to teach at AFIT. In 2007, he completed his doctorate in aerospace engineering, with a dissertation titled “An Experimental Investigation into the Effect of Plasma on the Flow Features of an Axisymmetric Jet.”

Following his time at Illinois, Rich became an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at AFIT. In his 4-year teaching tour, he was the deputy department head and advisor for 19 master’s and 3 doctorate students. He taught aircraft combat survivability to more than 150 students and continues to serve as adjunct assistant professor as well as one of the lead instructors of the JASP-sponsored annual aircraft combat survivability short course (for the past 8 years).

In 2011, Rich competed, and was selected, for command. He was assigned to Detachment 1 of the 586th Flight Test Squadron at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), NM. Rich was in charge of the team that provided planning and support for weapons testing on the sprawling WSMR test complex. The team supported numerous programs, including the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, F-35 Lightning II, F-22 Raptor, Joint Direct Attack Munition, Small Diameter Bomb I and II, and the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. Following this assignment, he was chosen for a back-to-back command tour, taking command of the National Radar Cross Section Test Facility at WSMR.

Rich left New Mexico in 2016 for a staff tour at Headquarters AFRICOM, where, as mentioned previously, he currently serves as the Chief of the Information Operations Plans and Assessments Branch, which focuses on integrating nonkinetic activities such as electronic warfare into the Theater Campaign Plan.

Rich is also an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a member of the Antenna Measurement Techniques Association. In addition, he has authored or coauthored more than 40 articles and papers in aircraft survivability, navigation, fluid flowfields, and measurement techniques.

Rich currently lives in Stuttgart, Germany, with his wife of 13 years and their three children.

Congratulations, Rich, for your Excellence in Survivability and for your distinguished contributions to today’s and tomorrow’s aircraft survivability community.


Dr. Mark Couch is currently the Warfare Area Lead for Live Fire Test and Evaluation in the Operational Evaluation Division at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). Prior to joining IDA in 2007, he enjoyed a 23-year Navy career flying the MH-53E helicopter. He has a Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School and has taught numerous courses in aircraft combat survivability.