2023 Aircraft Combat Survivability Short Course Held In West Palm Beach

by Thao Nguyen

U.S. Air Force Photo

In April, approximately 90 professionals from across Government, industry, and the uniformed Services gathered at the Pratt & Whitney (P&W) campus in West Palm Beach, FL, to participate in the Aircraft Combat Survivability (ACS) Short Course.  The annual 3-day course, sponsored by the Joint Aircraft Survivability Program (JASP) and the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), is designed to provide an overview of the ACS discipline and develop a better understanding of how to increase the survivability and combat effectiveness of air platforms in manned and unmanned systems.

For more than 35 years, the short course has been held at different sites around the country to introduce students to a variety of defense businesses while also providing them with an overview of the ACS discipline.  The P&W West Palm Beach facility is the home of the F119 engines powering the F-22 Raptor and the F135 engines powering the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

This year’s course kicked off with an introduction by Professor Christopher Adams from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) followed by welcoming remarks by Ms. Mary Anne Cannon, Vice President of P&W’s West Palm Beach Site and Development Operations.  The primary course instructors were Professor Adams, Drs. Mark Couch and Richard Huffman from the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), and Lt. Col. David Liu from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC).  In addition, numerous subject-matter experts (SMEs) were invited to share information and lessons learned from their respective areas of expertise to enhance the students’ learning experience.  These SMEs included:

  • CW4 Richard Barnett, Aviation Survivability Development and Tactics, Joint Combat Assessment Team – Army (ASDAT/JCAT-Army)
  • Ms. Sarah Roth, Survivability, ASDAT/JCAT-Army
  • Dr. Greg Ruderman, Office of the Secretary of Defense/DOT&E Live Fire
  • Mr. Ken Zabel, Test and Evaluation Threat Resource Activity (TETRA)
  • Dr. Bill Bryant, Modern Technology Solutions, Inc. (MTSI)
  • Mr. Adam Rosenkrantz, P&W, Susceptibility Engineering.

The unique aspect of the short course is that it was derived from NPS Professor Robert Ball’s textbook The Fundamentals of Aircraft Combat Survivability Analysis and Design (2nd edition), a copy of which was given to all students.  Professor Ball is credited with founding the first graduate-level ACS course at NPS in the 1970s.  Building on the text’s foundational concepts, as well as incorporating information on new and emerging threats and intelligence findings, instructors used a mix of academic principles and practical applications to provide students with an up-to-date overview of the ACS discipline and its ongoing importance to national security and the U.S. Warfighter.

In addition, students were given the opportunity to tour several production areas at the P&W facility, including the Product Delivery Center, where the F135 Engines and Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) are assembled, and the Geared Turbo Fan (GTF) Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul shop.

Anyone interested in learning more about the survivability discipline is encouraged to plan to attend next year’s course, tentatively scheduled for late April/early May.  The exact time and location will be posted on the Defense Systems Information Analysis Center (DSIAC) website at www.dsiac.org and in the spring 2024 issue of the Aircraft Survivability journal.


Mr. Thao Nguyen is a Senior Technical Fellow in the Survivability Engineering Division and an Engineering Chief of the Survivability-Vulnerability Discipline at P&W.  He has worked in the survivability discipline since 2002, devoting much of his career to growing the discipline at P&W and throughout the survivability industrial base.  Prior to his current role at P&W, he was a design engineer in the Military Engines Division with a limited role in the Commercial Engines Division, evaluating engines for military applications.  He participates in various survivability/susceptibility-related working groups and serves on the Executive Board of Directors of the NDIA Aircraft Combat Survivability Division.  Mr. Nguyen holds academic degrees in manufacturing engineering, mechanical engineering, and business administration.