2022 NDIA Aircraft Survivability Symposium

By Robert Gierard and Thao Nguyen

“If you’re in the survivability business, the place to be in November is Monterey”—this longstanding mantra in the survivability community was true once again this year as the annual Aircraft Survivability Symposium, following 2 years of COVID-driven disruptions, returned to the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) on November 1–3. Hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Combat Survivability Division (CSD), the symposium once again welcomed survivability practitioners from across industry, government, and aca­demia for 3 days of technical tutorials, presentations, poster displays, and discussions on a wide range of survivability-related topics. Also presented at the symposium were CSD’s annual awards for leadership, technical accomplishment, lifetime achievement, and excel­lence by a young professional.

The theme of this year’s gathering was “Advancing Weapon Systems Survivability to Achieve Land, Air, and Sea Dominance”; and as in past years, the goal was to foster technical dialogue and exchange of information in areas such as design, operational experience, current and future threats, reliability, maintenance, and testing of aircraft survivability technologies. Presenters discussed numerous survivability-related technologies and techniques, survivability sustainment and operations, threats, countermea­sures, and their assessed/predicted effects on current and future battlefields.

The first day of the symposium included two tutorial sessions—“The Fundamentals of Aircraft Survivability” and “An Introduction to Hypersonics”—followed by an evening networking and welcome reception. The formal part of the symposium, held the next 2 days, was kicked off with opening remarks by the current NPS President, retired Navy VADM Ann Rondeau, followed by the industry keynote address by Mr. Chris Flynn, Pratt & Whitney’s Vice President of Military Development Programs and Gatorworks. The Government keynote address was provided by Air Force Maj. Gen. Evan Dertien, Commander of the Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base. Various speakers from across the full spectrum of the survivability commu­nity then provided threat briefings, lessons learned, research and devel­opment updates, methodologies for countering threats, and future requirements.


Another highlight of the symposium was the awards ceremony and luncheon, held on Thursday in NPS’s historic Herrmann Hall. The awards were presented in the following four categories.

Figure 1. 2022 Robert Ball Young Professional Award. From left to right, Award Chairman Robert Gierard,Awardee Gwen Maciejewski, Board Member Mark Couch, and Board Member/NPS Professor Chris Adams.

Figure 1. 2022 Robert Ball Young Professional Award. From left to right, Award Chairman Robert Gierard, Awardee Gwen Maciejewski, Board Member Mark Couch, and Board Member/NPS Professor Chris Adams.

Professor Robert E. Ball Young Professional Award for Combat Survivability

The Young Professional Award is presented to an early- to mid-career person (35 years of age or younger at the time of award) who has made a significant technical, analytical, or tactical contribution to any aspect of aircraft survivability. This year’s award was presented to Ms. Gwen Maciejewski, a recognized young combat survivability engineer and team leader within the Naval Air Warfare Center (Aircraft Division) (NAWCAD)/Combat Survivability Division (CSD), who has been instrumental in enhancing the surviv­ability posture of aircraft across the Naval Aviation Enterprise. In addition, she is a mentor and project lead for the Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) high school outreach program in Lexington, MD.

After working as a high school mathematics teacher for 6 years, Ms. Maciejewski joined NAWCAD in 2017, applying her quantitative analytic skills as a combat survivability engineer for PMA-265. Her responsi­bilities grew from Survivability Engineer to Low Observables (LO) Engineer, to Science & Technology Development Engineer and Deputy Program Manager for LO Technologies, and finally to Combat Survivability Systems Integrator and Technical Team Lead for ACAT 1 Programs. Ms. Maciejewski was the driving force in establishing LO maintenance practices for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the EA-6G Growler. Her efforts led to the inclusion of LO practices in the Naval Aviation Maintenance Program, developing and publishing multiple organizational-and intermediate-level job qualification requirements for LO technicians and supervisory positions. In her current role as NAWCAD/CSD Systems Integration Lead, Ms. Maciejewski ensures all aspects of survivability are duly represented in establishing robust and well-defined requirements aligned with program needs.

Figure 2. 2022 Combat Survivability Award for Technical Achievement. From left to right, Award Chairman Robert Gierard, Awardee Stephen Cramm, and Board Member Mark Couch.

Combat Survivability Award for Technical Achievement

The Technical Achievement Award is presented to a person who has made a significant technical contribution to any aspect of survivability. It may be presented for a specific achievement or for exceptional technical excellence over an extended period. Individuals at any level of experience are eligible for this award. This year, Mr. Stephen Cramm was honored for his almost 40-year career in the Air Force and defense industry and for his sustained technical leadership across the full spectrum of research, development, testing, and acquisition (RDTA) of air vehicle performance and survivability technologies. Mr. Cramm has enabled the fielding of dominant and survivable rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft across the Department of Defense (DoD) and has provided critical technical leader­ship in the development and integration of technologies that have greatly improved the survivability and performance of dozens of current and future aircraft and space systems, as well as their required testing capabilities.

Mr. Cramm was initially an Air Force aircraft software programmer but quickly transitioned to his role as a Survivability Flight Test Engineer at the Air Force Flight Test Center. Here, he supported numerous aircraft test programs, including several special operations aircraft, en-route to leading the LO flight testing for the B-2 Combined Test Force. As a Test Program Manager/Chief Engineer for multiple Advanced Air Vehicle Programs, he also led national technical teams focused on improving aircraft survivability and effectiveness. And as the Technical Director for Nationally Directed Advanced Defense Programs, he led the enhancement of unique national test facilities, spear­headed development of novel flight test capabilities, and was consulted by senior executives of numerous agencies.

After retiring from the Air Force, Mr. Cramm became the Director of Electronic Warfare Technology Development at Boeing’s Phantom Works, guiding the creation and integration of advanced technologies across their portfolio. Mr. Cramm was selected to be the Phantom Works Chief Engineer, leading the engineer­ing team of a competitive ACAT 1 classified development program and later became the Chief Engineer for the Phantom Works Air & Space Systems, where he was responsible for the invention and integration of advanced technologies into current and future air and space defense systems. After retiring from Boeing, Mr. Cramm became a senior consult­ing engineer at Denmar Technical Services, a position in which he continues to serve.

Figure 3. 2022 Gormley Combat Survivability Award for Leadership: Robert Shin.

RADM Robert H. Gormley Combat Survivability Award for Leadership

The Leadership Award is presented to a person who has made major leadership contributions to combat survivability. The individual selected must have demonstrated outstanding leadership in enhancing overall combat survivability or played a significant role in a major aspect of survivability design, program management, research and development, test and evaluation, modeling and simulation, education, or the development of standards. The emphasis of this award is on demonstrated superior leadership over an extended period.

This year’s leadership award went to Dr. Robert Shin, Principal Staff Member of the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Tactical Systems Division at MIT Lincoln Laboratory (MITLL), as well as the Director of the MITLL Beaver Works.

Dr. Shin is recognized across the DoD as a world-class expert in radar cross section (RCS) measurement and prediction, as well as electronic countermeasures and counter-counter­measures techniques. Over his >35-year career, he has advanced U.S. capabilities by leading air vehicle survivability evaluation programs and developing numerous airborne prototype systems.

Upon receiving his doctorate, Dr. Shin began his long and illustrious career at MITLL, as well as holding numerous appointments and advisory committee memberships in support of Defense and Intelligence agencies. He progressed from Research Staff to Assistant Group Leader within the Air Defense Techniques Group and was instrumental in advancing state-of-the-art RCS prediction codes, low-altitude propagation models, and clutter models. Dr. Shin truly made his name when he joined, and rose to Group Leader of, the Systems and Analysis Group, which was closely associated with the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Acquisition) Air Vehicle Survivability Evaluation Program (aka the Red Team) and the DoD tri-Service community. He has led numerous high-priority systems analyses for Air Force, DoD, and Congressional leadership, focusing on air vehicle survivability and weapon systems effectiveness and counter­measures, backed by development and employment of novel flight test assets and gold standard data models.

Dr. Shin was also selected to be the Technical Advisor to the Technical Director of the newly formed Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, providing technical assessments of state-of-the-art combat capability concepts. Returning to MITLL, he then led the ISR and Tactical Systems Division and is currently Principal Staff and Director of MITLL’s Beaver Works. Dr. Shin also continues to be a dedicated and tireless believer in project-based STEM education; and his leadership resulted in an MIT, MITLL, and industry collaboration culminating in the award-winning Beaver Works and Beaver Works Summer Institute.

Figure 4. The 2022 Combat Survivability Award for Lifetime Achievement: Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick.

Combat Survivability Award for Lifetime Achievement

The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to a person who has made significant technical and leadership contributions throughout his/her professional career, spanning many or most of the numerous facets of aircraft combat survivability. This award is nominated by the CSD Executive Board and is intended to recognize an individual’s lifetime of accomplishments and dedication to the aircraft survivability community and the aircrews we serve. This year, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick was recognized for his 32-year career, spanning the gamut of Air Force RDTA activities and impacting many of the major ACAT 1 air vehicle programs, as well as key weapons programs in the U.S. and allied aviation enterprises. Throughout his career, Lt. Gen. Fick has been cognizant of the proper mix of capabilities and the need for advanced offensive and defensive technologies to ensure the delivery of the most dominant, effective, and survivable airborne weapon systems to the United States and its allies.

Commissioned in 1990, then-Lt. Fick started at the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base, moving rapidly from Logistics Plans & Programs to a hands-on F-16 mechani­cal systems engineer role, working engine and fuel systems. He was then selected to attend the Air force Institute of Technology, where he received his master’s in aeronautical engineering, and he worked in both a computational fluid dynamics role (leading F-35 axisymmetric thrust vectoring research) as well as a test program manager role at Wright- Patterson Air Force Base.

His career then took him to Edwards Air Force Base, where he was a Distinguished Graduate of the Experimental Flight Test Engineering course. Now a testing specialist, his responsibilities grew from serving as Testing Lead for ground- and air-launched weapons, to Director of Test for the Counter-Air Joint Systems Program Office, to Deputy Chief of Weapons Fight Test, to Operations Officer and Commander for the 46th Test Squadron. As Commander of the Advanced Combat Systems Group within the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, Lt. Gen. Fick developed and fielded advanced combat capabilities, many of which became relevant to his numerous Program Element Monitor (PEM) and Program Executive Officer (PEO) roles impacting air vehicle and weapons programs across the Air Force mission space.

Lt. Gen. Fick retired as the PEO and Program Director of the F-35 Lightening II Program, where he led the life cycle program management of the F-35A/B/C variants. With the help of his efforts, this program produced not only the fifth-generation strike fighter of choice for the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and numerous interna­tional partners and customers but also the largest ever ACAT 1 program, delivering the most dominant, surviv­able, and effective air strike weapon system in history.


Figure 5. Combat Survivability Division Board Members and 2023 Awardees. First Row (left to right): Chris Adams, Steve Cramm, Gwen Maciejewski, Bob Shin,Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, and Tom Fick. Second Row: Dewayne Hines, Bart Huffman, Thao Nguyen, Mark Couch, Robert Gierard, and Barry Vincent. Third Row: Ken McKensie, Jack Rau, Dennis Lindell, and Amy Howell.

Figure 5. Combat Survivability Division Board Members and 2023 Awardees. First Row (left to right): Chris Adams, Steve Cramm, Gwen Maciejewski, Bob Shin, Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, and Tom Fick. Second Row: Dewayne Hines, Bart Huffman, Thao Nguyen, Mark Couch, Robert Gierard, and Barry Vincent. Third Row: Ken McKensie, Jack Rau, Dennis Lindell, and Amy Howell.

As the old saying goes, “it takes a village” to host an event such as the Aircraft Survivability Symposium, and the NDIA CSD Executive Board thanks all the planning committees and the following individuals, without whose tireless efforts, commitment, and cooperation this year’s event would not have been possible:

  • NDIA Combat Survivability Division Executive Board:
    • Division Chair, Lt. Gen Chris Bogdan (Ret)
    • Symposium Chair, Thao Nguyen
    • Symposium Co-Chair, Richard Huffman
    • Tutorial Chairs, Chris Adams and Mark Couch
    • Awards Chair, Robert Gierard
    • Posters Chair, Barry Vincent
    • Session Chairs, Amy Howell, Richard Huffman, Mike Laramee, and Dewayne Hines
  • NDIA Staff:
    • Tommy Kienzle, Maura Deely, Jae Yu, and Kimberly Williams
  • NPS Staff:
    • NDIA CSD Executive Board and NPS Professor, Chris Adams
    • Classified Computing, David Mah
    • Security Manager, Marcus Andersen.

The Board also extends a special thanks to this year’s corporate sponsors, BAE Systems and Pratt & Whitney, as well as all the presenters, poster participants, and attendees.


It’s not too early to plan to be “in the place to be” in Monterey next November, as well as to consider who among our ranks is deserving of recognition for the 2023 Survivability Symposium awards. Is there someone in your staff/organization who has demonstrated exemplary technical or leadership achievement in the survivability community? Or perhaps you have an early- to mid-career colleague who has shown a distinct flair for the survivability discipline and is deserving of early recognition. The CSD will publish award nomination deadlines and submission procedures later in 2023, but there’s no need to wait. Those interested in making a nomination, gaining more information, or discussing the nomination process should contact Mr. Robert Gierard at Gierard.llc@gmail.com or 310-909-4592 or Mr. Tom Kienzle at tkienzle@ndia.org or 703-247-2575.


Mr. Robert Gierard currently serves as Chairman of the NDIA Combat Survivability Division Awards Committee and is a strategy consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton.

Thao Nguyen currently serves on the Executive Board of Directors of the NDIA Combat Survivability Division and was the Chair for the 2022 Aircraft Survivability Symposium. He is a Technical Fellow in the Survivability Discipline Group and a Discipline Chief of the Survivability-Vulnerability Group at Pratt & Whitney.