Excellence In Survivability: Hugh Griffis

By Robert Wissel

The Joint Aircraft Survivability Program Office (JASPO) is pleased to recognize Mr. Hugh Griffis for his Excellence in Survivability. A well-known technical expert, leader, and voice in the industry for more than 40 years, Hugh currently serves as the Technical Director of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) Analysis & Training Systems Division (EZJ). Throughout his long career, he has successfully developed and applied rigorous modeling and simulation (M&S) methodologies in support of numerous program acquisi­tion efforts, defining weapon system requirements, verifying specifications, performing assessments for develop­mental/operational testing (DT/OT), and enabling Warfighters to evaluate and refine operational tactics.

An Ohio native and system engineering graduate of Wright State University, Hugh began his Government service in 1981 at the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. As a junior engineer, he was privileged to be mentored by national experts and trained with in-house engineering classes on subjects such as nuclear weapon effects and simulations, FORTRAN computer programming, finite element simulations, weapon system acquisition, and FASTGEN3 target description modeling.

Hugh’s first task in the business was to migrate FASTGENv3 punch card decks to mainframe computers with perma­nent data storage. The B-52 and A-10 target descriptions were contained in dozens of card boxes, with each card requiring a specific order. So, getting the data stored permanently was a ground-breaking, albeit tedious, achievement.

In the early 1980s, nuclear threats were a high national priority, and the Air Force engineering community was responsible for determining the nuclear hardness of aircraft. Hugh was tasked with updating legacy nuclear effects models and authoring nuclear weapon delivery “safe escape” data for all nuclear-capable aircraft, including the B-52, B-1B, FB-111, F-16, and F-15, as well as the United Kingdom’s Tornado aircraft. The nuclear effects data and methodologies he developed in these efforts were used explicitly in the weapon delivery technical manuals (which, thankfully, were never used in war).

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In 1984, Hugh was assigned to the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB)— which later became known as the B-2—prior to its Preliminary Design Review. As the nuclear hardening lead, Hugh managed requirements that altered the B-2 outer mold line and all major aircraft attributes, including the crew station, engines, weapons bay, structures, avionics, mission systems, coatings, and supportability consider­ations. The team’s use of advanced M&S, verified by testing, contributed greatly to the B-2’s successful develop­ment. And these enhanced nuclear simulations, with modest improvements, are still in use.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the decreased urgency for nuclear hardness assessments, Hugh shifted his technical focus to ballistic vulnerability activities. Leveraging his FASTGEN3 experience, he initiated data processing improvements and authored the FASTGENv4 model. The new code changed the geometry model data standard to today’s simpler and less error-prone data structure.

U.S. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm

In the spring of 1991, when the Air Force awarded the Milestone B contract for the F-22, program management was informed that the program was in violation of Live Fire Test & Evaluation (LFT&E) congressional law. Thus, to avoid the purchase of an additional and highly costly Engineering Manufacturing Development aircraft, Hugh was tasked with developing and leading the F-22 LFT&E and ballistic vulnerability hardening programs.

Congress requested a study by the National Research Council (NRC) to explore the pros and cons of full-scale, full-up testing of the F-22. In 1994, Hugh spent 3 days briefing the NRC review board—which comprised more than a dozen national experts—on the program’s alternative LFT&E plan. After months of follow-up discussions and negotiations, the plan ultimately became part of the NRC’s final report (which still remains a valuable technical resource), and Congress approved the NRC recommendation in 1997.

Also in support of the F-22’s develop­ment, Hugh led the chemical/biological (C/B) hardening program, which was favorably reviewed by the Government Accounting Office review in 1995, as well as led the development of a new COVARTv4 model, merging best-avail­able legacy vulnerability missile fragments and high-explosive projectile methodologies into an improved single application. Based on the efforts of Hugh and the EZJA Vulnerability Team, both COVART and FASTGEN would continue to be improved and adopted as important analysis tools in vulnerability reduction and LFT&E programs through­out the survivability community.

The last major test of the F-22’s planned LFT&E program was the aircraft’s ballistically hardened wing testing, which was completed at Wright-Patterson in 2001. Prior to that testing, a major facility upgrade was required, and Hugh served as the acting Technical Director of the Aerospace Vehicle Survivability Facility during both the facility’s construction and wing testing. He also authored and delivered the final F-22 LFT&E report in 2004.

In 1998, while still leading the F-22 LFT&E activities, Hugh was also assigned to support the new Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), later called the F-35. Hugh provided technical oversight during the program’s demonstration phrase, in which extreme efforts were required to ensure the mandated use of Government-furnished models and data didn’t provide a competitive edge to either vender. Hugh was assigned to lead the development of an alternative LFT&E plan for the three Service variant aircraft and to define the vulnerability reduction design requirements for ballistic, C/B, laser, and high-power microwave threats. Working with the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at Patuxent River, MD, as well as AFLCMC and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson, he helped provide time-critical, expert support in crafting the important design requirements.

During the JSF’s source selection, Hugh also served as lead for vulnerability reduction and LFT&E. Leveraging many of the F-22 program’s insights, Hugh was instrumental in defining the F-35 system engineering approach for C/B design and obtaining funds to develop long-lead test data. With the support of Lockheed, Battelle, and AFRL, the resultant F-35 program provided enhanced C/B material databases and robust decontamination technology (as discussed in numerous previously published Aircraft Survivability journal articles). Hugh would continue to lead the F-35 ballistic vulnerability, C/B, and LFT&E program for several years.

In the fall of 2003, Hugh was selected to serve as JASP’s Air Force Principal Member, and in 2004 he was promoted to the position of Technical Director for the Analysis and Training Systems Division of AFLCMC’s Engineering Directorate. Then in 2005, he stepped up to serve as Chief of the division, a position he held for 4 years before deftly arranging to hire his successor so he could move back to his preferred Technical Director role.

In 2009, Hugh was also tasked to serve as the Air Force Lead for the Joint Technical Coordinating Group for Munitions Effectiveness (JTCG/ME), Joint Anti-Air Combat Effectiveness (J-ACE) Air Superiority Program. As time marched on, Hugh became the Integrated Product Team lead, and he continues to lead the high-performing J-ACE team and its development of the Joint Anti-Air Model (JAAM), currently used by more than 4,000 users and 360 operational sites.

Additionally, Hugh has supported numerous Air Force engineering process improvement activities over the years to accelerate weapon system acquisition. One of them, in 2010, resulted in the MIL-HDBK-520, System Requirements Document Guide, and defined the concepts used in today’s systems engineering requirements traceability tools.

Hugh currently continues to lead development efforts for both JASP and the JTCG/ME, leveraging numerous advanced computer simulations, such as Survivability and Lethality of Aircraft in Tactical Environment (SLATE), Air Combat Effects Library (ACEL), BlueMaxv7.x, Endgame Manager (EMv6.x), and multiple Intelligence Center simulations.

Hugh and the team have also recently defined an innovative process in which technical developments would first be implemented in SLATE/ACEL. Then, as features and data mature, these capabilities would be promptly migrated into the JAAMv6.0/ACEL Warfighter application. Although this technical management approach requires significant effort, delivery times of new simulation capabilities to the Warfighter are expected to be greatly reduced.

Not surprisingly, Hugh has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors throughout his career, with the most notable being the Combat Survivability Technical Award from the American Defense Preparedness Association (now called National Defense Industrial Association) in 1996. But in spite of his many achievements and recognitions, Hugh is quick to point out that his successes in M&S and testing would not have been possible— or as meaningful—without the contributions of the many skilled, dedicated professionals in Government and industry whom he has been fortunate to work with throughout his career. Most importantly, he feels fortunate to have had the constant, loving support of his wife, Anita, and daughter, Daniele.

Congratulations, Hugh, on this well-deserved recognition for your many contributions, longstanding dedication, and proven excellence in aircraft survivability, as well as for your mentoring of countless members across the community. Your pioneering efforts have not only helped lay the foundation for today’s aircraft survivability profes­sionals but are sure to continue to help guide future practitioners for many years to come.


Mr. Robert (Bob) Wissel is currently the AFLCMC/EZJ Analysis and Training Systems Division Chief. He has more than 30 years of experience as an operational effectiveness analyst with the National Air and Space Intelligence Center; the Air Force Research Laboratory; HQ Air Combat Command; a defense contractor; and, most recently, the AFLCMC’s Engineering Directorate.