2023 NDIA Aircraft Survivability Symposium

by Robert Gierard and Richard Huffman

The Multi-Domain Kill-Web: Opportunities for Collaborative Survivability

Survivability professionals from across Government, industry, and academia assembled on 31 October through 2 November at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) for the annual Aircraft Survivability Symposium. The 3-day symposium, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Combat Survivability Division (CSD), included expert tutorials, presentations, interactive displays, and discussions on a wide range of survivability-related topics. Also presented at the symposium were the CSD’s annual awards for leadership, technical accomplishment, lifetime achievement, and excellence by a young professional.

This year’s symposium theme was “The Multi-Domain Kill-Web: Opportunities for Collaborative Survivability.” The goal was to enhance collaboration and networking throughout the survivability community to address the growing threat posed by networked adversary air defense systems. Presentations focused on current and future threats, susceptibility and vulnerability reduction technologies, and modeling and simulation (M&S) to support aircraft survivability.

The first day of the symposium included two tutorial sessions—one on the military application of the space environment and one on F-35/135 Live Fire testing—and concluded with an attendee networking session. The second day included a keynote address by Mr. Randall Walden, who challenged attendees to question the status quo of the Defense acquisition system in favor of a tailored approach. Day two wrapped up with an Awardee Reception. The final day kicked off with opening remarks by NPS President Ann Rondeau, followed by the annual awards ceremony and luncheon.

New this year were interactive poster sessions, as well as a joint presentation from NDIA’s Aircraft Combat Survivability and Human Systems Divisions titled “Surviving in the Cognitive Cockpit” by Dr. Tom Schnell of the University of Iowa’s Operator Performance Laboratory.


Another first this year came during the awards ceremony, with the formal revealing of the new names for the technical achievement and lifetime achievement awards. Following suit with the the more-personalized names of the Robert E. Ball Young Professional Award and the Robert H. Gormley Award for Leadership, the technical achievement award was renamed the Patrick S. Sharp Air Combat Survivability Award for Technical Achievement and the lifetime achievement award was renamed the Dale B. Atkinson Air Combat Survivability Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Note that the renaming of the Atkinson award would turn out to be particularly timely, with the unexpected passing of Dale just a few weeks after the award’s presentation.)

Professor Robert E. Ball Young Professional Award for Air 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.

The 2023 Professor Ball Young Professional Award. From left to right: NDIA EVP Brig. Gen. Guy Walsh (USAF, ret.), Awardee Walter Bartellino, and CSD Chairman Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan (USAF, ret.).

Figure 1. The 2023 Professor Ball Young Professional Award. From left to right: NDIA EVP Brig. Gen. Guy Walsh (USAF, ret.), Awardee Walter Bartellino, and CSD Chairman Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan (USAF, ret.).

This year’s award was presented to Mr. Walter Bartellino (shown in Figure 1), a recognized young survivability engineer at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. Mr. Bartellino has been supporting Northrop’s B-21 Raider bomber program for many years, where he has developed advanced computational electromagnetic (EM) methods to accurately model complex details that have not been accurately modelled before. His radar cross section (RCS) prediction results closely matched broadband data measurements. In addition, Mr. Bartellino incorporated numerous features, such as material and manufacturing tolerance variations, into his RCS codes. His work affords early insight into the robustness of RCS designs, significantly reducing risk to program performance years ahead of full-scale vehicle testing. In addition, Mr. Bartellino’s EM codes are being used on other NG programs with great success.

Patrick S. Sharp Air Combat Survivability Award for Technical Achievement

Phase I Test Setup.

Figure 2. The 2023 Sharp Air Combat Survivability Award for Technical Achievement: Mr. Mark Stewart.

The Technical Achievement Award was 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. Mark Stewart (shown in Figure 2) was recognized as one of the nation’s preeminent vulnerability analysts and an expert in aircraft combat survivability. Over 38 years, Mr. Stewart has contributed to the aircraft survivability discipline with an emphasis on all aspects of vulnerability analysis, design, testing, and verification. He is a highly respected expert in Live Fire Test & Evaluation and associated vulnerability assessment methodologies. The numerous programs Mr. Stewart has supported include the F-16, Advanced Tactical Fighter, YF-22/F-22, F-35, and several classified programs within Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. A published author, founding member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Survivability Technical Committee, and requested contributor to update portions of Dr. Ball’s foundational text The Fundamentals of Aircraft Combat Survivability Analysis and Design, Mr. Stewart particularly values mentorship and knowledge-sharing across the community.

RADM Robert H. Gormley Air Combat Survivability Award for Leadership

Figure 3. The 2023 Gormley Combat Survivability Award for Leadership: Mr. John Ireland.

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, M&S, 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 Mr. John Ireland (shown in Figure 3), a widely recognized leader in the aircraft survivability community. As the Director for Survivability for all of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, he is responsible for ensuring Northrop Grumman Corporation’s geographically diverse core of more than 200 aircraft survivability engineers, technicians, and fellows maintain the capability to design, develop, produce, deploy, and sustain survivable platforms. Under his leadership, the company is the world leader in computational EM, infrared, acoustic, and visual prediction codes. As the leader of the company’s survivability discipline, Mr. Ireland has also been instrumental in developing the next generation of survivability engineers by establishing the “Mastering Survivability” program to recruit, train, retain, and prepare the Northrop Grumman workforce with the “how” and “why” of survivability, which is not typically provided at universities.

Dale B. Atkinson Air 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.

The 2023 Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award. From left to right: NDIA EVP Brig. Gen. Guy Walsh (USAF, ret.), Awardee Mr. Randall Walden, and CSD Chairman Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan (USAF, ret.).

Figure 4. The 2023 Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award. From left to right: NDIA EVP Brig. Gen. Guy Walsh (USAF, ret.), Awardee Mr. Randall Walden, and CSD Chairman Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan (USAF, ret.).

This year, Mr. Randall Walden (shown in Figure 4) was recognized for his more than 41-year active duty and civilian career, throughout which he championed and led the rapid development, acquisition, and deployment of numerous advanced technologies and aerospace programs to address joint Warfighter requirements. Mr. Walden started his flight test career in the F-16 before moving to the Air Force Test Pilot School’s Flight Test Engineering Course, then the V-22 Program, and finally various classified flight test duties at the Air Force Flight Test Center, before transitioning to the Air Staff in the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) (SAF/AQL), the Directorate of Special Programs. At SAF/AQL, he was the Deputy Chief, Advanced Technology Division, and then the Chief of the Special Studies Division, before being selected as SAF/AQL’s Technical Director. Mr. Walden then became the Technical Director and Deputy of the newly formed Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO). His subsequent Senior Executive Service assignments included Director of Information Dominance Programs (SAF/AQI) and Director Air Force Test & Evaluation (HQ AF/TE), before assuming the Director and Program Executive Office role for the RCO. In this role, Mr. Walden directed a broad portfolio of selected study, development, and fielding activities, ensuring the Air Force and its operators and weapons systems maintained their technical superiority, survivability and mission effectiveness against the full range of near- to far-term threats.


The 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 (USAF, Ret.)
    • Symposium Chair: Richard Huffman
    • Symposium Co-Chair: Jack Rau
    • Tutorial Chairs: Gary Wollenweber and Mark Couch
    • Awards Chair: Robert Gierard
    • Posters Chair: Barry Vincent
    • Session Chairs: Robert Gierard, Amy Howell, Ken McKenzie, Thao Nguyen, and Scott Whacker
  • NDIA Staff
    • Tommy Kienzle, Maura Deely, Jenica Seguine, and Kimberly Williams
  • NPS Staff
    • NDIA CSD Executive Board and NPS Professor: Chris Adams
    • Classified Computing: David Mah
    • Security Manager: Marcus Andersen
    • Audio-Visual: Davey Jones

The Board also extends a special thanks to this year’s presenters, poster participants, and attendees.


It’s not too early to plan to be in Monterey next November and to consider who among our ranks is deserving of recognition for the 2024 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 2024, 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.

About the Authors

Mr. Robert Gierard is a Lead Associate with Booz Allen Hamilton and currently serves as Chairman of the NDIA CSD Awards Committee. His 40-year career spans research, development, testing, analysis, acquisition management, all-source intelligence, and leadership roles in the Air Force, Intelligence community, and aerospace industry.

Dr. Richard “Bart” Huffman is a Research Staff Member with the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), supporting the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation on aircraft and weapon system survivability issues. He has a combined 33 years in survivability as an active-duty military officer, Government civilian, and IDA employee.