Excellence in Survivability: Suzan Derosa

By Rich Hampson

The Joint Aircraft Survivability Program (JASP) is pleased to recognize Ms. Suzan (Suzi) DeRosa for her Excellence in Survivability.  Suzi is currently the Survivability, Live Fire Test and Evaluation (LFT&E), and Classified Lead for the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) Program at Sikorsky Aircraft Inc. in Stratford, CT. She is responsible for total survivability integration, vulnerability testing, survivability requirement compliance, and execution of the LFT&E Program for the Air Force’s future HH-60W platform.  She is being specifically recognized for her vulnerability reduction work on the Combat Tempered Platform Demonstrator (CTPD) program in the area of increased fire protection.

With a passion for helicopters that was sparked by a flight experience on a UH-60L in high school, Suzi knew that she would work with rotor- craft no matter what—even if it meant washing windows! However, her real exposure to helicopters and ballistic vulnerability came shortly after she was hired at Boeing-Mesa in 2002 to become the new AH-64D Vulnerability Analyst. Teachings in independent study on rotorcraft stability and control as well as rotorcraft blade theory from her alma mater would help her along her path to rotorcraft operations and design integration. During her 5-yr career at Boeing, her most significant accomplishments included internal research and development (IRAD) testing of a new blast fragmentation barrier, software and integration testing of the Future Combat Systems (FCS) Capstone effort, support of the Composite Main Rotor Blade (CMRB) ballistic vulnerability qualification, and the initial layout of the framework for the AH-64E vulnerability analysis.

In 2007, Suzi suzan-derosaleft Boeing to take a Platform Lead position at Sikorsky, working across all H-60 platforms. She quickly adapted to the Sikorsky culture, reveled in Sikorsky’s history, and reached out to work vulnerability reduction on other programs, such as the CH-148, CH-53K, and Joint Multi Role (JMR). Her work on CH-53K crashworthiness—specifically, seat crashworthiness—helped her again gain a better understanding of early survivability integration and a broader appreciation of the survivability discipline. Suzi’s most notable work with Sikorsky has been in the arena of armor requirements, armor military standard compliance, armor testing and design, and production armor quality. As her career progressed, her specific work in vulnerability reduction afforded her the opportunity to manage the Composite Survivability (CS) effort and lead the Advanced Fire Management (AFM) Task of the CTPD program starting in 2012.

CTPD is a 40-month, $25-million effort to mature, demonstrate, and prepare the transition of technology to the BLACK HAWK platform. The objective is to demonstrate an integrated platform solution that exemplifies both operational durability and total survivability without deleterious effect on mission performance. The CTPD technical approach builds on high impact technology themes (Combat Tempered Airframe, AFM, Full Spectrum Crashworthiness, Damage Adaptive Control Laws, Durable Main Rotor, and Zero Vibration Helicopter), which emerged from a thorough inspection of mishap reports, combat data, and maintenance databases. The Joint Combat Assessment Team (JCAT) reports were extremely critical to Suzi’s work. The proposed low-risk, high-value technologies are matured as part of the optimized Combat Tempered Platform (CTP) Configuration to significantly impact Operational Availability (Ao), Crashworthiness Index (CI), and CS. The integrated demonstration strategy validates CTPD capabilities and metric improvements through system-level testing, full-scale fuselage structural and crash testing, and dedicated flight testing.

The AFM System comprises METSS Corp. exoskeleton high-performance fuel bladders, Green On-Board Inert Gas-Generating System (GOBIGGS) fuel inerting technology, and Firetrace Dry Bay Fire Suppression to improve CTPD metrics, thus mitigating deadly combat incidents. As a participant in the annual JASP review, Suzi first learned about GOBIGGS via the early work accomplished at China Lake, and she immediately saw the value of the next-generation technology in helping to mitigate some of the battle damage incidents that she had researched as part of the CS metric. Her CTPD specific focus on vulnerability reduction was centric to higher order threats beyond the design requirements of the H-60. Suzi also knew from her interaction with other customer programs that AFM technologies were marked for critical needs.

Upon completion of Preliminary and Critical Design efforts on the CTPD GOBBIGGS, a successful full-scale ground test/demonstration effort in an integrated H-60 test bed was completed. Suzi oversaw the project to ensure that the following additional goals were successfully achieved: demonstration of rapid system warm-up and initial time to inert, maintenance of inert ullage throughout the aircraft’s operating regime, demonstration of fit and function on a H-60, evaluation of exhaust gas route and airframe temperature impingement, overall system temperature characterization, and demonstration of water removal from the tanks. And her continued program efforts currently consist of working with the GOBIGGS manufacturer to market the technology and continue the transitioning of the hardware into other programs. These efforts helped moved GOBIGGS from a TRL 5 to nearly a TRL 7.

Not surprisingly, Suzi has received numerous awards for her efforts, including the Joint Expeditionary Forces Exercises (JEFX) recognition award in 2004, the Connecticut’s Women of Innovation Award in 2008, and the 2014 CRH Outstanding Achievement award for progressing that effort from proposal to contract win. She holds a B.S. in aerospace engineering and an M.S. in technical management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) and has pursued a Ph.D. in business administration. She has also authored numerous technical papers and presentations for the American Helicopter Society (AHS) and the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA).


Rich Hampson is currently the Chief of Survivability for Sikorsky Aircraft. During his 28 years at Sikorsky, he has also served in the positions of Comanche Aircraft Systems Management (ASM) Engineer, Mission Equipment Package (MEP) Systems Requirements Lead, Chief System Engineer on the Unmanned Combat Armed Rotorcraft (UCAR) and Naval Hawk Programs, Special Projects Chief Engineer, and Program Manager. Mr. Hampson holds a B.S. in aerospace/avionics engineering from Parks College of Saint Louis University.