By: Mark Couch and Robert E. Ball

The Joint Aircraft Survivability Program Office (JASPO) is pleased to recognize Mr. Christopher Adams for his Excellence in Survivability. Chris currently serves as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, CA. Prior to holding this position, Chris served in the Navy for 21 years as a Naval Flight Officer, flying the F-14 Tomcat and EA-6B Prowler in numerous combat sorties over Iraq and Afghanistan.  Additionally, he served on several major staffs during his Navy career, and his final assignment was serving as Associate Dean of NPS’s Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Chris first got plugged into the survivability community in the mid-1990s as an aeronautical engineering student at NPS when he took Dr. Robert Ball’s course in Aircraft Combat Survivability (ACS) and became one of his thesis students. This beginning effort would go on to influence the rest of his Navy career, as he found many ways to implement the concepts of survivability in his daily work.

Perhaps his largest impact on the ACS community was upon his return to NPS in 2005, 2 years after the NPS Aeronautical Engineering program (along with all of its aviator students) was moved to the Air Force Institute of Technology, when he discovered that the ACS course was no longer being taught at NPS. He was so concerned that the remaining aviator students at NPS were not learning about ACS that he approached the Chair of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department and volunteered to teach the ACS course, in addition to performing his normal responsibilities as Associate Dean.

Chris not only took on the extra load of teaching ACS, but he made a major modification to it. Because there were not as many aviator students left at NPS to take his ACS course, he developed a broader combat survivability course that would appeal to NPS students from all major military platforms: aircraft, surface ships and submarines, space- craft, and eventually ground vehicles.  This new course became MAE4751, “Combat Survivability, Reliability, and Systems Safety Engineering.”

Chris knew this change would require many changes to the ACS course he took in the 1990s, and he also knew that the NPS students whom he would be teaching would probably know a lot more about ships and submarines, spacecraft, and ground vehicles than he did. This was a risky venture, but Chris had the ability to successfully pull it off. His new NPS multiplatform combat survivability course (ME 4751) has been taught twice a year since 2005. The course allows the students to apply the knowledge that they have gained and developed over the course of their graduate education into critical thinkers on issues of significant importance to the U.S. Government. And platform survivability and weapon lethality continue to be fundamental issues facing the U.S. military now and in the future.

In 2008, Chris became founding director of the Center for Survivability & Lethality, an interdisciplinary research center focused on the Warfighter. He promotes intracurricular initiatives in combat systems, mechanical, aerospace, and systems engineering to provide a complete solution to Navy/Department of Defense (DoD) technical needs, including engaging in the scientific and engineering activities associated with research, development, test, evaluation, fielding, and sustainment of military system design (including safety and survivability). Part of this research also includes infrastructure survivability and applying the ACS concepts to locations such as Las Vegas to protect against terrorist attacks.

In addition, as part of his development of surface ship survivability, beginning  in 2009 Chris attended the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Carderock ship design course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to help introduce the ACS principles to the ship people. His participation with MIT/ NAVSEA in their Ship Survivability Short Course led them to expand their coverage of survivability and adapt the use of the concepts of susceptibility and vulnerability as originally taught by Dr. Ball.

Starting in late 2011,  Chris, working  with Dr. Ball and Drs. Lowell Tonnessen, Jim Walbert, and Mark Couch, began the development of a combat survivability educational program for Army and Marine ground vehicles, titled “The Fundamentals of Ground Vehicle Survivability and Force Protection (GVS&FP),” under the sponsorship of the Live Fire Test and Evaluation Office.  Together, these men developed the fundamentals for GVS&FP based upon the fundamentals of ACS, and Chris led the organization and presentation of several GVS&FP short courses. The course has taught students how to take user and system requirements and integrate them into a better product, while reducing life-cycle costs with the enhanced survivability of ground vehicles and the protection of occupants.

Since 2007, Chris has also been one of the lead instructors for the annual JASP-sponsored ACS short course. This course provides DoD, industry engineers, and managers with the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of survivability engineering and their application to actual aircraft.  The course covers topics such as threats and threat effects, susceptibility and susceptibility reduction, vulnerability and vulnerability reduction, modeling and simulation, and live fire testing. It also includes practical presentations describing specific aspects of the survivability design for the latest fighters, large transports, and helicopters.

Congratulations, Chris, for your Excellence in Survivability and for your distinguished contributions to today’s and tomorrow’s aircraft survivability community. (For more information on Chris’s contribution to ACS education, see the “Aircraft Combat Survivability Education and Educators: A Personal Perspective Over 40 Years“ in the spring 2018 issue of Aircraft Survivability.)


Dr. Mark Couch is currently the Warfare Area Lead for Live Fire Test and Evaluation in the Operational Evaluation Division at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). Prior to joining IDA in 2007, he enjoyed a 23-year Navy career flying the MH-53E helicopter. He has a Ph.D. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from NPS and has taught numerous courses in aircraft combat survivability.

Dr. Robert E. Ball is an NPS Distinguished Professor Emeritus who has spent more than 33 years teaching ACS, structures, and structural dynamics at NPS. He has been the principal developer and presenter of the fundamentals of ACS over the past four decades and is the author of The Fundamentals of Aircraft Combat Survivability Analysis and Design (first and second editions). In addition, his more than 55 years of experience have included serving as president of two companies (Structural Analytics, Inc., and Aerospace Educational Services, Inc.) and as a consultant to Anamet Labs, the SURVICE Engineering Company, and IDA. Dr. Ball holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in structural engineering from  Northwestern University.