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SAMPE @ 75 - Project Forecast Article

Project Forecast


In the 1960s, the Air Force produced a Science and Technology strategy to focus investments to improve military capability and change the way the Air Force fights.  This strategy was titled Project Forecast.  The strategy looked at emerging technologies though the lens of the treats to the United States as well as national security policy considerations to arrive at advanced military capabilities.  The potential for revolutionary improvements in materials science, particularly in high strength boron filaments and carbon fibers opened new vistas for aircraft construction.  These filaments and fibers were many times stronger than steel and with far less density.  The weight advantage of these materials were thought be the most important materials discovery since the Bronze Age.  Combining them with plastic resin had the potential to reduce aircraft weight by 75%.  Early studies theorized that these materials could enable large cargo transports that could carry four times the weight of transports of the day. 

A result of Project Forecast was the launch of the Air Force Advanced Composites Program to take these new materials from the test tube and make them into aircraft parts.  The original emphasis was the F-111 and the new Light Weight Fighter program, which resulted in the F-16.  From these beginnings, a new industry was established.  Today, composites are standard in military and commercial aircraft.  The benefits of advanced composites low strength to density compared to metals are also of benefit to additional applications from sporting goods to high performance cars and racing yachts.  Auto manufacturers are beginning to use them in luxury cars.

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