Air Force Research Laboratory

The United States Air Force Research Laboratory with headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was created in October 1997. The laboratory was formed through the consolidation of four former Air Force laboratories and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research(AFOSR).



AFRL’s mission is leading the discovery, development, and integration of warfighting technologies for our air and space forces. AFRL accomplishes this through nine technology directorates located throughout the United States, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and a central staff. AFRL’s partners include the Air Force major commands that operate and maintain the full spectrum of Air Force weapons systems. It is a full-spectrum laboratory, responsible for planning and executing the Air Force’s entire science and technology budget, basic research, applied research, and advanced technology development.

Personnel and Resources

The lab employs approximately 9,500 government people, including about 1,300 military and 4,100 civilian personnel. It is responsible for the Air Force’s science and technology budget of nearly $1.7 billion including: basic research, applied research, and advanced technology development, and an additional $1.3 billion from AFRL customers.


Air Force Office of Scientific Research — Headquartered in Arlington, Va., with a worldwide exchange program for scientists and engineers (ESEP), is the basic research manager for AFRL. AFOSR invests in long-term, broad-based research into aerospace-related science and engineering. To accomplish this mission, AFOSR has formed a strong, productive alliance with other government agencies, U.S. industry and the academic community. Nearly 80 percent of the research is conducted in academia and industry and the remaining 20 percent is conducted within AFRL. AFOSR's investment in basic research programs is distributed to about 300 academic institutions, 145 contracts with industry and more than 150 internal AFRL research efforts.

  • Air Vehicles Directorate — Headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, leads the effort to develop and transition superior technology solutions that enable dominant military aerospace vehicles. The emphasis and vision are on technology investments that support cost-effective, survivable aerospace vehicles capable of accurate and quick delivery of a variety of future weapons or cargo anywhere in the world. To achieve this, core technology areas focus on aeronautical sciences, control sciences, structures and integration. The directorate targets advanced concepts to direct the development of vehicle technologies that provide future capabilities in the areas of sustainment, unmanned air vehicles, space access and future strike.
  • Directed Energy Directorate — Headquartered at Kirtland AFB, N.M., develops, integrates and transitions science and technology for directed energy, to include high power microwaves, lasers, adaptive optics, imaging and effects to assure the preeminence of the United States in air and space. The directorate provides research and development for leading-edge space capabilities as well as techniques and technologies to improve and transition optical systems to war-fighting commands. It is the Air Force’s center of excellence for high power microwave technology and DoD’s center of expertise for laser development, including semiconductor, gas, chemical and solid-state lasers. The Starfire Optical Range conducts theoretical and experimental research in advanced tracking, adaptive optics, atmospheric physics and imaging of objects in space using large ground-based telescopes. The directorate also assesses potential applications and effects of systems using directed energy technologies.
  • Human Effectiveness Directorate -- Headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, with additional research facilities at Brooks AFB, Texas, Mesa, Arizona, and Edgewood, Maryland, develops, integrates and transitions science and technologies for training personnel, improving the interface between the warrior and the weapon system, and protecting and sustaining Air Force warfighters to assure the preeminence of U.S. aerospace forces. The directorate has eight core technology areas: warfighter skill development and training, training simulation, information display and decision support, crew system design technologies, directed energy bioeffects, toxic hazards effects, crew protection, and logistician effectiveness. The directorate's partnerships with other technical directorates of AFRL impact 28 technology areas across the Laboratory. The directorate has collaboratory relationships, based upon shared interests and mutual benefits, with academia, other military services and Government agencies, and commercial enterprises.
  • Information Directorate — Headquartered at Rome, N.Y., develops information technologies for aerospace command and control, and its transition to air, space and ground systems. Its focus areas include a broad spectrum of technologies including information fusion and exploitation, communications and networking, collaborative environments, modeling and simulation, defensive information warfare and intelligent information systems technologies. Directorate scientists and engineers develop systems, concepts and technologies to enhance the Air Force's capability to successfully meet the challenges of the information age. In addition to its primary mission, the directorate has partnered with other elements of the Federal government, national intelligence agencies, numerous allied nations, state and local governments, and more than 50 major universities to work problems of common interest.
  • Materials and Manufacturing Directorate — Headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, with an additional research facility at Tyndall AFB, Fla. develops new materials, processes and manufacturing technologies for use in aerospace applications including aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, rockets and ground-based systems and their structural, electronic and optical components. With a host of modern materials and analysis laboratories, the directorate also provides quick reaction support and real time solutions to Air Force weapon system acquisition offices, field organizations and maintenance depots to solve materials related concerns and problems. The directorate plans, executes and integrates advanced manufacturing technology programs and affordability initiatives addressing manufacturing process technologies, computer integrated manufacturing and excellence through design for military needs. The directorate is also responsible for the Air Force technology programs that address environmental issues and provides materials expertise for airbase assets such as runways and infrastructures and technologies for aerospace expeditionary forces.
  • Munitions Directorate — Headquartered at Eglin AFB, Fla., develops, demonstrates and transitions science and technology for air-launched munitions for defeating ground fixed, mobile/relocatable, air and space targets to assure pre-eminence of U.S. air and space forces. The directorate conducts basic research, exploratory development, and advanced development and demonstrations. It also participates in programs focused on technology transfer, dual-use technology and small business development. The directorate is dedicated to providing the Air Force with a strong revolutionary and evolutionary technology base upon which future air-delivered munitions can be developed to neutralize potential threats to the United States.
  • Propulsion Directorate — Headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, with an additional research facility at Edwards AFB, Calif. develops air and space vehicle propulsion and power technologies. Focus areas include turbine and rocket engines, advanced propulsion systems, and the associated fuels and propellants for all propulsion systems. The directorate is also responsible for most forms of power technology making it one of the nation's leaders in its field. Programs address both future systems and the need to keep current systems competitive, safe, affordable and effective. The directorate has contributed technology to over 130 military and commercial systems.
  • Sensors Directorate — Headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, with additional research facilities at Hanscom AFB, Mass. and Rome, N.Y., develops the new technologies that U.S. warfighters need to find and precisely engage the enemy and eliminate his ability to hide or threaten our forces. In collaboration with other AFRL directorates and DoD organizations, the directorate develops sensors for air and space reconnaissance, surveillance, precision engagement and electronic warfare systems. The directorate’s vision is to provide a full range of air and space sensors, networked to the warfighter, providing a complete and timely picture of the battlespace enabling precision targeting of the enemy and protection friendly air and space assets. Its core technology areas include: radar, active and passive electro-optical targeting systems, navigation aids, automatic target recognition, sensor fusion, threat warning and threat countermeasures.
  • Space Vehicles Directorate — Headquartered at Kirtland AFB, N.M., with an additional research facility at Hanscom AFB, Mass., develops and transitions space technologies for more effective, more affordable warfighter missions. The directorate also leverages commercial, civil, and other government resources that ensure America’s defense advantage. Primary focus areas include: radiation hardened electronics; space power; space structures and control; space based sensing; space environmental effects; autonomous maneuvering; and balloon and satellite flight experiments.


The laboratory and its predecessors have overseen more than 80 years of critical research efforts for the Air Force and DoD. Its technology breakthroughs can be found in all of today’s modern aircraft and weapons systems, including the F-117 stealth fighter, B-2 bomber, C-17 airlifter and the F-22 fighter. It has contributed to significant advancements in modern communications, electronics, manufacturing, and medical research and products.

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