Focus on the Future

History has demonstrated that basic science is often unpredictable. When managed successfully it produces groundbreaking and game changing technologies for the Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force and society as a whole. The United States depends on science, technology and innovative engineering to protect the American people and advance our national interests.

In this video, we focus on AFOSR’s investment in the six basic research areas that have the potential to create foundations for new disruptive technologies and solve formerly unsolvable problems for the Department of Defense. These areas are organized and managed in five scientific directorates: Dynamical Systems and Control (RTA), Quantum & Non-Equilibrium Processes (RTB), Information, Decision, and Complex Networks (RTC), Complex materials and Devices (RTD), and Energy, Power, and Propulsion (RTE). The research activities managed within each directorate are summarized on our website.

Dr. Russell, the former director of AFOSR (current Director of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory) highlights AFOSR’s focus to identify cutting edge scientific principles that will lead to a future Air Force unlike the one we have today.

The focus of AFOSR is on research areas that offer significant and comprehensive benefits to our national warfighting and peacekeeping capabilities. The ground breaking work of our scientists and engineers will yield significant results well into the future!

What disruptive technology do you envision in the future?

Bio-Inspired Flight — Who Is Air Force Basic Research


Technological advances are constantly increasing human potential for developing very small things. For the US Air Force this means revolutionary designs in future air vehicles providing war fighters with tools that enhance situational awareness and the capacity to engage rapidly, precisely and with minimal collateral damage. When it comes to improving flight mechanics in these vehicles what better place to look for inspiration than bats, birds or bugs? These natural flyers have been perfecting their flight techniques for millions of years.

In this video, meet the researchers AFOSR is funding to develop designs for flight vehicles that will have revolutionary impacts on the future Air Force.

Making Marvelous Materials – Who is Air Force Basic Research Video

With the advent of the jet age in the 1940s and 50s the velocity of aircraft was fast approaching the speed of sound making it readily apparent that construction techniques for jet aircraft would require significant changes to meet new and unforeseen operational demands.

Since its founding in 1951 AFOSR has maintained an active research program in aircraft structures and materials. This program must constantly evolve addressing revolutionary advances in aerodynamics.

In this video, meet materials researchers AFOSR is funding to develop new nanomaterials that will have revolutionary impacts on the future Air Force.

How the Computer Mouse Came To Be

Imagine using a joystick or your knee to control the pointer on your computer screen? That could be the case if the basic research of Dr. Douglas Engelbart wasn’t funded.
In the early 1960s, AFOSR awarded a contract to Dr. Engelbart and the Stanford Research Institute for research on augmenting human intellect and the potential for computers to assist people in complex decision-making.

His 1962 report to AFOSR served as a roadmap for developing computer technologies–particularly in the area of human interfaces.

This was followed in 1964 with his design of the first computer mouse, a wooden casing with two metal wheels that provided a way to “point and click” on a display screen.
Engelbart and his team would go on to make significant contributions to what would become the graphic user interface, and were involved in the development of ARPANET, the precursor of the Internet.

With early funding for the inventor of the mouse and scores of computer related innovations, AFOSR played a role in sparking the computer revolution.

Did you know that Stanford Research Institute patented the mouse and licensed it to Apple for just $40,000?

The Kalman Filter? A Tool We Use Everyday

Almost all modern control systems, both military and commercial, use the Kalman filter. It guided the Apollo 11 lunar module to the moon’s surface and is used in phased-array radars to track missiles, inertial guidance systems in aircraft, submarines, missile autopilots, the Global Positioning System, the Space Shuttle and rockets.

AFOSR initiated support for Dr. Rudolph E. Kalman and Dr. Richard Bucy in 1958 to investigate the use of modern mathematical statistical methods in estimation.  At the time, AFOSR program managers saw an opportunity in science for the creation of new mathematical techniques that could alter control applications.  With AFOSR support, Kalman and Bucy wrote several papers that revolutionized the area of estimation.

This research ultimately led to the development of what is now known as the Kalman filter, which revolutionized the field of estimation, and had an enormous impact on the design and development of precise navigation systems.  The Kalman and Bucy technique of combining and filtering information from multiple sensor sources achieved accuracies that clearly constituted a major breakthrough in guidance technology.

Watch the video to see how the Kalman Filter came to be!