Air Force awards WSU-NIAR $23.5 million contract for fleet sustainment


The United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) awarded Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) a $23.5 million contract for Modeling for Affordable, Sustainable Composites (MASC), aimed at developing a certification framework for enabling advanced materials and structural concepts for automated manufacturing.

This program will expand the framework for developing innovative in-service inspection technologies for advanced structures and bonded joints, validating high-fidelity composite repair analysis techniques, and assessing aging composite structures for life extension and structural enhancements.

NIAR’s newly established Advanced Technologies Lab for Aerospace Systems (ATLAS) will lead this program with partnerships between AFRL researchers, defense contractors, and universities for enhancing tools for design-manufacture-certify advanced integrated structures incorporating machine-learning and artificial intelligent algorithms with automated technologies for manufacturing next-generation composite airframes.

“Wichita State has strategically invested in technology to assist the aviation and manufacturing industries become more competitive and efficient, while providing applied learning opportunities for our students,” said WSU Interim President Andy Tompkins. “This extended partnership with the DoD and AFRL is an endorsement of the high-caliber capabilities and expertise at this university and we’re honored to have the opportunity to work with them in this capacity.” 

U.S. Senator Jerry Moran visited NIAR with Air Force Under Secretary Matt Donovan and Will Roper, Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in November.

“The fleet sustainment program signifies the immense value NIAR provides to our Air Force and national defense,” said Sen. Moran. “I am pleased the Department of Defense is increasingly more confident and reliant on the engineering talent in Wichita, and that WSU and NIAR will be able to grow their efforts in support of the Air Force with this recent award. The Air Force will undoubtedly benefit from having Kansans working directly on this program, and I’ll continue working to bolster this already strong partnership that has simultaneously advanced our nation’s defense and the Wichita region.”

About NIAR

The National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University provides research, testing, certification and training for aviation and manufacturing technologies.  Established in 1985, NIAR has a $70 million annual budget; a staff of 550; and nearly 1 million square feet of laboratory and office space in four locations across the city of Wichita, the Air Capital of the World. NIAR laboratories include Additive Manufacturing, Advanced Coatings, Advanced Manufacturing, Aging Aircraft, Ballistics & Impact Dynamics, CAD/CAM, Composites & Advanced Materials, Computational Mechanics, Crash Dynamics, Environmental & Electromagnetic Test, Full-scale Structural Test, Nondestructive Test, Reverse Engineering, Robotics & Automation, Virtual Reality and the Walter H. Beech Wind Tunnel.

The mission of Wichita State University is to be an essential educational, cultural and economic driver for Kansas and the greater public good. Wichita State is a doctoral research university enrolling nearly 15,000 students and offering 59 undergraduate degree programs in more than 150 areas of study in seven undergraduate colleges. The Graduate School offers 45 master's and 12 doctoral degrees that offer study in more than 100 areas. Wichita State's Innovation Campus is an interconnected community of partnership buildings, laboratories and mixed-use areas where students, faculty, staff, entrepreneurs and businesses have access to the university's vast resources and technology. For more information, follow us on Twitter at and Facebook at