New AFRL civilian leader led testing of ‘game-changing technologies’

A senior civilian executive who leads a key weapons technology office at Wright-Patterson has been named executive director of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Jack L. Blackhurst, a retired Air Force colonel, will help manage at $4.9 billion budget and a workforce of about 10,400 employees, more than half of whom work at AFRL headquarters and four directorates at Wright-Patterson.

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Most recently, Blackhurst served as director of the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office and AFRL director of plans and programs. He replaces C. Douglas Ebersole, a senior executive who retired in April capping a 35-year civilian career.

Blackhurst’s appointment follows Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley becoming AFRL commander in May.

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Since last year, Blackhurst has led the Wright-Patterson-based strategic planning and experimentation office, which planned to test “game-changing technologies” like directed-energy and hypersonics to determine if the weapons can be fielded on future battlefields.

“This is a new way of doing capability development for the Air Force,” Blackhurst said in an interview last year. “We might be asked to go do some experiments to get something in the warfighters’ hands to go try out and see if they really work or not in the capacity that they want them to.”

The office reports its findings directly to Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.

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Blackhurst, who began his career as a second lieutenant in 1974, was a former deputy assistant secretary for science, technology and engineering and acquisition at the Pentagon. He also was a former director of AFRL’s Human Effectiveness Directorate at Wright-Patterson and has worked at the Miami Valley base since 1999.

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