Air Force puts ‘force’ in new lab in Ohio

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center

HEATH – The Air Force Metrology and Calibration Program located in Heath opened a state-of-the-art facility called the Founders Force Laboratory in a ceremony Sept. 12.

Two deadweight calibrators, rated at 102,000 and 30,000 pounds, will serve as the primary force standards in the Air Force for decades. Their main job is to calibrate secondary force standards to be used at Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratories at more than 60 installations around the world.

One example of their use is to determine the center of gravity of an aircraft, which is essential information for flight stability and safety. Maintenance Airmen all around the world use platform scales to measure aircraft on the flightline and it is vital those scales are accurate.

The deadweight calibrators at AFMETCAL calibrate the transportable devices that are in turn used to calibrate those scales – and many other items – in the field.

These essential services provide direct support to the Air Force, Space Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, multiple federal agencies and international partners.

“DOD has to provide combat-credible military capability to protect the security of the nation and this requires ready forces and ready weapons systems. AFMETCAL enables this readiness for every mission – Global Mobility, Air Superiority, Long-range Strike and Space Operations, said Lea Kirkwood, Program Executive Officer for the Agile Combat Support Directorate in AFLCMC.

“In Agile Combat Support, we talk about support to every Airman, every mission, every day,” Kirkwood said. “That absolutely applies to the AFMETCAL team.

The new facility was named the Founders Force Laboratory as an homage to past leaders of AFMETCAL and its predecessor organizations. During the ceremony, retired Col. Mike Hogan, former AFMETCAL commander and Dave Baker, former deputy director, spoke about leading the organization through the BRAC process in the early 1990s and the installation of the deadweight calibrator that these new machines will replace.

The rise of precision munitions and sophisticated electronics after World War II, drove the need for a centralized calibration capability, according to Carl Unholz, AFMETCAL director. The unique seismic stability of the area around Heath, Ohio made the site a logical location for such a facility. Over the years, local and state government, private organizations and industry have partnered with the Air Force to support the AFMETCAL mission.

“I would really like to spend the next hour just going person by person and just thanking each and every one of you for coming out here and being a part of this,” Unholz said. “Because the reality truly is that without you and our partners, there is no ceremony and there is no Force Lab.”

The process to mount the devices on a 5-foot-deep steel reinforced concrete pad began with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency measuring the acceleration of gravity in that specific room. The National Institute of Standards and Technology then adjusted and calibrated the mass weights to the local gravity to produce nominal force values.

Shane Popson, AFMETCAL Mechanical Engineer and project lead for the Founders Force Laboratory, has been working to create this facility since he was hired by the Air Force in 2016.

“I’ve been working on this since day one,” he said. “To see it all come together is just incredibly rewarding. We are very excited as a program to have these machines installed and ready to start using them to get our products to Airmen in the field.”

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