Texas A&M earmarks $60M for military tech complex
AUSTIN (Tribune News Service) — The Texas A&M System is adding millions of dollars to a project aimed at helping the U.S. military develop future-of-war technologies.
Texas A&M System Board of Regents has appropriated $60.3 million for the George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex, which is a joint project between Texas A&M System and Austin-based Army Futures command. The complex will be on the university’s RELLIS Campus in Bryan.
The funding adds to a multimillion-dollar plan to make Texas A&M’s 2,000-acre RELLIS campus the Army’s main hub for testing and evaluating its technologies. RELLIS is an acronym for the six Aggie core values of respect, excellence, leadership, loyalty, integrity and selfless service.
The Army Futures Command, a public-private initiative created to lead modernization projects for the Army, is the largest reorganization of the military branch in decades. The Army in 2018 chose Austin as the site for the center.
The future facility at RELLIS will be a center of defense technology innovation to conduct research and test prototypes. It also will contain the largest enclosed hypersonic testing facility in the nation and will be a test site for high-tech combat vehicles. The complex broke ground in October.
The funding comes from two separate approvals by the A&M board of regents. The first is $22.5 million for the hypersonic and directed energy testing range. Construction for is scheduled to begin in February, with estimated completion in October 2022.
The tunnel, which is 1 kilometer long, will be the largest of its kind in the nation. It will be used to test hypersonics, or projectiles that go Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, or faster.
The additional $37.8 million will go toward a vehicle test track called the Innovation Proving Ground. The track will be a testing site for autonomous aerial, ground and subterranean vehicles, as well as the equipment, systems and instruments needed to use them on a battlefield.
The track will also be able to track time, space and position to capture data from the vehicles and their payloads, which can be stored on the vehicles and sent for analysis at the campus’s Research Integration Center.
John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System, said in a statement that leaders of branches of the military, tech entrepreneurs, defense industry executives, and U.S. allies have also show interest in the facility.
“There will be no other place like it in the world,” Sharp said.
In July, Texas A&M named Army Col. Rosendo “Ross” Guieb as the first executive director for the Bush Combat Development Complex. Guieb was previously an executive officer at Army Futures Command as part of a 29-year career in the Army. At the time Guieb said the complex will act as a proving ground for innovation projects, and said the latest funding will help achieve that.
“This funding allows the full vision of the Bush Combat Development Complex to be realized,” Gueib said in a written statement on Friday.
Gueib said the complex is already in discussion with potential customers and has already begun important research, including for Army Futures Command. He added this will be maximized when the complex reaches full operating capability in late 2022.
In October, Army Futures Command said it would provide $65 million to Texas A&M to support the RELLIS campus plans.
Before that, the Texas Legislature allocated $50 million for a military testing site, and Texas A&M provided $80 million to build a research innovation center.
Austin also has a growing defense technology industry, which has only accelerated after Army Futures set up its headquarters.
This month, two defense technology companies announced expansions to their Austin workforce and facilities. Both companies work with the Department of Defense.
Aerospace and defense technology giant BAE Systems announced plans for a major expansion with a new $150 million campus in the Parmer Austin Business Park that will add about 700 jobs over the next several years and accommodate 1,400 employees total.
Abaco Systems, an Alabama-based company that makes computing products for the defense and aerospace industries, also said it plans to expand its Austin facility and double its workforce to about 65 employees in the next 18 months.