A new commander will take the reins of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson while a former test pilot who has led the command for nearly three years will retire.
Maj. Gen. Robert D. McMurry , currently stationed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., will take over AFRL’s nine research directorates later this year. McMurry is vice commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.
Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello, current AFRL commander and an Air Force Academy graduate, will retire after a 35-year active-duty career, according to Wright-Patterson. A tentative leadership change of command ceremony is set for May, according to spokeswoman Marie Vanover.
AFRL pursued development of hypersonics, directed-energy weapons and autonomy links between human operators and machines as top priorities during Masiello’s tenure. In one high-profile AFRL joint project, the X-51 Waverider reached hypersonic speeds above Mach 5 in flight tests over the Pacific Ocean.
“This is the first time that we proved that (hypersonic) technology is viable for that sort of platform and that’s essentially a weapon,” he said in a 2014 interview with this newspaper. “What hypersonics does is it really compresses a potential adversary’s decision-making ability.”
Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and a defense industry consultant, said in an email AFRL was “the world’s most important center of advanced aerospace research.”
During Masiello’s tenure, Thompson said, “the Air Force made major strides in electronic warfare, remotely piloted vehicles, smart munitions and cutting-edge propulsion technology that will keep America’s air force far ahead of potential adversaries through mid-century.”
Masiello is an Iraq war veteran who test flew the F-111, F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, among other assignments, according to his biography.
McMurry, a University of Texas ROTC graduate, worked in Air Force research programs to develop an airborne laser and space-based infrared systems. Among other duties, the Iraq veteran was also an electronic warfare systems engineer on the F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, according to his biography.
AFRL has four directorates at Wright-Patterson: aerospace systems, materials and manufacturing, sensors and the 711th Human Performance Wing.
The science and research agency has a $4.4 billion budget a workforce of about 6,000 military and civilian employees.