AFWERX Challenge serves as catalyst for future technology advancements

  • Published
  • By Capt. Brandon Shapiro
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) - With the ever-evolving needs of the modern warfighter, AFWERX stands at the forefront of the relentless pursuit of innovation and collaboration. New and inspiring ways to capture those interests must be met through various strategies, and AFWERX's latest approach is the Weapons Program Executive Office (PEO) Design Sprint and Challenge. Showcased in the name, the Weapons PEO is an incubator for weapons-based technologies and advancements.
"Our first Weapons PEO Challenge has participants working with the Armament Directorate to design an enterprise test vehicle that will serve as the baseline architecture for future low-cost cruise missiles variants," said Cayley Dymond, AFWERX Challenge team lead. "The Directorate's objective is to design a weapon with a range of approximately 500 nautical miles, high subsonic speed, and a cost goal of $150,000 per unit in bulk orders."
Additionally, the teams are tasked with increasing weapons capacity and affordable delivery in mass. They also must ensure that the outcome is scalable and readily available for partner nations and allies. Addressing the criteria was the Design Sprint, which concluded in September.
The Design Sprint was a condensed, super-focused workspace where teams collaborated to ideate and kickstart the innovation process. It showcased experts across the weapons innovation community including Sandia National Lab, Federally Funded Research and Development, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Labs, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Kansas City National Security Campus, MITRE, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and many more.
“AFWERX provided the guidelines of the meeting structure and logistics support to ensure a streamlined execution of our event; it made it really easy as an organizer for this government event to show up and know that everything logistically was taken care,” said Hartley Postlethwaite, a participant from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “The support that was most interesting was the artist and thoughts that came from the AFWERX facilitator. By the end of each day, AFWERX was able to provide a graphic poster that summarized each day’s activities and decisions.” Phase two of the Weapons PEO Challenge will take place in early 2024 and start where the Design Sprint left off. Participants will be tasked with addressing key challenges, including accelerating the testing and fielding of advanced weapons capabilities, developing a family of systems, and providing a manufacturing test bed for on-demand production concepts.
"The Weapons PEO Challenge stands as a cornerstone in propelling weapon systems forward, marked by pivotal initiatives: integrating a flight-test-ready design by early 2024, maximizing industry input for superior technology evaluation, showcasing unparalleled speed and cost efficiency, delineating the trade space, and pinpointing design constraints," said Dymond. "It's about building a formidable team poised for success in the project's forthcoming phases."
The Weapons PEO Challenge is just one of more than 50 challenges put on by the AFWERX team. The Challenges serve as an expanded market research program, connecting solutions from the innovation ecosystem to Department of the Air Force areas of need. The initiative's success relies on industry collaborations and on submissions of high-quality ideas, emphasizing the importance of active participation to bring value to government stakeholders. Those interested in getting involved in current or future AFWERX Challenges can engage by:
  • Creating an account on for notifications.
  • Monitoring AFWERX social media for Challenge opportunities.
  • Attending the Challenge Definition Workshop as subject matter experts.
  • Submitting solutions to the Challenge solicitation on
  • Participating in webinars during the open submission period. 
About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace forces. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit
As the innovation arm of the DAF and a directorate within the Air Force Research Laboratory, AFWERX brings cutting-edge American ingenuity from small businesses and start-ups to address the most pressing challenges of the DAF. AFWERX employs approximately 325 military, civilian, and contractor personnel at six hubs and sites, executing an annual $1.4 billion budget. Since 2019, AFWERX has executed 4,697 new contracts worth more than $2.6 billion to strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base and drive faster technology transition to operational capability. For more information, visit: