(TULLAHOMA, TN) Lt. Col. James Gresham is the new commanding officer of 716 Test Squadron, overseeing aerodynamic and aeropropulsion ground testing for the Arnold Engineering Development Complex. A large number of Rutherford County residents are employed at this nearby air base in neighboring Coffee County.
According to Gresham, he became interested in the Air Force and airplanes in his early teens after completing a school assignment.
Responsible for multiple wind tunnel installations ranging from hovering to hypersonic speeds, the 716 TS team provides high-fidelity wind tunnel data and analysis on air vehicles, space vehicles, and weapon systems under development in support of Department of Defense and National Security programs.
“I was inspired by aeronautical engineering from a college project to design a balsa wood glider to fly safely and land an egg as a payload,” he said. “I chose the Air Force because we fly the most incredible fighter jets, which at the time were the F-117 Nighthawk and the SR-71 Blackbird.”
Gresham graduated in 2007 from the US Air Force Academy, and his first posting was with the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California. As a flight test engineer, he led the planning and execution of tests for new combat capabilities on US Air Force and Allied F-16 Fighting Falcons and guided test missions at a high angle of attack.
He then obtained his master’s degree at the Air Force Institute of Technology with a program focused on aircraft stability and control and satellite design, while his thesis work developed a control algorithm for optical tracking of satellites and aircraft with telescopes.
Prior to his new role at Arnold, Gresham was attending Virginia Tech for an Air Force doctorate. scholarship to obtain a doctorate in aerospace engineering.
“My curriculum there was focused on system dynamics, control and estimation,” he said. “My research was based on modeling aerodynamics from experimental flight data, particularly during a stall spin.”
Gresham said he felt up to the challenges as commander of the 716 TS because his experience provided him with a solid technical foundation and leadership experience relevant to the acquisition of domestic assets.
Gresham also served as assistant professor, executive director, and assistant laboratory director for the Department of Aeronautics at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. Subsequently, he went to the Test Pilot School where he led a team of peers performing model validation and overseeing quality assessment on an innovative control law design. From TPS, he was Chief Flight Test Engineer and Deputy Director of Operations for the 452nd Flight Test Squadron and Global Vigilance Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB.
“This has included flight testing of various advanced fighter aircraft and wind tunnel research at Air Force Academy faculty,” he said. “I also had the opportunity to lead the flight test team for the country’s newest unmanned aircraft, which gave me fantastic experience and a better appreciation of the importance of technical development for the daily security of our country.”
“I am incredibly excited to begin serving the incredible team at 716th Test Squadron,” he said. « CTF Flight Systems [combined test force] here provides unique capabilities and decision quality data from hover to hypersonic flight regimes. The data and analytics we provide directly advance the National Defense Strategy and reduce the risk of subsequent flight and operational testing. We are at a critical point in the technical development of several nuclear modernization programs, hypersonic weapons systems and next-generation tactical systems. Our efforts provide national leaders with unparalleled options to deter aggression on the world stage.
He added that he looked forward to learning from the current team and finding opportunities to innovate and improve resources to continue to provide customers with the data analytics that the Flight Systems team AEDC is known.