2013 Dr. Gary Polansky

It is with great pleasure that the Precision Strike Association presents the Richard H. Johnson Award to Dr. Gary F. Polansky.  The Johnson Award is recognition of outstanding personal technical achievement resulting in significant contribution to precision strike systems.  Dr. Polansky’s contributions are many and their impact has certainly been felt in the precision strike community.  As an example, Dr. Polansky’s successes are key elements that have led military warfighters and DoD leaders to actively pursue the development of hypersonic boost-glide weapons for the U.S. inventory.

Like Dick Johnson, for whom the award is named, Gary has a strong background in aerodynamics.  Like Dick, Gary is no stranger to the wind tunnel.  In the mid-1980s, he pioneered the development of aerodynamic and aerothermodynamic analysis tools that became the standard at Sandia National Laboratories for maneuvering hypersonic systems. These tools enabled rapid analysis of complex systems and served a critical role in a number of successful flight tests in the late 1980s and 1990s. After more than 25 years, these tools remain in routine use at the laboratory.

For the last decade Dr. Polansky has provided Sandia National Labs with technical and management leadership of hypersonic flight systems and hypersonic delivered warhead systems for NASA, DARPA, Air Force, Navy, and Army applications. He led the development and rocket sled track testing of Kinetic Energy Projectile (KEP) warheads at hypersonic speeds for the Navy. These successful tests demonstrated the lethality of the concept in a prototypic configuration and established the technical basis for the decision to baseline KEP warheads as the primary warhead for the first generation of CPGS systems. Dr. Polansky also led the technical team that conducted sled track tests of an advanced fuze for high-speed penetrators. He was instrumental in developing new rocket sled/payload separation technology that enabled the longest ever free flight of a separated vehicle to target impact. Although the newly developed fuze did not function as intended, the test was groundbreaking in terms of delivering precise conditions for the prototypic test of the high-speed penetrator in its delivery vehicle.

The culmination of Dr. Polansky’s last decade of work in hypersonic boost-glide systems was the highly successful Advanced Hypersonic Weapon flight test on November 11, 2001. As the Sandia Labs Advanced Hypersonic Weapon technical program manager, he led a multi-disciplinary team that demonstrated the first hypersonic boost-glide flight at a range relevant to the DoD Conventional Prompt Global Strike program.  Launched from the Kauai Test Facility in Hawaii, the glide body flew approximately 4000 kilometers at hypersonic speeds in the upper atmosphere across the Pacific Ocean to a precision land impact near Illeginni Island in the Kwajalein Atoll, achieving all test objectives. 

Because these contributions transcend a single program; have been widely felt by the warfighters who defend the United States; have influenced other technologists, have made precision strike systems more widely available to warfighters who defend the United States; comprise a record of innovation found in publications and public domain sources; include contributions outside the field of precision strike; and include recognition of his accomplishments by other awards and honors; the precision Strike Association is proud to name Dr. Gary Polansky as the recipient of the fifth annual Richard H. Johnson Technical Achievement Award and the 2013 Johnson Trophy.

October 2013