WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A WEAPONS ENGINEER:
THE EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS




Jose O. Bautista II




College 155
Akilah Nosakhere
New Mexico State University – Carlsbad
July 16, 2012



Abstract

In this paper I will postulate—based on the research I have conducted—that a direct and indirect fire weapons engineer may be any of 6 major engineering disciplines with the additional education in information technology—specifically networking. Although the “ideal” weapon engineer will be addressed by answering some predetermined questions.
1. What emphasis should I have choose within the Engineering field?
2. What minors should I strive for in each bachelor?
3. Which Master’s Degree should be chosen in the field or related field?
4. Which Post-graduate Degree should be chosen in the field or related field?
5. What types of weapons could be developed with degrees in these fields?
6. Are there any other non related educational requirements that need addressing?
The conclusion to my research is that depending on the aspect of concentration of a direct/indirect fire weapons platform (system of subsystem) that interest you should be the driving force behind which Undergraduate degree you choose as well as Graduate and Post-graduate degree(s). It is commonly known that in order to be in research an individual traditionally requires a minimum of a Masters Degree.
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The Beginning: Education

The educational requirements for a direct fire and indirect fire weapons engineer do not vary much in traditional land or ground warfare platforms. The implementation and integration of new technologies easily foresee the changes in future combat system and with those changes the educational requirements for career field also must change. Currently the Department of Defense and Civilian sector contractors require a one and one preference. That is one degree with one minor in the disciplines listed below. The best method to prepare to enter the field of weapons engineering is to look at achieving 2 different disciplines out of 6 disciplines listed below with preferred minors in at least 1 or 2 of the other 4 disciplines. Those fields are as follows:
1. Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering
2. Mechanical Engineering
3. Materials Science and Engineering
4. Electrical Engineering
5. Computer and Computational Sciences
6. Physics

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The degree plans offered at NMSU that best closely mirror these disciplines are as follows:
Undergraduate Majors
Concentration
  1. Electrical and Computer Engineering
  2. Aerospace Engineering
  3. Mechanical Engineering
  4. Engineering Physics
  1. Control, Communications, Computer Arch, Digital Design, Power, Electromagnetic, Electronics, Photonics, Signal Processing
  2. NONE
  3. NONE
  4. Aerospace, Chemical, Electrical, Mechanical

The ideal educational requirement to obtain a sustainable employment in the direct and indirect fire weapons engineering would consist of 2 bachelor’s degrees in engineering—Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. These undergraduate degree’s traditionally have a minimum of 9-12 semester hours of equivalent education which do not include curriculum electives that require knowledge form another engineering discipline. In practice one can achieve both undergraduate degree plans in 10-11 semesters (5 years), if classes are available during summer months and opportunity is taken by the student. Attaining these degrees’s using electives from one degree to compliment the other leaves no room for a minor at this level. The positive aspect of this is that it meets most of the minimum curriculum requirement for a Master’s in Aerospace Engineering at the undergraduate level which will expedite the process of meeting the 300 and 400 level prerequisites and provide an academic advantage at the 500 and 600 level courses. This is better explained later in the report.
The concentration he/she suggested in Electrical and Computer Engineering is in Electro-Optics, which would compliment both small arms and large caliber weapons platforms that require target acquisition and sighting optics for accuracy and target acquisition speed. Coupled with Mechanical Engineering these skills could be used in whole weapons research and design to incorporate systems or subsystems to perform like traditional combat systems such as the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank or the M2/3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. At least the education could put him/her in a small lead role in the research or development until a Graduate Degree is accomplished.

Graduate Degree’s
Concentration
  1. Electrical and Computer Engineering
  2. Aerospace Engineering
  3. Mechanical Engineering
Note: If curriculum and time allows, follow a minor in Physics.
  1. Circuits Systems, Computer, Digital /Comm., Electromagnetics & Microwave, Electronics, Energy Systems, and Photonics
  2. Applied Mechanics, Biomechanics, Composites, Computational Mechanics, Dynamic Systems, Materials Science, Mechatronics, and Thermal Science
  3. Same as no. 2

In order to compliment the knowledge from undergraduate knowledge and be considered for hire in a research laboratory is a Master’s in Aerospace Engineering. Mechanical Engineering is closely related to the curriculum in Aerospace Engineering. Ironically Aerospace Engineering also integrates a modest amount of the curriculum from Electrical and Computer Engineering in its curriculum. Although some of these similarities are at the lower baccalaureate level, there are a minimum of 9-12 credits at the upper level that are cross listed equivalent education from each discipline that compliment the Aerospace Engineer discipline. At the graduate education level emphasis should be left up to the student.
A Master’s in Aerospace Engineering will compliment any weapons engineer that will deal with projectiles because of the flight knowledge that need to be addressed. An emphasis at this level is suggested to be in anything that he/she lacks knowledge in or foresees a need especially if he/she is already in an internship or engaged in a related project at this point in his/her career. A minor at this level is suggested in Physics if he/she has the available time to pursue it.

Doctor of Philosophy
Concentration
  1. Electrical and Computer Engineering
  2. Aerospace Engineering
  3. Mechanical Engineering
  4. Physics
  5. Interdisciplinary Studies
1-4. NONE
  1. 12-15 credits of each from 3 of the 4 disciplines listed in 1-4 with a minimum of 18 hours of dissertation work at the 700 level. Suggested minor in Physics.

The Post-graduate education suggestion is one in either Physics, or Interdisciplinary Studies as described in the chart above. This will compliment the entire educational requirement of a weapons engineer. The Interdisciplinary Studies will provide a well rounded aspect of the dynamic education requirement for the challenges facing advanced levels of weapons research and design.


Impacts of Weapons Design: Political, Military and Ethical

One of the challenges of weapons design is development of weapons based on political and international relations of friend and foe. Currently many engineering programs integrate aspects of business, consumer necessity and even biometrics and/or ergonomics to satisfy consumer desires for the product being designed. The same methodology should be used in weapons design.
The Political environment strongly influences and even decides the project success. For example, the perceived unnecessary ruthless killings of Iraqi civilians in the first year after major combat operations in 2003 by highly trained and equipped soldiers of the US Army such as myself. The constant changes of commander (CO) directives based on force protection (FP) requirement and Soldiers were directed to use lethal force if certain real or perceived boundaries were compromised in their duties to minimize the attrition of the war in order to maintain political confidence. Likewise ever service member had an inherent right to self defense according to DoD doctrine and International Law of Warfare, in a time when suicide bombs and car bombs were on the rise. At this point of the war which by doctrine known as Phase 4 or Peace and Stability operations—became Counter-Insurgency operations traditionally performed by Special Operations Forces. This battle space became extremely dynamic during these early days of the Iraqi War. CO’s needed soldiers that were versatile and equipped with versatile weapons capable of dynamic changes as his battle space changed throughout the day and even in some cases hours.
The political and international climate changes as much and as fast the Iraqi day. The ethical use of weapons is on the end-user of that weapon, but design of weapons that could accurately and consistently engage a foe at long ranges, conduct close quarters operations, crowd control and non-lethal military operation within a matter of hours or minutes is the engineer’s job. Knowing the International and Political impacts of Soldiers on the ground with the dynamic ethical and legal challenges faced by the Soldier will assist the engineer to better develop a weapon platform that is as versatile as the political climate and various environments it will be deployed to. A moderate background on National and International politics, law and ethics is ideal for engineers that have little or no military or tactical experience.


Summary

I conclusion I see the most effective method and process of becoming an Weapons Engineer is to attain a degree in either Electrical and Computer Engineering at any level and Aerospace Engineer at any level with any combination of minors of the other 4 disciplines. Here in NMSU the minimum amounts of these requirements are met, specifically networking. The program at NMSU has already implemented networking for the Associate of Sciences in Engineering. The declaration of any Major at the Bachelor’s level in any of the 4 engineering disciplines would more than satisfy any requirement in weapons engineering especially with a minor in another engineering field. Also, any physical science to include biology would greatly increase opportunities’ in weapons development employment especially in biometrics and human anatomy.

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