Longtime Army scientist passes away

September 05, 2018

By ARL Public Affairs

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Sept. 5, 2018) -- Officials from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory announced the passing of one of its senior scientists. Dr. Brad Forch, the Army's senior research scientist for ballistics, has died.

Assigned to the laboratory's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, Forch had served as a senior research scientist since January 2009.

"In his role with WMRD, Dr. Forch personally mentored countless scientists and engineers; always willing to share his expertise and advice," said WMRD Director Dr. Jeff Zabinski in an email to the workforce. "As a friend, Brad was there to listen, counsel, assist and nurture us in every aspect of our lives. His sudden death will weigh heavily upon those that knew him and interacted with him. He will be missed."

Born in 1955, Forch was a native of Chicago, Illinois. He earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and a master of science degree in physical chemistry from Illinois State University in 1978 and 1979, respectively. According to his ARL biography, Forch published several papers on the relative thermodynamic stabilities of substituted Annulenes and their anions and dianions. He received a doctorate in physical chemistry/chemical physics from Wayne State University in 1984. At WSU, he published 10 papers on research in supersonic molecular beams pertaining to rotational effects in intramolecular vibrational energy redistribution, Van der Waals clusters, and radiationless processes in excited electronic states.

Forch was a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow at the Ballistic Research Laboratory in 1985, where he performed research in laser spectroscopy in the areas of ignition and combustion research, and was subsequently hired as a civilian employee in 1986.

His research contributions led to the discovery of a new laser-based resonant ignition mechanism that rapidly transitioned to practical applications for many Army weapons systems.

From 1986 to 1994, this work was the subject of intense research that fed parallel developmental efforts for large caliber weapons systems within the Army. It led to extensive new research programs, international collaborations, and 25 Small Business Innovation Research programs and the creation of a new industrial capability within the U.S. During this period he published 20 journal articles, 28 technical reports, and more than 100 technical publications.

In 1994, Dr. Forch was asked to be branch chief and served through January 2009 as Chief of the Propulsion Science Branch, composed of about 60 scientists.

He was nationally recognized for his leadership in formulating strategic research plans, building broad-based coalitions among government, industry, and academic partners and leading ground-breaking change and progress in ballistics and energetics research that provide critical value to the Army and user community. He continued to serve on the Executive Committee for JANNAF (Joint Army, Navy, NASA, Air Force); on the JANNAF Journal; and held positions as the contracting officer's representative for the Defense Technical Information Center, deputy director for the Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium, " Army representative on numerous OSD and intelligence community panels, and on extensive scientific review panels.

Forch's general research interests were in developing the fundamental understanding of chemical and physical mechanisms controlling chemical energy storage and release in propellants, explosives, and novel energetic material structures for weapons applications. His specific research expertise was in the areas of laser spectroscopy, laser photochemistry, molecular beam supersonic jet spectroscopy, combustion research, and laser ignition, which led to two Army Science Conference awards for the discovery of Ultraviolet Laser Resonant Multiphoton Ignition (1990) and the development of laser-based igniters (1998).

Forch received numerous awards over the years, including the Silver Medal, Outstanding Supervisor, Federal Executive Board (2007); the Army Research and Development Achievement Awards for Leadership in Energetic Materials Research (2006) and for Laser Ignition for Gun Propulsion (1992); Aberdeen Proving Ground Supervisor of the Year, awarded by the Aberdeen Proving Ground Federal Women's Program supporting outreach, diversity, equal opportunity, promoting women in the workforce (2003); nine Special Act Awards; five Exceptional Performance Awards, four Performance Awards, including one for establishing an Army Strategic Research Objective (SRO) Insensitive High-Energy Materials (1998); an Official Commendation from "Innovations in American Government" from the Ford Foundation and JFK School of Government, Harvard University, for technology transfer (Jaws-of-Life) from SBIR (1996); and an official commendation from PM-Crusader for development of laser ignition technology for the 155-mm self-propelled howitzer (1996).

Throughout his Army career, he was a strong proponent of the idea that the need for discovery from basic research does not end once a specific use is identified, but continues through numerous supporting connections to development and application activities.

Although Brad's technical accomplishments were significant, he really shined when it came to helping others realize their true potential, regardless of their job or position," said ARL Protection Division Chief Dave Lyon.

Many of the federal government's most renowned scientists and engineers serve in as senior research scientists, known as STs. There are fewer than 500 STs in the entire federal government. The position is equivalent to a one-star general officer for protocol purposes.

Forch was also an ARL fellow, a member of a select group of the laboratory's most eminent scientists, mathematicians, engineers and analysts. Election to the ARL Fellows is an honor bestowed by the incumbent fellows strictly on the basis of "exceptional technical accomplishment, reputation, the prospect of continued productivity, and a willingness to contribute to the functions of the fellowship," according to the group's website.

There will be a memorial service at the Mallette Training Facility auditorium (Bldg 6008, 6575 Jayhawk Road) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, 10 a.m., Sept. 14, followed by light refreshments, officials said.


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: September 5, 2018