Amid the ever-increasing technological requirements of the United States Air Force, the top government contracts won by AFWERX propel government and defense customers with class-leading aviation services. The organization collaborates with small businesses and start-ups in bringing out “American ingenuity” to address the toughest challenges of the Air Force.
The Top Government Contracts Won by AFWERX
Here’s a list of the top government contracts won by AFWERX, targeting to advance the aviation technology arsenal of the U.S. Air Force.
AFWERX Works with Small Businesses for Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs
AFWERX handles all innovation work for the Department of the Air Force (DAF) under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs (STTR). Although primary work elements encompass the improvement of DAF’s warfighting abilities, the programs also include the expansion of its product applications across various industries.
Simply put, AFWERX’s SBIR/STTR Programs allow small businesses to enter the federal contracting landscape by providing a range of administration, information technology, mission readiness, and general contracting services. These contracts are awarded in one of three phases, focusing on research and development initiatives and commercialization efforts.
Some of the companies awarded by AFWERX under the SBIR/STTR Programs include:
- In May 15, 2023, Lp Resilient Services received a contract under the STTR Phase II Program to deliver prototype Supply Chain Risk Management software solutions.
- In July 6, 2023, Darkhive, Inc. finalized an agreement with a contract value of $5 million under the SBIR Phase III Program to enhance advanced drone autonomy software capabilities.
- In July 25, 2023, RISE Robotics was awarded a $1.25 million deal under the SBIR Program Phase II to modernize the ground equipment of the United States Air Force.
- In July 27, 2023, Archer Aviation secured a $110 million contract under the SBIR Phase III Program to conduct operational experiments in various military installations.
AFWERX has been a critical organization in unlocking the success of several small-time contractors in government contracting. Some of these companies include:
- Lickenbrock Technologies, which improved the speed and resolution of CT scans
- Specular Theory, which developed a VR flight simulation training system
- iNovex Information Systems, which introduced an open-source platform, Mobi-SRE.
AFWERX Bridges the Gap Between SBIR/STTR Phase II and Phase III Programs Through Strategic Funding Increase and Tactical Funding Increase Initiatives
The first and second phases of AFWERX’s SBIR/STTR Programs allow small businesses to carry out research and development initiatives; meanwhile, the third phase is focused on the businesses’ commercialization objectives. However, securing a contract for the third phase involves more comprehensive requirements and funding from the enterprise.
Boosting the opportunities for small businesses to secure the SBIR/STTR Phase III Program, AFWERX bridges the “Valley of Death” through Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) and Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI) Programs. The increase in funding enables small businesses to create products, services, and processes specifically for federal government use.
Some of the small businesses that have taken advantage of AFWERX’s STRATFI/TACFI funding include:
- On May 31, 2023, Armaments Research Company won a STRATFI award with a contract value of $15 million to build scalable training systems for Air Force ground personnel.
- On April 26, 2023, X-Bow Systems was selected for a $60 million STRATFI contract to produce low-cost solid rocket motors with the Edwards Air Force Base of the Air Force Research Lab.
- On June 22, 2023, Corsha secured a $1.8 million TACFI agreement to deliver a Zero Trust Platform, aiming to provide service-to-service communication for a range of cloud environments.
Amid the complex requisites of STRATFI/TACFI programs, AFWERX launched AFVentures to handle an increasing number of small businesses working with the Department of the Air Force. The internal division serves as a venture capital firm, ensuring the development of high-margin products that promise greater returns than the agency’s initial investment.
AFWERX Partners With the Department of the Army for a Multiservice Contracting Sprint
On January 12, 2023, AFWERX announced its partnership with two U.S. Army organizations—Army Futures Command and Army Contracting Command— in the first-ever multiservice contracting sprint of the SBIR/STTR programs. The sprint outlined work elements for collaborative knowledge-sharing processes between the forces to develop technologies for future military applications.
The multiservice contracting sprint awarded SBIR/STTR Phase I program contracts worth over $20 million to over 300 small businesses during its inaugural period from October 24 to November 4, 2022. Multiservice teams involved in the sprint included more than 80 contracting professionals in the civilian and military sectors of the Air Force, Space Force, and Army.
AFWERX Ushers a New Era in Aerospace, Strengthening Logistics and Mobility Through the Agility Prime Program
In late 2021, AFWERX launched the Agility Prime Program to initiate transformative efforts in aviation and space. The program outlines the third revolution in aerospace with the flagship technology, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL). Among the goals of Agility Prime is to enable a more resilient logistics distribution and sustainable air mobility systems through eVTOL.
Anchored by the SBIR/STTR Programs, Agility Prime works with small businesses that bring innovation to the eVTOL industry. Primarily, AFWERX collaborates with enterprises that provide rapid and affordable fielding in dual-use transformative vertical lift markets. Since its launch, the agency has awarded various contracts, such as:
- On September 14, 2021, Moog Aircraft Group participated in AFWERX’s Agility Prime Program for the creation of prototype eVTOL focusing on the company’s SureFly S250.
- On May 2, 2023, AFWERX extended Joby‘s contract to perform delivery and operations of up to nine eVTOL aircraft, increasing the contract value to $155 million
- On July 31, 2023, AFWERX and Archer entered into a $142 million agreement to deploy up to six aircraft for various uses, such as personnel transport, rescue operations, and more.
AFWERX Launches Autonomy Prime Program to Collaborate with Federal Contractors in Developing Innovative Tech
Under the Autonomy Prime Program finalized in late 2022, AFWERX aims to support companies in missions of producing advanced autonomous technologies for the Air Force. The program is confirmed to fill significant gaps in aviation services technology, primarily in DAF’s testing capabilities for aircraft, spacecraft, and ground vehicles.
The Autonomy Prime Program works by fostering partnerships with innovative companies in the research and development of aviation solutions to take advantage of emerging technologies critical to national security. Some of the federal contractors awarded for the Autonomy Prime Program included:
- On May 3, 2023, AFWERX secured a deal with Near Earth Autonomy as part of the Autonomy Prime Program to collaboratively develop an autonomous aerial transport technology.
- On May 10, 2023, Applied Intuition was set to work with AFWERX to produce virtual sensor optimization software to boost performance, evaluation, and timeline development.
- On August 15, 2023, The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory finalized an agreement with AFWERX to improve the safety of text autonomous vehicles in complex environments.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is AFWERX?
As the innovation arm of the United States Air Force, AFWERX has the goal of delivering disruptive technologies in the federal aviation and space sectors. Powered by the Air Force Research Laboratory, the organization engages with new entrepreneurs, supporting them with sufficient funding in the creation of cutting-edge technologies for the Department of the Air Force.
AFWERX operates four core arms to fully unleash American ingenuity from small businesses: AFVentures, Spark, Prime, and SpaceWERX. These divisions were formed to expand the defense industrial base of advanced technologies, empowering Airman and Guardian talents and driving aircraft support technologies for operational capabilities.
What is the history of AFWERX?
AFWERX was established in 2017 by the Secretary of the Air Force, who reported directly to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force. The agency derives its name from ‘AF,’ meaning Air Force, and ‘WERX,’ standing for work projects. AFWERX was instituted to help small businesses in their research and development efforts to address DAF’s most pressing needs.
AFWERX has grown significantly since its creation. The agency has a working annual budget of over $1.4 billion, employing 325 civilian and contracting personnel. Since 2019, AFWERX has finalized over 4,600 contracts, amounting to over $2 billion, awarded primarily to small businesses and start-ups.
Where is AFWERX headquarters located?
The headquarters of AFWERX is currently located in Washington, D.C. The agency’s first location was announced at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, where various small businesses initially presented their pitches. Another facility opened in Austin, Texas shortly after its founding. AFWERX later established its third and current headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Who is the director of AFWERX?
Colonel Elliot J. Leigh serves as the Director of AFWERX and the Chief Commercialization Officer of the Department of the Air Force. Under his command is a $1.3 billion portfolio of the Air Force and Space Force, including programs and sectors, such as AFVentures, Spark, Prime, SpaceWERX, SBIR, and STTR.
AFWERX: “Unleashing American Ingenuity”
The top government contracts won by AFWERX have unlocked a broad scope of possibilities for small businesses that want to contribute to the advancement of the nation’s Air Forces. The agency continues to work with innovative companies, helping them in its mission of service to the American people.