WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — The future of defense is front and center at Purdue University for the next three days. The National Defense Industrial Association kicked off its inaugural Hypersonics Capabilities Conference Tuesday morning.
In front of military, government, congressional and industry leaders, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb opened the conference by touting Indiana's commitment to hypersonic weapons.
"Hypersonics is Indiana's number one, top defense priority," Holcomb told the crowd. We are exactly the kind of state, business-friendly state that is needed to expand the required research development."
Holcomb said Indiana can be a hub for hypersonic research because of what's being done at its universities.
"Some of the work we are doing around the world from land-locked Indiana, in the heart of the heartland, is incredibly important to our nation's defense."
Hypersonic weapons are able to travel much faster than the speed of sound. The conference is focused on advancing national security, and making it a priority.
Holcomb said tapping into research at Purdue and other universities will create a powerful connection with government defense.
"People often refer to the state of Indiana as the 'Crossroads of America.' We are also being known as the 'Crossroads to the Cosmos.' When you can align that private sector and the public sector together, that collaboration is beyond magical," said Holcomb.
"Purdue University has nearly 40 world-renowned researchers in hypersonics, and the NDIA and Purdue have long collaborated on the important research in this field,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said. “Purdue is ready to establish itself as the ‘university hub’ of hypersonic research and development."
Adding to Indiana’s research capabilities, Notre Dame provides research in aerodynamic effects, and Indiana University is a leader in advanced computing for hypersonics modeling and simulation, according to a news release.
Holcomb said a lot Indiana's success has to do with his predecessors, giving a nod to Daniels and United States Vice President Mike Pence.
"We are perfectly poised and positioned to be the center of hypersonic development for decades to come. Gone are those days where we were a 'fly-over state.' We are now a "fly-to' state. You leave money on the table if you fly-over the State of Indiana."
Defense leaders believe hypersonic defense is the future of national security. The systems can travel at speeds of Mach 5 or faster and are very effective against heavily defended areas.
Government funding has increased significantly for hypersonic research. The Department of Defense has allotted $2.4 billion in annual spending for hypersonics in the FY20 budget request.
Purdue was chosen for the inaugural conference because of its hypersonic research capabilities.
"We came out and saw the facilities, the capabilities and started learning more about the ecosystem that exists here between NSWC Crane, Purdue, Notre Dame, IU, and we said 'this is perfect.' said President of NDIA Gen. Hawk Carlisle. "We have been thinking about doing a university-hosted conference. We think academia is so important to the future of research and the workforce."
The NDIA says it's very uncommon for hypersonics to be talked about publicly. Day two and three of the conference are actually classified, and you have to have a security clearance to attend.
The conference runs through Thursday.