Military researchers moving away from downtown London
LONDON — The military’s chief research hub in Europe is moving its headquarters from central London to a British military site on the outskirts of the city, military officials said.
The Edison House, about a mile from the U.S. Embassy, will no longer be home to research centers for the Army, Air Force and Navy as well as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The expiration of the lease prompted the move.
All told, 12 separate government agencies are in the final stages of moving to Blenheim Crescent, a British Ministry of Defence site located near a former U.S. Navy installation, according to Air Force Col. Steven Pluntze, commander of the Air Force lab.
“It gives you a certain cachet because your business cards say London, but the scientists of the world do not care about your address. They care about your research,” he said.
Pluntze, who serves as the director of the Air Force research center, said the centers will maintain a smaller, former Navy facility in Mayfair within walking distance of the U.S. Embassy to host officials from outside the country.
But most of the research center’s work will be conducted by roughly 120 officials at the new site.
The Air Force alone spent $10 million last year supporting research across Europe, Pluntze said. The research spans the spectrum of science, from sensors and lasers to quantum chemistry and aeronautical engineering.
The centers coordinate military research and development with European and African researchers. The goal is to find unique research and discoveries with military applicability.
“The U.S. only has 5 percent of the world’s population; by inference, we only have 5 percent of the world’s good ideas,” Pluntze said.
Barrett Flake, the Air Force’s lab chief scientist, said one of the most interesting projects involves forecasting solar weather. Solar flares can often interfere with satellites in orbit.
“We’re interested in nearly all things that have to do with satellite communication,” Flake said.
Nearly all of the research the centers fund is focused on the long term.
“The stuff we do here doesn’t pay off for 10 to 15 years,” Pluntze said. “If it’s real exciting, maybe we can fast track it to 10 years.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers research lab works with water management officials across England and continental Europe. It, too, will be moving across town to Blenheim Crescent.