Robert E. Lechtenberg was born September 10, 1920. He attended Iowa State University at Ames from 1939 to 1942 and again in 1946 and 1947, graduating with a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering. In subsequent years he did post-graduate work at the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University and New Mexico State University.
Lechtenberg came to White Sands in 1950 as an ordnance engineer. He took a yearlong leave in 1952 to serve as a U.S. Navy pilot. When he returned to White Sands, he worked as a project engineer with the Nike Ajax, Lacrosse and Dart missile programs. He then progressed to project manager for the Hawk missile system and later to deputy chief of the Surface-to-Air Missile Project Branch of the Army Materiel Test and Evaluation Directorate. For the next 10 years, he was chief of the division. In 1966, he assumed the duties of ARMTE technical director.
Some of his most significant contributions to WSMR were in the advancement of missile test methods and the application of that technology to the evaluation of air defense systems. He emphasized statistical test design. He pioneered the interactive use of computer simulation studies to design flight tests and the use of flight test performance data to refine computer simulation models.
Lechtenberg spearheaded the study that justified the 40-square-mile range extension, which materially increased the WSMR test capability and is still in use.
Lechtenberg retired from White Sands in 1972.