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U.S. Air Force Technologies: Firing Up for New Missions

June 22, 2009
By Beverly Schaeffer

Every service has faced changes brought about by new technologies and new missions, but the Air Force is wrestling with nothing less than a total overhaul of its structure and activities. Its legacy mission was fairly clear-cut: maintain air superiority and provide support to ground forces where needed. But now, experts are building a new force of unmanned combat air vehicles that vie in importance with piloted craft. And, the Global War on Terrorism and the information technology revolution have struck at the very heart of the Air Force's raison d'etre. SIGNAL takes a look at how the Air Force is changing to meet its new roles and which technologies might play a major role in them. The Air Force leads the military in speed of force over great distances, and maintaining command and control of that force is a challenge that is becoming more complex with technology innovations. Leading off this focus report is Air Force Morphs Command and Control, an article on how the Air Force is doing more than modernizing its command and control-it is restructuring it to suit its new responsibilities while it incorporates some of the most modern information technologies. A number of those information technologies come under the eye of Executive Editor Maryann Lawlor. She writes about a new beyond-line-of-sight capability that is being incorporated aboard E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft. This technology is changing the way the Air Force moves information across its networks, she reports in Information Sharing Flies High. Moving information across Air Force networks is the topic of an article by News Editor Rita Boland. She reports on how the U.S. Air Forces Northern Distributed Mission Operations program is conducting individualized warfighter training from various locations simultaneously. Network Offers Top-Notch Training to More for Less describes how diverse components can practice homeland security missions through the distributed training network. Still up in the air, but operating in a joint mode, is the topic of Multipurpose Missile Program Accelerates, by Business Editor Henry S. Kenyon. He writes about a new smart air-to-ground missile that can be carried on several different types of U.S. aircraft, both fixed- and rotary-wing. His page 33 article looks at how this joint missile would replace as many as three different missiles in the existing U.S. arsenal.

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