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Acquisition

Air Force ISR Changes After Afghanistan

May 1, 2014
BY Rita Boland

The U.S. Air Force is emerging from almost 13 years of conflict in the Middle East with a different perspective on its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Lessons learned from those battlefields are leading to new directions that will entail abandoning traditional approaches and methods.

Recent operations have demonstrated the importance of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to coalition partners. As the missions wind down, officials in charge of such activities are focusing on a reset, determining what adjustments to make to keep the capabilities relevant moving forward. The Air Force has no plans to stop providing services across the military, though what that means with a smaller force in different environments remains to be seen.

Throughout the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, capabilities from various sensors became available at continually lower echelons even as support remained intact to the highest levels within the United States. Officials in the ISR community have learned to better integrate platforms, sensors, the network and the enterprise. The advent of the Joint Information Environment encompasses part of that effort, as the military creates a single, secure information-sharing environment across its branches.

Maj. Gen. Jack Shanahan, USAF, commander, Air Force ISR Agency, says the war in Afghanistan will be remembered as an ISR war as much as anything else. Incredible ISR capabilities were fielded to Iraq and Afghanistan during the past 12 to 13 years, but not all of them will transfer to the military of the future. Others will be revamped for a different fight. Some capabilities coming out of Afghanistan, for example, will be as important in new locations, but for different reasons, Gen. Shanahan states.

Modernizing Nuclear Bomber Command and Control

May 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Air Force officials are working to replace by 2019 aging command and control terminals that are part of the U.S. Air Force’s nuclear bomber mission. The new terminals will communicate with advanced satellite constellations and also will add capabilities not in current systems.

The Global Aircrew Strategic Network Terminal (Global ASNT—pronounced global assent) is a ground-based, three-increment program that provides persistent, survivable and redundant command and control (C2) communications to the U.S. Air Force strategic bomber fleet. The terminals also provide a C2 capability for the tankers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft supporting the nuclear bomber mission. It is a part of the Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network (MEECN) that passes messages from national command authorities—the president and senior leaders—to nuclear forces. 

The program will provide 45 fixed communication terminals for sites such as wing command posts, along with 45 transportable terminals to support dispersed operations. The first increment of the program will provide advanced extremely high frequency (AEHF) communications compatible with the new AEHF satellite constellation and will replace legacy Military Strategic Tactical Relay (MILSTAR)-compatible terminals. The AEHF constellation will be the military’s primary satellite system for highly protected communications following the launch of the fourth and final satellite in 2017.

The new AEHF terminals are required because of projected end-of-life issues with the MILSTAR satellite constellation and looming obsolescence of the currently fielded terminals. “It replaces unsustainable legacy systems. Some of the systems it replaces are getting toward the end of their life cycle, and they’re difficult to maintain,” says Lt. Col. Kenneth Decker, USAF, Global ASNT program manager. “It’s like when your car gets to the point where it costs too much to maintain it.”

Program Seeks to FastForward Supercomputing Technology

April 15, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration has issued a request for proposals to further develop “extreme scale” supercomputer technology under the FastForward program.

Helicopter Remote Piloting System Proves Successful

April 8, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Navy has successfully demonstrated the Autonomous Aerial Cargo and Utility System (AACUS), which allows current, full-size helicopters to be remotely controlled by a tablet device. Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, USN, chief of naval research, recently revealed that two young Marines at Quantico, Virginia, were able to land a full-size helicopter autonomously on an unprepared landing site with just one touch on a mini-tablet.

JIE May Enable Faster Mobile App Deployment

April 7, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Once the Joint Information Environment (JIE) is in place, the U.S. Defense Department may be able to deploy secure mobile apps much more quickly than it can with today’s cumbersome process, according to Teri Takai, Defense Department chief information officer.

FedRAMP May Replace Defense Department Cloud Classification Process

April 4, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) may ultimately eliminate the need for an information security classification process specific to the U.S. Defense Department, according to Teri Takai, Defense Department chief information officer. FedRAMP seeks to provide a governmentwide, standardized approach to security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services.

Connecting Private Innovation and National Security

March 31, 2014
By Rita Boland

A new effort hopes to improve relationships between nontraditional performers and government agencies.

Qatar to Develop Optionally Piloted Aircraft

March 27, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Thales recently announced the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Qatar Armed Forces to assist in the development of an Optionally Piloted Vehicle-Aircraft (OPV-A), a high-performance intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance system.

Defense Industry Leaders Seek More Government Input

March 26, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Defense industry leaders desire greater government involvement in the defense acquisition process, according to a recent survey released by the Government Business Council (GBC). Of the 340 survey participants, 85 percent of respondents noted positive outcome from more government involvement in the acquisition arena.

Seeking a Role in Marine Corps Cyber

April 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

A tactical technology support organization that has been serving the U.S. Marines for decades is beginning to find a role in the cyber domain. The group offers a broad range of services, including test and evaluation, engineering and network integration. It also supports users across the Defense Department, U.S. government and allies.

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