The U.S. Air Force is planning an energy future in which it both leads and follows the technology efforts of others. Improved efficiencies as well as alternative technologies will play key roles in giving the Air Force supremacy in energy as well as in the air. The future of the Air Force’s fundamental research into energy through the year 2026 is outlined in a report designed to maintain the service’s position as the pre-eminent entity in air and space. Titled Energy Horizons, the paper offers plans for power-source science and technology (S&T) not only in the expected air and space arenas, but also in cyberspace and infrastructure.
A flood of new sensors has the U.S. Air Force awash in data, so now one of its priorities is to determine how to best process, exploit and disseminate information both today and in future operations. Lt. Gen. Larry D. James, USAF, the service’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, says his organization needs the tools to fuse and format data using technology to facilitate data sharing even in hostile physical or cyber environments.
The military network that broke new ground serving U.S. units in Iraq also generated lessons in how to take down a network at the end of operations. For some U.S. Army network experts, those lessons include how not to transition a network during a theater exit.
Light filtering technology developed with funding from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research may one day allow warfighters to see more clearly through clouds, dust or other obscurants. The technology could lead to a circular polarization camera capable of improving intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies that would boost situational awareness on the battlefield or for homeland defense. It also could aid cancer detection and even enhance 3-D movies.
The U.S. Air Force is clearing the air for advanced networking as it takes its next step into cyberspace exploitation. A unified effort aims to improve battlespace information sharing along with active cyberoperations, both offensive and defensive.
A research project funded by the U.S. Air Force and taking place among academics in Texas is advancing a new class of metamaterials that could open up a range of applications for defense requirements. By finding new methods for creating synthetic compounds, scientists believe they can develop nanomaterials with properties better suited for products such as electronics than anything found in nature.
As the U.S. human space program transitions to a new era of commercial space exploitation, a legacy space debris detection system is about to give way to a high-technology replacement designed to introduce state-of-the-art situational awareness to orbital mechanics. The new system would be able to detect objects in earth orbit as small as the golf ball that astronaut Alan Shepard smacked during his moonwalk.
The future air battlespace may be dominated by unmanned aerial vehicles fully networked to exchange sensor information and battle damage assessments. They could be controlled remotely by human pilots or guided by autonomous programming that allows them to change their objective mid-mission like a flock of birds suddenly changing direction. Similarly, they might trade off capabilities to ensure mission success if one or more fails or is destroyed.
The U.S. Air Force has completed its largest-ever communications specialty code transformation and one of its largest-ever personnel changes. Tens of thousands of enlisted airmen, as well as thousands of civilians, migrated from traditional communications job codes to new cyber job codes. The change creates the emphasis necessary for success in the cyberspace domain and will affect all Air Force operations.
Creating a culture of collaboration is a top priority for the lead communicator at the Air Combat Command. The objective may appear easy to achieve—simply a matter of issuing an order that everyone use technology to operate as one force—but in reality, several challenges stand in the way. As the ranks of next-generation U.S. airmen grow, the inclination to collaborate is swelling; however, many of the U.S. Air Force’s doctrines and processes are still stuck in the analog age.