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Air Force Technologies

Technologies
 Advance the Art of Antenna Science

December 1, 2012
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Air Force researchers use 3-D printers and
 other cutting-edge concepts 
to create
 the next 
innovations.

There is no Moore’s Law for antennas because size reduction and performance improvement will always be subject to the limitations imposed by electromagnetic physics and material properties. But steady advances in computer technologies, such as electromagnetic modeling and simulation and 3-D printing, enable antenna technology researchers to push the limits of possibility on behalf of the warfighters.

Scientists and engineers at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Antenna Technology Branch, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, are taking advantage of these technological advances to develop next-generation antennas. Experts say metamaterials show great promise for military antennas, but the technology is not yet at a point where it is being manufactured widely. To help overcome that challenge, Air Force researchers use a 3-D printer to prototype antenna metamaterials that potentially could advance technology beyond the more conventional microstrip antenna. Small, lightweight, low-cost microstrip antennas, which were invented about four decades ago, are used in military aircraft, missiles, rockets and satellite communications as well as in the commercial sector.

“It allows us a capability in rapid prototyping that we didn’t have before,” says David Curtis, the AFRL’s Antenna Technology Branch chief. “It’s yielding some interesting things. It’s creating new ground planes for antenna elements.”

U.S. Air Force Awards Contracts to Small Businesses Under NETCENTS-2

September 20, 2012

U.S. Air Force organizations soon could begin awarding task orders to 12 small businesses under the potential $960 million Network Centrics-2 (NETCENTS-2) contract—a vehicle designed to make it faster and easier for warfighters to obtain innovative information technology services and capabilities. The NETCENTS-2 team already awarded its Application Services Small Business Companion contracts, which were the first of two application services contracts that will be available to Air Force personnel. The second services contract is a full and open competition that is still in source selection.

The multiple-award, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts were awarded to ActioNet Incorporated, Array Information Technology Incorporated, Datum Software Incorporated, Digital Management Incorporated, Diligent Consulting Incorporated, Diversified Technical Services Incorporated, DSD Laboratories, Excellus Solutions LLC, Exeter Government Services LLC, IndraSoft, Seque Technologies and SI Systems Technology.

Airmen Fix Energy on the Horizon

June 2012
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Magazine

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.

Air Arms Around Intelligence

June 2012
By Maryann Lawlor, SIGNAL Magazine

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.

When Warfighter Networks Go Dark

June 2012
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Magazine

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.

Filtering the Fog of War

June 2012
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Magazine

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.

Weaving an Airborne Web

September 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman, SIGNAL Magazine

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.

Materially Altering Technology

September 2011
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Magazine

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.

Not Your Granddad's Space Fence

September 2011
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Magazine

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.

Air Force Research Aims at Undefined Future

Tuesday, February 02, 2010
By Robert K. Ackerman

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.

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