U.S. Air Force experts are introducing new methods of developing, deploying and exploiting information systems in the joint environment. However, instead of inventing new technologies for leap-ahead capabilities, planners now are innovating system architectures and operational methodologies to provide more efficient and effective networking and information access.
Military and civilian command and control experts are exploring new ways to exploit one of the most powerful weapons in the U.S. Air Force arsenal-information. Processes, procedures and technologies currently under development are scheduled to be put into place later this year and in early 2001.
The U.S. Air Force is building its future around an info-centric force that must solve a myriad of problems related to networking of facilities, platforms and people. With new capabilities being tested and validated in combat operations over Iraq and Afghanistan, the Air Force is streaking headlong into becoming a networked force that operates around the concept of information as a constant throughout the battlespace. But, until challenges such as security, data commonality and funding are met, the future of the network-centric Air Force remains up in the air.
The U.S. Air Force is building on new capabilities tested in Afghanistan and Iraq with a push for networked operations that exceeds many of the dreams of air combat planners of only a few years ago. New warfighting technologies in the pipeline for years are being melded with advanced sensors, data processing and information systems to produce a networked force that increasingly resembles a multicellular organism working to be the dominant life form in its environment.
The U.S. Air Force's toughest opponent in its mission to maintain air supremacy may be the march of time. Its aircraft are flying more hours and serving well past their original service lifetimes, and new network-centric operations are impelling technology upgrade across all wings.
A new U.S. Air Force organization will conduct base maintenance, logistics and communications systems operations as part of a broader restructuring of the service's capabilities. It will work closely with the commands to provide essential services such as electronic records management and databases, information assurance for military operations and force structure, and organizational issues analysis.
Smaller proved to be better for U.S. Air Force special operations forces that were inserted into Afghanistan. The smaller aspect was in the reduced communications footprint that allowed small teams to quickly begin operations in remote hostile territory. The better element was the advanced communications and situational awareness capabilities that were established well before the entry of conventional forces.
The next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles may owe more to winged insects and birds than to the Wright Brothers. U.S. Air Force engineers are tapping nature's flyers for new designs that push the limits of aerodynamics.
Future U.S. Air Force pilots will rely on an extensive array of sensors and interconnected platforms to detect and destroy enemy forces. Lessons learned from recent combat operations over Iraq support the service's network-centric operational concept that envisions shortened sensor-to-shooter cycles, networked weapons and increased information sharing among all echelons.