Defense Operations

August 25, 2020
Posted by: George I. Seffers
The X-61A unmanned aerial system successfully completed its second series of flight tests in July. The system is being developed by a Dynetics-led team under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Gremlins program. Photo courtesy of DARPA

DARPA’s Gremlins program is targeting additional tests of the X-61A vehicle later this year after meeting several primary objectives during risk reduction flights at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah in late July. The Gremlins program seeks to develop and demonstrate air launch and air recovery of up to four unmanned aerial systems (UASs), known as Gremlins Air Vehicles, within 30 minutes.

August 21, 2020
 
The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (USMDC) Technical Center launches a Pathfinder Zombie target at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, June 25 for a foreign military sales customer. The USMDC has been named a service component command to U.S. Space Command while continuing to serve the same role for U.S. Strategic Command. (U.S. Army photo)

The Army announced today that U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (USAMDC) will take on the additional responsibility of serving as the Army service component command to U.S. Space Command, while retaining its responsibilities as the service component command to U.S. Strategic Command.

Naming USASMDC as the service component command to both Space Command and Strategic Command will strengthen integration and synchronization of these vital operations and has been endorsed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to a service press release.

August 21, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
Army Gen. James Dickinson accepts command of the U.S. Space Command on August 20, 2020 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. Credit: DOD Photo by Lewis Carlyle

In a changing of command ceremony yesterday at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, Gen. James Dickinson, USA, stepped into the role as commander of the U.S. Space Command.

Gen. Dickinson takes over from Gen. John Raymond, USAF, who ushered the new Space Command—which is the nation’s 11th Combatant Command—through its reestablishment last August. Relinquishing one of his two hats, Gen. Raymond will still continue in his role as the first Chief of Space Operations for the U.S. Space Force.

August 3, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
Gen. Patrice A. Melançon (USAF), executive director, Tyndall Air Force Base Reconstruction Program Management Office, U.S. Air Force, speaking at the AFWERX Fusion2020 event last week, highlights the steps the service is taking to rebuild the base. Credit: AFWERX

As the Air Force holds its innovation push via AFWERX 2020, an annual event to draw advanced solutions to key challenges, the service is targeting capabilities to improve base facilities and operations via its comprehensive Base of the Future effort.

One of the initial focuses of the Base of the Future effort is to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, explained Brig. Gen. Patrice A. Melançon, USAF, executive director, Tyndall Air Force Base Reconstruction Program Management Office, U.S. Air Force, speaking at last week’s Fusion event hosted by AFWERX.

August 1, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
A U.S. Army soldier stands outside a Humvee before the start of the Dasman Shield live fire exercise in Kuwait in February. During the exercise, the military looked at the beginnings of all domain operations, including air-to-ground command control, as well as partner interoperability with Kuwaiti forces.  U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum

The message from the intelligence community and top leaders of the U.S. military is clear. The nation is in near-peer competition, just underneath the level of outright war. As such, the U.S. military is investing in aligning its capabilities and functionality to fight as a Joint force seamlessly across the sea, air, land, space and cyberspace. Along with the other services, the U.S. Army is working to shape the approach of how the military will fight in the future under Joint all-domain operations.

August 1, 2020
By Maj. Ryan Kenny, USA

A recent posting of a satellite image from the U.S. National Training Center by Col. Scott Woodward, USA, raised a lot of eyebrows. The image shows a cluster of electromagnetic signals emitted from a battalion-sized unit participating in a large-scale training event. These signals were captured as part of the exercise from more than 10 kilometers away. This picture showed what many of us already know: we have an electromagnetic emission discipline problem.

July 29, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
The Defense Information Systems Agency, located at Fort Meade, is spearheading a multiyear, comprehensive information technology advancement effort, which runs through fiscal year 2025 and will bring improved network capabilities, connectivity, cybersecurity and user assistance. Credit: DOD photo by Thomas L. Burton

The Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, is making progress on an important modernization project, despite the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. In November, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist designated DISA to lead the Fourth Estate Network Optimization Program. The multiyear, comprehensive information technology advancement effort, which runs through fiscal year 2025 will bring improved network capabilities, connectivity, cybersecurity and user assistance.  

July 22, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
U.S., Australian and Japanese forces participate in a trilateral exercise dedicated to a free and open Pacific. These and other nations are worried about China's aggression in the wake of the Middle Kingdom reneging on its 50-year promise of economic and political autonomy to Hong Kong. Credit: U.S. Navy photo

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a sweeping effect across the Indo-Pacific region, but ultimately the most disruptive security threat to that vast area may turn out to be China’s strongarm moves against Hong Kong, says the head of the U.S. command for that region. Adm. Phil Davidson, USN, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, specifically cited the Hong Kong crackdown as having a greater effect on security over that hemisphere of the globe.

July 15, 2020
By George I. Seffers
A U.S. Army specialist tracks and monitors flight hours for an RQ-11 Raven unmanned aerial vehicle. Multiple Army initiatives aim to better attract and retain a talented workforce, including those with technical skills. Credit: U.S. Army

The U.S. Army is implementing new programs aimed at attracting and retaining talented workers, including cyber and other information technology professionals.

The two initiatives fall under a program known as the Army Talent Alignment Program. Both initiatives currently focus on small groups within the officer corps and include pilot programs and prototypical processes that can then be rapidly expanded to the rest of the force.

July 14, 2020
By George I. Seffers
A Polish army officer talks with village elders in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan. U.S. Army officials are discussing the need to include international partners and allies in the Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept, which is expected to dramatically improve interoperability. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Micah E. Clare

U.S. Army leaders are considering adding “combined” to the Joint All-Domain Operations Command and Control (JADC2) concept to include international partners and allies, such as the so-called Five Eyes nations, says Army Undersecretary James McPherson.

McPherson made the comments July 14 during the virtual Army Signal Conference 2020, which is sponsored by AFCEA.

July 14, 2020
By George I. Seffers
Soldiers stationed at Camp Casey conduct pre-screening processes on individuals awaiting entry to the base in South Korea, Feb. 26, 2020. The Army likely will see permanent changes to tactics, techniques and procedures due to the pandemic, says Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, USA, the service’s retiring CIO/G-6. Credit: Sgt. Amber Smith

The U.S. Army will likely see permanent, technology-enabled changes to tactics, techniques and procedures following the COVID-19 pandemic, says Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, the service’s retiring chief information officer and G-6.

In a keynote address on the first day of the virtual Army Signal Conference, hosted by AFCEA, the general noted that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, led to a host of changes to tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs), as well as legislation and “ways of doing business.” Many of those changes remain in place.

July 14, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
A U.S. Army M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System sits during a demonstration at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany in February. The Army Futures Command is creating a software factory to train warfighters to code on the spot. Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Denice Lopez

The U.S. Army Futures Command is preparing a software center designed to improve the digital competency of warfighters. The so-called software factory, in Austin, Texas, will take soldiers and civilians with a propensity toward software development and sharpen their skills. Warfighters facing near-peer threats and operating in a multidomain environment in the future may not have the ability to reach back to higher echelons for coding solutions or necessarily rely on contractor presence for software. They will need to be able to diagnose software issues of information technology that soldiers will be using the future as well as code specific solutions on the spot to support faster decision making.

July 8, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
Air Force Lt. Gen. Ken Wilsbach performs preflight procedures in his F-22 Raptor before his final flight as commander of the Alaskan Command, Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Region and Eleventh Air Force, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, in August 2018. Gen. Wilsbach takes the helm as commander of the Pacific Air Forces, succeeding Gen. Charles Brown, who is moving to be the next chief of the Air Force. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Peña

After two years as the commander of the Pacific Air Forces, or PACAF, Gen. Charles Brown Jr., USAF, moves on from guiding airmen and operations in the complicated region. During a time of growing near-peer competition from China, Gen. Brown leaves advice for the new commander of PACAF, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, USAF. Gen. Wilsbach, who also will receive his fourth star, takes the helm at PACAF today.

Previously, Gen. Wilsbach was the commander of the 7th Air Force and the deputy commander of U.S. Forces in Korea.

When asked what advice he would give to the new PACAF commander, Gen. Brown, speaking virtually to AFCEA International’s Hawaii monthly chapter meeting last week, suggested that, “relationships really matter.”

July 2, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
Speaking to the AFCEA Hawaii Chapter on June 30 during a virtual luncheon, Gen. Charles Brown, USAF, who is the outgoing commander, Pacific Air Forces; air component commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command; and executive director, Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, advises the industry to help quickly field capabilities to the warfighter, rather than delivering a solution "late to need."

The vast Indo-Pacific region is not well understood. And given the rising threat from China, the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) operating in that area of responsibility has focused on working closely with U.S. allies and partners to improve interoperability through exercises, experimentation and innovation. The other key priority is increased communication and information sharing, advised Gen. Charles Q. Brown, USAF.

July 1, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
The successful launch of the GPS III Space Vehicle 03 and the recovery of the Falcon 9 rocket booster represents another step in innovation. Credit: SpaceX

With industry partners, the Space and Missile Systems Center of the U.S. Space Force launched the GPS III Space Vehicle 03, or SV03, on June 30 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The launch sets the third GPS III satellite into space to join the SV01 and SV02 satellites, which were declared operational in January and April.

The GPS III system is the space portion of the Space Force’s effort to modernize the entire GPS capability, offered Tonya Ladwig, acting vice president, Navigation Systems, Lockheed Martin Space.

June 25, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
A Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from the Reagan Test Site in Kwajalein Atoll. THAAD is one component of a layered missile defense system being configured to stop incoming missile attacks. (Credit: Missile Defense Agency)

Cruise missiles are a serious threat challenging defensive systems, and advances in hypersonic design and performance promise to make them even more deadly, say U.S. missile defense flag officers. Peer adversaries are testing systems that would threaten U.S. assets both tactically and strategically, and the military services are working with the Missile Defense Agency on layered defenses that would serve both purposes.

June 18, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 31st Fighter Wing perform a preflight inspection of an F-16 Fighting Falcon before takeoff during exercise Agile Buzzard at Decimomannu Air Base, Italy, in January. The Air Force is expanding its concept of Agile Combat Employment to apply to Europe. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heidi Goodsell

The U.S. Air Force is moving forward with its concept of Agile Combat Employment as a way to increase its force generation capabilities in a contested environment. The Pacific Air Forces, or PACAF, under Gen. Charles Q. Brown, USAF, who is moving into his role as the chief of the Air Force on August 6, replacing a retiring Gen. David Goldfein, USAF, began looking at how to engage small groups of multifunctional airmen to increase capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region last year. In February, PACAF conducted training of airmen in this so-called Agile Combat Employment concept, which is designed to shift operational-level forces into smaller, tactical-level forces.

June 5, 2020
Posted by Kimberly Underwood
A F-15E Strike Eagle from the 492nd Fighter Squadron takes off from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England on May 27 during a large force exercise. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa and airmen from the 48th Fighter Wing conducted the dissimilar air combat training to advance combat readiness and increase tactical proficiency to help strengthen the NATO alliance. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Sparks

The Air Force recently hosted a large exercise in the United Kingdom’s North Sea airspace, the Defense Department reported on June 5. The service’s 48th Fighter Wing held the exercise to continue the advanced training of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa and NATO partners given the persistent and growing near-peer threats in the region. 

June 1, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
Program Executive Office Command Control Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), through its Program Manager Tactical Network, equips a brigade combat team in the 82nd Airborne Division with the an inflatable satellite communications system known as T2C2. Brig. Gen. Robert Collins, USA, takes over as the new PEO C3T on June 1 and says he will continue the key efforts to modernize the service's tactical communications. Credit: U.S. Army photo by Amy Walker, PEO C3T

With key knowledge of the Army’s necessary sensors, intelligence and electronic warfare capabilities, Brig. Gen. Robert Collins, USA, today steps into the role of Program Executive Office Command Control Communications-Tactical, or PEO C3T. Gen. Collins replaces newly promoted Lt. Gen. David Bassett, USA, who becomes the director of the Defense Contract Management Agency.

May 29, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
For the U.S. Army to develop truly autonomous driverless vehicles, it must realize advances being pursued by the Army Research Laboratory. (U.S. Army photo)

The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is handing its robotics research in adaptive autonomy to eight partners in academia and industry in what laboratory officials describe as a sprint to develop new capabilities. The Army has awarded $2.9 million in first-year funding as part of its Scalable, Adaptive and Resilient Autonomy (SARA) program to develop methods by which future Army robots can autonomously navigate rough terrain and avoid being blocked or upended by obstacles.

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