Air Force Technologies

May 22, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Just as the U.S. Navy initially resisted the transition from sail to steam-powered ships and elements of the Army dismissed air power and fought against the shift from horses to tanks, some parts of the military continue to resist the expansion of uninhabited systems into traditional combat roles. As a result, the U.S. Defense Department is failing to invest in game-changing technology that could increase efficiencies and save lives, according to a just-released report from the Center for a New American Security.

February 11, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

Military and civilian pilots who have flown the F-35 Lightning II praise its performance and are optimistic about its superiority in the future battlespace. However, even with fixes that have been made, some issues need to be addressed and support crew will need to adopt new ways of maintaining the flight line, these pilots say.

September 1, 2014
By Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, USA (Ret.)

It really is the perfect weapon for a country of couch potatoes. Grab the remote, point, click and “boom,” there goes some hapless al-Qaida bigwig, blown to smithereens in living color. It is like playing “Call of Duty,” but with real ammo. That’s what smart operators can do with an MQ-1 Predator (as in “Apex”) or an MQ-9 Reaper (as in “Grim”). The bad guys never see them coming. Yes, for the United States, this truly is the day of the drone.

September 1, 2014
By Rita Boland

The United States is in the midst of preparing its largest intelligence hub outside of its own national borders. The center will accommodate operations with reach into several global areas, including those rife with anti-terrorism operations. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into the work that includes consolidating resources from other installations.

July 11, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Air Force’s newest secure satellite communications terminal draws from existing U.S. Army and Navy systems already in operation. The new production for the Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals, or FAB-T, evolved from technologies established in the Army’s Secure Mobile Antijam Reliable Tactical Terminal (SMART-T) and the Navy’s Multiband Terminal (NMT).

May 6, 2014
By Rita Boland

As of last week, the U.S. Air Force began continuously broadcasting L2C and L5 civilian GPS signals. Though the changes make little immediate difference to the general population, the makers of GPS devices will use them to develop next-generation devices.

June 1, 2014
By Rita Boland
Virginia National Guard soldiers from the Fairfax-based Data Processing Unit respond to a simulated cyber attack during a cyberdefense exercise.

Cybersecurity remains a priority for the U.S. Defense Department, with officials protecting resources for it in the face of overall budget constraints. Guidance from the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 directs a mission analysis of cybercapabilities not only in the active military, but also across partners, to help forces maintain their edge in protecting the nation.

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
A U.S. Army soldier monitors information in a combined air and space operations center during a Red Flag exercise. Future U.S. Air Force networking will involve greater joint connectivity among its own air assets and land and sea units of other services.

The U.S. Air Force networking that links its air assets has extended its reach into the rest of the service and the joint realm as it moves a greater variety of information among warfighters and decision makers. This builds on existing networking efforts, but it also seeks to change longtime acquisition habits that have been detrimental to industry—and, by connection, to the goal of speeding innovative capabilities to the warfighter.

May 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers
Air operations centers, like the 612th air and space operations center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, are the command and control centers for planning, executing and assessing joint air operations.

A critical U.S. Air Force program designed to refurbish the service’s operations centers around the world likely will begin by upgrading the first site next year. The potential $504 million effort will automate services, improve interoperability, speed decision making, enhance cybersecurity and lower costs.

Air operations centers are the command and control centers for planning, executing and assessing joint air operations during a contingency or conflict. They support joint force air component commanders in planning and executing missions.

May 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers
Alerted by the Global ASNT system, aircrews rush to their B-52H Stratofortresses during a training exercise at Minot Air Force Base in November.

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.

May 1, 2014
BY Rita Boland
Maj. Gen. Jack Shanahan, USAF, commander, U.S. Air Force ISR Agency, extols the virtues and necessity of technology education to high school students at the Alamo First Robotics Competition.

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.

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
A  U.S. Navy sailor monitors communications aboard an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The Defense Department’s JIE builds on communications and networking advances within the individual services.

The Defense Department drive toward its Joint Information Environment is picking up speed as it progresses toward its goal of assimilating military networks across the warfighting realm. Individual services are developing solutions, some of which are targeted for their own requirements, that are being applied to the overarching goal of linking the entire defense environment.

Early successes in Europe have advanced Joint Information Environment (JIE) efforts elsewhere, including the continental United States. Some activities have been accelerated as a result of lessons learned, and they have been implemented ahead of schedule in regions not slated to receive them for months or even years.

April 1, 2014
By Henry S. Kenyon
PEALDS builds on the work of preceding efforts to advance the state of data analysis, sensor fusion and storage retrieval technologies. The program’s goal is to combine these advances into a system that will enable users to predict the potential
movements and actions of enemy forces based on their previous actions.

The U.S. Air Force is using big data analysis tools to create a picture of a battlefield or area of interest that can be monitored in real time as well as stored and replayed. By merging sensor streams with data tagging and trend detection software, this capability will allow analysts and warfighters to observe, track and potentially predict enemy force operations based on their observed behavior.

March 18, 2014
By Henry S. Kenyon

The U.S. Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) is helping the service put its joint modernization plans into place. As the command responsible for handling cyberspace, communications and information missions, it is the Air Force’s instrument in meeting major Defense Department technology goals, such as establishing the Joint Information Environment (JIE).

December 3, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Pacific Air Forces will benefit greatly from combining its A-3 and A-6, said its director of communications and chief information officer. Col. Michael Finn II, USAF, told the audience at the opening panel discussion at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii, that the Pacific Air Forces would have “a lot of synergy combining the -3 with the -6.”

The concept of cyber readiness has a different perspective from the operations side and the cyber side. This consolidation helps provide warfighting integration across the entire network, Col. Finn said.

November 7, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. military’s readiness to fight and its ability to purchase major weapon systems for the future are both threatened by strict budget caps established under sequestration, the Joint Chiefs warned during a November 7 hearing with the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services. Major weapon systems, including aircraft carriers, unmanned aerial vehicles, the ballistic missile submarine replacement program known as SSBN-X and the Army’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program, all could be negatively impacted, the chiefs say.

November 1, 2013
By 1st Lt. 
Robert M. 
Lee, USAF

The U.S. Air Force cyber community is failing for a single fundamental reason: the community does not exist. In 2010, the communications community began to be identified as the cyber community. An operational cyberspace badge was created, and those who previously had been communications professionals now were seen as cyberwarriors. This change did not effectively take into account that cyber and communications are two distinct fields and should be entirely separate communities.

November 1, 2013
By Rita 
Boland
A pair of F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 80th Fighter Squadron, Kunsan Air Base, Korea fly to the range to practice procedures before an AIM-9 missile live fire exercise.

Cooperation and conflict define the new strategy guiding U.S. Pacific Air Forces as the air element of the U.S. Pacific Command adjusts to the strategic pivot to that vast region. The former aspect includes efforts with many regional allies as well as closer activities with the U.S. Navy. Meanwhile, the latter element entails power projection to be able to respond to crises whenever they emerge, including those over water.

October 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers
The U.S. Navy’s nuclear ballistic submarine USS MAINE, one of the nation’s newest Ohio class submarines, conducts surface navigational operations approximately 50 miles due south of Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. The Naval Research Laboratory’s cryptographic system now destined for aircraft has already been integrated onto the Navy’s nuclear fleet.

U.S. Navy researchers are developing a state-of-the-art encryption device for integration onto KC-130 tankers and unmanned aerial systems. An existing version of the device is being installed onto B-52 bombers, E-4s, which serve as airborne command centers for the U.S. president and other National Command Authority officials, and E-6s, which are command and control centers for nuclear weapons. The encryption system can be integrated into virtually any platform and offers backward-compatible, software-definable algorithms that can be updated during operations without downtime.

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers
The Air Tasking Order Management System will allow commanders to plan, organize and direct joint U.S. Air operations for B-2 bombers and other airborne platforms.

U.S. Air Force officials are upgrading the battle command system used for managing all airborne platforms, including fighters, bombers, tankers, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters and cruise missiles. The modernized system will provide warfighters with faster access to real-time operations and intelligence information, better planning and collaboration tools and enhanced situational awareness while dramatically reducing sustainment costs.

July 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Rear Adm. Robert Day Jr., USCG, assistant U.S. Coast Guard commandant for command, control, communications and information technology, sees the Joint Information Environment as an opportunity to resolve some of the most pressing information technology problems in the years to come as he faces a future with more challenges and fewer resources. He says a military-wide common operating environment will establish “enterprisewide mandates that programs cannot ignore.”

June 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers
A U.S. Marine Corps F-35 aircraft is escorted by two Marine F/A-18 Hornets as it flies toward Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Later this year, the Defense Department will establish a program of record to ensure communications between different generations of fighter aircraft, and that program will feed into the Joint Aerial Layer Network vision.

The concept connects disparate networks to provide greater information to warfighters.

U.S. military officials envision one day being able to network together virtually all airborne assets, providing data to warfighters in the air, on the ground and at sea, even under the most harsh conditions. Major milestones in the coming months and years will bring that concept closer to a fielded capability.

June 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

The Air Force encounters turbulence of the digital kind when it underestimates the complexity of moving the service to a single network.

The U.S. Air Force’s migration to a new enterprise network known as AFNET will be at least two years late in completion because the project turned out to be more complicated than planners anticipated.

June 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Integrating air land, and sea forces on a monthly basis saves money and creates continuity of operations.

Technology experts at the U.S. Air Force’s 4th Fighter Wing based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, are networking joint units up and down the East Coast to provide unique training opportunities for the modern military. Through their efforts, advancements are being made to further the Air-Sea Battle Concept, simultaneously improving coalition interoperability. The events allow for interservice and international training without strain on organizations’ budgets.

June 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
U.S. Air Force officers monitor moving target indicators during a training exercise for the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS).

Costs, security and operations requirements share top billing on priority list.

The U.S. Air Force is looking to overhaul its networking capabilities to meet new taskings in the post-Southwest-Asia era. Limited resources are changing the way the Air Force moves information throughout the battlespace, so the service must confront its challenges through innovative approaches and cooperative efforts.

June 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
U.S. Air Force personnel conduct cyber operations in an exercise at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. The Air Force is looking to restructure both its cyber organization and its cyber operations to account for changes in the virtual domain.

Roles are changing as the service reshapes its digital future.

The U.S. Air Force is subjecting itself to a cyber reality check with an eye toward restructuring the discipline both operationally and organizationally. A working group is parsing the service’s activities in this domain, and this effort involves interaction with the other services as well as the commercial sector.

March 26, 2013
By Max Cacas

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has begun internal discussions regarding a multiaward contract for cloud computing services.

Anthony Montemarano, DISA’s director of strategic planning and information, told a briefing of industry leaders Monday that he and his agency are firm believers in cloud computing. “When you look at some of the functions that we perform in government, a lot of it can be provided in the commercial cloud. We have to come to grips with the value proposition,” he explains. He believes that the Defense Department’s cloud computing strategy must include DISA cloud resources, commercial cloud services and privately owned cloud services where appropriate.

January 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The shift of U.S. power to the Asia-Pacific will not be successful without an infusion of new technology and a dedicated effort to defeat a wide range of adversaries. The new strategic emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region poses a new set of challenges, mandating solutions that run the gamut from technological capabilities to cultural outreach and diplomacy.

On the military side, direct challenges range from dealing with cyberspace attacks to providing missile defense in a large-scale conflict. On the geopolitical side, centuries of conflict and confrontation among neighbors must be overcome if a region-wide security environment enabling economic growth is to be implemented.

November 30, 2012
By Max Cacas

U.S. Air Force Cyber Summit raises leadership awareness on service’s roles and responsibilities.

December 1, 2012
By George I. Seffers
Three 100-foot towers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, provide the Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate with new capabilities to perform radar research. The actual radars atop each tower were relocated from Rome, N.Y., as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure.

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.

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.

June 2012
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Magazine

Whether above, on land or in cyberspace, mission assurance is the goal behind advancements in power sources.

June 2012
By Maryann Lawlor, SIGNAL Magazine

 

The Reaper remotely piloted aircraft carries Gorgon Stare, a first wide-area motion imagery that can videotape a 4-kilometer radius of the surveillance area from 12 angles.

The U.S. Air Force crafts plans to harvest knowledge from increased information flow.

June 2012
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Magazine

 

The single spiral image is an off-angle scanning electron microscope image of a fabricated circular polarizer. A circular polarizing camera could help warfighters filter out unwanted light.

Technology may shed new light on situational awareness.

June 2012
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Magazine

 

Soldiers from the 4th Sustainment Brigade use the largest ground vehicles in the U.S. Army’s Transportation Corps to haul an M1A2 Abrams Tank. The unit experienced severe network disruptions during the drawdown in Iraq.

Signal officers offer advice gleaned from a chaotic drawdown in Iraq.

September 2011
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Magazine

September 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman, SIGNAL Magazine

 

A U.S. Air Force F-16 banks over Afghanistan during a recent operation. The Air Force is shifting focus to take a broad servicewide approach to networking and information operations.

Joint operations define U.S. Air Force networking.

September 2011
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Magazine

 

A variety of objects ranging from active satellites to space debris increasingly crowd near-earth space.

The U.S.Air Force aims to replace its obsolete space debris detector.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010
By Robert K. Ackerman

 

A U.S. Air Force Minotaur rocket launches TacSat-3 and two other research satellites into orbit from Wallops Island, Virginia. Future Air Force satellites may be smaller and more numerous to provide greater flexibility of operation.

Even with long-term vision, scientists plan for the unexpected technology edge.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010
By Rita Boland

 

Airmen from the 1st Combat Communications Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, set up satellite equipment during a training exercise at Aviano Air Base, Italy. The training was preparation for the largest Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) transformation in the history of Air Force communications.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010
By Maryann Lawlor

 

Wearing chemical warfare gear, Staff Sgt. Tamara Needle, USAF, 355th Communications Squadron, checks her e-mail during a recent exercise. Brig. Gen. Steven J. Spano, USAF, director of communications (A-6), headquarters, Air Combat Command (ACC), believes that service members should have a computer interface other than e-mail that encourages collaboration.

June 2009
By Maryann Lawlor

 

Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft before the beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) communications capability was installed and after is minute but mighty. The small orb located on top of the airplane’s tail is one piece of the new Joint STARS BLOS capability, which creates a secure airborne network.

June 2009
By Rita Boland

 

The Distributed Mission Operations (DMO) system allows operators to hone their homeland defense skills using a combination of real and virtual tools. Here, operators use simulators to train on a homeland defense scenario.

June 2009
By Robert K. Ackerman

 

A U.S. Air Force Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) air weapons officer tracks potential targets during a mission over Iraq. The E-8 Joint STARS aircraft is undergoing a modernization that affects an even larger overhaul of
Air Force command and control.

January 2008
By Henry S. Kenyon

 
Key U.S. Defense Department command and control and logistics applications are vulnerable to new types of cyberspace attacks. The U.S. Air Force’s Application Software Assurance Center of Excellence (ASACE) seeks to assess mission-critical applications for vulnerabilities and to correct them when they are detected.
New center seeks to shield vital military applications from evolving threats.

January 2008
By Robert K. Ackerman

 
A U.S. Air Force Delta II booster launches the newest global positioning system (GPS) satellite into orbit. With the military and the private sector placing greater reliance on satellites for daily operations, the Air Force Space Command is increasing its emphasis on protecting space-based assets.
Air Force command moves to ensure continuity amid varied challenges.

March 2007
By Robert K. Ackerman

 
A Proteus testbed aircraft carries the Global Hawk variant of the U.S. Air Force’s new multiplatform radar technology insertion program radar. The Electronic Systems Center (ESC) program will equip the unmanned aerial vehicle as well as other platforms with a radar that can feed data into the Air Force’s Airborne Network.
Diverse electronics systems find common ground.

March 2007
By Robert K. Ackerman

 
Scientists at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory test a composite radar antenna that can serve as the skin of an aircraft. Breakthroughs in low- and high-band radar antenna technology are clearing the way for aircraft exteriors built largely of sensors.
Radar advances clear the way for long-duration sensor aircraft.

October 2006
By Henry S. Kenyon

October 2006
By Robert K. Ackerman

 
The F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, christened the Lightning II, offers the pilot next-generation situational awareness from sensor fusion.
Advanced sensor fusion gives F-35 operators full knowledge of their environment.