Combat Balloon Lifts Off: A host of combat experiments are under way this week during the 2006 Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment, including one that will employ balloons staged in “near space” to aid line-of-sight communications on the ground. Dubbed “Combat Skysat,” the program places a radio repeater-linked to a weather-type balloon in near space—the layer of the atmosphere between aircraft airspace and satellites. The repeater can “bounce” ground transmission, extending the range and making them clearer. The balloon takes about 20 minutes to launch and can stay in the air an average of 12 hours per flight.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.