No larger than a quarter, the field programmable gate array computer chip has up to 500 million transistors and miles of writing, according to Air Force Research Lab officials at Kirtland AFB, N.M., but it is also flexible and has an incredible capacity to store data for satellite systems. Run through the Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland, the FPGA program started 10 years ago with a component designed for the Mars Pathfinder mission at NASA. The FPGA is different from a standard microprocessor since it can be reprogrammed to perform multiple functions, as opposed to just image compression or video streaming like most chips. Creigh Gordon, the program manager, began working last year to secure a new chip—one with a capacity of up to two million logic gates—for employment in Air Force spacecraft in the next two to three years.
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.