The Defense Department has been allocated about $7.5 billion in fiscal 2021 for a variety of robotic platforms and related technologies, according to a recent study that looked at more than 1,000 funding items. All of the military services and Special Operations Command are pursuing these capabilities, also known as UxV, for the air, ground, maritime surface, and subsurface domains. “Recent advancements in autonomy, sensors, energy/propulsion systems, and navigation/control systems have improved the efficiency and effectiveness of UxV, allowing them to function for long periods of time with minimal human input and oversight,” said a new report by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
For Stephanie Davis, who grew up with little, the military was a path to the American dream, a realm where everyone would receive equal treatment. She joined the Air Force in 1988 and steadily advanced over the course of decades, becoming a flight surgeon, commander of flight medicine at Fairchild Air Force Base, [Washington], and, eventually, a lieutenant colonel. But many of her service colleagues, Davis says, viewed her only as a Black woman. Or for the white resident colleagues who gave her the call sign of ABW–it was a joke, they insisted–an “angry black woman,” a classic racist trope. White subordinates often refused to salute her and she was attacked with racial slurs, she said.
There are 10 American military bases named after Confederates who fought against the United States during the Civil War. And according to the annual defense bill passed at the start of the year, those bases will have different names soon. Perhaps, a base might be renamed after the woman who led the Combahee River raid, the very first U.S. military operation to be organized and led by a woman.
The effort to transition to a new and improved logistics system for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is facing delays due to funding constraints and other challenges. The setback comes as the program is under pressure to improve operations and maintenance and to control costs. The legacy Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS, was designed to support F-35 operations, mission planning, supply-chain management, and maintenance. However, it has been plagued by problems over the years.
The Air Force demonstrated both a new communications network and a mobile C2 system to link U.S. services, allies and partner nations for the first time during this year’s multinational Astral Knight exercise in Europe. The capability will be key to the service’s emerging Advanced Battle Management System. “For the first time ever, we have accomplished a high level of integration with our allies and partners through new communications software called Air Component Battle Network. This network enabled us to seamlessly communicate over secure channels and provide a clear shared picture of simultaneous operations across the theater,” Maj. Gen. Greg Semmel, Air National Guard assistant to the commander at U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces in Africa Command, said in a May 21 online audio briefing on Astral Knight 21.
The U.S. Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is delivering major upgrades to its aerial reconnaissance weather officer and loadmaster/dropsonde operator stations. The hardware and software overhaul of the stations will enhance their weather collecting capabilities. The USAF noted that the 53rd WRS is the only Department of Defense unit that flies into “storm environments to gather atmospheric data.”
The U.S. Space Force is ahead of schedule in phasing out a controversial Russian-manufactured rocket engine for approved launches, the service’s second in command said May 26. Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations, told the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces that while the U.S. military has congressional authorization to use the Russian-manufactured RD-180 rocket engine for up to 18 more launches, current plans are to use them only for six more launches.
The Pentagon and State Department are developing plans to evacuate Afghans whose work with the United States has placed them in danger of being killed by the Taliban after U.S. and coalition forces complete their withdrawal, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said May 26. “We recognize that there are a significant amount of Afghans that supported the United States, supported the coalition. And that they could be at risk, their safety could be at risk,” Milley said.
“The People’s Liberation Army is the oft-cited but poorly understood “pacing threat” during U.S. debates about the defense budget, which the White House will release Friday. Though Pentagon officials since the Obama administration have called the Chinese military the U.S.’s most capable rival, data about what China has actually been spending, or what it’s bought, remains scarce. Research into Chinese defense investments since 2000 reveals that, compared with the United States, China has prioritized purchasing weapons and equipment over spending on personnel salaries or on operations and maintenance. As a result, the U.S. military is on track to be outgunned—potentially in quantity and quality of armaments—by the end of President Joe Biden’s first term,” Jacqueline Deal, senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, co-founder of the American Academy for Strategic Education and president of LTSG, a defense consultancy, writes in Politico.
Two measures introduced in Congress by lawmakers this week would overhaul the way the Department of Veterans Affairs cares for millions of former service members who were exposed to toxic substances, from atomic radiation sites in the Pacific to open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The sweeping legislation, mostly focused on the issue of burn pits from recent wars, would compel VA to presume certain illnesses are linked to exposure to hazardous waste incineration, removing the burden of proof from veterans. Lawmakers and advocates, including comedian Jon Stewart, have said inaction at VA, government skepticism of linking toxic exposure to certain illness, and concerns about budgets have left legions of veterans without care.
The Defense Department is working its way through a massive list of installations that are or might be contaminated with chemicals linked to cancer, but it will be years before they have a full grasp on the scope of the issue, and decades before they’re able to clean it all up, an official told lawmakers May 26. It’s not just that there is so much to clean up, the deputy assistant defense secretary for environment and energy resilience said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing. It’s that technology is still trying to catch up to the task.
Though Washington has restricted trade against more than 40 companies identified by the Pentagon as linked to the Chinese military and operating in the United States, they’re just the “tip of the iceberg,” according to a report the Foundation for Defense of Democracies published May 27. The report argues that while the Defense Department’s blacklist is a “critical resource” to counter China’s military-civil fusion strategy, there are additional Chinese military-linked companies operating in the U.S. themselves or through subsidiaries that aren’t being tracked. It recommends steps to broaden the scope and prioritize within the Pentagon’s blacklist.
Can new emission-free electric planes replace our polluting airliners and revolutionize personal transportation in our cities? NOVA takes you for a ride in some impressive prototypes that are already in the air, from speedy single-seat planes that can take off like a helicopter but are half as noisy to “self-flying” air taxis that are already taking passengers on test flights in Chinese cities. But if electric airplanes are ever to advance beyond small, short-haul craft, significant hurdles of battery weight, energy storage, and cooling remain to be overcome. How long will it be before the dream of super-quiet, super-efficient airliners becomes a reality? (Premiered May 26, 2021)