Pawlikowski Says Throwaway Tech May Help Speed Fielding; May Affect OA-X
To gain speed in fielding new capabilities, the Air Force may have to adopt a new comfort level with keeping things only a short while, and never build a long-term sustainment train to support them, Materiel Command chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski said Wednesday during an AFA Mitchell Institute event. This approach will “be okay” because the next new capability will be coming closely behind. This idea could affect the OA-X Light Attack aircraft program, she said. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak and Brian Everstine.
Full T-6 Fleet Won’t Return to Flight Until Summer
The Air Force’s T-6 trainer fleet will not completely return to flight until summer, though 275 of the 444-aircraft fleet is expected to be ready this month, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said Wednesday. The fleet was grounded last month after pilots reported experiencing hypoxia-like incidents, and investigators found three parts of the aircraft’s oxygen system were failing much faster than expected, Goldfein said. Because of the grounding, the Air Force will end up training 200 fewer pilots than its goal of 1,200 this year, he said. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
USAF Looking to Own Intellectual Property for Parts Needed on Older Aircraft
The Air Force wants Congress to help it gain access to intellectual property for aircraft parts, an issue that has become a major hurdle to fixing aging legacy aircraft. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, in testimony to the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee on Wednesday, said the Air Force has parts made by many suppliers that are no longer in business, or do not make a specific part anymore but still own the intellectual property. For example, the prime contractor for the A-10, Fairchild Republic, no longer exists. “We really have to focus on sustainment” but it is difficult when the Air Force cannot legally recreate parts, she said. This will be an “increasingly contentious issue” as the service negotiates contracts going forward, so the service and Congress need to start “really moving forward in this area in a very rapid way,” she said. The Army is buying intellectual property of its future weapons systems so it can maintain and build parts on its own, the head of US Army Materiel Command said in November. —Brian Everstine
Roper Cites Value of Commercial Technology in Aircraft Modernization
Air Force acquisition chief William Roper Wednesday pointed to the value of using commercial technology when modernizing aircraft, particularly in sensing or networking functions, although he noted that it must be done safely. Testifying before the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, Roper said that in dealing with sensing or networking technology, “you really are playing into commercial technologies—they can be a large contributor.” At the same time, the Air Force should ensure it uses commercial technologies safely. “We can’t put people up in airplanes if there’s a cyber vulnerability or something that might be compromised on the battlefield,” he said. “I don’t think that’s insurmountable, I don’t think it should be cold water on the issue, it’s just a different kind of design philosophy, to figure out how to use something that you didn’t control during its whole life,” he said. He also called during the hearing for more attention to better Air Force spending on sustainment and maintenance. “I think it’s an area that we can improve on in the Air Force,” he said, “There are many commercial practices that could be applied,” he said. —Steve Hirsch
Third-Gen AI Priority for DARPA
The director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said his artificial intelligence focus today is machines responding to new environments and information, what he called “third generation” AI. This is important when, on the battlefield, changing variables like an unidentified adversary aircraft, may not exactly meet the conditions originally fed into a computer, DARPA boss Steven Walker explained. What if a plane has three wings, for example. Will that trip up the machine-taught AI. “When a piece of data changes, how does the machine get to that?” Walker asked while testifying to the House Armed Services Committee’s Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee. Congressmen on the subcommittee focused Wednesday on the Fiscal 19 budget and its science and technology segments, their witnesses spanning DARPA, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. Read the full story from Gideon Grudo.
Air Force Faces Growing Backlog of Airmen, Civilians Waiting for Clearances
The Air Force has a massive backlog of airmen and civilians waiting for a security clearance, one that is only getting worse as the service tries to work with the Office of Personnel Management for help. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, speaking Wednesday at a House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing, said the service has 79,000 airmen and civilians waiting, up from 48,000 in 2016. The service does not do the security clearance process, OPM handles it for the entire government. Wilson said the Air Force has reached out to OPM with ideas to help alleviate the backlog, such as using Skype video chats for interviews instead of conducting all of them in person, and setting up regional “hubs” for interviews that need to be held in person. The issue isn’t solely on the Air Force, it is a “major issue for all of the services,” Wilson said. —Brian Everstine
—Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein would say only that they are “excited by the dialogue” regarding space, declining to offer an opinion on President Trump’s call for a new Space Force: ABC News.
—Defense Secretary Jim Mattis thanks US troops for their service during an on-call at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Wednesday: AFCENT release.
—US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornets conducted joint training with F-16s assigned to Misawa AB, Japan, in late February: DOD release.
—Students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute are working to turn an all-terrain wheelchair into an autonomous security robot that could be used to protect US missile silos or other USAF installations: WPI.edu.
—A World War II B-17F Memphis Belle was set to be moved to its display location at the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio: Dayton Daily News.