The Air Force has certified that the first on-orbit space based infrared system sensor payload is ready to begin a dedicated operational utility evaluation, a major step en route to it commencing formal operations later this year, lead contractor Lockheed Martin announced Aug. 28. The payload, dubbed HEO-1 because it resides on a classified intelligence satellite in highly elliptical orbit, has been exceeding expectations in tests thus far, Air Force and company officials have said. As part of the evaluation, HEO-1 will enter trial-period operations in which, for the first time, live data from the sensor will be injected into the operational networks that provide critical warning and intelligence data to warfighters. HEO-2, the second on-orbit SBIRS payload, is expected to begin operations in early 2009.
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.