Investing in Game-Changing Tech

The Defense Department’s Fiscal 2017 budget request will include $71.4 billion for new “game-changing” technological advances that sound like they were ripped from the pages of science fiction. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office will create new capabilities that would “confound potential opponents.” Carter created the office in 2012 when he was the deputy secretary of defense to “reimagine” current systems and now as Defense Secretary he is increasing its funding. Last year the Air Force tested “micro-drones” developed by the office “that are really fast, and really resilient” during an operational exercise in Alaska. Carter said a fighter jet launched the “swarming autonomous” drones while flying at Mach 0.9. The office also is developing an “arsenal plane,” which Carter said “takes one of our oldest aircraft platforms? and turns it into a flying launchpad for all sorts of different conventional payloads.” The aircraft would essentially be “a very large airborne magazine,” networked to a fifth-generation aircraft that serves “as a forward sensor and targeting node,” Carter said. “Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology. For example, the microdrones, I mentioned a moment ago, use a lot of commercial components and are actually 3-D printed … ,” he added. (Carter transcript.)