Yokota AB, Japan—The Air Force has had to come up with innovative ways to keep up with an increased demand for USAF assets, time, and capability in the Pacific. Col. Kenneth Moss, commander of the 374th Airlift Wing, said there’s been a “100 percent uptick in missions and operational tempo since 2012,” something that is not “unexpected given the state of affairs and how they developed here.” That means airmen are working harder, but they’re also working smarter. Donald Hoobler, the wing’s plans and program officer, said the trick is finding ways to combine training with real-world operations to “get the same level of performance out of troops without taxing them.” He added, “It’s not that we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. We’re just being more efficient in what we do and how we go about doing that.” For example, instead of just moving cargo to South Korea, the wing’s C-130H aircraft might also partner with US Army units assigned there to conduct parachute drops. “It gets us a qualification and allows us to go in and operate out of austere or built-up locations,” said Hoobler. (For more on USAF operations in the Pacific, read Don’t Call it a Comeback from the July 2015 issue of Air Force Magazine.)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.