20 Technologies That Will Keep the U.S. Air Force Flying High

September 16, 2015 Topic: Security Region: United States Tags: Air ForceTechnologyMilitary

20 Technologies That Will Keep the U.S. Air Force Flying High

"The Air Force Future Operating Concept envisions a far different kind of future warfare in the air, out in space, and within cyberspace."

Automated sensor advanced processing (ASAP); PB22 (23)

To provide for more accurate ISR provision and resilience against satellite communications jamming, the Air Force desires integration of advancing processing algorithms onto its airborne collection platforms like the RQ-4, MQ-9, U-2, F-35, JSTARS, and AWACS aircraft. Already employed stateside for pre-analyst processing, advanced algorithms would be introduced to existing and future aircraft in software upgrades and processing power improvements.

Common 3D printer operations (C-3PO); PB20

To support austere expeditionary airbases and air resupply of forward-deployed Special Operations Forces, the Air Force plans to acquire a common, air-droppable 3D printer and supporting network for secure engineering design delivery. The U.S. military has already conducted a great deal of operational research with additive manufacturing at fixed sites and has even deployed 3D printers on amphibious warships.

Autonomous loading/unloading program (ALUP); PB22

To enable rapid loading/unloading of cargo aircraft, particularly on time-sensitive missions, in contested airspace, or at austere expeditionary airbases, the Air Force desires an automated cargo movement system. Large, dedicated cargo robots are scheduled to go online at Yokota Air Base soon and nearly triple storage capacity and cut moving time from 4.5 hours to 1 hour with fewer personnel. The challenge for the Air Force will be miniaturizing these machines and providing enough power for operations in austere conditions.

Combat information cloud; PB20

The underappreciated product of the F-35’s sensor fusion systems, the combat information cloud aims to give all U.S. military personnel in the combat zone the right information at the right time. But the combat cloud is far more than just the F-35, even though that’s the largest part. It involves joint networking, making each warfighter both participant and consumer of the ISR mission. The combat cloud—a constantly evolving endeavor—will eventually give commanders at all levels unprecedented amounts of tailored information to aid decisionmaking.

Mackenzie Eaglen is a resident fellow in the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where she works on defense issues. Rick Berger is a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute.