The Air Force has hired a Michigan company to see if thrusters based on plasma could help satellites evade incoming fire, the company announced Tuesday. Conventional satellites maneuver with the help of liquid propellants, basically fuel. That can increase the weight and complexity of putting something into orbit and isn’t practical for small, cheap cube satellites.
Will Roper, the Air Force assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, and Lt. Gen. John “JT” Thompson, Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center commander, said the Air Force is committed to working more closely with innovative companies.
Air Force scientists have announced that they had tested a robot kit that can turn virtually any plane into a self-piloting drone, through a program called ROBOpilot. Why is that important? For starters, planes and drones are expensive. The drone shot down over Iran last month cost $220 million.
Just weeks after the last of 173 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs received new wings, the Air Force on Wednesday awarded Boeing a $240 million contract to start installing new wings on 27 more aircraft -- the first tranche of a project expected to re-wing a total of 112 aircraft for about $1 billion, according to a Pentagon contract announcement. The contract awarded on Wednesday runs through 2030.
A key House panel has rejected the Trump administration’s plan to create Space Force, a sixth branch of the U.S. military focused on orbital operations. The proposal “leaves many unanswered questions and lacks important details and supporting analysis to justify the proposed size, scope, cost, roles, and authorities for the new military service,” members of the Democrat-led House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee said in their report on the 2020 budget proposal.
The plan is divided into three objectives: developing and delivering transformational capabilities; reforming the way science and technology is led and managed; and deepening and expanding scientific and technical enterprise. The Air Force will focus on developing and delivering transformational, operational capabilities by restructuring its science and technology portfolio.
The U.S. Air Force needs more fighter aircraft and it needs them fast. The current fleet is too old and too small to guarantee the air superiority that deters potential adversaries and is essential to win wars. To reverse this dangerous state of affairs, Congress must alter the Pentagon’s proposed 2020 budget by adding F-35As, dropping the plan to buy the F-15EX, and funding the development of a next generation of air-dominance technologies.
In a White House ceremony on Tuesday, Trump formally directed his acting defense secretary to prepare a legislative proposal for Congress, which has the final say in the matter. Defense officials said the proposal, which has actually been in planning for months, is slated for delivery to lawmakers on Feb. 25.
The U.S. Air Force’s planes are old--and getting older. The average Air Force plane is 28 years old, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That means hundreds, if not thousands, of Air Force pilots are flying planes built before they were born. Replacing huge numbers of aging aircraft with newer models could be very, very expensive--up to $26 billion annually by the mid-2030s.
Current civilian GPS receivers are accurate to within 10 to 33 feet (3 to 10 meters), depending on conditions, said Glen Gibbons, the founder and former editor of Inside GNSS, a website and magazine that tracks global navigation satellite systems. With the new satellites, civilian receivers could be accurate to within 3 to 10 feet (1 to 3 meters) under good conditions, and military receivers could be a little closer, he said.