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Tech conference stresses 'partnerships'

5/16/2003 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFPN)  -- "Partnerships for War-Winning Capability" was the theme here May 13 to 15 as military and industry representatives discussed changes in military operations, requirements, challenges and solutions at the fourth annual National Aeronautical Systems and Technology Conference.

Operation Iraqi Freedom's success has led to a renewed driving force to transform the Air Force to enhance rapid delivery of war-winning capability, Lt. Gen. Dick Reynolds, Aeronautical Systems Center commander, said at the conference attended by nearly 750 Air Force, Army, Navy and NASA representatives.

During the conference, speakers emphasized the role the aerospace industry plays in U.S. national security and the role air and space power play on the modern battlefield.

Some spin-offs of the aerospace industry that have benefited the entire population, include the Hubble Telescope, robotic exploration and GPS-enabled cell phones, as well as a slew of others, according to F. Whitten Peters, former secretary of the Air Force.

Reduced military budgets and a dwindling investment in the aerospace industry foreshadow coming problems for the country as a whole and will require a federal, unified approach to overcome results of these shortfalls, such as the one in air traffic management expected by 2010, he said.

As an example of the role enterprise leaders played in getting critically needed capabilities to warfighters, Reynolds said by integrating activity across Air Force Materiel Command product centers, the aeronautical enterprise developed a means of taking out the enemy's GPS-jamming systems during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"We took out all six of those GPS jammers in theater," he said.

Other issues leaders are working on include combat identification, accelerated data extraction and time critical targeting, said Reynolds.

"Now we need to work on more extensive integration and bringing our industry partners into this activity earlier in the process," he said. "Enterprise (leaders are) harmonizing and focusing our efforts. It has become our link to effects-based capabilities planning."

The next step, according to Reynolds, is forming "virtual" capability development groups -- linked across weapon system program offices and centers to work on critical gaps in Air Force warfighting capabilities.

Looking further into warfighter support, Gen. Lester Lyles, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, said command initiatives enhance warfighter support across acquisition, sustainment, test and evaluation, and research activities. And, the command has begun transforming the business side of their operations, as well.

"We want AFMC to lead business transformation for the Air Force," he said.

Command officials are still addressing issues related to workforce shaping, including retaining scientists and engineers and hiring the next generation of those experts, he said.

Speakers explained the need for open, system of systems "architectures" to enable the "plug and play" data and communications systems necessary to make even more progress in this area. Additionally, they said where once the Air Force and its sister services funded individual weapon systems platforms development, they are now funding programs to fill gaps in capabilities warfighters need.

Air Force science and technology has also been reorganized to solve current capability gaps, as well as to provide far-reaching, long-range technology development for capabilities that future battles may call for, said Maj. Gen. Paul Nielsen, Air Force Research Laboratory commander.

"We're making sure our warfighters go into combat with the best technology, the best equipment we can give them, so they have a qualitative edge," he said. "Advanced technology is evident everywhere in military combat operations -- common data links, manned and unmanned aircraft, weapons and information systems being just a few examples."

Nielsen also explained the multitude of technologies the laboratory has provided for the F/A-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

In a unique experiment last month, laboratory experts used an unmanned aerial vehicle to deliver and drop tiny, unmanned ground vehicles to set up a ground-based sensors network, he said.

Areas laboratory officials will be investigating in the near future include, bio- and nano-technology, increased space investment, a push to transition-directed energy from use only as a weapon to additional uses in sensors and communication and a higher level of integration among technologies, Nielsen said.

People should "be aware of accomplishments during the last 100 years but also be mindful that we'll create the accomplishments of the next 100," Nielsen said. He added that technology is critical in the 21st century forces and working with industry prime and sub-contractors is vital to achieving U.S. combat goals.

Conference attendees also were given a status update on programs like the joint service, multinational F-35 and the capabilities it will bring to the coalition battlefield commander.

Many of the speakers also explained the need to continue joint development programs, to make the most efficient use of money available for military modernization and transformation.

Close to 750 people attended the conference, which was designed to help Air Force, Defense Department and industry counterparts communicate about changes critical to the defense of the nation. (Courtesy of AFMC News Service)