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Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson addresses the standing room only crowd at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium on Feb. 22, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. Air Force Magazine photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

Medin: USAF Wasting Opportunities for Future Innovation

Google’s Milo Medin bluntly challenged common refrains categorizing USAF risk averse: The Air Force takes far more risk than any commercial entity ever would, he argued. “This is anything but a risk averse culture,” Medin said Thursday, speaking as AWS18’s keynote. “There’s a price to be paid for lagging behind on innovation, it’s just that the price is not usually paid by the same people who settle for the status quo. That price is going to be paid, nonetheless.” Medin is especially peeved with DOD’s requirements-driven strategy, saying it’s “more than inefficient, it’s become dangerous.” He told attendees there are two digital realms the Air Force must recognize and deal with if it wants to own its future: software and machine learning, artificial intelligence. Read the full story by Gideon Grudo.

Wilson Stresses Innovation in AWS Opening Remarks

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson stressed the importance of innovation Wednesday as she opened the 2018 Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. Citing the re-emergence of great-power competition as the central challenge to US prosperity and security, she said the US’ relative advantage in air and space power is being challenged. Read the full report by Steve Hirsch.

USAF Pilots Facing Complex, Threatening Environment in Syria

Russia on Thursday reportedly deployed its advanced Su-57 stealth fighter to Syria, further complicating an environment that the head of Air Combat Command said was already extremely complex. However, USAF pilots flying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve are prepared for scenarios they might face, ACC boss Gen. Mike Holmes said. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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Munitions Production Surge Panned for At Least Five Years

The Air Force’s massive requested buy of “preferred munitions” in the Fiscal 2019 budget would continue for at least five years to replenish drawn-down stocks worldwide, as well as allow coalition allies to pay USAF back for munitions borrowed during the long anti-ISIS campaign. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

T-6 Grounding Having Significant Impact on Training Pipeline

Air Education and Training Command has lost more than 11,000 training sorties since the T-6 fleet was grounded on Feb. 1, but command leaders say they want to give scientists and engineers time to figure out the root cause of the hypoxia-like incidents rather than rushing the jets back into the air. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

Wright to USAF Leaders: Help Me Help Airmen Help the Air Force

Speaking during AWS18 Thursday morning, CMSAF Kaleth Wright said he thinks there’s an opportunity for the service to do less, better, faster, more lethally, and more efficiently. The way there, he said, is “innovation,” a culture he argued must be “unleashed.” Read the full story from Gideon Grudo.

ACC Moving Forward on Light ISR Experiment, Though No Funding Yet

Air Combat Command is still looking to conduct an experiment for possible light intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft based on the ongoing light attack experiment, but that idea hasn’t formally turned into a program with funding behind it. ACC boss Gen. Mike Holmes said the command’s strategic planners are looking into creating the experiment, and it’s on his “list.” Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

AETC Working to Reduce Number of Airmen Required to Fly RPAs

The Air Force needs to change how its remotely piloted aircraft community operates if it wants to meaningfully address its manning shortfall, because it simply takes too many people to operate unmanned aircraft, the head of Air Education and Training Command said Thursday. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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Air Force Conducting Review of Space Acquisition, Planning

The Air Force is conducting a review of how it purchases its space systems and how it plans its capabilities in space to find ways to both reduce cost and speed up innovations. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters at AWS18 Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. John Thompson is conducting the review. It is needed because Air Force space acquisition is “pretty stove-piped” and innovation needs to be faster. Ninety percent of Defense Department space procurement and assets are handled by the Air Force, and 40 percent of the employees at the National Reconnaissance Office are Air Force employees, so it is a mission the service has to do right, she said. —Brian Everstine

Study Group Will Decide Whether USAF Pursues Stealthy MQ-9 Successor

A planning cell at Headquarters, Air Force is looking at whether a survivable—read stealthy—successor to the MQ-9 Reaper attack drone will be needed in the future, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes told reporters at AWS18. Holmes said the Fiscal 2019 budget request seeks funding to maintain the MQ-9 fleet at its present size, with replacements for attrition and war losses. However, whether a successor is needed “depends on whether you’re going to use the MQ-9 against a great power or … the way we’ve been using it … in a permissive environment,” he explained. The MQ-9 is “great” at the surveillance/strike mission in unchallenged airspace and may even have some capability “on the edges” of contested airspace, Holmes said, but it would not be able to penetrate heavily defended territory. There’s “not a particular AOA,” or analysis of alternatives, underway to consider a Reaper follow-on, but “we are standing up … this Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability at Headquarters, Air Force this year,” he said. “What they’re designed to do is think about how the Air Force will fight against a peer adversary in the future and then work backwards about what capabilities will be required.” Individual projects will “flow out” of that process, he said, but he added, “it won’t happen overnight.” —John A. Tirpak

Wilson: A New JSTARS Will Not Survive a High End Fight

The Air Force has to convince a skeptical Congress to let it end the E-8C Joint STARS recapitalization program, and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has her argument ready. If the Air Force is forced to buy a new battle management plane, it will not last in a contested environment. “If that’s the solution, it won’t survive,” Wilson said. Read the full story by Brian Everstine

AFSOC Boss “Cautiously Optimistic” Laser Program Will Move Forward

Air Force Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. Brad Webb said he is “cautiously optimistic” the service will get the funding it needs to finally move forward with plans to put lasers on gunships. “I’d love to get a fully funded program” so the command can put the capability on a gunship “where we can either prove the zealots and disprove the naysayers, or vice versa,” Webb told reporters at AWS18. Read the full report by Amy McCullough.

Disruption, Not Innovation, Provides Advantage

Peter Wicher, a futurist who is director of strategic relations for Singularity University, said airmen must recognize that change and disruption are happening at exponential rates, and to simply innovate is not enough. Those who want to stay ahead of the trends can no longer think about achieving, say, a 10 percent improvement in anything, but instead should be thinking about “a ten times improvement” in any undertaking. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

“Young Innovators” Call on Air Force to Encourage Innovation

A group of young innovators Thursday called on USAF to take steps to encourage innovation if it is to take advantage of new ideas. The presentation was one of several focusing on innovation, including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson’s opening speech. Read the full story from Steve Hirsch.