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February 10, 2007—Gen. Bruce Carlson, head of Air Force Materiel Command, says the challenges posed by today’s war on terrorism present some real puzzles for AFMC. Topping his list is figuring out how to get reliable, persistent tactical intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance data into the hands of deployed forces and how to integrate ISR data into a common operating picture.

Carlson told attendees at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando this week that AFMC’s war on terror projects range from tools to provide consistent real time, wide-angle surveillance to ground forces to ways to aid urban warfare and anti-improvised explosive device efforts. The command has just completed an assessment of its Project Angel Fire real-time ISR program at the Marine’s 29 Palms, Calif., training ground. And, Carlson noted that Angel Fire currently is being deployed in the US Central Command area of responsibility for further testing.

AFMC also is working to develop newer, lighter, and more survivable hydrogen-cell batteries for use in tactical radios and other field equipment—all to help reduce the overall weight ground forces—including battlefield airmen—must pack on their backs.

Then there are long range programs like developing hypersonic engines. Carlson said AFMC’s Scramjet Engine Demonstration is moving ahead toward a series of four to eight flights in Fiscal 2009.  The SED will be capable of cruising at Mach 6.5 to 7 and could have a wide range of applications in the Air Force’s future Long Range Strike program.
Another challenge has been to develop rapid, precise, tailor-made strike, now addressed with programs such as the Small Diameter Bomb, which just last fall achieved initial operational capability and was sent into action in Southwest Asia. )

Carlson also noted that Materiel Command is working to enhance the survivability of people and systems in the type of harsh environments now being encountered in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. One major effort has been to tackle one of the most persistent problems that helicopter operators have faced in the CENTCOM area of responsibility—extreme dusty conditions which produce “brownouts” that can make landing extremely difficult.

This month, a six month test of a new geo-register, high-resolution navigation tool will kick off at Hurlburt Field, Fla., said Carlson. The virtual flight rules tool will help helicopter pilots to safely navigate in brownout conditions.