Air Force Space Command boss Gen. John Hyten declared initial operational capability for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency joint communication system on July 28, the service announced. AEHF satellites—the first of which launched in August 2010—provide 10 times more capability than the 1990s-era Milstar satellites, which remain in orbit, states the release. “Achieving AEHF IOC is a great accomplishment for the team. We’re proud to deliver an unparalleled leap forward in protected communications capability for both our nation’s senior leaders and also our warfighters in the field,” said Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Space and Missile Systems Center commander. The 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., operates all three AEHF satellites currently on orbit. The Air Force expects to launch the fourth, fifth, and sixth AEHF satellites in 2017, 2018, and 2019, states the release. The “significant achievement” was a collaborative effort between Air Force Space Command, SMC, the Army, the Navy, and developers Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, states the release. (See also Game Changers in Space from the October 2012 issue of Air Force Magazine.)
Within a brand-new, gleaming-white facility called the “high bay” at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, a battered and rusty-looking fuselage and left wing of a B-52H has become a laboratory for the government-industry team that will revamp the aged Stratofortress fleet for the next 30 years.