A group of Air Force Research Lab engineers from Tyndall AFB, Fla., along with Air Mobility Command’s chief scientist Donald Erbschloe, recently visited JB Charleston, S.C., on a fact-finding mission. These researchers went to see first-hand how the 437th Aerial Port Squadron operates and whether robotics could be introduced to make the unit’s process of loading and unloading cargo more efficient. They are exploring a “robo-palet” that is self-aware and could drive itself to and from the loading dock and the cargo aircraft. Under the concept, this robotic system would also know the exact weight and type of cargo that it is hauling and could discern whether the contents have been tampered with at any point in the transportation process. Fresh with the insights from the July 16 visit, these researchers are now refining the concept. (Charleston report by 2nd Lt. Susan Carlson)
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.