The futuristic Next Generation Air Dominance fighter platform now in the works is likely to be one of the most complex, highest-stakes weapon acquisitions in the U.S. Air Force’s history. The sixth-generation fighter jet is expected to include new technologies ranging from cutting-edge adaptive engines to an autonomous drone flying alongside its wings. If NGAD works as the service hopes, it could prove critical in a potential war against China. But in recent years, the advanced digital engineering techniques the Air Force once thought would lead to a revolution in rapid aircraft development and fielding have not always panned out.
One of the Pentagon’s largest international security cooperation programs is experiencing “persistent issues” meeting delivery timelines, while some projects have altogether “failed” to provide reliable and suitable capabilities, according to a government watchdog office. Between fiscal 2018 and 2022, the Department of Defense allocated $5.6 billion for Section 333 projects that involve the US providing training and equipment to at least 90 partner nations nations to help with everything from counternarcotics operations to border security to simple construction projects.
In this Q&A with retired USAF Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, and former deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the U.S. Air Force, we discuss the future of JADC2 under a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the inadequacy of the current defense industrial base; why business standards imposed on the Department of Defense are hindering production; and why jointness is about using the right force in the right place at the right time—not every force, every place, all the time.
The way modern Airmen and Guardians prepare for the future fight is changing, with live, virtual, and constructive training offering new ways to practice essential skills. Learn more about how virtual and augmented reality, simulated environments, and other technologies are helping train warfighters everywhere from the cockpit to the maintenance depot.
Military buyers really, really want counter-drone systems that work—starting with the software that drives them. “As threats change, and different threats show up in different form factors—let's say swarming [drones] versus individuals—how will your software adapt to that? How and how can a marine up in the field download that?” said Stephen Bowden, U.S. Marine Corps’ program executive officer for land systems.
The Space Force has been in talks since early this year about establishing a formal cyber component with U.S. Cyber Command, according to officials. Each military service besides Space Force currently has a service cyber component to CYBERCOM—just as they do for all combatant commands—and has requirements to provide CYBERCOM a set number of personnel and teams to the joint cyber mission force, which conducts offensive and defensive cyber operations.
Firefly Aerospace and Millennium Space Systems announced Aug. 30 that they are standing by waiting for orders from the U.S. Space Force to prepare to launch a satellite on short notice. The companies were selected last year to conduct a demonstration of a rapid-response space mission to low Earth orbit known as Victus Nox.
The Air Force is amending its policies regarding an anti-HIV drug, decreasing the time that pilots would be grounded after taking the medication and eliminating waivers altogether for aircrews. In a press release Aug. 29, the service announced it had updated the official Air Force Aerospace Medicine Approved Medication Lists and the Medical Standards Directory for HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, preventative medication known as PrEP taken by those who may be at an elevated risk of contracting the virus.
New U.S. intelligence shows North Korea and Russia are “actively advancing” high-level talks for additional weapons and other materials to assist Moscow’s brutal war in Ukraine, the Biden administration disclosed on Aug. 30. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently traveled to North Korea to try to secure additional artillery ammunition, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.
The U.S. and South Korean militaries want to more closely integrate their systems for tracking North Korean missile launches, an effort that may soon see more cooperation with Japan as well, U.S. Space Force officials said on Aug. 30. Led by a small contingent of U.S. Space Force personnel—the branch's first official component set up overseas—the allies see closer space integration as key to better tracking North Korean threats and responding to a conflict.
In the last decade, a certain type of military book has come to dominate national security circles alongside traditional meditations on the future of warfare. Call it the “E-ring thriller”: Part technical manual and part speculative fiction, these engrossing techno-thrillers use “FICINT”—the combination of fiction writing with intelligence to imagine future scenarios in ways grounded in reality,” as the Army War College puts it—to imagine the near future of warfare with a sense of knowledge and authenticity that evokes the style of beloved authors like Tom Clancy or Michael Crichton.