Autonomy, artificial intelligence, and man-machine interfaces are among the key technologies of the “Third Offset” approach to restoring the asymmetry between the US and its peer competitors, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work explained in his speech at ASC16. Work said all efforts in this realm are aimed at enhancing and accelerating human control of forces, not replacing it, assuring the crowd that the Pentagon isn’t seeking to create “Skynet,” the machine intelligence of the “Terminator” movies. Added to more sophisticated command and control networks, it will “change the human OODA loop” permanently. Work also noted that Third Offset is not just about technologies, but about new organizational ideas from “the operational level to the tactical.” The very first of these organizational products is the creation of the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSPOC, Work said. He added that it is “not surprising” that that the Air Force, with its history and culture of technological and organizational innovation, is “leading the way” in Third Offset concepts. The expansion and refinement of the combined air operations center, following on the revolutionary training concept of Red Flag, is typical of what Third Offset is all about, he said. Work also noted that some of the major revolutions in the past—”the rifle, the railroad, and the telegraph”—were commercially-driven and not militarily developed, calling on industry to be a true partner in future “disruptive” changes in warfare.
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.