Simultaneous Modernization

The Air Force is faced with the “daunting task” of having to upgrade nearly all of its space systems simultaneously, said Erin Conaton, Air Force undersecretary. Speaking to attendees at AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles, she equated this task to trying to change out and upgrade an aircraft’s engine while the aircraft is in flight and without affecting operational effectiveness. Those modernization efforts touch upon USAF’s major satellite constellations, such as the Global Positioning System Block III satellites under development to update the GPS constellation and the Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellites to replace current Milstar spacecraft. This space modernization is also focused on launch efforts, noted Conaton. Even though the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program has greatly improved access to space, with a 100 percent reliability rate thus far, the Air Force needs to focus more on industrial base stability, more efficient production, and more affordable launch vehicles, she said. “You are going to see a lot of work in this area throughout our Air Force in the coming years,” said Conaton during her Nov. 18 speech. (For more from Conaton’s speech, see Doing More Without More and Conaton Discusses New Space Oversight)