Strategic planners give glimpse of tomorrow's mobility force|
by Col. Lindsey Borg
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
11/12/2008 - ANAHEIM, Calif. (AFNS) -- Air Mobility Command strategic planners gave an insider's view into the future of air mobility at the 40th annual Airlift/Tanker Association Conference Nov. 10 here.
The air mobility future contains airlifters able to takeoff and land on extremely short and unprepared airfields, aircraft constructed with composite materials, a new refueling tanker, and advanced digital networks to provide aircrews with detailed, joint team information for battlefield situational awareness.
Also possible in the future are enhanced systems to allow crews to fly -- and land -- in nearly blind situations, synthetic vision systems to allow maintainers and others to view technical orders and other documents on glasses as they work, and advanced cargo delivery systems with high-weight capacities to take the supply chain vertical with pinpoint precision.
It is important to explore the future to ensure "this national security asset -- air mobility -- is developed to meet the requirements of the Air Force's joint partners, said Brig. Gen. S. Taco Gilbert III, AMCs director of Strategic Plans, Requirements and Programs.
"As we look into the future, we see a dynamic environment and dynamic opponents. Within that scope, what we need in the future has a technology piece, an operational piece and an organizational piece. It's our task to pull these together to match air mobility capability against the requirements of the joint team," General Gilbert said.
Former Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne challenged industry partners to build a largely composite aircraft in 15 months for no more than $50 million. With its fuselage and tail section complete, the aircraft -- with composite materials as about 50 percent of its surface area -- likely will be ready for the Air Force to test in the spring of 2009, General Gilbert said.
Energy conservation and security also is a priority as AMC plans for the future. While current efforts to reduce aircraft weight and change some aspects of ground operations are proving successful, there's a continued demand for additional initiatives, AMC officials said.
Industry partners are exploring options like airships -- inflatable flying machines with lower fuel consumption than airplanes -- for passenger and cargo transport. The use of composite materials may also lower the weight, and fuel consumption, of future aircraft, while lessons learned from current research and testing will make future development efforts better, AMC officials said.
The AMC team employs mobility capabilities-based planning to ensure its efforts match national strategies and the needs of the Department of Defense. This planning approach helps guarantee air mobility forces in the future will be equipped and ready to provide global reach to project the nation's global power, General Gilbert said.
For example, the United States' new Africa Command is in its infancy and still setting requirements for the support it will need for its theater of operations. Likewise, the Army's planned future combat system will likely require adjustments for airlift support due to the vehicle's anticipated size and weight, AMC officials said.
The current global air mobility, or en route, system is also being reviewed. Again, based on the requirements of the joint team and anticipated security challenges, the currently efficient system of major overseas ports may need to be adjusted, AMC officials said.
One aspect of the future not likely to change is budgetary challenges.
"Funding is limited today for large acquisition programs, and the future isn't likely to be greatly different in that regard," General Gilbert said. "It's our responsibility as modern mobility Airmen to do the very best we can today, to look ahead and prepare for tomorrow's challenges with our joint partners, so our national leaders always have the air mobility capabilities they need."
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