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Update: US Air Force plans big investments towards digital architecture, space capabilities

08 November 2019
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Key Points

  • The US Air Force plans to invest heavily over the next five years on digital architecture and both offensive and defensive space capabilities
  • The service wants to move to a model where decisions are made at machine speed and connectivity is emphasised over platforms

The US Air Force (USAF) is planning a pair of big investments over the next five years as part of its emphasis on connectivity in future warfare.

General David Goldfein, USAF chief of staff, said on 6 November that the service would spend USD9 billion over its future years defence plan (FYDP), or five-year outlay, on digital and cloud architecture to better connect both the USAF and the joint force. Gen Goldfein said the service needs to connect the joint force through command and control (C2), connect sensors and shooters, and operate at machine speeds so it can faster close kill chains.

"If we try to cobble together architecture [as] we have done in the past, I will tell you we will be too slow for the force we need to win in the future," Gen Goldfein said at an Air Force Association breakfast.

Gen Goldfein said the USAF would also invest USD9 billion over its FYDP in both defensive and offensive space capabilities. The US, he said, must be the first mover in space because while the force that moves first in combat is not guaranteed victory, the force that moves second is guaranteed to lose.

The USAF will reject future weapon systems that do not emphasise connectivity. Gen Goldfein said he recently visited a contractor to evaluate an air domain product. He asked the contractor whether the product connects to space and was told, unapprovingly, that space connectivity was another part of the contractor's company.

The Skyborg UAV is a vessel for artificial intelligence technologies that could use simple algorithms to fly the aircraft and control them in airspace. It could also use more complicated levels of AI to accomplish certain tasks or subtasks. AI is a big part of the USAF's Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) push. (AFRL)The Skyborg UAV is a vessel for artificial intelligence technologies that could use simple algorithms to fly the aircraft and control them in airspace. It could also use more complicated levels of AI to accomplish certain tasks or subtasks. AI is a big part of the USAF's Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) push. (AFRL)

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