LIVEBLOG from AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium

ORLANDO — I’m reporting today from the AFA Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, searching for clues on the US Air Force’s many new and ongoing acquisition programs. Of great interest are the USAF’s plans for the F-35 fighter, KC-X tanker, CSAR-X helicopter, and next generation bomber (which I’d prefer the air force call B-X, but that sounds too much like their on-base department stores).

1:13: Biggest hall highlight: Raytheon’s booth includes a full-scale model for their candidate for a next-generation missile to replace both AMRAAM and HARM. Unlike the rocket-powered model that rival Boeing has displayed at these shows for a couple of years, the Raytheon model includes an air-breathing, ramjet-like inlet. The missile program has various names. Boeing calls it the next generation missile, the air force’s budget plan calls it the joint dual role air dominance missile (JDRADM) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency calls it the triple target terminator (T3).

11:29: The exhibit hall will open in a few minutes. I snuck in during a break this morning for an early reconnaissance. For the first time, there is a real aircraft in the exhibit hall at the Air Warfare Symposium. AgustaWestland has somehow wedged an entire AW139 into the hall. I expect the Italian manufacturer will announce a bid for the combat search and rescue (CSAR-X) common vertical lift support platform (CVLSP) contract. One of their major competitors, a Sikorsky/Boeing team, plans to offer the HH-60M for CSAR-X and the CVLSP. 

11:22: I just needed to be more patient. Gen Robert Kehler has said the word “tanker”. It wasn’t a dramatic reference. He noted the air force needs them.

11:14: Perhaps less surprisingly, the J-20 has come up. A lot. I’ll post video later today of comments about PAK-FA and J-20 by Pacific air forces chief Gen Gary North and US Air Forces Europe chief Gen Mark Welsh.

11:10: Amazingly, 130 minutes into major air force symposium, and yet no one has said the words “KC-X” or “tanker”! 

10:39: Lt Gen Donald Wurster, head of Air Force Special Operations, notes that he’s seen news reports criticizing “indiscriminate fire” by an AC-130. He dryly remarked: “There’s no such thing as indiscriminate fire by an AC-130. If you’re killed by an AC-130 it’s because it was pointed at you.”

10:03: Gen William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, has sounded the alarm about Lightsquared’s newly-licensed business strategy, which by my colleague John Croft wrote about here. Shelton says:

“The Lightsquared business plan calls for some 40,000 towers… Aleading GPS receiver manufacturer just … has concluded that within 3 to 5 miles on the ground and within about 12 miles in the air GPS is jammed by those towers. The dependencies we’ve got on GPS for timing things for navigation, for how we live our daily lives, not to mention military applications for GPS, if we allow that system to be fielded and it does indeed jam GPS imagine the impact … This is just unbelievable … We’re hopeful we can find a soltuion, but physics being physics we don’t see a solution right now. … We’re hopeful the FCC does the right thing.” 

9:50: Bad news for T-X supporters. Gen Edward Rice, chief of Air Education Training Command, met with reporters this morning. He declined to commit to fielding the T-38C replacement by Fiscal 2017, as current plans suggest. Rice also said he thinks that existing technology can meet the air force’s requirements for a new advanced jet trainer. However, he didn’t rule out buying an all-new aircraft, which Boeing has expressed interest in pursuing.    

9:40: Clock it: Within the first 35 minutes of the air warfare symposium, Fraser, head of air combat command, name-checks the Chengdu J-20. He used the new Chinese fighter as a segue to emphasize the importance of funding continuing upgrades for the F-22 and the joint dual role air dominance missile (JDRADM). He also talked about some of the existing technologies that would be leveraged by the next generation bomber. These would include the massive ordnance penetrator (MOP), joint air to surface standoff missile (JASSM) and small diameter bomb (SDB) increment 2, he says. New sensors and directed energy systems also would be integrated on the new bomber, Fraser says.   

9:31: While I’m roughing it in Orlando with the Air Force Association, the air force’s top leaders will be testifying at the House Armed Service Committee at 1pm. You can watch the webcast here

9:25am: Gen William Fraser, chief of Air Combat Command, is address a symposium audience numbering about 500 or 600 people. 



Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

2 Responses to LIVEBLOG from AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium

  1. ArkadyREnko 17 February, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    Pictures of the Boeing and Raytheon air missile?

    Have you seen any hints of the F/A-XX and a replacement for the F-15E?

    And, anything about drones in air warfare?

  2. sferrin 17 February, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    If it’s not too late, snag a pic of that Raytheon ramjet powered AAM please. :-)

Leave a Reply