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Advisory Board To Recommend ‘Next Step’ In Hypersonics Research

FY-15 study could explore MQ-9 survivability

The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board is preparing to recommend a “next step” toward developing a hypersonic weapon capability, a SAB official said this week.

The board met in Washington June 24 to discuss study options for fiscal year 2015, which one source said might include MQ-9 survivability and deterring conflict in space, and to discuss the preliminary findings and recommendations of three fiscal year 2014 studies: nuclear command, control and communications (NC3), defense of forward-operating bases, and the technology readiness of hypersonic weapons.

“From what I’ve seen of where the hypersonics team is at, they’re probably going to recommend some kind of next step with respect to hypersonic weapons,” SAB Deputy Executive Director Lt. Col. Darren Edmonds said in a June 24 interview with Inside the Air Force, during which he discussed the status of the three studies.

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ACC: Air Force To Decide On AWACS Recap Or Upgrade In FY-19

Appropriators add E-3 retirement hurdle

The Air Force expects to make a decision on whether to upgrade or replace its fleet of E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft in fiscal year 2019, according to a time line provided by Air Combat Command.

In a statement to Inside the Air Force on June 3, Air Combat Command (ACC) spokesman Benjamin Newell confirmed that the service will begin a capability assessment relating to the AWACS mission as early as FY-15, which is an initial step toward developing an upgrade or replacement strategy for the 30-year-old E-3 fleet.

The Air Force has already committed to a replacement program for the comparable E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) platform starting in FY-15, and the first two of those aircraft are due for delivery by 2020. Replacing the AWACS would be a natural next step since both airborne command-and-control capabilities are built on old Boeing 707 airframes. The first E-3 entered service in 1977.