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Air Force Implements Innovative Strategies for Digital Transformation, Acquisition

“Technology innovation is the battlefield of today.”

Amid the pandemic, the Department of Air Force indicated in its fiscal 2019/2020 Acquisition Biennial Report how it developed innovative strategies to carry on with its missions and integrate digital engineering into its operations.

From executing the pioneer end-to-end demonstration of the Advanced Battle Management System to boosting the speed of the mission system decision process through containerization and software in-flight uploads, the team continues to support warfighter capabilities through advanced technologies.

Kristen Baldwin, Air Force’s deputy assistant secretary for science, technology and engineering, described digital engineering as the process of making computer-readable prototypes that represent all system aspects and components and integrate operational missions.

In an interview with Federal News Network, Baldwin cited the T-7A trainer aircraft under the Pathfinder program through which modeling and design equipment helped in reducing the assembly hours up to 80 percent.

The design of the aircraft was transferred from computers to its first flight in just about three years and the period for software development was also cut in half.

The strategy, according to Baldwin, is to work in collaboration with the defense industry and commercial industrial base to develop new technologies.

Darlene Costello, acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said that “how we build is as important as what we build and who we build it with.”

“Successful implementation of digital acquisition goes hand-in-hand with our ability to integrate technology innovation occurring across the commercial market, especially in areas currently untapped by the defense department,” she noted.

To manage digital transformation efforts over the Air and Space Force enterprise,  the Air Force Materiel Command established a new office intended to make a digital governance system.

The Digital Transformation Office will comprise 12 members and operate under the Engineering and Technical Management Directorate of the AFMC, the U.S. Air Force announced June 9.

James Kyle Hurst, director of the Digital Engineering Enterprise Office who also assumed the DTO branch leadership position, said the DTO is the first organization to rise from an enterprise-wide perspective to deal with the digital needs of the entire Department of Air Force.

“This office will look across all of those teams and activities to facilitate the sharing of best practices and lessons learned across the entire department,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a bid to improve the integration of the ABMS program to the Air Force’s traditional acquisition structure, the service implemented system changes aimed at moving away from rapid tech testing tradition fielding operations.

A new pod-based communications system that will act as a “translator” for incompatible radio systems of F-22 and F-35 fighters will be fielded for KC in the last quarter of fiscal year 2022, Breaking Defense reported May 24.

The report noted that  Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office will seek to “build ABMS as a secure, military digital network environment leveraging proven commercial technologies, infrastructure and applications.”

Speaking during the House tactical air and land forces subcommittee meeting on Fiscal Year 2022 Rotary Wing Programs, Costello said that changes must be made to accomplish the core missions of the Air Force.

“If we were to modernize to address the emerging threat, we must efficiently use resources tied to our outdated and underperforming platforms and weapon systems, which are decreasing in relevance today and will be irrelevant in the future,” she said.

On July 8, the Potomac Officer Club will be hosting the 2021 Air Force Acquisition Forum that will bring together federal and commercial executives to explore how the U.S. Air Force is embracing digital acquisition to meet the changing needs on the battlefield.

Learn more about the department’s vision and plans to leverage commercial technologies in enhancing the capabilities of the Air Force. Register here.

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