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BY corinna petry

he U.S. Air Force released a $169 billion budget proposal Feb. 10. A large portion of those funds are focused on people and sustaining readiness.

At the heart of the Department of the Air Force’s strategy for winning conflicts is creating a resilient battle network that connects ships, ground forces, planes and satellites, allowing them to fight together at speeds far surpassing any adversary.

The 2021 budget provides funds for a rapid experimentation, prototyping and development effort supporting the Joint Staff’s initiative to connect every sensor and shooter in land, sea, air, space and cyber.

The budget proposal also addresses what the service calls “logistics under attack,” ensuring equipment, personnel and supplies are available when and where they are needed to sustain high-tempo actions in combat operations. Research and development funds will total $26.9 billion in fiscal 2021.

this budget moves us forward and provides room to innovate and build for the future.

“This budget moves us forward toward meeting the missions required under the National Defense Strategy while also providing room to innovate and build for the future,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

Our cover feature, starting on page 18, relays several stories about how the well-trained airmen and grounds crews, maintenance and repair personnel, and various other experts solve problems and fashion new tools to make sure the Air Force is always ready to protect people and assets at home and abroad.

In the background, also working diligently, are the engineers and scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), which is continuously moving forward. In December, for example, the lab’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, together with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, awarded a multimillion-dollar cooperative agreement to Carnegie Mellon University. The funds will go to cutting-edge research and support Ph.D. students using artificial intelligence and machine learning to discover, analyze, design and develop both existing and new high-tech materials.

Internally, the AFRL’s Junior Force Warfighter Operations team last year redesigned a gun rack for the C-130 aircraft. The team comprises volunteer scientists and engineers from various lab disciplines working together to create rapid solutions for near-term warfighter needs. Projects are managed entirely by its members.

The existing metal gun rack is stored in large modular cases affixed to the floor of the plane. The new prototype is built from aluminum and is one-third the weight of the original design. The improved rack can be mounted on the wall of the aircraft, which makes weapons more accessible and frees up cargo space on the floor. The final design will be field tested this year.

And so … off we go into the wild blue yonder.

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