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AFRL to showcase plan to 'drive the future fight' with science, technology at Air, Space & Cyber Conference

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  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, will showcase exciting new technologies during the Air and Space Forces Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference Sept. 11-13, 2023, at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.
This year’s conference theme is “Defeating Multipolar Threats: A Strategic Imperative for Airmen and Guardians.”
AFRL makes informed science and technology investments driven by the Department of the Air Force Operational Imperatives with critical input from its warfighters. The lab ensures alignment of these investments through careful planning processes and by organizing the lab’s portfolios by Functional Capability Areas, or FCAs, which address the unique requirements of tomorrow’s capabilities.
At AFRL’s Platforms Kiosk, attendees can expect to see AFRL technology displays about Skyborg, an autonomous aircraft teaming architecture that will enable the Air Force to posture, generate and sustain mission sorties at sufficient tempo to produce and sustain combat mass in contested environments. Additionally, the Autonomous Aircraft Experimentation, or AAx, exhibit demonstrates the scope and scale of work necessary to operationalize artificial intelligence, or AI, and deliver tactical autonomy to the warfighter. AAx also helps transition a process to mature autonomy concepts through digital simulation, surrogate human-on-the-loop testing, and prototype uncrewed platform flight tests to deliver relevant operational capability for the future.  The Variable In-Flight Stability Aircraft, or VISTA, display focuses on a modified Air Force Test Pilot School F-16 redesignated the X-62 and includes software enabling it to mimic the performance characteristics of other platforms. It can also host a variety of autonomy behaviors, including those from the Skyborg Autonomy Control System and other autonomy software packages.
With a visit to the Weapons Kiosk, attendees can learn more about AFRL’s focus on using a combination of weapons and effects — including non-kinetic effectors such as cyber and electronic attack — with greater speed, maneuverability and reach. Priorities include improving the ability to engage time-critical, heavily defended, and high-value targets; low-cost, networked missiles and smart munitions; cyberwarfare; microwave and laser-directed energy weapons; and hypersonic flight. The challenges of hypersonic flight include refining scramjet propulsion, high-temperature materials, controls and experimentation.
Two technologies featured at the Weapons Kiosk are Golden Horde, an Air Force Vanguard program that builds on the success of its flight demonstration campaign and is pivoting from inventory weapon demonstrations to developing and delivering a multi-tier digital weapon ecosystem. This digital ecosystem offers a live, virtual constructive testing and demonstration capability known as the Golden Horde Colosseum. The Colosseum will expand the industrial base by lowering entry barriers, building a sandbox for traditional and non-traditional entrants, enabling rapid development and demonstration of new NCA technologies and providing quicker acquisition and transition on-ramps. This approach will cultivate competition and breed success. The second featured technology, MUTANT, aims to significantly increase missile range and lethality against highly maneuverable targets with a better flight control actuation system. The MUTANT program’s approach is a form of active morphing involving high-rate pivoting of the missile forebody, referred to as articulation.
Next, at the Command and Control and Readiness Kiosk, AFRL will highlight the Command, Control and Communications FCA which focuses on timely and effective distributed, multi-domain battle management command and control (BMC2). It employs multi-domain effects across the kill webs by demanding the ability to anticipate required information, organize necessary secure data and resilient communication links and position nodes to deliver desired effects for Joint and Coalition partners.  The Readiness FCA focuses on readiness to mobilize, deploy, and fight. It involves hardening the joint force’s mobilization and support chain against cyber and non-cyber threats, protecting information systems against cyberattacks and reducing vulnerability. To accomplish this, the DAF must identify, analyze, and defend against cyber, electronic warfare, and, in some cases, kinetic threats to all the dependencies that an adversary could reasonably be expected to attack.
Highlighted technologies at this kiosk are the Air Force Vanguard program, Navigation Technology Satellite – 3, or NTS-3, a GPS constellation of satellites providing unprecedented position and timing accuracy to the warfighter; and Modelling, Simulation and Analysis. AFRL’s Modeling, Simulation and Analysis, or MS&A, capabilities improve the speed of technology development by providing data driven analysis which enables evidence-based decision making. MS&A explores multi-domain capabilities and provides rapid assessment of advanced technologies and concepts through digital engineering, campaign and mission modeling, wargaming and operational analysis.
While visiting AFRL’s Resilient Basing Kiosk, attendees can learn more about AFRL’s Resilient Basing FCA that focuses on enablers of Agile Combat Employment (using a hub and spoke system of alternative basing) such as pre-positioned essential supplies, improved expeditionary communications and active and passive defenses of distributed operating bases. The DAF also seeks to enable and mobilize a network of dispersed operating locations across domains that are resilient to attack and enable logistics support from multiple locations through contested operations. Other priorities include exploring innovative long-term support in ways that go deeper than logistical efficiency or kinetic defense and improving concealment, deception, and defensive capabilities that complicate an adversary’s plan to target bases.
AFRL technologies highlighted at this kiosk include: Biocements, Assured Base Operations, Tactical High Power Operational Responder, or THOR, Base Defense, Future Force Energy and Power, Advanced Agile Combat Employment Equipment and AF Civil Engineering Cyber Resiliency.
The main tower portion of AFRL’s exhibit features the Communications portion of the Command, Control and Communications FCA. Highlighted technologies here include EDGE Connect, Global Lightning, Enabling Resilient Killwebs, Robust Information Provisioning Layer, or RIPL, and the Digital Radio Integrated Vertical Envelope, or DRIVE, program. EDGE Connect provides several key capabilities, including the establishment of a Software-Defined Wide Area Network, or SD-WAN, increasing resiliency over existing communications systems by stitching together multiple pathways, such as satellite communication, cellular, radio frequency, etc. and automating the management of network traffic versus status quo use of a single pathway.
Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, AFRL commander, will participate at a media roundtable discussion covering Collaborative Combat Aircraft, or CCA, along with Brig. Gen. Dale White, Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center; Maj. Gen. Evan Dertien, commander, Air Force Test Center; and Brig. Gen. Christopher Niemi, director of Plans, Programs, and Requirements, Headquarters Air Combat Command. This media event is scheduled for Sept. 13, 2023, from 1-2 p.m. EST in room Chesapeake A.
Brig. Gen. Cain will then participate at an Air Force Materiel Command-wide media roundtable discussion with a focus on Digital Materiel Management, Sept. 13, from 2:30-3:30 p.m., where he will be joined by the event host, Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, commander, Air Force Materiel Command; Lt. Gen. Stacey Hawkins, commander, Air Force Sustainment Center; Maj. Gen. John P. Newberry, commander, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center; Maj. Gen. Evan Dertien, commander, Air Force Test Center; Maj. Gen. John J. Allen Jr., commander, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center; and Brig. Gen. Dale White, Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. This event will be held in room Chesapeake A.
For more information about AFRL’s programs and technologies, visit
For more information about AFRL’s presence at the conference, visit
NOTE FOR MEDIA: News Media Representatives who would like to schedule an interview with an AFRL subject matter expert during AFA may contact Bryan Ripple, AFRL Public Affairs Media Operations team lead, at 937-469-1728 to request an interview.
About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: