After 1000 days, and barriers including dust storms, thunderstorms, and the isolated location, US Air Force airmen at Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger have completed the largest troop labor project in history. Air Base 201's 6000 foot runway will give the Air Force a constant intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance presence in a increasingly active region for extremist activities.
Following the events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Department of Defense identified flaws in its security procedures within the airspace surrounding the National Capital Region. In response, Operation Noble Eagle was created to protect the skies of North America.
An important training element of Noble Eagle, Fertile Keynote exercises utilize the Air Force's civilian auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol.
With the combined support of the Air National Guard's 113th Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, the CAP's Congressional Squadron, 1st Air Force and North American Aerospace Defense Command, Fertile Keynote missions simulate responses to unauthorized aircraft intruding into the restricted airspace surrounding the U.S. capital.
Other Fertile Keynote exercises take place every week across the country, with aerospace control alert fighter units and CAP squadrons participating.
In one wing, there are 435. On the other, there are 100. Luckily, this isn't referring to a severe weight imbalance detrimental to an aircraft's flight. These are the number of appointed individuals responsible for making the nation's laws on Capitol Hill and the people who some Air Force legislative liaisons and fellows engage with to ensure continued legislative support for national security.
The legislative liaison and fellowship programs are designed to provide service members opportunities to improve understanding and knowledge of the functions and operations of the legislative branch and how it impacts the military.
According to Title 5, U.S. Code Section 7102 and Title 10, U.S. Code Section 1034, United States Air Force personnel have the legal right to petition and furnish information to or communicate with Congress.
After listening to feedback from the field, a few changes to the Air Force Basic Military Training curriculum will transform trainees into more combat-ready airmen.
The changes, which began Sept. 4, 2018, are entirely focused on readiness and lethality, airmanship, fitness, and warrior ethos.
"The future of BMT focuses on creating disciplined, warrior-airmen who are ready to support our joint partners in conflicts around the globe," said Col. Jason Corrothers, former 737th Training Group and BMT commander who spearheaded the modifications. "These changes to refine the basic training experience are about increasing our readiness and lethality while simultaneously instilling airmanship and core values from the very beginning."
Air and land are valuable training tools when it comes to Air Force ranges. Both are finite resources that are also utilized by the rest of society. Unfortunately, the demand for air and land in civilian pursuits can have an impact on the Air Force and Total Force training and testing missions.
Wind farms, oil exploration, urban expansion, and commercial air traffic can encroach on range safety buffer zones or create hazards in the limited airspace utilized for testing and training.
There is no set-in-stone future for Air Force ranges, but some pilots, range managers and planners have a vision for the way ahead.
One potential future for Air Force ranges combines the capabilities of live, virtual and constructive elements to seamlessly create an immersive training experience. Live aircraft will fly in actual airspace boundaries while the pilot sees digitally created enemies on the aircraft's instruments.
These digital enemies will not be constrained to the physical boundaries of the range, and can be engaged by the actual aircraft which are restricted to that airspace — in effect expanding the training area for pilots.
Military doctrine identifies five domains of warfare — land, sea, air, space, and information. While borders and barriers define the four natural domains, the fifth dimension, with the advancements of artificial intelligence, is rapidly expanding with the potential to destabilize free and open international order.
Nations like China and Russia are making significant investments in AI for military purposes, potentially threatening world norms and human rights.
This year the Defense Department, in support of the National Defense Strategy, launched its Artificial Intelligence Strategy in concert with the White House executive order creating the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.
Within the confines of U.S. Air Force ranges there are things that exist nowhere else in the world.
Vast expanses of natural habitat containing unique plants and animals, archaeological sites and artifacts of Paleolithic Native Americans and cultures past, are contained in these, sometimes misunderstood, restricted spaces.
In fact, U.S. Air Force ranges support conservation efforts which strive to expand beyond man-made borders to increase numbers of threatened and endangered species to a healthy and sustainable population.
"I think the public has the perception that the training range is a bombing range in that we obliterate the entire range but that is a very large misconception," said Anna Johnson, Nellis Air Force Base Natural Resource manager. "The target areas are a very small portion of the range and those target areas have remained the same for decades … going into the future the target areas are not supposed to change at all."
Heather Wilson swore in as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force in May 2017 with a clear-eyed view on the task at hand.
"When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis asked me to serve as the Secretary of the Air Force I said, "You know, Mr. Secretary, I'm not the kind of gal who just cuts ribbons on new dormitories, that's not me. But if you want somebody who's going to help to try to solve problems and make it better, not just different, but better, then that's what I'll do."
Before representing New Mexico's first district as a member of Congress and being the president of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Wilson was an Air Force officer. During her seven years of service in the 1980s, she served as a planner, political advisor and a defense policy arms control director. Her husband, Jay Hone, served in the 1970s as an Air Force lawyer and went on to retire from the service. For them, Air Force business was family business, and there was work to be done.