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USAF Updates AFI 36-2903 “Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel”

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

In a new release of AFI 36-2903 Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel dated 7 Feb 2021, the service formally enters a new era of hair braids for female personnel.

As for items that affect every Airman, you’ll be pleased to know that morale patches are once again authorized for wear on ACUs on Fridays, pending approval by commanders.

Here’s a list of changes of note:

1) updates female hair standards to allow braid and ponytail hairstyles to be worn below the collar and bangs to touch eyebrows;

2) clarifies blues belt wear policy, the command insignia pin policy, coyote brown boot laces policy, and that current subdued version of unit/organizational patches may be worn until the patch color conversion has been completed by the Institute of Heraldry

3) incorporates previously approved policy language allowing higher headquarters units to purchase flight suit name tags for standardization within their units;

4) incorporates previously approved permanent wear of awarded recruiting badges by Airmen with an 8R special duty identifier in their records;

5) incorporates previously approved additional color options with flight attendant uniform;

6) incorporates previously approved updates to Airmen’s hair bulk standard, shaving waivers, clarification of male straight line hair part, nametapes/tags, grooming and appearance standards, removal of the terms “faddish,” “complexion” and combat boot height requirements.

24th SOW Launches Special Operations Center For Medical Integration And Development

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

The 24th Special Operations Wing launched the Special Operations Center for Medical Integration and Development, a program designed in cooperation between the U.S. Air Force and the University of Alabama-Birmingham to develop and provide advanced standardized training to special operations medics. The training used realistic and innovative techniques including virtual reality, field training exercises and clinical hospital rotations to maintain readiness of Special Operations Surgical Team members, pararescuemen and independent duty medical technicians.

By SSgt Ridge Shan, 24th Special Operations Wing

New USAF Defender SUVs Provide Cooler, Smoother Ride for Canines

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) —

The Air Force Security Forces Center’s vehicle program delivered the first of new military working dog patrol vehicles to Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, as part of their initiative to modernize Defender equipment across the Air Force.

The improvements from previous patrol vehicles is the result of AFSFC’s vehicle program’s input to the Federal Service Law Enforcement Vehicle Equipment Standardization initiative and is focused on keeping MWD handlers and canines mission-ready.

Security Forces members at Robins learned about the vehicle “hot dog” system, which automatically kicks in when the interior gets too hot for the canines. The full-size sport utility vehicles also have a more spacious interior that gives the dogs a more comfortable ride.

“These new vehicles are definitely an upgrade,” said Staff. Sgt. Matthew Cerulli, MWD handler with the 78th Security Forces Squadron. “I think the best thing is the ‘hot dog’ system, which, in case of an emergency, we have to leave our dog in the vehicle and it gets too hot, an alarm will go off, the windows will roll down and the A/C will crank on to help keep the canines cool.

“However, I think the dogs’ favorite thing is the additional room. We have some large canines and in this new vehicle they can get up and stretch out as needed,” Cerulli added.

“AFSFC’s Vehicle Program seeks efficiencies in vehicle procurement, decreases redundancies and streamlines processes to improve law enforcement readiness,” said Master Sgt. Michael Roth, Security Forces vehicle program manager at AFSFC.

Prior to the FEDSLEVES program, units sourced their own funds to purchase the necessary equipment, which required local vendors to upfit vehicles after they arrived at the installation.

“This program provides security forces units with vehicles that are standardized with pre-installed equipment packages,” Roth said. “We also provide funding for (other) equipment in these vehicles, allowing them to go on patrol immediately. We’re saving the units $17,700 per patrol vehicle and $19,500 per MWD patrol vehicle, so we’re saving the unit both time and money.”

Defenders at Robins AFB and their canines are rolling out in these ready-to-go SUVs.

“These vehicles are a big step forward in keeping our mission ready here at Robins Air Force Base,” said Tech. Sgt. Seth Wilson, 78th SFS kennel master. “Our mission, along with the military working dogs, is to keep everyone on base safe, and these new vehicles allow us to focus more on accomplishing that.”

Additional improvements include a radio prep package, which allows operators to plug and play their current radio systems, an upgraded emergency lighting and public address system, and increased weapons storage in the rear cargo area.

“These new MWD vehicles are a product of the hard work of the Air Force Security Forces Center’s Vehicle Program team to modernize the fleet and keep Defenders and their canines mission ready,” Roth said.

Security Forces units can expect to receive the new vehicles as their current ones reach their end-of-life cycle, Roth added.

Story by Malcolm McClendon, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public Affairs

Photos by Joseph Mather

USAF to Allow Longer Braids, Ponytails, Bangs for Women

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

As an outcome of the 101st Air Force uniform board, Air Force women will be able to wear their hair in up to two braids or a single ponytail with bulk not exceeding the width of the head and length not extending below a horizontal line running between the top of each sleeve inseam at the under arm through the shoulder blades. In addition, women’s bangs may now touch their eyebrows, but not cover their eyes.

These new changes will be effective upon publication of the new standards in Air Force Instruction 36-2903 in February.

“As I outlined in Action Order A: Airmen, this decision is a commitment to supporting the Airmen We Need and sustaining the culture and environment of excellence that will continue to make the Air Force an attractive career choice for Airmen and families,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. “I’m thankful for the feedback and research conducted from a number of women leaders, the Women’s Initiative Team, the Air Force uniform board, and our joint teammates.”

The Air Force uniform board convened virtually in November 2020 to discuss ideas sourced from Airmen across the Air Force who participated in a dress and appearance crowdsourcing campaign. Participants on the board included 19 diverse Airmen of various ranks from across the major commands and headquarters directorates.

The board reviewed all ideas including a recommendation from the Air Force’s Women’s Initiative Team. Thousands of women across the Air Force provided feedback to the Women’s Initiative Team, stating constraints to hair grooming standards resulted in damage to hair, migraines and in some cases, hair loss. The detailed work done by the Women’s Initiative Team to research and support the recommendation was greatly appreciated by the uniform board.

“In addition to the health concerns we have for our Airmen, not all women have the same hair type, and our hair standards should reflect our diverse force,” said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass. “I am pleased we could make this important change for our women service members.”

In addition to addressing issues associated with personal health and hair loss, adjusting female hair standards supports ongoing efforts to address diversity and inclusion in the ranks. Earlier this year and in her role leading the Defense Department’s Diversity Board, then-Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett played a prominent role in supporting these types of adjustments to ensure a more inclusive culture in the services.

The Air Force chief of staff approved the policy after considering feedback from the force, the uniform board recommendation, and the professional image and standards of the Air Force and U.S. military.

“We remain committed to removing barriers to service,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. “In an all-volunteer force, we want fully qualified volunteers who are representative of the nation to see us as a great opportunity to maximize their talent and serve.”

Members must adhere to current occupational safety, fire and health guidance, and mishap prevention procedures emphasizing when and how to mitigate the potential for injury from hair of varying lengths around machinery, equipment, power transmission apparatus or moving parts. Airmen are encouraged to reach out to their safety office for assistance in analyzing any potential hazards, as applicable.

Another idea considered by the board related to beard wear for men. Unlike with women’s hair standards, there are no known health or hair loss issues associated with current male grooming standard compliance. As such, the Air Force plans to continue under the current male grooming standards without adjustments. Beards are currently permitted in conjunction with medical exceptions such as shaving waivers or for approved religious accommodations.

At this time, Guardians will adhere to the female grooming standards of the Air Force. Eventually, the U.S. Space Force will develop its own policy.

Numerous other ideas from the board are still under consideration for implementation and will be released in the future. For more information, consult AFI 36-2903 Dress and Appearance.

Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Air Force Establishes Significant Evolution in Foreign Area Officer Career Field

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) —

The Department of the Air Force announced Jan. 15, the opportunity for U.S. Air Force officers to voluntarily transfer into an internationally-focused core career field beginning spring 2021.

Since 2005, the Foreign Area Officer program has organized and trained select Air Force officers to be language-enabled, culturally astute, and operationally relevant regional experts.

More than 800 officers are currently certified as FAOs, filling a critical role in providing essential support to the National Defense Strategy by engaging foreign military leaders and government officials to build partner capability and capacity.

The restructuring of the FAO program is part of the Air Force’s broader reorientation toward great power competition. The recommendation that emerged from an Air Force cross-functional team’s year-long study was to establish the FAO career field as a strategic core career field while retaining operational relevance.

Until now, the Air Force FAO program operated as a secondary career field, alternating assignments between FAO and the officer’s core Air Force specialty code, or AFSC. This presented a key challenge in managing FAOs as strategic assets.

“Focusing FAO development on International Airmen skills and experiences, rather than challenging officers to hit milestones in two career fields, is more important than ever to increase awareness in our current strategic context with both our allies and partners and in the joint community,” said Kelli Seybolt, deputy under secretary of the Air Force, international affairs.

This strategic core career field will now be a Secretary of the Air Force International Affairs-managed AFSC, 16F or 16Z, to better cultivate professional development with a strategic international perspective. Within this new core AFSC, FAOs will be poised for more efficient utilization to meet Air Force strategic needs and will compete for promotion advancement within a single developmental category of professional FAO peers.

Continued operational relevance will be achieved through “FAO-minded” Intervening Operational Tours in each FAO’s original AFSC that sustains the various operational skillsets of each specialty and enhances Air Force strategic international engagement interests within those fields. It presents an increased return on FAO investment to provide deepened regional expertise and requires less in terms of training, sustainment, and manpower to support FAO development. Restructure of the FAO program, and increased primary emphasis in FAO development, will reduce the required inventory for FAOs from other AFSCs by approximately 30%.

“The United States Air Force FAO career field has been improving tremendously over the past decade,” stated Col. Lawrence E. Pravecek, FAO career field manager. “With the changes in the officer promotion system, now is the perfect time to take the next step in managing the development of our international experts. The choice to request transfer into the FAO Core AFSC will be a personal decision. All of us volunteered to serve, and now we ask for volunteers to help build a new AFSC that is tailor-made to provide the internationally-minded officers that our nation needs.”

For those already certified as FAOs or in the FAO training pipeline, applications for transfer to 16F or 16Z as their new core AFSC will begin early 2021. At that time, all eligible personnel will receive a direct email from the Air Force Personnel Center announcing the opening of the application window and providing directions to submit their applications online. FAOs who do not volunteer to transfer will remain in their current AFSC, while maintaining 16F as a secondary AFSC.

Air Force Reserve Component members will be notified by the AF Reserve or Air National Guard regarding ARC-specific processes. For questions/feedback, send email to the FAO Program Workflow Box at [email protected].

For FAO resources, visit www.milsuite.mil/book.groups/air-force-ias.

For ARC programs, visit www.milsuite.mil/book/groups/arc-international-affairs-specialist-program.

By Jill Marie Diem, Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs

DOD utilizes 3D-printing to Create N95 Respirators in the Battle Against COVID-19

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity’s Warfighter Expeditionary Medicine and Treatment Project Management Office, as part of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command’s Additive Manufacturing Working Group, has played an integral role in the ramped-up effort to produce N95 respirators for healthcare and frontline workers across the nation. As stated on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website, an N95 respirator is “a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles.” Compared to a surgical mask, which is loose-fitting, the edges of the N95 mask are designed to form a very tight seal around the individual’s nose and mouth, providing the highest levels of protection against infection from COVID-19.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Daniel Williams serves as product manager of the WEMT PMO’s N95 respirator efforts at USAMMDA. These include coordinating programmatic and regulatory support, leveraging existing government resources, and developing synergies within the Department of Defense’s organic industrial base to successfully generate N95 respirator products. He explained that his primary task is to ensure the medical device meets military needs and regulatory requirements, and that development of the product remains on schedule and within budget.

In a recent interview, Williams offered a great deal of insight with regard to USAMMDA’s N95 respirator efforts, and the work to produce and distribute these products as quickly as possible in the battle against the spread of COVID-19 throughout our nation and the world.

JS: As product manager within the WEMT PMO, please describe your responsibilities in regard to the N95 respirator effort.

DW: The N95 effort is a slightly atypical experience, in that we are primarily working with DOD partners who have never manufactured medical devices. However, they have extensive experience in various methods of manufacturing, including additive manufacturing, also known as three-dimensional, or 3D, printing. So, our primary responsibility is assisting these DOD manufacturers in navigating the medical device world, including compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health regulations. Further, we facilitate test and evaluation of their products, by leveraging DOD laboratories and government partners to obtain performance feedback on respirator prototypes.

JS: Please describe the features of the N95 respirator, and why this device is superior to others currently on the market. What is its significance, especially with regard to COVID?

DW: It’s not so much superiority, as it is availability. One of the highest levels of respiratory protection for medical purposes, to include viral infection, is a NIOSH-certified N95 respirator. These come in multiple forms, but all are held to the same standard of filtering at least 95 percent of relevant particles, such as the Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 virus. Most people are familiar with what is called an FFR, or a Filtering Facepiece Respirator. These are the standard disposable, one-time-use products typically worn by our healthcare workers. However, at this time, these types of masks are nearly impossible to 3D-print. Our group has been working on what is called an elastomeric half-mask respirator, which is a reusable frame produced by a 3D printer, with a disposable media or cartridge that filters at the 95-percent level.

When the pandemic hit, the on-hand supply of N95 respirators, specifically FFRs, was quickly exhausted and traditional N95 manufacturers were not prepared to meet this new demand. Therefore, the primary purpose of the N95 working group is to develop N95 respirators to supplement existing supplies of respirators, as well as to develop new manufacturing capabilities within the DOD’s organic industrial base, which consists of military arsenals, maintenance depots and ammunition factories. Ensuring the DOD has the capability to independently manufacture protective respiratory devices will help to protect frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will also help to maintain our military readiness in the face of future pandemics or biothreats.

JS: Please detail the current status of the N95 program, and explain what lies ahead.

DW: Currently, we’ve partnered with multiple organizations across the DOD including the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and the Defense Logistics Agency to support N95 respirator design, manufacturing and distribution through existing logistics. To date, we’ve facilitated testing of 18 iterations of respirator design, and two have successfully passed preliminary evaluation at the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Chemical Biological Center. Our next steps will be to assist these manufacturers with the NIOSH application and process, to obtain an N95 certification for these respirators. Further, we are continuously seeking new partners within the DOD who have N95-related efforts, so that we may be able to assist.

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly illustrated that civilian medical supply chains were unprepared to rapidly scale-up production of critical medical supplies such as medical personal protective equipment, including N95 respirators. Although this crisis will end, the next one could come along at any time. Additionally, the impact of critical medical supply shortages on military readiness could occur again in future battlefields from natural pandemics or biothreat agents. By continuing to focus on producing medical devices within the DOD organic industrial base, we can translate the lessons we’ve learned with medical PPE shortages into better preparedness for the next medical crisis, as well as for future conflicts in a Multi-Domain Operational environment.

JS: Why was the WEMT PMO tasked with the N95 respirator effort?

DW: The WEMT PMO’s everyday mission is to develop and deliver medical devices to our Service partners in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our program office was able to naturally pivot and leverage our staff’s medical product development expertise and apply it to the crisis at hand. This is truly what project managers do – we find creative ways to deliver effective, suitable and timely medical solutions when and where they are needed most.

JS: Please list the other members of the N95 respirator program team, and detail their responsibilities in the overall effort.

DW: The team has been phenomenal and is comprised of many professionals. However, the N95 program is actually a subgroup of the USAMRDC’s Additive Manufacturing Working Group, and nothing could have been accomplished without its assistance and guidance. The AMWG oversees three specific product lines: diagnostic swabs, ventilator parts and accessories, and the N95 respirator. As the lead for the N95 line of effort, I was tasked with outlining FDA and NIOSH requirements, initiating agreements between organizations, and leading an N95 working group to facilitate collaboration amongst all of our partners.

The N95 team specifically, can really be split into three different components, and we’d be nowhere without the ongoing collaborative effort from each component. First are our manufacturing partners, the U.S. Navy Underwater Warfare Center-Keyport, U.S. Forces Korea, Defense Logistics Agency, and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. These organizations have the technical and subject matter expertise to not only design an N95 respirator, but actually to produce it through additive manufacturing methods.

Second is our AMWG team members at USAMRDC, comprised of the Office of Regulated Activities, Office of the Principal Assistant for Acquisition, Legal office, and USAMMDA’s Office of Research and Technology Applications and the WEMT PMO. The USAMRDC ensures all regulatory requirements for the respirator have been met, appropriate agreements are in place between organizations, and that any concerns with patents or intellectual property on the respirator designs have been addressed. It also provides clinical expertise on potential products, and facilitates test and evaluation of N95 respirator prototypes.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center. The CCDC CBC has been evaluating all forms of respirators for decades, and has an unparalleled knowledge of respirator design and evaluation. Once our manufacturing partners have produced a prototype, it is sent to CCDC CBC for evaluation, to determine whether it will meet the NIOSH standards for an N95 respirator. The CCDC CBC has been critical in providing performance feedback and offering design suggestions for our manufacturers, allowing iterative prototyping to expedite development of respirators.

JS: Other than for the current pandemic, what are some other (future) uses of the N95 mask?

DW: The N95 was thrust into the spotlight as COVID-19 is an airborne respiratory illness. However, the N95 respirator has long been used as medical PPE to prevent against other airborne illnesses, as well as in industrial settings to protect workers against airborne environmental toxins. Therefore, even when the COVID-19 pandemic ends, the N95 respirator will still be a much-needed product in these types of situations.

JS: Is there anything else you would like to say regarding the N95 working group?

DW: Tireless effort is put in on a daily basis, from N95 working group members internal and external to USAMMDA and USAMRDC, USAMMDA’s higher headquarters. It has been such an honor to work with such an amazing group of professionals, spanning the medical and non-medical communities, and a truly unique experience to see so many different specialties come together for a common goal. I am extremely grateful to have been a part of it, and I would like to say a sincere “Thank you” to everyone involved!

USAMMDA is a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, under the Army Futures Command. As the premier developer of world-class military medical capabilities, USAMMDA is responsible for developing and delivering critical products designed to protect and preserve the lives of Warfighters across the globe. These products include drugs, vaccines, biologics, devices and medical support equipment intended to maximize survival of casualties on the battlefield.

All Byte, No Bark for Air Force Security Forces’ ‘Robotic K-9’

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) —

As a part of its one-year pilot program, the Ghost Robotics Vision 60 visited Scott Air Force Base during an evaluation of the robot’s capabilities.

Heading the test was Air Combat Command’s Agile Battle Lab. The lab identifies, validates and inserts new concepts and technology to enable Agile Combat Employment and its contributions to all-domain warfare.

The Vision 60 autonomous quadrupedal unmanned ground vehicle is an all-terrain, dog-like robot equipped with enhanced sensors.

“By no means is this meant to replace a real K-9,” said Senior Master Sgt. Marcos Garcia, ACC Detachment 3 Agile Battle Lab, AMC liaison. “It is simply a force multiplier and can even maybe save some K-9 lives. The experts in the field envision it supplementing a bomb team or leading a foot patrol.”

This innovative piece of machinery was created to be a low-cost, low-risk force multiplier. Ultimately, this program has the capability of protecting a life.

“The major selling point of this technology is that it’s meant to be expendable, whereas our Airmen are not,” said Master Sgt. Justin Hanlon, 375th Security Forces Squadron operations noncommissioned officer in charge. “We can replace parts on the ghost robot and get it back out to the mission, but the same cannot be said of a human being. The bottom line is this cements our commitment to mitigating risk to our Airmen and protecting them from unnecessary danger.”

Equipped with integrated sensors, the Q-UGV can capture a high-definition video stream and thermal imaging, and boasts an infrared configuration. The Q-UGV also utilizes legs that can attain a current speed of seven feet per second and has been tested to outperform wheels, tracks and drones for certain uses in the field.

“Instead of using a human being as a sentry, imagine a mobile sensor with a high-definition, wide-angle camera and long-range capabilities being controlled by a trained Airman from the safety and security of a Base Defense Operations Center or a Theatre Operations Center in both a garrison or contested environment,” Hanlon said.

During the evaluation at Scott AFB, the ABL sought the insight of force professionals on improvements to the robotic K-9.

“We are a team of motivated innovators and know we have many talented Airmen with great ideas,” Garcia said. “We want to harvest those great ideas and bring them to fruition so we can bring our Air Force into the future.”

While the implementation of this technology is still in its infancy, it has the latent ability to bring the Air Force into a new era of warfighting.

“The ghost robot has potential to aid the enterprise in getting away from the past where we had Airmen walk wingtip to wingtip on flying assets,” Hanlon said. “We can employ our manpower smarter and more efficiently and this may be a small step to that competency.”

As the Air Force looks to close gaps and move towards Agile Combat Employment and Joint All Domain Command and Control, the use of new innovative technology like the Q-UGV may become common across military installations as we seek to enhance mission effectiveness.

By Airman 1st Class Shannon Moorehead, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Newly-Acquired Air Force Research Lab Test Aircraft to Aid Personnel Recovery Research

Monday, January 11th, 2021

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) —

A small aircraft that is poised to make a big impact on military personnel recovery made a brief stop in the Dayton area on its way to St. Mary’s County, Maryland, where it will be used to test the Air Force Research Laboratory-developed Low Altitude Sensing Helmet system.

The CubCrafters XCub aircraft was ferried from Yakima, Washington, to Lewis A. Jackson Regional Airport near Dayton, on its journey to the AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing’s contracted research flight test organization facility, Dec. 21. The aircraft was recently purchased by AFRL to advance the initial “Lysander” flying experiment, which will demonstrate the Low Altitude Sensing Helmet system, known as LASH.

LASH, a portable kit developed within the AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing’s Airman Systems Directorate, contains specialized equipment including a flight helmet, a thermal camera, night vision goggles and various other components. The kit can quickly and easily be installed onto nearly any general aviation aircraft to equip pilots for low-level, low-speed, nighttime flight – something that is essential for personnel recovery and other “featherweight airlift” special missions, according to Dr. Darrel G. Hopper, 711th Human Performance Wing project lead.

“The Air Force’s CODE (Combat Operations in Denied Environment) program determined that these types of missions could not be executed effectively by the large aircraft that we have been using over the last 20 years in areas where we have air dominance,” Hopper said. “Project Lysander was conceived as a method of rescuing isolated personnel in both heavily defended and undefended airspace. A critical element of the project was determined to be a carry-on kit that could allow such operations.” He explained that the LASH system kit was designed to fill this need and provide pilots with sensory situational awareness required to fly safely, at night, at extremely low altitudes and slow airspeeds.

Hopper explained that LASH came about after the Air Combat Command and the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation office at AFRL asked the 711th Human Performance Wing’s Airman Systems Directorate to lead this research effort.

“They called on us based on our expertise in this type of work,” Hopper explained. “Our directorate has decades of experience in researching, developing and fielding helmet- and cockpit-mounted displays and other wearable vision aids for combat pilots, aircrews and special operations warriors.”

After careful study of mission requirements and aircraft capabilities, AFRL researchers designed the LASH kit using a number of mostly commercial-off-the-shelf components. The kit was packaged into a compact, easy-to-transport, one-person carrying system that could be easily fitted temporarily to virtually any small aircraft without additional modification.

Hopper said the CubCrafters XCub was identified by ACC as the safest and most capable commercial-off-the-shelf aircraft for the initial flying experiment to test the LASH System kit.

“If we can demonstrate that the XCub can be flown safely at night at low speed and low altitude using the LASH night vision aids, then we can expand LASH system kit use to other types of short takeoff and landing general aviation aircraft.”

After the aircraft reaches the flight test organization in Maryland, it will first be used to fit-test the LASH system. AFRL researchers and contractor partners will next refine the installation and de-installation process as well as baseline-test metrics, and develop the associated test cards, while flying without the kit. The first flights with the LASH system are scheduled for early spring 2021. If flight tests are successful and program objectives are achieved, the LASH system could be on track for technology transfer and possible deployment as early as 2022.

“This system offers the potential to greatly expand our capability to perform necessary personnel recovery and related missions,” Hopper said. “The acquisition and delivery of this test vehicle is a critical milestone in getting the LASH technology and featherweight airlift capability into the hands of the warfighter.”

Hopper added that after the XCub test aircraft has completed its role in this project, AFRL will be able to use it as a test asset for future research projects as well.

Story by Holly Jordan, Air Force Research Laboratory

Photos by by Richard Eldridge