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AFRL to showcase key programs, processes to provide warfighters with innovative technologies at Air, Space & Cyber Conference

  • Published
  • By Whitney Wetsig
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – The Air Force Research Laboratory will showcase several areas including Department of the Air Force Vanguard programs, COVID-19 response efforts, innovative capabilities for base defense and palletized munitions plus several avenues for sharing ideas or capabilities with the lab during the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Sept. 20-22, 2021.

AFRL supports both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force, seamlessly working high priority research areas across the lab, meeting operational needs and delivering warfighting technologies to Airmen and Guardians.
AFRL Commander Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle will speak on a panel titled ‘From Acquisition to Lethality’ on September 22 with Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., commander of Air Force Materiel Command; Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; and Randy Walden, Director and Program Executive Officer for the Rapid Capabilities Office. Led by AFA President, retired Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright, the discussion focuses on how the DAF is delivering joint lethality in all domains to ensure the U.S. military is fully equipped to deter and win contested fights against its strategic competitors.
“Our way of warfare depends on technological superiority and AFRL has a long history of research and development in support of air, space and cyber domains,” said Pringle. “We have undergone massive changes in the previous year to ensure AFRL delivers cutting-edge and transformational capabilities to our warfighters,” she said, highlighting the lab’s commitment to “bridging the Valley of Death through strategic partnerships and digital transformation efforts,” emphasizing that these efforts will “strengthen the lab’s approach to delivering superior science and technology.”
Pringle will also discuss the latest on the Transformational Capabilities Office or TCO and the Air Force Science & Technology Strategy. The TCO is the official unit tasked with leading enterprise-level planning and execution of Vanguards and other transformational S&T for the Department of the Air Force.
“AFRL is laser-focused on strategic competition and the S&T Strategy’s vision of an Air Force and Space Force that dominate time, space and complexity,” said AFRL Executive Director Timothy Sakulich. “TCO is accelerating the pace of cultivating leap-ahead, systems-of-systems solutions to project power and defend the nation.”
AFRL Programs
Some of the technologies to be highlighted by AFRL at the conference include development of four DAF Vanguard programs: Navigation Technology Satellite 3 (NTS-3), Rocket Cargo, Skyborg and Golden Horde. Vanguards are high-priority initiatives or “all-in efforts” led by a partnership between scientists, engineers and Program Executive Offices where these groups join forces to develop schedules, working closely with warfighters to deliver advanced capabilities on aggressive timelines.
In describing the working relationship that supports the Vanguard process, Pringle explained that AFRL and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center make decisions together as an integrated team, which ultimately helps “bring the science and technology closer to the acquisition” and vice versa.
One of two space-focused Vanguards, NTS-3 demonstrates next generation positioning, navigation and timing technologies for a more flexible, robust, and resilient architecture for satellite navigation technology. It also allows AFRL scientists to test reprogrammable software-defined receivers that are able to rapidly respond to new conditions and ensure better security and flexibility.
The second space Vanguard program, Rocket Cargo aims to develop the capability to lease a commercial rocket to deliver 50-100 tons of DOD cargo anywhere on the planet in less than one hour and to prove that rocket-based terrestrial cargo transportation is viable, affordable and advantageous for agile global DOD logistics.
Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability for unmanned vehicles that will enable the DAF to operate and sustain low-cost teamed aircraft, thwarting adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments.
Golden Horde, a series of networked, collaborative, autonomous weapon demonstrations, is creating an integrated system of systems where weapons autonomously work together to increase survivability and lethality. The program team, which successfully demonstrated swarms of integrated weapons that share data and execute coordinated behaviors, is currently developing a multi-tier digital weapon ecosystem with a live, virtual and constructive testing and demonstration capability known as a the Golden Horde Colosseum.
AFRL will also highlight the lab’s wide-ranging contributions to national COVID-19 response efforts including the support provided by the Epidemiology Lab, Aircraft Decontamination team, medical and infectious disease control experts and Defense Production Act or DPA Title III team.
“I’m so proud of the ways in which AFRL has supported the nation during the pandemic,” said Pringle noting that, “while the lab is generally known for delivering superior warfighting technologies for use on the battlefield, our efforts in providing critical medical solutions in times of crisis are equally as impressive.”
As the DAF’s sole clinical reference lab, the Epidemiology Lab or Epi Lab, housed in AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing’s USAF School of Aerospace Medicine, has tested more than 287,000 samples to date in support of Airmen, Guardians and their families. Epi Lab personnel also teamed with AFRL’s applied genomics and technology experts for genetic sequencing and were the first in the DOD to detect the Gamma (Brazil) variant.
Meanwhile, solutions developed by AFRL scientists, engineers and medical experts are enabling aircraft decontamination solutions, infectious disease training, patient movement and care. Medical personnel from USAFSAM supported COVID-19 patient operations and adapted training procedures for specialized containment systems.
Serving as the Executive Agent Program Office for DPA Title III, AFRL helped to increase production of critical medical resources and mitigate economic damage to the defense industrial base. These actions, part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act or CARES Act of 2020, ultimately supported the survival of national defense capabilities and aided with homeland security during the pandemic.
AFRL will also feature its palletized munitions and base defense efforts led by its Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation office. Palletized Munitions, also known as Rapid Dragon, is a palletized munitions experimentation campaign exploring feasibility and operational advantages of airdropping long-range palletized munitions from existing airlift platforms, such as the C-130 and C-17, without aircraft modifications. Additionally, in the base defense area, ongoing experimentation efforts with high power microwaves and high energy lasers for C-sUAS are evaluating the operational utility of systems integrated with sensors and command and control.
“Our innovative approaches to technology development and experimentation enable the lab to stay on the cutting edge of science,” said Pringle. “This unique, non-traditional approach to S&T is what will help us keep a step ahead of our strategic competitors.”
Connecting with AFRL
AFRL will also highlight various avenues for connecting with the lab at its AFA ASC booth including AFWERX, SpaceWERX and the Tech Connect website. AFWERX, part of AFRL and the innovation arm of the DAF, transitions agile, affordable and accelerated capabilities by teaming innovative technology developers with Airmen and Guardian talent. Such teaming occurs across academia, industry, investment, interagency and international partners to expand technology, identify talent and transition dual-use capabilities.
SpaceWERX, the U.S. Space Force-affiliated arm of the AFWERX team, focuses on advancing innovative technologies for USSF Guardians and expanding the space industrial space by guiding additional partners, leveraging commercial investment and rapidly pursuing new technologies, while closely aligning its efforts with space operators and acquisition professionals within the USSF.
Meanwhile, innovators who would like to share ideas with AFRL, are encouraged to visit the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect website, a portal where users can submit ideas and capabilities with AFRL subject matter experts for potential feedback, collaborations and opportunities.
For more information about the 2021 AFA ASC, please visit
NOTE FOR MEDIA: Please contact Bryan Ripple, AFRL’s Media Operations team lead, at to request an interview opportunity to discuss these technology exhibits and learn more about these efforts.
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 11,500 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: