Warrior Maven Interview - Air Force 3-Star Weapons Developer Lt. Gen. Bunch
Welcome to the WARRIOR MAVEN WARRIOR LEADERS Series -- Intvs with US Military Leaders, Program Managers and Weapons Developers - Unique Detail HERE.
WARRIOR MAVEN & Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch
Lt. Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr., is the Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. He is responsible for research and development, test, production, and modernization of Air Force programs worth more than $32 billion annually.Air Force Bunch BIOQ&A ***********************
Warrior Maven: We recognize and respect that there is likely much that cannot be discussed regarding the B-21. Given this, what can you tell us about its development? Will it truly bring a new generation of stealth technology to counter advanced air-defenses?
Lt. Gen. Bunch: We completed preliminary design review, which was successful. We did a manufacturing readiness assessment. We are building with open missions architecture so that, as the threat evolves, we can rapidly adapt the airplane to be able to “jump” to address things that are constantly going to change. We are giving ourselves flexibility where we can change out in a more timely fashion. The B-21 will provide us with a continued ability to hold targets anywhere around the world at risk. This will give our national command authorities options. We are today the most dominant air power the world has ever seen, and we have done a lot with our technologies. For 26 years, there has been a constant state of combat. The world has adapted and they have watched. They have adapted their defenses.
Warrior Maven: We have reported extensively on B-2 modernization. Will the emerging B-2’s Defensive Management System enable the aircraft to better avoid enemy air defenses? What are some other B-2 upgrades we can point to?
Lt. Gen. Bunch: DMS is one of the bigger ones we have and it is progressing very well. It will vastly improve the aircrafts ability to locate and therefore fly around dangerous enemy high-tech air defenses. We are also doing EHF - extremely high frequency work with Satcom and computers. Things have been modified and put out into the field. In the future during the next phase of EHF, we will do more tech maturation and risk reduction to build more survivable command and control able to function in a nuclear environment. We are invested in nuclear command and communication to do more with the B-2 EHF and make sure it functions in the most high-risk combat scenarios - such as a nuclear weapons conflict. Warrior Maven: The recent Air Force Light Attack experiment is getting much attention. Do we know yet if one of the planes will be sent to combat? Does this potential effort impact plans for the future of the A-10?
Lt. Gen. Bunch: We are continuing to keep the A-10, which is a great asset. We have kept that going through our budget and are meeting our Congressional mandates. Light Attack is an experiment we are doing with industry to see what the art of the possible is. We are assessing technology, manufacturability and how we would maintain it. We are developing this to operate in a more permissive environment. Depending upon the results of a full assessment of the experiment, we may take a few airplanes and employ them in an operational scenario in the fight. Then we will be informed about how we go forward. We may decide that industry is not there yet, or we may decide we want to do some kind of program. This will depend upon its weapons and sensor capabilities, among other things.
Warrior Maven: We understand that the 1980s-era F-15 is being upgraded in order to outpace the Chinese J-10 and other rival fighter aircraft? What can we learn about how this is progressing?
Lt. Gen. Bunch: EPAWS is an EW system we are putting in the plane to make it more survivable in a high-threat environment. We are also putting a new ADCP2 computer into the F-15 with better throughput and processing speed: If I don’t put the new computer in, there are certain apps I cannot run to grow and evolve the airplane for the future. We are also going to a common software load for our C,D and E planes to save money and prevent having to rebuild two different software lines. Warrior Maven: How is the Air Force progressing with the implementation of its 7-Lines of Effort Cyber Plan? We understand this includes hardening systems and “baking in” cyber resilience earlier in the acquisition process. How is the recently established Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems progressing? .
Lt. Gen. Bunch*******:***** We are moving out on our plan. We are also continuing to evolve CROWS - that is like a response team that can go to program offices and help them. They can do an analysis and post mortem on what happened.
Warrior Maven: What is next for the 1960s-era B-52 bomber? Will the various modernization efforts keep the aircraft serving into the next several decades?
Lt. Gen Bunch: We are taking a number of steps to keep the B-52 viable. We are studying a new engine and plan to do additional work in 2018. We are increasing the number of JDAMS we can carry internally. We are also adding new air-to-air weaponry, advanced electronic warfare technologies and improving data links to better facilitate an ability for the B-52 to connect to 5th and 3th gen aircraft through LINK 16. We are bringing in a new AESA radar as well.
Warrior Maven: How much longer will the F-16 stay in the inventory? What is the Air Force doing in terms of upgrades?
Lt. Gen. Bunch: We are doing another F-16 service life extension for 300 airplanes. We are adding an AESA radar to address an urgent operational need. We are going to field those in the first quarter of 2019. A more capable radar will enable the F-16 to better defend the national capital region. The F-16 will also get new displays and a new mission computer.
Warrior Maven: We understand the Air Force is working vigorously on Hypersonics, to include weapons and ultimately drones or air vehicles? What kind of advantage will this provide in terms of keeping pace with enemy threats?
Lt. Gen. Bunch*******:***** We have ongoing hypersonic weapons development efforts partnering with DARPA. One of these is an air-breathing type of system and the other is a launch and boost glide.As we learn lessons we can evolve, but these are pretty big technological challenges right now. One of the things we talk about is shortening the decision cycle from the time something is identified to the time I need to strike something. I will want to strike quickly before an attacking weapon moves, comes closer or changes course. That is the value hypersonics can bring, It can bring speed.
Warrior Maven: What are some of the technical hurdles making hypersonic weapons development more difficult?
Lt. Gen. Bunch: We are working on material that can survive the environment we are putting it in. If I decide I want to make it a weapon, how do I make an explosive that will survive going through that environment and prosecute the target to achieve the results I want? Maybe I need a data-link to change as it goes. We are investing a lot in early S&T to address this.
Warrior Maven: Is Air Force collision-avoidance technology already saving fighter pilots lives?
Lt. Gen. Bunch: The vast majority of aircraft that we have lost have been due to a ground collision - the pilot flying the airplane can lose situational awareness due to task saturation, or pulling so many G’s that he or she loses consciousness. In a lot of cases this can run a perfectly good airplane into the ground. Now on our F-16s we have a ground collision avoidance system. It calculates where the aircraft is, where it would hit the ground based upon the way it is flying at the time. It uses algorithms which run in the background so that if you get to the point where you are going to fly the aircraft into the ground - it will override the pilot and pull it away from the ground. Losing an aircraft is big, but losing a pilot is much bigger. Pilots are our most valuable treasure. Right now we have this in a digital F-16, but we are trying to get it into other platforms. Air-to-air collision-avoidance technology involves much more complicated engineering and technology because now we are dealing with three dimensions and two separate moving vehicles. This is in the early stages withe the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Maven: What kinds of weapons might be added to the Reaper in coming years?
Lt. Gen. Bunch: One of the things we are working on is getting a universal weapons interface, using open systems architecture. If I can design to a standard interface, then it costs me less money and takes me less time to integrate a new weapon. We are looking at what weapons we can put on there, such as the Small Diameter Bomb.
Warrior Maven: Is there already experimentation underway with early efforts to envision and engineer a 6th Generation fighter?
Lt. Gen. Bunch: We have designated a team to look at the problem of air superiority and what it will require 30-years from now. They are looking at technology, tactics, doctrine and materials, and exploring the full spectrum of everything that is out there. We are focusing on the science and technology needed to address gaps, and we are doing some experiments to see if things we want to try can actually work. This will shape where we need to focus our research and allow us to set some milestones.We are not yet sure this is going to be a platform. One of the things we have to look at is whether it will be manned or unmanned. How much autonomy do I give it and how can I control it.
--This Intv. First Appeared Earlier This Year ---
--- Kris Osborn, Managing Editor of Warrior Maven, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org ---