JUST IN: New Air Force Program to Explore Using Commercial Rockets to Supply Troops

By Mandy Mayfield

Air Force illustration

The Air Force announced June 4 its new Rocket Cargo program intended to study the use of commercial rockets to transport supplies and equipment to military personnel.

The initiative has been designated a“Vanguard” program, making it one of a select group of high priority science-and-technology projects.

“Vanguard initiatives lead to game-changing breakthroughs that preserve our advantage over near-peer competitors, and this latest addition is also a significant milestone as the first Vanguard evaluated under the Space Force’s oversight,” Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth said in a statement. “The Air Force has provided rapid global mobility for decades, and Rocket Cargo is a new way the department can explore complementary capabilities for the future.”

The Space Force currently falls under the Department of the Air Force.

For the new Vanguard program, the Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Force, Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force Materiel Command will work together to explore leveraging capabilities from commercial space launch providers for delivering cargo to military personnel, according to the Air Force.

As part of the effort, Air Force Material Command will "provide some of the use cases for what it would take to either move humanitarian or large tonnage of cargo into an area of the field and support someone,” said Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., commanding general of Air Force Materiel Command.

The main focus of the Rocket Cargo program will be science-and-technology work to explore whether the envisioned capability is reliable and executable, Bunch told reporters during a Defense Writer’s Group event June 4.

The Air Force and Space Force want to determine the viability of utilizing commercial rockets to transport items to the "frontlines of the battlefield, or to resupply or wherever we need to go in a very quick manner, and it being cost-effective to do,” he said.

The Defense Department aims to heavily leverage developments from the commercial space sector to fulfill its ambitions.

“We're not going to get into the rocket launch business, that is not what we want to get into,” Bunch said. “The commercial industry is driving that [and] we're not going to get in the way of that in any way, shape, or form." 


Topics: Space

Comments (2)

Re: New Air Force Program to Use Commercial Rockets For Cargo Delivery

This is an interesting article but this idea has been around for years and has been abandoned before, the situation has not changed. As soon as the Generals get briefed on the problems this iteration will be abandoned. Why? Think of how much trouble we have landing helicopters or the Osprey on unprepared fields - we can do it but with great caution. The downwash is significant, blowing our people around and showering them with dirt.

Now make that 1000 times worse - a rocket lands on a plume of high speed, very hot, exhaust. Much higher speed and much hotter than an Osprey. Then the rocket has residual fuel that must be handled very carefully so that it does not explode. During landing the rocket might erode the ground below it - they must be landed on specially prepared pads. Those are NOT found on any front lines.

The fact that we are spending money on this shows us that the Generals who approved it are not aware of the limitations.

Charles Phillips at 11:50 AM
Re: New Air Force Program to Use Commercial Rockets For Cargo Delivery

And the Novel Vanguard Program Prime Directive ? ....... Remote Command and Virtualised AI Control of paramilitary personnel delivering cargo to providers launching spaces for commercialisation with capabilities leveraging and exploiting explorations which will work well together in Future Developments and SkunkWorks in Progress?

Does the Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Force, Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force Materiel Command have that sort of comprehensive utility with agile facilities home grown and based in the United States or is it bought and brought in from elsewhere foreign abroad ie Imported from a Vital Strategic Outsourcer/Much Prized and Highly Regarded Special Relationship Partner?

Such is certainly what is relatively freely available for lavish testing from elsewhere with many also realising the possibility of it be as much an overwhelming opponent and/or almighty competitor as a friendly partner.

GrahamC at 4:02 AM
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