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Air Force releases unique new call to action for ideas

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force today unveiled AF Explore, a new opportunity call for capability ideas that advance the transformational component of the AF Science and Technology (S&T) 2030 strategy. With this nationwide call, the Air Force is seeking disruptive ideas that can create remarkable new capabilities for the future force.

“This call is intended as a catalyst to transform our capabilities to become the Air Force we need,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, Air Force Research Laboratory commander. “We will focus first on transformational capabilities and then identify how technology fuels them,” Cooley said.

Air Force Explore is a product of collaboration between the Air Force Acquisition Executive (SAF/AQ), Air Force Warfighter Integration Capability (AFWIC) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

“Our goal is to establish partnerships that develop capability ideas and mature them into opportunity spaces for the Air Force,” said Dr. Reid Melville, AFRL’s lead for Air Force Explore.

Air Force stakeholders will consider each capability idea and advance a select number for prioritization. Partnerships are encouraged, and teams may include a mixture of government, industry and academic organizations.

The Air Force anticipates four to seven awards, each in the $1million to $2 million range. To be competitive in this process, parties must submit ideas that have transformational potential, operational viability, cost and technical feasibility.

Transformational idea submission should address one of three functional challenges and advance one or more of the strategic capability areas identified in the AF S&T 2030 strategy including global persistent awareness; resilient information sharing; rapid, effective decision-making; complexity, unpredictability, and mass; and speed and reach of disruption and lethality. The challenge statements pertain to in-flight re-arming and refueling, personnel recovery kit delivery, and vehicle tracking in commercial imagery.

Timothy Sakulich, AFRL’s executive lead for AF 2030 implementation, said that the “goal is to build a portfolio of ideas that could enable new warfighting concepts providing leap-ahead capabilities.”

This call is unique since the Air Force is totally shifting the way it engages the nation in technology through a number of new business practices. Agreements will be custom tailored to each partner, including the choice of award vehicle.

“This is a shift in the way we do business,” Sakulich said.  With this opportunity, “the Air Force is open to all avenues and we’re letting the unlimited national market show us where the best ideas are.” He explained that this approach is unique because “the Air Force has created a single path to a level playing field for large industry, small business, startups, academia and government labs to promote solution-oriented thinking and free competition for resources.”

“This is a new approach in the history of the Air Force,” Sakulich said.

Although AFRL and other government labs may participate in this opportunity, the Air Force’s intent is to find the best ideas from any source. The Air Force is also committed to enhancing its front door policies by incorporating easier communication and better contact with simpler submission inputs and face-to-face communication during the selection process.

Submissions are due Nov. 11, 2019 with funding invitations distributed by March 2020. For more information, visit www.AFResearchLab.com.