The US Air Force (USAF) has achieved its target of cutting at least 100 years of unwanted schedule time from existing weapons development programmes since May 2018.

The milestone was announced USAF Secretary Heather Wilson who named Congressional support in terms of new legal authorities to rapidly prototype and test weapons as a key factor in achieving the target.

“We have to get critical technologies to the warfighter faster. Cost and performance matter a lot. So does speed,” said Wilson. “History will look back on this era and see how the air force outpaced its competitors because of these authorities.

“The air force established guidelines for rapid prototyping and fielding in May of last year. This put greater control in the hands of our program managers, at a level where decision-making is critical.”

The aptly named ‘Century Challenge’ was intended to streamline and accelerate programmes. The task of streamlining the USAF weapons development schedule was assigned to the service’s acquisition community.

Under the memorandum issued last May, each programme executive office was asked to track both schedule and delivery acceleration over traditional approaches.

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USAF acquisition, technology and logistics assistant secretary Dr Will Roper said: “We’re able to dismiss things that don’t add value to our programmes while remaining exceptionally disciplined on things that do.”

The streamlined approach has had a positive impact on communications and defensive systems on the F-22 Raptor and F-15 Strike Eagle, cyber networks, satellites.

“The streamlined approach has had a positive impact on communications and defensive systems on the F-22 Raptor and F-15 Strike Eagle, cyber networks, satellites.”

In its 2020 budget, the USAF proposed the procurement of eight Boeing F-15EX aircraft to replace the aging F-15s.

Other systems to have benefitted from the programme include hypersonic weapons and key intelligence technologies.

Furthermore, the service recently unveiled a new science and technology strategy for 2030 and beyond with focus on maximising its technological advantage.

The approach adopted for rapid acquisition included awarding contracts in a short time as well as accelerated software development.

According to DefenceNews, the USAF achieved a reduction of more than three years from the development cycle of the B-52 engine replacement programme.