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SecAF tours KAFB; base sustains national security capabilities during COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Austin J. Prisbrey
  • Kirtland Public Affairs

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett visited Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, May 20-21, 2020, met with various mission partners, explored active mission sets and learned how Team Kirtland has sustained national security capabilities during COVID-19.

“Adapting and innovating along the way, Kirtland’s myriad missions have maintained operational readiness despite COVID-19.” said Barrett. “Today’s visit was an opportunity to thank service members and civilians personally. It was also a chance to preview cutting-edge research and development that is efficiently, effectively, and boldly expanding our Air and Space Force capabilities.”

Barrett began the visit at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy and Space Vehicles Directorates, where she was briefed on several programs critical to the nation’s defense. 

Dr. Kelly Hammett, AFRL/RD director, demonstrated a variety of high power microwave and high energy laser systems that are currently in development. Hammett showcased the Raytheon PHASER and AFRL THOR high power microwave systems for countering small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) as well as the CHIMERA high power microwave system being tested for additional base defense capabilities.

“Combatant commanders are very interested in these transportable systems that can non-kinetically defeat multiple air base threats, while providing a deep magazine and low cost per shot,” Hammett said.

Barrett received briefings on the space vehicles small satellite portfolio and detailed presentations on the directorate’s spacecraft now on-orbit. 

“Air Force Research Lab has an amazing pipeline of space science and technology innovations focused on increasing the resiliency of our nation’s space capabilities so that we deter conflict in space,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Eric Felt, AFRL/RV director.

The base visit continued to the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, where leaders updated Barrett on critical AFNWC programs and how those are in line with her priorities as the Secretary of the Air Force. The planned transfer of AFRL missions in RD and RV to the U.S. Space Force continue despite the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We updated [Secretary] Barrett on our plans for returning to full mission capability during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen Shaun Morris, AFNWC commander and Air Force program executive officer for strategic systems. “Given the absolutely critical nature of our role in providing nuclear capabilities to the warfighter, we are committed to maintaining full support despite COVID-19.  To date, we’ve kept all key efforts on track and in line with her nuclear deterrence priorities.” 

Barrett took some time to visit the Space Rapid Capabilities Office to familiarize herself with their mission and transition to the U.S. Space Force.

“As one of the key acquisition organizations of the U.S. Space Force, the Space RCO is laser focused on meeting our mission to develop and deliver critical space capabilities at the speed of relevance,” said Mike Roberts, SpRCO director. “The Space RCO is honored to have the opportunity for our workforce to meet the SecAF, given the Secretary’s leadership has been key in empowering our ability to meet our mission.”

Secretary Barrett visited the Space and Missile Systems Center Innovation and Prototyping Directorate to better understand how SMC accelerates the pivot to the new space architecture.  

“We were particularly excited to showcase the partnerships we share with other space organizations here at Kirtland AFB and across the DOD,” said Col. Timothy Sejba, SMC, Innovation and Prototyping director.  

Throughout the visit, Barrett emphasized the importance of the multiple national security mission sets on Kirtland and how critical not only their capabilities are, but how vital the workforce is for mission readiness and success. Social distancing, face coverings and “elbow” greetings were routine during the visit.

“It was an amazing opportunity for our Airmen to spend time with Secretary Barrett,” said Col. David S. Miller, 377th Air Base Wing commander. “Her trip to Kirtland certainly underscores the importance of the work by all of the men and women on Team Kirtland, and the installation’s contributions to national security.”