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Air Guard, Reserve benefit from off-the-shelf equipment solutions

WASHINGTON -- By using ideas from recently deployed Airmen and off-the-shelf technology, the reserve components have developed new equipment that saved lives and led to highly successful combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This streamlined process is speeding high-tech acquisitions and was briefed by Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve officials to representatives on Capitol Hill here Oct. 28.

The NGREA is the reserve components' primary means of modernizing its forces. Since 1982, this money has resulted in cost-effective upgrades to Reserve equipment and aircraft.

"The number one thing we've spent [National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation] on in the last few years has been the advanced targeting pods," said Air Force Col. Leonard Dick, vice commander of the Air National Guard and Reserve Test Center in Tucson, Ariz. "We've done a great deal with moving targets."

The advanced targeting pod was a resounding success during the opening days of combat against the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to Air Force officials.

Air Force Reservists were asked to stay in country longer than expected because they were the only ones flying and maintaining F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft with this state-of-the-art avionics upgrade.

The targeting pods enhance communication during missions by connecting pilots directly with Airmen on the ground, providing a faster and more accurate response time.

The advantage of the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation is that it uses off-the-shelf, commercially-available technology and products. Also, new ideas come from the troops in the field and the proposals get evaluated, validated and prioritized, which results in equipment upgrades quickly getting to the combat zone, increasing mission success and saving lives.

After Congress approves the funding, the Air National Guard Air Force Test Center leads the process.

"We take the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation, after that process, and use those resources to effectively and efficiently turn those requirements into immediate needs and capabilities that can be deployed very quickly to help out the war fighters," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Dan Bader, special assistant to the chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon.

Today, Reserve component forces are developing less costly helmet-mounted cueing systems, averaging one-third to one-fourth the normal price. The helmet is still in the testing phase; however, if it is approved it will enhance pilot situational awareness and provide faster control of aircraft targeting systems and sensors.

Other equipment upgrades will result in benefits directly felt by taxpayers at home during the Reserve's support of homeland defense missions.

Unique aerial spray systems on the Air Force Reserve's 910th Airlift Wing in Ohio are being replaced using the special funding. This is the only unit within the Department of Defense with the unique capability to control disease vectors and insect populations, and disperse oil spills. The unit responds to national disasters and emergencies such as the oil spill clean-up in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2010 Congress funded the Air Force Reserve for equipment upgrades of $70 million and the Air National Guard for $250 million, according to officials.
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