The immediate causes of these accidents vary, the but root cause is the same: age. The average age of an Air Force aircraft is 28 years, and many planes are significantly older. Crews fly still fly the B-52 bomber, after all, with its average age of 56.
Will Roper, the USAF’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics, oversees $40 billion in programs. But even though 70 percent of the money USAF spends on acquisition goes to “sustainment,” he says, few people talk about the issue. “There are rarely hearings on aircraft sustainment, but it’s the reason we’re able to go fight and win a war. There are amazing men and women that keep airplanes able to fly, but here’s the sad thing: They’re using technology that is decades old.”
Roper’s job is to bring new tools to the Air Force, and in this age that means data mining. “We’ve brought in a lot of artificial intelligence experts to advise us on how to use A.I. to predict when planes are going to fail, and I believe we’re the first service to have A.I. operational on its flying fleet,” he says.
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