Air Force Col. Ken Kuebler discusses the modernization efforts for fixed-wing systems for U.S. Special Operations Command, including reducing the need for human support, improving cybersecurity, and developing a vertical-takeoff-and-landing capability for fixed-wing platforms.
The program executive officer in charge of modernizing fixed-wing systems for U.S. Special Operations Command, Air Force Col. Ken Kuebler, discussed the need for more options and less strain on human operators at the SOF Week conference in Florida. He noted that secure data transfer and communications are critical for both piloted and uncrewed airframes. Kuebler is focused on reducing the need for human support for drones, which he called “manpower-intensive platforms,” by finding technology to help with that. He also wants to make the gunship the premier platform for U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, which requires making the aircraft runway-independent and amphibious. Kuebler awarded a contract for the Armed Overwatch program in August 2022, which could produce up to 75 Sky Warden single-engine turboprop planes in a deal worth up to $3 billion. Special Operations Command has also teamed with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on the X-Plane program, which aims to give fixed-wing platforms a vertical-takeoff-and-landing capability and the ability to exceed 400 knots (460 mph).