Air Force Opens AFWerX Facility Near Las Vegas

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October 23, 2017 | Originally published by Date Line: October 23 on

The Air Force is taking a page out of Special Operations Command”s rapid acquisition book to launch its own technology accelerator program, as it works to find cutting-edge and affordable solutions to various technology challenges, the service secretary said Sept. 27.

“We just set up our first AFwerX” between Nellis Air Force Base and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with plans to mimic SOCOM”s SOFWERX facility in Tampa, Florida, said Heather Wilson at the Women in Defense”s National Conference in Washington, D.C. 

SOCOM set up SOFWERX in 2016 to engage entrepreneurs and innovators, set up small competitions and projects to take advantage of new and innovative technologies.

One of AFwerX”s first competitions will be a partnership with SOFWERX called ThunderDrone, Wilson said. Unmanned aerial vehicles will battle each other in a large warehouse in Tampa while service officials gather data, she previously said at an August media event at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

“The challenge is, bring your drones; last drone flying wins,” she said at the Women in Defense Conference. Women in Defense is an affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association.

Developing new relationships with small entrepreneurs and non-traditional partners should help drive innovative solutions for the service “because they are way outside the box,” Wilson noted. “Even the most flexible acquisition authorities we have are not good enough for small entrepreneur companies.”