Pacific Air Forces secures $1.5M in funds to Spark Tank finalists

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Hailey Haux
  • Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

As part of the fourth-annual Pacific Air Forces Spark Tank event, six innovative ideas were funded with $1.5 million, a significant increase from previous years.

Spark Tank is a competition where Airmen and Guardians are given the opportunity to pitch their top ideas to senior PACAF leaders for funding to turn their ideas into reality. The program is designed to support a culture of innovation across the Air Force community.

“Spark Tank events are incredibly important to our Air Force,” said Lt. Gen. Laura Lenderman, PACAF deputy commander, who presided over the final presentations. “Through it, we reinforce and reward the innovative ideas of our Airmen and Guardians, allowing us to perform our mission better than we did yesterday.”

Among the six finalists, ideas included the Operational Kinetic Autonomous Melting Interface, or OKAMI for short, where Team Misawa would install autonomous infra-red snow melting lamps across the base to effectively tackle snow accumulation.

Other ideas included the Agile Combat Employment Cargo Handling System, Compact Loading Adapter and Winch System, ACE Semi-Autonomous Medical System, Aircraft Light Detection and Ranging Towing Collision Detection, and the Katie Cup.

“Our on-the-ground Airmen are at the core of our innovative ideas,” said 2nd Lt. C.J. Haut, PACAF Innovation lead. “Having the opportunity to support those innovations at the PACAF Spark Tank is a reminder of the impact any Airman at any level can make.”

Due to the increasing number of products being shared every year, funding for Spark Tank finalists continues to gain support. As a result, each of PACAF’s six ideas were fully funded.

“Misawa averages around 150 inches of snow each year and is often considered the ‘snowiest base in the DoD,’” said Master Sgt. Rachel Pardini, Misawa Air Base, Japan Spark Tank OKAMI representative. “The ability to find innovative ways to remove snow is critical in ensuring Misawa is able to generate and sustain airpower at all times, no matter the weather. Receiving the full amount [of funds] demonstrates PACAF’s commitment to enhancing the warfighting advantage by operationalizing emerging technology found at even the lowest levels like our instillation spark cell.”

Past years’ winners not only triumph at the PACAF level, but are also likely to secure funding from other Air Force agencies. One of the 2023 PACAF Spark Tank winners “Rays to Jet Power” received a $1.9 million tactical funding increase from Air Force Research Labs to support further acquisition and research and development—the largest one-time award in PACAF innovation history.