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  • Special Fund Eyed to Pay for ICBM Upgrades

    ​Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson discusses the Air Force’s nuclear enterprise in Arlington, Va., June 24, 2014. Air Force photo SSgt. Torri Ingalsbe

    ​Air Force officials are closely watching the Navy to see how its Sea-Based Deterrence Fund plays out, in the hopes that they could use a similar program to finance much-needed upgrades to the ICBM force, said Air Force Global Strike Command boss Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson. “We’re looking to see how we can do something like that,” Wilson told reporters during a Tuesday meeting in Washington, D.C. “We think we need a sustained commitment in both resources and attention of focus across a period of years going forward.” The Air Force has a “great relationship” with the Navy, said Wilson. He said he meets regularly with senior nuclear leaders across the Defense Department as part of the Pentagon’s nuclear deterrent enterprise review group, which Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work leads. Congress recently created the special fund for the Navy as a means to pay for its next generation nuclear submarine force, while it also works to build its overall fleet back up to 300, reported (See also CBO Estimates Costs of Nuclear Forces.)​

  • Alternatives Analysis Completed for Future Nuclear Cruise Missile

    ​The Air Force has completed the analysis of alternatives for the Long Range Standoff missile, or LRSO, that is expected to replace the aging Air Launched Cruise Missile by 2030, Air Force Global Strike Command boss Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson told reporters in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. The AOA is now in the Defense Secretary’s office waiting for review, he added. The nuclear-warhead-carrying ALCM was designed in the 1970s and built in the mid-1980s with an anticipated 10-year life expectancy. It is currently on its fifth service life extension program, said Wilson. “At some point, we have to be able to design a new standoff missile that provides the President with options,” he said. “We’re underway to be able to do that.” Wilson said there “absolutely” would be a conventional spin-off of LRSO, much like there was a conventional variant of ALCM. “We see going forward that there will be a Long Range Standoff missile and there will be a conventional variant that will follow [that we can] buy in numbers and reduce the cost,” he said. Although he said he couldn’t elaborate on the alternatives explored, he said officials looked at “different speeds, lots of different options, and we decided on the path we’re going forward with.”​

  • Sixty-Five CAPs for 55

    ​The Air Force has been surging the capability of 65 combat air patrols of remotely piloted aircraft for years with only the resources for 55 CAPs, said Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer on Tuesday. “Since 2007,” Spencer told members of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board in Arlington, Va., the Air Force has tapped pilots from other aircraft types for 65 CAPs of RPA duty while training as many new RPA operators as possible. “We’re struggling,” said Spencer, because 40 percent of RPA instructors are also flying real-world missions. They’re not getting leave, not getting professional military education, and are flying three times as many hours as their counterparts in manned aircraft, he said. Now that those first RPA school graduates are coming up on re-enlistment “only 20 percent say they will take the [re-enlistment] bonus and stay,” said Spencer. “We’re working these guys to a level that’s unsustainable,” he added, echoing comments made earlier this month by Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh. “People are leaving faster than we can train them,” said Spencer. (See also Help for the Crispy RPA Force and More RPA Relief.)​

  • Scientific Advisory Board Launches RPA Study, Others

    ​The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board announced on Tuesday its launch of three studies, all of which it intends to complete by year’s end, according to Werner Dahm, SAB chair. One will study how useful unmanned air vehicles can be in contested and denied environments. Dahm, at an SAB event in Arlington, Va., told reporters the Air Force is taking a “strategic pause” in developing remotely piloted aircraft to get a better handle on what kinds of vehicles it needs and what capabilities they should have. He emphasized that RPAs should not simply be looked at for “high-end, denied environments” and “permissive” battlespaces, but for the whole spectrum of scenarios in between. Today’s RPAs may be useful for a lot of missions short of the worst case, he said, especially given some modifications to their sensors and weapons. In the second study, the SAB will look at the utility of quantum systems for rapid decryption, sensing, precision clocks accurate to femtoseconds, and inertial measurement. A third study will examine cyber vulnerabilities of embedded systems on Air Force air and space systems. Such systems aren’t hooked to the Internet, but might be vulnerable to attack anyway. Dahm said the SAB would assess offensive practices among many other approaches to secure Air Force operating systems. (See also Scientific Advisory Board 2015 Study Topics Released.)

  • Spencer Calls on Scientists For Help

    ​The Air Force needs the help of scientists to find the “leap ahead” technologies that will give the service a greater edge at a time when it’s shrinking and adversaries are quickly catching up, said Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer on Tuesday. Addressing members of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board in Arlington, Va., Spencer said the Air Force requires technologies that cause its adversaries to ask, “Where did that come from?” and to compel them to start a decade-long—or longer—effort to achieve parity. The Air Force is on a path to 49 fighter wings, he said, noting that in Desert Storm, the service deployed 33 fighter wings. “The same airplanes” are in service today, he said. “They’re old,” and there won’t be enough left over for a second war, should it come to that, he said. The Air Force can’t afford to “do the things we’re accustomed to” with large fleets of airplanes, said Spencer, but must win with smaller, less costly, and far more-capable forces. “Help us to think differently,” he said. Spencer also said the technologies now being discussed aren’t far-flung science fiction, but rather things “we are going to use,” such as fused, multi-source data presented as imagery on contact lenses. This would allow operators to “see through buildings,” but it’s essential the data creating the presentation aren’t hacked, he said.

  • Lakenheath Airmen Escaped Serious Injury in NATO Training Mishap

    ​Eight airmen from RAF Lakenheath suffered minor injuries when a Greek F-16 crashed on Monday during NATO training at Los Llanos Air Base in southeastern Spain. Their injuries included scrapes, burns, and smoke inhalation, reported Stars and Stripes. The Greek F-16 slammed into a group of parked French and Italian combat aircraft and personnel shortly after takeoff, claiming the lives of eight French service members and the two-member Greek F-16 aircrew. Another 21 French and Italian personnel were injured, some seriously; as of Tuesday morning, one of the French servicemen had succumbed to his injuries, bringing the number of dead to 11, reported Voice of America. The injured US airmen were part of a contingent of some 80 personnel from Lakenheath’s 492nd Fighter Squadron that deployed to Los Llanos with F-15Es for the training, which was held under NATO’s Tactical Leadership Program that builds tactical air capabilities between NATO partners. The accident showed the “significant cost and personal sacrifice made every day by allies and partners alike” in pursuit of better capabilities to assure and deter, said Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa, in a statement offering his condolences.

  • Kurds Declare Victory in Kobani

    Kurdish fighters in the Syrian border town of Kobani claimed victory in their months-long battle with ISIS forces, reported the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. Kobani official Idres Nassan declared that the city is now “100% cleared” of ISIS fighters, according to the newspaper. The news came one day after US Central Command confirmed​ that Kobani was almost entirely in Kurdish hands and congratulated the “courageous” Kurdish fighters for denying ISIS one of its “strategic objectives.” On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters that airstrikes are expected to continue in and around the city as enemy targets present themselves. Further, indications are ISIS has not given up on attempts to take the city, he said. ISIS still controls villages and land routes from Kobani. Kirby did not comment on whether Kurdish fighters had expanded their control beyond the city. Airstrikes, combined with the Kurdish fighters in the city, “helped a lot” to drive back ISIS, he said. Kurdish feedback made it possible for the US-led coalition to “fine tune” the air strikes against ISIS positions, said Kirby. (Kirby tran​script)

  • Airpower, the Kurds, and Pushing Back ISIS

    ​Several factors contributed to the routing of ISIS forces from the Syrian city of Kobani: persistent coalition airpower, a supply line from Turkey, and local Kurdish fighters who helped improve coalition targeting, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby on Tuesday. However, the success at Kobani should not be interpreted as a template for future anti-ISIS operations, he told reporters in the Pentagon. The anti-ISIS air coalition had a “reliable partner” on the ground with the Kurdish forces, who received aerial resupply in the early days of the siege and helped improve targeting intelligence on ISIS forces in and around the city, said Kirby. A “significant development” was also the Turkish government’s decision to allow land resupply of the Kurdish forces through Turkey, he said. Pushing back ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria is going to be hard work, said Kirby. There should be no “underestimation of how hard this is going to be,” he noted. (Kirby tra​nscript)​

  • Desert Home Away From Home


    Two Michigan Air National Guard A-10s prepare to take off from Selfridge Air National Guard Base northeast of Detroit on Jan. 23, 2015, for Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. Air National Guard photo by Brittani Baisden​​

    ​Some 200 airmen and 10 A-10s from the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Wing left Selfridge ANG Base northeast of Detroit to train at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., according to a unit release. This two-week deployment is part of Operation Snowbird, under which northern-tier Air Guard units have the opportunity to drill in warm-weather conditions in southern Arizona during the winter months. "Training at Davis-Monthan in Snowbird is like a scrimmage before playing in the big game,” said Lt. Col. Shawn Holtz, commander of the wing’s 107th Fighter Squadron. “Everybody gets a chance to sharpen their skills and build up the team," he said. The Selfridge airmen departed for Arizona on Jan. 23; they will focus on search-and-recovery training during their stint at Davis-Monthan, states the release. While there, they will be able to nearly double their normal daily sortie rate.

  • Emergency Transport System Ready for Operations

    ​Aeromedical personnel at Scott AFB, Ill., get acquainted with the Transport Isolation System, Jan. 26, 2015. Air Force photo by SSgt. Jonathan Fowler

    ​Gen. Paul Selva, US Transportation Command boss, unveiled the Transport Isolation System, a new means for the Defense Department to transport patients with highly infectious diseases on C-130s or C-17s, according to a release. The system is now ready for initial operations, states the release. TIS is about the size of a minivan. It is modular, capable of transporting up to three litter patients or four ambulatory patients, and has an air filtration system. During US military operations to help stop the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa, DOD found commercial capacity to transport patients by air to be insufficient, states the release. Thus came the desire to develop a new system, which advanced from development to testing and production in less than four months. Production Products of St. Louis manufactures TIS. Joint Base Charleston, S.C., received the first two TIS units for training and staging. The Defense Department expects to have taken delivery of all 25 TIS units it has ordered by the end of March. The rollout ceremony with Selva took place at Scott AFB, Ill., on Jan. 23. Aeromedical personnel at Scott began familiarization training with TIS on Monday, according to a base release.​