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​F-35s from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings conduct the first-ever Joint Strike Fighter elephant walk during a combat power exercise at Hill AFB, Utah, on Nov. 19, 2018. Air Force photo by SrA. Justin Fuchs.


F-35 Officially Enters IOT&E

The F-35 has officially entered Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, the last step required before the program can “graduate” to full-rate production and achieve the best efficiencies and costs possible for the jet, which went into development in 2001. The Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team, or JOTT, has already done some IOT&E testing, but now begins the full-bore evaluation against representative threats under realistic circumstances. If all goes well, IOT&E will wrap up in late summer, 2019. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.


Kelly: Parts are Key to Mattis’ Readiness Order

The Air Force will likely meet 80-percent mission capable rates for its top fighters within the year allowed by Defense Secretary James Mattis, but spare parts will be the driving factor in achieving the goal, service director of operations Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly told an AFA audience on Wednesday. Kelly also said USAF forces in the Middle East are no longer restrained from using as many highly precise weapons, saying the shortage has eased. He also reported that USAF seems to be arresting its exodus of pilots, in part due to higher retention bonuses. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.


Joint USAF, NATO Training Wing Testing Use of New Technology, Virtual Reality

The Air Force and NATO’s joint pilot training wing is testing a new training program, heavy on technologies such as virtual reality, as it looks to overhaul how it trains both USAF and international pilots. The goal is to not only improve the quality of their training, but also to produce more pilots, as air forces around the world are facing a pilot shortage. The 80th Flying Training Wing’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard AFB, Texas, in November stood up a strategic initiatives directorate, which will begin testing its ideas with a T-6 class in February. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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USAF’s Kelly: Future Fights Will See ‘Exponentiated Chaos’ 

Competition from China and Russia is amping up the pressure on US reliance on technology for command and control, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly, deputy chief of staff for operations Dec. 5. “The biggest growth area we have is in the information space,” he said at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event in Arlington. “The next [fight] is going to be the most congested and contested in terms of electromagnetic spectrum out there…. The team that will win is the one that can cut through that exponentiated chaos and get to decision-quality information.” America’s rivals understand US dependence on technology and will seek to disrupt that by every means possible, while the US must make its networks more resilient and overcome divisions between stovepiped air, naval and land operations centers, he said. Read the full story by Tobias Naegele.


US Conducts “Extraordinary” Open Skies Flight Over Ukraine

A USAF OC-135 observation aircraft conducted an “extraordinary” Open Skies flight over Ukraine on Thursday, demonstrating the US commitment to defending Ukraine and other European countries against Russian aggression. The flight came in response to “Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea near the Kerch Straight,” Nov. 25. The Pentagon termed the Russian action a “dangerous escalation in a pattern of increasingly provocative and threatening activity.” Representatives from Canada, Germany, France, Romania, and the United Kingdom also participated in the flight, according to a State Department tweet. The 1992 Open Skies Treaty allows the United States and the 32 other signing nations to conduct a set number of observation flights over each other’s territory, but if a flight is declared “extraordinary” it falls outside of that quota. The US Air Force operates two OC-135 Open Skies aircraft, which are assigned to Offutt AFB, Neb. Each is equipped with a variety of radars, scanning devices, video cameras and panoramic optical cameras. —Amy McCullough


Inhofe Outlines Priorities as SASC Chair

In his first official speech as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) outlined his six priorities for the committee moving forward. The six-point plan uses the National Defense Strategy as a “blueprint” for the committee, he said during a speech Thursday at the National Defense University. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

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RADAR SWEEP


Poor Maintenance Contributed to a Devastating C-130 Crash.
Sloppy maintenance work at an Air Force depot was at the root of a tragic crash of a Marine Corps Reserve KC-130T that resulted in the deaths of 16 service members in July 2017. Defense News

1 Of 2 Marines Rescued Off Japan Is Dead After Aircraft 'Mishap'; 5 Still Missing
One of two rescued U.S. service members is dead after a "mishap" involving two Marine Corps aircraft off Japan. Five are still missing. NPR

Search for Missing Air Force Academy Cadet Candidate on Longs Peak Suspended   
Micah Tice, 20, was last seen at about 8 a.m. Nov. 24 by park visitors in the Battle Mountain area, according to park officials. Denver Post

Airbus, Lockheed Join Forces to Pursue US Military Refueling Orders
Europe's Airbus is teaming up with a new U.S. partner, Lockheed Martin, to try to crack the U.S. military air tanker market nearly eight years after losing out to rival Boeing in a bitter battle to supply refueling planes to the U.S. Air Force. Voice of America

USAF Seeks GPS Hardening for MC/EC-130J Special Mission Aircraft
The US Air Force (USAF) is looking to protect its special mission Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules aircraft against GPS jamming, with a request for information (RFI) issued to industry on 3 December. Janes

One More Thing:

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day: Watch a Live Feed of the Service
The National Park Service and the United States Navy will host the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 77th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony to honor and remember the 2,390 American casualties lost during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the island of Oahu on December 7, 1941. National Park Service