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Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the service's Fiscal 2019 budget request includes increases in manpower, flying hours, munitions production, and new weapons acquisition in an effort to restore full readiness capability to USAF units. Here, a 163rd Fighter Squadron pilot, left, and SSgt. Michael Gresley, 122nd Aircraft Maintenanec crew chief with the 122nd Fighter Wing, prepare an A-10C during Operation Guardian Blitz on Jan. 23, 2018 at MacDill AFB, Fla. Air National Guard photo by SSgt. William Hopper.

​Wilson Says Budget is About “Nuts and Bolts” Readiness

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the fiscal year 2019 budget request works at rebuilding readiness in many forms, but does not yet take on the task of reshaping the force structure. The service is now looking at how many of its squadrons should be devoted to fighters, bombers, and other missions, but that work is not yet finished. She said USAF is “close” to fixing its maintainer shortage, and that its munitions-building surge will eventually shift to a “steady state” of production after empty stocks are refilled. She also amplified on USAF’s ideas for performing the JSTARS mission with a disaggregated network rather than a specific platform. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Wilson: China is USAF’s “Pacing Threat”

While the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2019 budget request and National Defense Strategy focuses on the re-emergence of a great power competition with both Russia and China, the Air Force’s main focus is specifically countering the speed at which the Chinese military is developing, USAF Secretary Heather Wilson said Tuesday. “The whole approach is to try to compete and deter and win in an atmosphere in the return of great power competition,” Wilson said. “For the United States Air Force, our pacing threat is China because China is modernizing very rapidly.” For example, China is explicitly a destabilizing presence in the Pacific region, while the US aims to work with allies to maintain a rules-based order. China has built up anti-air missiles and deployed fighter aircraft in the contested South China Sea. The country has claimed its fifth generation J-20 fighter is operational. In space, China has already launched an anti-satellite weapon and has shown interest in jamming US satellites. These steps show an “awareness of American dominance in space,” Wilson said. To counter this rapid modernization and aim to destabilize the international order, USAF needs to modernize, specifically to operate in a denied environment. This includes the continued development of new aircraft, such as F-35s and B-21s, along with finding new ways to meet other mission requirements. For example, Wilson highlighted the move away from the E-8C JSTARS recapitalization to instead be able to manage a battlefield through a family of systems instead of a large aircraft that could be an easy target. —Brian Everstine

Sikorsky Files Pre-Award Protest with GAO Over Upcoming UH-1N Contract

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, filed a pre-award protest with the Government Accountability Office on Monday, following discussions with the Air Force over its UH-1N Huey Replacement program. Through a spokeswoman, Sikorsky said it filed the protest because of “ambiguous and overreaching technical data and computer software requirements that would require Sikorsky to accept interpretations that are contrary to the language of the request for proposal, and to law and regulation.” The move is highly unusual in the middle of source selection. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

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B-52s, F-15Es, AC-130s Respond to “Unprovoked Attack” in Syria

The Feb. 7 airstrikes on pro-regime forces in the Euphrates River Valley of Syria included hours of bombing runs, from aircraft including B-52s, F-15Es, and AC-130s. Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of Air Forces Central Command, said the midnight battle raged for three hours as US aircraft hammered advancing forces, which included artillery and tanks, that fired first on US-backed fighters and American special operations forces, including joint terminal attack controllers. About 100 fighters were killed before the rest retreated. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Shift to Afghanistan Immediately Brings Jump in Airstrikes, Increased Personnel Recovery Presence

The war in Afghanistan, once again the main mission of US Central Command, has seen a dramatic increase of airstrikes on Taliban targets this winter, a time when combat is usually waning. The surge in forces prompted Air Forces Central Command to return personnel recovery Pave Hawk helicopters to Kandahar, where they haven’t been based since 2013. Read the full story by Brian Everstine


15 NATO Members Seen Spending Two Percent of GDP on Defense by 2024

Fifteen of NATO’s 29 members are expected to reach the goal of spending two percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2024—a significant improvement over the three countries that met the goal in 2014, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday in Brussels. The defense-spending statement was one of a number of points he made in a wide-ranging press conference before NATO defense ministers meet Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for the organization’s planned July summit. Read the full report by Steve Hirsch.

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RADAR SWEEP


—The Air Force on Thursday will hold a public meeting in Lubbock, Texas, to discuss contaminated water wells around the former Reese Air Force Base. The water wells have high levels of perfluorinated compounds: Lubbock Online.

—US Central Command boss Gen. Joseph Votel on Tuesday attended a meeting of military leaders from at least 11 countries, including Pakistan, on fighting terrorism. The Kabul meeting was called by Votel following a series of high-level attacks in Afghanistan: Radio Free Europe.

—Lockheed Martin on Feb. 9 delivered the 400th C-130J Super Hercules. The aircraft is an MC-130J assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command: Lockheed release.

—SpaceX plans to develop a new drone ship that will help the company meet an increased demand for launch operations. The drone ship, the company’s third, serves as the at-sea landing spot for the company’s reusable rockets: USA Today.

—The Northrop Grumman acquisition of Orbital ATK was approved by the European Commission on Feb. 12. The acquisition, which was announced in September, still needs to be approved by the US Federal Trade Commission: Northrop release.