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​Airmen with the 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight build bombs for the F-15E at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia on May 19, 2018. The Air Force has dropped some 70,000 weapons in the fight against ISIS and is working to rebuild its munitions stock. Air Force photo by SrA. Krystal Wright.

Roper Recognizes Limited Munitions-Building Capacity

While the Air Force is working hard to replenish its depleted stocks of precision-guided munitions, the service’s chief buyer voiced some concern Wednesday about having sufficient capacity in industry to meet demand, lamenting that weapons often tend to become “bill payers” in budget deliberations. Once that happens, economies of scale are lost, vendors can’t predict how many components and materials to buy in economic quantities, and prices go up, making it harder to fill USAF’s racks, Roper observed. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Roper: Hypersonics Capability Less Than Two Years Away

Top Air Force acquisition official Will Roper reported he’s “very happy” with the progress of the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon and Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon hypersonic missile programs. HCSW is slated to fly at the end of 2019 and achieve an “early” operational capability only a year after that, while the ARRW, a “more advanced design,” is trailing by only “six months or so.” The programs have “zero margin” in schedule, but Roper indicated he’s confident in the timetable, and has even blessed the programs to fail if necessary, in order to learn from mistakes and press forward. Lockheed Martin is the principal contractor for both efforts. Roper said the Air Force is concerned, though, about having an adequate test infrastructure, and whether there is sufficient capacity in the industrial base to produce missiles once functional designs are proven out. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

SOUTHCOM, AFRICOM Chiefs: More ISR Always Better

Cocaine flowing from Colombia and evolving security situations in Africa are driving a need for more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance resources at US Southern Command and US Africa Command, the military officials overseeing those areas told lawmakers this week. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee Feb. 7, SOUTHCOM commander Adm. Craig Faller said he needs more ISR assets to make progress on the counter-narcotics mission. AFRICOM chief Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said his organization is making ISR ends meet by pairing their resources with those of local militaries and European partners, but he could always use more. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.


Wright: Inadequate Funding May Threaten Future Task Force True North Expansion

CMSAF Kaleth Wright told House legislators on Feb. 7 the Air Force “should expand and embed” teams of resiliency experts within units, but he suspects inadequate funding might impede such an effort. Although the Air Force can utilize “chaplains and mental health professionals” who are already on its payroll, he said the service will need to hire a lot of those individuals “from the outside”—especially mental health providers who can assist with USAF’s suicide-prevention efforts. Under Task Force True North, which launched in 2017, USAF is integrating “five-personal medical health teams—including physiologists, nutritionists, and psychiatrists, among others” into USAF squadrons to assist airmen in better utilizing resiliency resources they have access to. In a September 2018 Reddit “Ask Me Anything” question-and-answer session, Wright said the service had beta tests underway at Minot AFB, N.D.; Whiteman AFB, Mo.; and JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Air Force Magazine previously reported. The service is also beta testing the program at Beale AFB, Calif. —Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

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Bipartisan Bills to Protect Transgender Troops Introduced in House, Senate

Two companion pieces of bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting transgender service and securing transgender civilians’ right to join the US Armed Forces were introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives on Feb. 7. Their introduction comes in the wake of a Jan. 22 Supreme Court order that paved the way for President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender service members to take effect despite ongoing lawsuits challenging it. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

French Air Force Begins Research into Sixth-Generation Aircraft

The French Air Force this week formally kicked off a massive effort, along with Germany, to modernize its future fleet by beginning research into the sixth-generation Future Combat Air System. The head of the French Air Force spoke with reporters Thursday at an AFA Mitchell Institute event in Arlington, Va., about the effort, which will combine a stealth fighter with unmanned aerial vehicles and a secure combat data cloud. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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RADAR SWEEP


California National Guard to Transgender Troops: 'Nobody's Going to Kick You Out'
One of the highest-ranking officers in the California National Guard told lawmakers Tuesday that the state is not removing transgender soldiers and airmen from its ranks despite efforts by the Trump administration to bar transgender people from the armed forces. Military.com

New Respirator Would Allow Air Force Maintainers Inside Fuel Tanks to Communicate With Audio Instead of Knocks
Maintenance crews may soon have a safer way to inspect fuel tanks and tight crawl spaces inside tanker planes, instead of just knocking around in the dark. Stars and Stripes

Pentagon Weighs Privatizing Military PCS Moves
In a move that could completely change the way military personnel transfer from base to base, U.S. Transportation Command is considering privatizing the system that supports permanent change of station (PCS) and other personnel moves. Military.com

Russia Resumes Fighter Patrols Over the North Pole
Two squadrons of aging interceptors will fly a route to intercept US bombers in wartime. Popular Mechanics

One More Thing …

Air Force General Apologizes For Wearing Upside Down Ribbon Rack at State of the Union
Four-star Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel took to social media to apologize for a uniform gaffe committed while attending President Donald Trump’s annual address before Congress on Tuesday night. Stars and Stripes