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F-35 Lighting II fighter jets, assigned to the 6th Weapons Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev., fly over the Nevada Test and Training Range on July 10, 2017. Air Force photo by SSgt. Daryn Murphy.

House Appropriators Scrutinize Air Force Fighter Plans

House appropriators this week are using the 2020 budget cycle to weigh in on the Air Force’s future force plans, calling into question the service’s fighter procurement strategy and arguing Congress needs a bigger say in the process. Still, lawmakers concluded that the Air Force’s planned investments largely fall in line with “The Air Force We Need” blueprint, which DOD submitted to Capitol Hill earlier this year. Buying seven fifth-generation fighter jets for every fourth-gen fighter strikes a “reasonable balance” between pursuing more capable aircraft and maintaining the size of the F-15 fleet, they added. The HAC bill, released May 20, recommends the Air Force purchase 68 new fighters in 2020, including eight F-15EXs from Boeing for $985.5 million and 60 F-35As from Lockheed Martin for $5.1 billion. But the service’s budget doesn’t reflect the desire to reach 72 fighter jets a year, appropriators said. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Boeing Delivers Three More KC-46s, USAF Fleet Now at 11

Boeing delivered three more KC-46As to the Air Force May 18-19, bringing the total number of tankers sent to the service to 11. The tankers left Boeing Field in Seattle, with one going to the Air Force’s KC-46 first operating base at McConnell AFB, Kan., and two more going to Altus AFB, Okla., the service’s KC-46 training base. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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Boeing Gearing Up for MH-139 Test Models, Production

Boeing partner Leonardo is building the first example of what will become the Air Force’s new MH-139 VIP and missile field support helicopter in Missouri. When the generic version of the aircraft is complete, Boeing will fit it with military gear and it could fly by the end of the year. A company official also clarified how Boeing’s price in the UH-1N replacement competition, decided last fall, compared with its competitors, saying the company’s approach was to offer an aircraft that is “right-sized for the mission.” Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Eglin Activates Electronic Warfare Squadron

Eglin AFB, Fla., on Friday stood up a new electronic warfare squadron aimed at providing electronic warfare evaluations and cyber assessment for combat and mobility units. The new 87th Electronic Warfare Squadron, part of the 53rd Electronic Warfare Group at Eglin, will “direct, manage, plan, formulate, execute, and assess” all parts of the Air Force’s electronic warfare assessment program Combat Shield. This program is the EW version of Combat Archer, the Air Force’s evaluation program for air-to-air weapons, and Combat Hammer for air-to-ground weapons, according to an Eglin release. “The activation of the 87th EWS aligns with Air Force priorities to maintain air, space, and cyberspace superiority now and into the future,” said Col. David Abba, commander of the 53rd Wing, in the release. The activation expands the 53rd EWG, which also includes the 16th Electronic Warfare Squadron at Eglin. —Brian Everstine

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Guardsmen from Four States Train in Arctic Exercise

Airmen and aircraft from several units are deployed to Norway, Sweden, and Finland for the large-scale Arctic Challenge Exercise 19. This year’s version will represent a flag-level event, with “scenario-based training in realistic environments,” according to a US Air Forces in Europe release. The USAF contingent includes KC-135s from the Iowa and New Jersey Air National Guard, F-15Cs from the Massachusetts Air National Guard, and F-16s from the South Carolina Air National Guard. They join aircraft and personnel from Norway, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. “There’s some unique training airspace we don’t get to train with in South Carolina. Being just 50 miles south of the Arctic Circle, the high latitude means nearly 20 hours of daylight. That together with the cool weather, will set us up for some essential training,” Maj. Shaun Hoeltje, a pilot with the South Carolina ANG’s 157th Fighter Squadron, said in the release. —Brian Everstine
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RADAR SWEEP


Ammo From Crashed F-16 Safely Destroyed
Live ammunition from an F-16 fighter jet that crashed through the roof of a Southern California warehouse was safely destroyed Friday afternoon and miles of closed freeway were reopened. Associated Press

MIT and US Air Force Sign Agreement to Launch AI Accelerator
The effort, known as the MIT-Air Force AI Accelerator, will leverage the expertise and resources of MIT and the Air Force to conduct fundamental research directed at enabling rapid prototyping, scaling, and application of AI algorithms and systems. The Air Force plans to invest approximately $15 million per year as it builds upon its five-decade relationship with MIT. MIT News

Judge Weighs Request to Dismiss Lawsuits Over Church Attack
A federal judge says he’ll rule soon on whether to dismiss claims filed in several lawsuits against the U.S. Air Force in connection with a 2017 massacre at a Texas church that killed more than two dozen people. Associated Press

Musk & Bezos Entering Arms Race, Will Bid on Contracts to Build Rockets for US Military
Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have had their eyes in the skies for some time with their respected companies, SpaceX and Blue Origin but now it appears they have shifted their sights on ground targets as well. War is Boring

Thornberry Bill Would Help Venture-Backed Startups Compete for DOD Small Business Awards
Thornberry is proposing legislation that would make it easier for startups like Capella Space to continue to get private funding and compete for DOD small business awards. Space News

Senate Bill Would Woo High-Tech Ninjas to Military
The Pentagon has a reputation for failing to attract the high-tech experts it needs to compete against modern threats, but legislation offered May 15 aims to turn that around. C4ISRNET

House Panel Wants to Boost Spending on ISR
A House subcommittee’s draft for fiscal 2020 defense spending bill includes $500 million for an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance fund. C4ISRNET

Boeing to Develop Virtual Training System for RAF and USAF Aircrews
The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has awarded a contract to Boeing Defence UK to provide a virtual training system for the Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots and their US Air Force (USAF) counterparts. Air Force Technology

MC-130J Spec Ops Transport With Its Badly Needed Terrain Following Radar Installed
Lockheed Martin has released a video showing one of the first MC-130J Commando II special operations transports equipped with the Raytheon AN/APQ-187 Silent Knight terrain-following/terrain avoidance radar. The US Air Force plans to upgrade the entire Commando II fleet to this new configuration in the coming years. The Drive

Opinion: Retain the Family in Today’s All-Volunteer Air Force
The U.S. Air Force is not meeting the needs of field-grade officers and their spouses, directly affecting talent management. War On The Rocks

One More Thing …

The 13 All-Time Ugliest Airplanes
One of aviation’s oldest clichés is that if an airplane looks right, it’ll fly right. Whether this selection of 13 avia­ting dogs affirms or contradicts that aphorism is debatable. Aviation History Magazine via Air Force Times