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  • Deborah Lee James
    Senate Armed Services
  • Gen. Mark A. Welsh III
    Senate Armed Services
  • Gen. Larry O. Spencer
    Vice Chief of Staff
    House Armed Services, Readiness
Defense Writers Group
  • Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler
    Commander, III MEF and Marine Forces Japan
  • Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr.
    Commandant, Coast Guard
  • Eric Fanning
    Undersecretary of the Air Force
Data Points
Airpower Classics
From the AIR FORCE Archive

10 Years Ago




Editorial: The Dragon and the Snakes
The Cold War was long and expensive. The Global War on Terror will be no different.



The War Before the War
Long before the actual land invasion, Iraqi forces were taking a ferocious beating from the air.



A Plague of Accidents
Top leaders warn that USAF “cannot tolerate nor sustain” the recent level of loss.



A Line in the Ice
It has been a half-century since the “DEW Line” first started rising in the Arctic waste.



Trenchard at the Creation
The father of the RAF was one of the first to grasp that aviation would radically change warfare.





25 Years Ago





Editorial: The Doctrine of Tranquility



On Stealthy Wings
The B-2 is built for penetration. It will be a while before a Soviet long-range radar is good enough to detect it.



The Electronic Wind Tunnel
New regimes of flight become possible as supercomputers unlock the doors to their simulation and development.


Valor en Masse





50 Years Ago




The Myth of Overkill
An examination of the theories and proposals of Prof. Seymour Melman of Columbia University.



Greased Lightning
Last fall a B-58 and a SAC combat crew demonstrated the capabilities of a remarkable airplane and the versatility of our nuclear striking command by making the longest supersonic flight in aviation history.





Daily Report

Thursday April 24, 2014
  • The first Active Duty-led KC-46A main operating base will be located at McConnell AFB, Kan., and the formal Pegasus training unit will be based at Altus AFB, Okla., announced the Air Force Wednesday. “Making a final basing decision is an important step in recapitalizing the tanker fleet,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. “We will begin to replace our aging tanker fleet in 2016, but even when the program is complete in 2028, we will have replaced less than half of the current tanker fleet and will still be flying over 200 half-century-old KC-135 (Stratotankers).” Both bases were selected as USAF’s preferred alternatives in May 2013, pending the results of an environmental analysis, which was recently completed. At the time, USAF also announced it had selected Pease AGS, N.H., as the preferred site for the first Air National Guard KC-46A main operating base. An official decision on that, however, is expected this summer, with the first ANG aircraft scheduled to arrive in Fiscal 2018, states the April 23 release. “I am proud of the airmen at McConnell for earning this mission based on their excellent record of service,” said Sen. Pat Roberts in a joint statement with Sen. Jerry Moran and Rep. Mike Pompeo, all Republicans from Kansas.
  • The Navy is spending more on its aircraft programs than the Air Force in the Fiscal 2015 budget, while at the same time, USAF is divesting entire fleets and pushing modernization dollars to the right. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh acknowledged this trend is creating some uncertainty in the force as airmen are seeing aircraft and missions potentially disappearing in a very short period of time. But it is the only way to get to a sustainable force, he said Wednesday during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. “Airmen who join the Air Force join it for lots of reasons,” he said. “They get proud of who they are and what they do, just like the folks in other services,” he added. “That’s what our airmen are looking for,” and if they can’t keep that pride they will leave. “One of the things we are trying to do in the Air Force is we are trying to balance our force at a size where we can afford to train and operate it,” Welsh said. Sequestration is the law, and in 2016 those funding levels will return. “If that happens, we cannot operate and train our Air Force at the size we have now. We have to downsize,” he said. That is why USAF is moving out on force management programs as soon as possible, so it can “get past the trauma” of the next 12-15 months. After that, “whoever is in the Air Force at that point in time, [can] start to focus on the future.”
    —Marc V. Schanz
  • If the Air Force doesn’t get to divest the A-10 fleet, a whole series of mission shifts involving the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve will unravel, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Wednesday. Speaking at the National Press Club—where he spent a good third of his time answering A-10 questions—Welsh said, “We’ve ... worked very hard to put together transition plans for those units” flying the A-10, spending “a ton of time” looking for ways to put different hardware into those organizations so that they are “viable for the long term.” Without the A-10 divestiture “the plan will come unraveled, we will not have the right force structure at the right time to migrate into those units, ... and we’ll start the planning over again.” Accommodating sequester cuts requires a “chain of events,” he said, and the job “is hard, the planning is very delicate, the cuts are real, the issues are serious.”
    —John A. Tirpak
  • If the Air Force kept the 42 A-10s it has already re-winged and got rid of the rest, it would only save $1 billion versus the $4.2 billion saved by taking down the whole fleet, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Wednesday. Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Welsh said it’s the infrastructure that “drives the big cost,” so keeping a few is quite expensive. If USAF doesn’t get permission to cut all the A-10s, he said the other “horrible” options include cutting another 363 F-16s (14 squadrons' worth), reducing the F-15E fleet, or eliminating the B-1 fleet. Doing so would make it “impossible” to win “a big conflict,” he asserted. USAF saves “big lives on the ground” by providing air superiority—allowing freedom to maneuver and attack—and through striking follow-on forces and command and control. The combination saves far more lives than close air support, he said, and the aircraft retained can also do CAS, as proved over “thousands and thousands” of sorties. The A-10 retirement plan is “not emotional, it’s logical,” and has been vetted through all the Pentagon models used to plan wars. Retiring the A-10, “very clearly, ... (was) the least impactful” move  affecting the ability to fight a major war, Welsh insisted. Ten years from now, the A-10 “will not be part of that solution” to winning a high-end fight, he said.
    —John A. Tirpak
  • The Air Force is focused on a new guiding concept called “strategic agility,” which is more about institutional change than any one mission or capability, said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh during a speech Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The concept, however, must be tied to realistic spending limits. “The concept is pretty simple, it’s just hard to get there,” Welsh said. It covers everything from thought to training, education to decision making, and acquisitions and operations. “We have to change everything a little bit in order to get to this point. It’s a long-term journey,” he said. This won’t be accomplished in a single budget cycle, but it must be addressed by retooling service strategy and long-range planning. Welsh previously said USAF would make changes to the Air Staff to reflect the concept. “The idea is that we will have a living, breathing strategy,” Welsh said. The first piece will focus on long-range science and technology and concepts, which will be combined into a “master plan” and a more immediate five-year spending plan. “We have got to stop pushing cost into the future, and assuming money will fall into place because that’s not going to happen for the foreseeable future.”
    —Marc V. Schanz
  • Australia announced it will buy 58 additional F-35A Lightning IIs, boosting the Royal Australian Air Force's planned fleet to 72 aircraft as part of an overall $12.4 billion package, officials announced. The Lightning II is slated to replace the RAAF's legacy F-18C/D fighters and the government "will also consider the option of acquiring an additional squadron of F-35 aircraft to replace the Super Hornets in the future," Australia's defense department stated in an April 23 release. Lockheed Martin is scheduled to deliver Australia's first two F-35s to Eglin AFB, Fla., to begin RAAF pilot training there this year. "Acquiring F-35 aircraft will reinforce the ADF’s ability to operate seamlessly with US forces and Australia’s capacity to continue supporting our shared strategic interests under the US alliance," according to the Australian government. The F-35 development partner signed for 14 initial airframes in 2009, and plans a total buy of 100 Lightning IIs. Australia expects to welcome its first F-35 on home soil in 2018 and will stand up three operational F-35 squadrons and one training unit in 2020, according to officials. “Today’s announcement for additional aircraft will help fulfill their country’s national security needs, strengthen our long-standing relationship, and solidify the strategic role F-35s will have in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren in an April 23 release.
  • An Air Force-contracted DHC-8 Prospector aircraft crashed last October because the crew accidently drifted inland and impacted terrain during a counter narcotics mission off the Colombian coast, according to an April 23 Air Combat Command release. Four of the six crewmembers were killed and the two pilots were injured in the crash. The twin-engine surveillance aircraft, operated by Sierra Nevada Corp., was tracking a suspected drug trafficking boat from low-altitude on a US Southern Command mission from Panama when it crashed just over the border in Colombia, Oct. 4, 2013. "The cause of the mishap was the pilots' failure to ensure the aircraft remained over water, which resulted in unplanned night flight over land at low altitude, and subsequent controlled flight into the terrain," states the release, which accompanied the accident report. ACC investigators determined that poor aircrew cooperation, inoperative terrain avoidance equipment, and a lack of oversight contributed to the mishap. The aircraft was destroyed and $7.2 million worth of US government equipment was lost in the crash.
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Arlington, Va., this week to see what new technologies the agency is developing. On his April 22 visit, Hagel met with patients and researchers developing a robotic arm that can “mimic the shape, size, and weight of a human arm,” said DARPA Program Manager Justin Sanchez. Hagel’s friend and fellow Vietnam War veteran Fred Downs, who lost his arm during the war, operated the robotic arm through a series of foot movements, according to an April 23 release. This kind of technology “is transformational,” said Hagel, who also learned of DARPA’s Robotic Challenge, which is “a competition to develop a robot for rescue and disaster response.” The project came about after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. He also received a classified briefing on three developing pieces of technology pertaining to Plan X, a cyberware program; persistent close air support; and a long-range, anti-ship missile, states the release.
  • A recent Congressional Research Service report found no evidence that Iran and North Korea are exchanging nuclear weapons, but there is “significant and meaningful” cooperation between the two countries on ballistic missile technology. Both countries also have provided Syria with ballistic missiles and related technology, according to the report. “For decades, most in Congress have viewed these countries with unease because these programs, coupled with the governments’ strong anti-US positions and their antagonism toward US regional friends and allies, pose what are widely regarded as threats to US national security interests,” states the report, released last week. It also notes that Congress has held “numerous hearings and passed laws designed to slow and deter” these countries from “developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.” However, the number of unclassified Congressional reports on issues related to weapons of mass destruction have “decreased considerably in recent years,” states the report. “Congress may wish to consider requiring additional reporting from the executive branch on WMD proliferation.”

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In More Depth
  • Fifteen years ago, the space launch business needed to overcome costly failures and setbacks. What followed was an unprecedented string of successes.
  • Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, is trying to “develop a cost-conscious culture” through an initiative dubbed the “Road to a Billion and Beyond.”
  • In his book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates describes the Air Force as “one of my biggest headaches”—a perception USAF leaders were never able to turn around during his tenure.
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