Daily Report

Sept. 16, 2020
Will Roper at vASC

Roper Reveals NGAD Has Flown, But Doesn’t Share Details

The Air Force is already flying a Next Generation Air Dominance combat airplane, which was designed and prototyped using new digital methods, service acquisition executive Will Roper said Sept. 15. The revelation was meant to assure people that the new approach works, works quickly, and should be the template for new systems of all kinds, he said, without revealing any programmatic details, except that the type has set “lots of records.” Roper made a slick presentation to AFA's virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference, borrowing from the movie “The Matrix” to highlight that USAF is at inflection point, demanding that it embrace new realities or stick with potentially losing approaches to fielding new gear.
U.S. Capitol

Air, Space Forces Brace for Bumpy Start to Fiscal 2021

Department of the Air Force leaders are preparing for a continuing resolution that could curb spending for several months, Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett said Sept. 15. House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he will bring CR legislation to the chamber floor for consideration next week, shortly before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, according to Reuters. A CR would block the Air Force from investing in 54 new-start items affecting areas from pilot training to cyber operations software, and Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. Raymond warned a CR will stunt the new service’s growth as it tries to get on its feet.
Air Force Association Virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference 2020

As Cuts Loom, 386 Combat Squadrons—in the USAF and USSF—is Still the Goal

Despite an anticipated flat budget for fiscal year 2022, the Air Force is still holding onto the goal of building up to 386 combat wings, or their equivalent in combat capability, senior leaders said in a press conference at AFA's virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference. The figure remains an “aspiration,” but the top service officials couldn't predict when the Air Force and Space Force might get there. Air Force Secretary Barbara A. Barrett noted that the figure was established before Space Force was, which could alter the calculus.
Swearing-in Ceremony Collage

Space Force to Embark on First Basic Training Experiment

When the Space Force’s first seven enlisted recruits head to Basic Military Training next month, they will become the guinea pigs in one of many experiments underway in the new service aimed at building a better armed force. The service is embarking on a series of what Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman, the service’s senior enlisted adviser, calls “small-batch solutions.” “Do we have to do basic training separately from anything?” he said. "Could we do basic training as part of tech school and it's just called training and you just show up and you do it all together in one location?”
Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman

Space Force Eyes Promotion Boards for Enlisted Airmen

The Space Force plans to ditch its promotion tests for enlisted Airmen in favor of promotion boards that shape well-rounded service members. The service wants to measure how its members solve problems, not simply ask them to repeat what they’ve learned, Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman, the Space Force’s senior enlisted adviser, told Air Force Magazine. Instead of advancing the best test takers to mid- and high-level ranks, the Space Force would set up promotion boards “for every enlisted rank above E-4,” or senior Airman, Towberman said.
F-35as at Lakenheath

USAFE Still Targeting F-35s at Lakenheath by 2021, Despite Construction Delays

The head of U.S. Air Forces in Europe is “convinced” the command will base F-35As at RAF Lakenheath, U.K., on time in late 2021, despite some delays to military construction and a possible slowdown in F-35 deliveries because of COVID-19. “I am clear eyed that we’ve got a fair amount of work to do from the infrastructure needed to get the facilities ready, and at the same time work through the natural challenges of any bed down that has to do with the appropriate connectivity, security clearances, and those types of activities required to get an airplane in,” USAFE boss Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian told reporters during a panel at AFA’s virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Sept. 14. “But, we’re looking at the end of ’21 as the target remains on track for us to get the airplanes here.”
F-35 deploys to Europe for the first time

USAF to Reactivate 495th Fighter Squadron as F-35 Unit

The Air Force will reactivate its 495th Fighter Squadron to support the F-35 mission at RAF Lakenheath, U.K., 48th Fighter Wing spokesperson Maj. Sybil V. Taunton confirmed to Air Force Magazine via email on Sept. 15. “Overall we will see a plus-up of roughly 1,200 personnel to operate and support two full squadrons of F-35s,” she wrote, noting that the base's first Joint Strike Fighters are still slated to reach the base late next year. The squadron, which the 48th Fighter Wing History Office writes was deactivated in December 1991, previously operated F-111F Aardvark aircraft, Taunton noted.
Tory Bruno at vASC

ULA Ditched Chinese-Owned Supplier It Worried Could Be Spying

United Launch Alliance, America’s longtime space launch provider, recently cut ties with one of its suppliers amid worries that the company’s Chinese owner could steal sensitive information. ULA Chief Executive Officer Tory Bruno discussed his “wake-up call” that the Chinese could access proprietary data during the AFA’s virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference. Kuka, the Germany-based robotics firm acquired by China’s Midea Group in 2017, provided ULA with tooling software that helps manufacture rockets like the future Vulcan Centaur.
ULA launch

Here’s What Tory Bruno Thinks About the Future of Space Launch

United Launch Alliance Chief Executive Officer Tory Bruno has made a career out of building rockets that carry heavy objects across long distances. But 50 years in the future, as the U.S. returns to the moon and pushes beyond, he expects a new approach to ferrying cargo across the cosmos to emerge. Delivery from the ground to low Earth orbit will become a commodified service, and will connect to a still-emerging network of in-space transportation options, Bruno said Sept. 15 during the Air Force Association's virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference.
SECDEF at Mildenhall

AFSOC Boss: Keeping Special Ops Wing in England Means New MILCON Likely

The Pentagon’s decision to keep the 352nd Special Operations Wing at its current home of RAF Mildenhall, U.K., necessitates new military construction to update the base's neglected infrastructure for the Airmen, CV-22s, and MC-130s, though it also means the wing can stay in a familiar training area. In 2015, the Air Force announced plans to move the 352nd SOW and the 100th Air Refueling Wing from Mildenhall to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and ultimately close the East Anglian base. That plan was delayed multiple times; then, until earlier this summer, the Pentagon and U.S. European Command announced plans to withdraw more than 11,000 troops from Germany, move Spangdahlem’s F-16s to Italy, and keep Mildenhall open. AFSOC boss Lt. Gen. James C. Slife said Sept. 15 that AFSOC is in full support of the plan, with the wing comfortable and used to operating in the Mildenhall area. “Obviously we haven’t invested in infrastructure in Mildenhall in a number of years in anticipation of a move to Spangdahlem, but we recognize the change in policy and we’re supportive of that,” Slife said.
B-21 Ellsworth AFB Rendering

USAF’s Goal of 220 Bombers a ‘Living Number,’ Can Evolve as B-21 Comes Online

The Air Force still needs 220 total bombers, including about 100 new B-21s, though that target is a “living number” that can change as the Raider comes online and aging aircraft are modernized and outfitted with advanced weapons, the head of Air Force Global Strike Command said. Gen. Timothy M. Ray, speaking at the Air Force Association’s virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference, said the number as outlined in the service’s bomber roadmap is not set in stone. For example, when the roadmap was first announced the planned total was 175, but that number has since grown. Recently, Ray said he has presented it to the Armed Services Committees on Capitol Hill and it has garnered support. “I think we’ve put some real rigor into that, and it’s a real plan now,” Ray said.
A day of staying fit

Space Force Ponders Changes to Fitness Tests

Physical fitness could look a little different in the newest branch of the military, as officials consider more holistic, functional exercises and fewer PT tests. “We could do it more efficiently,” Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman, the Space Force’s senior enlisted adviser, told Air Force Magazine on Sept. 11. “The focus shouldn't be on the test. The focus should be on the process of being fit.” Towberman said the service needs to have a conversation about the relevance and safety of situps and pushups, suggesting the Space Force may favor planks to measure core strength instead.

Radar Sweep

WATCH: Virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference Day Two Highlights

Air Force Magazine

The Space Force swears in hundreds of new members and promises a test-free advancement system. The Air Force takes the “red pill” and a giant leap toward enabling JADC2. Next Generation Air Dominance breaks flight records ... and more. Air Force Magazine Editor-in-Chief Tobias Naegele and News Editor Amy McCullough highlight the key takeaways from AFA's virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference.

Snapshot: DOD and COVID-19

Air Force Magazine

Here's a look at how the Defense Department is being impacted by and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump Says He Wanted to Assassinate Syria’s Assad

Defense One

President Donald J. Trump on Sept. 15 acknowledged that he wanted to assassinate Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons in 2017, contradicting his own previous denial of the incident and undercutting a recent assertion that he stops war-hungry Defense Department leaders from starting new wars.

Next Corona Meeting to Flesh Out Gen. Brown’s Call to Change

Air Force Times

Less than a month into his tenure as the Air Force’s new chief of staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. put his commanders on notice that they will have to change quickly to prepare for the next war—or risk losing to an adversary such as China or Russia. The details of Brown’s call to “accelerate change or lose” will begin taking form at the Air Force’s fall meeting of its most senior leaders, called Corona.

Air Force to Demo Updating Software on a Jet in Flight, Official Says

Nextgov

One of the Pentagon’s key software development leaders said the Air Force is getting ready for a significant showcase of the service’s ability to push out software updates to warfighters in the coming weeks. “We're working on pretty cool announcements coming in the next few weeks with the ability to update the software of a jet while flying,” Nicolas Chaillan, chief software officer for the U.S. Air Force, said during a Sept. 15 webinar. “So that’s the kind of stuff that will be game changing.”

Jon Stewart to Pentagon: The F-35 Can Wait, but Troops Dying from Burn Pit Exposure Can't

Task & Purpose

Flanked by veterans, their families, and advocates, Jon Stewart, the former host of Comedy Central's “Daily Show,” spent several minutes of a Sept. 15 press conference in Washington railing against the federal government's insistence that building a fleet of newfangled jets (some of which don't work) is a better use of taxpayer dollars than caring for our war-wounded and ill.

Schmidt Departs as Chairman of Defense Innovation Board

Inside Defense

Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive of Google, has stepped down as the first chairman of the Defense Innovation Board, with former Sierra Nevada executive Mark Sirangelo taking over as head of the influential panel.

AFA's StellarXplorers Program Seeks Operations Director

Air Force Association job posting

The director is responsible for the successful and efficient administration of key functions of the StellarXplorers Program, a national high school space challenge, including business and competition operations for all competitions, camps, and new initiatives as they may develop. The director provides oversight, support, and guidance to the managers and coordinators who execute program development, outreach, and competition management, as well as support and maintenance for all aspects of technical support and required hardware and software.

Amid Postal Delays, Senator Wants Assurances on Military Absentee Voting

Military.com

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, has written the Defense Department's director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program for reassurances that the Pentagon is doing what it can to encourage and support voting among deployed service members and those stationed abroad.

One More Thing

Trump Awards Army Aircrews Who Rescued Hundreds During California Wildfire

Army Times

President Donald J. Trump awarded seven California National Guard Soldiers the Distinguished Flying Cross on Sept. 14 for rescuing 242 campers trapped by the massive Creek Fire in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the afternoon of Sept. 5 and into the early morning hours the next day.