Protecting the Spectrum

Gen. William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, reiterated to members of the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel on Thursday the importance of protecting portions of the electromagnetic spectrum vital to national security. Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio),...

Timeline for Nuclear Warhead Life Extensions

The United States’ three nuclear warhead life-extension programs are continuing, but at a slower pace due to budget cuts, said Thomas D’Agostino, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Thursday. “Over the last two years, the Administration’s been very consistent...

Promoting Responsible Behavior in Space

The Defense Department continues to support the State Department’s work with the European Union in coming up with an international code of conduct for space, despite resistance from some members of Congress who worry that such a code would actually...

Aerospace Control Alert Sites Dropping to 14

In April 2013, the number of aerospace control alert sites in the continental United States—where fighters sit at the ready to defend domestic airspace—will go down from 16 to 14, Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, NORAD commander and head of US Northern Command, told lawmakers this week. He said the decision to take fighters off of around-the-clock alert at JB Langley-Eustis, Va., and in Duluth, Minn., was "very difficult," but was part of NORTHCOM's efforts to shed costs and find efficiencies in the way it operates—just as the Defense Department is doing across the entire US military. "I believe we can mitigate any additional risk that we assume by reducing the 24/7 presence," he said before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. He added, "I have the authority to move to another level of alert and go from 14 bases with 28 fighters to 23 bases with 46 fighters in just a matter of 48 hours. I also have the authority to restore a [combat air patrol], to restore a presence over each one of those bases, in less than an hour." (Jacoby's prepared testimony)

Questions Remain over Cause of Global Hawk Crash

Air Combat Command investigators could not determine a clear cause of the crash of an EQ-4B Global Hawk communications-relay aircraft over Afghanistan last summer, said ACC officials in a release. Several hours into the mission on Aug. 20, 2011, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing controller at Beale AFB, Calif., lost all sensory and control data links with the remotely piloted aircraft, according to the findings of ACC's accident investigation board. The controller followed proper procedures, but was unable to regain contact with the RPA, states the AIB's report. Radar tracks showed that the RPA continued flying, until—buffeted by normal atmospheric turbulence—it departed controlled flight, plummeting from 51,000 feet, states the report. The RPA impacted an uninhabited area roughly 105 nautical miles northwest of Kandahar, without additional damage or injury. Loss of the RPA was estimated at $72.8 million. The AIB determined that "a substantially contributing factor" in the mishap was the partial separation of a connector that led to the interruption of electrical power to aileron and spoiler flight-control actuators, rendering the aircraft uncontrollable. (AIB report; caution, large-sized file.)

The Times They are a Changin’

The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces panel did not pose a single question to Maj. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, USAF’s KC-46A tanker program executive officer, on the KC-46 during a 90-minute hearing this week to discuss the Air Force’s...

Countering the Low and Slow

US Northern Command is studying which capability it needs to counter "low, slow airborne threats" to the US homeland, said Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and NORTHCOM boss. He told the House Armed Services Committee this week that command officials are "actively pursuing" this. "We have submitted this capability into the joint requirements process and have begun work on an analysis of alternatives," he said. He added, "Based on our initial timelines, we anticipate having a way ahead by late summer." In the past, US officials have described such threats as small-sized single-engine propeller aircraft or even rudimentary cruise missiles. (Jacoby's prepared statement)

Space Tracking Key to Homeland Defense

The Precision Tracking Space System is "the greatest future enhancement for both homeland and regional defense in the next 10 years," Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, Missile Defense Agency director, told the House Armed Services Committee's strategic forces panel. PTSS is a satellite envisioned to track multiple ballistic missiles simultaneously and cue anti-missile interceptors. These spacecraft would provide "unprecedented capability" to track large-sized raids of ballistic missiles of all ranges through their entire flight trajectory, said O'Reilly. From their orbital perch, they would have "pervasive coverage" of the Northern Hemisphere, including the latitudes that the Pentagon is most concerned about, he said in his Tuesday testimony. He noted that MDA has provided data requested by OSD's cost-assessment office, which is working on an independent cost estimate of PTSS. MDA has programmed $1.5 billion for PTSS from Fiscal 2013 to Fiscal 2017. MDA plans to complete final design and engineering models for the PTSS bus, optical payload, and communications payload in Fiscal 2013, said O'Reilly. Launch of the first two PTSS spacecraft is projected in Fiscal 2017, he stated. (O'Reilly's written testimony)