White House to Nominate Esper as Defense Secretary as Shanahan Departs

The White House on June 21 announced the intent to officially nominate Army Secretary Mark Esper to be the next Defense Secretary, hours after former acting Defense Secretary and expected nominee Patrick Shanahan was ceremoniously walked out of the building. The White House also announced President Donald Trump will nominate David Norquist, currently performing the role of the deputy defense secretary, to take that role permanently. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Kennedy Leaving Space Development Agency Months After Taking the Helm

Fred Kennedy, a publicly enthusiastic proponent of the Pentagon’s vision for a new space architecture, is stepping down from his role as inaugural director of the fledgling Space Development Agency after only a few months. “Dr. Fred Kennedy has been serving on a detail from [the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] as the director of the Space Development Agency,” Defense Department spokeswoman Heather Babb said in an emailed statement June 21. “An acting director of Space Development Agency will be announced soon. I don’t have any more information on a [replacement] timeline at this time.” Kennedy did not respond to a request for comment. He reportedly submitted his resignation June 19 and will return to DARPA. Under his watch, the organization planned to put the first pieces of a large constellation of small satellites on orbit in 2022. “There is no change to the mission or activities of the SDA,” Babb said. “SDA will drive the department’s future threat-driven space architecture and will accelerate the development and fielding of the new military space capabilities necessary to ensure our technological and military advantage in space for national defense.” Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

AFRL’s New Goal: Make Munitions Plan Attacks

DAYTON, Ohio—The Air Force is abandoning its “Gray Wolf” swarming cruise-missile development program to instead funnel funding toward “Golden Horde,” an effort to get existing munitions to cooperate in combat. Golden Horde would enable assets like the Small Diameter Bombs I and II, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, and Miniature Air-Launched Decoy to plan their next steps together once fired. “The first two of us that got here four minutes earlier, we actually took out this target,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, the service’s program executive officer for weapons, said in a June 20 interview at an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center conference here. Genatempo was describing how weapons could chart out attacks. “So the two of you that were coming in behind us just to make sure, you can go to Target B. Within that four-minute flight time, there would be time to adjust to go to Target B.” The Air Force issued a $100 million development contract for the initiative in March. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

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B-52H May Become B-52J

DAYTON, Ohio—The Air Force is likely to redesignate the B-52H as the B-52J once it receives a slew of modifications adding up to a “major modification,” Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, service program executive officer for fighters and bombers, told reporters June 20. Typically, the Air Force makes a letter-change designation to an aircraft—what Collins described as “rolling the series”—when it receives enough new and different equipment that it constitutes virtually a new system, he said at the Life Cycle Industry Days here. The B-52 is slated to receive new engines beginning in about 10 years, and “that probably would be enough” to warrant a letter change, but the venerable bomber will also be getting new digital systems, communications, new weapons, and a new radar, as well as a variety of other improvements. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

MQ-9 Air-to-Air Missiles Postponed for Higher Priorities

DAYTON, Ohio—MQ-9 Reapers will keep their slew of air-to-surface weapons, but the Air Force is holding off on adding air-to-air missiles to the drone’s arsenal for now, the service’s program executive officer for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and special operations forces said. The Air Force hasn’t vetted the MQ-9’s air-to-air combat skills since a 2017 test that proved the armed unmanned aircraft could shoot down other small drones, said Col. Dale White in a June 19 interview here. He indicated the concept has been pushed to the back burner as Air Combat Command pursues other ideas needed to meet the National Defense Strategy’s focus on more advanced technologies. “Right now, I can tell you it’s not something we’re actively pursuing,” White said. “It’s one of those things where we always say, ‘there’s no limit to what you can do with enough time and money.’ It is a capability we’ll always keep at the forefront of something that we can do.” In March 2018, the Air Force said it planned to offer General Atomics a contract to develop an air-to-air missile engagement simulator for the Reaper, although no firm plans were made to add the new weapon to the airframe. The service has said it wants to use unmanned aircraft less often in low-intensity counterinsurgency fights and bring them into contested environments, though their vulnerability is in the spotlight this month following shootdown of a Navy RQ-4A by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. —Rachel S. Cohen

F-22 Won’t Make 80 Percent Mission Capable Rate on Time

DAYTON, Ohio—The F-22 fleet is turning in a substantially better mission capable rate, but won’t hit the 80 percent level former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said must be met by the end of fiscal 2019. Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, program executive officer for fighters and bombers, said he would not discuss the F-22’s MC rate numbers, as they are classified. However, “the MC numbers are higher than they’ve ever been,” he told reporters at USAF’s Life Cycle Industry Days here. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

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Roper: USAF Needs to Get Back to Golden Era of Fighter Production

LE BOURGET, France—The Air Force’s acquisition head wants to go back to a golden era of fighter jet production by taking advantage of the future of engineering as well as both major manufacturers and small startups. During the Vietnam War era, companies churned out what is known as the Century Series of fighter aircraft to meet the growing need for combat aircraft and to bring on developing technology. The demand signal started to change during the Cold War, but “technology didn’t change very fast,” Will Roper, the assistant secretary for acquisition, said in an interview at the Paris Air Show. Because “technology is everywhere now,” it makes sense for the service to look at more dynamic fighter production—small lots and constant design changes—to keep its fleet modern, Roper said. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Raytheon to Conduct Cyber Assessments of USAF Aircraft Systems

LE BOURGET, France—Raytheon and the Air Force are working on a type of “bug bounty” focused on addressing cyber deficiencies, but this time on aircraft. The company is contracted to conduct cyber vulnerability assessments on several aircraft subsystems and then work to mitigate the issues through resiliency instead of simply aiming to be impervious to attacks, said Dave Wajsgras, Raytheon’s president of Intelligence, Information, and Services. The company will begin working on the C-130J and F-15 in the fourth quarter of this year. “The Air Force is taking the threat quite seriously,” Wajsgras said. The threat assessment process will look at how vulnerable aircraft systems, such as the mission computers, avionics, and navigation, are to attack. The objective is to strengthen those systems enough so that if one comes under a cyber attack, it doesn’t simply go offline, leaving the aircrew without that capability. “Resiliency says that even if something were to breach, and malware does enter, the system is resilient and can continue to function as intended,” he said. —Brian Everstine

KC-46 Refuels Super Galaxy in Certification Tests

The KC-46 Pegasus linked up with a C-5M Super Galaxy, the Air Force’s largest airplane, for the first time in April as part of ongoing aerial refueling certification tests with 22 receiver aircraft. “You have a few ‘pinch me’ moments in life, and this was one of them for me,” Maj. Drew Bateman, 22nd Airlift Squadron chief of standardization and evaluation, said in a June 17 press release. “Not everyone gets to be a part of something like this. We were able to get two aircraft together for the first time.” The first test at Travis AFB, Calif., occurred April 29, followed by another on May 15. Certain tests required the planes to refuel while lugging more than 800,000 pounds of cargo and fuel. About a dozen sorties are needed to vet the KC-46 and C-5M together. “Every test flight begins with a continuity check so the KC-46 crew ensures they can connect and disconnect safely with our aircraft,” Bateman said. “From there, we continue testing a variety of items at multiple speeds and altitudes throughout the sortie.” Super Galaxies are one of the platforms with which the KC-46 needs to prove itself to finish initial testing to be declared operationally capable. In the meantime, Boeing and the Air Force are still working through a slew of issues with the Pegasus’s tanking performance as well as debris left inside the airframes at Boeing plants. —Rachel S. Cohen



AP Sources: US Struck Iranian Military Computers This Week

US military cyber forces launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems June 20 as President Donald Trump backed away from plans for a more conventional military strike in response to Iran’s downing of a US surveillance drone, US officials said June 22. Associated Press
Report Cites Dangerous Working Conditions for Military Construction and Manufacturing Contractors

Construction and manufacturing companies working with the Department of Defense have been cited for serious safety or health violations, some leading to death, according to an analysis of federal data by the Government Accountability Office. Military Times

Senate Votes to Block Saudi Arms Sales as Trump Vows Veto

The Senate has voted to block the Trump administration from selling arms to Saudi Arabia, launching a new challenge to President Donald Trump’s alliance with the country amid rising tensions in the Middle East. Associated Press

Mitchell Institute’s Deptula on Rising Tensions Between Iran and the US

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula discusses President Trump’s options to meet national security objectives and says Pentagon leaders are ‘masters’ at putting together plans of action. Fox News clip 1, clip 2, clip 3.

Auto GCAS Team Presented with Collier Trophy

The Air Force Test Center’s 416th and 461st Flight Test Squadrons along with Lockheed Martin, the F-35 Joint Program Office, NASA, and the Defense Safety Oversight Council received the prestigious 2018 Robert J. Collier Trophy, June 13, for the development and testing of the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System. USAF release

This Bill Would Make Airport Security Easier and ‘Less Intrusive’ for Disabled Vets

The bipartisan legislation would grant TSA PreCheck privileges to veterans who are blind or paralyzed, as well as veteran amputees. Military Times

One More Thing

Step Inside the Cockpit of a B-52

Get a front row seat as a B-52 participates in this year’s iteration of BALTOPS, a multinational exercise in the Baltics during which US, NATO, and partner countries practice their collective response to regional security threats and promote interoperability. AFGSC on Twitter