McConnell KC-46 Crews Shaping the Future of Refueling

Aircrews and pilots at McConnell AFB, Kan., are now several weeks into KC-46 initial operational test and evaluation, meeting test points and forming the tactics of the next generation of air refueling. The airmen faced long delays to get the new tanker on board, and are still dealing with issues of foreign object debris and other major deficiencies. For now, however, the airmen are setting firsts for the plane and are “loving every minute of having an airplane, it’s a lot more fun,” Lt. Col. Wesley Spurlock, commander of the 344th Air Refueling Squadron, said. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

USAF Seeks New Strategy to Grow Predictive Maintenance Gains

DAYTON, Ohio—Despite the Air Force’s enthusiasm in rolling out data-driven, proactive aircraft maintenance initiatives over the past few years, a top official says someone needs to champion those efforts and shoulder the cost if they are to continue. “We need to build a better story, the roadmap for how we go forward,” Air Force Materiel Command boss Gen. Arnold Bunch said in a June 20 interview here. “We need to find a way to measure the true value of what we’re getting out of these.” The service has two main predictive maintenance programs: one called “Conditions-Based Maintenance Plus” that uses sensors to gather data on when parts may break, and another artificial intelligence-driven effort in partnership with Silicon Valley’s Defense Innovation Unit and the AI developer C3. Together, the pilot programs cover or plan to include the B-1, C-5, C-135 variants, C-130, E-3, F-16, and F-35. Air Force officials are discussing a more comprehensive strategy to combine different predictive maintenance efforts and convince others the up-front cost of new algorithms is worthwhile. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

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Hill’s F-35s Working Closely with Allies During European Deployment

Although this is the Air Force’s second F-35 deployment to Europe, it’s the first time the fifth-generation fighters have intensely operated with partner nations and regularly forward deployed to new locations. The airmen and 12 jets from the 421st Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah, first deployed to Europe in late May. Since then, they’ve forward deployed to Italy, Switzerland, Finland, and Norway, and plan to operate out of Spangdahlem AB, Germany, the rest of the summer. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Fifth AEHF Comms Satellite Launch Delayed

The Air Force is delaying the launch of its fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications satellite for about two weeks after discovering a rocket battery failure, the service said June 23. Launch was originally scheduled for June 27, and now will take place July 9 at the earliest. The United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket is set to bring Lockheed Martin’s AEHF-5 to space. “Additional time is needed for the technical team to complete the evaluation of the issue and replace the battery,” ULA and the Air Force said in a joint statement. The fourth AEHF launch also was pushed back last year due to issues with the satellite’s power regulator. —Rachel S. Cohen

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Here’s New Acting SecDef Mark Esper’s First Message to the Troops

In his first hours on the job, the new acting Defense Secretary has published a message to the Defense Department highlighting his priorities and reaffirming a path forward. Despite turnover, he exhorted his people to stay focused on the mission.

Trump Imposes New US Sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader, Other Top Officials

President Donald Trump targeted Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior Iranian officials with sanctions on June 24, taking a dramatic, unprecedented step to increase pressure on Iran after Tehran’s downing of an unmanned American drone. Reuters

As Iran Warns, US Officials Mum on Launch of Cyber Attack

Vice President Mike Pence and the Pentagon wouldn’t say June 23 whether the US had launched cyber attacks aimed at disrupting Iran’s air and missile defenses as air strikes in retaliation for the shootdown of an RQ-4 Global Hawk drone were being called off.

Iraq Boosts Security Measures at Base Where US Trainers Stay

Security measures were increased at one of Iraq’s largest air bases that houses American trainers following an attack last week, a top Iraqi air force commander said June 22. Associated Press

With All Eyes on F-35, AAR Corp. Looks to “Clean Up” on F-16 Maintenance

As a number of companies chase maintenance work for the F-35 fighter jet, one firm is planning to clean up on the F-16. Defense News

Pompeo Says He Hopes Trump Letter to North Korean Leader Can Restart Talks

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on June 23 that he hopes a letter sent by President Donald Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can pave the way for new talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear program. Reuters

OPINION: Here’s What an AI Code of Conduct for the Pentagon Might Look Like

Have you ever witnessed two people talking past each other? They seem to be discussing the same topic using the same language, but you begin to wonder if they are actually talking about two different things. The public debate about the use of artificial intelligence in the Department of Defense is beginning to feel that way to me. C4ISRNET

Tuskegee Airman Who Flew 142 WWII Combat Missions Dies at 99

World War II pilot Robert Friend, one of the last original members of the famed all-black Tuskegee Airmen, has died at the age of 99. Associated Press via

One More Thing

This Military UFO Made a Midwest Appearance

In the sky above Kansas City drifted unknown floating objects peculiar enough that the National Weather Service felt compelled to tweet, “We honestly have no explanation for the floating objects over Kansas City,” along with a blurry picture of two orbs set above the clouds. As much as the internet delighted in projecting extraterrestrial mischief onto the sight, the truth was out there, and both more and less than it seemed: The objects above Kansas City were a DARPA project. C4ISRNET