Air Force Awards $1.2 Billion Contract for First Lot of F-15EXs

Boeing received a $1.2 billion sole-source Air Force contract July 13 to begin buying the first eight F-15EX fighters, meant to replace the F-15C/D Eagle fleet, which is rapidly aging out, the Pentagon announced. The contract could ultimately be worth nearly $23 billion and involve as many as 144 aircraft. The F-15EX has been controversial even before it was added—unrequested—to the Air Force's fiscal year 2020 budget. However, Air Combat Command boss Gen. James M. Holmes said the F-15EX is “the most affordable and immediate way to refresh the capacity and update the capability provided by our aging F-15C/D fleets,” adding that the first aircraft “will be ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line.”
T-6A Texan II

USAF T-6 Fleet Sees Drop in Hypoxia-Like Events

The Air Force only saw five hypoxia-like events in its T-6A trainer fleet in the first three months of 2020—a 50-percent drop from the same period the year before, according to data obtained by Air Force Magazine. But despite progress reflected by the data, Brig. Gen. Gregor J. Leist, who heads the Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team, said the team still isn't satisfied with where the Texan stands.
ABMS Experiment

House Appropriators Expected to Cut Back on Air Force’s ABMS Plans

House appropriators want to severely limit funding for the Air Force's new Advanced Battle Management System, while also restricting the series of ABMS exercises. The Air Force's fiscal 2021 budget calls for more than $302 million for ABMS —its “system of systems” linking space, air, and ground sensors together as a way to replace its E-8 Joint STARS fleet. The request is more than double what the service asked for in fiscal 2020, and is part of a planned increase to more than $1 billion in fiscal 2024. The House Appropriations Committee, in a report accompanying its proposed fiscal 2021 defense spending bill, says that although it understands the need for a new network for future operating environments, it “lacks enough confidence in the Air Force’s structuring and execution of ABMS to support the rate of budget growth” the service wants.
Michael J. K. Kratsios

White House Chief Tech Officer to Backfill Griffin at Pentagon

Michael J. K. Kratsios, the White House’s 33-year-old chief technology officer, is the new acting undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, effective July 10, the Pentagon announced July 13. He fills in behind Michael D. Griffin, whose last day was also July 10. Griffin and his deputy, Lisa Porter, left to pursue unidentified opportunities in the private sector. At the White House, Kratsios led initiatives in 5G, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence. The deputy DDR&E post vacated by Porter will be filled by Griffin's deputy Mark J. Lewis, who will retain his duties as the DDR&E for modernization.
Combat Sentry

‘Combat Sentry’ Tests USAF Command and Control Aircraft, Airmen

Air Force command and control aircraft now have a combat evaluation program, with the kickoff of the first-ever Combat Sentry on July 13 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Combat Sentry, similar to the live-fire Combat Hammer and Combat Archer evaluations, puts two E-3 Sentry AWACS from the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., to the test. For almost two weeks, the E-3s will fly in environments where optionally manned QF-16s, subscale BQM-167 drones, and E-9A monitoring aircraft will test the battle management and command and control capability with simulated cruise missiles, live fire operations, and maritime operations, according to a Tyndall release.
45th SW supports successful Delta IV NROL-37 launch

Space Force to Launch Classified NRO Payload from Wallops Flight Facility

The U.S. Space Force's Space and Missile Systems Center is on schedule to launch a top secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office on July 15, marking the new service's first launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The National Reconnaissance Office Launch-129 (NROL-129) mission will be the 27th launch of a Northrop Grumman Minotaur IV rocket, but the first from Wallops since 2013. “This will be our first U.S. Space Force mission and the first dedicated NRO mission from Wallops,” Lt. Col. Ryan A. Rose, chief of SMC's Launch Small Launch and Targets Division, said in a press release.

Virtual Events: Scowcroft Group’s Miller on Mitchell’s Nuclear Deterrence Series, and More

On March 23, the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies will host a virtual Nuclear Deterrence Series event featuring Scowcroft Group Principal Frank Miller. At a time when nuclear modernization programs are accelerating around the world, proposals to recapitalize the U.S. nuclear arsenal are at the forefront of debates over defense spending. Miller will share his insights into the prospects for U.S. nuclear modernization programs and the value of nuclear deterrence in today's competitive security environment. The think tank will post event video on its website and YouTube page after the live event.

Radar Sweep

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.

Should the Defense Health Agency Take Over Military Healthcare Management?

The War Horse

Last October, the Defense Health Agency, a combat support organization that provides medical support staff across all branches, began to take over management of all the military hospitals and clinics. The change would mean the Army, Navy, and Air Force no longer managed their own health care systems.

Raytheon Technologies CEO on Riding Out the COVID-19 Crisis

Aviation Week Network

When he was United Technologies Corp. chairman and CEO, Greg Hayes took a lot of heat for merging his company with Raytheon to create aerospace powerhouse Raytheon Technologies. But the critics have been silenced as defense has cushioned the company from the battering the commercial downturn has inflicted on its Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney operations.

OPINION: US Must Invest More in Its Geriatric Bomber Force


“Today the Air Force operates the smallest bomber force—157 total aircraft—and oldest—average age of 45 years—since its formation as a separate service in 1947,” writes retired Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. “At the same time the demand for bombers has surged.”

NRO and Space Force Stick with Rocket Lab Despite Failed Launch


An anomaly occurred during the small launch provider’s most recent mission, resulting in the loss of the rocket and the commercial payloads it was carrying. Rocket Lab noted in a statement that the issue occurred approximately four minutes into the July 4 flight, following a successful liftoff from its New Zealand launch pad as well as a successful first-stage burn and stage separation.

Rapid Acquisition & Sustainment

Air Force Magazine

The Air Force and U.S. defense establishment are breaking down barriers and injecting speed, innovation, and creativity into the procurement system. Check out our new page to learn more about these efforts.

Navy: 57 Treated for Injuries in USS Bonhomme Richard Fire as Blaze Continues

Task and Purpose

Thirty-four sailors and 23 civilians have been treated for minor injuries, including heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, from the fire aboard the San Diego-based amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, which began on the morning of July 12, the Navy said. Five sailors remain in the hospital and are in stable condition, Naval Surface Forces for the Pacific Fleet tweeted on July 13.

OPINION: How a Tiny Indian Ocean Island Could Force a US-UK Rift

Defense One

“The U.S. has recently notched victories at the International Court of Justice and United Nations General Assembly in its battle to take from Britain its sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago,” writes Nilanthi Samaranayake, director of the Strategy and Policy Analysis program at the Center for Naval Analyses. ”The largest of these islands, Diego Garcia, has for decades been a key logistics, reconnaissance, and operational base for U.S. forces. While many factors are at play, including discussion about the Chagossian people, the Diego Garcia case reveals two critical dimensions that warrant attention by U.S. policymakers now.”

Iran Blames Bad Communication, Alignment for Jet Shootdown

The Associated Press

A misaligned missile battery, miscommunication between troops and their commanders, and a decision to fire without authorization all led to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner in January, killing all 176 people on board, a new report says. The report released late July 11 by Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization comes months after the Jan. 8 crash near Tehran. Authorities had initially denied responsibility, only changing course days later after Western nations presented extensive evidence that Iran had shot down the plane.