Holloman Vipers

54th Fighter Group Pauses Flight Operations after F-16 Crash

The 54th Fighter Group at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., is pressing pause on some of its flying operations so it can “assess and reset” following a July 13 F-16 crash at the installation, base spokesperson Denise Ottaviano told Air Force Magazine on July 14. An F-16 assigned to the 49th Wing crashed while landing at Holloman around 6 p.m. local time on July 13, according to a Facebook post published by the wing. “The sole pilot on board successfully ejected and is currently being treated for minor injuries,” the post states. It was the Air Force's second F-16 crash in two weeks.
A Boeing illustration shows the F-15EX.

Air Force Now Wants Up to 200 F-15EXs

The Air Force's F-15EX contract awarded to Boeing July 13 could cover as many as 200 of the advanced Eagles, 56 more than the service has previously said it would buy. The “up to” figure in the contract is an increase from 144, which the service has stuck with since the updated F-15s were added to its budget two years ago. At 200, the Air Force would nearly buy enough of the two-seat fighters to replace its extant F-15C/D fleet of 234 jets.
MQ-9 Reaper

USAF Wants Its Reaper Replacement to Serve More Missions with Fewer People

The Air Force wants its follow-on to the venerable MQ-9 Reaper to move beyond the surveillance and strike roles, and be able to conduct air-to-air and base defense missions with increased autonomy to lessen the number of people in the loop, the service’s top acquisition official said. The Air Force issued a request for information on June 3 for the Reaper’s replacement, with responses due July 20. The goal is to replace the MQ-9 with an operational remotely pilot aircraft by 2031— a timeline that is an “eternity” in a modern, digitally engineered world, Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition Will Roper said. With most future programs, new aircraft and systems need to move beyond traditional, individual roles to serve a greater purpose in a high-end fight. “The litmus test for the MQ-Next is going to be what other letter can we assign to its name, because it’s doing a mission other than ISR and strike,” he said.
U.S. Capitol

House Appropriators Approve 2021 Defense Spending Bill, Veto Threat Looms

The House Appropriations Committee passed its version of the 2021 defense spending bill by a 30-22 vote July 14, though dissenting Republicans warned of “poison pills” in the measure that would invite a veto. The bill includes $694.6 billion for the Pentagon, including $626.2 billion in base funding and $68.4 billion in overseas contingency operations spending. This total is $1.3 billion above the Pentagon’s 2020 budget, but $3.7 billion below the administration’s request. Committee Republicans cautioned that some provisions in the measure invite a veto, including blocking Pentagon funds from going toward building a border wall, funding to rename Army bases named for Confederate leaders, and limiting the Defense Department’s reprogramming authority.
RC-135 Video

Russia: USAF, Navy Aircraft Intercepted over Black Sea

The Russian Defense Ministry claims it intercepted a USAF RC-135 reconnaissance plane and an MQ-9 Reaper, as well as a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, over the Black Sea on July 14. If verified, the Black Sea meeting marks at least the 10th interaction between U.S. and Russian aircraft in less than two months.
T-7A Red Hawk

Boeing Says T-7 Developmental Testing 80 Percent Complete

The Boeing-Saab T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer is making progress despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with 80 percent of developmental testing complete and the first engineering and manufacturing development aircraft under construction, Boeing officials reported July 14. The T-7 has shown “fighter-like” performance and will be a competitor for light attack and light fighter competitions worldwide, officials asserted.
Bruton and Schmitz

Scholarship Foundation Set Up to Honor Fallen F-16 Pilot’s Legacy

After 1st Lt. David Schmitz died during a routine training exercise in June, his former best man and fellow F-16 pilot vowed to keep his legacy alive by setting up a scholarship foundation in his memory. “He had an impact on so many people. I didn't want that to ever end,” said Maj. Patrick Bruton, who started the foundation. Schmitz, who was assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., was killed June 30 when his F-16CM Fighting Falcon crashed at the base. He was 33. Bruton, who also flies F-16s at Shaw, started a GoFundMe page on July 5, and has already raised $18,952 toward his goal of $25,077—the “77” represents Schmitz's fighter squadron. Bruton said he will use the money to start the Lt. David Schmitz Foundation, a program to give scholarships to those interested in pursuing a career in aviation.

Virtual Events: 6th Annual Schriever Space Forum, and More

On Nov. 20, the Air Force Association's Schriever Chapter will host the 6th Annual Schriever Space Futures Forum—a live, virtual event—featuring appearances by Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John E. Hyten, Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David D. Thompson, Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, and incoming U.S. Space Command boss Lt. Gen. (sel.) John E. Shaw. Register for free here.

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.

USAF Releases Report on Airman’s 2019 Death Following PT Test

Ground Accident Investigation Board report

A captain assigned to the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, Detachment 2 died in August 2019 shortly after taking her annual fitness assessment at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., due to complications related to the sickle cell trait, accident investigators found. The captain was aware she had the sickle trait, had received the appropriate counseling, did not report any concerning symptoms prior to the test, and had completed the rest of the assessment without any difficulty, according to the report, which was released July 14.

To Block Trump’s Troop Withdrawals, Congress Turns an Old Tactic Upside Down

Defense One

Lawmakers from the Senate and the House have in the last three years sought to use legislation to prevent the president from pulling troops from Afghanistan, Syria, South Korea, and now Germany—unless the administration certifies that a withdrawal will not harm U.S. or allied interests. It’s an unusual reversal for Congress, which historically is far more likely to seek to force a return of American troops, not demand that they remain deployed.

First Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey Delivered to Japan

Bell Boeing release

The United States delivered the first Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey to Camp Kisarazu, Japan, on July 10. The Japan Ground Self Defense Force is the first operator of the V-22 outside of the U.S. military.

Revolutionizing Aircrew Training Through Virtual Reality

USAF release

A new virtual reality trainer is one step closer to potentially transforming the way B-52 Stratofortress student pilots train for combat. The Virtual Reality Procedures Trainer, released during a milestone demonstration of its capabilities on July 7 at STRIKEWERX in Bossier City, La., may even change the entire Air Force bomber community’s approach to training.

416th FLTS, AFRL Tests ‘Gray Wolf’ Prototype Cruise Missile

USAF release

The 416th Flight Test Squadron recently completed a round of tests of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s “Gray Wolf” prototype cruise missile at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Gray Wolf is a DOD-directed prototype production and demonstration of low-cost, subsonic and networked collaborative cruise missiles. The missiles are designed to launch in a swarm to target enemy integrated air defense threats.

Mitchell Institute Hosts Uzi Rubin

Mitchell Institute YouTube video

Watch Uzi Rubin, the founder and first director (1991-1999) of the Israel Missile Defense Organization in the Israel Ministry of Defense, discuss the Iranian missile threats to the Middle East region and U.S. and allied interests in a virtual AFA Mitchell Institute Nuclear Deterrence Forum.

Air Force Name Tapes Can Now Include Accent Marks and Hyphens

Military.com

Airmen and Space Force members whose names contain accent marks or hyphens will soon be able to purchase accurate name tapes and tags, while qualifying male airmen will be newly able to receive five-year shaving waivers, the U.S. Air Force announced July 10. Those changes are part of a series of updates to the service's dress and appearance policy aimed at "creating a more inclusive culture," officials said.

Legion Pod Achieves Major Milestones

DOD release

See photos of an F-16, piloted by Lt. Col. Jeremy "Clutch" Castor, from the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, as it takes flight on the Fighting Falcons first-ever flight with the Legion Pod.

Space Force Acquisition Management Criticized by House Appropriators

SpaceNews

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee in a report released July 13 blasts the U.S. Space Force for not having a dedicated civilian leader in charge of acquisitions. The committee is “most concerned that the Department of the Air Force has no Senate-confirmed senior civilian leader solely focused on space with authority over acquisition, budget, and long-term planning,” says the report accompanying the fiscal year 2021 funding bill for the Defense Department.

One More Thing

USAF Wants Your Ideas on How to Optimize Aviation Fuel

USAF release

In partnership with AFWERX, Air Force Operational Energy has launched an Airmen Powered by Innovation Challenge to solicit ideas on how to optimize aviation fuel for the Air Force, enabling greater combat capability, range, and more efficient operations. The challenge is open to Airmen of all ranks and occupations and is accepting submissions on a rolling basis.