F-15EX First Flight

Boeing F-15EX Makes First Flight

Boeing's F-15EX fighter made its first flight Feb. 2—a 90-minute hop around St. Louis, Mo., checking out flying qualities and general systems. No issues were reported publicly. The jet is one of two that will begin developmental and operational testing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., later this quarter, after either a rollout in St. Louis or an arrival ceremony at Eglin. Boeing is under contract for eight airplanes, but the Air Force plans to buy between 144 and 200 to relieve F-15Cs that are beyond their planned service lives.
CSAF and CMSAF at vASC

Air Force Unveils New Standards for Enlisted, Officer Evaluations

The Air Force is revamping evaluations for Airmen in grades E-7 through E-9 and O-1 through O-6 and establishing Airman Leadership Qualities on which each will be graded, the service announced on Feb. 2. These ALQs make up the backbone of a new, as-of-now optional, form the service has published as a companion document to the Airman Comprehensive Assessment. “This is just the beginning stages of constructing a system that clearly defines the qualities we value and need in our Airmen,” CMSAF JoAnne S. Bass told Air Force Magazine in a statement.
Lt. Gen. Mary O'Brien

USAF Intelligence, Cyber Branch Preps Diversity Strategy

The Air Force’s intelligence and cyber operations branch will soon roll out a diversity and inclusion strategy to strengthen that workforce and the quality of their analyses. “Diversity, equity, inclusion are critical to our success going forward. It's a national security imperative; it's in the [Director of National Intelligence's] principles for professional ethics,” Lt. Gen. Mary F. O'Brien, deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and cyber effects operations, said at a Feb. 2 event hosted by the Intelligence National Security Alliance. The strategy aims to address the barriers that Airmen in certain demographic groups, from racial minorities to mothers, face as they scale the career ladder.
North Pole mission

B-1Bs to Deploy to Norway

U.S. B-1B bombers will deploy to Norway for the first time, in both a message to Russia and a sign of the growing importance of the Arctic. B-1Bs from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, will fly out of Orland Air Base on the coast of the Norwegian Sea. While bombers have repeatedly flown alongside Norwegian aircraft, this will be the first time Lancers will operate out of a base in the country, according to U.S. European Command.

Despite Big Budgets and New Entrants, Industrial Base Gets a ‘C’ from NDIA

The National Defense Industrial Association gave the defense industrial base another "C" grade in its second annual assessment, based on polling data from member companies. While business is good, companies are finding it hard to get qualified workers and navigate complex government business rules. With a few exceptions, the data was mostly collected before the COVID-19, but the few results that include impacts from the pandemic so far suggest a big hit on the industrial base is coming.
Kathleen H. Hicks

Hicks Says She Will Oversee Nuclear Modernization, Commits to Triad

Kathleen H. Hicks, who will oversee decisions related to nuclear modernization if confirmed to be the No. 2 official at the Pentagon, assured lawmakers during her confirmation hearing on Feb. 2 that she is committed to all three legs of the nuclear triad. Since Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, who previously served on Raytheon Technologies’ board, has committed to recusing himself from all decisions relating to the company during his tenure, Hicks said that if she is confirmed as the deputy defense secretary, she will step in for programmatic discussions on the Air Force’s Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, the Long-Range Stand Off Weapon, and “other timely missile defense issues.”
Khafji

30 Years After Desert Storm: Feb. 3

In commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of Operation Desert Storm, Air Force Magazine is posting daily recollections from the six-week war, which expelled Iraq from occupied Kuwait.

Virtual Events: AFSOC’s Slife on Mitchell Institute’s ‘Aerospace Nation’

On Feb. 16, the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies will host Lt. Gen. James C. Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, on the next installment of its virtual “Aerospace Nation” series. The event discussion will cover AFSOC's priorities for the year, the development of emerging technologies for special operations, and the implementation of AFSOC's Strategic Guidance. The think tank will post event video on its website and YouTube page after the live event.

Radar Sweep

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OPINION: To Compete with China and Russia, the US Military Must Redefine ‘Readiness’

The Washington Post

“Despite the [2018 National Defense Strategy’s] success in building a sense of urgency, it has not changed defense investment priorities at the scale or scope necessary to prepare the U.S. military for great power competition,” writes Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger. “While there are several reasons for this, we believe that a major contributing factor is a fixation on ‘readiness,’ and how it is conceptualized, by the military services, the Defense Department, and Congress.”

Joint All-Domain Awareness

Air Force Magazine

Get a better sense of the drive for greater connectedness between air, space, cyber, land, and maritime forces. Catch up on all-things JADC2 now.

Air Force Hunts for Ways to Use Not-Quite-Ready Tankers

Defense One

Ten years to the month since Pentagon leaders chose the Boeing KC-46 over a similar tanker built by European rival Airbus, the plane is still in testing and is expected to be war-ready no earlier than late 2023, thanks to needed improvements in its refueling system. “As I look over the 10 years, I have to say...right now where we're at in the program is we're making lemonade out of lemons,” Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, the head of Air Mobility Command, said during a Monday Defense Writers Group Zoom meeting.

DOD Likely to Miss 2021 Deadline for Counter-Drone Weapon

Breaking Defense

"Low-collateral effect interceptors" against small drones would be used in "defeating small UAS in urban environments, over sensitive sites, or situations where the rules of engagement would not allow kinetic effects," the Defense Department’s solicitation to industry says.

Pentagon Chief Purges Defense Boards; Trump Loyalists Out

Military.com

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered hundreds of Pentagon advisory board members to resign this month as part of a broad review of the panels, essentially purging several dozen last-minute appointments under the Trump administration.

GOP Congressman: Army Must Push FBI, Congress for More Specifics on Capitol Threats

The Hill

A Republican congressman urged the Army on Feb. 2 to push for more information about specific threats that warrant a continued National Guard presence at the Capitol. Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) spoke on the phone with acting Army Secretary John Whitley on Feb. 2 after sending a letter last week signed by 10 other Republicans requesting a briefing on threats to the Capitol complex.

One More Thing

F-117s Cleared to Refuel from All KC-135s as ‘Retired’ Stealth Jets Expand Operations

The Drive

The Air Force's Air Mobility Command (AMC) has issued a formal order that all KC-135 Stratotankers are now cleared to execute aerial refueling operations with F-117 Nighthawks. The order is quite the 'back to the future' directive as the F-117 was first cleared for aerial refueling operations in the mid-1980s and has been officially retired for 13 years now, although this really isn't the case for a number of the remaining ‘Black Jets.’