A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor and F-35A Lightning II fly in formation with the XQ-58A Valkyrie low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground testing range, Ariz., during a series of tests Dec. 9, 2020. This integrated test follows a series of gatewayONE ground tests that began during the inaugural Department of the Air Force on-ramp last year in December. Courtesy photo.

Brown Launching Major TacAir Study with CAPE, Considering ‘5th-Gen Minus’

The Air Force will soon embark on a major new analysis of its tactical fighter mix, looking for the right capabilities in the high-, middle- and low-end spectrum of warfare, service Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said Feb. 17. The study will involve the Pentagon's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation shop to get buy-in from the Pentagon leadership, and the study should be ready to inform the fiscal 2023 budget, Brown said. He also acknowledged that the F-35 fighter's engine is having problems, likely caused by excessive use, and said he's considering reducing its operating tempo to save the fleet for a future high-end fight.
B-1B Lancer

First of 17 B-1Bs Heads to the Boneyard

The first of 17 B-1B bombers to be retired this fiscal year under a Congressionally-approved divestiture plan flew to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., on Feb. 17, Air Force Global Strike Command said. Of the 17 Lancers to retire, four will be kept in “recallable storage,” one will go to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif, for testing, one will go to the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and one may be used for research, while a fourth may be put on static display at an unidentified base. After the drawdown, USAF will have 45 B-1s left in service.
Gen. Van Ovost KC-46 Familiarization Flight

Report: AMC Boss Expected to be Nominated to Lead TRANSCOM

Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost is expected to be nominated to lead U.S. Transportation Command, a pick originally expected last fall but The New York Times reported Feb. 17 that it was delayed based on concerns about the White House’s reaction at the time. Van Ovost, who has led Air Mobility Command since August, and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, head of U.S. Army North, were both set to lead combatant commands but then-Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper told the Times it was delayed because, “I didn’t want their promotions derailed because someone in the Trump White House saw that I recommended them or thought DOD was playing politics. Richardson is expected to be nominated to lead U.S. Southern Command. “They were the best qualified,” Esper told the Times. “We were doing the right thing.”
Air Force, Moody receive first Jolly Green II

Sikorsky Wrapping Developmental Tests on New Search-and-Rescue Chopper

Sikorsky will finish its to-do list of developmental flight testing requirements for the Air Force’s new fleet of combat search-and-rescue helicopters in the next month or so, and is gearing up to deliver one chopper per month starting this summer, company officials told reporters Feb. 17. The Combat Rescue Helicopter program is moving forward as Sikorsky has delivered eight of the nine HH-60W Jolly Green II aircraft built so far. Those eight helos are housed at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and Moody Air Force Base, Ga., while Sikorsky is using the ninth airframe for flight tests.
15th AMU Air Commandos keep AFSOC mission alive

AFSOC Experimenting with Agile Combat Employment

Air Force Special Operations Command is running an experiment to see if it can successfully generate small, deployable teams of multi-capable Airmen to better align with the Air Force’s agile combat employment model, AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. James C. “Jim” Slife said during a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event on Feb. 16.
Space Development Agency Director Takes Part in Defense One Event

SDA Preps Plans for ‘Tranche One’ Satellites

Pentagon officials are nailing down what the military wants to see from its next round of new satellites procured by the Space Development Agency, with a request for proposals due out this summer, the agency’s director said Feb. 16. The Defense Department is in the middle of defining its needs for the group of communications and missile tracking satellites known as “Tranche One,” which are slated to reach space by 2024, SDA boss Derek M. Tournear said during a Space Symposium event. He hopes to have a better idea of what Tranche One will look like by May.
Limited VFR operations begin at Nigerien Air Base 201

Pilot Error Caused 2020 C-130J Hard Landing at Ramstein

Pilot error caused extensive damage to a C-130J during assault landing training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in April 2020, according to an accident investigation, which also found that effective aircrew training is limited. The C-130J-30, a stretched version of the Super Hercules with tail number 11-5736, assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron, sustained an estimated $20.9 million in damage. No aircrew members were injured in the mishap, according to a U.S. Air Forces in Europe Accident Investigation Board report released Feb. 16. An over emphasis on operational sorties instead of training and the lack of a local landing zone for assault landings at the base also contributed to the incident, according to the report.

30 Years After Desert Storm: Feb. 18

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.

Radar Sweep

DARPA Builds AI to Avoid Army, Air Force Fratricide

Breaking Defense

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s planned artificial intelligence tool to help de-conflict joint fires in joint all-domain command and control will undergo live testing in the first half of 2024, says program manager Paul Zablocky.

Iraqis, Syrians Still Rely on Coalition Air Power as Troop Levels Wane

Air Force Times

Iraqi and Syrian forces still depend on foreign air support, even though the U.S.-led coalition has largely shifted away from hands-on training to advising remotely out of a few consolidated bases, according to an inspector general report on the anti-Islamic State group mission released Feb. 16.

Russia, China to Sign Agreement on International Lunar Research Station

SpaceNews

“Roscosmos has completed domestic proceedings to harmonize the memorandum of understanding between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of People’s Republic of China on cooperation to create the International Lunar Research Station,” the Roscosmos Press Office told SpaceNews in an email.

OPINION: Will Boeing Become the Next McDonnell Douglas?

Aviation Week Network

“It has been nearly 25 years since Boeing and McDonnell Douglas merged,” writes Aviation Week Network Contributing Columnist Richard Aboulafia, who also works as vice president of analysis at the Teal Group. “Given Boeing’s significant engineering cuts, program execution problems, clear prioritization of shareholder returns, extremely uncertain product development road map, and deteriorating market share outlook, it is time to consider whether Boeing Commercial Aircraft (BCA) is destined to share Douglas’ fate.”

OPINION: Five Issues Washington Should Consider in Reviewing a Lockheed-Aerojet Merger

Forbes

“I believe the government should approve the proposed merger, but with conditions,” writes Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the nonprofit Lexington Institute and CEO of Source Associates. “The principal condition should be an enforceable guarantee that Lockheed will act as a merchant supplier of rocket engines to the marketplace once it acquires Aerojet, rather than being allowed to leverage Aerojet’s product lines to disadvantage rivals.”