Skunk Works

Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works Sees Value in MUM-T, Autonomous Aircraft

Teams of autonomous vehicles collaborating with a crewed airplane, in which each aircraft in the formation performs a unique mission on its own, is far more effective than the so-called “loyal wingman” approach, in which a piloted aircraft pairs with just one similarly-equipped, autonomous multimission aircraft—or so Lockheed Martin has concluded. It also found cost effectiveness in pairing expensive but survivable uncrewed systems with relatively cheap ones. Lockheed Martin has applied its “pretty formidable operational analysis” capability to looking at many approaches to future air combat with an eye toward the “value proposition,” said John Clark, the new head of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs unit, or Skunk Works.
Thule

At Thule Air Base, Lucky Charms Keep the Lights on for Missile Defense

At Thule Air Base, Greenland, 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the ice has broken, and the once-yearly resupply and construction season has begun under 24 hours of daylight. Renovations have begun on half-century-old dormitories, and favorite sundries such as Lucky Charms cereal keep morale high for the 141 Airmen and Guardians who help to assure America is safe from attack over the polar ice cap. Airmen and Guardians at Thule balance the responsibilities that come with a vital missile warning and missile defense mission with the mental resiliency required to sustain minus-12-degree average winter temperatures in total darkness, or days at a time indoors during deadly snowstorms between September and May that sometimes give little warning before a mandatory shelter-in-place.
promotion rates

Air Force Warns of Lower NCO Promotion Rates in Coming Years

The Air Force is expecting lower promotion rates for some enlisted noncommissioned officers—and that drop could last several years, the service announced July 7. In particular, grades E-5 through E-7 will be affected, according to a service press release, due to recent enlisted grade structure revisions and high retention.

Radar Sweep

Pentagon’s Secret JADC2 Plan ‘Evolving,’ Official Says, as Lawmakers Seek Audit

Defense News

The Pentagon’s implementation plan for its military communications and data-sharing overhaul is a “living document” that will be amended as advances are made and the spectrum of threats worldwide changes. The classified plan for joint all-domain command and control, signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks in March, will be updated as needed to reflect successes and failures, said Arsenio “Bong” Gumahad, director of the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance division in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment.

Subscription Required

OPINION: Shinzo Abe Invented the ‘Indo-Pacific’

The Wall Street Journal

“President Trump visited Asia in November 2017. In Vietnam, he delivered a speech declaring a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific.’ It signified a shift in the language leaders use to describe the world’s most populous region. Mr. Trump actually borrowed the phrase from Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving postwar leader. Abe, who was killed by an assassin, died knowing that his signature geopolitical vision—and the vocabulary used to describe it—had been thoroughly embraced across much of the region and beyond,” writes Matt Pottinger, a former deputy national security adviser who coordinated Asia policy from 2017 to 2021.

Air Force Rethinks Combat Rescue for Major War—but What Will It Look Like?

Air Force Times

As the Air Force shifts from the last 20 years of fighting in the Middle East toward a potential conflict against China or Russia and their modern militaries, it needs to change how it rescues downed pilots and other personnel to account for the far more complex threat environments they’d face.

Lockheed Martin Delivers Airborne Laser LANCE to Air Force Research Lab

Breaking Defense

Lockheed Martin revealed that it delivered a compact directed energy weapon to the Air Force Research Lab, a key milestone in the service’s effort to equip a tactical fighter jet with a laser capable of shooting down anti-aircraft missiles. “It is the smallest, lightest, high-energy laser of its power class that Lockheed Martin has built to date,” Tyler Griffin, a company executive, told reporters. “It is a critical benchmark in developing an operational laser weapon system in the airborne domain.”

The Air Force Has Zombie F-35s It Keeps Using Long After They’re Dead

Task & Purpose

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or, when life gives you a couple of busted-up F-35 fighter jets, make them into a kind of zombie jet, but instead of craving brains, they crave remedial training. At Hill Air Force Base in Utah, Airmen are working to refurbish two F-35s into training aids. Both aircraft were involved in accidents in the past several years, and both were condemned to the scrap yard. But after several years, there’s enough left over to create a set of training aids for all the maintainers who keep the remainder of the fleet of the country’s most expensive airframe working.

ANALYSIS: Finland, in NATO and with the F-35, Forms a Powerful Challenge to Russia

Breaking Defense

“For years, there has been little room for argument that Finland is laser focused on how to defend its territory. The Finns have a long history of living with the Russians, including a century of being part of the Russian Empire itself. Knowing the Russians as well as they do, they are organized to prepare when necessary to defend their nation against their big neighbor when a crisis erupts,” writes defense analyst Robbin Laird.

Five Space Lessons Russia’s Invasion Taught Ukraine

Defense One

Mere months ago, Ukraine’s space program struggled to compete for funding and wasn’t seen as integral to national defense, but that’s completely changed now, the former head of its space agency said at the Space Innovation Summit on July 11. Before Russia’s February invasion, Ukrainian officials viewed space as “not so critical for national defense—that you should not spend a lot of money on space—because it's expensive, and you should maybe spend on something much more clear, down to Earth,” said Volodymyr Usov, former chair of the State Space Agency of Ukraine.

Pentagon Faces Shortage of Edge-Computing Capability for Space Systems

FedScoop

The Department of Defense wants to leverage artificial intelligence and edge computing for satellite communications, but today’s systems have shortcomings, Pentagon officials say. Artificial intelligence and space technology are critical for enabling the Pentagon’s vision of joint all-domain command and control (JADC2), among other modernization efforts. “Fundamentally, I would like to use edge-based devices to do most of our AI [computation],” Lisa Costa, chief technology and innovation officer for the Space Force, said during a panel at the virtual Space Innovation Summit.

One More Thing

Air Force F-16 Pilot Explains How He Dodged 6 Missiles During Insane Gulf War Mission

Task & Purpose

Air Force Maj. Emmett Tullia II escaped death half a dozen times Jan. 19, 1991, when he maneuvered his F-16 through a fusillade of Iraqi surface-to-air missiles during a mission in which two of his fellow Viper pilots were shot down and taken prisoner. Tullia was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his aerial acrobatics that day.

This Day in Airpower
Celebrating 75 Years of Air and Space Power