ACC Too Big and Too Small
Air Combat Command needs to grow, but can’t afford to, and so it will likely wind up cutting more legacy fleets, such as the A-10, F-15C, or the F-16 Block 30, ACC chief Gen. Mike holmes said Tuesday at an AFA event on Capitol Hill. ACC’s 55 squadrons—of which 32 are Active duty and the rest reserve component—are “not enough to meet the demand that combatant commanders ask for,” said Holmes, hence the “too small” situation. Yet, because the Air Force is too big to live within its means, he added, legacy fleets are being looked at to see which ones will have to go, and when. “We’ll work through the options of what comes out next,” Holmes said. Read the full report by John A. Tirpak.
Drone Defense Becoming Critical
Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, wants more authority to disable or shoot down small drones, because they’re interfering with operations and pose a lethal risk of collision. Holmes said an F-22 pilot at JB Langley-Eustis, Va., filed a report last week after nearly colliding with a large hobbyist drone. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
F-35s: Buy Less, Pay More
The F-35 program’s cost grew $11 billion in base year 2012 dollars because the Air Force has decided to buy the jets more slowly, the F-35 Joint Program Office reported late July 11. The increase, reflected in the Pentagon’s periodic Selected Acquisition Reports, was “largely driven by the adjustments made to the US planned production profile,” JPO Program Executive Officer Vice Adm. Mat Winter said in a press release. “The Air Force reduced its maximum annual rate of aircraft procured from 80 per year down to 60 per year, which extended the planned purchases by six additional years,” from fiscal year 2038 to FY ‘44. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
Sixteen Killed in Marine Reserve KC-130 Crash
Fifteen Marines and one sailor were killed in the Monday crash of a KC-130T in Mississippi, the Marine Corps announced. The KC-130, which was assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron-452 from Stewart ANGB, N.Y., took off from MCAS Cherry Point, N.C., and disappeared from air traffic control radar over Mississippi before crashing in a rural area of LeFlore County, the Marine Corps said in a Tuesday statement. The aircraft, which also carried small arms ammunition and personal weapons, was en route to NAF El Centro, Calif., when it crashed into a soybean field, with wreckage spread for miles, the Jackson Clarion Ledger reported. The Federal Aviation Administration notified the Marine Corps when the aircraft disappeared from radar, before the crash site was discovered, according to the statement. The service members had not been identified as of Tuesday afternoon. “While the details of the incident are being investigated, our focus remains on providing the necessary resources and support to the family and friends of these service members as they go through this extremely difficult times,” the statement read. The KC-130 is a modified C-130 Hercules used for refueling and transport. — Brian Everstine
Raqqa Becomes Top Priority After Mosul is Liberated
While Iraqi forces still need to clear ISIS holdouts from recently liberated Mosul, coalition aircraft will look more to liberate the group’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria. Read the full report by Brian Everstine.
SASC Version of NDAA Released, Contains $10 Million to Solve F-35 Hypoxia-like Problems
The full version of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been released. The draft legislation, which was unanimously reported to the full Senate in late June, includes a $10 million prize competition to identify the root cause of recent physiological episodes in F-35 air crews. The SASC mark would also make F-35 modernization funding contingent on the final delivery of a progress report due to Congress, extend the tour of duty of the Air Force Space Command boss to six years, and prohibit another round of base realignment and closure. Read the full report by Wilson Brissett.
MDA Successfully Conducts THAAD Test
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system successfully intercepted a ballistic missile target launched by an USAF C-17 over the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii on Tuesday, the Missile Defense Agency announced. A THAAD system, located at the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska, near Kodiak, detected, tracked, and intercepted the target, according to the MDA release. “This test further demonstrates the capabilities of the THAAD weapon system and its ability to intercept and destroy ballistic missile threats,” MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in the release. The US continues to work with South Korea on the deployment of a THAAD system as North Korea ramps up its ballistic missile test program. The partial system has reached initial operational capability, and is able to provide “limited” missile defense, a Pentagon spokesman said last week. South Korea halted the deployment of the system earlier this year until an environmental study is completed, and South Korean president Moon Jae-In has called for the system to not be deployed in the country. —Brian Everstine
Air Force to Buy Up to 22 More Satellites in Second Phase of GPS III
The Air Force plans to buy up to 22 more GPS III satellites, the Space and Missile Systems Center said Tuesday. SMC also announced an industry day and an upcoming draft request for proposal (RFP) for Phase 2 of its GPS III space vehicle procurement program. Lockheed Martin built the first 10 satellites in the GPS III program, with the most recent contract for vehicles 9 and 10 coming in September 2016. In May of 2016, SMC also awarded production feasibility contracts for satellites 11 and following to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Tuesday’s announcement says a draft RFP for Phase 2 production will be out later this year. SMC also said it wants to award a contract in late 2018, with production of Phase 2 satellites scheduled to start by the end of fiscal year 2018. First delivery would be in 2025, SMC said.
—Top Trump Administration officials want the Pentagon to consider an alternate war plan for Afghanistan that would use contractors in the place of US troops, the New York Times reported Monday. The owners of military contracting companies Blackwater Worldwide and DynCorp International provided the plans, which were solicited by chief strategist Stephen Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is also President Donald Trump’s son-in-law. Bannon presented the ideas to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who “listened politely but declined to include the outside strategies in a review of Afghanistan policy” he is preparing for the President, the Times reported.
—The US Air Force Academy’s office of sexual assault prevention is under internal investigation: Air Force Times report.
—Air Force Materiel Command turns 25: AFMC release
—Air Force releases retraining quotas for 2018, which allows first-term airmen to apply for training to work in a new career field that needs personnel balancing: AFPC release
—Pacific Angel founder returns to Philippines for program’s 10th anniversary, while US and Philippine military members get the 2017 effort underway serving thousands of medical patients over five days.
—Air Force launches new mobile app to connect airmen to medical care facilities: press release