Rash of Mishaps Not a “Crisis,” but USAF Looking for Hidden Answers

A recent spate of Air Force crashes and other accidents that have triggered congressional inquiries, concerns about long-neglected readiness accounts, and a mandated day-long operations stand down to focus on safety is being examined for deeper causes still, Air Force Materiel Command chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski told reporters Tuesday. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Air Force in “Testing Period” on Space, Thornberry Says

The Air Force is in a “testing period” as Congress considers whether to renew its push to set up a separate space corps, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said Tuesday. Speaking to a Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington, Thornberry noted that the House proposal to set up such a corps in last year’s defense authorization legislation did not survive conference with the Senate, but legislators came out of the conference emphasizing to the Air Force that “you’d better show us that you’re going to take space seriously, with appropriate attention, resources, etc.” So, Thornberry said, “I kind of see this as a testing period for the Air Force.” He said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein have made some changes and reforms. “We’re going to be watching that very carefully, to see … culturally, whether the Air Force could give the appropriate emphasis on space.” —Steve Hirsch

New AFSPC Vice Commander Points to Benefits of Being Based at Pentagon

Lt. Gen. David Thompson, the Pentagon-based vice commander of Air Force Space Command, said Tuesday that among the benefits of his relocation to the Pentagon has been to bring space conversations within the Defense Department and with Congress to a higher level. In March, the Senate confirmed Thompson to the newly created spot; he previously served as the special assistant to the AFSPC commander, Gen. Jay Raymond, at Peterson AFB, Colo. “I think we’re trying to raise the conversation inside the Pentagon and with Congress” about what the command needs to do in space, is doing in space, and how best to accomplish that, he said during a lunch sponsored by the Washington Space Business Roundtable. In the past, he said, when the Air Force would talk with other services, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, or with Congress, he said, the conversations seemed to start to focus very narrowly on such things as procurement or an element of tactics. “I was concerned that I didn’t always see a strategic discussion about the big pictures,” he said. He said being in Washington helps to raise the level of discussion more effectively because of the greater access it affords. “If I want to go to the Hill, or some member of Congress or professional staff member wants to talk to me tomorrow, I don’t have to get on an airplane,” he said. —Steve Hirsch

Pawlikowski Says It’s Time For F-35 Variants to Evolve Along Service Lines

Air Force Materiel Command chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski thinks the Pentagon’s recent decision to eventually dissolve the F-35 Joint Program Office in favor of service-specific program management is the right move, if the branches are to accelerate adding new capabilities to their Joint Strike Fighter variants. The JPO is “too cumbersome” for quick-turn changes on the program, she said, and unique requirements among the services for what they will do with the F-35 demand different programs, though she is confident there will still be commonality savings. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

C-17s Return to Airdrop Mission in Afghanistan

C-17s have returned to their airdrop role in Afghanistan, flying directly from Al Udeid AB, Qatar, to resupply US forces forward deployed in the country’s south. On May 10, a C-17 from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, deployed from JB Lewis-McChord, Wash., flew a 15-hour sortie from Al Udeid, and delivered more than a dozen pallets to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, and then loaded more pallets for the airdrop. While C-130s returned to the airdrop mission last year—the first time USAF airlifters dropped supplies in the country since 2014—the C-17s were needed for this mission because their increased cargo capacity allowed them to deliver the supplies in one flight, reducing risk, according to an Air Forces Central Command release. It was the C-17s first combat airdrop in any part of US Central Command in more than a year and a half. —Brian Everstine

B-52 Trains With Australian Forces

A USAF B-52 again flew to Australia to train alongside Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18s as part of bilateral exercise Arnhem Thunder on May 10. The bomber, which is based out of Barksdale AFB, La., flew to northern Australia from Andersen AFB, Guam, for the exercise, according to PACAF. B-52s previously flew in Australia in late March through early April for another exercise with Australian forces at RAAF Darwin, which was then the fourth time the bombers had deployed to the country. The B-52s are deployed to Andersen as part of the Air Force’s Continuous Bomber Presence program in the Pacific. —Brian Everstine

Tom Wolfe 1931-2018

Tom Wolfe, the journalist and nonfiction author who wrote the book—and coined the term—“The Right Stuff,” died May 14, at age 87. Wolfe’s book, published in 1979, stylistically chronicled the history and culture of US military test pilots, following their exploits through the end of the Mercury space program. A film treatment of the same name with an ensemble cast, directed by Philip Kaufman, was released in 1983 to great critical acclaim, winning four technical Academy Awards. The book and film caused the US to re-discover its rocketplane-era test pilots, particularly Chuck Yeager, who Wolfe portrayed as the prototypical cool-headed ace and aviator, and John Glenn, who in the same year as the film’s release unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for the US presidency. Affecting a white suit and responsible in large part for the “new journalism” trend of writing factual stories in a novelistic fashion, which he called “literary journalism,” Wolfe also invented what he called “saturation journalism,” in which the reporter shadows his subject, usually a politician, for an extended period of time, to be on hand when major events take place involving that person. He also famously wrote “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and coined the terms “The Me Decade” and “Radical Chic.” —John A. Tirpak


—North Korea canceled a highly anticipated meeting with South Korea on Wednesday, calling the two-week Max Thunder exercise, which began Monday and includes about 100 aircraft, a provocation: Associated Press.

—The 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, officially said goodbye to the 56th Rescue Squadron, which is relocating to Aviano AB, Italy, during a May 15 ceremony: DOD release.

—As the Air Force looks to rebuild its stock of ammunition for the A-10 fleet, the service is considering switching from a 30mm depleted-uranium bullet to a tungsten round: Military.com.

—The State Department earlier this month approved a possible $1.4 billion foreign military sale to Germany for three C-130J-30 aircraft and three KC-130J aircraft, engines, and other equipment: DSCA release.