HASC Subcommittee Worried About B-1 Readiness

Dwindling B-1 availability is raising alarm at the House Armed Services Committee, which is asking the Air Force to report back on several aspects of a readiness recovery plan for the conventionally armed bomber. “The committee is concerned B-1 readiness does not have the priority and resources to improve B-1 mission-capable rates,” according to the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee’s version of the 2020 defense policy bill, released June 3. “This is evidenced by fully mission-capable aircraft currently in single digits and aircrew being rerouted from flying the B-1 to other aircraft due to lack of B-1 aircraft for training.” The subcommittee mark tells the Air Force to send lawmakers a plan to boost B-1 readiness by March 1, 2020. Lawmakers will vote on the bill May 4. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

HASC Grants Lukewarm Approval for F-15EX

House defense authorizers this week endorsed the Air Force’s decision to buy Boeing’s F-15EX —but with a catch. A House Armed Services subcommittee suggests buying just two of the eight airplanes originally requested until the service details its development, acquisition, and fielding plans. HASC staff told reporters on June 3 they won’t approve further purchases until the Air Force submits the acquisition strategy and support information that typically accompanies major procurement programs. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

New DOD Strategy: Indo-Pacific is “Priority Theater”

The Indo-Pacific is the Defense Department’s “priority theater,” but the US military’s advantage over countries such as China and Russia—which are looking to increase interest and influence in the region—is “eroding,” forcing the department to re-evaluate its posture and strategic objectives in the area and placing an even greater emphasis on strengthening partnerships, according to DOD’s first Indo-Pacific strategy report. In his speech at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue on June 1, the same day the report was released, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan outlined the new strategy and emphasized the United States’ commitment to the region. But he also called on allies and partners to invest more in their own defense and that of the region. ”The Indo-Pacific is our priority theater,” he said. ”We are where we belong. We are investing in this region. We are investing in you, and with you, and we need you to invest further in yourselves. We need you to invest in ways that take more control of your sovereignty and your ability to exercise sovereign choices.” Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

Barksdale B-52 Trains with Navy Carrier Strike Group in CENTCOM

A B-52H deployed from Barksdale AFB, La., recently trained with the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group in the US Central Command area of responsibility, according to a Navy release. The Stratofortress is one of four bombers that make up the Bomber Task Force, which deployed along with a Carrier Strike Group to the region early last month in response to an alleged threat from Iran. The June 1 joint exercise focused on “air-to-air training, flying in formation, and simulated strike operations in defense of a national asset,” the release said. As part of the training, the B-52H, assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, performed “a self-escort strike” with F/A-18E Super Hornets and E-2D Growlers from Carrier Air Wing 7, which is attached to the strike group, “a joint close air support exercise” with the wing’s Super Hornets, and “strike coordination and reconnaissance exercises” with its MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters, according to the release. “This operation allowed us to train interoperability, focus on defense and interdiction, and provide air support to our naval fleet defense,” Combined Forces Air Component Commander USAF Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella said in the release.—Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

F-35 Passes Two Milestones: 400th Jet Delivered, 200,000 Flight Hours

Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office have delivered the 400th F-35—an F-35A model to Hill AFB, Utah—and surpassed 200,000 flight hours, Lockheed announced June 3. The 400th aircraft is a “significant milestone,” JPO director Vice Adm. Mat Winter said in a press statement. “The collaborative efforts across the JPO, US services, partners, and industry remain focused on driving costs down, quality up, and faster delivery timelines across our development, production, and sustainment lines of effort.” The 400 aircraft break down as follows: 283 F-35As, 87 F-35B short-takeoff and landing versions, and 30 F-35C carrier-based models. The 200,000 hours encompasses all test, development, and operational jets, both among US and foreign-owned aircraft. The F-35A has racked up 125,850 hours, the B model 52,410 hours, and the C version 22,630 hours. More than 800 pilots and 7,500 F-35 maintainers have been certified worldwide. Ten nations are flying the F-35, eight on their own soil, while seven have declared initial operational capability. Lockheed expects to deliver 131 F-35s this year, up 40 percent from last year. —John A. Tirpak



House Passes $19 Billion Disaster Relief Bill

The House on June 3 evening passed the Senate-approved $19 billion disaster aid measure that three conservative Republicans had taken turns blocking in separate votes over the past two weeks. NBC News
Shaw Suspends PT Testing After Two Airmen’s Running-Related Deaths

The commander at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina has suspended physical fitness assessments in the wake of two airmen’s recent deaths after running, and launched an investigation to see if PT caused their deaths. Air Force Times

SECAF Heather Wilson: The Final Interview

Heather Wilson was sworn in as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force in May 2017 with a clear-eyed view on the task at hand. “When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis asked me to serve as the Secretary of the Air Force I said, ‘You know, Mr. Secretary, I’m not the kind of gal who just cuts ribbons on new dormitories, that’s not me. But if you want somebody who’s going to help to try to solve problems and make it better, not just different, but better, then that’s what I’ll do.’” Airman Magazine

AFSOC One-Star Falsely Claimed Flight Hours, Disrespected Subordinates, IG Found

Brig. Gen. Brenda Cartier, now the director of operations at Air Force Special Operations Command, received a letter of counseling after an inspector general investigation found she failed to treat subordinates with dignity and respect in her previous position, and falsely claimed flight hours on an MC-130J in 2017. Air Force Times

Air Force Chief of Staff Praises Community Response to Tornado at Wright-Patt

As the Air Force Chief of Staff toured tornado damage in a housing neighborhood for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base personnel, he noticed one thing: an overwhelming sense of community. Dayton Daily News

Acting US Air Force Secretary visits Tyndall

It has been almost eight months since Hurricane Michael and Tyndall Air Force base still sits in ruins. While the Panhandle continues to wait for federal funding, leaders in Washington want to remind citizens that the area is not forgotten. MyPanhandle.com

New T-6 Paint Scheme Unveiled, First of 6 CAFB Aircraft to Receive New Look

The 14th Flying Training Wing unveiled its first of six heritage flagship aircraft during a ceremony May 30 at Columbus AFB, Miss. USAF release

Acting Defense Chief: Major Drills with South Korea Still on Hold

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Sunday that so far he sees no need to restore large-scale military exercises with South Korea that have been curtailed over the past year as a diplomatic olive branch to North Korea. Associated Press via Politico

US Helps South Pacific Nations Build Intelligence Capabilities

The U.S. is expanding a program to help South Pacific nations improve intelligence gathering, a top military official said, as China has increased its influence among small island countries. Bloomberg

Groups Ready to Sue Over Fuel Spill at New Mexico Air Base

A coalition of state lawmakers and nonprofit groups is seeking firm deadlines for the US Air Force to clean up contamination resulting from jet fuel at a base bordering New Mexico’s largest city. Associated Press via US News & World Report

One More Thing…

The Navy Tracks UFO Sightings. Scientists Explain What’s Really Going On

The Navy caused a bit of a sensation this spring when it implemented a formal process for pilots to report unexplained aerial phenomena—what most people call UFOs—after being accused in the past of not taking such reports seriously. But for those who might be tempted to make the leap, such sightings are not evidence of life on other planets. The Philadelphia Inquirer