B-21 Will Reach Critical Design Review by End of Year, RCO Chief Says

The secret B-21 stealth bomber will have its critical design review—a major milestone—by the end of calendar 2018, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office director Randall Walden told attendees at an AFA Mitchell Institute event in Arlington, Va. on Monday. Walden said a B-21 air intake issue has been resolved, and gave many new details about the size, budget, and activities of his organization. He said the first B-21 has yet to be fabricated, but testing of its components is progressing, and wind tunnel tests of the shape have taken place. Walden also said the RCO has been asked for help in setting up a dedicated Space version of the RCO at the Space and Missile Systems Center, and he has recommended the hiring of a number of RCO alumna, who have come aboard there. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Mattis Heads to China for First Time as SECDEF

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will visit China this week for the first time in his role as America’s top defense official. While in China, from Tuesday to Thursday, he will meet with “several senior officials to exchange strategic perspectives and discuss areas of mutual concern,” according to the Pentagon. On his last visit to Asia in early June for Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue, Mattis targeted China’s military build up in the contested South China Sea, accusing it of “intimidation” in the region. Last week, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin told Congress China is a bad actor in terms of military and industrial espionage and that “we have to prioritize” dealing with it because it is such a huge problem. The last time the US sent its top defense official to China was in 2014, according to DOD. The country is but one stop of several to the Indo-Pacific region. Mattis also will stop in Japan and South Korea. Mattis’s stop in South Korea follows the cancellation of this year’s Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, a defensive wargame exercise. In response to the cancellation, Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said his country will continue exercises with the US, which are important to the region. Mattis also will stop in Alaska to meet with the 34th Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base and to see the ground-based interceptor capability at Fort Greely.—Gideon Grudo

Great-Power Rivalry Adds Urgency to Directed-Energy Efforts, Official Says

A Pentagon official Monday pointed to US cooperation with allies on directed-energy weapons, and said the resurgence of great-power rivalry with Russia and China makes work on these weapons more important. Lawrence Grimes, director of the Defense Department’s Joint Directed Energy Transition Office, cited cooperation with US allies in the field, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, and Australia. The cooperation has included multilateral work, such as a recent NATO study having to do with high-energy lasers and the cooperative battlespace, as well as work with individual countries. Australia, Grimes said, is somewhat ahead of the US in work with some wavelengths. “There’s something there that we can combine to work with,” he said. The Defense Department’s first undersecretary for research and engineering, Mike Griffin, said earlier this year there is new emphasis on weaponizing directed energy within the Trump administration. The last several commanders of Air Force Special Operations Command also have called for putting lasers on gunships. Grimes, speaking during the first day of the Directed Energy Summit, said with the new emphasis in US policy on great-power competition, there is “a lot more of an urgency to what we’re doing.” —Steve Hirsch

Administration Wants to House Migrants at Goodfellow, Fort Bliss

Fort Bliss and Goodfellow Air Force Base, both in Texas, have been chosen by the Trump administration to house detained migrants, according to news reports Monday. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had said Sunday two bases had been picked, although he did not identify them. The Associated Press cited an official who said unaccompanied children would be sent to one base, though it didn’t specify which one, while the other base would be for families of detained migrants. AP said while the Pentagon would provide the land, other agencies would actually run the programs. —Steve Hirsch

Wave of F-22 Pilots Hitting 1,000 Hours of Flight Time

An F-22 pilot, who goes by the call sign “Maj. Ogre,” with the 94th Fighter Squadron at Al Dhafra AB, UAE, recently hit 1,000 hours flight time. He is one of an increasing number of F-22 pilots reaching that milestone, the first such wave in more than 10 years, according to the Air Force. Those who have piloted the F-22 make up a small community; until recently, “there had been more people that have gone into outer space than there are pilots that have flown the F-22,” said “Capt. Maddog,” another F-22 pilot with the 94th. The Air Force said that at least three more F-22 pilots from the squadron are expected to cross the 1,000-hour mark this year. Ogre joined two other pilots from the 94th with 1,000 hours of flight time within a month of each other. —Steve Hirsch

Aerojet Rocketdyne, SMC Expand Engine Development Agreement

Aerojet Rocketdyne and the Air Force signed an agreement Friday to expand the company’s advanced engine development agreement with the Space and Missile Systems Center, the company said Monday. The two sides will expand the agreement not only to develop the upper-stage RL10C-X, but also continue development of the AR1 booster engine development program through production of the first engine. USAF awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne a public-private partnership contract in 2016 to develop a prototype engine to replace the Russian-made RD-180, which powers United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. The AR1 uses liquid-oxygen (LOX)/kerosene (RP-1) to generate more than 500,000 pounds of thrust, and can power the core stage of medium- to heavy-lift launch vehicles, according to the company. Aerojet Rocketdyne president Eileen Drake said the company is now manufacturing its first complete AR1 engine, which will be ready for hot-fire testing next year. —Steve Hirsch


—The US has moved about 100 transfer cases to the North Korean border, as it prepares to accept the remains of some 200 service members lost during the Korean War: Military Times.

—USAF is considering equipping the B-52 with a new wing pylon that could carry a weapon up to 20,000 pounds, meaning it’s possible the bomber could one day carry the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or Mother of All Bombs: Flight Global.

—Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $1.12 billion contract for 16 new F-16 aircraft for the Royal Bahraini Air Force. The foreign military sale is the first sale of Block 70 F-16s: Lockheed Martin release.

—C-130Js assigned to Yokota AB, Japan, participated in Red Flag-Alaska for the first time since the base transitioned from the older H-models: PACAF release.

—The Air Force is working with the Office of Personnel Management and Congress to improve civilian hiring authorities, so it can bring former service members back to work much sooner: Federal News Radio.