Barrett to be Tapped as Next Air Force Secretary
President Donald Trump said on Twitter this week he plans to nominate Barbara Barrett, former chairwoman of The Aerospace Corporation’s board of trustees and a past Federal Aviation Administration deputy administrator, as the Air Force’s next Secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, Barrett will take over for outgoing Secretary Heather Wilson, who is leaving the service May 31 to lead the University of Texas at El Paso. Barrett would become the third woman in a row to serve as the Air Force’s top civilian, overseeing the service’s attempt to refocus on conflict with other advanced militaries in the midst of a massive modernization bill and ongoing pilot shortage. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
Wilson Reflects on Tenure as SECAF During Retirement Ceremony
The Air Force on Tuesday held a retirement ceremony for Secretary Heather Wilson, who is stepping down at the end of the month after about two years of leading the service. “I will always be an American airman,” she told a crowd of service personnel and leaders at JB Andrews, Md. “You have the watch.” Wilson will leave the Air Force on May 31 to become the president of the University of Texas at El Paso. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
House Appropriators Suggest Changes to Major Space Efforts
House appropriators want to pull more than $200 million from a key missile warning satellite program in fiscal 2020 and are linking it to the future of the Pentagon’s new Space Development Agency, according to the report accompanying the House Appropriations Committee’s version of the 2020 defense spending bill. The committee approved the bill with a vote of 30 to 22 on May 21. OPIR is a big-ticket example of lawmakers’ intent to exercise oversight of existing space programs even as the high-profile item—Space Force—remains under debate. Appropriators also weighed in on the future of national security space launches and suggested the Air Force take over narrowband satellite communications management from the Navy. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
DOD Keeping Door Open to Space National Guard
Defense Department officials are laying the groundwork for a Space National Guard even though the Pentagon’s Space Force proposal did not include provisions for a reserve component, the head of the Air National Guard said May 21. DOD stood up an internal group under the deputy defense secretary that periodically meets to plan the organizational piece of a new approach to space warfighting, Lt. Gen. Scott Rice said at an AFA breakfast on Capitol Hill. “We’re all in on having a Reserve and a Guard piece of space. That hasn’t changed. That’s still there, it’s just not in the language now. It’s more nebulous and not well defined very purposely to allow us to get there quicker.” Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
HAC: Minority Outreach, Base Updates Needed to Fix Pilot Shortage
Strengthening outreach efforts to minority groups and growing capacity at training bases can help solve the military’s pilot shortage, House appropriators contended this week. The Air Force needed about additional 2,000 aviators at the end of fiscal 2018, more than half of them in fighter pilot positions. To stem the shortage, the House Appropriations Committee recommended in its report accompanying its version of the 2020 defense spending bill that the Defense Secretary should work more closely with colleges and universities—particularly, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and other minority-focused schools—to create programs that can help more students meet eligibility requirements for pilot training. “The committee encourages the Secretary of the Air Force to examine university-based training for Air Force ROTC cadets and civilian aviation students as pilots and sensor operators for remotely piloted aircraft,” lawmakers wrote. Appropriators also pointed to the strain the Air Force’s plan to boost undergraduate pilot training 30 percent by 2022 will put on the pipeline. “While the committee supports previous innovations of Air Force test programs, syllabus changes, and related funding increases, to begin to mitigate the crisis, existing training base capacity remains a limiting factor in fully addressing pilot training demands,” the report stated. House lawmakers offered the service an extra $8 million to address the pilot shortage. The committee approved the bill 30 to 22 on May 21. —Rachel S. Cohen
Tinker Returns to Normal Following Severe Weather
Tinker AFB, Okla., returned to normal on May 21 after severe storm threats, including tornados, prompted the base to evacuate aircraft and send some personnel home. Tinker officials would not say how many aircraft left on May 21, citing operational security, but added those that were not able to leave were placed into hangars during the storm. Roads were flooded in and around the base, briefly closing large thoroughfares. The storms were the latest in a series of serious weather events impacting USAF bases, following flooding at Offutt AFB, Neb., in March and a Category 5 hurricane hitting Tyndall AFB, Fla., and nearly destroying the base last October. However this time, the base avoided damage. —Brian Everstine
Boeing’s International KC-46 Sales Pitch: Let USAF Pay For R&D
Boeing will try to woo international tanker customers at next month’s Paris Air Show by pointing out that USAF will pay to develop aircraft upgrades that can then be shared with foreign customers, as well as maintain aircraft/tanker certifications among its broader coalition allies across those years. Except for Japan, however, Boeing has yet to secure any foreign orders for the KC-46A, although it anticipates that more than 200 will be built. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
Report: Special Operations Command Must Take Lead in Information Warfare
A report released on the eve of this year’s biggest conference devoted to U.S. Special Operations Command said SOCOM needs to take the lead for the federal government when it comes to information warfare waged against peer adversaries. National Defense Magazine
Air Force Thunderbirds Co-Founder, Pilot Dies at 94
Lt. Gen. Charles “Buck” Pattillo, a co-founder and one of the first pilots of the Air Force Thunderbirds, passed away on Monday. He was two-weeks shy of his 95th birthday. Avgeekery.com
House Appropriators Target Trump’s Nukes, INF Treaty Busting Weapons
While the Trump administration has made updating and upgrading America’s nuclear arsenal a priority, a pair of key House appropriations subcommittees are setting up a fight over funding for fiscal year 2020. Defense News
“You Have To Be Willing To Bleed A Little Bit”: Roper On Innovation
“It’s like running through a briar patch naked,” Will Roper said of trying to bring start-up companies into the service’s contracting model to keep apace of commercial innovation. “You have to be willing to bleed a little bit,” Roper, the Air Force’s top acquisition official told me in an interview last Thursday, after watching 10 newborn companies pitch their products to Air Force officials and venture capitalists. Breaking Defense
University of Florida Set to Become Home for Air Force Research in Assured Autonomy
The Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of Florida launched a new university-led Center of Excellence for assured autonomy in contested environments, May 13-14, at a meeting in Gainesville, Florida. USAF release
Air Force Pilots are Finally Getting Collapsible Rifles to Defend Themselves if They Eject in Hostile Territory
After decades with nothing but pistols to defend themselves with in the event of a successful ejection over enemy territory, Air Force pilots are officially rocking compact versions of a rifle that the U.S. military has used since Vietnam. Task and Purpose
SpaceX Files Bid Protest in Federal Court
SpaceX filed a bid protest in federal court against the government May 17, but most details about the protest, including the specific award being protested, remain undisclosed. Space News
Marine AV-8B Harrier Crashed in North Carolina, Fourth US. Military Aircraft Loss in May
2018 was a terrible year for U.S. military aviation mishaps, but 2019 is now looking quite grim, as well. The Drive
One More Thing…
Red Bull Helicopter Flips Over New York City #RedBullFlipsNYC
Flippin’ out for the best view of the city. Red Bull on Facebook