Rogers Calls for Continued Pressure on Pentagon Space Operations

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Thursday pointed to a need for continued congressional pressure on the Defense Department to make space policy reforms. His comments came, as the panel sent proposed defense authorization language to the full committee for consideration. Rogers’ subcommittee’s proposal would revive US Space Command, direct establishment of a new numbered Air Force for space operations, and call on the Air Force to produce a plan to raise the number and quality of its space cadre. Read the full story by Steve Hirsch.

KC-46 Tanker Finishes FAA Certification Tests

The KC-46 tanker has completed the testing necessary to get a Supplemental Type Certificate from the FAA; one of two airworthiness certifications needed for the Pegasus program to proceed. The KC-46 is derived from the Boeing 767-2C, which is derived in turn from the 767 freighter. The STC testing demonstrates the aircraft is airworthy with all its military systems. The company will now submit the data to the FAA for review so the certification can be awarded. The other required certification, the Amended Type Certificate for the 767-2C, was awarded in December, 2017. The testing involved demonstrating the KC-46 can refuel other aircraft using both its boom refueling system as well as the probe-and-drogue system. It also had to show it could receive fuel from KC-135 and KC-10 tankers, as well as from other KC-46s. Additionally, basic function of day and night lighting, self-defense, and avionics systems were required. All those tests have now been completed, although the KC-46 flight test program continues. The last flight required for FAA certification involved passing fuel to a C-17. Test KC-46s have racked up 2,900 flight hours and more than 2,500 refueling contacts during test flights so far. Aircraft that have received fuel from the KC-46 include F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, and A-10 fighters, as well as C-17, KC-10, and KC-46 tanker/airlifters. The tests were organized to include representative small and fast aircraft, small and slow aircraft, and heavies. The F-35 is not one of the aircraft the KC-46 is required to demonstrate refueling with as part of the basic test program. —John A. Tirpak

Air Force Names New Thunderbird No. 4 Pilot

The Thunderbirds demonstration team on Thursday named Maj. Nick “Khan” Krajicek as its new No. 4 slot pilot. Krajicek is a former Thunderbird pilot, who flew as the slot pilot in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons. “We’re grateful to have Khan coming back to the team,” Thunderbirds Commander Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh said in a statement. “His experience and familiarity with our team’s mission and the demonstration profile make him the right choice as we safely make our way back on the road to recruit, retain, and inspire once more.” Krajicek will fill the spot of Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, who was killed April 4 when his F-16 crashed during training in Nevada. The team has canceled both the Charleston, S.C., Air Show and the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Air Show so Krajicek can train. It is evaluating its participation in the Laughlin AFB, Texas, and Air Power over Hampton Roads, Va., air shows in late May. The next demonstration on the schedule after those two is for the US Air Force Academy graduation in Colorado Springs, Colo. Krajicek has flown more than 3,400 flight hours, with more than 650 hours of combat experience. He flew UH-60 Black Hawks in the Army before commissioning in the Air Force in 2004. —Brian Everstine

Schwartz, in Memoir, Says F-22 was Traded for B-21 Bomber

In a new memoir, former Chief of Staff retired Gen. Norton Schwartz, said he and former Air Force Secretary Michael Donley knew the F-22 was required in greater numbers, but went along with the judgment of then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates to kill the stealth fighter. Schwartz said he and Donley decided it wasn’t worth trying to convince Gates on the F-22, but thought they could get him to approve a recast program to buy a new bomber after Gates terminated USAF’s Next-Generation Bomber program. Ultimately, Gates approved the new bomber, now known as the B-21, but with many strings attached. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Mattis: Increased Budget Helps, More Stability in Future Needed to Stay Ahead

While the recent budget increase will help the Pentagon focus on critical capabilities and emerging technologies, Congress needs to continue its steady funding to make sure the military is on the “cutting edge” of technologies and its nuclear deterrent is modernized so the US can stay ahead of adversaries, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told lawmakers Thursday. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

DOD Calls on Congress to Lead in Military Cyber Defense Policy

The Pentagon needs more guidance from Congress on how to employ its cyber teams as the number of uniformed military members operating in that domain increases and the importance of network protection grows, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told lawmakers on Thursday. US Cyber Command has 133 cyber teams—39 of which are provided by the Air Force—and more training is going on to ensure a “persistent cyber training environment,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. For the defense of the nation, military cyber operators are in support of the Department of Homeland Security but “this is a very challenging effort.” He added, “Congressional guidance will be necessary as we weigh life and liberty, and what role you want the military to play inside the US in a defense mode.” Congress needs to lead the military, because domestic operations are “not our normal operating location.” —Brian Everstine

USAF, Army Coordinate in Missile Threat Exercise

Air Force and Army units worked together earlier this month in a simulated air and missile defense exercise aimed at helping establish a training facility for air defense artillery fire control operations in the European and African theaters. US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa’s Warrior Preparation Center held exercise Spartan Shield 18-6 April 12-19. The exercise also included members of the 34th Air Control Squadron, 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, 678th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, and the 5th Battalion of the 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, according to the Air Force. During the exercise, Army air defense artillery fire coordination officers and Air Force Control and Reporting Center crewmembers trained for five days in a simulated air and ground fight in the European theater. “With this training exercise, we are setting the framework for future missile defense exercises,” Air Force Lt. Col. Janelle Koch, of the European Integrated Air and Missile Defense Center, said. “We would like to include more lower-tier missile defense into USAFE exercises to enhance the realism and fidelity of the training,” she said. —Steve Hirsch


—The commander of the Air Force Reserve’s 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick AFB, Fla., pushed to remove the pararescue operators who responded to the recent fatal helicopter crash in Iraq from combat, so they could quickly come home and work with a military post-traumatic stress specialist. Two of the seven airmen killed—MSgt. William Posch and SSgt. Carl Enis—were from the 308th: Tampa Bay Times.

—The Air Force launched an unarmed ICBM from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., on Wednesday, marking the first operational test of 2018: Santa Maria Times.

—The 100th Air Refueling Wing won $150,000 in US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa’s innovation madness contest earlier this month for creating a more efficient process for checking aircraft parts for safety. The new method saved the wing about $913,000 a year by saving more than 192,000 maintenance work hours:

—DSoft Technology, Engineering & Analysis, a Colorado-based technology consulting and IT services firm, has won a $95.9 million Air Force modeling, simulation, and analysis contract for space and cyberspace capabilities. Work will be performed at Peterson AFB, Colo., by May 31, 2023: DOD contract announcement.