For First Time in a Decade, DOD Has a Budget to Start the Fiscal Year

When President Trump signed into law the 2019 Defense Appropriations Bill Friday, it marked the first time in a decade the Defense Department could start a new fiscal year with a completed budget. The $674.4 billion measure includes an increase of $19.8 billion over the 2018 budget and funds a 2.6 percent military pay raise, the biggest in 10 years. The spending bill includes $43 billion for new military aircraft, including $1.7 billion for 16 additional F-35s—eight of them US Air Force F-35As. It also includes $640 million for eight new Air National Guard C–130Js; $100 million to fund development of the Light Attack Aircraft program; and $10.3 billion for the Missile Defense Agency. “This package continues a historic increase in funding for our nation’s defense, helping the President deliver on his commitment to rebuild the military and keep our armed forces the strongest and best trained, equipped, and prepared in the world,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) His counterpart, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), said, with the law’s signing, the US military can now “begin to restore its strength, agility, and effectiveness.”

F-35 Crashes for the First Time, Pilot Ejects Safely

A Marine Corps F-35B crashed Friday near Beaufort, S.C.. It was the first-ever crash of an F-35 of any model since the start of the development program 17 years ago. According to a USMC statement, the aircraft, assigned to Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Beaufort, S.C., crashed at about 11:45 a.m. According to the service, the pilot ejected safely and was being evaluated by medical personnel. No one was injured on the ground, and the cause of the accident is under investigation. The accident comes just one day after a Marine Corps F-35B made its first combat attack, on a target in Afghanistan. The closest any F-35 has come to crashing previously was an incident at Eglin AFB, Fla. in June, 2014, when, during a takeoff run, the aircraft’s engine experienced a third stage rotor failure and the aircraft caught fire. The pilot aborted that takeoff and safely exited the aircraft, which was later written off. The resultant grounding of the type kept the F-35 from making its debut at the 2014 Farnborough Air Show. The root cause of that failure was a rotor blade digging into a seal surrounding the engine; all F-35s were later modified to correct the fault. —Steve Hirsch and John A. Tirpak

Lockheed-DOD Lot 11 Deal Brings F-35A Unit Price Under $90M

The latest F-35A contract locks in a cost for the Air Force version of under $90 million a copy, marking the 11th year in a row the unit cost of the fighter has been reduced. Marine Corps and Navy versions also saw healthy price declines, with the Navy’s carrier version cost falling 11 percent. The Lot 11 contract covers 141 aircraft to be built for the US, F-35 partner countries, and foreign military sales customers. Lockheed Martin says the program remains on track to get the unit cost to $80 million by 2020. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

RPA Crews Facing Intense Ops Tempo, Long Road to Dwell

More than two years after finalizing a “get-well” program, the Air Force’s remotely piloted aircraft community still has a long way to go before its units can take a break from constant combat and focus on training. RPA crews need time to train locally to prepare for a fight in a contested environment, to build on the extensive experience they have in close air support and reconnaissance, said Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech AFB, Nev., USAF’s main RPA wing. In the meantime, RPA crews are forced to fly most of their training missions en route to real-life airstrikes. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

C-17 Flies Emergency Medical Evacuation Mission on Short Notice to Antarctica

A C-17 and aircrew deployed for Operation Deep Freeze was headed home after their final flight of the winter Antarctic season when they were called back to respond to a medical emergency in late August. The crew from the 304th Expeditionary Air Squadron responded by working with a Christchurch New Zealand Life Fleet medical team to airlift two patients from McMurdo Station to Christchurch, New Zealand. The C-17 and team landed to pick up the patients in negative 65.2 degrees Fahrenheit conditions, with a wind-chill of negative 94, according to a Sept. 27 Air Force release. The entire mission, from the initial notification to landing at Christchurch with the patients, lasted 24 hours. “This mission was outside normal operations since it was an emergency situation,” said Lt. Col. Bruce Cohn, a pilot with the 97th Airlift Squadron, in the release. “The rapidness of how we changed gear to respond really showed the teamwork of all who were involved.”



—Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets IV, deputy commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command and the grandson of the pilot of the Enola Gay when it bombed Hiroshima in 1945, will not be promoted to major general and will be forced to retire following the investigation into accusations of misconduct from his time as head of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo.: Air Force Times .

—Russia’s Su-57 fighter reportedly will be armed with a hypersonic air-to-air missile with a range of more than 300 kilometers: Russia Today.

—The 2019 version of the Air Force’s Spark Tank Competition, allowing airmen to pitch innovative ideas to senior Air Force leaders, is now open to enlisted, officer, and government employee personnel. The contest will culminate with a display of ideas next year at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla.: Standard-Examiner.