USAF Limiting Deployments and Exercises, Increasing Physical Care to Keep Pilots
The Air Force is moving forward with almost 70 initiatives aimed at addressing its pilot shortage, and is urging Congress to support its Fiscal 2019 budget saying it would allow the service to spend more money on keeping pilots in the air longer. The ideas include fewer deployments, limited participation in exercises, and even physical trainers in squadrons to help keep pilots healthy. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
B-52 Engines, Hypersonic Weapons Lead USAF Prototyping Efforts
The Air Force has identified a list of programs it wants to use rapid prototyping authorities to move beyond the classic acquisition process and instead quickly bring forth new technologies. There are eight programs the service is undergoing, and if fully funded, could translate to 25 years of total program acceleration, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing on Thursday. For example, the Air Force plans to award a prototyping contract for replacing the engines on B-52s, and has already awarded a $928 million contract to Lockheed Martin to prototype a hypersonic missile. The hypersonic contract is also a joint effort with the Army and Navy, Wilson said, with the system using an Army-tested warhead that was developed for the Navy. It will be an “Army front end on an Air Force booster, tested off an Air Force aircraft,” she said. The Air Force previously has not said much publicly about this effort, just that it is known as a Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon. It is an “important capability to be able to threaten targets a long way away at a very high speed,” and it is also an answer to rapidly progressing Russian and Chinese efforts at hypersonic weapons. The Air Force is reviewing its prototyping efforts, and determining how much it can do financially. The results of that review are expected to be seen in the Fiscal 2020 budget request, Wilson said. —Brian Everstine
Pentagon: Missile Defense Review Still in Progress
The Pentagon’s review of missile defense, which was originally slated for release by the end of 2017, is now expected in “the next few weeks,” Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said Thursday. The Missile Defense Review will be an in-depth analysis of what the Pentagon wants to do to improve its self defenses. White said its release was delayed because the Pentagon needs to ensure it is adequately explaining the steps and investments necessary moving forward. It originally was called the Ballistic Missile Defense Review when announced last year, but “ballistic” was dropped because the review will need to include threats from hypersonics and cruise missiles, Pentagon officials have said. White said Thursday that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is reviewing the report. “This is a strategy,” she said. “It’s important to ensure that we show what we are doing moving forward.” —Brian Everstine
USAF Looks to Replace OC-135 Open Skies Aircraft
The Air Force will hold an industry day May 30-31 via telecom with companies interested in building an aircraft to replace the OC-135, which is used for arms control treaty observation and imagery collection over the nations party to the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. According to the May 16 notice, the industry day “will provide a general overview of the requirements and a forum for discussions about the government’s expectations and industry capabilities.” The industry day is designed for informational purposes and is not a solicitation or request for proposals, and the results will be used to determine the government’s acquisition strategy. The Air Force has said it wants two new aircraft that have not previously been in service. The aircraft should be FAA and Open Skies compliant, with an anticipated 30-year life span, assuming an average of “500 flight hours and 350 flight cycles annually,” according to a requirements document posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website. The service’s “desired flight range” for the aircraft is 5,076 nautical miles, with a maximum mission payload of 15,000 pounds, according to the document. The two Boeing-built OC-135s in the current inventory are based at Offutt AFB, Neb., and were delivered between 1993-1996. —Steve Hirsch
NORAD Must Deal with Revolutionary Changes, Former Commander Says
Retired USAF Gen. Victor Renuart, the former commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command, told a Washington audience Thursday that while NORAD will be an evolutionary, not revolutionary, organization, it will have to deal with revolutionary changes to the threat environment. Read the full story by Steve Hirsch.
Program Manager: DOD Info Sharing Initiative On Track Despite Setbacks
Army Colonel Greg Griffin on Thursday said the joint regional security stack (JRSS) program will have all 20 of its virtual gateways for information flow—from email to sensor data—built and ready by the end of next year, as planned. “We’re pushing the bounds,” said Griffin, the JRSS program’s portfolio manager, about the nature and capability of the stacks. However, he noted that one of them “in particular” is having issues, which is causing an operational impact. Read the full story from Gideon Grudo.
—Move over Lightning II, F-35 pilots have nicknamed the fifth generation strike fighter “Panther:” The Drive.
—Col. David Owens, commander of the 317th Airlift Wing, was relieved of his duties on May 16 for creating an “unhealthy work environment” that led to “loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command:” AMC release.
—General Atomics was awarded a six-year, $206 million contract to update 122 MQ-9 Reapers to the Block V configuration: GovConWire.
—An airman appears to have lost an unencrypted disk containing the data—including names, social security numbers, and driver’s license information—of some 164,000 people who registered a vehicle at Okinawa AB, Japan, between January 2007 and September 2017: Stars and Stripes.