Round Two of Light Attack Experiment Begins at Holloman
The second phase of the Air Force’s Light Attack Experiment began Monday at Holloman AFB, N.M. During the three-month live-fly experiment pilots will fly both the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano and the Textron Aviation AT-6B Wolverine to determine which aircraft is best suited for a future light attack role and for partner nation interoperability, according to a USAF release. “This second phase of experimentation is about informing the rapid procurement process as we move closer to investing in light attack,” said Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, military deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. “If we can get light attack aircraft operating in permissive combat environments, we can alleviate the demand on our fourth and fifth generation aircraft, so they can be training for the high-end fight they were made for.” The service conducted the first phase of the experiment in August 2017 at Holloman, with initial plans calling for a real-life combat demonstration to follow. However, USAF announced earlier this year it had decided to move ahead with a second-phase demo at Holloman that is focused largely on “logistics and maintenance requirements, weapons and sensor issues, training syllabus validity, networking, and future interoperability with partner forces,” according to an earlier release. —Amy McCullough
NDAA Amendment Would Set Up Commission on Military Aviation Safety
The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee Monday introduced an amendment to the pending Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that would set up an independent National Commission on Military Aviation Safety. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) announced the move the same day the committee released the text of its proposed bill—that “chairman’s mark” will be debated Wednesday and follows the release Friday of a committee summary of the bill. The Air Force announced last month it was examining accident rates following a series of aviation accidents. The commission envisioned in Smith’s amendment would review military aviation mishaps between Fiscal 2013 and 2018 compared to historic averages, examine the causes, and make recommendations on safety, training, maintenance, personnel, or other policies linked to military aviation safety. —Steve Hirsch
USAF Official Points to Need to Consider Noncommercial Logistics
The Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, Monday pointed to the need to look at noncommercial transportation as it examines the military’s current logistics needs. The US Transportation Command has had to increase the number of private contractor flights because of the Air Force’s limited fleet of tactical airlifters, TRANSCOM boss Air Force Gen. Darren McDew said in March. However, McDew told a House hearing, working with more private companies opens the military to more cyber attacks. Speaking at an AFA Mitchell Institute event in Arlington, Va., Monday, Harris said that as the Air Force is looking at “resilient, agile logistics,” priorities will include “our abilities to get strategic mobility assets, and work with our partners to help with the allied support, as well as our non-commercially dependent and distributed logistics and maintenance.” —Steve Hirsch
Downlink Interference Blamed in 2017 Central Command Drone Crash
The Air Force on Monday said an MQ-9A remotely piloted aircraft crashed a year ago in the Central Command area of responsibility because the ground control station lost its downlink on final approach. According to an Air Combat Command abbreviated accident investigation report, on May 6, 2017, the Reaper, from the 432nd Wing at Creech AFB, Nev., was being operated by a launch and recovery element in the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron and was on its way back from a mission. It appears the mishap was caused by downlink interference from another MQ-9A, on the ground, which was transmitting on high power, and the unsuccessful attempt by the launch and recovery element to restore its link. The RPA crashed when it ran out of fuel, the Air Force said. —Steve Hirsch
Air Force Plans Two Sole-Source Contracts for SBIRS Successor
The Air Force said late Friday it plans to award two sole-source contracts for the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared program, the successor to the current Space Based Infrared System missile warning satellite. The announcement said the Air Force is putting rapid procurement authorities into place and wants to have the first Next-Gen OPIR launch in 2023, a move aimed at cutting four years off the current procurement process. “As we develop these new systems, speed matters,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said. “The next generation missile warning satellite will be a pace-setter.” This echoes comments she made last month at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., when she pointed to shortening the procurement time for the replacements for the seventh and eighth SBIRS satellites. The first contract will be sole-sourced to Lockheed Martin Space for three geosynchronous orbit satellites, while the second was awarded to Northrop Grumman for two polar orbit satellites. —Steve Hirsch
—Two former Air Force officers are urging the inspectors general of the Air Force, Defense Department, and Air National Guard to investigate the Guard’s handling of the F-35 basing decision in Vermont, alleging possible violations of “military ethics and regulations.” A spokesman for the Vermont Air National Guard said the basing decision was “transparent, repeatable, and defendable:” VT Digger.
—Air Force Reserve Command is trying to get young people interested in being Air Force flight engineers through a program called “High School to Flight School:” Military.com.
—NASA on Saturday launched the Mars Insight lander from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., which will measure temperature and marsquakes on the Red Planet: ABC7.