19th Air Force Grounds T-6 Trainers
Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty, commander of 19th Air Force, has suspended all T-6 Texan II operations as of Feb. 1, a 19th AF spokesperson emailed Air Force Magazine. The “operational pause” comes after a “cluster” of unexplained physiological events (UPEs) were reported at Columbus AFB, Miss., Vance AFB, Okla., and Sheppard AFB, Texas?, “within the last week,” the email reads. It’s unclear how long the pause will last, but a Wednesday message from Doherty to T-6 leaders—widely shared on an unofficial USAF-centric Facebook page—suspended T-6 solo sorties “until further notice.” Meanwhile, according to the evening statement, USAF will examine the “root causes of the incidents” and react accordingly. “We’re acting swiftly, making temporary, but necessary, changes to everyone’s training, general awareness, checklist procedures, and possibly [modifying] aircrew flying equipment to mitigate risk to the aircrew while we tackle this issue head-on to safeguard everyone flying T-6s,” Doherty said in the statement. The suspension comes a week after USAF stood up a team dedicated to investigating similar UPEs. As recently as November 2017, two A-10 pilots at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., reported physiological incidents while flying, which led USAF to ground a third of the base’s Warthog fleet for about a week. Weeks before the A-10 grounding, ?the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance AFB, Okla., grounded all T-6As after pilots reported four physiological incidents there. —Gideon Grudo?
Leaked NPR Draft Misinterpreted on Nuclear Response to Cyber, Selva Says
The Nuclear Posture Review doesn’t say the US will always answer cyber attacks with nuclear weapons, said Gen. Paul Selva, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday. He described how large-scale cyber attacks—among other attacks that cause mass destruction—might well prompt a nuclear response, but he shot down the notion that the NPR calls for developing low-yield nuclear weapons specifically to use against cyber attackers. These misinterpretations stemmed from a leaked copy of an NPR draft, and he suggested that the leaker was a US service member. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
F-35 Program Office Moves Up Implementation of Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System
The F-35 Program Office this week announced it will implement an Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System in the fleet next year, five years earlier than planned. The announcement is portrayed as good news for the F-35, and comes shortly after the Pentagon’s director of weapons test and evaluation highlighted some development problems with the program. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Air Force Awards Contract for Small Drone Surveillance at Two Afghanistan Bases
The Air Force last week awarded AAI Corp. a $15.6 million contract to provide force-protection drones to help secure two major bases in Afghanistan. The contract to AAI, a unit of Textron, will cover the operation, engineering, and sustainment of drones flown by its personnel to protect forces at Bagram and Kandahar airfields, according to the Jan. 26 Pentagon announcement. Air Combat Command’s Acquisition Management and Integration Center at JB Langley-Eustis, Va., took over the contract which was managed by Naval Air Systems Command on behalf of US Air Forces Central Command, ACC said in a statement to Air Force Magazine. The air vehicles covered by the contract provide full motion video for up to 600 hours per month, watching over the two locations. The award is a “bridge,” because the previous contract was set to expire in March and the Air Force plans to compete a follow-on contract to provide five more years of drone surveillance at the bases. —Brian Everstine
Lockheed Martin Lands $81 Million E-6B Launch Control System Contract
The Air Force has awarded an $81 million contract to Lockheed Martin to provide a design and functional prototype for a replacement for the aging airborne launch control system on the E-6B Mercury Airborne Command Post, the company said Wednesday. Lockheed Martin said the replacement program is aimed at providing a survivable alternate launch capability for the Minuteman III ICBM, as well as command and control capability for the future Ground Based Strategic Deterrent missile system planned as a replacement for the Minuteman III in the 2020s. Lockheed Martin will be working with L3 Technologies, which will lead development of secure communications architecture for the new system. The replacement launch system is slated for fielding by 2024. —Steve Hirsch
ICBM Combined Test Force Established at Hill Air Force Base
The Arnold Engineering Development Complex has set up an ICBM integrated test and evaluation product team at Hill AFB, Utah, to support modernization of the LGM-30 Minuteman III and development of the next-generation Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the Air Force said recently. The combined test force will ensure that resources will be effectively used and oversee a group of developmental test and evaluation organizations in support of ICBM test and evaluation programs, according to Col. Timothy West, senior materiel leader, Test Operations Division. This will be the Air Force Test Center’s first ICBM-focused CTF, Capt. Hedison Doe, one of the leaders of the Minuteman III modernization developmental test and evaluation effort, said. “The work AEDC is doing touches every aspect of the missile system, requiring a broad spectrum of technical expertise. The expectation for the technical breadth needed to timely execute these crucial programs along overlapping development cycles is critical and requires a special blend of both test expertise and ICBM system expertise to make this CTF successful,” he said. —Steve Hirsch
US Defense, State Departments Host Qatar to Push for Cohesion Across Gulf Countries
The leaders of the US departments of defense and state this week met with their counterparts from Qatar to try and strengthen the relationship with the country, which hosts a critical USAF base in the Middle East and the control center for air operations in the region. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hosted the first Qatar Strategic Dialogue on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., praising the “longstanding relationship” with the country. Despite current challenges, the US and Qatar have “excellent military relations,” said Mattis, who noted the country hosts Al Udeid Air Base with the Combined Air Operations Center, the forward headquarters of US Central Command, and the forward headquarters of Air Forces Central Command. Qatar has increased its own military commitments to US-led efforts, with two Qatar Emiri Air Force C-17s flying logistics support flights to Afghanistan last week to support the NATO effort there, Mattis said. However, ongoing tensions between Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries such as the United Arab Emirates have hurt the “cohesion” of the GCC, he said. A “peaceful resolution” is needed to ensure the council, and the US, can work together in ongoing military efforts, Mattis said. —Brian Everstine
Satellite Launch Completes SBIRS Baseline Constellation
Air Force Space Command, with help from other agencies, launched the fourth Space-Based Infrared System missile warning satellite on Jan. 19, completing the SBIRS baseline constellation, the Air Force said Tuesday. The step will allow the 460th Operations Group to start to replace the aging predecessor Defense Support Program constellation and “allow SBIRS operators to collect on dimmer targets at a higher revisit rate,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Bathurst, 2nd Space Warning Squadron SBIRS launch and early on-orbit test operations lead. Two more satellites are planned for launch in the 2020s. –Steve? Hirsch
An entry in the Jan. 31 Daily Report misidentified the home base of Colorado Air National Guard F-16s. The F-16s are based at Buckley Air Force Base. We have updated the entry.
—US Northern Command announced the Air Force will fly gyrocopters over Washington, D.C., to help “refine and improve the ability to respond to unknown and potentially threatening aircraft:” Washington Examiner.
—Defense Secretary Jim is allegedly considering banning personal cell phones inside the Pentagon: CNN.
—A Douglas C-47A Skytrain, known as “That’s All, Brother,” took to the skies on Jan. 31 for its first post-restoration flight. The aircraft “led a formation of more than 800 C-47s to Normandy to drop paratroopers on D-Day,” according to Commemorative Air Force: Warbirds News