Omnibus Includes Significant Increase in Aircraft
The $1.3 trillion Fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill, which would fund the government through September, includes $654.6 billion for the Defense Department, up from the $639 billion in President Trump’s original budget request. The omnibus “addresses several unfunded requirements across the services through the procurement of multiple air frames,” according to the summary document. It funds an additional 20 F-35 strike fighters, including 10 F-35As for the US Air Force, at a cost of $2.9 billion above the requested amount. The omnibus also includes $510 million for three additional KC-46A tankers, $480 million for six additional C-130Js for the Air National Guard, $130 million for two C-37Bs used for transporting high-ranking government and DOD officials, $100 million for an additional HC-130J aircraft, and $35 million for Compass Call modification. The service’s $10.8 billion Fiscal 2018 unfunded requirements list sought an additional 14 F-35As, three more KC-46s, and 12 more MC-130Js. The Senate still needs to vote on the measure before it can be sent to the White House for President Trump’s signature. Funding for the government expires at midnight on Friday unless the omnibus is approved or another temporary funding measure is put in place.—Steve Hirsch and Amy McCullough
Rand Hopes UH-1N Replacement Contract Will be Awarded by Summer’s End
Air Force Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said Thursday he hopes the Air Force will pick a source for replacement of the Vietnam-era UH-1N Huey by autumn. Gen. John Hyten, head of the US Strategic Command, last year criticized repeated delays on replacing the helicopters, which defend US nuclear missile fields. In Thursday testimony before a House Armed Services subcommittee, Rand said the request for proposals for the replacement has been released and he said he hopes the “source selection will come before the end of the summer.” In an unusual move, Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, filed a pre-award protest with the Government Accountability Office in February, alleging the Air Force’s insistence on owning the intellectual property rights “are inconsistent with the RFP and contrary to law.” The service now is prohibited from awarding a contract until the protest is resolve; the GAO has until May 23 to make its decisions. —Steve Hirsch
Pentagon’s New Research and Engineering Czar Says Laser Tech Hot Right Now
DOD’s first ever Undersecretary for Research and Engineering spoke favorably of directed energy Wednesday, signaling further that laser technology is becoming a priority at the Pentagon. “There is very much a lean forward posture now” for weaponizing directed energy, Mike Griffin said at a Booz Allen Hamilton/CSBA Directed Energy Summit, reported IHS Jane’s. “There’s a recognition that China has quietly declared itself to be our adversary [and] Russia is resurgent,” said Griffin. Air Force Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. Brad Webb said in February he is “cautiously optimistic” the service will get the funding it needs to finally move forward with plans to put lasers on gunships, adding it “needs to happen. We’ve been insistent on that for a number of years.” In late 2017, the Air Force Research Laboratory awarded Lockheed Martin a $26.3 million contract to design, develop, and produce the laser portion of the lab’s Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program. That award completed AFRL’s three-segment SHiELD program, aiming to allow USAF’s tactical fighters jets to fire lasers by 2021. Tests are slated to begin this summer, reported Newsweek. —Gideon Grudo
AFRL Breaks Heat-Resistance Record with 3-D Printed Polymer Composite Parts
Researchers with the Air Force Research Laboratory have 3-D printed polymer composite parts able to withstand record high temperatures, according to a release. AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate worked in tandem with NASA’s Glenn Research Center to create the parts, which survive environments hotter than 300 degrees Celsius, or 572 degrees Fahrenheit. Polymer material are attractive especially considering their light weight and capabilities to withstand other, non-temperature extreme conditions, like very high or low pressure points. Specifically, this breakthrough is good news for parts close to an aircraft’s engine exhaust. Hilmar Koerner, an AFRL scientist, said this type of polymer composite is “potentially useful” for turbine engine replacement parts. Additionally, the breakthrough materials are “extremely beneficial and advantageous not only for the Air Force, but have the potential to be a game-changer throughout industry,” said Jeffery Baur, a principal materials engineer at AFRL. The next step for the AFRL team is to test the printing of larger parts, having demonstrated success with smaller parts, like brackets. —Gideon Grudo
Missile Defense Review Expected This Spring, Will Include Threat from Hypersonics
The Pentagon’s in-depth review of its missile defense posture will be released this spring, and will include a revamped look beyond just ballistic missiles with a focus on hypersonics and cruise missile threats, Defense Department leaders said Thursday. The Missile Defense Review will come “in the next couple of months,” following the release of the Nuclear Posture Review last month. It was originally expected by the end of last year. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood told the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee on Thursday the review, which is still in the works, will address a “number of challenges in the threat environment,” and that the military needs “to stay ahead of that threat.” When it was initially announced, the project was called the Ballistic Missile Defense Review. However, “ballistic” was dropped as the military is facing increasing threats from hypersonics and cruise missiles, so “it was important to see a connection there.” One of the “real challenges” that needs to be addressed, Rood said, is how to target a missile in the boost phase when it is most vulnerable. —Brian Everstine
Defense Official Stresses Continuity in Trump Nuclear Posture Review
Defense Undersecretary for Policy John Rood Thursday stressed continuity between the Trump and Obama administrations’ nuclear posture reviews during House Armed Services subcommittee testimony, acknowledging support for the new review by senior officials of the Obama administration. Read the full story by Steve Hirsch.
Mattis Pledges Support, But Urges a Quick Resolution for Saudi Fight in Yemen
Saudi Arabia needs to urgently find a peaceful resolution to the civil war in Yemen and its coalition effort, which has received steady US support, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told a Saudi leader on Thursday. Mattis welcomed Mohammad Bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, to the Pentagon where Mattis said the US will continue to support Saudi Arabia, but efforts need to be reinvigorated to find an end to the conflict. Since 2015, USAF tankers have been providing refueling support to Saudi fighters in a continued offensive against Houthi rebels inside Yemen. The United Nations last month appointed a new special envoy for Yemen, which is “an opportunity to accelerate a political solution to resolve this conflict [because] that can provide the regional stability necessary” to protect Saudi Arabia, deny safe haven to terrorists, and help the human rights of Yemeni citizens, Mattis said. So far, there have been an estimated 10,000 deaths in the ongoing conflict, according to Reuters. “We are going to end this war, that is the bottom line,” Mattis said. “And we are going to end it on positive terms for the people of Yemen but also security for the nations in the peninsula.” —Brian Everstine
—A Saudi air force F-15 was “intercepted” yesterday by a surface-to-air missile, flying over northern Yemen. A spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition said the incident was evidence that Iran is supplying weapons to a Yemeni rebel group: IHS Jane’s 360.
—Michigan Air National Guard airmen, Latvian military, and local Michigan police worked together March 16 to share tactics for active shooter scenarios: ANG release.
—An area man seeking drugs crashed a stolen semi-trailer truck through multiple fences and onto JB Lewis-McChord, Wash.: The News Tribune.
—The driver who breached the main gate at Travis AFB, Calif., and crashed his car was pronounced dead at the scene. The Air Force did not say how the man died, only that “security forces immediately responded” and there were “no additional fatalities or injuries:” Travis release.