Air Force B-52 Re-Engining Has “Momentum,” Rolls Says

After many disappointing false starts at re-engining the 55-year-old B-52, the Air Force seems serious about the program, and could make an announcement to that effect “imminently,” industry officials said yesterday. Rolls Royce senior Vice President Tom Hartmann said his company is ready to offer its BR725 engines for the program, while Boeing B-52 expert John Robinson said there are too many advantages to such a program not to take it seriously. New engines would pay for themselves within 10 years or so in reduced fuel usage, reduced need for aerial tanking, reduced maintenance, and potentially a smaller maintenance manpower footprint, both said. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

USAF Commits to 100 Percent Promotion Opportunity to Major

In an effort to grow its ranks of field-grade officers, the Air Force announced Wednesday there will be a 100 percent promotion opportunity to major beginning in December. “With this change, captains whose conduct has been exemplary can expect to be promoted to major,” said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in a press release. “We’ve been letting capable people leave the service and we need them.” The Air Force is currently only 92 percent manned for field-grade officers. The change comes after a full year of Headquarters study of officer performance management, and the service said other shifts could emerge from the research as well. “There have been no major changes to the officer evaluation system in nearly 30 years, but there have been significant changes to our force composition, mission, requirements, and how our performance system reflects what we value in officers,” said Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, deputy chief of staff for manpower.

Two New GSSAP Satellites Brought Online

The Air Force enhanced its watch on space Tuesday as the two latest satellites in the service’s Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) came online. The satellites, number three and four in the program, were launched from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., on Aug. 19, 2016, and have since been completing on-orbit operational testing. The 1st Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., operates the satellites. Since the first two satellites came online in 2015, GSSAP has expanded Air Force Space Command’s ability to track and characterize objects in a space domain that has become more crowded and more threatening. “GSSAP three and four will significantly enhance our ability to characterize objects in geosynchronous orbit,” said AFSC boss Gen. Jay Raymond, in a press release. “This provides the awareness we need to successfully operate in space.” (For more on the space situational awareness mission, see also: A Closer Watch on Space, from the August issue of Air Force Magazine.)

Spotlight: SrA. Brittany F. Fuentes

SrA. Brittany F. Fuentes, a weapons analyst with the Air Intelligence Squadron at Scott AFB, Ill., is one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2017. Fuentes deployed to Incirlik AB, Turkey, just before the unsuccessful coup attempt and became the lead analyst for the first 48 hours of an eight-day airfield closure. She provided the premission brief for the first C-17 departure from Incirlik, initiating the evacuation of 708 dependents. She then led her team through a 30-day force protection condition increase, providing 28 intelligence briefings that ensured wing preparedness. At home station, Fuentes managed the Weapons and Tactics Team’s threat assessment process, analyzing 116 enemy attacks in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. She identified enemy tactics, helping safeguard over 69,000 mobility sorties. In addition, she analyzed the threat to a high-risk Iraqi airfield, allowing 23 C-17 missions to go ahead, providing supplies vital to the Mosul, Iraq, offensive. Air Force Magazine is shining the spotlight on each OAY in the days leading up to AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference, which starts Sept. 18 in National Harbor, Md.

AFSOC Demos Automated Data Tagging

Project Maven, the Air Force’s data task force, recently visited Hurlburt Field, Fla., to demonstrate tagging technology that could transform the way Air Force Special Operations Command performs its intelligence mission. Data tagging involves training a machine to recognize selected features of an image. When the computer collects enough images tagged for a certain feature, it can begin to recognize new instances of the feature on its own. A computer could review intelligence imagery to find “a red sedan, black pickup truck, person with a blue hat, person with a weapon, or any other descriptive identifier,” said MSgt. Daniel Warden, AFSOC Initiatives Group superintendent, in a press release. Automated data tagging “gives an analyst more time to make tough decisions because the computer makes the easy decisions for us by sorting through all of the data out there,” said Warden. “There’s not enough people in the world to look at all of the data.”

South Korea Tests Air-Launched Cruise Missile

South Korea tested an advanced air-launched cruise missile for the first time on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. An F-15 fighter fired the German Taurus missile, striking a target off South Korea’s western coast. Taurus’s stealthy design and maximum range of 310 miles means it would strengthen the South’s ability to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea. The missile test came nine days after Pyongyang conducted its largest-ever underground nuclear test. The day after the North’s nuclear test, South Korean President Moon Jae-in asked President Donald Trump to eliminate a cap that limits South Korean warheads to 1,100 pounds. “In principle,” President Donald Trump agreed to remove the caps, which had been previously set in a bilateral treaty, Reuters reported.


—US forces conducted three airstrikes in Somalia Wednesday against Al Shabaab fighters. The strikes occurred in southern Somalia, about 160 miles south of the country’s capital, Mogadishu. Six militants were killed. This was the third set of US strikes in that country within a week: US Africa Command.

—Air Force leaders said the service must stop relying on an industrial age acquisition system in which it often takes two decades to develop a weapon system. Instead, the Defense Department needs an industrial-age acquisition system that will get new capabilities to the warfighter significantly faster. Air Combat Command boss Gen. Mike Holmes said there are lessons to be learned in this area from the US space race and the development of the F-117 stealth fighter: Dayton Daily News.

—The 437th Airlift Wing at JB Charleston, S.C., sent a C-17 to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, on Sept. 12 to transport a mobile air traffic control tower requested by FEMA to provide relief to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma devastated the island: USAF release.

—The Defense Department and various representatives from US universities conducted a week-long test at Edwards AFB, Calif., to determine how various aircraft would respond in a GPS jamming environment. It was the “first large-scale program of its kind,” KC-46A program manager James Cook said: USAF release.