Senators Skeptical on Need for New Service Dedicated to Space

Both Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Armed Services Committee grilled USAF and Defense Department leaders for nearly three hours on Thursday, trying to determine whether it really is necessary to create a sixth branch of the military dedicated solely to space. The committee overwhelmingly seemed to agree on the necessity of creating a new unified combatant command dedicated to space, but there was widespread skepticism of the Pentagon’s proposal to create a Space Force as a new military service under the Department of the Air Force. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

STRATCOM to Hand Missile Warning, Defense Responsibilities to SPACECOM

US Strategic Command is working on a plan to turn over global sensor and satellite management for hypersonic missile warning and defense to US Space Command, STRATCOM chief Gen. John Hyten said this week. Handing those responsibilities to SPACECOM would lend them more attention instead of continuing as an implied mission under STRATCOM. “We’re working right now on a new unified command plan for the Space Command responsibilities, and our desire to give Space Command more responsibility over global sensor management and integration. We think there needs to be a formal role for how that would work,” Hyten told reporters at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. “My command, STRATCOM, has been doing, I think for 15 years now, an initiative called Global Sensor Integrated Network. We’re just trying to formalize as we go forward so it’s not just a coalition of the willing, it’s actually a responsibility of a command and I think Space Command is the obvious place to do that.” He said assigning SPACECOM to manage those missions will help the Pentagon progress faster in that area. Hyten also told Space News this week he believes the Space Development Agency should prototype satellites for hypersonic missile defense that orbit closer to Earth than the current tracking constellation. —Rachel S. Cohen

Offutt Sustains Lightning Damage as it Recovers from Flooding

Offutt AFB, Neb., is dealing with more damage from nature, with multiple lightning strikes hitting the base, which is still recovering from devastating flooding. Col. Michael Manion, commander of the 55th Wing at Offutt, said Thursday the base is conducting emergency repairs on 10 different damaged areas of the runway. Each lightning strike caused 3-5 inch gashes in the runway, Manion wrote in a Facebook update. The base had evacuated aircraft on Wednesday, “out of an abundance of caution,” before a bomb cyclone storm hit the area. The storm comes almost one month after widespread flooding hit Offutt, inundating the flightline and several buildings. —Brian Everstine

USAF Refocusing on Electronic Warfare After Years of Counterinsurgency Operations

Although details are unlikely to be released, the Air Force’s Electronic Warfare Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team results are in, and will call for creating an EW czar on the Air Staff. The service will also seek to rope together its various EW efforts, and “reinvigorate” its cadre of electronic warfare professionals, whose skills have been allowed to atrophy during more than a decade of USAF focus on counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism, according to Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes. He also discussed the imminent declaration of operational capability of the newly combined USAF cyber and ISR forces this summer; that they will receive an all-new numbered Air Force designation, and he described the tasks they will undertake. He said major operational changes from what they’ve been doing will be slower in coming, though, in order to “do no harm” to their present efforts. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Hyten: Future NC3 Network to Use Commercial Systems

Future nuclear command, control, and communications data should pass through a network of military and commercial systems so complex that adversaries can’t figure out how to stop it, the head of US Strategic Command said this week. Including the burgeoning commercial side in a future architecture can open up more ways for data to get through, but it can’t be the only solution because it could go dark in a nuclear emergency. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Puerto Rico Guard Gets New Mission

The Puerto Rico Air National Guard will transition away from its flying mission to contingency response and combat communications, the National Guard announced Thursday. The wing had been suffering from low morale for some time in part because it was flying some of the oldest C-130s in the Air Force and felt disconnected from its mission. Puerto Rico will now become the first Air National Guard unit with a combined contingency response and combat communications mission. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

CSBA Study Calls for Increase in Size, Capability of USAF Fleet to Meet Russia, China Threats

The Air Force needs to significantly increase its combat fleet and develop new advanced weapons systems if it hopes to take on China and Russia while also protecting the homeland, according to a congressionally mandated think tank report released Thursday. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Promotions, Instructor Recruitment to Get a Fresh Look

The Air Force announced planned tweaks to how it manages promotions and vets prospective instructors and recruiters. Three changes, driven by a need to maintain a competitive advantage in line with the National Defense Strategy, will be staggered throughout the next few months, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, told reporters. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Moran Nominated as Next Chief of Naval Operations

President Donald Trump on Thursday nominated Navy Adm. Bill Moran to be the next Chief of Naval Operations. Moran, currently the vice chief of naval operations, would replace current CNO Adm. John Richardson, who has led the Navy since September 2015. “Adm. Moran is an extraordinary leader who has been a stalwart partner and advisor,” Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said in a release. “I look forward to working with him in the years ahead when he is confirmed.” Moran, a P-3 pilot and US Naval Academy graduate, previously served on the staff of the chief of naval personnel and on the staffs of US Indo-Pacific Command and the CNO.


Opinion: Tyndall and Offutt AFBs Need More Repair Money — and Fast

Last month’s devastating flood at Offutt AFB, Neb., didn’t just put a critical military installation underwater. It raised the stakes in an increasingly high-risk game of pass-the-buck when it comes to ensuring the readiness of our military forces. Defense One

Air Force: Veteran Who Killed San Antonio Commander Was on Suicide Mission

The findings of an exhaustive probe by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, obtained by the San Antonio Express-News under the federal Freedom of Information Act, said Bellino had known that the brief, violent showdown would likely end the way it did, by him putting a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger. San Antonio Express-News

Senators Demand Answers on Construction Projects Bumped to Fund Border Wall

The Defense Department’s $21 billion military construction budget request, which includes $9.2 billion in emergency funds to cover the cost of a border fence as well as $2 billion in hurricane recovery money, continues to vex senators who must decide the size of the Pentagon’s budget next fiscal year.

New Mobile App Enables, Engages, Empowers Airmen

The Air Force now has an enterprise-wide mobile app designed to provide airmen with streamlined access to information they need for their lives and careers. AFRC News

The F-35 and Other Warplanes Descend on Switzerland This Spring

The Swiss have kicked off flying season for the five types of combat aircraft under consideration to replace the country’s aging fleet, with several demonstrations scheduled between now and early July. Defense News

Three Teams Qualify to Compete in DARPA Launch Challenge

The DARPA Launch Challenge aims to fundamentally shift military space capabilities to enable on-demand, flexible, and responsive launch of small payloads. Three competitors successfully completed the qualification phase and will attempt to launch to low-Earth orbit from two different U.S. locations within a matter of weeks. DARPA

One More Thing …

Secretive Lab at Patrick Watches for Nuclear Explosions Worldwide, Protecting the U.S.

Florida Today took the most in-depth media tour of AFTAC’s classified radiochemistry laboratory since it opened in March 2014. Florida Today