?“Lockheed Fatigue,” Need for Affordable Tactical Mix Drove F-15EX Decision

The need for an affordable mix of fourth and fifth generation tactical air platforms drove the Pentagon to ask Congress to buy the Air Force new fourth-gen fighters in the fiscal 2020 budget, a senior defense official said March 22. He added that it’s “desirable” to have more than one contractor producing fighter jets, prompting the Defense Department to choose Boeing’s F-15 rather than the Lockheed Martin-built F-16. The official also said that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, participated in broad strategy discussions about the fleet mix, but was left out of final deliberations on the Boeing-made jets. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

USAF Reviewing Training After MAX 8 Crashes; KC-46 Uses Similar MCAS

The Air Force is reviewing its emergency training procedures and analyzing past autopilot-related mishaps following two crashes of new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, according to the service, which is focusing on general safety instead of particular problems or aircraft. Although the KC-46 tanker, also made by Boeing, uses a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System similar to that on the MAX 8, USAF said it feels confident the KC-46 isn’t affected by the MCAS issues highlighted by the recent crashes. No similar problems were encountered during KC-46 testing. Read the full story by Brian Everstine and John A. Tirpak.

US-Backed Fighters Claim Victory Over ISIS’s Physical Caliphate

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces on Saturday announced they had routed ISIS from its last holdout in Syria, effectively ending the group’s physical caliphate after more than four years of fighting. While the physical presence may be over, US officials say there is still work to do to maintain the victory and defeat the group’s ideology. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

New Strategy to Modernize Bases Proposes 5 Percent Demolition

A proposed strategy to update the Air Force’s infrastructure would need $2 billion in fiscal 2020 to start studying potential upgrades, as well as to tear down the worst 5 percent of non-mission-essential buildings, the service said March 22. However, planning could be affected if supplemental funding to pay for urgent repairs to Tyndall AFB, Fla., and Offutt AFB, Neb., doesn’t come through. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Afghan Air Force Adds Attack Helicopters, Night Strike Capabilities

The Afghan Air Force recently began conducting night strikes with the A-29 Super Tucano and has nearly doubled its fleet of MD-530 attack helicopters. Aircraft changes have improved Afghan troops’ morale while also increasing pressure on the Taliban, a local pilot told Air Force Magazine. Read the full story by Jennifer Hlad.

Potential NSSL Contractors to Study Vehicle, Payload Integration

Four companies—Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, and United Launch Services—will start integration studies under forthcoming contracts to inform the Air Force’s National Security Space Launch program, the service said in a March 20 notice. Each study will look at whether the contractors’ rockets are compatible with Air Force payloads projected to launch in fiscal 2022 and 2023, the service said. NSSL, until recently known as the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, is broadening the definition of who qualifies as a launch provider from the United Launch Alliance alone to piggyback on the work of other commercial companies that are investing in space. The name change also indicates a new interest in reusable launch vehicles, not only expendable ones. While the service has so far certified only one new provider, SpaceX, it intends to “compete as much as possible all launch service procurements where more than one certified provider can service the required reference orbit,” according to 2020 budget documents. The service plans to spend $1.2 billion on four launches in 2020, as well as to “competitively acquire launch services from [2020 to 2024] through two providers.” —Rachel S. Cohen

US, UK Aircraft Train Together in Exercise Point Blank

US aircraft integrated with UK ground controllers for the first time while flying alongside the Royal Air Force’s fourth and fifth generation aircraft during Exercise Point Blank on March 22. The exercise, a recurring training event focused on transatlantic interoperability, took place at RAF Lakenheath, England, and included American F-15Es from the 492nd and 494th Fighter Squadrons along with RAF F-35Bs, Typhoons, and Hawks, according to a Lakenheath release. This iteration focused on “dynamic targeting” of a high-value individual, similar to missions US and UK aircraft have flown in real-world combat such as in Operation Inherent Resolve. Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of US Air Forces in Europe, recently told Air Force Magazine that his command is improving its exercises from an air component perspective to improve readiness and be better positioned to “build momentum” in a campaign. “Those are the items that make us a more ready force, so our lethality is better, our resiliency is better, our responsiveness is better,” he said. “If we continue to make gains in all of those areas, we’ll be in a position where we will get better.” —Brian Everstine


An entry in the March 20 Daily Report misstated the circumstances surrounding Venezuela’s contested presidential election. Opposition leader Juan Guaido claimed power as acting president after the election was disputed, though he did not run as a candidate. We have corrected the story.



Two US Service Members Killed in Afghanistan

Two US service members were killed in Afghanistan on Friday while conducting an operation, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said in a statement. Reuters

Is the Pentagon Moving Quickly Enough on Hypersonic Defense

As the Pentagon looks to catch up with China and Russia in the hypersonic arms race, there is a widespread acknowledgement that the technology to defend against weapons capable of reaching Mach 5 or higher simply isn’t there. Defense New

PM Interview: The Guardians of Orbit

A lot of the talk about the militarization of space these days comes from people who have zero real-life military experience working with satellites. We recently had the welcome opportunity to speak to several frontline military space operators during a trip to Petersen Air Force Base in Colorado, home to US Space Command, and Schriever AFB. Popular Mechanics

Plans to Reorganize the Office of the Secretary of Defense in Flux

The Department of Defense is reorganizing their leadership. A provision in the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act requires a chief management officer to take over some functions at the Pentagon. Government Matters

Cyber Threats Are Emerging Faster Than DHS Can Identify and Confront Them

The Homeland Security Department needs to do a better job anticipating cyber threats on the horizon on top of defending against yesterday’s attacks, according to Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Defense One

One More Thing …

Who Needs Basketball

Follow along with a March Madness-style showdown to vote for your favorite aircraft in a daily Instagram poll! Presented by Sheppard Air Force Base. Twitter