USAF Urging Allies to Buy Light Attack Aircraft As Well
The Air Force not only wants to procure a new light attack aircraft for itself, but also for as many allies as possible to help combat extremism around the world. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, speaking Friday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., said the service’s ongoing light attack experiment is focused on finding ways to fly counter violent extremism missions more affordably in a permissive environment. The two finalists have shown they are capable of flying attack and surveillance missions, and the service wants them “to be able to train with partners and allies because [the aircraft] are less expensive to fly, and less expensive to maintain.” The Air Force is encouraging allies and partners to look at buying the same aircraft if it is within their budget, she said. The experiment will kick off its second phase at Holloman AFB, N.M, later this year with the two finalists—Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano—set for further evaluation. At the end of the experiment, the Air Force could buy the aircraft. Last month Wilson told lawmakers the service might consider reprogramming money to get the aircraft faster. —Brian Everstine
AFWERX Announces New Competition Aimed at Protecting Troops Online, and in the Real World
The Air Force’s innovation lab, AFWERX, is kicking off a new program aimed at finding ways to protect service members around the world, both online and in combat areas. The Fusion Challenge is the largest open collaboration initiative in USAF history, calling on military members along with academia, small business, start-ups, and regular citizens to submit ideas by May 20. Examples of possible ideas include GPS jamming technology to counter drones, anti-hacking code to prevent cyber attacks, or an artificial intelligence method to detect and track people and vehicles, according to AFWERX. Up to 50 submissions will be selected based on community voting, with the winners set to present their ideas at the AFWERX Fusion Experience in Las Vegas on June 20-21. Those interested can submit ideas at https://afwerx.spigit.com. —Brian Everstine
DARPA Announces Quick-Launch Capability Competition
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has announced a competition for companies to conduct space launches on short order. The DARPA Launch Challenge is aimed at spurring companies to come up with flexible and responsive launch solutions. Todd Master, the DARPA Launch Challenge program manager for DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said current launch systems and payload development date from a time when a space launch was a national event, but DARPA wants to “demonstrate the ability to launch payloads to orbit on extremely short notice, with no prior knowledge of the payload, destination orbit, or launch site.” The competition will involve two launch events in which companies would receive launch information on short notice. Those completing the first launch to low Earth orbit will receive a prize of $2 million. After the second launch, competitors will be ranked and the top prize for the second launch will be $10 million, Master told reporters. A competitors’ day is set for May 23 in Los Angeles; information on attendance or participation in the competition is available here. —Steve Hirsch.
Seymour Johnson F-15Es Return from Inherent Resolve Deployment
Airmen and F-15Es from the 336th Fighter Squadron returned home to Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., April 11 after a six-month deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. During the deployment, the F-15Es targeted ISIS in the middle of the Euphrates River Valley and near a refugee camp in southern Syria, according to an Air Force release. Notably, air support from the F-15Es stopped the Feb. 7 combined arms attack by pro-regime fighters on US forces—the first such attack in 15 years. F-15Es also helped destroy armor, heavy artillery, and infantry in the incident, with no US casualties. “Even our coalition partners didn’t have a casualty besides a guy who fell and hurt his arm,” Lt. Col. Matthew Swanson, 336th EFS commander and F-15E pilot said in the release. F-15Es from the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, England, deployed to replace the 336th. —Brian Everstine
Joint Force Space Component Moving to Schriever
The Air Force plans to move the Joint Force Space Component staff, which includes some 140 people, from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., to Schriever AFB, Colo. The move, announced Friday, was approved by service Secretary Heather Wilson as part of an overall effort to “build a coherent and streamlined warfighting structure” for space, according to a USAF release. In addition, the move will bring the component staff closer to Air Force Space Command boss Gen. Jay Raymond, who also serves as the JFSC commander and is based at nearby Peterson Air Force Base. More than 100 of the positions that are moving are part of the Joint Force—Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, while the remaining positions are contracted employees. “The staff’s move from Vandenberg AFB will not impact the base’s primary mission as the nation’s critical west coast launch facility,” according to the release. “Through the strategic basing process, the Air Force performed an analysis and site survey and concluded moving to Schriever AFB offers the best option to meeting requirements.”
Vietnam Helicopter Pilot and Crewmember Monument Unveiled
An estimated 3,000 veterans and military family members on April 18 crowded into the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery to see the unveiling of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot and Crewmember Monument. The ceremony marked the end of a four-year effort by the Vietnam War veterans. Some 12,000 helicopters saw action in Vietnam, from all the services. About 40,000 helicopter pilots served during the Vietnam War, and approximately 2,200 pilots were killed, along with 2,704 crewmen. AFA was asked to attend and represented many of our members who served during the Vietnam War either as helicopter crewmembers or who were assisted by those who flew the craft.
—North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced early Saturday local time that the North would close a nuclear test site, saying his country had already achieved a nuclear deterrent, no longer needed to conduct testing, and was shifting its focus to improving the economy: New York Times.
—Lockheed Martin has discussed the idea of offering a stealth fighter design to Japan that essentially combines the F-22 and F-35 into one aircraft: Reuters.
—Ohio lawmakers are urging the Pentagon to locate an F-35 Hybrid Product Support Integrator Organization at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a move that if approved could bring an additional 400 jobs to the area: Congressman Mike Turner.
—The Air Force is working with the Office of Personnel Management and the National Background Investigation Bureau to create more interview hubs in an effort tackle its backlog of nearly 80,000 people waiting for security clearances: Federal News Radio.