Red Tape, Overweight Troops Hurting Readiness
Two key issues seem to be hurting the deployability of individual troops the most: administrative roadblocks and the physical fitness of the troops themselves, said USAF Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
Senators Call for White House to Fund B-52 Modernization, Re-Engining
A bipartisan group of senators this week sent a letter to the White House urging funding for B-52 modernization, including new engine development. “During the development of the next generation of bombers, the Air Force will continue to rely on the B-52 for vital operations around the world, which reinforces the need to upgrade these engines and the technology supporting the aircraft,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said in a statement. It is “imperative” that the Air Force gets new engines for the 76 B-52s in service to keep the bombers sustainable beyond 2030, according to the Jan. 31 letter, which was directed to White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. In addition to Heitkamp, the letter was signed by Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.); Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.); James Lankford (R-Okla.); Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.); Chris Murphy (D-Conn). Heitkamp and Hoeven represent North Dakota, which hosts B-52s at Minot Air Force Base. Oklahoma is home to Tinker Air Force Base and the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, which does long-term maintenance on B-52s. Connecticut is home to Pratt & Whitney (the manufacturer of the current engines), while GE Aviation and Rolls Royce have a presence in Indiana, both of which have stated interest in competing for B-52 re-engining work. The Air Force said in December it has “initial seed funding” in the 2018 budget to begin re-engining the B-52. The aircraft is currently powered by eight TF33-PW-103 engines, which began service in the 1960s, according to Pratt & Whitney. —Brian Everstine
DOD Reviewing Use of Cell Phones, Other Electronics at the Pentagon and Other Installations
The Defense Department is looking at possibly banning personal electronics, including cell phones, from the Pentagon as well as other bases and installations after security vulnerabilities came to light earlier this week. The fitness tracking application Strava publishes a “heat map” of users’ exercise routes and habits, which included use by service members at clandestine bases across the world. This incident prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to launch a review of the use of cell phones and other tracking devices in the Defense Department. The heat map “provided an opportunity to see a possible vulnerability,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters on Thursday. While there are designated areas in the Pentagon and at bases where cell phones and other electronics are not allowed, the department is looking at possible ways to “enhance and adapt” security procedures. “This is not just about cell phones, it’s a comprehensive look at technology,” White said. “Technology is very dynamic. … This recent incident, and others, allowed [Mattis] to take a bigger look at what are we doing and how are we doing it.” —Brian Everstine
Air Force Issues Final RFP for Launch Services
The Air Force on Wednesday released a final request for proposals for five Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle launches to take place in Fiscal 2021 and 2022. They include two National Reconnaissance Office assets, with missions dubbed NROL-85 and NROL-87, the Air Force’s fifth Space Based Infrared System missile warning satellite, an unidentified Air Force Space Command mission called AFSPC-44, and a fifth mission called Silent Barker, which is a joint initiative between AFSPC and the NRO. USAF officials told reporters last year that Silent Barker will involve a new capability in the space situational awareness portfolio, though at the time they declined to provide additional details. Proposals are due April 16 and the service plans to award firm-fixed-price contracts this year. The award includes launch vehicle production, mission integration, and launch operations. “The Air Force’s acquisition strategy for this solicitation achieves a balance between meeting operational needs and lowering launch costs by reintroducing competition for National Security Space missions,” states the Air Force release. “This is the sixth competitive launch service solicitation under the current Phase 1A procurement strategy.” —Steve Hirsch
Boeing Awarded $6.56 Billion Missile-Defense Contract Extension
Boeing has received a $6.56 billion contract modification to extend its Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) development and sustainment contract through 2023, the Pentagon said Wednesday. The deal would add new missile silos and 20 more ground-based interceptors to the program. It potentially more than doubles the value of the contract, from $6.14 billion to $12.64 billion. The GMD system looks to protect the homeland from long-range ballistic missiles. Read the full report by Steve Hirsch.
Pentagon Admits Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Failed
The Pentagon on Thursday acknowledged that a Missile Defense Agency test failed near Hawaii. The US Navy Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex tested a Standard Missile 3 Block IIA from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii on Wednesday morning, during which the SM-3 failed to intercept a missile fired from an aircraft in the area. “We can confirm this test, and that it did not meet objectives,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters during a Thursday briefing. “We learn things all the time from the test and we learned from this one.” While MDA usually publicly announces its tests and the results, this test first was reported from unnamed administration officials on CNN. White said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was briefed on the test, and that it is under investigation. “They’re tests. This is a test,” she emphasized. Wednesday’s test was the second SM-3 failure within a year. In June 2017, an SM-3 launched from the USS John Paul Jones failed, however a previous test in February 2017 was successful. The SM-3 system is being developed by Raytheon, and is a joint project of both the US and Japan. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said the SM-3 missile is not what the MDA would use to try to intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile fired toward the US. Instead, the MDA would likely rely on ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California. The SM-3 system instead is targeted toward in-theater missiles, he said. —Brian Everstine
Raytheon Awarded $105 Million Griffin Missiles Contract
The Air Force Lifecycle Management Center has awarded Raytheon Missiles Systems a $105 million contract modification to a previously awarded contract for Griffin missiles, the Defense Department said Wednesday. The modification brings the value of the contract to $210 million and “provides for the exercise of an option for delivery of all variants of Griffin standoff precision guided munitions and corresponding production, test, and engineering support.“ Work is expected to be complete by the end of 2020. The original contract, awarded in August 2017, was for all Griffin variants. —Steve Hirsch
Red Tails Finished Middle East Deployment
The Red Tails of the Alabama Air National Guard wrapped up a three-month deployment to Southwest Asia on Jan. 20. During the deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the F-16s of the 100th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron dropped 105 bombs and fired 651 20mm rounds in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, according to Air Forces Central Command. The pace of the air war against ISIS dropped steadily over the deployment as the group lost much of the land it once held in the two countries. “It was incredibly gratifying to be able to roll back ISIS to a shell of its former self,” squadron commander Lt. Col. Edward Casey said in the release. “We had some very dynamic and challenging missions and all of our pilots performed superbly.” The deployment came as the Air Force announced the squadron will eventually transfer to the F-35, with the first aircraft arriving at the squadron’s home base of Dannelly Field in 2023. —Brian Everstine
A leaked copy of the Nuclear Posture Review summary that recently circulated among the press was designated “Unclassified/For Official Use Only, Predecisional, Not Subject to FOIA,” the Freedom of Information Act. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, misspoke when he said leaking the NPR summary was “a crime.” Selva was referring to an earlier, classified version, a DOD spokesman explained. Releasing the FOUO version was not a crime, but “it nevertheless was highly inappropriate for a predecisional draft copy to be released,” the spokesman added. The vice chairman’s office said it does not know who released the leaked draft. We have deleted Selva’s erroneous comment from our story, Leaked NPR Draft Misinterpreted on Nuclear Response to Cyber, which ran in the Feb. 1 Daily Report.
—A US service member died Jan. 31 in “what appears to be a non combat-related incident” in Southwest Asia. The servicemember’s name has not been announced: US Central Command release.
—Army Air Forces SSgt. John H. Canty, who was assigned to the 555th Bombardment Squadron during World War II, was accounted for on Jan. 22. Canty was one of eight crewmembers killed when their B-26 Maurader was shot down over France during a June 22, 1944, nighttime bombing mission: USAF release