US Pushes Turkey Further Out of Program as it Woos Poland
The US pushed further to exclude one long-term partner in the F-35 program the same day as it publicly reached out to another potential customer with a June 12 flyover in downtown Washington. The F-35 Joint Program Office took the first step in “unwinding” its relationship with Turkey by excluding the country from a meeting of program chief executive officers in Arlington, Va. because the nation plans to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system over the objections of its NATO and F-35 partners. The same day as the meeting, a Marine Corps F-35B flew over the White House where President Donald Trump was meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda, who has announced plans to buy the jet. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
HASC Fiercely Debates Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons at Markup
Partisan seams appeared during the House Armed Services Committee’s lengthy debate over whether to deploy a new low-yield nuclear warhead on submarines, putting members’ deeply held disagreements about nuclear policy on display. The discussion came during the full committee’s markup of the 2020 defense policy bill June 12. The House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee’s mark of the 2020 defense policy bill seeks to withhold funds that would allow the Pentagon to deploy the W76-2, a low-yield warhead that proponents argue is needed to counter nuclear-armed adversaries. Lawmakers sparred over amendments offered by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) that would allow the Navy to begin deploying the warheads and would fund the National Nuclear Security Administration to continue building them. The chairman’s mark also proposes cutting Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent funding from $570.4 million to $489.4 million but fully funds the Long-Range Standoff Weapon at $712.5 million and B-21 bomber development at $3 billion in 2020. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
GAO: KC-46 Delays Causing USAF to Shift Money to KC-135s
The Air Force is taking money out of the KC-46 program to keep older KC-135s flying because of delays to the Pegasus program, while some Air Force commanders are hesitant to let their aircraft be refueled by the new tanker—further delaying the schedule, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. Air Mobility Command in fiscal 2020 plans to reallocate $57 million from the KC-46 program to fly and maintain KC-135s from the 1950s and 1960s longer than planned. At least some KC-135s are expected to continue flying into the 2050s. “The funding would cover the cost to fly and sustain some KC-135 aircraft above what the command had planned, including the associated personnel costs,” the GAO report states. “Air Mobility Command officials said that decisions about retaining some legacy KC-135 aircraft would be reviewed annually thereafter. If these aircraft are retained, funding would be reallocated from the KC-46 program to support the decision.” Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Lockheed: Reported Deficiencies in F-35 Already Fixed or Being Resolved
A scathing report in Defense News presented a number of deficiencies with the F-35 fighter identified by government testers—some of which it said could pose serious safety-of-flight concerns, prompting Lockheed Martin to offer a same-day rebuttal of the assertions. The company said the bulk of deficiencies noted by the publication are either already fixed or well on their way to being resolved, and that pilots continue to prefer the F-35 over previous jets in battle. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
Lakenheath F-15Es Deploy to Turkey for Exercise
F-15Es and airmen from RAF Lakenheath, England, have touched down in Turkey to fly in the large-scale Anatolian Eagle exercise in Turkey for the first time since 2015. The exercise comes at a fraught time in US-Turkish relations due to Turkey’s planned purchase of the Russian-made S-400 system. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Rebuilt Offutt Could Be New Information Warfare “Foothold”
OFFUTT AFB, Neb.—From the floodwaters that covered this base in March could emerge a new opportunity for the 55th Wing: the chance to be a key hub for the Air Force’s emerging information dominance organization. Leaders here say Offutt can be rebuilt with a “Non-Kinetic Effects Center of Excellence” that combines intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, cyber, electronic warfare, and other information operations. The service is in the process of merging its 24th and 25th Air Forces, which oversee those issue areas, into a new numbered Air Force. “This right here can really be like a foothold for what that looks like when you merge cyber and intel operations,” Col. Dave Norton, 55th Mission Support Group commander, said in a June 4 interview. “We might be able to plant a significant seed here for future growth here for that type of work.” The center of excellence is expected to be one of eight “campuses” Offutt wants to create as it restores and reorganizes its water-damaged buildings. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
US Military to Increase Its Presence in Poland
The US will increase its military presence in Poland by deploying about 1,000 more troops, with basing and infrastructure paid for by the Polish government. US President Donald Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda signed an agreement Wednesday at the White House aimed at increasing military cooperation, with the additional US troops coming to Poland from other locations in Europe. “We usher in a very exciting new era in US-Polish alliance,” Trump said. “It’s a very special alliance with very special people.” The additional forces will include a new US Division headquarters, a combat training center, an aerial port of debarkation, and a special operations force capability, according to the agreement as posted on Duda’s official website. The document also highlights an Air Force MQ-9 squadron inside Poland. A Reaper detachment was activated at Miroslawiec AB in March. The US military currently has a rotational presence of about 4,500 troops in the country. —Brian Everstine
The Pentagon is Battling the Clock to Fix Serious, Unreported F-35 Problems
Over the past several years, US Defense Department leaders have gone from citing technical problems as their biggest concern for the F-35 program to bemoaning the expense of buying and sustaining the aircraft. But the reality may be worse. According to documents exclusively obtained by Defense News, the F-35 continues to be marred by flaws and glitches that, if left unfixed, could create risks to pilot safety and call into question the fighter jet’s ability to accomplish key parts of its mission. Defense News
Russia Intercepts US, Swedish Spy Planes Over Baltic Sea
Russia intercepted US and Swedish reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea on Monday, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced, the latest in a series of similar encounters occurring at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow. CNN
US Senators Call for Congressional Control Over Arms Exports to be Upheld
Two United States senators have introduced a ‘privileged resolution’ calling on the government to assess its approach to the provision of arms exports and security assistance to Saudi Arabia. Jane’s
US Defense Chief Sends Message to China with Photos Showing North Korea Sanctions Go Unenforced
The meeting between acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and his Chinese counterpart began with all the hallmarks of a routine staged and scripted session between two uneasy rivals. Associated Press via Military Times
‘How is This OK?’ Sex Assault Case Haunts Air Force Mothers
To the mothers, the 13-year-old boy appeared largely unsupervised as he roamed among the clusters of townhomes on the US Air Force base in Japan. It would have been unremarkable—the neighborhood was full of kids—except that young girls were starting to report the boy had led them from play and molested them. Associated Press
La Fave Bids Farewell to 22nd AF
“Today, as I write this farewell missive, Hercules aircraft assigned to 22nd Air Force are flying over Northern France, painted with invasion stripes, and once again dropping airborne forces over the beaches of Normandy.” 22nd Air Force release
OPINION: Who is Really in Charge of US Space Operations
If the answer is that we don’t know and must create new organizations, then the recent decisions are right on track. But a new question arises: Will this approach enhance our national security space enterprise or that of our adversaries? The Hill
One More Thing…
EXCLUSIVE: US Intelligence Officials and Satellite Photos Detail Russian Military Buildup on Crimea
Russia has added troops, aircraft, and weapons to Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in what amounts to a “significant” buildup of forces over the past 18 months, according to US intelligence officials, observers, and new satellite photos that reveal the locations of new S-400 air defense systems and improvements to Soviet-era bases. Those officials and observers of the region say the additional firepower gives Moscow greater defensive control over the Black Sea and puts offensive fighters and ships closer to the Middle East. Defense One