Concerned in particular about the pace of fielding the nation’s future weather-monitoring satellites, the Senate Armed Services Committee has instructed the Air Force to develop a strategic weather modernization plan. This plan is meant to aid the Air Force’s long-term planning so that the service remains “at the cutting edge” of weather observation, forecasting, and speedy information dissemination, state committee members in the report that goes with the draft version of the Senate’s defense authorization bill for next fiscal year. The committee wants this plan no later than one year after the bill becomes law. Committee members note that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Joint Polar Satellite System program is “now approximately one year behind schedule.” Further, the current launch of the Air Force’s first Defense Weather Satellite System may come after the expected operational life of the spacecraft it will replace, they state. “Given the criticality of these satellite constellations, this strategic weather modernization plan should include the weather satellites and options if the launch and deployment of JPSS and DWSS are delayed further,” they write. (SASC report; caution, large-sized file.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.