The Air Force’s Miniature Air Launched Decoy is now available for real-world use, according to Air Combat Command. MSgt. James Law, an ACC spokesman, tells the Daily Report that ACC boss Gen. Mike Hostage made the call, declaring on July 26 that the Raytheon-built decoy had reached initial operational capability. This milestone means that there are enough MALD assets on hand—along with a sufficient number of pilots trained to employ them and maintainers skilled to sustain them—to support combat operations, if called upon. MALD is a small jet-powered decoy that the Air Force will employ on the B-52H and F-16. Upon its launch, the decoy is designed to fool enemy air defenses by mimicking the flight characteristics of friendly strike aircraft. In addition to the baseline decoy, Raytheon is building a radar-jamming variant called MALD-J. On Aug. 22, the Air Force awarded Raytheon an $81.8 million contract for MALD-J, according to the Pentagon’s list of major transactions that day. (See also Mulling MALD.)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.