The U.S. Air Force has eliminated Boeing from its competition to develop a successor to the E-4B Nightwatch, Boeing confirmed on Dec. 1, shaking up the battle to build the next version of the aircraft known as the “Doomsday Plane" due to its ability to survive a nuclear war. The move leaves privately-held defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp as the lone company publicly vying for the Survivable Airborne Operations Center (SAOC) contract to eventually replace a fleet that has been in use since the 1970s.
When Joby Aviation’s first electric air taxi landed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in late September, it was more than a traditional aircraft delivery. The milestone was the culmination of years of work with the U.S. Defense Department’s innovation community to determine whether an electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft—a previously unproven capability—could have utility for the military. It also served as a test case for how tailored acquisition processes can help nontraditional companies navigate the bureaucracy of the Pentagon.
The U.K. MOD Defence Intelligence reported Nov. 17 that Russia’s Aerospace Forces (VKS) are increasingly risking their most advanced Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft, the Beriev A-50U, to identify enemy airborne targets in Ukraine airspace. The A-50U (NATO Codename MAINSTAY-D) features a 30-foot diameter rotating radar dome similar to the well-known US Boeing EA-3 Sentry AWACS. Accordingly, it can detect and identify enemy aircraft at longer ranges than the radar sets of Russian fighters or SAM systems, “because its altitude allows it to see further around the curvature of the earth,” reads the report.
Deadly But Tricky to Fly, Suicide Drones Have Ukraine Putting Thousands of Soldiers through Pilot Training
As Ukraine leans on suicide drones to wear down Russia’s invading forces, private, civilian-run training schools are working to supply the Ukrainian army with thousands of pilots. That’s no mean feat. The drones are extremely hard to fly, requiring weeks of training before a pilot is ready to fight on the front line.
“Logistics wins wars, overcoming the four tyrannies of distance, water, time, and scale, on the way to victory. The Indo-Pacific remains an unforgiving theater of operations to this day, and, when combined, the four tyrannies interact to undermine U.S. deterrence against China—most notably, the deterrent effect of airpower. Pentagon planners need to understand this interactive effect and seek solutions that address the entire problem, not just each individual component,” write USAF Col. Maximilian K. Bremer, director of the Special Programs Division at Air Mobility Command, and Kelly Grieco, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center.
Thousands of Troops May Be Caught in Medical Debt. Sen. Elizabeth Warren Wants the Pentagon to Find Out How Many.
The Pentagon isn't tracking medical debt among troops despite federal recommendations that it should, and now Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., the chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services Committee's personnel panel, wants to change that. Warren has been pressing the Pentagon for an update on medical debt and wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in March asking about recommendations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, that called for better collection of the data to safeguard service members’ financial stability and credit ratings.
The Space Development Agency has officially begun soliciting industry bids for a new prototype constellation of satellites that will test next-generation missile tracking and fire-control technologies to address new threats. According to a request for proposals posted to Sam.gov on Dec. 1, the agency is looking for the “design, fabrication and launch” of four experimental satellites—or potentially eight—for its new Fire-control On Orbit-support-to-the-war Fighter program, also known as FOO Fighter or F2.
A new report predicts that around 20,000 new satellites will launch by the end of the decade—a more conservative forecast compared to other sky-high projections. Quilty Space, a research and consulting firm, says there are “positive indicators for sustained growth within the space industrial base, particularly given continuing momentum in the low Earth orbit broadband mega-constellation markets that make up about 85 percent of all satellite demand in Western markets.”
The first powered example of Stratolaunch’s Talon-A reusable hypersonic vehicle has taken to the air for a captive-carry flight under the wing of the same company’s enormous Roc, the largest plane ever flown. … Stratolaunch is working for the U.S. military on a target that will mimic hypersonic threats to support the development of new defensive capabilities, and which is expected to be a Talon-A derivative or at least utilize some of the same technology. However, the basic concept has considerably more potential beyond that, with a larger version of the Talon-A and even a spaceplane under study.
Air Force will make a second consecutive appearance in the Armed Forces Bowl—and seventh overall in the game’s 21-year history—when it faces No. 24 James Madison at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 23 at TCU’s Amon J. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. The game will be broadcast nationally on ABC.