Daily Report

Feb. 21, 2024

First USAF Warrant Officers to Include Air National Guardsmen

The Air National Guard will play a vital role in the Air Force’s new cyber and IT warrant officer track, the ANG’s boss said at the AFA Warfare Symposium. “In the first class of warrant officers, we are going to bring National Guard professionals into that warrant officer corps,” director of the Air National Guard Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh said in an interview with Air & Space Forces Magazine. “The folks that bring the predominant force structure from a cyber, IT perspective is the National Guard.”

Houthis Shoot Down Second Air Force MQ-9 in Three Months

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper was shot down off the coast of Yemen, defense officials said Feb. 20. “Initial indications are that it was shot down by a Houthi surface-to-air missile,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters. It was the second time that an Air Force MQ-9 was downed by the Houthis since November.

How DOD’s Overhaul of Space Classification Will Help Operations, Industry, Allies

In January, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks signed off on a new space classification policy—one that "completely rewrites" the Space Force’s approach to secret programs and could boost cooperation with commercial industry and international allies, officials say. Speaking at the AFA Warfare Symposium, Chief of Space Operation Gen. B. Chance Saltzman proclaimed the memo from Hicks to be “the most significant change in space classification policy in 20 years.

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DOD Won't Risk Supplying Ukraine without Replenishment Funds from Congress

Inside Defense

The Defense Department has $4 billion in remaining spending authority it could tap to send additional weapons to Ukraine but assesses that the risk of doing so to be too great as Congress has thus far failed to appropriate money that would be needed to replenish U.S. stocks. Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said DOD is not considering providing additional weapons to Ukraine via presidential drawdown authority until Congress authorizes a supplemental security spending package.

Musk’s SpaceX Forges Tighter Links with US Spy and Military Agencies

The Wall Street Journal

SpaceX is deepening its ties with U.S. intelligence and military agencies, winning at least one major classified contract and expanding a secretive company satellite program called Starshield for national-security customers. The Elon Musk-led company entered into a $1.8 billion classified contract with the U.S. government in 2021, according to company documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The Revolution That Wasn’t: How AI Drones Have Fizzled in Ukraine (So Gar)

Breaking Defense

“The war in Ukraine is spurring a revolution in drone warfare using AI,” blared a Washington Post headline last July. Then, in the fall, a flurry of reports said that both Russia and Ukraine had deployed small drones that used artificial intelligence to identify and home in on targets. Having on-board AI meant that the drones, versions of the Russian Lancet and the Ukrainian Saker Scout, wouldn’t need a human operator to guide them all the way to impact. If this AI had proved itself in battle, it really would have been a revolution.

Future Of Mayhem Hypersonic Strike-Recon Aircraft Program Murky

The War Zone

The future of the U.S. Air Force's secretive Mayhem program is uncertain amid a funding issue that could at least lead to a major delay. Mayhem's stated focus has been on demonstrating an air-launched hypersonic air vehicle capable of performing strike and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, but the apparent demand for this capability within the service at all is now unclear. There could still be interest going forward in certain components of the project, including research and development work on advanced high-speed jet engines.

The Pentagon Wants Industry to Transform Again to Meet Demand. Can It?

Defense News

America is now supplying materiel for the wars in Ukraine and Israel, which started a year and a half apart. The high demand has strained an industry that often struggled to meet needs long before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. And these wars aren’t even the Defense Department’s top priority; that’s China, whose massive military buildup over the last 20 years is the pace America’s leaders say they must match. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Pentagon’s new defense-industrial strategy, which says China’s industrial might in many areas “vastly exceeds” that of the U.S. and its allies.

Reversing ‘Alarming Erosion’ in Military Quality of Life Requires Biden Funding Request, Top Lawmakers Say

Military.com

The White House needs to ask Congress for enough money to reverse an “alarming erosion” of quality of life in the military in its fiscal 2025 budget request, bipartisan leaders from the House Armed Services Committee wrote in a recent letter to President Joe Biden. In a letter dated Feb. 16 and released publicly Feb. 20, the chairmen and ranking members of the full committee and its military quality-of-life subpanel pressed Biden to “focus significantly more attention and resources” on service members’ quality of life in its upcoming budget request.

Space Force: We Need a Hotline to China

Defense One

The U.S. Space Force wants a hotline with China to prevent crises in space, as China’s growing number of anti-satellite weapons challenge U.S. dominance in the domain. “We have to gain consensus among our allies and partners, but it's also important that we have a shared understanding with the potential adversaries so that there is no miscalculation…that's the value of the hotline, because the international norms are not well-established yet, despite U.S. efforts to take a leadership role in that area,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, commander of U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific.

The Race to Back Up Vulnerable GPS

SpaceNews

For decades, the Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation has reigned supreme as the world’s go-to navigation tool—guiding everything from aircraft carriers to Uber drivers. But GPS is susceptible to jamming and spoofing. Malicious actors can deliberately disrupt or manipulate the signals, leading to inaccurate or misleading positioning information. These vulnerabilities endanger critical infrastructure, emergency response and military operations, prompting increased interest in alternative PNT, or positioning, navigation, and timing technologies that do not depend on GPS.

Tinker Air Force Base Readies for B-52 Upgrades as Engines Tested

Defense News

The Air Force expects to finish qualification testing of the new engines planned for the B-52 Stratofortress by the end of 2024. And the service plans to make a Milestone B decision on the Commercial Engine Replacement Program by the end of the summer, which would allow it to move into its engineering and manufacturing development phase, officials said in an interview with Defense News.

Growing the Space Force: Is Outsourcing Operations an Answer?

Breaking Defense

As the Space Force rolls out plans for reorganizing its work force to meet the readiness demands of a potential fight with China, the service’s command responsible for providing personnel to operate space systems is eyeing using contractors rather than Guardians to run some satellite networks. If America’s newest military branch moves forward with the idea, experts say it would represent a major shift in how directly contractors play a role in operating American space assets.