Air Force Names the T-X the T-7A “Red Hawk;” Aircraft Passes Critical Design Review
The Boeing-built T-X advanced trainer has been officially named the T-7A “Red Hawk.” Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan announced the name at AFA’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference, explaining that the name honors the Tuskegee Airmen—known as the “Red Tails”—as well as the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, which the unit flew in their early WWII deployment to Europe. Donovan was joined by several Tuskegee Airmen for the announcement. The T-7A completed its Critical Design Review last week, and the program is progressing well, company program manager Steve Parker told Air Force Magazine. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
Northrop Announces Its GBSD Team; Still Assumes Competition with Boeing
Northrop Grumman, at the start of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference near Washington, D.C., on Sept. 16, announced the principal members of its industry team in competing for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent contract, the project to replace the Air Force’s Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile force. The team includes Lockheed Martin, prime contractor on the Navy’s Trident D5 Sea-Launched Ballistic Missile, as well as many top-, second-, and third-tier contractors. Northrop Grumman said it continues to treat the GBSD as a competition, even though main rival Boeing professes it will not bid on the project estimated to cost at least $85 billion. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
Raytheon Unveils New Air-to-Air Missile
Raytheon is developing a new missile called the "Peregrine," meant to complement the company’s Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile and Sidewinder in air-to-air combat. The new missile offers greater range than its predecessors, features a multi-mode seeker, and employs a new propulsion system for faster speed. Peregrine is half the size of the other two munitions and will employ “off-the-shelf” components for speedier production. Raytheon is pursuing the project with its own funds but hopes to partner with the military services on the final design. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
AFSOC Aims to Build Force-Wide Expeditionary Warfare Skills
The new head of Air Force Special Operations Command says the niche organization will get closer to other parts of the service so the Air Force can wage war from austere locations across the globe—a traditionally special-operations skill that the Pentagon wants to adopt more broadly. “We’ve had a number of exercises we’ve done at a series of things with [Air Combat Command, Pacific Air Forces, US Air Forces in Europe,] where we’ve used AFSOC C-130s and AFSOC airmen to refuel fighters in forward, unimproved landing strips to generate high sortie tempo for those fighter aircraft,” Lt. Gen. James C. Slife told reporters Sept. 16 at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference. He argues that AFSOC is traditionally seen more as a US Special Operations Command component than a piece of the Air Force, but that will change. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
B-21 on Schedule, Edwards to Reactivate Test Squadron for the Raider
The B-21 remains on schedule, and its first flight is planned to hop from its production site at Palmdale, Calif., to Edwards AFB,Calif., where the Air Force will reactivate a historic squadron to test the bomber. Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan, speaking at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Sept. 16, said he was “happy” to report the progress the bomber is making. For its first flight, scheduled for December 2021, the bomber will move to Edwards AFB, Calif., where the service is reactivating the 420th Flight Test Flight Squadron to evaluate the bomber. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Ray: USAF Needs Many More Bombers, Should Expand the B-1 Mission if They’ll Last
If the B-1 can hold up structurally, it could go back to its roots as a high-speed attack bomber loaded with standoff weapons, helping the Air Force fulfill its requirements under the National Defense Strategy, Global Strike Command chief Gen. Timothy Ray said at AFA’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference. The B-1 has been ground down by excessive use as a loitering bomb truck in the Middle East, Ray said, leading to an unhealthy fleet, but could be a quick fix for what Ray characterized as an inadequate bomber force. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
Branson: Speedy Satellite Replacement Can Deter Cyber War in Space
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson on Sept. 16 suggested that the ability to replace downed low-Earth orbit satellites in a day or less—a capability he told CNBC
earlier this year that Virgin Orbit aspires to possess–could make them less desirable targets for enemy states and, thus, deter “the sort of cyber war in space that we all fear.” “Were there to be a conflict in the Middle East and somebody knocked out all the satellites in that area, by having a 747 that can just take off at, you know, four or five hours notice, and have a rocket attached under the wing, drop it, and put a new satellite into space, hopefully it’ll be a deterrent to an enemy state to knock out satellites in the first place, if they know that America or Great Britain has the capability of replacing satellites within 24 hours,” he told AFA Chairman and former Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters during an onstage conversation at the Air Force Association’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference. Branson said this speedy solution can also make networks more reliable by eliminating the need for network disruptions when LEO satellites, which “fall out of the sky every four or five years,” need to be replaced. —Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory
AFSOC Boss: Manning Levels Healthy as Training Pipeline Improves
The training pipeline for special-operations airmen is steadily improving, leading to incrementally better manning levels, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command told reporters Sept. 16. The pipeline for combat controllers, pararescuemen, and other AFSOC specialties has long faced challenges because those training programs are so difficult, Lt. Gen. James C. Slife said at a media roundtable at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference. But while the niche careers have room to grow, they aren’t currently hurting for people. “We’re at a pretty sustainable level, and we’re growing the force to fill out the units and our deployment packages that we have within the units,” Slife said. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
USAF Group to Assist Government-Wide IP Protection Effort
The Air Force is establishing a dedicated group to battle intellectual property theft as part of a Pentagon- and government-wide push to protect federal assets. “As we bring on new capabilities quickly, it’s important that we protect the intellectual property associated with these assets from countries that would like to steal our ideas,” Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan said in a Sept. 16 keynote address at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference. The Pentagon also plans to stand up its own IP cadre by October. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
Global Hawks to Take On Hypersonic Testing
The Air Force is buying three RQ-4 Global Hawks to aid in long-range hypersonic missile testing, according to the head of the Air Force Test Center. The move, which is already in progress, is one aspect of the service’s attempt to beef up its hypersonic test infrastructure as it pushes toward having operational flying prototypes within the next few years. “We have to be able to, over a long distance, ensure the safety of the fly arc, to monitor the footprint, [and] ensure that we have telemetry relays all the way back to the people on the ground that are collecting the data,” Maj. Gen. Christopher Azzano told Air Force Magazine in a Sept. 16 interview at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
USAF Wants to Use its Buying Power to Boost US Economy—and Build Self-Flying Cars
The Air Force wants to use its buying power to help the nascent autonomous transportation business, as it’s already doing in the space launch and satellite communications industry, the service’s acquisition chief, Will Roper, said Sept. 16 at AFA’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference. Read the full story by Shaun Waterman.
Elbit Systems Says it Will Use Harris Night Vision Technology to Enhance F-35 HMDS
Elbit Systems of America’s $350 million purchase of Roanoke,Va.-based Harris Night Vision will allow the company to offer enhanced capabilities for the F-35 Helmet Mounted Display System, executives said Monday. Harris, which was required to sell its night vision business as a condition of its merger with L3 Technologies, made some of the most advanced image amplification technology in the world. Read the full story by Shaun Waterman.
Aviano Rescue Squadrons Make First Deployments from Their New Home
The 56th Rescue Squadron recently deployed for the first time from its new home base at Aviano AB, Italy, with the 57th Rescue Squadron right on its heels, after moving from RAF Lakenheath, England, last year. The Air Force moved the two squadrons, along with their HH-60G Pave Hawks and HC-130s, to Italy to free up space at the English base. Both rescue squadron deployments are to the US Central Command area of responsibility. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Lakenheath’s On-Call F-15s Respond to Rapid Demands for Deployments
The 76 F-15Es and F-15Cs from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, are often the Air Force’s first call for combat aircraft to rapidly deploy to the Middle East, and their deployment earlier this year was the perfect example of that. Early this year, the Air Force gave the wing less than two weeks-notice to deploy F-15Cs from the 493rd Fighter Squadron to the Middle East to support Operation Inherent Resolve — the ongoing air war against ISIS. “One of the things about the neighborhood in which we live, we live in that constant state of readiness of go, be ready to fight tonight, to go be ready and assure our allies and adversaries in the region,” said Col. Will Marshall, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Leavitt: Less than 25 Percent of USAF’s “Target Market” Is Eligible to Serve
Air Force Recruiting Service Commander Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt told reporters Sept. 16 that less than a quarter of American youth in the service’s “target market” actually qualify to serve in USAF, and that an even smaller fraction is actually interested in serving their country in uniform. But she said she believes educating young people about the Air Force can be key to changing that statistic. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.
Civil Air Patrol Sends Cessnas to the Bahamas for Hurricane Dorian Response
Civil Air Patrol recently sent eight of its Cessnas to the Bahamas to help assess damage inflicted by Hurricane Dorian, in CAP’s first international mission in 10 years, CAP National Commander and CEO Maj. Gen. Mark Smith told Air Force Magazine in a Sept. 16 interview at AFA’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference. According to Smith, “Civil Air Patrol was asked to go down and perform aerial imaging, as well as airborne sensors… for aerial surveys of key infrastructure and airfields and those types of things.” Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.
Decades Late, the B-52 is Getting a New Nuclear Weapon
The B-52 bomber first flew in 1952, but remains a vital part of America’s nuclear deterrent. Now, to keep the bomber relevant for its nuclear mission, the US Air Force is preparing to spend billions of dollars to develop a new air-launched cruise missile. Defense News
Extra-Long Sustainment Contracts Are Lockheed’s Latest Bid to Cut F-35 Costs
Lockheed Martin is pitching the Pentagon on a new idea for reducing the cost of the F-35 combat jet: sign a five-year maintenance deal instead of negotiating a new contract every year. There’s also a performance-based twist: the company would provide enough spare parts to keep 80 percent of the world’s F-35s battle-ready—or face penalties. Defense One
KC-46: Too Crucial to Fail
The Air Force and Congress are simply sucking up the latest calamity to befall the KC-46 tanker, with representatives on both sides of Capitol Hill—and the prospective new Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett—expressing support for the beleaguered program. Breaking Defense
OPINION: The US Space Force Must Be Independent but Not Insular
“Without question, setting the new service up for success will require a balancing act—a thoughtful balance between integration with the other services and domains, and independence to address the unique challenges of space,” writes Maj. Gen. John Shaw, deputy commander of Air Force Space Command. “Now is the time, at the inception of the Space Force, to get this harmony right, especially as potential adversaries are rapidly developing their own space capabilities to deny America and allies the use of space in crisis or war.” Space News
Air Force Awards Iridium $738M Deal for Satellite Services
Iridium Communications said it received a $738.5 million, seven-year contract for unlimited satellite services through Air Force Space Command, continuing a decades long relationship between the Pentagon and the Virginia-based company. C4ISRNET
NATO Must Beg Members to Access Space Capabilities
“NATO is the poor beggar who is relying on whatever someone is able to give him,” said Lt. Col. Tim Vasen, who works in the space division at NATO’s Joint Air Power Competence Center, at the Defence and Security Equipment International conference Sept. 12 in London. He noted that these views were his own and not official policy. National Defense Magazine
Interior Expects to More Than Triple Drone Flights by 2025
Unmanned aircraft offer the department a cheaper, faster and safer way to conduct operations across 500 million acres of federal lands. Nextgov
One More Thing
Everything We Know about America’s Secret KH-11 Recon Satellites
When President Donald Trump tweeted classified satellite photos, it startled the intelligence community—and revealed the capabilities of the US spy satellite network. Popular Mechanics