First Helicopter to Replace Hueys to Arrive for Testing in December
The Air Force will receive its first MH-139 helicopter for testing in December, as it enters the next phase of the $2.4 billion effort to replace the Vietnam-era UH-1N Hueys, the head of Air Force Global Strike Command said Sept. 18. Boeing and Leonardo are teaming up to provide the MH-139s, a new military variant of a civilian helicopter that the Air Force chose one year ago. The fleet of up to 84 airframes will replace Bell-made Hueys at nuclear missile fields across the US and for other transport and VIP missions. After years of trying to get a helicopter on contract, the Air Force required that Boeing deliver the first two aircraft by the end of 2019. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
AMC Faces Growing Mobility Needs While Pilot Shortage Continues
Air Mobility Command this year is flying 15 percent more sorties than it did about three years ago—albeit with about 570 fewer pilots than it needs, and using a fleet nearly 40 percent smaller than at the beginning of the Iraq War. To address that burden, the Air Force is trying to keep as many pilots as possible, modernizing its fleet, and relying more on Air National Guard and Reserve crews, while also keeping an eye on future threats from potential adversaries. The command flew about 28,000 missions in 2018, transporting approximately 929,000 passengers and delivering around 690 million pounds of cargo. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
What’s Going on With SOCOM’s ISR Planes
The Air Force and US Special Operations Command are testing out technology that could spell trouble for certain small fleets of highly specialized intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft—but the details are murky. When asked Sept. 18 at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference which of those platforms the Air Force could afford to ditch in upcoming budgets without causing dire intel capability gaps, Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, the service’s deputy chief of staff for ISR and cyber effects operations, indicated SOCOM is already moving in that direction. “We actually tested out several capabilities and we’re looking at continuing that effort so that we can transition to a more autonomous ability,” she said. “You could get rid of certain things that maybe are very niche-oriented and have something that you could program to do more than one operation.” Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
PACAF Looking to Expand Operating Areas as China Spreads Its Influence
Pacific Air Forces is growing its outreach to countries across the Indo-Pacific region to understand what airfields it could use if needed, and is doing so as China also works to spread its own influence. PACAF boss Gen. Charles Q. Brown said Sept. 18 at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference he’s confident that, with the relationships the US has in the region, including close alliances with major countries like Australia and Japan, “we have a few more options” to wield military power from abroad than China does. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Cyber Flight Plan Adds to USAF Efforts to Take on Hybrid Warfare
Even the scant detail in the unclassified summary of the USAF flight plan for cyber operations makes clear the service’s determination to engage in the new battlespace of information warfare. Read the full story by Shaun Waterman.
First Vermont Guard F-35s Arrive in Burlington
The Green Mountain Boys received their first two F-35s Sept. 19. The Joint Strike Fighters, assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing at Burlington ANGB, Vt., touched down for a ceremony welcoming the jets that will replace local F-16s. The wing will eventually have 20 F-35s—17 primary aircraft and three spares. The base spent $100 million on repairs and improvements to prepare for and be able to operate the F-35. The wing has flown F-16s for 33 years, and received pushback
from nearby residents for switching to the F-35. —Brian Everstine
Reshaping the Air Force for Great Power Competition
Adjusting to the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy of “peer competition” against nations such as China and Russia is going to take some adjustment for the Air Force. So, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, the Air Force’s personnel chief, is focusing his attention on making sure the Air Force has the size, shape, and capability to carry out its responsibilities in defense of the nation. Air Force Times
Senator Threatens to Hold Back Air Force Nominee Over Trump Resort Stays
A Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee says he intends to oppose the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominee for Air Force secretary over concerns about overnight lodging stays by US airmen at the president’s Turnberry resort in Scotland. Military.com
Details of the Pentagon’s New Space Architecture Revealed
While the Air Force and the new US Space Command will still develop and control large, exquisite satellites such as GPS and protected communications, the new architecture that the agency will build calls for seven “layers,” with some of them featuring 200 to 400 small, quickly replaceable spacecraft. The sheer numbers will prevent adversaries from destroying an entire system and enable “resiliency through proliferation,” Tournear told reporters Sept. 18 at AFA’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference at National Harbor, Md. National Defense Magazine
SMC Offers to Help Speed Deals for SDA
The Space & Missile Systems Center’s Space Enterprise Consortium has been so successful at providing competitive prototypes, fast, that SMC wants to expand its scope dramatically. Breaking Defense
Air Force Bids $95M Cloud Contract to Support Unified Cybersecurity Platform
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is putting together a blanket purchase agreement for 15 cloud vendors—large and small—to support one of the service’s experimental cybersecurity platform development teams. The contract—with a potential total value of $95 million—will support the Air Force’s LevelUP program, which developed the Unified Platform tool to aggregate cybersecurity incident data into a single platform with visibility across the service, as well as with the other military branches. Nextgov
Watch Video of F-35s Arriving in South Burlington
Vermont’s first two F-35 planes landed at Burlington International Airport early on the afternoon of Sept. 19. The Vermont Air National Guard is the first Guard unit to receive the new planes, which are the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons system. Burlington Free Press (subscription required)
One More Thing
The Government Has Banned Flights Above Area 51
The Area 51 raid may technically be canceled, but throngs of people—UFO enthusiasts, curious travelers, casual trolls—are still planning on descending upon rural Nevada this weekend to take part in alien-themed celebrations, both sanctioned and unsanctioned. And the government is planning for the swarm accordingly: The Federal Aviation Administration is shutting down airspace above Area 51 while the nearby parties take place. Just in case. Popular Mechanics