F-35 Integration Issues May Delay Full-Rate Production By More Than One Year

A full-rate production decision for the F-35 fighter could be delayed until January 2021 while the Pentagon struggles to integrate the jet into its Joint Simulation Environment, a wargaming system that evaluates the effectiveness of weapons, according to Pentagon acquisition, technology and logistics chief Ellen Lord. She reported that a formal contract deal on the next batch of F-35s has yet to be reached, and that Turkey will continue to be removed from the program. Lord also discussed competition in the ICBM replacement project, her plans for a visit to India, and the damage that will be done by a defense budget continuing resolution. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Barrett Sworn in as Air Force Secretary

Barbara Barrett began her term as the Air Force’s 25th secretary with a swearing-in ceremony Oct. 18. “I’m conscious of the extraordinary privilege of working with the men & women of the [Air Force],” Barrett wrote on Twitter. “We’ve got a lot to do & I’m ready to get to work!” The Senate confirmed Barrett 85-7 on Oct. 16. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

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AFRL Dispatching Satellite to Examine Unresponsive Smallsat

One experimental Air Force satellite on Oct. 20 was scheduled to begin inspecting another that stopped talking to the ground in March, according to the Air Force Research Laboratory. The rendezvous marks the first time AFRL has launched a mission to check on and resolve a spacecraft’s problems on orbit in real time. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Virtual Reality Spreads to USAF Helicopter Training

The 23rd Flying Training Squadron’s foray into using virtual reality tools to supplement live flights during rotary-wing pilot training is proving successful. The effort—dubbed “Project da Vinci” or “Rotary Wing Next”—aimed to slash the time it takes to complete the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training-Helicopter (SUPT-H) program at Fort Rucker, Ala., from 28 to 14 weeks, and to double the annual number of graduates from 60 to 120 people. The challenge is to accomplish those goals without adding aircraft or making students spend more time in the air, according to an Oct. 11 Air Education and Training Command release. Trainees wrapped up their studies six weeks faster than they would have under the traditional timeline. Using VR cut time in the cockpit by about 35 percent, while increasing practice time by 15 hours and saving about $60,000 per student. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

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Air Force Sees Large Decrease in Motorcycle Deaths, Injuries

The Air Force in fiscal 2019 saw a dramatic decrease in motorcycle-related deaths and injuries, a change the service is attributing to required training and other safety initiatives. USAF reported four fatalities and 131 injuries in 2019, compared to 13 fatalities and 224 injuries in 2010. More than 22,000 uniformed members of the Air Force ride motorcycles, and the drop in fatalities is “phenomenal,” the Air Force Safety Center said in an Oct. 18 release. The Defense Department in 2013 released guidance requiring riders to complete training based on a “lifelong learning approach,” meaning they need to periodically refresh their skills because studies found that motorcycle safety declines over time. Now, the Air Force requires initial and intermediate education within 60 days of a request for training, followed by more that is required every five years. —Brian Everstine



US Troops in Syria Going to Iraq, Not Home as Trump Claims

While President Donald Trump insists he’s bringing home Americans from “endless wars” in the Mideast, his Pentagon chief says all US troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the American military will continue operations against the Islamic State group. Associated Press

US Intel Aircraft to Remain Over Syria As Ground Forces Pull Out

US intelligence aircraft will continue flying missions over northeast Syria to monitor the situation there even as American ground forces withdraw from the area, a senior defense official said Oct, 18. Defense One

The US Nuclear Forces’ Dr. Strangelove-Era Messaging System Finally Got Rid of its Floppy Disks

OFFUTT AFB, Neb.—In 2014, “60 Minutes” made famous the 8-inch floppy disks used by one antiquated Air Force computer system that, in a crisis, could receive an order from the president to launch nuclear missiles from silos across the United States. But no more. C4ISRNET

Air Force Nurse, a Major, Pleads Guilty to Pharmacy Kickback Scheme

A nurse at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma on Oct. 15 pleaded guilty to a criminal health care fraud scheme, in which she accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks for referring patients to pharmacies offering compounded drugs. Air Force Times

Air Force Top Enlisted Leader: Keep Asking Fellow Airmen How They’re Doing

ABOARD A C-37 MILITARY AIRCRAFT—Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright just wanted to get airmen talking—to each other, friends, family—with the service’s one-day pause to break down unresolved feelings they may have buried deep inside. Military.com

Defense Innovation Unit Aims to Award Contracts in 60 Days

PASADENA, Calif.—The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), an agency created in 2015 to accelerate the adoption of commercial technology to solve national security problems, is trying to reduce the time it takes to award contracts from 90 days to 60 days. SpaceNews

AFRL: ROBOpilot to Begin Flying Again in March 2020

A developmental robotic pilot system that was damaged in a mishap two months ago will return to flight next March, according to an Air Force Research Laboratory official. Inside Defense

DOD May Fund Rare Earth and Small Drone Development: Lord

DOD acquisition czar Ellen Lord says DOD may fund allies and industry to ensure access to rare earth minerals and reinvigorate the small drone industry to patch holes in the industrial base, both currently dominated by China. Breaking Defense

One More Thing

Behold USS America Sailing with a Whopping 13 F-35Bs Embarked Aboard

USS America (LHA-6) is executing "routine operations" in the eastern Pacific, but her complement of aircraft is anything but. Deployed aboard are no less than 13 F-35Bs, and possibly even more stowed away in her hangar deck. This is the closest we’ve seen the US Marine Corps and the "Gator Navy" come to executing the notional "Lightning Carrier" concept, which would see the amphibious assault ships packed with nearly two dozen F-35Bs in the full-on fixed-wing aircraft carrier role. The Drive