Study: Rapid Aircraft Design Plan Could Hurt USAF Over Time

The Air Force’s push to quickly develop small batches of aircraft with short life spans could exacerbate the service’s current problem of rising operations and maintenance costs, an expert at a leading think tank argues. Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis and the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argues in an Oct. 29 report that “the ‘Digital Century Series’ approach for the next-generation fighter could leave the Air Force with more costly small fleets of aircraft that exacerbate growth in O&S costs and force difficult tradeoffs between capability and capacity.” Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Massive $34 Billion F-35 Contract Includes Price Drop as Readiness Improves

The unit cost of the F-35A fighter will fall below $80 million a copy under an omnibus $34 billion Lot 12-14 multinational contract with Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon announced. Pentagon acquisition boss Ellen Lord said Oct. 29 that the F-35’s readiness has reached record levels, but she still doesn’t expect it will exit development for at least another year. The $34 billion contract for 478 aircraft—of which 291 are for the US services and 127 for foreign users—is the largest F-35 contract to date, and achieves a unit cost of $79.2 million in Lot 13 for the F-35A model used by the Air Force. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

“Skinny NDAA” Offers Fallback Option in Absence of Full Policy Bill

Faced with the House and Senate’s inability to agree on key tenets of an annual defense policy bill, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) on Oct. 29 introduced a “skinny” version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that aims to put the most important pieces into law while lawmakers continue debating stickier points. The legislation would allow troops and civilians to get paid, and allow for child care and other services for military families. It would also extend the authorities that combat troops need to fight the Islamic State group, al-Qaida, and the Taliban, allow for military construction and acquisition oversight, and sustain readiness. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

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Directed Energy Weapons Move Closer to Prime Time

Like facial recognition, directed energy weapons such as high-energy lasers and high-power microwaves are a technology that has been “emerging” for decades. Since President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative first proposed using space-based, high-energy lasers to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles, DE weapons have struggled to make the transition from science fiction to science fact. But growing DOD investments in recent years have begun to pay off, as the Air Force prepares to try out lasers and microwaves overseas. Read the full story by Shaun Waterman.

USAF Details Eligibility for New Remote Ops Medal

The Air Force this week detailed who will be eligible for a new award aimed at recognizing those who participated in combat operations from afar. The Remote Combat Effects Campaign Medal, first announced in May, will be awarded to airmen in remotely piloted aircraft, cyber, space, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance career fields who “create direct combat effects from remote locations and lead to strategic outcomes or the delivery of lethal force,” according to an Air Force release. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

F-16s Deploy to Al Udeid, Bagram

Two F-16 units deployed to two Air Forces Central Command bases within one week as part of broad changes to American air power in the Middle East. “Triple Nickel” F-16s from the 555th Fighter Squadron at Aviano AB, Italy, recently touched down at Al Udeid AB, Qatar, to participate in ongoing combat operations. A video posted by the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing shows the Vipers arriving at the base on an undisclosed date. On Oct. 25, F-16s from the 79th Fighter Squadron at Shaw AFB, S.C., flew to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, as part of ongoing operations there. —Brian Everstine

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FTC Investigating Northrop Grumman Amid ICBM Spat with Boeing

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Northrop Grumman Corp. has unfairly discriminated against Boeing Co. over an Air Force project to replace the service’s aging intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to a regulatory filing disclosed by Northrop.

Pentagon Leader Asserts There Was No White House Influence on JEDI

Despite allegations in an upcoming book that President Donald Trump wanted to prevent Inc.’s cloud business from winning a $10 billion cloud contract with the Department of Defense, Pentagon CIO Dana Deasy said Oct. 29 the White House did not influence its award to Microsoft Corp. in a surprise announcement on the evening of Oct. 25. Washington Business Journal (subscription required)

Why the Pentagon Wants to Be More Like McDonald’s

No, the department isn’t ready to drop its rifles for Big Macs, nor is it taking a side in the perpetual Great Fast Food Competition between Ronald and Col. Sanders. But according to Lisa Hershman, the acting chief management officer who on Oct. 29 had a confirmation hearing to permanently fill the role, the department would be lovin’ it if they could mirror some of McDonald’s supply chain strategies. Defense News

Next-Gen SMC Launch Study Targets Satellite Maneuver

On-orbit transfer and maneuvering capabilities also could potentially enable future national security satellites to avoid debris or anti-satellite weapons, or underpin space weapons development. Breaking Defense

UK Hospital Recruits Air Force Spouses to Work as Registered Nurses There

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service is recruiting spouses stationed at RAF Lakenheath who are also registered nurses in the US to earn their UK nursing certification, according to the Air Force. Air Force Times

Aviation Safety Bill Targets Challenges Posed by Flight Automation

The Aviation Automation and Human Factors Safety Act of 2019, introduced Oct. 24 by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), aims to establish a Federal Aviation Administration Center of Excellence dedicated to addressing dangers posed by increased automation and pilot response and also implements new and old aviation safety recommendations targeting flight automatics. Nextgov

One More Thing

What the US Air Force Can Learn from This Piranha-Proof Fish

The US Air Force studied how an Amazonian fish can survive in the same waters as schools of deadly piranha. The arapaima, a slow-moving, torpedo-shaped fish should be easy prey for a pack of the carnivorous fish but it isn’t—thanks to the set of scales it’s evolved over millions of years. The Air Force hopes studying the scales could lead to better protection for humans and airplanes. Popular Mechanics