Alternate Fighter Plan: Cut F-15EX, Extend F-22, Buy New Stealth Jets, More F-35s

The Air Force’s “4+1” fighter plan for the 2020s, unveiled in recent months, will leave the service with a fleet that’s too small and improperly configured to deal with peer threats. What’s needed is a plan that emphasizes stealth aircraft; rapidly retires non-stealthy and expensive-to-maintain “legacy” airplanes; and doesn’t create gaps in USAF’s ability to control the air in a conflict, according to new analysis from AFA's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. Mitchell released a paper Oct. 25 offering an alternate fighter roadmap, saying the Air Force’s plan is budget-driven rather than strategy-driven.
airmen vaccine

With One Week to Go, Thousands of Airmen, Guardians Set to Miss COVID Vaccine Deadline

With a week to go until the Department of the Air Force’s Nov. 2 deadline for Active-duty Airmen and Guardians to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, nearly 95 percent of Active-duty Air Force and Space Force members are vaccinated, according to the latest data. At the same time, the Department of the Air Force, which has the earliest vaccine deadline among the services, will have to deal with thousands of Airmen and Guardians who have refused the vaccine. Out of more than 330,000 Active-duty Airmen and Guardians, 3.6 percent equates to more than 10,000 service members.

Kratos, General Atomics Get Contracts for ‘Off-Board Sensing Station’ Unmanned Fighter Escort

The Air Force Research Laboratory awarded Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems Inc. and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems matching $17.7 million contracts for an "Off-Board Sensing Station,” which is an unmanned aircraft that would extend a manned fighter’s sensing range and also potentially carry additional weapons for that aircraft. The cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts are potentially worth $49 million if a $31.4 million option is exercised. They call for the two companies to deliver a “base effort” within a year.

ISIS-K Could Have Ability to Strike Outside Afghanistan in Six Months, DOD Official Says

The Islamic State’s Khorasan branch, responsible for the suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members during the evacuation from Kabul, could develop the capacity to strike outside Afghanistan within “six to 12 months,” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl warned. Testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the security situation in Afghanistan, Kahl added that al-Qaida could develop the same capacity within one to two years. Both terrorist groups, he said, already have the intent to strike the U.S. 

Radar Sweep

The F-35 at 20: How Its Successes, and Failures, Shaped the Aerospace Industry

Breaking Defense

On Friday, Oct. 26, 2001, executives and employees from the nation’s two biggest defense primes gathered in boardrooms and sprawling production facilities to watch a Pentagon press conference. At stake: the Joint Strike Fighter competition, which would decide who would dominate the next 40 years of the defense aerospace industry—and rake in hundreds of billions in profits.

CyberPatriot Draws Record Number of Teams in 14th Season

Air Force Association

The Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program launched its 14th season with more than 5,200 teams, an encouraging sign that the annual National Youth Cyber Defense Competition is back on the rise to its pre-pandemic participation. “We are excited to see so many teams registered for CyberPatriot XIV,” said Rachel Zimmerman, CyberPatriot’s director of business operations.

Raytheon CEO: Air Force May Not Be Able to Afford New F-35 Engine

Defense News

The Air Force may decide that it can’t afford to build an entirely new, advanced engine for its F-35A Lightning II fighter jet, the Raytheon Technologies chief executive said Oct. 26. In 2016, the Air Force awarded Raytheon-owned Pratt & Whitney and General Electric Aviation each a billion-dollar contract to develop a new F-35A engine under the Adaptive Engine Transition Program. This engine is intended to deliver better fuel efficiency and thrust by using a third stream of air.

Lockheed’s Acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne Delayed

Breaking Defense

Lockheed Martin’s proposed $4.4 billion acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne is now set to take place during the first quarter of 2022, Lockheed Martin’s chief executive announced Oct. 26, dashing plans for the deal to close this year. “The Aerojet Rocketdyne transaction continues moving through the regulatory approval process, and we now anticipate closing in the first quarter of 2022,” said Lockheed CEO James Taiclet during an earnings call with investors.

Senators Hit Pentagon’s ‘Lax’ Response to Sexual Assault

CQ Roll Call

A bipartisan group of senators criticized the Defense Department on Oct. 26 for moving too slowly to combat sexual assault in the ranks. The group of eight senators, including three who serve on the Armed Services Committee, made their views known in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III that expressed their “disappointment and concern” with the Pentagon’s “vague approach and lax timeline,” in particular Austin’s decision to take up to nine years to implement key elements of the department’s response to the problem.

VIDEO: Aerospace Nation: Gen. Mark D. Kelly

Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies

In a virtual Aerospace Nation event with the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, Gen. Mark D. Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, discussed how Air Combat Command is training Airmen and building the future force in the era of great power competition. Retired Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute, moderated the discussion and facilitated audience Q&A.

India’s Stealthy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle Demonstrator Breaks Cover

The Drive

India’s unmanned combat air vehicle subscale drone demonstrator has appeared for the first time, revealing details of the flying wing design. The unmanned aerial vehicle, known as the SWiFT, is intended to serve as a proof of concept for a planned production combat drone, the Ghatak, which is reportedly being developed primarily as an unmanned bomber.

One More Thing

The Difference Between Air Force and Navy Pilots in One Short Video

Task and Purpose

You can actually tell a lot about an aircraft, and about the pilot behind the stick, just by the way it hits the runway. That was on full display on the Air Force subreddit on Monday, where a user posted a TikTok video of an F-16 fighter jet landing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., followed soon after by an E/A-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. Though it’s unclear which unit the aircraft belongs to, there’s a big difference between how the two hit the ground, and it has a lot to do with how Air Force and Navy pilots are trained.