F-22s Scramble from Nellis in Response to Chinese Spy Balloon Over US

The Pentagon is tracking what it says is a Chinese surveillance balloon over the continental United States, it said Feb. 2. The U.S. military scrambled two Air Force F-22 Raptors from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. on Feb. 1 in response to the incident, Air & Space Forces Magazine has confirmed. A senior defense official said the U.S. considered shooting the balloon down over Montana.
stealth tanker

Air Force Launches New Stealthy Tanker Program, with Delivery Projected for 2040

The Air Force has officially launched its Next-Generation Air-Refueling System, a stealthy tanker to begin operations circa 2040. A Request for Information put out to industry said USAF will consider all manner of novel and innovative ideas for the next tanker, but the technologies it will use have to be mature by 2032. The NGAS nomenclature officially replaces “KC-Z” as the third increment of tanker recapitalization.

Radar Sweep

Air Force Efforts to Reduce On-the-Job, Chronic Injuries Take Root

Air Force Times

Recent efforts to curb musculoskeletal and other injuries that can lead to chronic issues are starting to bear fruit within the Air Force. Preventive physical and mental health care initiatives can help Airmen feel their best in the short run. But the Air Force hopes that work will also improve its readiness and retention rates, and cut down on health care costs in the long term, too.

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Air Force Says PCS Moves Continue after Concerns of Pause Mount Among Airmen

Stars and Stripes

The Air Force is processing new assignments and scheduled permanent-change-of-station moves are still going according to plan, the service said, following numerous social media posts referring to a pause in processing the movements of Airmen. “The Air Force Personnel Center is not pausing processing military assignment actions nor canceling assignments for those scheduled” to move in fiscal year 2023, Tech. Sgt. Deana Heitzman, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said in a statement to Stars and Stripes on Feb. 1.

Special Operations C-130 Seaplane Program Put On Back Burner

The War Zone

The initial test flight of an amphibious MC-130J special operations transport was anticipated to take place this year, but those plans have changed. “We were initially aiming to conduct an operation capability demonstration in [2023],” Air Force Capt. Alicia Premo, a spokeswoman for Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), told The War Zone in an email Feb. 2 after we requested a program update. “However, for a variety of reasons, at this time we do not have the capability demonstration scheduled. Those reasons vary from funding challenges to a recent reprioritization of capabilities.”

DARPA Taps Teams Led by General Atomics, Aurora Flight Sciences for ‘Liberty Lifter’ Program

Breaking Defense

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has tapped two teams, one led by General Atomics and another by Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, to begin design work on the agency’s long-distance, low-flying Liberty Lifter full-scale demonstrator. “The planned Liberty Lifter demonstrator will be a large flying boat similar in size and capacity to the C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft,” according to an agency statement.

Drone Maker Offers to Sell 2 Reapers to Ukraine for $1


California-based drone maker General Atomics has offered to send two Reaper drones to Ukraine for $1 and is waiting for the U.S. government’s approval, the company’s CEO confirmed Feb. 1. The announcement comes after months of talks between Kyiv, the Biden administration, and the company over providing Ukraine with the long-duration drones operated by the U.S. Air Force. But the issue has remained in limbo due to concerns over transferring sensitive technologies to Ukraine.

Tougher Cybersecurity Rules May Be More than a Year Away—But Don’t Wait to Get Ready

Defense One

It could be well into 2024 or even early 2025 before the Defense Department finally requires contractors to obtain third-party approval of their cybersecurity setup. But there’s no time to relax, one expert says. “You look at the DOD internal documents, they all have a 12-month schedule—if everything goes well and it's not that complicated. Well, this is complicated. Things may not go so well. So it could be 15 months, it could be 18 months; they'll want to get it done,” said Robert Metzger, a government contracting attorney with Rogers, Joseph, and O’Donnell.

What Ukraine Wants from France: Munitions, Training, Air Defense and, Maybe, Fighter Jets?

Breaking Defense

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov came to France on his first official visit this week with a shopping list and has returned home with a nicely filled basket, at least for now, notably including a promised 12 more Caesar truck-mounted artillery guns from Nexter and a complete medium-range air defense system from Thales. The procurements are all being financed through a special €200 million ($219.6 million) French government fund for Ukraine of which half still remains “to enable Ukraine to buy from French industry,” French President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this week.

Hydrosat Wins Air Force Contract for Thermal Infrared Data Analytics


Hydrosat won a $1.2 million Air Force contract to investigate uses of thermal infrared data for national security applications, the company announced Feb. 2. Based in Washington, D.C., Hydrosat is a startup founded in 2017 that analyzes data from satellites to study the planet’s environmental conditions. The contract was awarded by AFWERX, an Air Force organization that works with startups. The customer for the data is the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), based at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Senators Say No F-16 Upgrades for Turkey If It Blocks Finland, Sweden from Joining NATO

The Hill

President Biden should make clear to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Congress is unlikely to approve fighter jet upgrades for Ankara if it fails to advance Sweden’s and Finland’s bids to join NATO, a bipartisan group of senators said Feb. 2. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), co-chairs of the Senate NATO Observer Group, led 25 of their colleagues in a letter to the president, saying, “Congress cannot consider future support for Türkiye, including the sale of F-16 fighter jets, until Türkiye completes ratification of the accession protocols.”

Space Force Object Tracking Upgrade Delayed by Engineering Challenges

Defense News

The U.S. Space Force is a year behind on its most recent effort to fully decommission its legacy space object catalog and replace it with a modernized command and control capability designed to track space launches and monitor on-orbit debris. The service had expected to replace its 1970s-era Space Defense Operations Center, known as SPADOC, by the end of 2022 with a new Space Command and Control system designed to improve its ability to analyze, process, and deliver data from its network of ground and space-based sensors that track on-orbit activity.

One More Thing

The Air Force Is Dumping a Plane So Hot, It’s Called ‘Big Sexy’

Popular Mechanics

While next-gen fighter jets and bombers like the F-35 and B-21 get lots of love, the U.S. Air Force would grind to a halt without its refueling tankers. Airplanes like the venerable KC-135 and the KC-10 top off these badass warplanes with fuel, all while supplying some impressive cargo-carrying abilities. But with the arrival of the U.S. military’s newest tanker, the KC-46 Pegasus, three is officially a crowd—and so the KC-10, nicknamed “Big Sexy” for its alluring sleek wing design, is now beginning its slow send off into retirement.