Air Force Gas Stations in the Sky Are Aging, With Replacements Hamstrung and a Capacity Crunch Looming
Aerial refueling, the process of passing fuel from one airplane to another in the air, is a crucial part of American military strategy, a low-profile task that makes many of the flashier components possible. Everything from the high-tech fifth-generation jet fighters like the F-35 to bulky troop-transporting cargo planes depends on being able to stay aloft during refueling, particularly in the expansive Pacific theater, where the U.S. increasingly treats China as its peer adversary and the distances between runways are daunting.
Policies barring discrimination in the military based on race, gender, and other innate characteristics would be enshrined in law under a bill introduced by a Democratic lawmaker July 26 to mark the 75th anniversary of the racial desegregation of the military. The bill from Rep. Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash., would ban the Pentagon from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Someone's eligibility for service could be based only on their ability to meet occupational standards, the bill adds.
The Federal Trade Commission will not block L3Harris Technologies’ $4.7 billion acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne, allowing the deal to close as soon as July 28, L3Harris told inventors July 26. “We were advised today that the FTC will not block our acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne; therefore, we are moving forward to close the transaction on or about July 28,” L3Harris CEO Chris Kubasik wrote in a letter to inventors announcing the company’s second quarter financial results.
The U.S. Air Force is expanding its partnership with a professional drone-racing league that touts a tech-savvy fan base, which leaders believe will likely engage with and potentially enlist in the military. The Drone Racing League’s 2023-2024 season will for the first time feature an Air Force-endorsed pilot and flight deck, capping seven years of growing collaboration. An inaugural STEM day is also planned, during which children and young families can learn about tinkering and piloting.
The Space Foundation’s latest report on the space economy, covering 51 countries and government organizations, shows that military space spending jumped in 2022 to an estimated $54 billion from some $45 billion in 2021—with the U.S. Defense Department responsible for a majority of the known expenditure. The Space Report 2023 Q2 study estimates that the Pentagon’s classified and unclassified spending in 2022 hit almost $43 billion. That sum is expected to jump to $54 billion in 2023, according to a copy of the report provided to Breaking Defense.
NASA and DARPA have selected Lockheed Martin to develop a spacecraft to demonstrate nuclear propulsion technologies in Earth orbit later this decade. The two government agencies announced July 26 that they had reached an agreement with Lockheed Martin to develop the spacecraft for the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program. NASA and DARPA announced in January that they would collaborate on DRACO to demonstrate nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) technologies that are of interest to both agencies.
The way modern Airmen and Guardians prepare for the future fight is changing, with live, virtual, and constructive training offering new ways to practice essential skills. Learn more about how virtual and augmented reality, simulated environments, and other technologies are helping train warfighters everywhere from the cockpit to the maintenance depot.
Australia has started looking for options beyond the Lockheed Martin F-35A for its future fighter fleet, as interest in the next generation of air combat technology increasingly encroaches on funding available for existing aircraft. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) currently operates four fighter squadrons, with three already flying F-35As and the fourth composed of Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The last in that list had been expected to be replaced by a fourth squadron of F-35As to be ordered and delivered by the end of the decade, but that plan is no longer guaranteed.
The mission came with hope and uncertainty. Kim Jong Un, the volatile leader of North Korea, had agreed to turn over the remains of U.S. troops killed decades earlier in the Korean War, and a lone Air Force C-17 was dispatched to recover them. When the giant cargo plane touched down at a coastal airstrip in Wonson, hours east of Pyongyang, Maj. Gen. Michael A. Minihan, the ranking U.S. military officer on board, directed his team to follow their North Korean counterparts inside a terminal. There, set out in neat rows, lay 55 boxes. A careful cataloguing was performed, and a formal transfer of control was made.
The U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD) plans on delivering a hypersonic missile strike capability “as soon as reasonably possible” by collaborating with industry and academia under a Team Hypersonics partnership. Together, the group will “pursue advanced hypersonic strike capabilities at pace” by focusing on a three step strategy—buy, collaborate, and develop, according to tender documents published earlier this month.
The Baltic states have presented a joint contribution to the emerging NATO air defense rotational model in the region, a recent alliance policy mean to create a beefier defensive posture in Europe’s north-eastern flank. The three nations hope that the move, an outgrowth of NATO’s plans for a regionalized defense concept, will tweak the alliance longstanding air-policing mission into a more comprehensive air-defense operation, combining ground-based systems with warplane patrols.
Men who made history watched it unfold July 26 at an aircraft exchange ceremony on Joint Base Andrews in Maryland with three special guests in attendance, some of the documented original Tuskegee Airmen. The PT-17 will now go to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, as part of a Tuskegee Airmen exhibit there.