$6 Billion Payment to Lockheed Martin Keeps F-35 Production Humming

An F-35 contract awarded Wednesday provides prime contractor Lockheed Martin just over $6 billion to keep F-35 Joint Strike Fighter production moving efficiently while the company and the government negotiate a final deal for the 255 airplanes in Lot 12. The Lot 12 contract is priced not to exceed $22.7 billion, but will likely be less than that amount; how much lower remains to be seen. The action also adds 20 airplanes Congress funded beyond those requested by the services in Fiscal 2019, and gets a further 16 jets on contract that Congress added to the program for Fiscal 2020. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

STRATCOM Boss: Don’t Reduce Nuclear Posture

US nuclear force structure should remain unchanged until the threats facing the United States subside, the head of US Strategic Command told a gathering at the Harvard University Kennedy School Nov. 14. The likely next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) suggested in September that nuclear force structure could be reduced. Not so fast, said STRATCOM boss Gen. John Hyten: “If you want to save money, change the threat.” The US and Russia are each able to field up to 1,550 deployable weapons under the New START Treaty, a level and balance Hyten said provides “strategic stability.” Reductions depend on negotiations to reduce those totals, he said, and U.S. defense is predicated on having a combination of land-, sea- and air-based nuclear weapons. “My advice is that we need to have a force that can respond to any threat that is in the world today, and in order to do that I have to have a triad,” Hyten said. Russia currently has a “significant” triad aimed at the US, and that threat must be countered with a corresponding triad to be effective. —Brian Everstine

SECAF: Air Force on Its Way to Meeting Readiness Goal on the Backs of Maintenance

The Air Force is making progress toward meeting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ directive to increase fighter readiness by working its maintainers harder, adding more contractors and focusing on spare parts shortages. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Thursday the service is increasing the mission capable rates of its fighters by adding more second shift maintainers to work through the night on broken jets, using more contract maintenance, and revamping its spare parts supply chain to get aircraft back in the air. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

USAF Shoots for Same-Day Small-Business Contracts

The Air Force will host a “pitch day” March 6-7 for small businesses and sign contracts on the spot to fund the best ideas. The Air Force will share a list of needs in advance — for example new tools to work on engines, software challenges or new ways to process intelligence — and invite small businesses to submit five-page white papers explaining their solutions. The best submissions will earn an invitation to pitch the idea to Air Force customers. Like the television show Shark Tank, the Air Force will respond on the spot. Successful presenters will receive a one-page contract that day, and “with the swipe of a government credit card,” initial payments to get started, said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, speaking Nov. 15 at the Defense One Summit in Washington, D.C. What is the Air Force looking for? Said Wilson: “We want innovative ideas to solve tough problems.” —Brian Everstine

GAO Upholds Navy Red Air Contract, As Competitors Eye Air Force Prize

Tactical Air Support won a five-year $106.8 million contract to fly adversary missions, or Red Air, for the US Navy. The company beat out a 22-year incumbent, Airborne Tactical Advantage Company, and three other companies. TacAir, a Reno, Nev.-based company, will support the Navy Fighter Weapons School known as TOPGUN and Carrier Air Wing Training with its upgraded F-5E/F Advanced Tigers, acquired from the Royal Jordanian Air Force. The company is also competing for a piece of the much larger, multi-award Air Force Red Air program, which ultimately could amount to about 30,000 hours per year of private air support. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

TSA Won’t Grant Military Retirees, Veterans Free Precheck

Active Duty, Guard and Reserve service members and service academy cadets are now automatically registered for TSA Precheck express screening at US airports — but that advantage does not extend to everyone with a military ID. Defense Department civilians must opt in to the program — while military retirees, veterans and spouses are not eligible. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

DOD Research Boss: US Will Surpass China and Russia in Hypersonics

A failure to weaponize hypersonics early on was a setback for the US military, but the nation will overcome its infrastructure shortfall, promised the Pentagon’s research chief. Michael Griffin, under secretary of defense for research and engineering, said Nov. 15 the US is “a bit behind but I assure you we will catch up and surpass” China and Russia. The next budget will begin “amping up our work in hypersonics, offense and defense,” he said. While it is too early to say precisely what weapons each service may need, the military can find commonality in missile and seeker technology while still developing unique systems that meet each service’s requirements, which might include a hypersonic weapon delivered from the air by an Air Force B-52, systems that could be launched from Navy ships, as well as weapons that could be fired from Army ground systems, Griffin said. —Brian Everstine


Air Force Moves to Fortify F-35 Weak Points Against Hacking

The US Air Force is devoting fresh energy to plugging cybersecurity holes in the F-35’s external support systems, as they are deemed the easiest entry points for hackers into the fifth-generation combat jet, according to a key service official. Defense News

USAF Allows Families to Leave For New Assignment While Airmen Are on Extended Deployments

Airmen leaving for yearlong deployments will no longer have to return before moving their goods and families to their next permanent duty station. Stars & Stripes

Air Force Plane Makes Emergency Landing at McClellan After Hydraulic Malfunction

An Air Force plane made an emergency landing at McClellan Airfield on Wednesday afternoon, leaving one service member hospitalized with what a Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District spokesman called a “very minor injury.” Sacramento Bee

Pentagon Began Clampdown on Senior Leaders’ Public Speaking Months Ago, Memos Reveal

DOD says it’s to save money and time. Critics say it’s to avoid conflict with the president. Defense One

One More Thing:

Listen to the Audio Logs as Multiple Pilots Report Seeing UFOs Off the Irish Coast

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has opened an investigation into multiple reports of one or more fast-moving, unidentified objects seen flying off the coast of Ireland last Friday. The unusual object was first reported to air traffic control by a British Airways pilot flying off the south-western coast of Ireland, with other pilots soon following suit. Thenewsrep.com