Boeing/Saab Win T-X, Overcome KC-46 Concerns

The Air Force has selected the Boeing/Saab team’s clean-sheet entry as the winner of the four-year T-X competition, winning a contract worth up to $9.2 billion over the next 15 years, the service announced Thursday. With the demise of the JSTARS Recap program, the T-X is expected to be the last big new USAF airplane program for at least the next seven years. The deal has an upper limit of 475 aircraft, but this is “an artifact” of the way the contract had to be calculated, service acquisition chief Will Roper told reporters at the Pentagon. The actual number is 351 aircraft … at some price point below the $9.2 billion upper limit. The program as awarded will “save at least $10 billion” versus service estimates, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in a statement. Boeing convinced the Air Force it could perform at the far lower-than-expected cost despite its problems and delays on the fixed-price KC-46 program, on which it has already absorbed $3.5 billion in losses. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

US Uses F-35 in Combat for First Time in Afghanistan Airstrike

A Marine Corps F-35B fighter traveling with the Navy amphibious assault ship USS Essex launched an airstrike in Afghanistan on Sept. 27, marking the first known combat strike for any US F-35 strike fighter. The strike was “in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel,” according to a press release issued by the service. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

B-52s Fly to South China Sea Twice in Three Days

USAF B-52s twice this week flew missions near the South China Sea, as tensions remain high in the area because of the increasing Chinese military presence in the region. On Sept. 23, a B-52H deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, from Barksdale AFB, La., flew a “routine training mission” in the vicinity of the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, according to Pacific Air Forces. On Sept. 25, another B-52H flew from Andersen to the South China Sea and returned to Guam. Both of the bombers are assigned to the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed to Andersen for the Air Force’s continuous bomber presence mission. B-52s deployed to Guam have routinely flown these missions to stress the freedom to maneuver in international airspace in the region, though the missions regularly cause frustration in China. For more on the mission, see Bombers Watching Over the Pacific from this month’s issue of Air Force Magazine. —Brian Everstine

Rogers Criticizes USAF’s Space Force Cost Estimate, Calls for Offsets

The Air Force’s five-year $13 billion estimate for the creation of an independent Space Force is high, and likely doesn’t cover cost savings that could come about through offsets, said Rep. Mike Rogers, the lawmaker who has been the biggest voice behind the move to create the new service. Despite the challenges in creating a new service—the first since the USAF was established in 1947—the 2020 timeframe is realistic as long as the scope stays relatively small, Rogers said. However, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Committee, which Rogers chairs, disagreed, saying it would be a stretch to stand up a new service in just two years. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Edwards Team Creates New, Ground-Based Tanker Test System

A team at Edwards AFB, Calif., has developed a new tool to quickly test aerial refueling booms on the ground, shortening the amount of time and lessening the total cost of evaluating a tanker’s system. The Edwards engineering and technical support company JT4, the 812th Aircraft Instrument Test Squadron, and the 418th Flight Test Squadron created the “receiver simulation tool,” a new ground-based system that simulates a refueling aircraft and creates “surge events” to test the response of the boom system, according to an Edwards release. The system is used to test tankers such as the new KC-46 Pegasus, the Australian KC-30, and the Italian 767, according to the release. “It will help bring tankers online in a cost-effective, rapid way,” said Hans Lambrecht, the JT4 lead project engineer, in the release. “It saves money because you don’t have to instrument all the different aircraft when conducting aerial refueling tests. … You can knock out those data points in three days where in the past you had to fly for months with different receiver aircraft to get the same, if not lower-level, data.”

Coalition Finds More Civilians Killed Inadvertently in Anti-ISIS Airstrikes

Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve in August determined 53 more civilian have been killed inadvertently in airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, for a total of 1,114 killed in 30,008 airstrikes since the campaign began in 2014. The coalition each month releases an update of its ongoing investigations into allegations of civilian casualties. Last month, the coalition closed 60 investigations, with eight determined to be credible, according to a coalition release. There are 310 reports still open, largely originating from independent claims from non-governmental organizations. Among the incidents deemed credible, the coalition found that 20 civilians were killed in one strike on ISIS fighting positions, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device facility, and command and control center in Mosul. In the release, the coalition states that ISIS-held territory is now one percent of what it was at its peak, with more than 8 million Iraqis and Syrians freed from the group’s rule. —Brian Everstine



—The United Launch Alliance has selected Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine to power its next-generation rocket, the Vulcan Centaur. The new rocket is scheduled for its first launch in the mid-2020s: ULA release.

—Lockheed Martin has picked the Harris Corp. to create the next generation Integrated Core Processor, which controls the F-35 strike fighter’s communications, sensors, electronic warfare suite, guidance, and displays: Lockheed release.

—The Air Force on Wednesday awarded AT&T a $87.3 million contract and Microsoft a $34.3 million contract for experimental enterprise information technology services: DOD release.

—The Pentagon has awarded a $12 million contract for emergency runway repairs at a small operating location inside Somalia: Jane’s 360.

—Retired Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, the former commander of Air Education and Training Command, earlier this month was inducted into the Order of the Sword, the highest honor the Air Force’s enlisted corps can bestow: AETC release.

—Germany plans to buy six C-130Js for about $1.14 billion: Reuters.