USAF Announces Measures to Strengthen Joint Leaders, Create Task Force

The Air Force announced it is taking two new steps to strengthen its position within the joint services, increasing the focus on joint integration through continual education and creating a Joint Task Force Headquarters inside Air Combat Command. The steps are part of one of Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein’s top focus areas, strengthening joint leadership, which he announced in his first keynote speech as chief at AFA’s Air, Space, & Cyber conference in 2016. Air Force senior leaders conducted “robust analysis” to find ways to strengthen “joint warfighting excellence,” Goldfein, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, and CMSAF Kaleth Wright wrote in a letter to Air Force commanders in July, according to a USAF release. Under the first step, Air Education and Training Command will redesign the Air Force Continuum of Learning with a new focus on joint matters throughout an airman’s career. Under the second step, ACC will certify a Joint Task Force Headquarters under the 9th Air Force at Shaw AFB, S.C. When certified, the task force will be placed in the Global Response Force to be available to respond to “global contingencies.” —Brian Everstine

Original Raptor, Once Retired, Returns to Flight at Edwards

One of the oldest Raptors in the Air Force’s fleet, tail 91-4006, is back to flying status after retiring and being relegated to long-term storage due to budget cuts. The aircraft is one of the first of its kind to have avionics installed for testing and has been a part of the 411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB, Calif., according to an Edwards release. In November 2012, the Air Force determined the air frame needed expensive upgrades, but sequestration hit at about the same time, so the aircraft was put into storage. Eventually, as budgets increased, the Air Force approved the decision to upgrade the aircraft and bring it out of storage, according to the release. Lockheed and Boeing personnel at Edwards worked for 27 months, putting in 25,000 man-hours and 11,000 individual fixes, according to Edwards. The upgrade culminated with a first flight on July 17. The aircraft will now be used as a flight sciences aircraft to help with fleet modernization. “It increases our test fleet from three to four giving us another flight sciences jet,” said Lt. Col. Lee Bryant, commander of the 411th FLTS and director of the F-22 Combined Test Force. “This will help us tackle the expanding F-22 modernization program.” —Brian Everstine

Boeing MQ-25 Win Foreshadows Future US Tanker Ops

The Navy has picked Boeing to build its new MQ-25 Stingray unmanned carrier-based tanker, awarding the company an $804 million contract for development against what is expected to be a $13 billion contract to supply 72 airplanes. The win may well give Boeing a leg up on its competitors for the Air Force’s KC-Z tanker modernization program, which Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart forecast in 2016 would be a stealthy, unmanned aircraft. Everhart told reporters at the 2016 AFA Air, Space & Cyber conference that he needs a stealth escort tanker in the 2030-2035 timeframe, in order to give shorter-range combat aircraft the “legs” to operate from ranges outside the reach of modern adversary air defense systems. In the MQ-25 contest, Boeing bested offerings from Lockheed Martin, which offered a flying wing concept, and General Atomics, which proposed a variant of its Avenger stealthy remotely piloted aircraft. Initial Operational Capability of the Stingray is planned for 2024. The stated purpose of the MQ-25 is to extend the reach of existing carrier strike aircraft as much as 50 percent. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

DOD Awards Lockheed $250 Million for F-35 Test Equipment

The Defense Department on Thursday awarded Lockheed Martin a $250 million modification to a contract for F-35 low-rate, initial production Lot 11 special tooling and test equipment. The contract covers equipment for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and international partners, with about 34 percent of the entire purchase for USAF. Work is expected to be completed by 2021. Also Thursday, the Pentagon awarded Pratt & Whitney a $118 million contract for four F135 engines and engine parts for USMC F-35Cs, and a $30.8 million contract for an F-35 simulator for the Marine Corps. —Brian Everstine



—Four people were killed when a civilian Beechcraft B60 crashed on Eglin AFB, Fla., on Thursday: Associated Press.

—Lockheed Martin is a pitching a hybrid of the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 strike fighter to the Air Force to counter Russian and Chinese threats: Defense One.

—The Air Force has awarded Boeing a $61.5 million modification to an original KC-46 contract for initial spares for McConnell AFB, Kan., and Pease ANGB, N.H., with work set to be completed by March 2021. McConnell will be the KC-46’s first operating base, with aircraft set to begin arriving this fall. Pease is the first Air National Guard location, with aircraft expected to begin arriving next year: DOD contract announcement.

—The New York Air National Guard will send a C-17 Globemaster III from the 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart ANGB, N.Y., and an LC-130 tactical airlift plane from the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton ANGB, N.Y., to the African Aerospace and Defense Air Show: DOD release.