DOD Has New Budget Topline, Beginning Second Audit

The Pentagon’s comptroller and acting No. 2 said Wednesday the Defense Department has received its topline budget figure to plan for, but kept the specifics under wraps until next month’s official rollout. At least three numbers, ranging from $700 billion to $750 billion, have been floated in the last few months. Also Wednesday, David Norquist said the Pentagon has already begun its second audit. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

More Extended Range Reapers Deploy to Anti-ISIS Fight

A key base in the fight against ISIS got more range as the Air Force brought in extended-range MQ-9 Reapers to replace older remotely piloted aircraft. The 386th Air Expeditionary Wing last month received two of the MQ-9 Block 1 Reapers with the extended-range package. The full transition is expected to last through March 2019. The new Reapers, with additional fuel tanks, a four-blade propeller, and other upgrades, increase the aircraft’s flight time by 33 percent, according to an Air Forces Central Command release. The aircraft arrived in crates, unlike other recent transitions in the Middle East. Last year, MQ-9s from Al Udeid AB, Qatar, flew directly to Afghanistan instead of being boxed up and flown over in C-17s. Extended range Reapers have been flying in Afghanistan since late 2015. —Brian Everstine

Air Force Space Command Holds Space Flag Exercise

Air Force Space Command recently wrapped the Defense Department’s biggest space exercise, using aggressors to help airmen hone their skills defending space systems. Space Flag 19-1, held in Colorado Springs, Colo., last month, included airmen from the 50th Space Wing and 460th Space Wing, along with airmen from the 26th and 27th Space Aggressor squadrons. Similar to how Red Flag exercises focus on real-world, large-scale operations, the exercise included “red” and “blue” forces fighting against each other in a “dynamic range of scenarios,” according to an Air Force Space Command release. “The intent of Space Flag is to allow tactical operators the ability to learn how to fight and defend their systems as an enterprise with other tactical operators in an arena we currently do not have,” said Col. Devin Pepper, 21st Operations Group commander and leader of the exercise, in the release. The exercise began in 2017 and will increase to three times per year as a way to transition “our culture and our way of thinking from just providing a service to the warfighter to actually being a space warfighter,” Pepper said.

AFWERX SBIR Grant Looks to Improve Military Fitness with Data

The Defense Department and US Air Force awarded an AFWERX Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant to IncludeHealth Inc, makers of the Include digital health platform, to create and standardize future fitness protocols for the US military. As part of the grant, the platform’s components will be installed in The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Signature Tracking for Optimized Nutrition and Training laboratory (STRONG) at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, for use “in a two-month study with 40 war fighters.” Read the full story from Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.



Germany Steps Up to Lead NATO High Readiness Force

German forces on 1 January took the lead for NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), providing thousands of soldiers to be on standby and ready to deploy within days. Germany takes over from Italy, which provided the VJTF lead brigade in 2018. NATO

Senator Seeks Air National Guard Sexual Misconduct Probe

Sen. Tammy Baldwin has asked Air Force investigators to look into allegations of sexual assault and harassment within a Wisconsin Air National Guard unit that were brushed aside by senior officers, according to a member of the unit. Daily Journal

New Dress Blues in 2019? Not Just Yet, Air Force Says

Aside from the new combat uniform, the U.S. Air Force may not get any additional uniforms this year, as other priorities have materialized for the service.

Airpower and the Arctic: The Importance of Projecting Strength in the North

The U.S. Air Force has been flying over the Arctic for more than a half century. Often forgotten, the United States’ first-ever mass airlift and aerial bombing campaigns were conducted there during World War II’s Thousand-Mile War along a remote chain of Alaskan islands. Defense News

Poland First Ally to Safeguard Baltic Airspace in 2019

The Polish Air Force took over the responsibility for leading NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission out of Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, from the Belgian Air Force on 3 January 2019. A traditional handover/takeover ceremony has been conducted at the Lithuanian Air Base every four months since 2004. The Polish Air Force was the eighth Ally to assume the mission at the end of 2005 and has now returned to accomplish the task for the first four months in 2019. NATO

One More Thing …

For UFO fans, History Channel’s ‘Project Blue Book’ Show Rings All Too True to Life

“Project Blue Book,” the History Channel TV series making its debut tonight, takes its inspiration from classic UFO cases of the 1940s and 1950s—but for UFO fans who gathered to watch a Seattle preview of the first episode, the show hints at the shape of things to come as well. GeekWire