KC-46 Problem Poses “Significant Risk,” Imperils Stealth

The Air Force is exploring three deficiencies on the KC-46 tanker, one of which is considered serious and could affect the jet’s ability to refuel stealth aircraft without compromising their low-observable features and thus their ability to complete the mission. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak


An Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., prepares to take off from Andersen AFB, Guam, Sept. 23, 2017. Air Force photo by SSgt. Joshua Smoot.

Bombers Fly Closer to North Korea’s Coast than Any Time this Century

B-1B Lancer bombers flanked by USAF F-15C fighters flew over international waters east of North Korea on Sept. 23. The show of force was “the farthest north of the demilitarized zone any US fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century,” according to a Pentagon press release. The bombers were assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Andersen AFB, Guam, and are deployed from Ellsworth AFB, S.D. “This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White. “North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.” The flight is the second such show of force since North Korea’s Sept. 14 intermediate-range ballistic missile launch over Japan. —Amy McCullough

New B-21 Stealth Bomber Taking Shape, PDR Completed

Nineteen months into the highly classified B-21 stealth bomber program, things are moving as planned with drawings being completed and released and a Preliminary Design Review completed, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office Director Randall Walden said at ASC17. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak


Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, Air Education and Training Command’s boss, said during ASC17 USAF’s training mechanisms must shift for a better-trained future force. Above, airmen from the command’s 59th Medical Wing prepare deployment bags for transport Aug. 30 at JBSA-Lackland, Texas, in support of Hurricane Harvey relief operations. Air Force photo by Johnny Saldivar.

AETC Commander Envisions Open Access Education for Future Airmen

Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, Air Education and Training Command’s boss, said USAF’s training mechanisms must shift from today’s “industrial production process pipeline” to an “enterprise-level force structure construct,” more closely resembling development ladders in the private sector. “Stovepipes” of the informational and technological systems within AETC don’t communicate well at the moment, and airmen are wasting time relearning what they already know and missing opportunities to learn what they need to know for the mission. Speaking at ASC17, Roberson said two main focus areas in this effort are the on-demand and -command abilities of training, as well as a more solid experiential tracking method. Read the full story from Gideon Grudo


Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing load equipment and vehicles onto a C-130 Hercules at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 20. Air Force photo by SSgt. Joshua Horton.

DOD Continues to Provide Disaster Response After Irma and Maria

The Air Force Reserve and Army Corps of Engineers continue to provide a range of disaster relief support to the states of Georgia and Florida as well as the US territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. DOD disaster response personnel are busy, but not stretched thin, by a full hurricane season. Read the full story by Wilson Brissett

An F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft takes off from Hill AFB, Utah, on Sept. 21. This jet and five others were the last operational F-16s to depart the base. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

Last Operational F-16 Leaves Hill

The last operational F-16s left Hill AFB, Utah, as the base builds up its contingent of F-35s. On Sept. 21, the last operational F-16 took off on its way to Holloman AFB, N.M., according to a Hill release. The base has hosted operational F-16s since 1979, but the location is now transitioning to be the Air Force’s first operational F-35 base. Hill will still see Falcon traffic, as it is the home of the Ogden Air Logistics Complex. —Brian Everstine

Missile Defense Systems Complete Two Successful Tests

US missile defense systems recently achieved two firsts with successful tests of separate anti-ballistic missile systems. On Sept. 22, Raytheon’s AN/SPY-6(V) air and missile defense radar successfully acquired and tracked multiple targets for the first time in a flight test at the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility, on Kauai, Hawaii, according to a company press release. The system is designed to track both short-range ballistic and anti-ship cruise missiles simultaneously. This marked the third successful test of the system. On Sept. 16 a PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor successfully took down a tactical ballistic missile target in its first-ever test from a remote launcher, according to a Lockheed Martin press release. The Army-led test was completed at the Reagan Test Site at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. PAC-3 MSE is an upgraded version of an already-deployed system that extends the interceptor’s range and performance.

DARPA Accelerates Counter-UAS Program

DARPA’s Mobile Force Protection program has issued an accelerated call for industry white papers describing counter-UAS capabilities that could be demonstrated as early as January 2018. The effort began last year to develop countermeasures that could protect US troops from UAS attacks. Now the program is looking for “scalable, modular, and affordable approaches” that would allow the Department of Defense to identify and neutralize UAS threats “at a distance of 1 km or greater,” according to a press release. DARPA is looking not for entire systems, but rather for system components with “small footprints” required for power, size, weight, and personnel. “Keeping warfighters safe from small unmanned air systems requires knowing that one or more is coming and removing their potential as a threat while they’re still at a safe distance,” said Jean-Charles Lede, a DARPA program manager, in the release. “This RFI aims to help DARPA stay abreast of the latest technologies that could provide those capabilities, and integrate some of the most promising ones into an eventual MFP technology demonstration system.”


—About 100 airmen from the 317th Airlift Wing at Dyess AFB, Texas, deployed to Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti. Air Force release

—Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announces “Spark Tank,” a competition focused on airmen submitting new ideas for innovation. Air Force release

—The Center for Strategic and International Studies released a report outlining the challenges facing the recapitalization of the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. CSIS report

—JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam this week will host air chiefs from 17 different nations. Air Force release