NNSA: New GBSD Warhead Plan Costs Slightly More Than Refurbished Option

The National Nuclear Security Administration is now pursuing a safer warhead variant to fly on the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent that could cost up to $15 billion or so, and has dropped its plan to refurbish the current intercontinental ballistic missile warhead and package it with a Navy weapon. According to a December 2018 NNSA report to Congress that Air Force Magazine viewed Jan. 29, the new W87-1 is expected to cost between $8.6 billion and $14.8 billion before accounting for the fissile pit inside. It is designed to be less susceptible to detonating in an accident. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

DOD Needs $395.6M More to Fix, Replace Hurricane-Ravaged Caribbean Facilities

The Defense Department needs an additional $395.6 million in federal funding to fix or replace its facilities in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands that were damaged during the 2017 hurricane season, according to a Jan. 2 Pentagon report viewed by Air Force Magazine this week. The number is in addition to $1.2 billion DOD said it needed for hurricane response and recovery in November 2017, and includes the $50 million price tag of replacing the Air National Guard’s C-130 maintenance hangar and communications facility at Puerto Rico’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory and Rachel S. Cohen.

Moody Pave Hawk Crews to Use New Deployment Model

The 347th Rescue Group at Moody AFB, Ga., is employing a new model to keep combat search and rescue crews flying together for an entire deployment. The 38th and 41st Rescue Squadrons have formed “hard teams” of Pave Hawk pilots and special mission aviators who are training together and will fly every mission together as a way to learn to operate at the highest level during real-life missions. “We owe it to the people, whatever service they’re a part of or whatever the situation is, to [perform] at our peak,” said Capt. Jesse Reynolds, a 41st RQS pilot, in a release. “We owe it to (the people we save) to be constant and always working to improve so that when we’re needed, we’re ready to perform the mission.” The crews recently trained together in a “spin-up” exercise at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla., to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Under regular deployment models, Pave Hawk crews integrate with a Guardian Angel team from another base at a forward location.

Third and Fourth KC-46s Delivered to McConnell

The Air Force on Thursday took delivery of the third and fourth KC-46 tankers, less than a week after the first two landed at McConnell AFB, Kan. Two VIPs—USAF Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, the director of staff for headquarters Air Force—flew the two tankers from Boeing’s production facility in Everett, Wash., to McConnell. The deliveries continue the pace Boeing is expecting to set through the next year, averaging three KC-46 deliveries per month for a total of 36. The first four were delivered to McConnell, the first USAF operating location for the jet, and Boeing said last week it expects deliveries to Altus AFB, Okla., to begin next month. —Brian Everstine

Air Force Certifies Device Aimed at Addressing T-6 Oxygen Problems

The Air Force has flight tested a newly developed helmet insert aimed at detecting imminent incapacitation due to hypoxia, following ongoing incidents in the service’s T-6 trainer fleet. Technology company Spotlight Labs on Wednesday announced that its SPYDR device has been approved for flights in USAF aircraft after testing in altitude chambers and being used in more than 100 T-6 flights at two bases. The device, developed by former fighter pilots and engineers, is inserted into a helmet and collects biometric and aircraft condition data to warn pilots of incapacitation and records flight data for analysis, the company said in a Wednesday release. The Air Force has taken several steps to try to address ongoing oxygen issues in the T-6 fleet, including redesigning the oxygen system and holding a “hackathon” with experts to find ways to tackle the problem. The problem caused a grounding of the fleet last year, leading to a delay in the training of pilots. —Brian Everstine

US Strikes Al Shabaab in Somalia Again as Pace of Operations Increases

US forces continued its increased pace of strikes in Somalia on Wednesday, hitting an al-Shabaab encampment in the rural central area of the country. US Africa Command in a Thursday statement said the strike killed 24 militants, but said it did not assess any civilian injuries. The strike, in conjunction with the Somali government, is the ninth in January, after eight in December and seven in November. One strike on Jan. 19 reportedly killed 52 militants. —Brian Everstine

Watchdog Report Highlights Shortfalls in Afghan Air Force Capability, Training

The Afghan Air Force does not have enough pilots, or a maintenance training course, for its new fleet of UH-60 Black Hawks, the Pentagon’s watchdog for Afghan reconstruction concludes in a new report. The AAF is expected to bring on 159 of the helicopters to replace its Russian-made Mi-17s, though pilots are not being trained fast enough and US contractors are providing all maintenance, at a heavy price. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Group of HASC Democrats Calls for Expanded Pentagon Climate Change Report

A trio of House Armed Services Committee Democrats wants the Defense Department to revise its January 2019 climate change report, saying NDAA-mandated elements of the document are missing, and criticizing DOD for not evaluating risks posed to Marine Corps bases and overseas installations across all of the services. They expressed their concerns in a Jan. 25 letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.


US to Announce Suspension of INF Treaty Compliance: US Officials

The United States will announce it is suspending its compliance with the U.S.-Russian Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, four U.S. officials said on Thursday. Reuters

US Air Force Flies 2 B-52H Bombers Over East China Sea

The two bombers flew an 11-hour mission over the East China Sea and Sea of Japan on January 28. The Diplomat

US Air Force’s Light-Attack Experiment Could Mix in Drones and Helos

The U.S. Air Force’s light-attack experiment is set to get a lot bigger, with the service considering adding drones, helicopters and more sophisticated aircraft to the mix in the future, the service’s top general told Defense News.

Did Defense Officials Hide Border Mission Details From Congress

Lawmakers want to know if Defense Department officials intentionally hid plans to boost troop deployments along the US southern border when they testified before Congress this week. Military Times

US Military Space Plane Wings Past 500 Days on Latest Mystery Mission

The secretive mission of a U.S. Air Force X-37B miniature space plane just winged past 500 days of flight. Space.com

One More Thing …

Crash of Russian Air Force Tupolev TU-22M3 Supersonic Bomber Caught on Video

On 22 January 2019, a Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-22M supersonic bomber crashed durig landing at its home base in Olenegorsk, Russia. The supersonic bomber was returning from a routine training mission in the early afternoon and attempted to land at Olenegorsk Air Base near Murmansk in Russia. Aviation24