Air Force Reserve Still Suffering From “Maintainer Gap”

Unlike the Active Duty force, the Air Force Reserve has not been able to close its “maintainer gap,” and is struggling to retain sufficient numbers of skilled airmen in the face of the stress of repeated deployments and competition from higher paying jobs in the private sector, the service’s new reserve chief told a media roundtable at AFA’s 2018 Air, Space & Cyber Conference Wednesday. Read the full story by Shaun Waterman.

PACAF Boss: Future Deconfliction Line with Russia “Potentially” Possible

Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Charles Brown on Wednesday opened up the possibility of creating a communication line with Russia in the future to both avoid possible incidents throughout the Indo-Pacific region and perhaps gather some intelligence. When Brown was the commander of Air Forces Central Command in 2015 and 2016, the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid AB, Qatar, set up a deconfliction line with Russia to avoid potential incidents in the air over Syria. While the threat in the Pacific isn’t as urgent as it was at the time in Syria, a potential direct line could become useful, he said. “We don’t [have the line] right now. Is that an opportunity in the future? Potentially,” Brown said at AFA’s Air, Space, & Cyber 2018 Conference. “I think it actually helps us to avoid miscalculation.” The US and Russia talked daily on the deconfliction line, and the nature of the conversations led to a “better understanding of what the intent [was],” Brown said. The US could gather intelligence based on how Russia responded to what the US side said, and at times they “kept asking the same question a number of times,” which “gives us an indication of what they are concerned about.” The Pacific area of operations is vast, and Russian infiltration isn’t as big of a threat as it is in the Middle East or Europe, but judging by recent intercepts of Russian bombers in Alaska, there is still a presence that needs to be considered.—Brian Everstine

Valiant Shield Underway, Including F-35s for the First Time

The US military this week kicked off the massive exercise Valiant Shield 2018, bringing together 15,000 personnel and more than 160 aircraft including, for the first time, F-35s operating out of Guam. The exercise, which centers on the Marianas Island Range Complex, began Sunday and runs through Sept. 23, with the Air Force contingent operating out of Andersen AFB, Guam, and, for the first time, US Marine Corps F-35Bs from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121. The exercise doesn’t just focus on air, but also maritime operations with the focus “really on interoperability between different services in different domains,” Pacific Air Forces boss Gen. Charles Brown said Wednesday at ASC18. Other USAF involvement includes B-52s and tankers deployed to Andersen for the service’s continuous bomber presence. —Brian Everstine

Services Collaborate to Speed Up Hypersonics Development

The military services are coordinating their efforts on hypersonic weapons, and the collaboration has so far saved some 10 years of effort, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson this week at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the Fiscal 2020 budget request will include decisions that will shape the US military “for the next 50 years, and we’ve got 10 weeks to complete it.” The Pentagon, he said, is working with industry on new demonstrations that will be “quickly” turned into programs and new capabilities, citing hypersonics as one. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Rapid Sustainment Office to Focus on Cutting Costs of Ownership

The Air Force is setting up a Rapid Sustainment Office, modeled after the Rapid Capabilities Office, to focus innovation efforts on cutting ownership costs—the biggest part of USAF’s acquisition budget. The organization will have to pay for itself through savings, said Will Roper, the Air Force’s acquisition executive. “We don’t have a lot of innovation dollars in sustainment,” despite the fact that “it’s where 70 percent of our budget” goes, he said. The new office will have a short reporting chain, the ability to ask questions of operators that will use the product, a focus on innovation and improvement, and a charter to act swiftly. “It does not let perfect get in the way of good,” said Roper. The office is expected to “pay for itself. And then some,” Roper said, but the organization is on probation until it proves it can add value to the acquisition enterprise. Roper said USAF is “putting it in a two-year trial to see, [if it] can it produce sufficient efficiencies in sustainment?” The “pathfinding efforts that we’ve seen in the Air Force that have led us to propose this to the Secretary make us think that it will, and probably many times over.” Roper said some of the sustainment technologies with huge potential include 3-D printing, “Cold Spray” technology—in which microscopic metal particles sprayed onto parts make them stronger than with a weld repair and avoid scrapping old parts—and predictive analytics. —John A. Tirpak

Goldfein: “Core Joint Task Force Headquarters” Could Accelerate JTFs

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said the 9th Air Force will certify as a “core joint task force headquarters,” positioning it to help stand up Joint Task Force operations more quickly in an emergency. Standing up a JTF historically takes “about six weeks from a crisis,” and the aim is to shorten that cycle. Once certified in December, the 9th AF will “be able to cross the spectrum of conflict … from humanitarian relief operations, tsunami relief, flood zone relief, all the way to active combat operations.” “We believe that we need to have force offerings that are part of the global force multiplier, so that the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs], when a crisis erupts, can look at any of the services and pick that core headquarters, and then we build their joint man[ning] document, we build on that core,” he said. “All the services have that, so we’ve rebuilt that in 9th Air Force.” In the lead-up to the certification, he said, USAF is looking to “take that and expand that in other component-level Air Forces.” — Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

Multi-Domain Operations Similar to Current Integrated Operations, Hyten Says

The head of US Strategic Command Wednesday described the challenges of multi-domain operations as unique only because with the addition of cyber and space warfare they go beyond previously existing threats handled by integrated air, land, and sea operations. “It’s the same problem,” Gen. John Hyten said, “we just haven’t done it, so we have to step forward and figure out how to walk into that problem.” He said STRATCOM will use the planned establishment of a unified US Space Command as an opportunity to explore whether the command should be reorganized in the context of multi-domain operations, but said he didn’t think that was the case. Hyten said the US should deal with the new domains of cyber and space the same way it had dealt in the past with other areas beyond national authority, sea, and air, where the US built powerful capabilities—the Navy and Air Force—and then worked with the international community on international norms of behavior. —Steve Hirsch

DOD’s Shanahan: “Time Is Now” to Get F-35 Sustainment Right, Increase Productivity

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Wednesday called the F-35 a “remarkable” achievement, “critical to the high-end fight” and “our future,” but urged program managers to get its sustainment costs down and production up as quickly as possible. Speaking at ASC18, he expressed his “enormous respect” for F-35 leaders’ “talent and commitment” on such a complex program, but pointed out that “we’re at the front end” of F-35 service, “which means we can still set the bar high on sustainment.” He added, “The time is now. It’s tonight. It’s not next year.” He wants early and continuous improvement in combat mission capable rates, lower operating cost, and better “depot/supply chain performance.” He also said it’s “vital” that time limits be set for achieving cost and performance goals on the joint strike fighter. With years of production looming, a stable design, “talented workforce, and stable supply chain” conditions are right to “significantly increase productivity,” Shanahan intoned. Based on his years of building airplanes at Boeing, he said “we have the environment” to have a “very, very long production run and achieve significant cost savings” on the F-35. As for development, Shanahan warned that “we must improve our software development and hardware integration skills” so that the F-35 will “outpace and outperform our competitors.” He said he’s “encouraged” by efforts to “collapse software development time lines,” but “we need a similar mindset and ambition for test and certification.” No effort can be spared to ensure that the “lethality and affordability” of the F-35 continue to improve, he asserted. Further insisting, “We owe it to the Air Force to do both.” —John A. Tirpak


—The Senate Tuesday overwhelmingly passed compromise defense appropriations language for Fiscal 2019 that would provide $674.4 billion for defense spending, with a House vote expected next week.

—A new report from the Center for a New American Security concludes that China’s Belt and Road Strategy cements China’s status as a global power and puts the world economy at risk, but it also increases China’s competitive position, and threatens democracy in some countries while promoting low-quality development: CNAS.

—The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is investigating the death of SSgt. Robert Alvarez, an airman assigned to the 58th Airlift Squadron at Altus AFB, Okla., who was reported dead in a home on base Sept. 17: Altus release.

—The US joined 18 other NATO countries for the Sept. 15-16 NATO Days air show at Ostravia AB, Czech Republic. US Air Force participation included multiple aircraft and airmen from the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, and Active Duty units, as well as the USAFE Band: USAFE release.

—The Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday presented its first annual National Federal Facility Excellence in Site Reuse award to the former McClellan AFB, Calif., recognizing the conversion of the former Superfund site into a business park supporting more than 17,000 jobs: EPA Release.

—The Defense Department is in the final stages of a report that will rank military installations and ships by the likelihood that service members may face sexual harassment or assault: Military Times.

—An Arkansas federal grand jury has issued a second indictment against Rodrigo Pineda Gomez, and his son, Miguel Gomez, charging that the father tried to kill a US airman in Japan: Air Force Times.