Wilson: New Strategies, Stable Funding Needed to Keep Air Superiority

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, in her first State of the Air Force speech, sounded the alarm on the service’s declining readiness, and announced an in-depth review of the service’s science and technology strategy. Wilson placed her aim directly on Congress, who for nine of the past 10 years, has passed 31 continuing resolutions instead of passing a new budget, while at the same time enacting budget limits. This has impacted the service’s ability to fight in high-end missions. ” Americans need to understand low readiness for a crisis doesn’t mean we won’t go. We will go. What it means is that fewer will come back,” Wilson said. Read the full report by Brian Everstine.

US, Coalition Face ‘Contested and Congested’ Airspace in ISIS Fight

The air war over Syria is “contested and congested,” pressing airmen to be ready to make tough decisions in dynamic situations to protect friendly forces. Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of Air Forces Central Command, said his airmen are in a high operations tempo focusing on “crushing ISIS”—dropping between 150 and 175 bombs per day—in airspace complicated by Syria, Russia, and remotely piloted aircraft operated by multiple countries. This situation played out in the June downing of a Syrian Air Force jet and two remotely piloted aircraft. Read the full report by Brian Everstine.

ACC Moving Ahead on JSTARS, ‘Talks About’ Other Options

The Air Force is on track to announce its source selection for JSTARS recapitalization in March, provided the Pentagon and Congress decide to go forward on the program as is, said Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command. The Air Force is “talking about some options” regarding the future of JSTARS, but “we haven’t changed anything” and “source selection continues,” Holmes said. Earlier this month, the Georgia congressional delegation wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, expressing concern that the Air Force is exploring “alternative intelligence and surveillance platforms” instead of replacing the E-8C. Holmes, speaking to reporters at ASC17, said the service is just “taking a look at options” to see if there are capabilities now that could be “tied together’ to give an interim capability. For example, there is a possibility that this is not a final way forward, however. “If we integrate and recapitalize the current platform in the same way to do what we’ve been doing, we don’t need another study to do that,” he said. The current process and the current request for proposals is the right way to move ahead on replacing the E-8C. But the “threat constantly changes and improves” and there is a possibility that a different system could be needed. In that case, a source selection would be delayed and the process could change, he said. –Brian Everstine

Space, Cyber Problems Are Results of American ‘Hubris’

The head of Air University told attendees of ASC17 the military is digging itself into a hole trying to solve its space and cyber woes by focusing on end products. Instead, he said, the service needs to accept its vulnerability and focus on people first, an approach that will eventually result in stronger ideation and tools. The current model of attacking the tool requirements first is detrimental to both enterprises. “We’ve gotten lazy in our habits of problem solving,” he said about cyber. “If we were good at perpetuating those habits that the World War II generations taught us, we would have never fallen into the trap we’re in right now. It’s a form of arrogance or hubris.” Read the full story from Gideon Grudo. 

USAF Wraps Up Light Attack Experiment, Looks at Light ISR

The Air Force’s Light Attack Experiment has wrapped up, and now the service is deciding which of the entrants will fly in a real-life combat demonstration. Meanwhile, the team that ran the experiment at Holloman AFB, N.M., is looking how it can serve as a model for new experiments. For example, Air Combat Command boss Gen. Mike Holmes said a possibility is using the Textron AirLand Scorpion as a possible “light” intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance system. The aircraft has payload space and cooling capability that could be used to carry sensors and networking systems to find targets cheaper than the Air Force’s “flagship, high-altitude” ISR systems, such as U-2s and RQ-4 Global Hawks. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

USAF Creating Worldwide Logistics Network to Manage Materiel

Air Force Materiel Command boss Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski spoke at ASC17 about the steps USAF is taking to increase its efficiency and affordability in the realm of materiel production, an example of which is the service’s development of a global logistics command and control network to fuse together all aspects of the enterprise. Read the full story from Gideon Grudo.

Northrop Grumman Acquires Orbital ATK

Northrop Grumman has acquired aerospace technology company Orbital ATK for $7.8 billion in cash, the companies announced Monday. Northrop also assumed $1.4 billion in debt in the deal. Orbital ATK was formed in 2015 out of the merger of Orbital Sciences Corporation and Alliant Techsystems. Space systems and missile defense programs are two focus areas where, “when we combine the two companies together, we provide a different range of capabilities,” Northrop CEO Wes Bush told reporters by phone conference. Orbital ATK has also reported $1.6 billion in revenue from its flight systems sector, including space launch vehicles and propulsion systems. This experience should prove useful for Northrop, which recently won a design contract to work on the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, the Air Force’s next intercontinental ballistic missile system. Orbital ATK will become a new, fourth business sector for Northrop, which expects the deal to be formally closed sometime in the first half of 2018. —Wilson Brissett

Textron Procures World’s Largest Privately Owned Supersonic Fleet

The Air Force is preparing to contract out nearly 40,000 hours of Red Air in the next few years and industry is working hard to fill the massive requirement. Textron Airborne Solutions recently acquired 63 F1 Mirage aircraft, formerly owned by the French Air Force, 151 spare engines, and six million spare parts and equipment, making it the “world’s largest private supersonic air force,” said Jeffrey Parker, chief executive officer of the Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), which was bought by Textron last year in anticipation of a rapidly growing contracted Aggressor market. The company plans to overhaul the aircraft’s avionics, and conduct other modifications specifically catered to USAF requirements, which are still being finalized. Air Combat Command boss Gen. Mike Holmes said he expects that to happen this fall. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

Lockheed Martin T-X Would Absorb Half of F-16 Training

The training syllabus for the Lockheed Martin/Korean Aerospace Industries T-50A is so common to that of the F-16 that Air Combat Command could offload 50 percent of tasks taught on the F-16 to the T-50A, Lockheed Martin consultant retired Gen. Don Cook said Monday in promoting the jet. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

GBSD Must Be Adaptable, Affordable

As Northrop Grumman and Boeing mature their designs for the Air Force’s Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), the focus will be on producing a Minuteman III replacement system that is adaptable and affordable. “We are in a crazy world” of proliferating nuclear threats, Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said during a strategic deterrence panel Monday at ASC17. While the current ICBM fleet is “pretty damn effective,” as a deterrent, Rand said the modernization of that system is necessary to meet today’s global threat landscape. Program leaders for Northrop and Boeing said open systems architecture and model-based systems engineering will be crucial to developing a ground-based deterrent that can meet the technical challenges at an affordable price. Read the full report by Wilson Brissett.

Air Force Academy Focused on Cyber Defense, IT Development

New Air Force Academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria is planning to build on the accomplishments of his predecessor in information technology infrastructure and cyber defense training. “It was behind,” Silveria said of the IT system at the Academy. But as he stepped into the job in August, the school had “just finished the transition” away from an institutionally-unique education technology system and toward using the industry-standard Blackboard platform, Silveria told Air Force Magazine Monday at ASC17. The new system will be much more efficient. The Academy is also in the middle of a library renovation project—called the Library of the Future—that has transformed the antiquated academic environs and created a “collaborative work space” centered around new working “pods” with network connectivity. The library also has new space for the Academy’s CyberWorx lab, which is a problem-solving space focused on developing cyber warfare solutions. Silveria said cadets train in both “offensive and defensive” cyber tactics in the CyberWorx lab, focusing on projects related to their major field of study. In the spring, the Academy expects to graduate 27 computer science majors, its highest number ever. Silveria hopes the mission of CyberWorx will also evolve over time to allow all cadets to gain crucial experience in this new domain of warfare. —Wilson Brissett


—Two USAF B-1B bombers and four USMC F-35B fighters joined South Korean F-15Ks and Japanese F-2s in flying a show of force mission over the waters near Kyushu, Japan, Sunday. US Pacific Air Forces said the mission came as a direct response to the most recent North Korean ballistic missile launch on Sept. 14: PACAF release.

—On Sept. 16, Russian forces struck an area east of the Euphrates River in Syria near Dayr Az Zawr, causing injuries to Coalition partner forces and wounding Syrian troops: USAF release.

—In attempting to decipher what’s led to a recent spat of military deaths, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is investigating the branches’ inability to say “no” to missions, despite a potential inability to complete them: Military Times.