USAF to Redesign Oxygen System on T-6 Fleet After Repeated Hypoxia-Like Issues

The Air Force plans to redesign the oxygen system in its T-6 Texan II fleet after an exhaustive study determined that varying levels of oxygen concentrations were to blame for the hypoxia-like symptoms reported by pilots. The redesign of the Onboard Oxygen Generation System is expected to take two to four years, the service announced Thursday. At the same time, USAF will work with industry to stabilize oxygen levels in flight, and it has partnered with the Navy to come up with new maintenance procedures intended to ensure the OBOGS system operates effectively. AETC also will offer additional training to its pilots. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

Hurricane Florence Watch: 7,000 Troops Ready, Thousands More Standing By

The military has 7,000 troops and dozens of aircraft on immediate standby, with thousands more ready to immediately deploy once Hurricane Florence makes landfall early Friday and begins to bring damage to the East Coast. USAF pararescuemen are ready to launch at Moody AFB, Ga., with more Guard combat search and rescue forces from across the country deployed and standing by. Read the full story by Brian Everstine and Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

CMSAF: USAF Looking at New Ways to Improve Resilience, Fight Suicide

The Air Force is testing out new ways to improve airman resilience, including increasing the availability of mental health professionals to continue to combat the rise of suicide and other mental health issues in its ranks. CMSAF Kaleth Wright, in a wide-ranging “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, said the Air Force’s resilience leaders are working with medical and mental health communities and commands to improve communication, since regulations and privacy restrictions can limit information between airmen and commanders. Additionally, the Air Force has beta tests of Task Force True North teams at Minot AFB, N.D.; Whiteman AFB, Mo.; and JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; where the service is embedding mental health professionals, chaplains, and other agencies directly in units to improve resilience, Wright said. “I think what we really need is more engaged leadership at the unit level to really help with this,” Wright wrote. “Supervisors who are more engaged and care about their people can really assist us with this issue more than any program or process.” —Brian Everstine

Russian Aircraft Intercepted West of Alaska, NORAD Says

Two F-22s assigned to JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, intercepted two Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bombers accompanied by two Su-35 “Flanker” fighter jets west of mainland Alaska around 10 p.m. Tuesday, the Pentagon said. The Russian aircraft stayed in international airspace, entering neither US nor Canadian airspace in the incident. “The homeland is no longer a sanctuary and the ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure, and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching US and Canadian airspace,” NORAD Commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said. O’Shaughnessy, speaking during a Thursday briefing at the Pentagon, said the F-22s launched with an E-3 Sentry AWACS to intercept the bomber. While the Russian flight was not directly connected with the large Vostok exercise in the east of the country, it is “very much” related to Russia’s focus on readiness. The intercept happened as US Northern Command is preparing for Hurricane Florence, and shows that the US military is “maintaining our ability to respond” to threats while the possible natural disaster develops, O’Shaughnessy said. —Steve Hirsch and Brian Everstine

Conferees OK Fiscal 2019 Defense Spending Bill for Final House, Senate Approval

House and Senate conferees Thursday agreed on “minibus” appropriations legislation that includes Defense Department spending levels for Fiscal 2019. The action follows House passage if its $674.6 billion version of the bill in June and Senate passage if its $675 billion version in August. The text of the bill was not released, but will likely be available Friday and will probably be taken up by the Senate next week and the House the week after that. The conferees’ decision came one day after more than a dozen Republicans, led by former A-10 pilot Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), penned a letter urging conferees to accept the House-proposed $144 million figure for A-10 re-winging, which is $65 million more than the Air Force’s initial budget request, and falls in line with the level included in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. The letter called the A-10 “one of the most utilized aircraft across multiple theaters” and asked conference committee members to fully fund the program “to mitigate aircraft groundings and prevent a critical capability gap in the operational fleet.” —Steve Hirsch

Senior House Armed Services Democrat Blasts Trump Space Force Proposal

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday slammed the Trump administration’s proposal for a Space Force as too expensive, and criticized Trump for politicizing the issue. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said in a prepared statement that he opposed the proposal because he was worried it “would create additional costly military bureaucracy at a time when we have limited resources for defense and critical domestic priorities,” adding that he does “not believe it is the best way to advance US national security.” In addition, Smith said he was “deeply offended” by the way Trump had “politicized the issue of national security space by asking his campaign donors to choose a logo for a ‘Space Force’ and treating it as his own pet project.” He acknowledged the importance of space and that the US must do a better job of dealing with space as a national security priority. “I will continue to work toward a smarter, more effective approach,” he said. —Steve Hirsch

Lockheed Developing “Extreme Range” JASSM Variant

Lockheed Martin has received a $50 million Air Force contract to design, develop, and test an upgrade to the JASSM family of standoff stealth cruise missiles. The new variant, called JASSM-XR, for “Extreme Range” will have new wings, a new mission computer, and an upgraded GPS system. The Air Force could not immediately say if the new variant will bear the designation AGM-158D, but the baseline JASSM, the JASSM-ER, and the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) variants carry the AGM-158A, B, and C designations. The JASSM-ER (Extended Range) has an acknowledged range of 500 nautical miles, so the XR version would presumably improve on that. The contract calls for work to be completed in 2023, but the Air Force could not immediately say when the new configuration will be cut into the production line. USAF has built more than 2,000 JASSM-ERs. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

PACAF Claims Victory in Defender Challenge

Pacific Air Forces took the top prize in the 2018 Defender Challenge, which returned this year after a 14-year break. Fourteen security forces teams from each USAF major command, along with the United Kingdom and Germany, competed in the three-day competition at JBSA-Camp Bullis, Texas. The event included dismounted operations, weapons challenges, and combat endurance events.


—Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the service is not interested in purchasing an advanced version of the F-15 or a hybrid version of the F-22 Raptor and F-35 strike fighter, saying the service should invest instead in the F-35: Defense News.

—The US conducted an airstrike against al Shabaab forces in Mubaraak, Somalia, on Sept. 11. US Africa Command assesses that two terrorists were killed and one was wounded: AFRICOM Twitter announcement.

—At the request of US Strategic Command, a three-man innovation team at McConnell AFB, Kan., has used 3-D printed parts to create a solar-powered communications system that can be used “for everything from bare base set-ups to exercises:” USAF release.