As Hurricane Michael Hits, NORTHCOM Surrounds Florida’s Panhandle with Search and Rescue, Supplies

US Northern Command has deployed search and rescue teams and disaster response supplies throughout the southeast as Hurricane Michael pounded the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday with 147 mile per hour winds. The Category 4 storm forced the Air Force to evacuate the 601st Air Operations Center to another location in the country, while Air Force pararescuemen, rescue aircraft, and airlifters stand by. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

USAF Faces Challenge in Meeting Mattis’s Readiness Goal

The Air Force is shifting resources and manpower to the 203 squadrons that are the “most relevant to a high-end fight” in the wake of a directive from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to increase readiness on key airframes—including the F-35, F-22, and F-16—by the end of the fiscal year. Mattis, last month, called on the Air Force to increase its mission capable rate of key fighter aircraft to 80 percent. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

USAF Highly Confident it Has T-6 Oxygen Fix Right

The Air Force is confident it has identified the root cause of physiological incidents plaguing its T-6 fleet, and that both a short-term approach focusing on maintenance and a long-term plan to redesign the aircraft’s oxygen system will fix the problem. USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, speaking Wednesday at a Senate Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing, said the series of incidents in the T-6 fleet was related to the “concentration of oxygen levels at various parameters of flight falling behind what was required.” For example, if a pilot was executing a high-G maneuver or at a higher level of flight, the level of oxygen provided through the on-board oxygen generation system was not correct. In the near-term, the Air Force and Navy, which also flies the T-6 and joined up with the Air Force to investigate the issue, is reviewing all of the maintenance best practices and has “changed significantly the way we’re maintaining a key part of the system,” Goldfein said. In the long-term, the Air Force has a team beginning a redesign of the OBOGS system. Air Education and Training Commander Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast said last month this task, a joint effort between AETC and Air Force Materiel Command, will last two to four years. Goldfein said Wednesday that when a solution is found, it will be a “priority” for the Air Force to implement it. —Brian Everstine

Blue Origin, Northrop, ULA Win Development Contracts for Next-Generation Rocket

The Air Force on Wednesday awarded three contracts for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle services to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, and the United Launch Alliance, notably leaving out SpaceX as the service begins development of its next generation launch providers. Each company will receive $181 million to begin development of a new launch system as the Air Force transitions away from the Russian-made RD-180 and looks to next generation providers. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Air Force Using Modeling, Simulation to Predict Military Construction

The Air Force is changing how it is addressing its aging bases and infrastructure, using high-tech tools to predict what work needs to be done instead of waiting for the worst to happen. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, speaking Wednesday at a Senate Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing, said the service recently finished a study using computer and modeling simulation, based on recent years of maintenance and military construction records, to plan out a new way to address upkeep of its bases. Previously, the Air Force was “funding the worst infrastructure first. We would wait until it was expensive to fix, and then we [would] fix it,” she said. Using a new plan, the Air Force wants to fix infrastructure before it gets expensive. There is still aging infrastructure that just isn’t cost effective to fix, so in future budgets the Air Force plans to increase funding to destroy those facilities so it can get the worst 5 percent of buildings “off the books,” said Wilson, citing structures that date back to the Korean War as an example of ones that “we shouldn’t maintain.” The new, simulation-based plan will drive master plans for each facility, Wilson said. The service changes commanders at each location so quickly, there needs to be a longer-term focus that can outlast each commander to drive construction, she said. —Brian Everstine


—Airmen assigned to the 94th Fighter Squadron returned to JB Langley-Eustis, Va., on Wednesday from a six-month deployment to the Middle East. While deployed, the F-22 Raptors supported anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria: DOD release.

—The Air Force plans to conduct up to 160 urban warfare games in nine towns in southwestern Idaho. Some of the exercises could include airmen dressed in civilian clothes, communicating with USAF aircraft overhead as they operate out of areas such as downtown Boise: Idaho Press.