USAF Takes Big Hit as DOD Reprograms Funds to Pay for Border Wall
The Air Force is taking the largest service-specific cut as the Pentagon reprograms funds to build a wall along the southern border. The Pentagon announced May 10 it is reprogramming about $1.5 billion from appropriated operations and maintenance and overseas contingency operations funding to build 78.25 miles of fencing in four projects around Tucson, Ariz., and El Centro, Texas. That includes $818.5 million that will be moved from fiscal 2019 appropriated funding, including $402.3 million from USAF programs, and $681.5 million that will be pulled from overseas contingency operations funds. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
B-52 Flies First Mission in Task Force Deployment
A B-52 from the recently deployed Bomber Task Force to the Middle East flew its first mission on May 12, alongside F-15Cs and F-35s to “defend American forces and interests.” Air Forces Central Command posted imagery of the B-52s taking off from Al Udeid AB, Qatar, and the three types of aircraft refueling from a KC-135 over an “undisclosed location” in CENTCOM. AFCENT did not expand on the mission, saying the “B-52H offers diverse capabilities including the delivery of precision weapons” to support “security and stability.” AFCENT, in an email to Air Force Magazine, would not elaborate on the specific mission but emphasized that the aircraft are flying “deterrence missions in the region,” including over the Persian Gulf. Photographs showed empty bomb pylons under the bomber’s wing, along with a targeting pod. The four bombers deployed to Al Udeid from Barksdale AFB, La., last week in response to “credible” threats from Iran, according to Defense Department and White House officials. The Pentagon on May 10 also approved the deployment of a Patriot missile defense battery and the amphibious transport dock USS Arlington to the region, in addition to the bombers and the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike group. The Pentagon noted in a statement the Defense Department is closely monitoring the Iranian regime. “The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend US forces and interests in the region,” according to the statement. —Brian Everstine
Technical Issue Delays Nuclear Bomb Refurbishment
Technical difficulties will push back delivery of the Air Force’s first B61-12 nuclear bomb, a newly reconfigured version of four earlier B61 variants that can rely either on gravity or on a digital seeker to hit its target. “NNSA has identified a technical issue with the B61-12 life-extension program that is expected to delay the March 2020 first production unit,” a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration told Air Force Magazine in a May 13 email. “The technical issue relates to the qualification testing of electrical components used in non-nuclear assemblies over the full, multi-decade lifecycle.” The spokesman declined to answer how long the delay could last and how it may affect other key points in the weapon’s schedule, saying those impacts are still being assessed. “NNSA is working aggressively to minimize the delay in close coordination with the Department of Defense,” the spokesman said. The Energy Department agency handles the program’s warhead, while the Air Force oversees guidance tailkit assembly. The Air Force’s F-15E, F-16, F-35, and B-2 are slated to carry the weapon. —Rachel S. Cohen
Grand Forks Host Wing Redesignated as a Reconnaissance Wing
The host wing at Grand Forks AFB, N.D., has been redesignated as the 319th Reconnaissance Wing as the base increases its RQ-4 surveillance mission. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson on May 11 announced the 319th Air Base Wing will be the 319th RW, a move initiated by Air Combat Command. The base had flown RQ-4s as the 69th Reconnaissance Group, which was aligned under the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB, Calif., since 2011. Under the change, the 69th RG will inactivate, and the 319th Operations Group will stand up independent of Beale under the 319th AW, according to a Grand Forks release.
Services Reconsider Military Spouse Work Rules Overseas
Air Force, Navy, and Army officials are taking a joint look at the rules governing where and how military spouses can make a living overseas, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said on May 13. Following a recent trip to Italy, Wilson told reporters she learned that spouses who can work remotely or are self-employed aren’t allowed to use their overseas mailbox for business purposes, regardless of where they are stationed. “That’s a real limitation,” she said. “Can we change that? So we’ve directed our teams to get together. I think it was a three- or six-month report, to get out there, listen to what the issues are, what are the barriers, and how do we take them down?” The move comes as some states have adopted universal professional licensing so teachers and others with career-specific certifications can find jobs across state lines more easily. The service Secretaries also have agreed to streamline how the military develops and buys gear that doesn’t need to be service-specific, like body armor or painters’ face masks. —Rachel S. Cohen
Air Force Moving Weapons Testing Program, Jobs to Hill AFB
The Air Force is moving a significant weapons testing program to Hill Air Force Base, which will bring new jobs and according to one federal lawmaker, add to the base’s standing within the Department of Defense. Standard-Examiner
Air Force Gains Increased Capacity with New Anti-Jamming Satellite
The Air Force took control of the fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite on May 3, marking a step forward in the service’s efforts to provide jam-resistant communications for the military. C4ISRNET
DARPA Seeks Proposals for AI-Driven Close-Range Air Combat
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking proposals to automate air-to-air combat as part of its Air Combat Evolution (ACE) programme. Air Force Technology
Rolls-Royce Unveils Hybrid Power System for Laser Weapons
Rolls-Royce has been quietly developing an integral system required to operate laser weapons on the battlefield for about a decade in its LibertyWorks division, which is the company’s internal advanced technology unit based in Indianapolis. Defense News
Changes to Post-9/11 GI Bill Transfers Effective July 2019
Effective 7/12/2019, eligibility to transfer benefits will be limited to service members with at least 6 years but not more than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service, so service members with more than 16 years of service should transfer benefits before 7/12/2019. USAF release
One More Thing …
“The Cold Blue”
William Wyler, who directed “Ben-Hur” and “The Best Years of Our Lives” among many other classic films, went to Europe in 1943 to document the air war in progress. He flew combat missions with B-17s, and one of his three cinematographers was killed during filming. Incredibly, all the raw color footage Wyler shot for the B-17 Memphis Belle was recently discovered at the National Archives, and a new film has been constructed out of the material. See the trailer and screening locations at Fathom Events.