House Appropriators Want to Cut Back on Sentinel in 2025, Study Mobile Basing

House Appropriators Want to Cut Back on Sentinel in 2025, Study Mobile Basing

The House Appropriations Committee, frustrated with soaring costs and schedule slips on the new Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile, wants to slash the Air Force’s 2025 budget request for the program by $324 million. But lawmakers also want the service to leave program leaders in place longer and explore an old idea for the Sentinel: giving it some kind of mobility to complicate enemy targeting.

The committee, in its mark of the 2025 defense appropriations bill, would still direct some $3.4 billion for Sentinel in the coming fiscal year. And in accompanying report language, lawmakers noted their prior support for the program to the tune of more than $12.5 billion since 2020.

Ultimately, however, they want to cut the Air Force request by around 8.7 percent because of “insufficient justification and program uncertainty for execution needs in 2025,” which typically means it doesn’t think the Air Force will spend as much as it planned in that year.

Sentinel is currently undergoing a review, having substantially overrun its cost and schedule estimates. The Air Force estimates the Sentinel will cost 37 percent more than expected and is now running two years behind schedule.

Under the Nunn-McCurdy law, the Secretary of Defense must certify that there is no alternative to the Sentinel or he must cancel the program. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III is expected to certify the Sentinel as essential and should continue in early July, after a mandated investigation and report of how the overrun occurred. However, the Air Force has said it is not suspending any activities of the program and is proceeding with it while the review takes place.

“While supportive of the capability, the committee was stunned to learn about the critical Program Acquisition Cost breach of at least 37 percent and an average Procurement Unit Cost breach of at least 19 percent that were determined following a review of the program in December 2023,” the House Appropriations Committee wrote in its report.

Even while noting the challenges inherent in such a massive program—requiring development and testing of a new missile, rehabilitation of more than 150 silos with new concrete, wiring, and a secure communications system to command and control it—lawmakers said they are “concerned that the issues driving the critical overruns were not identified sooner, the level of flawed technical assumptions, and the management continuity of the program.”

Not having long-term leadership managing Sentinel is “contributing to poor program performance, cost overruns, and schedule slips,” the lawmakers suggested. The committee directed the Government Accountability Office to study how the turnover in program managers has affected the its performance.

But the HAC also indicated it won’t simply rubber-stamp continued work of the Sentinel.

“The committee expects a full discussion on all statutorily required aspects of the Nunn-McCurdy review; specifically alternatives considered, including those recommended” in a 2023 report from the “Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States.”

Along those lines, lawmakers want another report from the Secretaries of Defense and the Air Force, along with the head of U.S. Strategic Command—within six months from passage of the defense bill—”on the most feasible recommendations highlighted in the Commission’s report related to interim capability to augment a potential capability gap caused by delays in Sentinel, to include the feasibility of fielding some portion of the future intercontinental ballistic missile force in a road-mobile configuration.”

The report is to include an assessment of “technical attributes, cost, timeline, workforce limitations, and treaty considerations.”

The Air Force extensively explored mobile options for the LGM-118 Peacekeeper missile (previously called the “M-X”), which was fielded in 1985 and removed from the inventory under the START treaty in 2005. Such options included moving the missiles around quickly and unpredictably from one silo to another; this shell game would force the Soviet Union to target all silos, not knowing which were occupied and which were empty. “Rail garrison” would have disguised the missiles as commercial freight on rail lines, able to stop, elevate and launch on short notice, depriving the Soviets of a certain target.

Another option involved towing missiles around on transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) and moving them routinely but unpredictably so that their location was not fixed, removing the certainty that precise incoming missiles would catch them all in a first strike. The Air Force took this approach to the point of prototyping competitive TELs from Boeing and Martin Marietta. Other alternatives included moving the missiles around in underground tunnels or dropping them out the back of a C-5 Galaxy transport.

Given the inability to find consensus with Congress on a mobile basing system, the Reagan administration ultimately opted to put the first 50 Peacekeepers in Minuteman silos, leaving the mobility issue unresolved. In 1991, the mobility concept was dropped.

Former Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told Air Force Magazine in 2013 that a road-mobile option for Sentinel, then called the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), had been determined to be unnecessary, given silo hardening and the need for an enemy to target hundreds of silos without any certainty of total success. Fixed-site ICBMS were the most responsive and lowest-cost element of the nuclear triad, Welsh said.

The Soviet Union—and now China—have put a substantial portion of their strategic nuclear missiles on mobile launchers as well as in silos.

In yet more homework for the Air Force, the HAC wants to mandate quarterly updates from the Secretary of the Air Force “on the land-based nuclear capability.”

How Air Force Pilot Training Can Take a Page from Predictive Maintenance

How Air Force Pilot Training Can Take a Page from Predictive Maintenance

The ABCs of air-to-air combat, Basic Fighter Maneuvers, are taught to Air Force fighter pilots early in their careers. But in 2018, F-15E pilot Matthew Ross nearly failed out of an instructor upgrade course because his BFM skills had gone to seed; he had just spent six months flying close air support over the Middle East, and before that he spent six months learning flight command for a multiship flight lead upgrade.

“I was supposed to be good enough to teach a student, and I really struggled at it,” he told Air & Space Forces Magazine.

In an era of shrinking aircraft fleets, nearly every fighter pilot must know how to fly a wide range of missions. But the Air Force’s software tools for tracking those skills are decades out-of-date and often rely on subjective assessments, which hinders combat readiness and wastes scarce resources, Ross said.

He’s not the only one calling for smarter use of data. In February, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. “Jim” Slife said the service was missing out on a “decisive advantage” in training, operations, maintenance, and logistics offered by the data produced by digital flight systems.

”There’s lessons learned built into that,” Slife said about the terabytes of data produced by F-35 flight systems. “There’s mistakes than can be learned from in there, there’s the bad radio call, there’s the signal we’ve never seen before.” That data could be used “to feed our algorithms, to power accurate AI models.”

The head of Air Education and Training Command made a similar call in May to use data to make the training system more efficient.

“We don’t have time to accept wasted time in training pipelines, [and] substandard developmental and training paths,” Lt. Gen. Brian S. Robinson said May 7 at the Air Force Modeling & Simulation Summit in San Antonio, Texas. The benefits will also spill over into operational wings when they train at home, he said.

air force pilot
U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Christopher Ahn, Pilot Training Next student, trains on a virtual reality flight simulator, at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Austin, Texas, June 21, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

Better tools exist which could track each pilot’s strengths and weaknesses more closely using objective data and help tailor their training accordingly, Ross said. It would also help squadron commanders better understand their unit’s readiness on a near real-time basis.

“The Air Force understands that there’s skill decay, and right now the way it deals with it is just a generalized statement of ‘you need a few months to get your skills back,’” said Ross, who has since left Active-Duty and joined the Air National Guard. “There’s no reason to act like that now, because we have such powerful techniques and models that can do it at a more individualized level.”

The Status Quo

While Air Force fighter squadrons use plenty of objective metrics to gauge the health of their aircraft, the list is not so long for aviator training. Generally, less experienced pilots must fly nine sorties and three simulator events per month and fill out a training accomplishment report for each, while more experienced pilots are required to fly fewer sorties. Commanders then review the reports once a month to determine if the squadron is trained or needs more practice in certain mission sets, but frequently the assessment boils down to whether each pilot hit their minimum number of sorties.

The problem with this approach, Ross argued in a commentary piece for War On the Rocks in January, is that the commander’s assessment is a best guess based on imprecise data compiled and assessed on just one day each month.

“The commander could decide to declare, on a per-pilot basis, who is mission-ready for each mission,” Ross wrote. “However, unless a commander has intimate knowledge of every skill of every pilot, then these determinations are—at best—a guess.”

In a different era, this approach may have been the best one, he said, but advanced analytics and artificial intelligence can help a commander gauge his or her pilots’ abilities in every mission task on-demand. The Air Force-MIT AI Accelerator already has an AI-infused scheduling program called NICE that would work with what Ross is proposing, he said.

“We could make this system very easy for commanders, scheduling officers, and the director of operations so they can schedule the appropriate people on the right days for the mission sets that they need to maintain their readiness,” he explained. “We can do this in near-real time, and day-to-day have an assessment of where the squadron is with objective data.”

Pilots from the 480th Fighter Squadron listen during a preflight brief at the operations desk during Exercise Anatolian Falcon 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

The Solution

The Air Force is already using a similar system in predictive maintenance, where artificial intelligence analyzes a wealth of data to create maintenance alerts for each jet. Predictive training software could do the same thing by analyzing a pilot’s past performance, predicting how quickly their skills decay, then recommending how often the pilot needs to train in which skills.

“Squadrons will know exactly what skills have decayed for each pilot to the point that the pilot would be unable to reach the mission outcomes necessary for victory,” Ross wrote. “Capt. Stephens may not be ready for a defensive counter-air mission because his flight leadership skills have deteriorated, while Lt. Smith may not be ready for the same mission set because her defensive timeline knowledge has decayed.”

As an example of the power of analytics, Ross pointed to his own work with the 4th Training Squadron, which writes the syllabus for the Strike Eagle formal training unit. By looking closely at training data, he and his colleagues at Air Combat Command and the Air Force Research Laboratory proved a connection between FTU performance and a specific skill taught early in undergraduate pilot training.

“We were able to show that if a student performed poorly throughout the T-6 syllabus on inflight decision-making, that they would fail out of the FTU, which is extremely expensive for the Air Force and also now you’re missing a fighter pilot,” he said. “I wish we had more detailed performance data at the time to prove more specific causality.”

In the future, granular data and AI-driven analysis can show even more closely how early training and retention in certain skills impacts pilots throughout their careers. Not all pilot skills can be measured objectively; Ross emphasized that human assessment will still be vital in areas such as a pilot’s decision-making. Still, better software can help free up brain space so that human instructors can focus on the bigger picture.

“We don’t want the instructors worried about ‘did you do this small thing right or wrong?’” Ross said. “We want the instructors doing things only humans can do, which is ‘let’s talk about your decision-making during this part of the sortie.’”

Beyond Pilots

Better learning management systems could help other career fields beyond aviation. When a maintainer replaces a jet engine, such a system could track how effectively they did it and other data points that paint a picture of the maintainer’s abilities.

Adopting such systems in the short term would not be difficult, said Ross, whose company Eduworks is already working with Air Education and Training Command and Naval Air Systems Command.

“I don’t want to give more work to anyone who’s Active-Duty,” Ross said. “What that means is whatever they’re filling out right now, whatever inputs they have into the system, I don’t want to add any more. I just want to scrape the data and I want to export it into something that is useful for them.”

The benefits could prove decisive.

“Individuals determine the outcome of combat,” he wrote, “and individual readiness determines the likelihood of that outcome.”’

Air Force Launches Its Own Generative AI Chatbot. Experts See Promise and Challenges

Air Force Launches Its Own Generative AI Chatbot. Experts See Promise and Challenges

Airmen and Guardians now have their own free generative artificial intelligence chatbot that can interact in a “human-like” manner, helping them with communications, task completion, and online coding like ChatGPT—but on a secure system.

The Air Force and Space Force launched the Non-classified Internet Protocol Generative Pre-training Transformer or NIPRGPT, earlier this week, encouraging personnel with a Common Access Card to try it out. The Department of the Air Force’s experimental “GenAI” software is meant to move beyond “a controlled relationship with data and information to a curiosity-based relationship.”

“NIPRGPT will provide a place where people can exercise that curiosity in a safe and appropriate manner, where they can understand what parts of their work can potentially be complemented,” Alexis Bonnell, chief information officer for the Air Force Research Laboratory(AFRL), told reporters at a media roundtable June 10.

Bonnell added that the tool was built by “customizing publicly available models” of GenAI, but the department has yet to commit to a specific model. NIPRGPT will allow the lab to test all the different models out there and compare.

The Pentagon’s interest in using AI to streamline work is not new. Last year, the Navy deployed an AI program called ‘Amelia’ to handle common tech-support questions. Soon after, the Department of Defense launched a generative AI task force to assess, integrate, and manage AI tools, including large language models. Department of the Air Force Chief Information Officer Venice Goodwine, told reporters that the NIPRGPT draws from lessons learned across departments and services. According to

But for the department to create its own, brand-new AI software offers both opportunities and reasons for caution, experts told Air & Space Forces Magazine.

Bill Whyman, senior adviser of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said NIPRGPT, if executed well, signals a positive trajectory for the Air Force.

“The important thing is to start this journey and provide people with approved tools because I would be more concerned if service members were using public systems that weren’t trained on Defense Department data and didn’t have Defense Department security and guardrails built into the model,” Whyman told Air & Space Forces Magazine on June 12.

Such concerns led the Space Force to temporarily ban the use of GenAI chatbots last October.

Training and operating costs, however, could be an issue. Tapping into existing models likely saved time and money on the front end, Whyman suggested, so long as it is “architected appropriately and is trained with on private data.” However, even the commercial sector is beginning to learn about the mounting operating costs of generative AI, and Whyman said the department must establish a comprehensive long-term budget plan.

“The program requires, in some cases, millions of GPUs,” said Whyman. “On top of the chip cost, they have large electricity costs, both to power all these chips, and for cooling. So, the operating costs, both the infrastructure and the electricity is much higher than traditional software.”

In generative AI, the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) chip handles the complex calculations needed to train and run its models. Nicolas M. Chaillan, the department’s former chief software officer who developed his own GenAI platform called ‘Ask Sage,’ echoed Whyman’s concern.

“The GPUs could be used instead for advanced machine learning and other advanced mission or weapons that cannot be done on clouds,” Chaillan told Air & Space Forces Magazine. “The department will have to purchase more chips instead of hosting them on the cloud for much lower costs.”

Whyman noted that both military and private sectors are eyeing expense-cutting strategies as widespread free usage could hike up operational expenses swiftly. Major players in GenAI like Microsoft’s Copilot or OpenAI’s ChatGPT charge users monthly for their top-tier service.

For now, NIPRGPT is a work in progress for the department, focusing on leveraging technology for information, while enabling Airmen and Guardians to explore and build skills and familiarity as more powerful tools become available. The department is encouraging user feedback to shape policies and facilitate discussions with vendors as it aims to mature the platform.

“Technology is learned by doing,” said Chandra Donelson, the DAF’s acting chief data and artificial intelligence officer, in a release. “As our warfighters, who are closest to the problems, are learning the technology, we are leveraging their insight to inform future policy, acquisition and investment solutions.”

The department sees this experiment as a chance for real-world testing, honing in on key metrics like efficiency, resource use, and security. Understanding GenAI’s practical uses and hurdles to ensure future implementation is smooth is critical, Whyman argued.

“But that doesn’t mean you get a blank check, it should be done slowly, with pilots and multiple rounds of experimentation, with oversight boards in place,” added Whyman.

Osprey Won’t Return to Unrestricted Flight, Get New Clutch Until Mid-2025

Osprey Won’t Return to Unrestricted Flight, Get New Clutch Until Mid-2025

The V-22 Osprey fleet will not return to full, unrestricted flight operations until mid-2025, a Pentagon official said, as part of a slow buildup following a deadly crash in November that killed eight Airmen and led to a three-month grounding. 

Also around that time the V-22 Joint Program Office plans to start fielding a newly designed clutch for the Osprey, which is flown by the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy. Issues with the clutch have been cited in previous mishaps. 

Defense Department officials shared the details during a charged hearing before the House Oversight Committee on June 12. Lawmakers sharply criticized the V-22 program and DOD’s lack of transparency regarding the aircraft’s safety data, while families of service members who died flying the Osprey sat in the front row, holding photos of their loved ones. 

Scrutiny of the V-22 reached new heights after an Air Force CV-22 went down in November 2023 off the coast of Japan—the fourth deadly Osprey crash in just over two years. All three services grounded their fleets from December 2023 to March 2024 while the Joint Program Office opened a comprehensive review of the program and the House Oversight Committee launched its own investigation. 

Air Force Special Operations Command said in February that a part failure, not pilot error, caused the November 2023 crash, though it has declined to identify the part. Vice Adm. Carl Chebi, head of Naval Air Systems Command, also did not identify the part in his testimony, but he did describe it as a “catastrophic materiel failure that we have never seen before in the V-22 program.” 

That would rule out the possibility of a hard clutch engagement—a situation in which the clutch slips, causing a fail-safe system to transfer power from one engine to the other, then re-engages, generating enormous spikes in torque. The Air Force previously grounded its fleet of CV-22s after multiple instances of hard clutch engagement, and the issue was blamed for causing one of three deadly Marine Corps crashes since 2022. 

Slow Return 

When the Pentagon announced it was lifting the grounding order on all V-22s in March, NAVAIR said senior Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps leaders coordinated to craft “risk mitigation controls to assist with safely returning the V-22 to flight operations.” 

It later emerged that one such restriction was limiting the Osprey from flying more than 30 minutes away from a suitable airfield to which it could divert if something went wrong. 

By May, the Air Force had cleared only some of its CV-22s to resume flight, part of what officials said would be a phased, “deliberate” approach to include more thorough and frequent maintenance checks and new procedures for air crews to respond to emergency situations. 

All those restrictions and new procedures won’t be going away anytime soon, Chebi told lawmakers. 

“Today, we are methodically looking at materiel and non-materiel changes that we can make to allow for a full mission set without controls in place,” Chebi said. “I will not certify the V-22 to return to unrestricted flight operations until I’m satisfied that we have sufficiently addressed the issues that may affect the safety of the aircraft. Based on the data that I have today, I’m expecting that this will not occur before mid-2025.” 

An AFSOC official told Air & Space Forces Magazine that the command is tracking the same timeline. 

Chebi later added that he personally briefed Air Force and Navy air crews on the new safety controls and on what went wrong in the November 2023 crash so that they have trust in the aircraft. 

“I’m confident that the controls that are put in place based on the data I have today allow for return to a flight in a restricted flight envelope only,” Chebi said. 

Hard Clutch Engagements 

The Air Force will eventually release an Accident Investigation Board report detailing what went wrong in the November 2023 crash. Chebi’s statement that a new kind of failure caused the crash indicates that a hard clutch engagement was not the issue, but they remain a concern for the V-22 fleet. 

Former AFSOC commander and current Air Force Vice Chief Gen. James C. “Jim” Slife previously said such incidents result in a “kind of a Christmas tree of lights, caution lights, in the cockpit, and some pretty squirrely flight control inputs.” 

Over the life of the program, there have been 19 instances of hard clutch engagement, Chebi said. There was a notable rise in such problems starting around 2022, which prompted AFSOC to stand down its fleet and led the Marine Corps and Navy to implement mitigation measures. 

Eventually, the services imposed a flight-hour limit on the aircraft’s input quill assemblies. Chebi said the program office determined that the clutch would wear out over time and had a higher susceptibility to slipping after 800 flight hours. 

“We have never been able to repeat the failure in test,” Chebi said, but after the flight-hour limit was instituted, the program office has not seen any instances of hard clutch engagement. 

“I want to make this point clear though—that has not eliminated the risk,” he added. “We are currently in testing of a follow-on design for the clutch, not only to minimize exposure, but to eliminate this from occurring again.” 

Like the return to full flight operations, that new clutch will take time, said Gary Kurtz, program executive officer for the V-22 JPO. 

“That clutch testing is expected to start in the next couple of months,” Kurtz said. “And we anticipate that we will have a new design clutch fielding in the mid-2025 timeframe.” 


Since 1991, the Osprey has suffered 10 fatal crashes, killing 57 service members and giving the V-22 an accident-prone reputation. Proponents argue the reputation is unfounded, noting that its safety data is comparable to other aircraft.  

Still, the recent rash of mishaps and crashes has put the program under the microscope, to the point that Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) urged DOD officials during the hearing to ground the Osprey until the new clutch is ready, rather than risk another fatal accident. 

“If another Osprey goes down, we’re done,” said Lynch. “This program is done.” 

Other lawmakers were more supportive of keeping the Osprey flying but expressed frustration with the Pentagon for not sharing more safety investigation data with the Oversight Committee. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) also pressed officials to explain why the Air Force has a higher mishap rate in the V-22 than the Marines do. 

The scrutiny is not likely to fade soon. 

“I want to thank the families for being here today. You being here is very important,” said Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wisc.). “Because I don’t want to drop this thing today. There were a surprising number of questions that I felt [the witnesses] didn’t have answers to.” 

It’s Not Replicator, CCA, or Weapon, Yet. What Is the Enterprise Test Vehicle?

It’s Not Replicator, CCA, or Weapon, Yet. What Is the Enterprise Test Vehicle?

The Enterprise Test Vehicle program the Air Force and Defense Innovation Unit announced June 3 will explore high-rate-of-production technologies and platforms for testing other systems—but it is not a part of other similar Pentagon programs like Replicator or Collaborative Combat Aircraft, and it is not meant to produce prototypes for weapons, officials told Air & Space Forces Magazine.

However, a breakthrough success in lowering cost and speed of production could pave the way for a weapons program, a Pentagon official said.

“If they show us something remarkable … of course we would consider adapting it” as a weapon, the official said. “But that’s not the main idea here.”

The program is “not the Air Force’s ‘Replicator,’” added the official, referring to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks’ signature initiative to select and mass produce drones and autonomous systems from across the services, the official said. The Air Force declined comment on whether the ETV is its submission for Replicator.

Zone 5 Technologies will fly this concept for the ETV project.

Other officials said it is not part of the CCA Program, either, although the data collected will inform that effort.

Four ETV competitors were announced June 3: Anduril Industries; Integrated Solutions for Systems, Inc.; Leidos Dynetics; and Zone 5 Technologies.  

The goal of the ETV is to produce inexpensive, rapidly-producible air vehicles that can serve as test platforms for modular gear that could be used on weapons or platforms. Part of the program is to achieve high-speed production by avoiding the use of hard-to-get materials or components requiring long lead time. Using commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) components is a priority.

“The Enterprise Test Vehicle (ETV) will serve as a research and development platform for the USAF to explore open system architecture and modularity concepts,” a spokesperson said.

Its primary purpose “is to demonstrate the test vehicle’s adaptability and manufacturing scaleability during design and proof of manufacturing,” she added. “The intent is to certify the ETV for use and have it as a rapid, affordable option for program offices to test out new capabilities at the subsystem level without having to [recertify] it for flight test. The ETV will be used to integrate … COTS subsystems to prove the integration and affordability of the system concept.”

The platform—or platforms—chosen after the competitive demonstration will be those best able to use modularity “to more easily integrate, demonstrate, and reduce risk for additional subsystems (e.g., affordable engines, ISR seekers, or communications suites) or other weapon system variants,” the spokesperson said.

The program will also use ETVs to explore “maturing different options for weapon employment, to include palletized employment, collaborating air launch, ground launch and others,” she added.

The Air Force has explored palletized employment using stacks of AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Missiles dropped out of the back of cargo aircraft. Presumably, the ETV would be a less costly subject for such tests.

The Air Force spokesperson said the first ETV demonstration will be a low-cost cruise missile design called “Franklin” but did not say which contractor’s vehicle this referred to.

In a solicitation to industry for the ETV published last year, the DIU emphasized the program’s focus on developing rapid production capabilities for new munitions.

“The Department of Defense replenishment rates for unmanned aerial delivery vehicles are neither capable of meeting surge demand nor achieving affordable mass,” the solicitation stated. “The current design and manufacture of airborne medium-range precision delivery vehicles are complex, costly, and limited by historically slower production rates due to exquisite components and labor-intensive manufacturing processes. Narrow supply chains, proprietary data, and locked designs result in a lengthy timeline to transition new technology into usable capability and limit production and replenishment rates.”

The DIU said it wanted “solutions to develop, demonstrate, and fly a modular open architecture vehicle that will accelerate capability development and fielding across all weapons programs by enabling the integration, testing, and qualification of different subsystems, capabilities, and materials. The objective is to demonstrate an aerial platform that prioritizes affordability and distributed mass production.”

It specified vehicles having a range of 500 nautical miles with a minimum cruise speed of 100 knots, “capable of delivering a kinetic payload,” and ready for test seven months after contract award.

Although the DIU and Air Force announced the ETV contractors in early June, they also said demonstrations would begin this summer, suggesting the contracts were awarded around January.

The solicitation also specified demonstration of “an air-delivered variant (e.g., gravity dropped/launched from the back of a cargo aircraft).”

Finally, the DIU sought platforms “capable of bulk transportation and employment in large quantities.”

The DIU’s solicitation noted that “multiple variants may be developed following a successful initial flight test.” Designs that can be produced in different locations, potentially including foreign partners with minimal reliance on special tools and test equipment will be prioritized.

After 2 Years of Change, What’s Next for the Air Force Expeditionary Center

After 2 Years of Change, What’s Next for the Air Force Expeditionary Center

Over the past two years, Maj. Gen. John Klein worked to put the ‘expeditionary’ back in the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, which oversees much of Air Mobility Command’s ability to stand up ground support for air operations in new or austere environments. 

The challenge, said Klein, who is rotating out of his post at the helm of USAFEC later this summer, has been that the Air Force was not expeditionary for much of the Global War on Terror, where aircraft circulated between well-established bases across the Middle East.

“The expeditionary skills, where you essentially open an air base with limited resources and connectivity, were not required, because it’s all there for you,” Klein told Air & Space Forces Magazine. “It’s time to hone those skills once again, so we are able to operate anywhere in the world.”

Honing those skills and bringing new tools to bear in the years to come will take work. Specifically, Klein sought to establish mechanisms for acquiring and standardizing new technology, especially communications devices for connecting expeditionary Airmen across vast distances in contested environments.

He also aimed to give the units under USAFEC, whose motto is “airpower, from the ground up,” a greater role at large-scale joint exercises and to adopt a new culture effort called Forging Warrior Hearts, which the general hopes will better prepare Airmen for the rigors of a possible conflict with China or Russia.

“The Airmen are ready, they will always deliver,” he said. “Where we need to shore things up is the institution that enables the Airmen.”

maj. gen. john klein
Maj. Gen. John Klein, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Michael Wynne, interim U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center command chief, discuss operations with members of the 621st Contingency Response Squadron during Exercise Storm Flag in Alexandria, Louisiana, May 6, 2024. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Anastasia Tompkins)


Officials across Air Mobility Command say the airlift and tanker fleet need better tools to build situational awareness.

“I can just look at a tablet or a screen and I can see it. … I can know which airfields have been bombed or damaged,” AMC boss Gen. Mike Minihan said in February. “Then I don’t have to just show up, look at the runway, and say ‘that one’s not for me today.’”

Klein’s expeditionary troops have the same need. 

“We’ll be operating in contested environments where our connectivity is going to be challenged, both by the tyranny of distance and adversaries trying to disconnect us,” he said. “So having resilient communications and connectivity is something that we need to resource for ourselves.”

Klein said the center received $17 million last year from AMC to buy MPU-5 and other radios that can connect to Starlink satellites and Android Team Awareness Kits (ATAK): smartphones that let users share encrypted texts, locations, images, and other information rather than via error-prone voice-to-voice channels.

“It reduces the potential for miscommunication and interception, and it puts everybody on a level playing field with a common understanding of the battle space,” he said. “It’s not just our crews in the air, but also the support forces on the ground who all need to understand the same picture.”

Klein estimated that USAFEC units are about 50 percent equipped with the new radios, but there is a long way to go: the center has yet to connect to tactical data link networks, such as Link 16, that other parts of the Air Force, especially Air Combat Command, have enjoyed for decades.

“It’s baby steps: let’s bring ourselves up into the 21st century here with standard connectivity and then we’ve got to practice using it through some of our exercises,” he said. “Honestly, [Link 16] is old technology, so in an ideal world we need to be looking beyond that.”

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jermaine Brown, 621st Contingency Response Squadron NCO in charge of readiness, responds to a simulated threat during exercise Present Ploy, Oct. 19, 2021, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Luther Mitchell)

Ideally, Klein said, USAFEC would have an annual tech refresh in its budget, but for now, the 621st Contingency Response Wing is in charge of developing a rolling five-year plan that prioritizes “how we re-invest in ourselves for equipment,” using the limited resources available, Klein explained.

Once adopted, that gear and the training to use it has to be standardized around the world, the general said. That’s the job of the Global Air Mobility Support System Weapons System Council, a forum where GAMSS units—the Airmen who run airfields and move cargo for transport, refueling, and aeromedical evacuation operations down range—can share best practices. The council was modeled off of those for other platforms such as the C-17 or C-130 transport planes. 

“The more that we tackle, the more that we realize there is a whole lot more work to do,” Klein said. “Let’s put those processes and forums and mechanisms in place so that we continue working on these issues as they come along.”


While USAFEC falls under Air Mobility Command, its ability to open and operate air bases can help any part of the joint force that needs to move in a hurry.

“If we have to get somewhere fast and begin operations right away … we are the foundation of that,” Klein said. “Our folks are absolutely brilliant at problem-solving, at filling gaps so that the mission can move forward. We’re very much a lubricant in the defense logistics system.”

Despite this, expeditionary Airmen are not widely known across the Air Force or the wider military, a trend Klein noticed at exercises such as Air Combat Command’s Agile Flag. But that seems to be changing.

“When we first started supporting their exercises, Air Combat Command and the units we were working with didn’t know what we could do,” he said. “Our teams identified problems and gaps that they could help with, so at the next iteration of Agile Flag, it was ‘hey, we want you guys to come because you have what we need.’”

Airmen assaigned to the 621st Contingency Response Wing load cargo onto a Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft assigned to the 103rd Airlift Wing at Bradley Air National Guard Base, Connecticut for AGILE FLAG 23-1 at Savannah Air National Guard Base, Georgia, Feb. 27, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Warner)

Integrating GAMSS Airmen into large exercises such as Bamboo Eagle and Storm Flag was a key part of the USAFEC 2023 Strategy, a document laying out the center’s goals for 2030. The strategy, plus a campaign plan for how to execute it, provided a roadmap to prepare for conflict against China or Russia. Klein hopes additional strategies will come out every year to help achieve the center’s 2030 goals.

“This is the first time, to my knowledge, that the expeditionary center has taken this deliberate approach to moving the institution forward, rather than doing it ad hoc,” he said. “That campaign never ends. You keep driving forward, but you do it in a planned, synchronized way to stay on track as an organization.”


The strategy’s top priority is Forging Warrior Hearts, an effort to use culture to strengthen Airmen for challenges both at home and in a possible war with China. The initiative is deliberately open-ended, but it encourages expeditionary leaders to make developing unit culture a recurring part of their job.

In Klein’s view, the term culture encompasses any effort to build strong connections among Airmen and align them with the purpose of the unit. In January, he invited more than 100 squadron, group, and wing commanders and senior enlisted leaders from as far as Guam and Germany to a four-day culture conference to get them on board with the plan.

“We’re not going to directly tell you what you should do or what you should think about culture in your units,” Klein said at the time. “Really it’s a tool bag, and you can choose the tools that you need based on the situation you face to help you intentionally engineer the culture of your squadron.”

Airmen assigned to the 621st Contingency Response Wing and 305th Air Mobility Wing team up with members of the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team to load cargo onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Feb. 8, 2024 (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sergio Avalos)

The results so far are promising: in an informal survey a month after the conference, 97 percent of the 44 respondents said they would recommend it for future leaders. Many attendees have since enhanced their unit’s physical training programs, developed better onboarding processes for new members and their families, and held feedback sessions for enlisted Airmen.

“One of the best comments I got was ‘sir, the best thing you did was you gave us permission from the two-star level to focus on culture,’” Klein said. “I’m glad it accomplished that, but to me it’s telling what we as an organization have forgotten, and we needed to remind ourselves.”

After Klein rotates out of USAFEC in mid-July, he’ll join the Air Staff as assistant deputy chief of staff for operations. But he won’t soon forget the importance of the center, which could prove decisive in a conflict in the Pacific where Air Mobility Command would likely have to fly much of the military’s troops and equipment across the ocean to get to the fight, relying on expeditionary Airmen.

“If we fail, if we’re not there, then it all crumbles,” Klein said. 

Pay Raise for Junior Enlisted Faces White House Opposition, High Cost Estimates

Pay Raise for Junior Enlisted Faces White House Opposition, High Cost Estimates

President Joe Biden’s administration opposes a bipartisan provision in the House of Representatives to significantly boost pay for junior enlisted service members, arguing major changes should wait until the Pentagon completes its quadrennial review on compensation. 

At the same time, Congress’ own budget analysts estimate the proposed pay raise—a central part of the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act—would cost more than $24 billion over the next five years. 

The White House statement and the Congressional Budget Office analysis both came out June 11, just days before the full House is set to vote on the 2025 NDAA.  

It remains unclear, however, if either will be enough to derail the proposal, which would boost basic pay for troops ranked E-1 through E-4 by 15 percent, in addition to the 4.5 percent annual raise proposed in the President’s budget request. 

In its statement of administration policy, the White House noted more than 30 areas where it disagrees with the proposed NDAA but indicated broad overall support. And at a House Rules Committee hearing on the bill, lawmakers showed strong support for the pay raise, even with the estimated costs. 

“The junior enlisted need this lift,” said Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “And the committee, that vote may have been unanimous … from the 58 members of the committee who have looked at this issue and who studied the DOD budget inside and out, and that number is accounted for in our appropriation numbers.” 

“Many of our junior enlisted are struggling to afford housing; as housing costs have gone up, their pay has not kept pace,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. “This is a bold step to try and make sure that we support them, which incidentally will also help with recruitment and retention.” 

But while many House lawmakers support the pay raise, it will also need to make it through the Senate. The Senate Armed Services Committee is set to take up its version of the NDAA this week, and once both bills clear the full chambers, they must be reconciled in conference, meaning the pay increase may remain up in the air for months to come. 

The proposal originated from the HASC’s Quality of Life panel, led by Air Force veterans Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Penn.), who argued in their final report issued in April that the boost was needed to keep pace with increasing wages for civilian low-income jobs. 

The costs, however, could prove troublesome given the budget caps imposed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act through fiscal 2025 and a broader push to modernize equipment across the entire Pentagon.  

The White House claims the budget increase would cost roughly $3.3 billion in 2025 and more than $21.9 billion from 2025-2029. The CBO, a nonpartisan budget analysis group, estimates the cost at $24.4 billion from 2025-2029. 

The White House estimate would exceed the Air Force’s entire aircraft procurement budget for 2025. The CBO estimate would exceed the Air Force’s procurement budget for the new B-21 bomber from 2025-29. 

That’s to say nothing of programs like the new Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile, which is $35 billion over budget. Air Force officials have said they are considering all options to meet the funding gap, though the program must still be certified by the Secretary of Defense to continue. 

Beyond cost, the White House made the argument in its statement that now is not the time for a major change to the military’s pay tables while the Pentagon is still conducting its Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation (QRMC). 

That review began in January 2023, with a final report scheduled for January 2025. In addition to pay, the review is looking at the ways the Pentagon calculates its benchmarks for pay, as well as allowances for housing, food, and more. 

House lawmakers took aim at some of those issues in the NDAA as well, including provisions that would expand eligibility for the Basic Needs Allowance and fully fund the Basic Allowance for Housing instead of the current “cost-sharing” arrangement that forces service members to pay for 5 percent. 

The CBO said it was too difficult to determine the costs of the proposed BAH change but estimated expanding eligibility for BNA would cost $260 million in 2025 and $1.4 billion over the 2025-2029 period. The White House has a much higher estimate of $14.8 billion for the basic needs allowance change and opposes the move. 

Behind the Scenes at NATO’s One-on-One Fighter Competition

Behind the Scenes at NATO’s One-on-One Fighter Competition

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany—In the span of roughly eight hours, 37 NATO fighters took off in rapid succession. The one-on-one fighter competition conducted on June 6 was a first for U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFA) and the air base here. 

The pilots did not know who they would be facing until they encountered their opponent in close proximity at more than 10,000 feet. They did not know exactly when they would be flying until they received an envelope at the end of the morning briefing. By the end of the day, pilots flew 67 sorties against each other.

“Dissimilar air combat is fundamental for all our air forces,” Deputy NATO Allied Air Commander Royal Air Force Air Marshal Johnny Stringer told Air & Space Forces Magazine. “It’s a fantastic test of at one level of just foundational air combat skills that all of our fighter pilots still need to possess.”

Air & Space Forces Magazine was granted unusual access to the exercise, close enough for the reporter to be blasted with jet wash multiple times on the flight line. 

As aircraft, sensors, and weapons have gotten more advanced, the U.S. and the rest of NATO anticipate that many real-world engagements will be conducted beyond visual range. But the Ramstein exercise provided pilots with a chance to hone their basic fighter maneuver skills as they merged in the sky.

Adding to the challenge, the maneuvers involved dissimilar fourth- and fifth-generation types of fighters, including a multinational collection of F-16s, Eurofighter Typhoons, F-35s, and French Rafales. Nine of NATO’s 32 members participated: the U.S., the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, the U.K., Denmark, Finland, and Norway.

The wide array of aircraft was a far cry from much of the U.S. Air Force’s training—USAF aggressor squadrons usually fly only F-16s and F-35s.

“Forcing rapid decision-making, applying tenants of dissimilar air combat, where you’re immediately processing what you’re fighting so that you bring your best advantages to bear and hopefully minimize disadvantages in your platform,” Stringer said of the objective for pilots.

The exercise featured F-35s from the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, and Norway—unsurprising given that 600 of them will be operating in Europe by the end of the decade. But it was the dissimilar training, which harkens back to the Cold War, which made it especially distinctive. 

“This is something that is a learning experience that I haven’t seen in many, many years,” said Col. Michael “T-Man” Trautermann, the senior German national representative to NATO Allied Air Command, recalling his experience in the F-4 Phantom where he would drop in at other nation’s bases. “We do not do that often enough, and these are things that need to be regained for NATO as an alliance to be able to be successful.”

The exercise was also a unique event for Ramstein and its Airmen. The base serves as a hub for U.S. military airlift capability around the world, and the nearby Landstuhl Military Medical Center is the key American military hospital outside the United States. The number of Americans on and around the bases is so large that a two-star general, Maj. Gen. Paul D. Moga—also the commander of the Third Air Force—is assigned to help manage the roughly 50,000 service members, families, and contractors. The Kaiserslautern Military Community, or KMC, is the biggest cluster of troops outside the United States.

But just about the only thing KMC generally lacks is fighters. Hundreds of locals gathered along the fence line in a country without a plane-spotting tradition to get a glimpse of fighters roaring through the air.

On base, Ramstein personnel helped marshall aircraft, pumped 160,000 gallons of jet fuel, and kept everyone safe in the skies through air traffic control. Though the base is large, the competition practiced the Air Force’s push toward building Airmen who can conduct a variety of tasks to complete a mission.

“I knew we were going to get value out of the fighting. But I didn’t understand what we were going to get here at Ramstein,” said Maj. Gen. Christopher F. Yancy, mobilization assistant to the commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa.

“Rapid launch and recovery, ground ops … they did all those skill sets that we’re trying to exercise,” he added. “They’re used to working on heavies. They hadn’t worked on fighters.”

The airspace for the simulated fight was a 50-by-70-mile arena, divided in four roughly equal quadrants with a dogfight going on in each, according to an exercise planners. Each jet had 30 minutes to turn and burn to try to hit its foe with a simulated kill with guns.

Small maintenance footprints, some involving cross-national operations, were used to support the exercise. For the first time, Norway’s F-35s were serviced by U.S. maintainers.

“If you’re fighting with someone, it helps to know them,” said Norwegian Air Force Col. Martin “TinTin” Tesli, wing commander of Ørland Air Base, where the country’s F-35s are based, and a participant in the exercise.

Yancy also said the exercise proved valuable should the U.S. have to operate in a degraded communications environment, such as a wartime situation when modern fighters may have onboard systems jammed or command and control aircraft may be unavailable. Since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, both sides have used electronic warfare and air defenses that quickly upended pre-war plans.

“We may not be able to talk to somebody,” Yancy said. “To go out and not know who you’re going fight, you have to go, ‘Alright, my game plan is different for Hornet versus Rafale versus Tornado versus Typhoon versus Viper versus F-35, so I better have a little private time, or go to the vault with my weapons folks and figure out what my game plan is going to be for eight different aircraft. And I better be able to execute that.’”

Relationship building was also a key objective of the event.

“We can’t look at it as a bunch of lieutenants, captains, and majors. That’s the next air chief, that’s the next squadron commander,” Yancy said.

While fighter pilots are hyper competitive, steps were taken to prevent it from getting out of hand in order to ensure aerial safety. No trophies were handed out and no simulated wars were fought. 

“What is the Alliance? Clue in the title,” Stringer said. “Because just getting people together to chat, as well as do the flying, talk about their platform. Our engineers, meeting, talking, looking around jets, doing elements of cross-servicing. What you will get out of 48 hours here is fantastic.”

Apollo 8 Astronaut, Ambassador, and Air Force Maj. Gen. William Anders Dies

Apollo 8 Astronaut, Ambassador, and Air Force Maj. Gen. William Anders Dies

Air Force Maj. Gen. William A. Anders, the Apollo 8 astronaut who, on the first mission to orbit the moon, took the iconic “Earthrise” photo—died June 7 when the aircraft he was flying alone crashed northwest of Seattle. He was 90.

Anders was an Air Force pilot, ambassador to Norway, member of the Atomic Energy Commission, and the first chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He worked in the aerospace industry, rising to lead the General Dynamics Corp. as Chief Executive Officer, restructuring the company after the end of the Cold War.

Passionate about military aircraft—he founded and was chairman of the Heritage Flight Museum in Washington state—Anders was flying a Beech T-34A Mentor when he crashed. His body was recovered; the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the accident.

Anders was born in Hong Kong in 1933 to a naval officer. The family, with young William in tow, survived Japanese attacks on China during WWII, including the close-by bombing of Nanjing.

He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1955 with a degree in electrical engineering but chose to accept an Air Force commission. After earning his wings, he served as an F-89 Scorpion pilot, flying with the 84th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in California and the 57th FIS in Iceland, participating in some of the first intercepts of Russian bombers approaching the U.S. He later returned to the 84th to fly the F-101 Voodoo.

Anders undertook a Master’s program in nuclear engineering through the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in 1958. It was a specialty assigned to him, though he had requested aeronautical engineering. So he concurrently studied aeronautical engineering, taking night classes at Ohio State University. He graduated with honors from AFIT in 1962 and was assigned to work on nuclear reactor projects with the Air Force Weapons Lab, maintaining his pilot proficiency as a part-time jet instructor.

In 1963, Anders applied to both the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School and NASA. He was chosen for the third group of astronauts, known as “The 14,” a class that included future moonwalkers such as Buzz Aldrin, David Scott, and Gene Cernan. Anders was among the few who had not already been a test pilot; it was the first group where it wasn’t required. He wasn’t accepted to the test pilot school.

Anders was picked to be the backup copilot for Gemini 11 and was then in line to fly Gemini 13, but the Gemini program was ended before that mission, having accomplished all its objectives.

Anders and Neil Armstrong were the first astronauts to fly the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle, or “Flying Bedstead,” a Lunar Module live-fly simulator powered by a vertically-mounted jet engine. Several crashed—Armstrong famously ejected from one only two seconds before it hit the ground—but pilots insisted it accurately matched the handling of the lunar module and should be retained.  

As a spaceflight rookie, Anders was picked for the prime crew of the Apollo 8 mission, the original purpose of which was to test the lunar module in deep space; Anders was to be the lunar module pilot. However, intelligence indicated that the Soviet Union planned a two-man lunar orbit mission that could be construed as “winning” the space race to the moon, and the U.S. lunar module was not yet ready for flight, so Apollo 8 was reconceived as a lunar circumnavigation mission. Anders accepted the assignment, despite there being no lunar module for him to fly.

Anders, along with mission commander Frank Borman and command module pilot James Lovell, launched on Dec. 21, 1968. It was the first crewed flight of the giant Saturn V rocket.

The mission was the first to another celestial body, and the crew completed 10 orbits before firing their main engine and returning home. On one of the first orbits, Anders noticed the blue ball of the Earth coming up over the horizon and took the first color photo of this sight. The image has been hailed as one of the most iconic in the 20th century and was one of the inspirations for Earth Day.

Anders told Forbes Magazine in 2015 that the image pointed out the beauty of the Earth and “helped kick start the environmental movement.” He described the earth as looking like a shiny blue but fragile “Christmas ornament.”

The mission was also noteworthy in that the crew, during a live Christmas Eve broadcast, took turns reading passages from the biblical Book of Genesis.

After a year of traumatic events including the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Tet offensive in Vietnam, and race riots and divisive college demonstrations in the U.S., Apollo 8 was considered a rare bright spot in national and world affairs. NASA received a telegram after the mission, addressed to the crew, reading in part, “you saved 1968.” The crew was cheered with parades in major cities and made an address to a joint session of Congress.

Anders was assigned as the backup command module pilot for Apollo 11, the first moon landing mission, but after its success, did not believe he would get a chance to command a moon mission before the Apollo program ended. Upon exiting NASA, Anders remained in the Air Force Reserve.  

He accepted an appointment from President Richard Nixon to be executive secretary of the National Aeronautic and Space Council, a cabinet-level panel chaired by Vice President Spiro Agnew. In that capacity, he developed multidepartment policy for national aeronautics and space development. The NASC’s recommendations were generally not implemented, however, and Anders recommended the panel be dissolved, which it was, in 1973.

Nixon then appointed Anders to the Atomic Energy Commission, where he worked on nuclear research and development policy, and on a détente-driven joint fission/fusion technology exchange program with the Soviet Union. The AEC was eventually split into two organizations: one to conduct nuclear power R&D and another to supervise commercial plants. Anders was appointed by President Gerald Ford to head the latter, the new Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He was credited with setting up the NRC’s processes and making its deliberations and decisions transparent to the public.

Anders was next appointed by Ford to be Ambassador to Norway, a post he held from 1976 to 1977.

He then entered the commercial world, heading General Electric’s Nuclear Products Division, supervising its nuclear plant operations. After a stint at the Harvard Business School, in 1980, Anders became head of GE’s Aircraft Equipment Division.

In 1984, Anders joined Textron, as executive vice president for aerospace, moving up in two years to senior vice president for operations.  During this time he also consulted to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the NASA Advisory Council and the Defense Science Board.

In 1988, he retired from the Air Force Reserve, having served 33 years.

He agreed to join General Dynamics as vice chairman in 1990 with the proviso that he could be a test pilot in the F-16, then made by that company. In 1991, he became chairman.

Anders was credited with turning General Dynamics around, shedding non-core divisions and operations and boosting its stock from under $20 a share to over $250. He succeeded at this despite the failure and termination of the A-12 stealth attack jet program for the Navy, on which GD was partnered with McDonnell Douglas. He arranged the sale of GD’s aircraft division to Lockheed for $1.5 billion in 1993, and then retired from day-to-management of the company, though he stayed on as chairman until 1994.

Soon after, he founded the Anders Foundation, an environmental education organization which in turn supported the many national parks foundations.  

In 1996, Anders founded the Heritage Flight Museum, which flies 15 historic military aircraft and operates a museum of artifacts donated by veterans. Anders personally owned a P-51 Mustang, which he flew in air races, and he held as many as six flying records. He and Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman, who also owned and flew a P-51, would often occasionally fly their aircraft together at air shows.

Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), a former Space Shuttle and International Space Station astronaut, issued a statement on social media saying that Anders “forever changed our perspective of our planet and ourselves” with the Earthrise photo, and “inspired me and generations of astronauts and explorers.”

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Anders “gave to humanity one of the deepest of gifts an explorer and an astronaut can give” with the Earthrise photo. He quoted Anders as saying “We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”

Nelson said Anders’ life was “the iron will of a pioneer, the grand passion of a visionary, the cool skill of a pilot, and the heart of an adventurer, who explored on behalf of all of us.”