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The Air Force on Aug. 4, 2017, awarded a contract for two pre-owned 747-8s to replace the existing VC-25A 747-200s, known as Air Force One when the President is on board. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace.


Secondhand 747-8s Could Accelerate Air Force One Replacement

The Air Force on Friday formally bought two pre-owned 747-8s that have been sitting in desert storage, intending to convert the jets for the Presidential Aircraft Replacement program. A service spokeswoman said it's possible that buying completed jets will save money and may save time on the program, which seeks to replace the existing VC-25A 747-200s by 2024, but USAF would not disclose the price of the aircraft because of commercial competition sensitivities. The move was a response to the White House's demands that the Air Force find ways to pare down the cost of the program, although the White House agreed in March on a "minimum" set of requirements needed for the Air Force One mission. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Top Air Force Leaders Announce the Service’s Top Priorities

The Air Force’s senior leaders recently unveiled their priorities going forward, focusing on rebuilding readiness and developing both the fleet and personnel needed for a more lethal service. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, and CMSAF Kaleth Wright, in a recent letter to the Total Force, outlined the five top priorities for the service: Restoring readiness, find a cost effective way to modernize, drive innovation, develop exceptional leaders, and strengthen alliances. “Looking forward, our obligations to the country will never change,” the letter said, according to a release. “We will always lead and support the joint force in defending our homeland, owning the high ground, and projecting power with our allies.” Everything the service does needs to focus on these priorities, the letter said. The five priorities reflect Wilson’s main issues in her tenure since taking over as Secretary in May. They join Goldfein’s three main focus areas, which he announced at AFA's Air, Space & Cyber conference in September as he took over the top uniformed position in the service. They are: revitalizing the squadron, strengthening joint leaders, and improving multi-domain command and control. —Brian Everstine


Air Force to Dramatically Cut the Amount of Instructions and Regulations

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson on Friday announced a dramatic push to cut Air Force red tape over the next two years. The service currently has about 1,300 official Air Force Instructions, many of which are outdated and inconsistent. “There are more AFIs than we need,” Wilson told a group of Air Force fellows at the National Defense University, according to a release. “Let’s not tell airmen how to do everything. Let’s tell them what to do and let them surprise us with their ingenuity.” The reduction will first focus on the 40 percent of instructions that are out of date, along with ones that airmen have identified as top priorities, the release states. Airmen can go to an online portal to give their input on which AFIs should be priorities. The second phase will focus on directives from Headquarters Air Force, which include more than 130,000 wing-level compliance items. The Air Force will issue a survey over the next few weeks looking for input on the process, the release states. “By reducing the number of Air Force directives we are trusting airmen and pushing down decision authority to commanders,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in the release. —Brian Everstine

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USAF Plans to Make Future Money Decisions With a Little Help from AI

The Air Force wants to use artificial intelligence to help it make budgetary decisions. The military’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) awarded Texas-based SparkCognition a $100,000 contract to develop technology connecting various data inputs across USAF’s enterprise, utilizing machine learning methodologies to do so, said Jim Eskew, the company’s manager for partnerships and customer success. In developing the first stage of what DIUx is calling Project Quantum, SparkCognition looks to combine internal data points across the entire service and translate that combined data into actionable reports that will advise USAF’s budgetary decision-makers, Eskew told Air Force Magazine. In order to do this, the AI tech in development will analyze both big picture and grain-level information, from current operations to lessons already learned. Most significantly, the results will all be webbed in a “neural networking model,” Eskew said, meaning with each decision or set of results, the program gets better—and faster, considering what Eskew called “rapid recall of data”— at providing future results. The three-phase project is slated to cost approximately $1 million—SparkCognition set the second and third stage at around $500,000 each—but Eskew said that price is negotiable and largely dependant on the company’s success with the initial work. Work on the project will take place in both Austin, Texas, and Arlington, Va. DIUx—whose aim is to fund industry quickly with the goal of modernizing national defense institutions—is also a main partner in the revamped effort to modernize USAF’s air operations centers. —Gideon Grudo

Lockheed Reveals Smaller Telescopes to Capture Space Imaging   

Lockheed Martin announced it may be possible to produce space telescopes that are 90 percent lighter than typical ones. The announcement—presented at Singapore’s Pacific Rim Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics—revealed the “experimental, ultra-thin optical instrument,” calling it the Segmented Planar Imaging Detector for Electro-Optical Reconnaissance (SPIDER). It’s all based on interferometric imaging, which is collecting information from multiple, small telescopes and combining that input to create the high-resolution data otherwise obtained singularly by large telescopes. In this case, Lockheed said it is combining information from “hundreds or thousands” of “tiny lenses” mounted on space-based telescopes. Relying on this technique could reduce the “size, weight, and power needs of telescopes by 10 to 100 times,” according to the company.You can see what SPIDER will look like in this photo gallery and watch Lockheed’s video explaining how SPIDER works. —Gideon Grudo

Senate Approves War on Terror Memorial Plan

The Senate approved the construction for a Global War on Terrorism memorial in Washington, D.C, the evening of Aug. 3. The unanimous vote followed a House vote last month, which exempted the proposal from the 1986 Commemorative Works Act that requires a 10 year wait after the official end of the conflict, Stars and Stripes reported. The bill will allow the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation to raise money for the project, which is expected to cost between $40 and $50 million. The foundation expects the memorial to be built by 2024. —Brian Everstine

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RADAR SWEEP


—TSgt. David Board, 49, of Barboursville, W.V., died in Kuwait on Aug. 2 in a non-combat related incident, the Pentagon announced. Board, who was assigned to the 130th Airlift Wing at McLaughlin ANGB, W.V., was deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

—Lockheed Martin kicked off the 250-hour flight test program of its VH-92A configured test aircraft in support of the Marine Corps’ presidential helicopter replacement program on July 28: Lockheed Martin release.

—Boeing was awarded a $409 million contract for next-generation thermal, power, and control. Work will be performed in Hazelwood, Mo., and is slated for completion in 2024: DOD contract announcement.

—The US Army has ordered soldiers to stop using drones made by DJI, a Chinese manufacturer, due to an “increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities associated with DJI products,” according to an Aug. 2 memo obtained by Defense One.