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​Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus tanker refuels an F-15E aircraft during Phase II receiver certification testing out of Edwards AFB, Calif. A Boeing/Air Force team has completed receiver certification with F-16, KC-135, C-17, A-10, KC-46, B-52, F/A-18, and F-15E aircraft. Boeing photo.


Boeing, USAF Finish Second Phase of KC-46 Receiver Certification

The KC-46A Pegasus tanker has completed the second phase of receiver certification flight testing, Boeing announced on Monday. The last aircraft in Phase II was the F-15E Strike Eagle, which was certified to refuel from the Pegasus after a three-week test program out of Edwards AFB, Calif.  Other aircraft that can now tank up behind a KC-46 include the A-10, B-52, C-17, F-16, F/A-18, and KC-135. Company Vice President and program manager Mike Gibbons said the milestone “sets the stage for the start of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation testing next year.” During the tests, the receiver jets and KC-46s flew at different airspeeds, altitudes, and configurations to “ensure compatibility and performance throughout the refueling envelope.” Refueling tests have racked up 3,700 flight hours and four million pounds of fuel passed. Phase III certifications begin in 2019, but Boeing did not say what aircraft would be in that mix, which will include 11 aircraft. While the F-35 will eventually be the most numerous fighter in US armed forces service, it will not be certified with the KC-46 until Phase IV, possibly in 2020. That step was taken because both aircraft were still in development at the KC-46’s inception, and program managers decided not to “mingle” the programs until both were well defined. A firm date for operational status of the KC-46 has not yet been set. —John A. Tirpak and Brian Everstine


Military Experts: The Modernization Challenge is Here, Additional Funding for Defense Needed

The threats to US national security are greater than they have been in decades and the United States can no longer afford to push off mounting modernization costs, said two members of the National Defense Strategy Commission at the West Coast Aerospace Forum in Santa Monica, Calif., last week. Read the full report by Doug Birkey.


Harnessing Innovation Without Prematurely Falling in Love with Technology

The Defense Department must harness innovation when developing new operational conceptions, but it also needs to ensure that real-world pragmatic perspectives are driving the decision-making process, according to experts at the West Coast Aerospace Forum in California last week. “We need to be careful about falling in love with technology, versus starting with an operational concept. It all comes down to the problem we are trying to solve,” said Bill LaPlante, senior vice president and general manager for MITRE National Security Sector. Read the full story by Doug Birkey.

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B-52s Deploy to Australia for Training

The Air Force has forward deployed two B-52s to Australia for about two weeks of combined exercises and training. The bombers, deployed from Andersen AFB, Guam, where they are part of the Air Force’s continuous bomber presence, are at RAAF Base Darwin from Nov. 29 to Dec. 9, according to a Pacific Air Forces release. The bombers are from the 96th Bomb Squadron at Barksdale AFB, La. USAF bombers deploy to Australia regularly, most recently in April where they flew in close air support exercises with Australian forces. —Brian Everstine

Fourth US Service Member Dies from Dec. 2 Attack in Afghanistan

A fourth US service member died as a result of the Dec. 2 improvised explosive device attack on US forces in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced. US Army Sgt. Jason Mitchell McClary, 24, of Export, Penn., died in Landstuhl, Germany, from injuries sustained in the attack, according to a Defense Department release. McClary was assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colo. The Dec. 2 attack killed USAF SSgt. Dylan Elchin, a combat controller with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron—the first USAF combat casualty in Afghanistan since late 2015—as well as Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, 29, of Lexington, Va., and Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Wash. They were both assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, N.C. — Brian Everstine

Richardson Nominated to be Top USAF Uniformed Acquisition Officer

President Trump on Friday nominated Maj. Gen. Duke Richardson to receive his third star and to oversee USAF weapons buying as the military deputy in the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics. If confirmed, Richardson would take over for Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch as the service’s top uniformed acquisition officer. The Air Force has not announced Bunch’s next move. Richardson brings extensive experience in recent USAF acquisition programs. He is currently the Air Force program executive officer for presidential airlift recapitalization, where he is overseeing the development of the next Air Force One. He previously oversaw the KC-46 program along with sustainment of the KC-135 and KC-10 as the program executive officer for tankers in the Tanker Directorate at the Air Force Life Cycle Management center. —Brian Everstine

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RADAR SWEEP


Airman found dead at Aviano Air Base is identified
Aviano Air Base has identified the airman found dead on base earlier this week. Air Force Times

NK Soldier Defects to South
A North Korean soldier defected to South Korea, Saturday, the first such incident since the two Koreas finished demolishing 10 guard posts on each side of the border line with inter-Korean reconciliation moves. Korea Times

Russia and Vladmir Putin Tried to Interfere in Midterm Elections, Secretary of Defense Says
Russia continues to try to influence U.S. elections and even tried to “muck about” in the U.S. midterms in November, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Saturday. Newsweek

Elite Gathering Spotlights Tensions over US Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia
Whether the United States should curb arms sales to Saudi Arabia was a hot topic at this year’s Reagan National Defense Forum, an annual meeting which has been called the Davos of the defense world for its ability to attract top policymakers, industry executives and other elites. National Defense Magazine

Exclusive: Q&A with Gen. Stephen Wilson, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen ‘Seve’ Wilson sat down with National Defense Managing Editor Jon Harper on the sidelines of the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, Dec. 1 for an interview about the Air Force’s innovation and acquisition initiatives and other issues. The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. National Defense Magazine

Islamic Extremists are Now Using Drones in Nigeria, Leader Says
Islamic extremists in Nigeria have begun using drones, the country’s president says, opening a worrying new front in the region’s nearly decade-long fight against Boko Haram and an offshoot linked to the Islamic State. Military Times

One more thing …

NASA Provides Live Coverage of Spacecraft Arrival at Asteroid That May Have Answers to the Origins of our Solar System
NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft is scheduled to rendezvous with its targeted asteroid, Bennu, on Monday, Dec. 3 at approximately noon EST. NASA