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​Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson unveiled the service's plan to increase its number of squadrons in a Sept. 17, 2018, keynote at AFA's Air, Space & Cyber Conference. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

New Air Force Planning Boss: 386 Squadron Level a “Baseline”

The Air Force’s plan to increase the number of operational squadrons to 386 is now just one of four possible force structure levels the service is considering. The Air Force Warfighter Integration Capability office is just beginning new analysis to determine the other routes that could be needed, the head of this planning said Tuesday at an AFA Mitchell Institute event in Arlington, Va. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Pence Announces Creation of US Space Command

Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday officially announced the re-establishment of US Space Command as the 11th combatant command in the US military, moving one step closer to the creation of a new separate service for space operations. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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McSally Gets McCain’s Senate Seat

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday said he will appoint USAF veteran and Arizona Republican Rep. Martha McSally to the late Sen. John McCain’s Senate seat. The announcement comes at the end of a turbulent political year for McSally, in which she sacrificed her seat in the US House of Representatives to run for Arizona’s other Senate seat, only to lose the tight race to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

GAO: USAF Ballistic Missile Defense System Meets Operational Requirements

The Air Force’s major ballistic missile defense radar in Alaska, Cobra Dane, met its requirement for operational capability, though the service may face limitations on space surveillance when the radar is down for maintenance, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. The GAO, in the Fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, was tasked to review the Air Force’s operation of the Cobra Dane station, which first began operating in 1976 on Shemya Island for ballistic missile defense and space surveillance. The Air Force and Missile Defense Agency together planned to spend $278.6 million in fiscal 2019 for operation and sustainment of the radar station, and the Air Force also plans $140 million for operations and maintenance of the site. The GAO found that the Air Force has developed procedures to mitigate risks when the site is down, for example by using SeaBased X-band radars for ballistic missile defense. The Air Force could face limitations on space surveillance if the radar is down because it can track objects that no other radar can track, according to the GAO. However, there are no plans to take the system offline long enough to compromise space surveillance, the report states. —Brian Everstine

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RADAR SWEEP


Northrop Gets Potential $3.6B Air Force Large Aircraft Countermeasures Program Support IDIQ
Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) will provide equipment and support for the U.S. Air Force‘s Large Aircraft Infrared Counter Measures program under a potential seven-year, $3.60B contract. Govconwire

The Future is Tuesday: Bezos, Musk, Boeing, and France to Launch Rockets Into Space
The stars are aligning for Tuesday to be quite the bookend to a transformational year for commercial space exploration. Fortune

Pentagon Has Sent Home Nearly 3K Active Duty Border Troops
Roughly half of the 5,900 active duty troops sent to the U.S.-Mexico border have returned home, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday. The Hill

On Board the 'Eye in the Sky' Watching Syria
For the last two years Nato planes (Awacs) have surveyed the skies over worn-torn Syria. The team on board are seen as a crucial part of the fight against the group calling itself Islamic State. The BBC's Mark Lowen has been on board the plane. BBC

Air Force PEAT Leverages Civil Air Patrol in Total Force Problem Solving
The Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team is partnering up with the Civil Air Patrol as it continues to work toward solving physiological episodes or events. Air Force News

One more thing …

The Power of a Picture: The Wright Brothers Take Off
Despite what we’ve been told, this famous photograph doesn’t show the first powered, controlled flight, the author argues. Air Force Times