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​The Air Force's T-6 trainer fleet, like the one shown here, remains grounded nearly three weeks after standing down due to multiple reports of hypoxia-like symptoms. USAF officials are still working to nail down the cause. Air Force photo by David Poe.

T-6 Grounding Impacting Training Pipeline

Three weeks after the service grounded its T-6 trainer fleet after pilots reported multiple hypoxia-like symptoms, it’s still not clear when the trainers will be able to safely return to flight. Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Seve Wilson told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday the leaders of Air Force Materiel Command and Air Education and Training Command are meeting daily in an effort to solve the T-6 problem and he expects a report on their progress next week. The service also has reached out to the Navy, which has suffered from similar issues with its On-Board Oxygen Generation system, and is even working with a team from NASA. “We’ve got a full court press working to identify the problems,” said Wilson. “We think it’s partly maintenance related, partly an aircrew flight equipment problem, and we think there is a training piece.” In the meantime, Wilson said the service is losing 700 T-6 sorties per day, which will have a longer-term impact on pilot production. “Our T-6 is critical for our ability as a basic trainer. We are looking holistically at how to solve that from a materiel solution, from an education solution, from a training solution to get that aircraft back up on its feet as soon as possible,” Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, USAF deputy chief of staff for operations, said in prepared testimony to the House Armed Services Committee the same day. —Amy McCullough

USAF to Grow Out of Pilot Crisis by Increasing Training, Not by Competing with Airlines

The Air Force knows it cannot control what airlines are offering experienced pilots, but it's hoping increased training will help fix the pilot crisis. The service wants to train 1,400 undergraduate pilots per year, and offer enough incentives to keep instructors and evaluators around to make sure they are ready, Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, the deputy chief of staff for operations, told lawmakers Wednesday. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

US Must Accept Space as Key Battleground, PACOM Commander Tells Congress

The United States has “been led astray by viewing space as some kind of fuzzy panda bear thing” for too long, while countries like China, Russia, and North Korea have viewed the space domain as the “ultimate high ground,” continuously preparing for battle in space, US Pacific Command boss Adm. Harry Harris told members of the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. Read the full report by Steve Hirsch.

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Guard Planning to Increase RPA Launch Elements for Training, Emergency Response

The Air National Guard is planning to add more emotely piloted aircraft launch and recovery elements, which will increase crew training and make more of its aircraft such as MQ-9s available to help with emergency response at home. The Guard has two launch and recovery elements in training units in California and New York, with the goal to increase that number to five, ANG Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice said at a House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee hearing Wednesday. These elements will provide a “good balance of at home training and response” to Guard missions at home. New York and California Air National Guard crews used MQ-9s to help respond to large-scale fires in Southern California throughout late 2017. The increase in available launch and recovery elements will also mean more Guard airmen can deploy to launch RPA missions in current air wars. —Brian Everstine

NATO Votes to Create New Commands, Further Increase Defense Spending

NATO’s defense ministers on Wednesday voted to create new commands aimed at protecting communication, improving logistics, rapidly responding in Eastern Europe, and protecting cyber networks. Additionally, NATO member countries pledged to further increase the total spending on collective defense. “It is about fairness: with all allies taking their fair share of responsibility for our defense,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “And above all, it is about our security in a more complex and unpredictable world.” The NATO defense ministers voted to establish a new Joint Force Command for the Atlantic, which will protect sea lines of communication between North America and Europe. NATO will establish a new support command for logistics, reinforcement, and military mobility to improve the movement of troops. It also will designate additional land component commands in Europe to improve the rapid response capability. Lastly, NATO is setting up a new cyber operations center to strengthen online defenses, Stoltenberg said. In 2014, NATO member nations pledged to spend at least two percent of their gross domestic product on defense, and so far eight allies have met that mark. By 2024, NATO expects at least 15 member nations to meet this mark, Stoltenberg said. —Brian Everstine

Air Force Experimenting with Steps to Improve C-17 Efficiency

The Air Force Research Laboratory's Advanced Power Technology Office is developing three programs to improve the C-17 Globemaster fleet, including the use of microvanes, use of synthetic tie-downs instead of cargo chains and winch cables instead of steel cables. The addition of microvanes at the rear of the C-17 fuselage is being contracted with Lockheed Martin to cut drag and fuel consumption, according to a USAF release. Capt. Randall Hodkin, AFRL Advanced Power Technology Office aviation working group lead, said that if all 222 of the Air Force’s C-17s had microvanes installed, fuel savings each year could reach 2 million gallons. The team also tested synthetic tie-downs and winch cables. The proposed 280-foot synthetic winch cable weighs 14 pounds, compared to 80 pounds for the steel wire cable. Switching the 92 C-17 steel chains to synthetic tie-down assemblies can cut 1,000 pounds of weight from the aircraft, states the release.

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—An Air Force Special Operations Surgical Team on Feb. 13 received Bronze Stars for their work at an austere location as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, treating a “river of trauma” patients as part of the fight against ISIS: 24th SOW release.

—Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, the superintendent of the US Air Force Academy, in a CNN op-ed reflects on why diversity is important at the school: CNN.

—Japan is reportedly considering buying the short take off and vertical landing variant of the F-35 to help defend its remote islands: IHS Jane’s.