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China has pulled ahead of the US in hypersonic research and development. In a 2013 test, the X-51 Waverider vehicle, shown here, reached Mach 5.1 speed in a six-minute flight. The test was thought to have paved the way toward a potential hypersonic missile to be developed by 2020, but the Air Force has not openly tested anything similar since. Courtesy image.


Who’s In Charge of Catching Up to China in Hypersonics?

China is ahead in hypersonics, and the Air Force and other services are stepping up their research efforts to reclaim the lead, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Seve Wilson said in an interview with Air Force Magazine. While there seems to be no overall leader for the disparate efforts of the industry, academia, and service labs, Wilson—who sits on the Joint Requirements Oversight Council—said the services are looking at whether there should be. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Technology position might be the right place to put that leadership, but Wilson noted that it doesn’t exist yet. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.


HASC Ranking Members Slams Administration’s Planned Nuclear Posture Review

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash), the senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, on Wednesday condemned the Trump administration’s pending Nuclear Posture Review, saying a draft version posted by the Huffington Post calls for an expansion that would divert needed resources from conventional programs. However, senior Air Force and Defense Department leaders have repeatedly stated that nuclear modernization is a top priority and the United States can no longer afford to delay such efforts. Read the full story by Steve Hirsch.

The Future Fight Must Be Truly Joint

The Air Force and Army will conduct a series of experiments over the next year aimed at determining the “essential components” of multidomain battle command and control, with the ultimate goal of blending warfighting concepts into a joint doctrine. “In the future fight, we cannot depend on disparate solutions developed in functional service stovepipes,” wrote Air Combat Command boss Gen. Mike Holmes and Gen. David Perkins, head of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, in a recently released white paper. “Future commanders will have a profound breadth and depth of information and access to capabilities providing cross-domain effects, maneuver, and fires. Combat capabilities conceived and procured as disparate packages will be torn apart by peer adversaries, no matter how well they are put together on a future battlefield.” Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

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Mattis Rallies Support for Sanctions Against North Korea in the Pacific

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is gathering more public support for sanctions on North Korea, publicly thanking countries such as Vietnam that support putting additional pressure on the Kim Jong Un regime. During a Wednesday visit to Hanoi, Mattis praised Vietnam because “they’ve stepped up and aligned themselves with United Nations sanctions,” which embargo exports from North Korea. He acknowledged those sanctions come “at some cost” to Vietnam, largely because North Korea had exported coal cheaply to nearby countries, but Vietnam is still “leading by example,” Mattis said. “It too is a Pacific nation,” he said. “And so, when you say you’re not going to trade with somebody nearby, I mean there’s a cost there.” Mattis is in Vietnam for a two-day visit, which falls shortly before the 50th anniversary of the Tet offensive. That incident “is in our past,” said Mattis, who is also visiting members of the Defense Department’s POW-MIA Accounting Agency, which is tasked with finding the remains of US troops still missing from the Vietnam War. —Brian Everstine

Senate Panel Approves DOD Research, USAF Acquisition Nominees

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday approved the White House’s nominations for two senior Air Force positions and the head of Pentagon research. The committee approved, en bloc, the nominations of Michael Griffin to be the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering; William Roper to be the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics; and John Henderson to be the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment, and energy. The nominations now head to the full Senate for approval. During a Jan. 18 nomination hearing, Roper said if confirmed he plans to start a review of F-35 sustainment and B-21 force structure to ensure the Air Force will have the right amount of the aircraft. —Brian Everstine


Boeing Lands $150 Million Engineering Support Contract

Boeing has received a $150 million engineering support services contract for “multiple commercial derivative aircraft platforms,” the Pentagon said Tuesday. Such aircraft could include the E-4B, a militarized Boeing 747 used as an airborne operations and nuclear command and control center; the C-32, which was acquired as a commercial Boeing 757 and is known as Air Force Two when carrying the vice president; and the C-40 Clipper, which is based on the commercial Boeing 737-700 and also is used for distinguished visitor airlift. Work will be performed in Oklahoma City, Okla., San Antonio, Texas, and other US locations and is expected to be completed by Jan. 31, 2019.  The award was a result of a sole-source acquisition. —Steve Hirsch

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RADAR SWEEP


—Twelve members of the 436th Security Forces Squadron returned to Dover AFB, Del., on Jan. 21 after a six-month deployment to the Middle East: Dover release.

—The 50th Refueling Squadron at MacDill AFB, Fla., flew its first refueling mission on Jan. 16, three months after being relocated and re-designated: USAF release.

—A Japanese Ministry of Defense assessment found that mishaps involving US aircraft in Japan more than doubled in 2017: IHS Jane’s report.

—Lockheed Martin is asking the Pentagon for $212 million to help cover its acquisition of Sikorsky Aircraft, saying it will ultimately save taxpayers money: Bloomberg report.