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USAF F-35As assigned to the 4th Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah, conduct flight training operations on Feb. 14 in Utah. Air Force photo by SSgt. Andrew Lee.

​F-35s Behind, Line Needs More Automation; Services Plan to Mod Early Jets

Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 program executive officer, said Monday he may withhold some incentive fees to Lockheed Martin if the company doesn’t step up the pace of delivering jets off its Fort Worth, Texas, production line. There’s too much, scrap, repair, and rework required, Winter told reporters at a press conference, and the per-jet delays could cause big problems as quantity production edges up toward full rate manufacture of the fighters. Winter also said the services will update all their earlier jets, but have not yet decided by how much. Later-configuration aircraft enjoy a much higher reliability rate, he said. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

USAF to Let Pilots Fly the U-2 Straight Out of Undergraduate Training  

USAF undergraduate pilots for the first time have the chance to go directly to the cockpit of the legendary U-2 spy plane. The Air Force announced Friday that beginning this fall student pilots in undergraduate pilot training can enter a direct pipeline to flying the Dragon Lady through the 9th Reconnaissance Wing’s U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer program. If selected, a student pilot will attend the T-38 Pilot Instructor Training Course at JBSA-Randolph, Texas. Upon graduation, the student will then be assigned to Beale AFB, Calif., where they will spend two years as a T-38 instructor pilot of the U-2 Companion Trainer Program. After enough experience as an instructor, the pilot will begin a two-week interview process followed by basic qualification in the U-2. Under the current system, a pilot must spend at least six years gaining experience on another airframe before applying to fly the U-2. “The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” said Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, commander of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, in the release. “However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process ...”


Former Army Medic Receives Medal of Honor

President Trump on Monday awarded the Medal of Honor to former Army SSgt. Ronald Shurer, a former Special Forces medic who is credited with saving fellow soldiers in Shok Valley, Afghanistan, in 2008. “Ron … is an inspiration to everyone in this room and to every citizen all across our great land,” Trump said. “Ron, our hearts are filled with gratitude and joy as we prepare to engrave your name alongside of America’s greatest heroes.” On April 6, 2008, US and Afghan special forces commandos were on a mission to capture or kill high-value targets when they came under attack from machine gun, sniper, and rocket-propelled grenade fire, pinning the forward element of the team on a hillside. Shurer ran through enemy fire, climbing a rock face to treat wounded members and killing enemy fighters on the way. He treated members of the team for more than six hours, including covering other soldiers with his own body as they were fired upon, and eventually helped evacuate three of the wounded teammates. Shurer was originally awarded the Silver Star for his actions. —Brian Everstine

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Is DOD Missing the Boat on High-Tech Innovation?

The only aerospace and defense firm among ​Fortune's 100 Fastest Growing Companies is Mercury Systems, which is not your typical defense company. “I like to say we’re a high-tech company operating in the defense marketplace, as opposed to being a defense company that develops high-tech technology,” Mercury President and CEO Mark Aslett told Air Force Magazine. The Andover, Mass.,-based company, ranks 27th on Fortune’s list and builds sophisticated real-time processing subsystems, that go in everything from radars to electronic warfare systems. Yet as the company grows, Aslett said Mercury is often pressured to fall back into more traditional acquisition models. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

Freeing Up Airmen for Critical Cyber Operations

The Air Force wants to free up airmen from supporting routine base network operations, so they can concentrate on offensive cyber missions. To do this, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hanscom AFB, Mass., last week announced two agreements with AT&T and Microsoft worth a total of $121 million to cover risk-reduction experiments over three years. The experiments are aimed at showing what commercial industry can do “in terms of bringing the network performance we expect, while maintaining the network security we need, at a price we can afford,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Schmidt, program executive officer for command, control, communications, intelligence, and networks at Hanscom. These experiments, to be performed at several bases, are the first part of what the Air Force is calling its “Enterprise Information Technology as-a-Service” program, which looks to establish a secure and reliable network using commercially proven products and services that will allow access to classified and unclassified Defense Department data and applications from department facilities and mobile and remote locations. Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner, 24th Air Force and Air Forces Cyber commander, called the effort “a significant step forward in the Air Force’s efforts to transform IT.”—Steve Hirsch

NATO Chiefs: Organization Must Continue to Deter Russia, Continue Supporting Afghan Military

NATO needs to remain focused on countering Russia’s hybrid warfare attempts to destabilize Western governments, top US and NATO commanders said during a meeting of organization’s military committee last week. NATO continues to deter Russia through its Enhanced Forward Presence initiative, having deployed units and aircraft in the Baltic States and Poland in response to Russia’s activity in the region, said British Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peace, during his first Military Committee meeting as chairman, according to a Pentagon release. US Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, said Russia is aggressively operating “particularly below the level of war,” including cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns to undermine Western values. “If they can destabilize these governments, if they can create enough questions, then that is to their benefit,” Scaparrotti said. NATO and the US military have evolved to address the heightened tensions, specifically through new authorities that allow Scaparrotti to require readiness of units “on a specific timeline” to a faster response if necessary, he said. In addition to the Russian threats, the NATO military chiefs renewed their support to the fight in Afghanistan and further committed to helping strengthen that country’s military. —Brian Everstine

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Fairchild Tankers Deploy to Spain in Support of French Anti-Terrorist Mission in Africa

KC-135 tankers from the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild AFB, Wash., have deployed to Moron AB, Spain, in support of French operations against terrorists in Mali and across Northern Africa. USAF tankers have been participating in the mission, known as Operation Juniper Micron, since 2013. “We plan to continue this support to our allies,” states a USAF release, which also notes that all USAF rotations throughout theater are done “in full coordination with host nations and support partners.” Due to a $4.3 million runway renovation, USAF tankers temporarily operated out of Zaragoza AB, Spain. This is the first rotation back at Moron since that project wrapped up in September. —Amy McCullough


Air Force Awards $1 Billion Contract to Aerospace Corp. for National Security Space Services

The Space and Missile Systems Center has awarded the Aerospace Corp. a one-year, $1 billion contract for “general life-cycle systems engineering and integration for the National Security Space community,” according to a Friday contract announcement. The contract covers a number of services, including planning, technical specifications support, user needs analysis, manufacturing and quality control, as well as assistance with testing, launch support, and integration of space systems, among other things. Work is to be completed by Sept. 30, 2019. —Steve Hirsch

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RADAR SWEEP


—Members of the 66th and 58th Rescue Squadrons and the 823rd Maintenance Squadron marked the 20th anniversary of the HH-60G mid-air collision that killed 12 airmen by restoring a memorial on the Nevada Test and Training Range dedicated to the Jolly 38 and Jolly 39 crews: USAF release.

—The mother of Medal of Honor recipient, TSgt. John Chapman, talks about his life, in a USAF video commemorating Gold Star Mother’s Day: USAF video.

—Defense Secretary Jim Mattis left on Monday for France and Belgium. In France he will meet with key leaders to discuss the US-French military relationship and in Brussels he will attend the NATO defense ministers conference Oct. 3-4: DOD release.

—An unnamed defense official reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis no longer plans to visit China later this month, as tensions between the two countries over activity in the South China Sea escalates: CNBC.

—North and South Korea have begun removing some 800,000 landmines from the border, a move that was agreed to when the two country’s leaders met in Pyongyang last month: BBC.