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Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson speaks at AFA's Air, Space & Cyber Conference in 2017. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.


USAF to Unveil Future Force Structure, Squadron Levels at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference

The Air Force in less than two weeks will unveil the results of a nine-month review of its squadron structure in the face of growing great power competition, Secretary Heather Wilson said Wednesday. USAF has used wargames, simulation, and modelling to determine its needed force structure and will outline its requirements and goals during keynote addresses at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Sept. 17-19 in National Harbor, Md. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Wilson: Complete Alignment on Space Force Plan, Details to Come in Budget Request

The Pentagon will lay out its plan for creating a Space Force in the Fiscal 2020 budget request, with full support from the Air Force to ensure that it is “done right,” USAF Secretary Heather Wilson said Wednesday. Wilson, who previously spoke out against the creation of a separate service for space before the proposal was officially announced by President Trump, said there is “complete alignment” between her and the President, and that she expects to see the new service’s Secretary take over the “full array of authorities and responsibilities” for space like she has for air as a domain. The Fiscal 2020 budget proposal will be complete, to “make sure we don’t do this with half measures,” she said at a Defense News conference in Arlington, Va. HASC ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said Wednesday there is bipartisan support behind the creation of a separate service for space, or at least a separate combatant command for the domain, but “details matter.” Smith emphasized that space is important, and a large-scale change will happen, however, there will need to be heavy debate on how it is accomplished. —Brian Everstine


USAF Increasing Role of Simulators, Live-Virtual Construction to “Get Reps” Before Deployments

The Air Force is trying to find the balance between the amount of real-life training necessary and the increasing importance of virtual exercises—both in simulators and through real flight simulations—to effectively train pilots for high-end threats. Pilots are progressing from “several” virtual training events before flying in large-scale Red Flag-type exercises in an effort to meet the service’s goal of getting pilots ready for each stage of training through deployment, Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly, the service’s deputy chief of staff for operations, said Wednesday. “You never want servicemen to do something in combat that they haven’t done in training,” and in turn the Air Force doesn’t want something done live “until it is done in a simulator,” Kelly said at a Defense News conference in Arlington, Va. As an Air Force policy, the service strives to send every aviator to 10 high-end training exercises before his or her first deployment, but cost and the availability of aircraft can limit the scale of these flights. If the Air Force really wants to exercise its fifth-generation aircraft, F-22s and F-35s, to the level they should, it requires command and control assets and battle management as well. That’s “not a trivial bill to pay,” Kelly said. The “only way to replicate” this is to simulate the presence of the C2 and battle management in the fighter’s sensors to be able to “get reps” and train. —Brian Everstine

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DARPA Director Sets Course for the Future

Steven Walker, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, outlined strategic priorities to ensure the agency remains “the global vanguard of leading-edge science and technology,” and carries on its legacy of inventing the future and safeguarding global security in a Wednesday keynote at the agency’s D60 Symposium. “DARPA’s mission—to develop breakthrough technologies and capabilities for national security—has held steady for decades,” Walker said. “But the world around DARPA has not remained constant.” Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

Scobee Confirmed to Take Over Air Force Reserve

Maj. Gen. Richard Scobee on Tuesday was confirmed to receive his third star and take over as commander of Air Force Reserve Command and chief of the Air Force Reserve. Scobee, who is currently the deputy commander of Air Force Reserve Command, will take over for Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, who will take over Air Mobility Command and receive her fourth star as the first Reservist to command an Air Force major command. Scobee is a command pilot with more than 3,800 hours, including 248 combat hours, in the F-16. He has commanded at the squadron, group, wing, and numbered Air Force level. —Brian Everstine

Lord: Selling More, Stronger Weapons Systems to Allies Will Help Prepare for Great Power Competition

The Pentagon and Trump administration are preparing for great power competition in a way that looks to help both allies and the US industrial base, by loosening regulations to streamline more foreign military sales, a senior Defense Department acquisition official said. Ellen Lord, the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said Wednesday that by making it easier for US companies to create and sell weapons systems to allies, countries that are friendly to the US will be better prepared for any possible contingency with a great power, such as Russia or, in particular, China. The Pentagon under the Trump administration has been working closely with the National Security Council, the State Department, and Congress to speed up weapons sales to countries that want to be able to buy American weapons systems, Lord said. For example, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week are in New Delhi for a meeting with Indian officials that will center on ways to “really solidify the critical geopolitical alliance” between the US and India. A focal point of the discussion will be a possible Communications Capability and Security Agreement with India, which would let US companies provide secure datalinks such as Link 16 for Indian aircraft. “International alliances and partnerships are critical for us from a national security point of view, and for our national defense industrial base,” Lord said. —Brian Everstine

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HASC Ranking Member Lays Out Priorities if House Majority Flips

If the Democrats build on momentum and flip the House, the House Armed Services Committee Democrats plan to increase the committee’s oversight of ongoing Defense Department operations and expect to see a decrease in the spending and growth of strategic weapons, the committee’s current ranking member said Wednesday. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), who would take over as HASC chairman if the Democrats gain the majority in the midterm elections, said there is a “lot of commonality” between both parties on the committee to get the most out of the money that is spent, though there are major difference in spending priorities. The “biggest area of difference” is nuclear weapons, Smith said at a Defense News conference in Arlington, Va. The current Nuclear Posture Review and National Defense Strategy emphasize the importance of modernizing the nuclear triad and the development of a new, low-yield weapon. These are both “extremely problematic,” Smith said, and in his view not realistic based on budget realities. The current budget level is “too high” and is “not going to be there in the future,” with a budget deficit, he added. Going forward, the Congress and the Defense Department need to realize it can accomplish deterrence with a smaller number of weapons and prioritize which missions are most important instead of trying to face every threat. In addition, the Pentagon, under the current administration, has had too much leeway in special operations missions in areas such as Yemen and Niger, and if the majority switches, HASC needs to increase its oversight, said Smith. “The military is as expansive as it’s ever been,” Smith said, and in “a lot of our places our guys our getting out front” when it should be a train and equip mission, he said. —Brian Everstine

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RADAR SWEEP


—Air Mobility Command boss Gen. Carlton Everhart, who will soon retire after 35 years in uniform, penned an op-ed offering his parting thoughts on everything from laser-equipped tankers to an aviator technical track program: Air Force Times.

—The Air Force’s new KC-46A tanker has completed FAA certification: Boeing release.

—Lockheed Martin is conducting a $2 million “drone race” that pits humans against drones driven solely by artificial intelligence: BNN Bloomberg.

—The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center has awarded Sierra Nevada Corp. a contract worth up to $1.8 billion for “potential procurement, sustainment, modifications, ferry, and related equipment” for A-29s for the Afghan Air Force: DOD contract announcement.

—The Air Force opened its first Invisible Wounds Center at Eglin AFB, Fla., in late August. The center will treat Total Force and retired US military personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and other invisible wounds: USAF release.