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​The Air Force on Aug. 1 announced it will stop operations for one day so commanders can discuss suicide prevention and mental health with their airmen. Photo by SSgt. Christine Groening.

USAF Orders Stand-Down to Combat Rising Suicide Rate

Air Force units will stand down for one day this summer to address the rising problem of suicides, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein called “an adversary that is killing more of our airmen than any enemy on the planet.” As of the end of July, 79 suicides had occurred in the Air Force in 2019—nearly as many as were recorded last year in about half the time. Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright told airmen this week he believes suicide is the biggest problem the service faces. “Let’s take a moment and breathe and spend a little time on our airmen and their resiliency, and make sure we’re not missing anything when it comes to suicide and suicide awareness,” Wright told Air Force Magazine. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.


“Deploy or Get Out” Spurs Rise in Deployable Airmen

The number of non-deployable airmen has dropped from nearly 7 percent to less than 5 percent following last year’s Pentagon-wide mandate to “deploy or get out.” The Air Force shrank the portion of its ranks that couldn’t deploy through a series of initiatives after former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ordered the military to start letting go of personnel who were unable to deploy for at least a year. As of December 2018, 6.8 percent of airmen—34,200 people in total—could not deploy. The biggest culprits: failing to stay current on vaccinations, addressing medical and dental issues, and falling behind on physical training. The figure now stands at 4.5 percent, or about 30,000 non-deployable airmen. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

New Pentagon Report Pegs Air Force One Cost at $5.2 Billion

The next Air Force One jets will cost $5.2 billion overall, according to the Pentagon’s first formal acquisition report on the presidential aircraft. That's about the same as the total cost the Air Force provided to Defense One in March, which is significantly more than previous projections. The $4.7 billion development cost listed in the service's fiscal 2020 budget covers the price of the jets, while the $5.2 billion also includes the cost of hangar construction, engineering, and more. In 2016, the Government Accountability Office projected the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program would total $3.2 billion through 2020, including development and procurement. An Aug. 1 summary of the most recent Selected Acquisition Reports also lists price hikes for two USAF munitions programs, space launch, and a B-2 system. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

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Lockheed Receives $1.1 Billion for Slovak, Iraqi F-16 Programs

Lockheed Martin received two major F-16 contracts July 31, collectively worth $1.1 billion, to produce 14 jets for Slovakia and to support the fighter fleet at Balad AB, Iraq. The Slovak contract, worth about $800 million, buys new F-16V aircraft to be delivered into 2024. The $315.6 million Iraqi contract also continues Lockheed’s logistics support for F-16IQs and establishes a training detachment at Balad. Iraqi pilots began flying F-16IQ combat missions in spring 2018. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

First Vermont Air Guard F-35A Flies

The Vermont Air National Guard’s inaugural F-35A took flight at a Lockheed Martin facility in Ft. Worth, Texas, on July 31. It’s the first of 20 Joint Strike Fighters that will eventually call Burlington, Vt., home. The “Green Mountain Boys” of the 158th Fighter Wing plan to receive the aircraft in September, followed by another 17 primary aircraft and two spares into 2020. The unit gave up its last F-16 on April 6 after being associated with the Falcon for 33 years. Burlington International Airport, where the unit is based, is spending $100 million on improvements to prepare for the Lightning II. Although Vermont Guardsmen are looking forward to the F-35, local officials voted last year to ask the Air Force to replace the F-16 with a quieter aircraft than the F-35. The vote was non-binding and the deployment remains on track. Local residents have also resisted the F-35—which can carry the new B61-12 nuclear bomb—on anti-nuclear grounds, even though wing officials have said the Vermont unit does not have a nuclear mission and their F-35s will not be so equipped. Vermont’s congressional delegation, including Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), supports the F-35’s arrival in the state. —John A. Tirpak

Senate Confirms New Air Force Deputy ISR, Cyber Chief

The Senate confirmed Maj. Gen. Mary O’Brien as the Air Force’s next deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and cyber effects operations by unanimous consent July 31. O’Brien was nominated in May and is receiving her third star in the promotion. She will take over for Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, whose next move is not yet public. O’Brien is set to take the helm of the ISR and cyber enterprise as the Air Force merges the two missions for a more holistic approach to offensive and defensive “information operations.” She currently serves as commander of 25th Air Force, which oversees ISR, cyber, and electronic warfare and is similarly combining with Air Forces Cyber to become a new numbered Air Force. —Rachel S. Cohen

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Cotton Nominated for Air Force Global Strike Command No. 2

Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton is poised to return to Air Force Global Strike Command as its next deputy commander, according to an Aug. 1 Defense Department nomination announcement. Cotton oversaw the intercontinental ballistic missile enterprise as 20th Air Force commander, from November 2015 to January 2018, before taking his current job as commander and president of Air University at Maxwell AFB, Ala.. He also is a former missile and space wing commander. If confirmed, Cotton would replace Maj. Gen. Vito Addabbo. Last month, Maj. Gen. James Hecker was nominated to succeed Cotton as head of Air University. —Brian Everstine

Navy Pilot Dies in F/A-18 Crash in California

A Navy pilot was killed July 31 when their F/A-18E Super Hornet crashed in the California desert, Naval Air Forces confirmed in an Aug. 1 tweet. The Pentagon is withholding the pilot’s identity for 24 hours in accordance with department policy. The jet, assigned to a fighter squadron at NAS Lemoore, Calif., went down during a routine training flight in Death Valley National Park. The Navy dispatched teams to search for the pilot near so-called “Star Wars Canyon,” and is investigating the accident. Seven people were also injured in the incident, the Los Angeles Times reported. The pilot’s home squadron acknowledged the crash in a July 31 Facebook post, while Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson tweeted his condolences. The squadron is a member of Carrier Air Group 9 and attached to the USS John C. Stennis. —Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

Senate Confirms Gilday as Chief of Naval Operations

The Senate confirmed Joint Staff Director Vice Adm. Michael Gilday as the 32nd Chief of Naval Operations in an Aug. 1 voice vote. Gilday will also receive his fourth star. He will succeed Adm. John Richardson, who has led the Navy since September 2015. Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran was approved by the Senate to become CNO, but abruptly announced plans to retire before he was sworn in. —Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

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RADAR SWEEP


US Preparing to Withdraw Thousands of Troops from Afghanistan as Part of Proposed Taliban Deal
The Pentagon is preparing to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan as part of a proposed peace deal with the Taliban, US officials told Fox News Thursday. One official warned the withdrawal would be subject to the completion of any agreement. So far, no such deal has been finalized. Fox News

Is the Air Force Headed to New Galaxies? General Explains What She Meant
People were left scratching their heads last year when the Air Force's top intelligence officer said the US was looking for ways to expand its multi-domain operations and intelligence gathering into galaxies far, far away. Military.com

The Military is Kicking Out Foreign Recruits It Needs—for Having Foreign Ties
Immigrant enlistees have been cut loose for being the children of foreign parents or for having family ties to their native government or military. In some cases, they have relatives who served in militaries closely allied with the United States. Washington Post (partial paywall)

A New Satellite Antenna Could Save the Air Force Time and Money
A new antenna could revolutionize Air Force satellite operations and significantly reduce maintenance costs over time―if it works. On behalf of the Air Force, the Defense Innovation Unit has awarded contracts to companies to develop prototype multi-band, multi-mission phased array antennas, capable of connecting with multiple satellites simultaneously by reaching out to them on different frequencies. C4ISRNET

Analysts: “Space Defense Force” Would Be a Better Name, Space Development Agency Will Not Survive
As Congress prepares to write legislation that would authorize the Defense Department to stand up a space service, lawmakers have lots of decisions to make, including the name of the organization. Space News

Competition (With China) IS The New Deterrence, US Military Leaders Say
“The most important word in the [National Defense Strategy] is compete,” Gen. Timothy Ray, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, told reporters in Omaha, Neb., on July 31. And senior officers speaking at Strategic Command’s 10th annual deterrence conference there fixated on China as the likeliest US adversary. Breaking Defense

New Chinese Military Strategy Casts US Military in Asia as Destabilizing
A new Chinese defense ministry policy paper counters the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy by casting the US as an aggressive and destabilizing force in Asia. The recently released China’s National Defense in the New Era acknowledges China and the US are competing superpowers, but China’s paper makes the case Beijing’s policies provide peaceful security to a region facing threats posed by pressure from the US. USNI News

North Korea Says It Tested Crucial New Rocket Launch System
North Korea said Aug. 1 that leader Kim Jong Un supervised the first test firing of a new multiple rocket launcher system that could potentially enhance its ability to strike targets in South Korea and US military bases there. Associated Press

One More Thing …

Flying with Sharks: A Plan for Every Outcome
While unlikely, the threat of shark attack was a very real (and gruesome) one for U-2, and later A-12, pilots conducting high risk surveillance routes that would take them over miles and miles of shark-infested waters. Real enough, in fact, that the Central Intelligence Agency became uniquely motivated to defeat the threat. CIA.gov