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​President Donald Trump—flanked by Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs USAF Gen. Paul Selva, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, and other national security leaders—signed Space Policy Directive-4 on Tuesday, instructing the Pentagon to begin planning for a Space Force, which will be a new military service under the Department of the Air Force. Screenshot from White House video.

​Trump Directive Formally Spurs Plans for Space Force Under USAF

President Trump on Tuesday signed a directive instructing the Pentagon to lay out the policy details needed to establish a Space Force as a sixth military branch within the Department of the Air Force. The framework created by the Defense Department will head to the White House’s budget office, then to Capitol Hill for consideration. A Space Force is expected to complement the new US Space Command as the civilian-run organization in charge of organizing, training, and equipping forces—despite Trump’s goal to eventually create a separate military department for space operations. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen and John A. Tirpak.

Goldfein: 2020 Budget Buys “Moderate Risk”

The upcoming defense budget starts the process of building the 386-combat squadron Air Force, which Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein called a “moderate risk” force that is at long last built on national strategy and not simply affordability. Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Goldfein said the “balanced force” finally chosen was the result of some “3,000 iterations” of notional forces shaped to meet four primary tenets of the National Defense Strategy. Congress, he said, will be able to see the “fidelity of the analysis,” which will show the mix is “not … gold-plated.” Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

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KC-46 Refuels a Stealth Aircraft for the First Time

The KC-46 kicked off its next phase of testing by refueling a stealth aircraft for the first time, the Air Force announced. On Jan. 22, a KC-46 from the 418th Flight Test Squadron connected with an F-35 from the 461st Flight Test Squadron, according to a Feb. 14 release. The test was the first flight test in phase three, in which the tanker will certify with more receiving aircraft over the course of 15 months. The test came as Boeing and the Air Force are working to address deficiencies with the aircraft’s refueling system, including one that could cause scrapes to receiving aircraft. This could be a significant problem for stealth aircraft, such as the F-35, that rely on low-observable paint. If that coating is damaged, it could cause a reduction in the aircraft’s stealth capabilities. The Air Force has received at least six KC-46s at McConnell AFB, Kan., and Altus AFB, Okla. —Brian Everstine

Wilson, Goldfein Exploring Initiative to Protect USAF Families in On-Base Housing

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein are exploring ways the service might be able to help develop a tenant’s bill of rights for military families who live in on-base housing. “We are … looking at how we can work with project owners and Congress to establish a bill of rights for our residents with lease terms that give them financial leverage with the project owners,” Air Force spokesperson Laura McAndrews told Air Force Magazine in an email on Tuesday. The initiative, which was first reported by Reuters on Feb. 18, is still in the “very early” exploratory stages, McAndrews said, so specific details about it were unavailable. Wilson told Reuters that USAF is collaborating with the Army and Navy on the effort, and reportedly expressed a desire to fortify “the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a law that includes Active Duty housing protections.” Wilson and Goldfein have also ordered “a 100 percent ‘eyes on’ inspection by commanders to determine the extent of military housing problems,” McAndrews said. —Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

USAF Issues Updated Guidance on Non-Deployable Airmen

Senior Air Force leaders signed a memo updating the service’s policy on retaining non-deployable airmen, with the overall goal of slashing the overall nondeployable rate to five percent or lower. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

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RADAR SWEEP


U.S.-Backed Syrian Forces Call for 1,500 Coalition Troops to Stay
The commander of U.S.-backed forces in Syria called on Monday for about 1,000 to 1,500 international forces to remain in Syria to help fight Islamic State and expressed hope that the United States, in particular, would halt plans for a total pullout. Reuters

Shanahan Discusses Results of Trip to Afghanistan, Iraq, Poland, Belgium, Germany
Patrick M. Shanahan said his first trip as acting defense secretary was timely and has given him a lot to chew on moving forward. DOD

Federal Judge Blocks Discharge of Two HIV-Positive Airmen
A federal judge directed the Department of Defense to stop the pending discharge of two airmen suing the Pentagon for allegedly targeting them for being HIV-positive, LGBTQ legal group Lambda Legal said in a statement Friday. CNN

New Law Allows Disabled Vets to Fly Space-A
Recent changes to policy under the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act now allow many disabled veterans to fly Space-A on military flights. AFRC News

One More Thing …

Flight Reaches 801 MPH as a Furious Jet Stream Packs Record-Breaking Speeds
A Virgin Atlantic flight from Los Angeles to London peaked at a whopping 801 mph Monday evening 35,000 feet over Pennsylvania. Washington Post