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​Members of the 576th Flight Test Squadron oversee the launch of an unarmed Minuteman III missile March 27, 2015, at Vandenberg Air Force Base during an operational test launch. Air Force photo by Michael Peterson.

​Boeing Backs Out of Nuclear Missile Competition, Prompting USAF Choices

Boeing is abandoning its bid to build the next intercontinental ballistic missile amid an ongoing dispute with the Air Force about rocket propulsion, about a year before the service planned to choose between Boeing and Northrop Grumman as the program’s sole contractor. The decision means Boeing is walking away from the prospect of stretching its six-decade legacy of Minuteman missile work into the late 2000s with the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent. It also promises to ratchet up tensions in the solid rocket motor industrial base. A July 23 letter from Boeing Defense CEO Leanne Caret to Pentagon and Air Force officials, which Air Force Magazine obtained July 25, says the service has not done enough to allay Boeing’s core concerns with the multibillion-dollar competition. Experts say the service faces a tough choice: adjust the competition’s parameters and risk delaying development and fielding, or stick with one prime and risk losing the benefits of a competition. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.


Senate Confirms Milley as Joint Chiefs Chairman

The Senate on July 25 confirmed Army Gen. Mark Milley to be the 20th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a bipartisan, nearly unanimous vote of 89-1. Milley will take over for retiring Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who has served as chairman since October 2015. Milley previously served as Army chief of staff and was nominated for his new role in early April. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Air Force Starts Fielding F-35 Auto Ground Collision Avoidance System

The Air Force has begun loading its F-35As with the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System seven years sooner than planned, Lockheed Martin announced. Jets at Eglin AFB, Fla. and Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, are the first to receive the software modification, a Lockheed spokesman said. The upgrade was originally expected to be installed on the F-35 in 2026, but its potential value prompted program managers to accelerate the schedule, using a “rapid, agile development, test, and contracting approach,” Lockheed said in a release. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

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House Approves $738B Defense Topline for 2020

The House of Representatives on July 25 passed a two-year deal that lifts legally mandated budget caps and allows Congress to spend up to $738 billion on defense in fiscal 2020 and $741 billion in 2021. The measure, passed in a 284-149 vote after multiple amendments were rejected, now heads to the Senate while the House breaks for summer recess. The approved funding level for 2020—split into $667 billion for the base budget and $72 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations account—sits between the $750 billion topline Republicans wanted and the $733 billion topline Democrats endorsed. After extensive negotiations, the deal is expected to pass out of Congress and is supported by President Donald Trump. Bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a 2020 defense topline also offers a fiscal target for lawmakers who are working on a defense policy bill compromise between the two chambers. The draft Bipartisan Budget Act also raises nondefense spending to $638 billion in 2020 and about $636 billion in 2021. —Brian Everstine and Rachel S. Cohen

Pentagon Ceremony Welcomes Esper as Defense Secretary

Mark Esper’s tenure as defense secretary ceremoniously began on July 25 at the Pentagon, with pomp, circumstance, and a welcome from the president and vice president. “I have absolute confidence that Mark will ensure that our incredible military is fully prepared to deter conflict and to defeat any foe,” President Donald Trump said during the ceremony at the Pentagon’s river entrance. The Senate confirmed Esper on July 23 by a vote of 90-8, and Esper gave thanks for the broad support from both sides of the political aisle. The Senate Armed Services Committee waived its regular procedure in order to hold Esper’s confirmation hearing the day after formally receiving the nomination, and the full Senate held the vote a week later. The Pentagon faces a complex global security environment, and Esper said he will work to “continue to strengthen the military to deter conflict, preserve peace, and advance America’s interests.” —Brian Everstine

Spangdahlem F-16s Deploy to Iceland

F-16Cs and airmen from Spangdahlem AB, Germany, deployed to Iceland this week for a NATO air policing mission. The aircraft and airmen from the 480th Fighter Squadron will operate from Keflavik AB and under tactical control of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Center in Uedem, Germany, according to a US Air Forces in Europe release. The US Air Force has conducted these deployments since 2008 as part of a NATO commitment to protect Iceland. Previous deployments have included F-15s from RAF Lakenheath, England, last year and Massachusetts Air National Guard F-15s in 2016. —Brian Everstine

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RADAR SWEEP


North Korea Fires “New Short-Range Missile” into Sea, South Korea Says
North Korea has fired two short-range missiles into the sea, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. They were launched over the sea early on July 25, from Wonsan on North Korea's east coast. BBC News

Graham: I Told Turkey They Can Avoid Sanctions If They Don’t Activate Russian Radar
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), on the request of President Trump called Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu with a simple pitch on July 24: Just don’t activate the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system. Defense One

SPACECOM Stand-Up: New Focus for Ongoing Missions
The stand-up of the new version of US Space Command will involve more than simply moving the desks from one office to another and changing the logo on the letterhead. Breaking Defense

Thornberry: Pentagon Will Not Have Its Way in Space Force Legislation
Rep. Mac Thornberry: Whatever the final language that comes out of conference, it will likely not include many of the items that the Defense Department has asked for. Space News

Down-Range Retention is Really High: Afghan War, Deployments Still Boost Recruiting
The enlisted advisers to the Joint Chiefs of Staff were asked July 24 at the Pentagon whether the 18-year war in Afghanistan was stemming the recruitment pool as the military attempts to grow its force. The answer: When people enlist in the military, they want to go to war. Army Times

Air Force Wants Simulated Wargames to Plan for Lasers, Electro-Magnetic Weapons
The wargames are meant to teach airmen about these new weapons and help the Air Force develop new tactics and procedures. Nextgov

Moldy Conditions at Lackland Dorms Prompt Review
The commander of JB San Antonio, Texas, on July 24 launched a review of all the base’s dorms after photos showing out-of-control mold at Lackland dorms hit social media. Air Force Times

One More Thing…

Air Force Experimental Satellite Billed as the “Largest Unmanned Structure in Space”
An Air Force satellite spanning nearly the length of a football field was successfully deployed on July 12, the Air Force Research Laboratory announced on July 24. AFRL’s demonstration and science experiments, or DSX, will collect data that will be used to study the radiation environment in space. Space News