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​An aerial view of Offutt AFB, Neb., and the surrounding areas affected by flood waters on March 16, 2019. An increase in water levels of surrounding rivers and waterways caused by record-setting snowfall over the winter, in addition to a large drop in air pressure, resulted in widespread flooding across the state of Nebraska. Air Force photo by TSgt. Rachelle Blake.

​Waters Begin to Recede at Offutt as the Base Begins to Analyze Flood Damage

Offutt AFB, Neb., is beginning to analyze the damage from extensive floods that wrecked the base and surrounding region. Though dozens of buildings took on water, the base’s strategically important aircraft remained safe. The worst damage was on the base’s southeastern portion, largely focused on the 55th Wing headquarters, three squadron headquarters buildings, maintenance operations buildings, hangars, and the flightline itself. The base was able to fly out nine aircraft, and move the remaining five to high ground to avoid damage. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

USAF’s Five-Year Plan Includes $7.86 Billion for 80 F-15EXs

The Air Force plans to spend $7.86 billion over the next five years buying 80 F-15EXs to replace aging F-15Cs. New budget documents released Monday show the service will spend $1.05 billion in 2020 to buy the first eight aircraft, with the buy accelerating to 18 aircraft per year from 2022-24. The new two-seat jet will be based on the F-15QA variant, which was built for Qatar. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

OA-X to Receive More Than $1B Through Fiscal 2024

The Air Force expects to spend more than $1 billion on light attack aircraft through fiscal 2024, even though it isn’t sure which platforms that money might buy. According to 2020 budget documents released Monday, the service plans to buy 24 aircraft over the next five years: four aircraft for $160 million in fiscal 2022, and 10 aircraft in both fiscal 2023 and 2024 for $400 million each year. The documents do not show the Air Force’s plan to purchase three Sierra Nevada-Embraer A-29s and three Textron AT-6Bs using fiscal 2018 and 2019 funds, which would bring the total number procured through fiscal 2024 to 30 airframes. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

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Nuclear Missile Modernization Programs Appear On Track

Development costs for the Air Force’s two new nuclear missiles will continue to rise in fiscal 2020—albeit by small amounts, according to budget documents released this week. The service also hasn’t changed its nuclear modernization strategy, despite congressional direction to look at speeding up its two flagship missile replacement programs, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent and Long-Range Standoff Weapon. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Keeping the C-130H Fleet Viable For Decades to Come

The Air Force removed 60 C-130H aircraft from flying status last month as it replaced crack-prone propellers built before 1971, service officials recently revealed. All but five have returned to flight. “We replaced the old ones with new four-bladed propellers. That’s the short-term fix. Now the discussion is the long-term fix,” Maj. Gen. Marc Sasseville, deputy director of the Air National Guard, told Air Force Magazine. “At some point, the post-1971 blades will fly out as well.” Read the full story by Amy McCullough.


DOD Releases Total Budget Request for Intelligence

Funding for military intelligence continues its upward trajectory in the fiscal 2020 budget, with $22.95 billion requested. This total is an increase from the $22.1 billion appropriated for 2018, which marked a $3.7 billion increase from the 2017 appropriation. The classified budget includes both base and overseas contingency operations and is “aligned to support the National Defense Strategy,” the Pentagon said in a Monday statement. No other details will be released. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters in October the rising funding level is needed for the return to “great power competition.” “Our competitive advantage has eroded over time and that needs to be dealt with,” Dunford said at the time. The Pentagon last week rolled out its 2020 budget request—a total of $750 billion, with a record $165 billion in overseas contingency operations fund. —Brian Everstine

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ULA Launches Air Force’s 10th Wideband Global SATCOM Satellite

United Launch Alliance put its 10th Wideband Global Satellite Communications satellite into space on March 15, further building out the Air Force’s high-capacity constellation. A 218-foot Delta IV Medium rocket carried the payload from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., using Aerojet Rocketdyne engines and four solid rocket motors provided by Northrop Grumman. WGS systems are launched into Geosynchronous Earth Orbit, which sits 22,200 miles above the Earth and is mainly inhabited by communications satellites. The first went up in 2007; ULA has launched all 10 so far. “WGS provides worldwide flexible, high data rate, and long haul communications for marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, the White House Communication Agency, the US State Department, international partners, and other special users,” according to the Air Force. “Just one WGS satellite provides more SATCOM capacity than the entire legacy Defense Satellite Communications System constellation. WGS provides essential communications services, allowing combatant commanders to exert command and control of their tactical forces, from peacetime to military operations.” —Rachel S. Cohen
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RADAR SWEEP


Airman Killed Trying to Stop Robbery in Arkansas
An airman was fatally shot late Friday night when he tried to stop an armed robbery at a gas station in Arkansas. Bangor Daily News via Stars and Stripes

Laser Pointed at Air Force Cargo Plane in North Carolina
Authorities in North Carolina say someone pointed a laser at a military cargo plane as it approached an airport. AP

El Paso Democrats Pass a Vote of No-Confidence in Dr. Heather Wilson
At a public meeting of the Party’s County Executive Committee, a resolution calling for a vote of no-confidence was introduced and voted on. KRWG

SpaceX Preparing to Begin Starship Hopper Tests
SpaceX could begin initial tests of a prototype of the company’s next-generation Starship vehicle as soon as this week, Elon Musk said March 17. Space News

OPINION: The Japanese Air Force Needs an Upgrade
Faced with China’s increasing aggression, Japan must invest in fifth-generation fighter jets to deter Beijing’s expansion. Foreign Policy

Russia Decides to Deploy Nuclear-Capable Strategic Bombers to Crimea: RIA
Russia has decided to deploy nuclear-capable Tupolev Tu-22M3 strategic bombers to the Crimean peninsula in response to the U.S. rolling out missile defense systems in Romania, the RIA news agency cited a senior Russian lawmaker as saying on Monday. Reuters

One More Thing …

Outsourcing America's Military Might
A podcast aims to clear up the myths surrounding private military contracting and to find out the truth behind the legends. In the first episode, hear from a self-described “former mercenary.” Stars and Stripes