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Three F-35As, assigned to the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB, Ariz., fly in formation during a refueling mission on Aug. 27, 2019, near Phoenix. A KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the Arizona Air National Guard, 161st Fueling Wing, refueled six F-35s. Air Force photo by Amn. Brooke Moeder.​

​USAF Wants to Find New Ways to Discuss Fleet Readiness

The Air Force is working with the Office of the Secretary of Defense to find a more “holistic” and meaningful way to measure aircraft readiness, since 80 percent of three USAF fighter fleets won’t be mission-capable by Oct. 1 as former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wanted. Mattis last year ordered the Air Force and Navy to increase the F-16, F/A-18, F-22, and F-35 mission-capable rates to at least 80 percent in an overall push to grow fleet readiness. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Air Force Magazine the mandated “drill” was helpful, but that MC rates don’t tell the whole story of how ready USAF fleets are to deploy and fight. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

New Combat Rescue Helicopter Ready for Production

Sikorsky can now start building small numbers of the Air Force’s new Combat Rescue Helicopter, the HH-60W, for operational use. The Lockheed Martin subsidiary announced Sept. 24 that the Air Force greenlighted milestone C for the helicopter program, meaning it meets the development requirements to be able to start low-rate initial production. The Air Force wants to buy 22 helicopters in the first two of eight total lots, and is working toward full-rate production in fiscal 2021. The HH-60W is replacing older HH-60G Pave Hawks in a $7.1 billion procurement program covering 103 operational helicopters. Sikorsky told Air Force Magazine earlier this year that a contract to start building the first 10 helos will be signed by the end of September. Deliveries will start in the second quarter of fiscal 2021. —Rachel S. Cohen

Army Announces Proposed New Criteria for Burial at Arlington

Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy on Sept. 25 announced new criteria for interment and inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery, to keep from running out of space in the nation’s most hallowed military cemetery. Congress had called on the Army to revise the criteria for burial at the cemetery, with the aim of maintaining it as an active burial ground for another 150 years. With 95,000 remaining burial spaces, and another 60,000 planned in an upcoming expansion, the cemetery will be full by the mid-2050s unless current rules are changed, the Army says. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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B61-12 Nuclear Warhead Delay Drives Up Price Tag

A top National Nuclear Security Administration official said Sept. 25 the agency expects B61-12 warhead refurbishment delays could cost the multibillion-dollar program an extra $600 million to $700 million. NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Charles Verdon’s written testimony to the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee noted that the first production unit is now due out in the first quarter of fiscal 2022. An Air Force official said the service is changing its original deployment plans as a result of the slowdown. The Air Force’s F-15E, F-16, F-35, and B-2 are slated to carry the completed nuclear gravity bomb, which is getting a digitally guided tail kit through USAF as well. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.


US Strikes ISIS in Libya for Second Time Within a Week

A US Africa Command airstrike made in coordination with the Libyan government on Sept. 24 killed 11 Islamic State-Libya militants without harming civilians, according to the command’s current assessments. It was the second AFRICOM strike conducted near the Libyan city of Murzuq targeting members of the terrorist group in days. The Sept. 24 strike looked “to eliminate ISIS terrorists and deny them the ability to” attack Libyan citizens, Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, AFRICOM’s director of operations, said in a release. The last reported US strikes in Libya were Nov. 30, 2018, while the last strikes targeting Islamic State-Libya were Aug. 28, 2018. The recent strikes come less than a month after AFRICOM Commander Army Gen. Stephen Townsend and Richard Norland, US Ambassador to Libya, met with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Tunisia to emphasize the “importance of supporting a diplomatic solution to put an end to the current conflict,” Townsend said in an AFRICOM release. Countering violent extremist activity within Libya emerged as a priority in meetings held during the trip, Townsend said. There were no US military personnel on the ground in Libya at the time of his visit, though the command said it is assessing the feasibility of deployments if security improves. —Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

Multi-Domain Operations: In the Chief’s Own Words

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein explained multi-domain operations with a full-motion video aid during a Sept. 17 address to thousands of airmen at AFA’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference. “This whole thing called multi-domain ops—it’s hard to get your mind around it,” Goldfein said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve talked about it with groups and … after I get done, they all say, ‘Yeah, I’ve got it.’ … It doesn’t take long before they say, ‘What exactly was he talking about?’ ” With that, he launched into a battle scenario and visual special effects to help make the concept clear. Figuring out MDO is the key to success for the nation’s armed forces, Goldfein argues. Get it right, he said, and “Maybe, just maybe, our adversaries will pause long enough to question whether they can accomplish their political objectives by taking us on.” Watch the chief explain multi-domain thinking here.

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RADAR SWEEP


Esper Presses Hard for New Civilian Casualty Policy
Defense Secretary Mark Esper is working on a broad new policy to reduce civilian casualties caused by the US and the allies to whom it sells arms. The work, slated to wrap up next year, has brought together combatant commanders, policy experts, and human rights groups and is happening alongside a related effort to include new training for foreign partners who buy American weaponry. Breaking Defense

Pentagon’s Electronic Warfare Leader Heads to Industry
One of the Pentagon’s top electronic warfare officials, William Conley, has left the Defense Department, sources told C4ISRNET. Conley served as the director for electronic warfare with the office of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. C4ISRNET

Air Force Sees “Viable” Contenders in Contest for Space Launches
The four companies competing for the second phase of US national security space launches all offer rockets with “viable technologies,” according to the Air Force’s top space acquisition commander. Bloomberg(subscription required)

The Air Force Is Deploying Its First Drone-Killing Microwave Weapon
On the afternoon of Sept. 23, the Pentagon notified Congress of its purchase of a microwave weapon system designed to knock down swarms of enemy drones with pulses of energy. The purchase comes with an intent to deploy the PHASER system overseas for a year-long assessment, making it the first directed energy defense weapon to ever be fielded. Popular Mechanics

Defense Health Agency Needs Help Consolidating Military’s Health IT Systems
One of the Defense Health Agency’s central missions is to integrate all of the military’s disparate medical facilities and patient care efforts into a unified infrastructure, especially when it comes to technology. As that work continues, DHA headquarters is looking for some IT support at home. Nextgov

Robins AFB Sparks Innovation: Spark Cell Hosts Inaugural Pitch Day
The Robins AFB Spark Cell hosted its inaugural Pitch Day Sept. 20 at the Advanced Technology and Training Center, alongside Air Force Sustainment Center Contracting located at Robins AFB, Ga. The Pitch Day was a first of its kind for AFSC, cutting a contracting process that can take, on average, 100 days, down to just six. USAF release

One More Thing …

Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Watch Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals’ Sept. 24 home game against the Philadelphia Phillies in a video he posted to Twitter later that night. ActingSecAF on Twitter