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​The final version of the Fiscal 2018 defense policy bill authorizes funding for 20 more F-35 strike fighters, including 10 F-35As. Here, F-35As from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah, fly in formation over the Utah Test and Training Range, March 30, 2017. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw.


NDAA Far Exceeds President’s Budget, Sequestration Caps

The final Fiscal 2018 defense policy bill authorizes a total of $700 billion, including $65.8 billion in overseas contingency operations fund, exceeding the President’s budget request by $26.1 billion. The $626.4 billion base budget also far exceeds sequestration caps of $549 billion, which will return in Fiscal 2018 unless Congress reaches some other agreement. The final legislation includes an additional $10.1 billion for 90 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, which is $2.6 billion and 20 aircraft more than originally requested. That includes $5.8 billion for 10 more F-35A strike fighters for the Air Force, for a total procurement of 56 F-35As in Fiscal 2018. The final NDAA also provides $2.9 billion to procure a total of 17 KC-46A aerial refuelers in Fiscal 2018, two more than originally requested; and $980 million for 11 MC-130Js, six more than originally requested. It also authorizes $103 million to restart the A-10 wing replacement program and $400 million to procure a fleet of light attack/observation aircraft. Congress still must vote on the legislation, but it has passed the NDAA every year for the last 54 years. However, the appropriations bill, which actually funds the Defense Department is another story. Over nine of the last 10 years, Congress has passed 31 continuing resolutions instead of approving a new budget, and Air Force leaders continue to sound the alarm saying another CR would have a detrimental impact on readiness. —Amy McCullough


The Space Corps is Dead, Long Live the Space Department

The proposal to establish a separate Space Corps within the Air Force has been eliminated from the conference version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, but lawmakers are proceeding with sweeping changes to the organization of military space nonetheless. The final version of the bill gives Air Force Space Command more authority, including a six-year term for its commander. But Congress has also decided to eliminate the recently created deputy chief of staff for space operations, as well as the role of principal Department of Defense space advisor performed by the Air Force Secretary. Ultimately, Congress wants to prepare for the possibility of creating “a separate military department responsible for national security space activities of the DOD.” Read the full story by Wilson Brissett.

Racial Slur Writer No Longer at Air Force Academy Prep School

The author of the racial slurs written on the dormitory message boards of five Air Force Academy preparatory school cadet candidates in September was one of the candidates targeted by the slurs, the Academy said Wednesday. That candidate is “no longer at the preparatory school,” Academy spokesperson Lt. Col. Timothy Herritage said in an emailed statement. “The individual admitted responsibility and this was validated by the investigation,” Herritage said, while adding that the Academy would “refrain from discussing further details surrounding the investigation due to Privacy Act requirements.” Academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria delivered a forceful message rejecting racism at the school in the days following the incident, and Herritage affirmed that message Wednesday. “Racism has no place at the Academy, in any shape or form,” he said. “We will continue to create a climate of dignity and respect for all, encourage ideas that do so, and hold those who fail to uphold these standards accountable.” —Wilson Brissett

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NATO To Increase Troop Level in Afghanistan

NATO will send 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan in addition to the increase in the US presence to help build Afghan forces and stop Taliban momentum, NATO’s Secretary General said. The decision comes as NATO defense ministers met Wednesday in Brussels. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.


Aviano’s Triple Nickel Returns from Afghanistan Deployment

The “Triple Nickel” from Aviano AB, Italy, returned after an eventful six-month deployment to Afghanistan, a rotation that saw a large-scale increase in operations to the point where reinforcements were needed. The 555th Fighter Squadron returned to Aviano this week after flying air support with their F-16s from Bagram Airfield. The 555th was deployed as the Trump administration announced its new Southeast Asia strategy and pledged more troops for the fight in Afghanistan. The unit in August sent six more F-16s to build up the contingent already deployed, and that month flew the highest number of airstrikes since July 2012, according to Air Forces Central Command statistics. The span from April to September included the most air strike sorties flown over six months since 2012. The 77th Fighter Squadron from Shaw AFB, S.C., deployed to Afghanistan to replace the Aviano F-16s. —Brian Everstine


Expansion of Midcourse Missile Defense System Complete

The Missile Defense Agency recently completed its planned expansion of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system from 36 to 44 interceptors, program contractor Boeing announced on Tuesday. GMD is designed to protect the US against long-range ballistic missile attacks through interceptors placed in silos at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and Fort Greely, Alaska. The system was successfully tested in May, when an interceptor launched from Vandenberg destroyed a test ICBM target fired from the Marshall Islands. Boeing said in a press release that the installation of the 44th interceptor was completed ahead of schedule. —Wilson Brissett

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West Virginia ANG Members Return from Deployment

The last of 100 deployed members of the 130th Airlift Wing at McLaughlin ANGB, W.Va., returned home on Tuesday from a four-month overseas tour. During the month of July, the wing completed 526 sorties—a five-year-high. They then broke that record again in each subsequent month of the deployment. The 130th Maintenance and Operations Group played an important role in raising the full mission capability rate of the deployed location from 87 percent to 98.8 percent, according to the release. “The accomplishments that the men and women of the 130th Airlift Wing achieved during this deployment are a testament to their hard work and dedication to the mission,” said Col. Johnny Ryan, 130th AW commander, in a press release. “They are all true professionals, in every sense of the word, and I’m proud to welcome them back home to West Virginia and [congratulate] them on a job well done.”


Patrick PJs Rescue Cruise Ship Passenger

About 100 airmen, two HC-130s, and two HH-60s mobilized from Patrick AFB, Fla., on Tuesday to fly about 1,000 miles and rescue a man who became sick on a cruise ship. The airmen and aircraft, assigned to the 920th Rescue Wing, executed multiple air refuelings to reach the cruise ship, where a passenger suffered appendicitis, according to the 920th Rescue Wing. It was the wing’s second long-range rescue mission at sea in four months. “Training is one thing, but when you actually get to put those skills to work and save someone’s life, it’s a pretty fulfilling thing,” said Lt. Col. Bob Seitz, director of operations for the 39th Rescue Squadron at Patrick, according to WESH-2. —Brian Everstine
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RADAR SWEEP


—Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a retired Air Force colonel and the first female combat pilot in US history, is planning to run for the US Senate seat vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who recently announced he is retiring from the Senate: The Arizona Republic story.

—The German air force said on Wednesday the F-35 is now its “preferred choice” to replace its Tornado fleet of fighter aircraft sometime between 2025 and 2030: Jane’s.

—The Cost of War project at Brown University on Wednesday released a report claiming that the United States has spent more than $5.6 trillion on war since Sept. 11, 2001. This cost is an average of $23,386 per taxpayer. Brown University report.

—Development of a digital mission data unit for the GPS III program is now complete, the Harris Corporation announced Wednesday. The new unit will boost the power of GPS III signals and provide greater technical flexibility for satellites 11 and following: Harris release.  

—The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center in late October issued a request for information to industry seeking information on how they can provide a “fifth generation to fourth generation gateway operational capability in 12 months on airborne platforms.” Details of the technical requirements were not publically released: Flight Global.

—Lockheed Martin delivered the first three of 45 F-35 strike fighters to Norway on Nov. 3: Jane’s 360.