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​F-15C Eagles fly in formation over the East China Sea Dec. 11, 2018, during a routine training exercise out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. Air Force photo by A1C Matthew Seefeldt.

Strategic Planner: F-15EX Could Be Hypersonics Platform

By buying the F-15EX, the Air Force can save about two years’ worth of fighter readiness, because the aircraft is so common to F-15C/Ds already in the force, the service’s strategic planner said Thursday. And while the aircraft won’t be able to penetrate enemy air defenses within the next 10 years, the service is eyeing missions for it that include hypersonics launch vehicle and standoff weapons platform. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak and Brian Everstine.


Roper: Technology Key to Lowering Sustainment Costs

Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper told House legislators Thursday that new technology is key to lowering the service’s sustainment costs. “Seventy percent of lifecycle costs in the Air Force is in sustainment, but we’ve put very little technology into that area,” Roper told members of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee. In an effort to change this, the service is ramping up digital engineering technology, and the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Program is “leading the charge,” he said. The “digital models are simply eye watering. They allow us to do millions of design trades in a single day,” Roper said. “Understanding how a design can change performance and change cost.” He’s so happy with the results, Roper said USAF is now rotating future acquisition leaders through the program, so they can better understand how digital engineering can reduce costs and make the service a “more confident buyer.” The Air Force also is using additive manufacturing to create plastic and metal parts for aircraft, using cold spray technology to repair parts instead of scrapping them, and arming robots with lasers to remove paint from aircraft, a process that saves “over a million dollars per stripping job,” Roper said. “If we’re going to afford a cutting edge future Air Force, we must lower the cost of sustainment to afford it,” he added. —Amy McCullough

Shanahan, Dunford Promise No Readiness Decline as Korean Exercises Shrink

The scaled-down exercises in South Korea, which replaced massive war games following ongoing discussions between the US and North Korean leaders, have not led to a degradation of readiness, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Thursday. While the militaries have shifted away from large flying operations to small simulations at command posts, the US forces deployed there are still ready to “fight tonight,” he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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Shanahan Pushes Back on Reports of Charging Allies for Hosting US Bases

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday came out against reports that the Pentagon was planning to upcharge allied nations for hosting US bases, saying the claims were “erroneous.” Reports last week citing administration officials claimed the White House wanted to charge host nations, such as Japan and Germany, the full cost of hosting US bases plus 50 percent “for the privilege.” Shanahan told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “We won’t do cost-plus-50,” adding the Pentagon “is not going to run a business, and we’re not going to run a charity.” It is important that allies “pay their fair share,” but that isn’t necessarily footing the complete bill for a US base. Shanahan did not elaborate on what he thought the right mix should be. —Brian Everstine


Barksdale B-52s Deploy to Europe

B-52s have deployed to Europe for a series of “theater integration” exercises and other flying training. The bombers, from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, La., arrived in US European Command and will operate out of RAF Fairford, England, according to US Air Forces in Europe. Fairford is the Air Force’s “forward operating location for bombers” in Europe. B-52s have regularlydeployed to Europe in recent years for exercises such as Ample Strike in the Czech Republic, Saber Strike, and BALTOPS. —Brian Everstine

Another Crack in the Fighter Glass Ceiling

Lockheed Martin announced Thursday that Bridget Lauderdale, who had headed up the F-35 sustainment unit, will become the boss at the company’s Integrated Fighter Group, where she will manage development, manufacturing, and sustainment of the F-22 and F-16 programs. Lauderdale joins a growing club of mostly women running fighter aircraft programs for the Air Force. She’ll be working for Michele Evans, company executive vice president for aeronautics, who in turn reports to Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson. Shelley Lavender at Boeing heads up the strike, surveillance, and mobility division, where she’s in charge of the F-15 for the Air Force and F/A-18 and EF-18G for the Navy/Marine Corps. She reports to Leanne Caret, executive VP for defense, space, and security. Northrop Grumman’s chief executive officer is Kathy Warden; the company makes F-35 center fuselages, as well as the B-21 bomber and Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft. —John A. Tirpak

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RADAR SWEEP


HASC Chairman: Trump’s Space Force Proposal ‘Too Expensive’
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said his committee will draft its own Space Force proposal. Space News

DOD Wants to Sharply Cut Commissary Budget as Overall Defense Budget Increases
The commissary budget will take a 21 percent cut in fiscal 2020, if the Defense Department’s budget request is approved by Congress. Military Times

USAF Forms Partnership for C-5 Fleet Modernisation Best Practices
The US Air Force (USAF) Rapid Sustainment Office (AF RSO) has formed a partnership for sharing of best practices related to C-5 Galaxy modernisation and reliability processes. Partners in the collaboration include the AF RSO, the C-5 System Program Office, Delta Air Lines and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Air Force Technology

GOP Senator Requests Meeting With Air Force Leaders to Discuss Sexual Assault
Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday requested a meeting with top Air Force leaders to discuss tackling the issue of sexual assault in the service, a week after she announced that she was raped by a superior years ago while serving in the military branch. The Hill

Ethics Group Calls for Investigation Into Shanahan's Boeing Ties
A Washington watchdog group has filed a complaint against Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, requesting the Defense Department's inspector general investigate allegations he has improperly favored his former employer Boeing in the awarding of defense contracts. Inside Defense

One More Thing …

Opportunity's Parting Shot Was a Beautiful Panorama
Over 29 days last spring, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity documented this 360-degree panorama from multiple images taken at what would become its final resting spot in Perseverance Valley. NASA