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​An RC-135V/W Rivet Joint aircraft leaves the runway Aug. 13, 2015, at Offutt AFB, Neb. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger.


Learn New Tricks for Old ISR Planes, Senate Says

Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft housed at Offutt AFB, Neb., are prime candidates for modern maintenance approaches that use additive manufacturing and predictive analytics, the state’s senior senator argues. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) wants to see the Air Force stem the effects of the planes’ old age through prototyping and experimentation work that could include 3D printing new pieces, algorithms that alert maintainers when parts are about to fail, and other initiatives underway at the service’s Rapid Sustainment Office. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2020 defense policy bill also directs the Air Force to consider how data from the Rivet Joint and others would be integrated into a broader ISR sensor network. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Senate Defense Authorizers Seek New Fighter, Bomber Plan

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s $750 billion 2020 defense authorization bill asks the Air Force to settle on an “optimum” bomber and fighter force structure built to counter Russian and Chinese threats. A committee aide said in a May 23 background briefing the report could offer a definitive blueprint for procurement in the coming years, as several recent studies have pitched their own views of what the service should do. A senior SASC aide told reporters that while it may seem odd that the Air Force is splitting its F-35 request between the budget submission and the unfunded priorities list, there’s a “complicated math” behind it. Congress and DOD are conferring on what the overall F-35 spending plan should be, he added. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

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US Deploying Additional Fighter Squadron, ISR Aircraft to the Middle East

The Pentagon announced May 24 it is sending another fighter squadron and more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft to the Middle East as part of a deployment of 1,500 personnel in response to “the ongoing threat posed by Iranian forces,” Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement. The aircraft will join a B-52 bomber task force that deployed earlier this month, in addition to F-35s and F-15s already in the region. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Senate Confirms Key USAF Leadership Posts

The Senate on May 23 confirmed Air Force officers in key three- and four-star positions, including Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch to receive a fourth star and head up Air Force Materiel Command; Lt. Gen. Brad Webb to take over Air Education and Training Command; Maj. Gen. Eric Fick to receive a third star and take over leadership of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program; Maj. Gen. David Nahom to three stars and the job of deputy chief of staff, plans and programs, and Maj. Gen. Marc Sasseville to receive a third star and command Air Forces Northern. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

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Number of F-35s Built for USAF Eclipses Number of F-22s

Lockheed Martin recently delivered its 196th F-35A Joint Strike Fighter to the Air Force, surpassing the total of 195 F-22s—test and production—that it delivered to the service between 1996 and 2011, the company announced on May 23. The 196th F-35 will be based at Hill AFB, Utah, home of the first operational USAF F-35 squadrons. The first F-35A was delivered to the Air Force in 2006. More than 395 F-35s have been built, including variants produced for the Marine Corps, Navy, and foreign partners and customers. The Air Force is sticking to its production goal of 1,763 F-35s to replace the F-117, F-16, and A-10, and the US services collectively plan to buy over 2,600 of the fighters. More than 790 pilots have been trained to fly the strike fighter, which has accumulated a fleet total of over 195,000 flying hours. Counting all variants, the F-35 flies out of 17 bases. The Air Force plans to buy at least 48 F-35s in fiscal 2020, and Congress may add another 12 airplanes to that total. —John A. Tirpak

Strike Totals Rose in Last Days of ISIS’s Physical Caliphate in Syria

The last month of ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq ended with 900 airstrikes from US and coalition aircraft, an increase from the previous month as US-backed fighters routed the last town from the group. Statistics for air operations in March, released May 24 by Air Forces Central Command, show US and coalition aircraft in the first three months of 2019 flew 706 sorties with at least one weapon released, and 3,998 total strike sorties. While Syrian Democratic Forces in late March proclaimed victory over ISIS’s caliphate after clearing the last village in Syria, US and coalition officials have said thousands of ISIS fighters remain in the region. During the same time period in Afghanistan, US aircraft conducted 673 airstrikes—more than double the February total of 327. US aircraft in that theater have also flown 4,187 surveillance sorties and 2,760 airlift and airdrop sorties, dropping 60,420 pounds of supplies so far this year. —Brian Everstine
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RADAR SWEEP


Does Cyber Command Need More Electronic Warfare Tools?
Within the U.S military services, leaders often discuss the close relationship of cyber warfare and electronic warfare. But what’s less clear is the relationship between these two disciplines at U.S. Cyber Command. That may be changing. Fifth Domain

Opinion: The World War II Veteran Said He Didn't Do Anything. I Almost Believed Him
The old man said he didn't do anything. I only half believed him. People of his generation say that all the time, especially when they talk about their service. That's one of the reasons we call them the "Greatest Generation." It's not just because they won World War II. It's because even in that most ultimate of victories, they remained humble. CNN

Opinion: My Best Friend and I Did Everything Together — Until He Was Killed in Afghanistan
As explosions echoed through the Afghan mountains, I knew that each blast that tore through the night was also tearing through the flesh of my friends. It was October 2013; we had been caught in an ambush, and though the Taliban in the area had been killed quickly, the explosives they left behind for us were still detonating. The New York Times

One More Thing…

WWII Plane Rescued from Boneyard to Join D-Day Anniversary
Filled with paratroopers, a US warplane lumbered down an English runway in 1944 to spearhead the World War II D-Day invasion with a message for Adolf Hitler painted in bright yellow across its nose: “That’s All, Brother.” Seventy-five years later, in a confluence of history and luck, that plane is again bound for the French coast for what could be the last great commemoration of the Allied battle to include D-Day veterans, many of whom are now in their 90s. Associated Press