A new helicopter strategy is in place for the Air Force:
The Air Force's vice chief of staff has approved a replacement strategy for the service's 40-year-old UH-1N Huey fleet that would involve replacing the outdated aircraft with retired Army UH-60A Black Hawk utility helicopters.
The plan, which Air Force Global Strike Command has been developing throughout the year, was approved by Gen. Larry Spencer -- a member of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council -- on July 24, the service confirmed this week.
The plan would recapitalize all 62 Hueys with a commensurate number of retired Army Black Hawks. Those choppers would be upgraded from the A-model to the newer L-model configuration, as suggested by in RAND Corp. study published earlier this year.
"On 24 July 2014 the Air Force vice chief of staff approved a replacement strategy utilizing divested UH-60A aircraft from the U.S. Army and modifying those aircraft into UH-60L," Air Force spokesman Maj. Eric Badger wrote in an Aug 28 email to Inside the Air Force. "These aircraft would undergo further mission-specific modifications. The Air Force intends to replace all UH-1N aircraft. The specific acquisition management office has yet to be determined."
A front-pager from this week's Inside the Air Force:
As the Air Force's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance enterprise reorganizes under Air Combat Command, senior service officials are thinking about how to support combatant commanders in future, high-end fights.
The purpose of the ISR mission is to provide warfighters with the intelligence they need to make quick, informed decisions on the battlefield, but the Air Force's ability to provide that intelligence faces challenges from modern air defense systems and counter-space capabilities.
In a recent interview with Inside the Air Force at the Pentagon, the Air Force's top ISR chief discussed what the service is doing now to meet future challenges, such as retiring legacy platforms to re-invest in more survivable capabilities. Lt. Gen. Robert Otto, deputy chief of staff for ISR, also addressed the decision to retire the U-2 spy plane, keep the RQ-4 Global Hawk, and the Air Force ISR Agency's conversion to the 25th Air Force.
A deep dive on Space Fence:
The next several months of setting schedules, allocating resources and preparing designs for review are crucial to building the foundation for the Air Force's next-generation Space Fence program and assuring that the effort has a strong start, the service's Space Fence program manager said this week.
The service awarded Lockheed Martin a contract to build the advanced space situational awareness system in June, and since that time the company and the Air Force have been completing preliminary studies and preparing for upcoming reviews that Air Force Program Manager Dana Whalley says will be a determining factor in whether the program is successfully executed.
"In terms of schedule, I think the near-term activities are really critical to the eventual long-term success of the program," Whalley said in an Aug. 28 interview.
Boeing gears up:
As Boeing prepares to begin modifications to its first low-rate initial production lot of QF-16 target drones, the company is working to complete operational testing in anticipation of a full-rate production contract award from the Air Force early next year.
To date, Boeing has converted six F-16s to a target-drone configuration as part of the program's engineering and manufacturing development phase and has been awarded two low-rate initial production contracts to modify a total of 36 F-16s to be used as full-scale manned or unmanned aerial targets. A third LRIP contract is expected later this year and, according to Boeing program manager Paul Cejas, will likely fund between 21 and 25 additional modifications. The exact number hinges on how the program is funded in fiscal year 2015 and beyond.
Cejas said in an Aug. 27 interview that the first LRIP modifications will likely begin in Jacksonville, FL, next month. "The first two jets have arrived here in Jacksonville and we start the modification effort in mid-September," Cejas said.
More Air Force news before the long weekend:
The Air Force is looking for potential industry sources to upgrade its Wideband Global Satellite Communication ground terminals to improve their anti-jamming capability.
Lockheed Martin announced this week a partnership with an Australia-based company to build a ground-based, electro-optical space situational awareness system in Western Australia that Lockheed says could complement the capabilities the company is on contract to provide the Air Force through the next-generation Space Fence.
The Air Force is using funds provided by Congress in fiscal year 2013 to accelerate the delivery of enhancements to its Space-Based Infrared System ground architecture by two years -- an upgrade that will allow the service to better exploit the data being collected by the constellation.
The Air Force has confirmed Moody Air Force Base in Georgia as the host of an A-29 Super Tucano aircraft schoolhouse for Afghan Air Force personnel, the service said on Aug. 22.