Kicking things off with the top story from this morning's Inside the Air Force:
The Air Force budget office this year will implement a new approach to its money management process and begin making reprogramming decisions based on future needs rather than current ones.
A senior service official told Inside the Air Force last week that the Air Force plans to take its fiscal year 2015 budget expectations and priorities and apply them to FY-13 and FY-14 funding levels, carving funds out of places where the service projects it will no longer be needing that money. The official dubbed the process "back-casting."
Back-casting will be implemented if Congress fails to find a way to alleviate the budget pressures associated with sequestration, the official said. The thinking behind back-casting is that the reverse approach to trimming the budget will allow Air Force officials the opportunity to streamline the transition between the FY-13, FY-14 and FY-15 budget requests, and deal with sequestration as best they can, according to the service official.
"I'm worried about '15 versus '14 versus '13 and congruence between the three," the official said.
News on the Global Hawk vs. the U-2:
A recently released Air Force report shows that it is less expensive for the service to conduct a variety of high-altitude, long-endurance reconnaissance missions using the RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk aircraft than using the U-2 spy plane.
Air Force officials have told Congress, though, that they intend to continue using the U-2 because it is cost-prohibitive to transfer the U-2's sensors over to the Global Hawk fleet, a move that would be needed of the Global Hawk were to take over the mission.
The service wrote the report in compliance with a congressional mandate that lawmakers added to the fiscal year 2013 Defense Authorization Act. Its conclusion is that it costs less to send the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 unmanned aircraft on an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission than to use a manned U-2 spy plane, depending on the mission profile. Inside the Air Force obtained a copy of the report, dated April 2013.
In the report, Air Force officials describe in detail what it would cost to move the sensors from the U-2 onto the Block 30 aircraft. The report also provides an estimate of the cost to reconfigure a fleet of 18 Block 30s into aircraft the Navy could fly as well as the justification for why the Air Force and Navy should forgo that expense.
And one more on Global Hawk:
Two powerful lawmakers are asking Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to join them in their effort to block an Air Force plan to obtain "relief" from a congressional mandate that would require the purchase of three RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), a member of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, sent Hagel a letter this week requesting that he deny the service's efforts to wiggle out of a congressional mandate to purchase the remaining three aircraft due to come off the Global Hawk production line.
"We encourage you to deny these efforts and ensure that the Air Force is in compliance with current law," the two lawmakers told Hagel in their May 13 letter. Inside the Air Force obtained a copy of the letter.
A story on Air Force simulator training:
The Air Force division in charge of simulator training for legacy aircraft has laid out its vision for dramatically expanding distributed mission operations training across the service's mobility platforms and bases, which would allow crews at different sites and flying different platforms to remotely connect with each other for training exercises.
That plan was detailed in a document posted May 9 on the Federal Business Opportunities website in lieu of the division convening an annual in-person conference, which was canceled for the year because of budget cuts, according to the presentation. The simulators division is part of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.
"Due to the impacts of sequestration within the Defense Department, it has become necessary to cancel the 2013 [Advance Planning Briefing to Industry]," the document's opening slide states. "However, in recognition of the importance of maintaining communication with the simulator industry, the following charts have been prepared to disseminate the information which would have been briefed at the meeting."
JSF electronics news:
F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin expects to have a better understanding of how realistic it will be to deliver full capability for the Joint Strike Fighter's most advanced software block on time around the end of this year, according to a company executive.
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program officials want permission from Congress to accelerate the development of multimillion-dollar testing upgrades to better assess the aircraft's vital electronic warfare capabilities and mitigate the risk of costly software delays, according to documents and officials.
Rounding out the front page from Inside the Air Force, a story on the CV-22 Osprey:
In their quest to find the funding needed to buy one more CV-22 Osprey, the Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command have only a handful of complex options remaining after a request to include that money in the fiscal year 2014 overseas contingency operations budget submission was rejected.
The Air Force and SOCOM's program of record for the CV-22 tiltrotor aircraft is 50, but the Defense Department has already been provided the money to buy a 51st aircraft, replacing one lost in combat in Afghanistan in 2010. But acquiring the roughly $90 million for a 52nd Osprey, to replace one deemed a "total loss" after a training accident in Florida last summer, is proving difficult, according to Col. Rob Toth, the chief of the tactical airlift, special operations forces and trainer division within the Air Force's acquisition global reach directorate.
More from ITAF:
The Air Force is preparing to implement a reduction plan that would bring back to the United States a wide-area surveillance system that has been combing the Afghanistan terrain for tidbits of information.
Concerned about the aging avionics on the B-2 stealth bomber, Air Force and industry officials have put in place a "robust" obsolescence management program to maintain the interior of that aircraft going forward.
As with many space programs that require dedicated ground terminals, the Air Force's Enhanced Polar System payloads will be ready for launch before the EPS program's ground stations are fully developed, leading the service and contractor Northrop Grumman toward putting together an interim capability to fill that gap.
As the Air Force's space programs mature, the Space and Missile Systems Center is working to apply broad-based principles to streamline acquisition processes, reduce costs and make its programs more efficient, according to the general in charge of SMC.
-- John Liang