Look what's back in the news, from Inside the Air Force today:
Language passed this week in the Senate Appropriations Committee's fiscal year 2015 defense spending bill directs the Air Force to reconsider developing a second engine for the F-35 in light of a recent grounding of the fleet due to engine problems.
Further, the legislation rejects the Air Force's plan to retire the A-10 Warthog fleet and adds $100 million to fund an additional Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class mission in FY-15.
The bill, which passed the committee on July 17 by voice vote, recommends the Defense Department "reassess the value" of developing an alternate to the Joint Strike Fighter's Pratt & Whitney-built F135 engine. The Air Force canceled a second engine development program in 2011, claiming that neither the benefits of competition nor the risk to the engine's development were great enough to warrant the effort.
On July 17, 2014, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved via voice vote its draft version of the fiscal year 2015 defense spending bill and accompanying report.
More on JSF:
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- A senior Lockheed Martin official told Inside the Air Force that the company will do everything under its control to make up time lost as a result of the F-35's recent grounding and has done its best during the grounding to prepare fully-built jets for the flights they need to be cleared for delivery to the military services.
The Marine Corps and Navy are working with Congress to add funding to their accounts for Joint Strike Fighter concurrency modifications by using money previously earmarked for upgrading the aircraft to a future software block.
News on an EELV RFP:
The Air Force this week released a request for proposals for a competitive Evolved Expendable Launch-vehicle class mission. Whether that launch ends up being truly competitive depends largely on launch provider SpaceX achieving certification in time to be eligible for a contract award.
The Air Force RFP, issued on behalf of the National Reconnaissance Office, is for an NRO mission referred to as NROL-79, and was posted on July 15 to the Federal Business Opportunities website. The service would like to award the contract by December of 2014, according to a document obtained this week by Inside the Air Force that details the service's near-term EELV acquisition strategy. The document is marked "for official use only."
Air Force officials have previously said that SpaceX would be certified by the end of 2014, but a program schedule included in the document couches the 2014 date as a "best case" scenario and notes that it is more likely SpaceX will be certified in the May 2015 time frame. Gen. William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, said during a hearing this week that the December 2014 certification date is likely too aggressive.
The Air Force announced this week that all three of SpaceX's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class qualifying launches will count toward certification of the company's Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
The Air Force could overhaul its Huey helicopter squadrons with an eye toward their use over nuclear missile fields:
The Air Force's UH-1N helicopter squadrons, long limited in their ability to perform demanding missions in the nuclear missile fields, look to be in line for major growth and positive change if Air Force Global Strike Command fully funds and supports a number of recommendations it is in the process of implementing.
The Huey aircraft, with its inherent speed, range, power and lift deficiencies, would remain in service for the foreseeable future, but the size of the three missile-field squadrons' pilot and crew forces would increase under the proposal.
The recommendations, which also include a reorganization of how those squadrons are governed, grew out of the Force Improvement Program the command instituted earlier this year following an embarrassing and potentially dangerous cheating scandal during a nuclear surety exam at Malmstrom Air Force Base, MT. Although that scandal involved Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile operators, not helicopter crews, improving the condition of the chopper units at Global Strike's three missile bases also entered into the FIP discussions.
Senior DOD leaders testified on the FY-15 OCO request at a House Budget Committee hearing yesterday:
Although the Pentagon is winding down its operations in Afghanistan, senior defense leaders told the House Budget Committee on Thursday that they anticipate overseas contingency operations funding to be an "enduring" need -- much to the chagrin of panel members.
During a hearing, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told lawmakers he expects OCO budgets to be "an enduring requirement after Afghanistan." Work was joined by Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, who stressed that finding ways to fold OCO funding into the base budget was a complicated endeavor.
In May 30 letter to the Government Accountability Office, the Defense Department said it expected to release guidance by the end of July on how to transition supplemental war funding into the base budget.
The Air Force is holding an industry day next month on the next-generation trainer aircraft:
The Air Force next month will host a three-day conference to solicit feedback from five industry teams on the service's requirements for a new trainer aircraft, a key step before it formally launches a competition in the summer of 2016.
Beginning on Aug. 4, the Air Force will sponsor a T-X industry day in San Antonio, TX, briefing aircraft makers on the state of the program in light of recent schedule delays, as well as developments over the last year since the service indicated a desire to "refresh" the requirements for what is expected to be a multibillion-dollar effort to purchase 350 new trainers.
"The Headquarters, Air Education and Training Command, Advanced Pilot Trainer (APT) Requirements Branch (HQ AETC/A5RX) is sponsoring an unclassified Industry Day to continue ongoing market research activities supporting the 'T-X' Family of Systems (FoS) requirements," the service announced in a July 15 notice. "This industry day is primarily focused on Training Offload/Download Analysis and Sustainment Analysis."
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is bullish on the prospects of that country's air force:
Despite President Obama's tight drawdown schedule, announced in May, which will see 9,800 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014 in a supporting role, the Air Force's top commander in the country is confident the Afghan Air Force will endure and eventually become self-sustaining.
As the United States commits to ending its combat operations in Afghanistan in December, concerns remain about the ability of the Afghan Air Force to effectively provide the kind of air support currently being provided by international security forces, such as tactical airlift and close air support.
According to Pentagon reports, the development of the AAF lags behind other elements of the Afghan National Security Forces and is about three years out from being fully established.
Northrop Grumman is advertising its willingness to compete for the Air Force's Long-Range Strike Bomber program:
Northrop Grumman is trumpeting its long-presumed intent to pursue the Air Force's Long-Range Strike Bomber program in a full-page July 17 advertisement featured in newspapers across the country.
The announcement, according to the ad, was timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the first flight of the B-2 flight. It comes a week after the Air Force's announcement of a classified request for proposals to industry for the new bomber.
The color advertisement, which ran in the front sections of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, features the front profile of a B-2 bomber -- designed and built by Northrop Grumman -- in flight.
-- John Liang