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USAF Woes

MarkOttawa

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Meanwhile in Israel:

Crunch Time For Israeli Air Force: F-15X Or F-35?
Last month, the defense ministry issued official inquiries into acquiring both aircraft -- but, for now, the budget can buy only one.

Just like the US, Israel is wrestling with whether to buy Lockheed’s all-new, stealthy F-35s or the latest upgrade of Boeing’s long-serving F-15. But Israel must make this decision under extraordinary external and internal pressure. From without, it must conduct airstrikes on Iranian-linked targets in Syria amidst rising tensions with Iran. From within, it must find funding despite a growing budget deficit and an embattled Netanyahu government headed for its second general election in five months this September.

“A decision and an acquisition must start now,” an Israeli senior source told Breaking Defense. Ideally, the Israeli Air Force wants a squadron of each type, at $2.5 to $3 billion apiece. (In contrast to the debate in the US, the Israelis don’t see any significant difference in the two airplanes’ operations and maintenance costs). But practically, given the tight budget, the IAF has to choose which fighter to buy first and which to delay for several years.

Last month, the defense ministry issued official inquiries into acquiring both aircraft: a Request For Information (RFI) for the F-15X, which would count as a new acquisition, and a Price & Availability (P&A) request for the F-35I, since that would be adding more aircraft to an ongoing purchase. Israel has bought 50 F-35s to date and has long intended to buy 25 more; it operates some 25 older-model F-15I strike fighters.

The stealthy F-35 is better able to slip through advanced air defenses like the Russian-made S-300s now in Syria, but the F-15X can carry heavier bomb loads: 29,500 pounds for the F-15X versus 22,000 for the F-35 in a “beast mode” that gives up stealth. The F-35 has uniquely advanced electronics that enable to scout ahead and spot targets for other aircraft — such as F-15s — but the F-15X is more easily modified with Israeli equipment.

Israel has invested heavily in recent years in the battlefield networks required to share data between aircraft. While most of these systems are highly classified, one major example we can discuss is Rafael’s BNET. Rafael VP Yoav Wermuth described BNET as uniquely capable of autonomously managing congested radio spectrum to simultaneously handle large numbers of transmissions, process them, and merge them into a single wideband IP network with high data rates, many users, and minimal delays. BNET has been employed in recent exercises where F-35s transmitted large amounts of targeting data to other parts of the force.

    #Israel Air Force successfully used #Rampage for first time. Due to the danger of #Syria Air Defense Force's S-300PM-2s, #Israel Air Force had to use the rocket to target a rocket/ ballistic missile factory + weapon warehouses of #IRGC proxies in #Masyaf, #Syria on 13/04/2019: https://t.co/4YjD7ySZ5O

    — Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) April 14, 2019

Another home-made system of keen interest to the Israeli Air Force is the Rampage missile, reportedly used in recent strikes in Syria, where its long range allowed it to be launched from beyond the range of Syrian anti-aircraft systems, its combination of supersonic speed and maneuverability allows it to avoid being shot down, and its precision limits collateral damage [emphasis added]. The weapon was jointly developed by Israeli Military Industries (IMI) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). While the companies cannot confirm any combat use of Rampage, they did note the missile is well-suited to strike command posts, air bases, maintenance depots, and other targets defended by advanced anti-aircraft weapons.

“We need a heavy truck for these systems,” one source told Breaking Defense. That kind of thinking would favor the F-15X [emphasis added].

But another perspective favors the F-35 for its combination of stealth, sensors, and communications that allow it to gather and share intelligence, including targeting data, over networks such as BNET. “With the threats Israel faces, this capability is essential,” a source said.

A decision is expected by the new government to be formed after September’s elections.
https://breakingdefense.com/2019/07/crunch-time-for-israeli-air-force-f-15x-or-f-35/

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Lots more on the Century Bomber, note Pratt & Whitney Canada turbofan in running for new engines--what will our Liberals and lefties think of Canadian power for a nuclear-capable aircraft?

U.S. Air Force B-52 Upgrades Kick Off With Focus On Strong Early Start

A clear sign of the revived fortunes for the B-52H fleet is a sudden scheduling dilemma. As the U.S. Air Force juggles reengining, radar replacement and the integration of a host of advanced new weapons on the 60-year-old strategic bomber, finding enough aircraft to support flight testing and operational requirements has become an unexpected problem.

Prime contractor Boeing is trying to help the Air Force find a creative solution. A traditional approach would call for dedicating at least two B-52Hs to each upgrade project, but that would deprive operational squadrons of too many aircraft. The solution may be to combine tests from multiple projects on a single flight, but that requires orchestrating multiple technologies in development on different timelines and contracts, says Scot Oathout, Boeing’s bombers program director.

Source selection for new engines to open around year-end

Future defensive upgrades are considering crew size reduction

It is a scheduling challenge that would have seemed quite unlikely a few years ago. The Rand Corp. think tank in 2015 called for retiring the B-52H fleet as a cost-saving measure. But the Air Force moved in a different direction in 2018, choosing to retire the younger B-1 and B-2 fleets by 2040 and organize the bomber mission around future B-21s and B-52Hs.

The new commitment to operate the B-52H fleet through 2060 implied a heavy price for modernization. The B-52H’s age was underscored in June with a photo released by the Air Force of the captive-carry test of the Lockheed Martin AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), a hypersonic boost-glide weapon [emphasis added]. Fifty years ago, the same B-52H launched the Lockheed D-21, a Mach 3.2 surveillance drone operated by the CIA until 1972.

So now the Air Force is catching up for lost time. Over the next decade, the B-52H fleet will be transformed with new sensors, engines and weapons. More upgrades are still under evaluation, including an avionics and defensive systems refresh that could further reduce the crew size to four from the current five. But the focus within the program is just getting through the next few years with so many overlapping upgrade schedules on the books...

The spotlight is on the B-52 reengining program. Boeing is on contract with three engine companies to complete a conceptual design for replacing all eight 1950s-era TF33s on each B-52H with turbofan engines, such as the GE Aviation CF34-10 or Passport, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800 or Rolls-Royce BR725 [emphasis added]. The conceptual designs explore solutions to the complications of grafting a modern propulsion system onto a 1950s airframe. The complexities include the problem of shifting from a 1950s philosophy of mounting the engine to the wing pylon at the engine core, to the modern approach of attaching the engine at the fan section, says James Kroening, Boeing’s B-52 modernization program manager.

All three engine companies will complete the concept designs by around November, Kroening says. Once the design baselines are fully understood, Boeing will open the source selection process by year-end or in early 2020 for a single contractor to supply at least 608 engines.

...the Air Force plans to integrate several new weapons on the B-52H for prototyping demonstrations and as future munitions. The testing includes launching of the AGM-183A, the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon and the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept. The Air Force also plans to integrate the nuclear Long-Range Standoff Weapon, which remains in source selection [emphasis added].
https://aviationweek.com/combat-aircraft/us-air-force-b-52-upgrades-kick-focus-strong-early-start

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Boeing/Saab T-X trainer gets official name--crappy image, see at end of post:

Air Force announces newest Red Tail: ‘T-7A Red Hawk’

190916-F-AF999-0012.JPG

...
https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1960964/air-force-announces-newest-red-tail-t-7a-red-hawk/

Now this is the ticket:

Report says Boeing/Saab T-X trainer would make an ideal light fighter

Screen-Shot-2017-02-23-at-07.49.36.png

...
https://combataircraft.keypublishing.com/2019/09/09/report-says-boeing-saab-t-x-trainer-would-make-an-ideal-light-fighter/

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World vs near-pear adversaries just keeps getting tougher:

OPINION: Can US Air Force keep pace with its ambitions?

Speed kills. To defeat a near-peer adversary such as China or Russia in a future conflict, the US Air Force (USAF) must operate at a pace that such nations will be unable to match.

As outlined by service leaders at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space & Cyber conference, the USAF must innovate rapidly and maintain a grueling tempo to keep its qualitative edge.

Some evidence of progress can be seen – Boeing’s newly rebadged T-7A Red Hawk was designed and flown for the T-X contest in double-quick-time thanks to its adoption of model-based engineering processes; and Raytheon’s proposed new Peregrine air-to-air missile draws on the company’s combat-proven weapons pedigree.

Equally clear, however, are the programme and contractual shortcomings afflicting the KC-46A tanker created from Boeing’s commercial 767. Eight months after making its first delivery and with four category one deficiencies still to be resolved, the airframer faces a challenge to win the confidence of a frustrated Air Mobility Command customer.

Perhaps the air force gathering’s biggest shock was a suggestion that some of its Boeing B-1B bombers might have to be retired early, due to unexpected stresses caused by flying the type under more benign conditions than the low-level, supersonic environment for which it was created.

Cutting the “Bone” could free up funds to grow the USAF’s future Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider fleet beyond 100 examples, but such reductions would be controversial. Could the service again face the kind of opposition seen when it unsuccessfully tried to retire its ground-attack stalwart the Fairchild Republic A-10?

The USAF’s leadership clearly have accelerating ambitions, but it remains to be seen whether the service’s budget and equipment plans will be able to match such a relentless pace.
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/opinion-can-us-air-force-keep-pace-with-its-ambitio-460997/

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Latest USAF thinking on arsenal plane--would be esp. useful to take on China at range:

Hypersonic Weapons, Battle Management Now Part of Arsenal Plane Discussions

The years-old idea of an “arsenal plane,” a flying munitions truck that could accompany fighter jets and unmanned aircraft into battle, is now adapting to include the Air Force’s new technology pursuits.

As the Air Force evolves its thinking on the prospect of an arsenal plane—whether that be an existing bomber like the B-52, a cargo plane like the C-130, or something else entirely—top service officials are acknowledging the need to consider hypersonic weapons and new ideas in battle management.

Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics, suggested at a Nov. 12 Defense Writers Group breakfast that the service’s bombers are evolving to fit the concept of an arsenal plane.

“If you look at our force going forward, a lot of the programs that we have are turning the bomber force into something else,” Roper said. “A B-52 with a lot of hypersonic weapons on it is, I will call it a bomber, but it's certainly not dropping things down—quite the opposite, right? It's almost a missileer instead of a bomber.”

Roper said he and Air Force Global Strike Command boss Gen. Timothy Ray have been moving through many reviews as the service works to put hypersonic weapons on the B-52. Global Strike is also exploring the idea of expanding the B-1’s weapons capacity from 24 to 40 munitions, according to an Air Force release, though the B-1 and B-2 are slated to retire in the coming decades, leaving the B-52 and the future B-21 to make up USAF’s bomber fleet.

In September, Ray told reporters the B-1 could carry hypersonic weapons on its external hard points and at least four internally, as well as ferry the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, its extended-range variant, and the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile.

“We’ve got to move from being the roving linebacker of the Middle Euphrates River Valley and [Regional Command North in Afghanistan] to being the roving linebacker of the North Atlantic and the Pacific—LRASM, JASSM-ER, hypersonics—and so we’re taking a very close look at how we might make that adjustment here very soon,” Ray said of bombers.

Ray told Air Force Magazine in a Nov. 13 interview that arsenal plane experiments will take place over the next few years, and will begin to tap into the broader, networked Advanced Battle Management System idea the service is pursuing.

“Some are are pretty sensitive, some are in the formative stage,” Ray said. “We're going to tie as aggressively as we can to where the air battle management, all-domain [command and control] experimentation game plan is going on for the United States Air Force, because you have to connect everything that shoots to this sensing and this kill chain grid that's under development.”

Roper indicated that what constitutes an arsenal plane may come down to how an aircraft is used, not only whether it offers a new design. That means planes outside the Air Force could fit the bill, too.

Can we think more broadly, about how an airplane carrying a lot of weapons can be looked at?” Roper said. “There are a lot of other systems that are currently in development, even some outside of the Air Force, that seem to make sense. ... We want to take a broad look at, how does the standoff bomber work in the contested environment in a way that's complementary with the stand-in B-21? [emphasis added]”
http://www.airforcemag.com/Features/Pages/2019/November%202019/Hypersonic-Weapons-Battle-Management-Now-Part-of-Arsenal-Plane-Discussions.aspx

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Conclusion of what I think is important piece on USAF's operational rather than strategic focus:
More Enablers, Less Effects: How the US Air Force Has Reshaped Its Way of Warfare
...
The primacy of information is not new; indeed, it is airpower’s most historic role, enabling ground forces to benefit from intelligence regarding troop movement in World War I. In this, the F-35 functions as a kind of vintage throwback. And there is nothing wrong with this. Indeed, what gets lost in many airpower discussions is that—removing technology from the equation—there is far more continuity than change in the domain’s history.

This continuity may include a return to mass, even after developments in precision capabilities had seemed to make this concept obsolete in the air domain. Likewise, [Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David] Goldfein may consider “attrition warfare” to be old-fashioned, but this assumption also could be a costly misstep.

Often, these kinds of discussions occur in a vacuum where the enemy does not get a vote and there is little real discussion of how one actually convinces the enemy to stop fighting by affecting will. Even in times of peace, discussions must begin and end with careful thought about how one translates kinetic and non-kinetic effects into enemy decision making. In other words, the strategic level of war must influence and dominate, not the operational level.

These are both very different views than the Air Force has taken since the interwar period, when it came to view bombardment as its primary contribution to the joint fight. Now, however, the joint fight, in Gen. Goldfein’s vision, centers around a relatively short-legged fighter with little kinetic capability that might struggle greatly in a cyber-aggressive environment. As such, the Air Force possibly has shifted multi-domain command and control to prominence for a number of reasons, including its desire to control information. Yet other services make reasonable claims to providing information, as well.

But, as Clausewitz reminds us, there is nothing that can cut through the fog of war, not even artificial intelligence, quantum computers, and the F-35. In World War I, airpower supplied the Army with information to affect the ground war. It is less certain what effect today’s quest for information results in with such a small current stable of aircraft.

The F-35 might be a game-changing enabler, but what effects is it enabling and how will those meet political objectives beyond destroying targets? Information, like air superiority, always has been a critical enabler. But the focus on information misses the connective tissue of warfare, that between one’s actions and one’s opponent’s reactions. Apps, networks, and even F-35s don’t win wars, they just enable us to have a fighting chance.

Heather Venable is an assistant professor of military and security studies at the US Air Command and Staff College and teaches in the Department of Airpower. She has written a forthcoming book entitled How the Few Became the Proud: Crafting the Marine Corps Mystique, 1874-1918...
https://mwi.usma.edu/enablers-less-effects-us-air-force-reshaped-way-warfare/

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Further to above post--in Iraq War I & II USAF did great deal to enable the success of US ground forces. But, since the US will not use large ground forces on China's territory, how does
air force (& USN) intend to make CCP in war accede to US political aims using only conventional weapons?

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More on USAF arsenal plane (aka "bomb truck") thinking, plus nuclear weapons command and control:

Ray Asks Roper To Explore “Bomb Truck” For Cheap Standoff Capability
"There is no significant game plan here," Ray said about the idea of a 'bomb truck.' "I just think, why not? You can't win if you don't play."

SANTA MONICA: Gen. Timothy Ray, Air Force Global Strike commander, says he has asked service Acquisition czar Will Roper to begin exploring development of a “bomb truck.”

“I think it would be a healthy excursion to go see if we can build a low cost, very simple bomb truck to increase our standoff weapons capacity,” Ray said. The idea would be  “leveraging existing technologies, instead of it being a full blown, highly integrated, stealthy platform.” Such a long-range standoff plane would be designed not just to be cheap, but also to have a short life cycle of around 10 years, Ray told the RAND West Coast Aerospace Forum here on Friday.

Ray said the idea is to bounce possible approaches off of what Roper is trying to do with the concept of a Digital Century Series: to rapidly churn out iterative versions of fighter jets every four or five years to be able to integrate new technologies are they become available.

“The question is what could be done if I wasn’t asking for something that I would fly for more than 10 years,” Ray said, “and to be a little bit more creative.”

“There is no significant game plan here,” Ray said. “I just think, why not? You can’t win if you don’t play.”

With regard to the future bomber force, Ray reiterated that “all the studies have told us that the number of bombers we require is somewhere north of 225.” But, he also stressed that it is not just the numbers that matter, but also the capabilities they bring and the connectivity they have. He added that the B-21 is his second highest priority in modernizing the nuclear arsenal, even though it will largely be carrying conventional weapons.

B-21 bomber

Ray also stressed the need for an overhaul of nuclear command and control (NC2) to make it more survivable and resilient — both as part of the overarching nuclear modernization plan and as an integrated part of multi-domain operations (MDO) and Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2).

“We’re chartered at Global Strike … to write what’s called a concept of force development for ‘NC2 over assured comms’,” Ray said. The concept development was approved by Gen. John Hyten before he left as head of Strategic Command to take up his new position as vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ray noted.

“What you heard up here today on all domain C2, I’ll tell you, I absolutely see nuclear command and control in that conversation,” Ray said, “not as a separate kind of thing —  because of how fast technology is going and what it can do.”

Ray explained that the concept will develop “five or six vignettes, which should beget crisper conversations with industry; should beget prototyping and experimentation” in order to create the “the foundation for a more affordable version of an assured comms capability.”

He explained that the rest of the military is pursuing new technologies and ideas to assure communications at all levels, and the nuclear forces should not be left behind.

“We absolutely need to make sure we get our surfboard out as NC2 guy and catch that wave,” he said.
https://breakingdefense.com/2019/12/ray-asks-roper-to-explore-bomb-truck-for-cheap-standoff-capability/

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I just cannot see the money coming (further links at original); curious there in no mention of NORAD (and need for its modernization, e.g. North Warning System radars) and growing threat from Russian cruise missiles, both ALCMs and SLCMs:

Air Force Needs Fleet Able To Fight 2 Major Wars: CSBA
“Creating a more range-balanced, survivable, and lethal force will require a commitment by DoD and the Congress to significantly increase the Air Force’s annual budgets,” CSBA says.

To meet Chinese and Russian threats, the Air Force needs to increase and modernize its combat air power, including more use of advanced, long-range drones and force multipliers such as its nascent battle management, command and control (BMC2) system for multi-domain operations, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

In a study released today [Jan. 22], “Five Priorities For The Air Force’s Future Combat Air Force,” CSBA charts a course for the service to recover by 2035 from its current conundrum: an aging fleet with diminished force capacity and capabilities, trapped in a budget that continues to force choices between fleet sustainment and modernization.

The new study builds off an earlier CSBA report, mandated by Congress in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, on the Air Force’s future ability to meet the goals of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) to ensure that the US military is able to take on peer power conflict. But CSBA now is arguing that the Air Force needs to build up a mixed manned/unmanned aircraft fleet and supporting infrastructure that can take on conflict with not just one peer power, but two at almost the same time.

While the study acknowledges that more money and people will be required, it does not offer cost estimates…

The upshot of the overall trend toward smaller procurement budgets, the study says, has been a much reduced fighter fleet facing increasingly lower readiness.

The bomber fleet has suffered in parallel. “The shortfall in the Air Force’s bomber force capacity has continued to grow over the last two decades, driven in part by force structure cuts, issues with force readiness, and a lack of modernization investment,” the study says.

Based on readiness rates in 2018, the last year included in the study, CSBA estimates the service currently has about 769 primary mission fighters ready for action, and “up to” 58 bombers ready to take off. This is out of a total inventory of 2,072 fighters and 157 bombers. (The readiness numbers for the fighter fleet may be slightly higher now due to an increased readiness rate for the F-35 in 2019.)

CSBA says the average age of Air Force fighters has “reached an unprecedented high of about 28 years,” and the average age of the bombers hovers at around 45 years. As often has been bemoaned by Will Roper, the service’s top buyer, this has led to increased costs and personnel resources to maintain the fleet.

A Way Ahead: Modernization, New Capabilities

CSBA sets out five priorities…

CSBA says that over the next two decades the Air Force “should accelerate the purchase of aircraft with next-generation stealth capabilities,” including B-21 bombers, F-35As, “a new multi-mission Penetrating Counterair/Penetrating Electronic Attack (PCA/PEA) aircraft,” and “penetrating” unmanned aerial vehicles carrying intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads. The Air Force should also include “maintaining the survivability of the F-22 and procuring next-generation weapons, including a family of hypersonic weapons.”

Maintain the Air Force’s ability to generate combat power forward while dispersing to lower threat areas.

“Large scale Chinese Russia missile attacks on US theater airbases may not be the most significant threat to the CAF’s survivability,” Gunzinger said.

The future Air Force fleet should be “capable of supporting joint operations to deter or deny China or Russia the ability to achieve a fait accompli in these regions,” and at the same time be “able to generate strike sorties from bases located in areas that are at less risk of high-density missile attacks and generate counterair and other combat sorties from dispersed networks of closer in theater airbases.”

To enable this, DoD needs to “field higher capacity airbase defenses against large-scale air and missile attacks.” And the Air Force would require “additional resources and personnel end strength should it be given greater responsibility for the airbase defense mission.”..

Accelerate the development of Air Force next-generation force multipliers.

These include “next-generation hypersonic weapons, cruise missiles with counter-electronics high-powered microwave payloads capable of attacking multiple targets per weapon, advanced engines that will increase the range and mission endurance of CAF aircraft, and the datalinks needed to support multi-domain operations in contested environments.”..
https://breakingdefense.com/2020/01/air-force-needs-fleet-able-to-fight-2-major-wars-csba/

Good luck and all that.

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MarkOttawa said:
Conclusion of a very interesting argument by serving USAF colonel on USAF fighters (F35A, F-15EX) and various capabilities required in various theatre against different opponent. Note also point that conventional ordnance delivered vs. China will hardly bring it to its knees, need to cut off its maritime trade:

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USAF now officially moving to buy F-15EX after Congressional approval (further links at original):

The Air Force is officially picking up its first new F-15 in nearly 20 years

It's been nearly 20 years since the most recent F-15 fighter jet rolled off an assembly line for the U.S. Air Force, and the service is officially looking to add a fresh variant of the aircraft to its inventory.

On Tuesday [Jan. 28], a pair of twin pre-solicitation notices posted to the U.S. government's contract opportunities hub announced the Air Force's intent to procure both upgraded Boeing-made F-15EX fighters and fresh General Electric F110 jet engines associated with the new aircraft.

News of the solicitations was first reported by Aviation Week's Steve Trimble, who noted that the single-source notices mark "the first concrete steps to signing new orders and reviving U.S. F-15 procurement after a nearly 20-year hiatus."

The last year that Boeing produced an F-15 fighter for the Air Force was in 2004, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The acquisition of the F-15EX is specifically intended as "a refresh to the F-15C/D fleet and [to] augment the F-15E fleet," according to one of the pre-solicitation notices. Here are some of the aircraft's technical details and intended capabilities, as first reported by The War Zone way back in July 2018:
The F-15X configuration is impressive as it includes a flat-panel glass cockpit, JHMCS II helmet mounted display (HMD), revised internal wing structure, fly-by-wire controls, APG-82 AESA radar, activation of outer wing stations one and nine, advanced mission computer, low-profile heads-up display, updated radio and satellite communications, the highly advanced Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) electronic warfare and electronic surveillance suite, Legion Pod-mounted infrared search and track system (IRST) and the list goes on.

With the help of the company's new AMBER missile carrying racks, the F-15X will be able to carry a whopping 22 air-to-air missiles during a single sortie. Alternatively, it could fly with eight air-to-air missiles and 28 Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs), or up to seven 2,000 lb bombs and eight air-to-air missiles. We are talking crazy weapons hauling capabilities here. Keep in mind that the F-15C/D Eagle can carry eight air-to-air missiles currently, and the penultimate Eagle variant that is currently being built, the F-15SA, can carry a dozen.

The fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that President Donald Trump signed into law in December provided the Air Force with $1.1 billion to procure up to eight F-15EX aircraft, including two prototypes, ahead of testing by the service.

The aircraft's inclusion in the fiscal year 2020 defense budget wasn't easy: In September 2018, then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in September stated that the Air Force had no interest in picking up the fourth-generation F-15EX over additional fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

"We are currently 80 percent fourth-gen aircraft and 20 percent fifth-generation aircraft," Wilson told Defense News at the time. "In any of the fights that we have been asked to plan for, more fifth gen aircraft make a huge difference, and we think that getting to 50-50 means not buying new fourth-gen aircraft, it means continuing to increase the fifth generation."

After Wilson resigned in March 2019, the Air Force reversed course, proposing a buy of eight F-15EX aircraft rather than the Pentagon's original proposal of a dozen as a "short-term patch" to replace the service's aging fourth-generation F-15C fleet without cannibalizing spending for the F-35.

"We absolutely [are] adamant that the F-35 program, the program of record, absolutely stays on track and we don't take a dime out of the F-35," as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told the Senate Armed Services Committee the following April.
https://taskandpurpose.com/air-force-f-15ex-presoliciation-notices

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F35 issues including a gun that cant shoot straight.  :eek:

https://www.stripes.com/news/us/f-35-s-list-of-flaws-includes-a-gun-that-can-t-shoot-straight-1.616869
 

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Revolution in military aviation affairs coming? Conclusion of a post today:

Big Equipment Shake-Up Coming for US Air Force–Slashing And Burning Old Airframes

...the US services/Pentagon are thinking really hard about how to deal with the future, and what difficult choices will have to be made. Anything similar in the Canadian Armed Forces/Department of National Defence?
https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/big-equipment-shake-up-coming-for-us-air-force-slashing-and-burning-old-airframes/

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The shrinking coming if Congress allows, note F-35A, F-15EX at end:

Air Force makes reductions to B-1s, A-10s, Global Hawk drones and more in FY21 budget request

For the past several months, Air Force leaders have hyped the fiscal year 2021 budget as a pivotal one, where the service would be forced to make near-term and possibly contentious sacrifices to its existing posture in order to ramp up investments in technologies needed to counter Russia and China.

But the budget request the Air Force released on Feb. 10 seems a compromise between the service’s more radical force planning organizations in the Pentagon and the combatant commanders around the world, who fought back against making major cuts that could greatly impact readiness.

On the whole, the Air Force states that it will realign $4.1 billion in spending over the next five years, divesting some of its oldest aircraft and putting the savings toward future technologies like joint all domain command and control. In FY 21, it will begin retiring a portion of its B-1 bombers, A-10 Warthog attack planes, RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drones, KC-135 and KC-10 tankers and C-130H planes.

However, the service’s budget plan is less ambitious than it has telegraphed over the past six months, with the Air Force ultimately deciding against divesting entire aircraft inventories, making no cuts or cancellations to major ongoing procurement programs, and ultimately keeping research and development funding stable.

“We didn’t get everything we put on the table. Some was walked back,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said of the budget in January. “But we got a lot of what we put on the table.”

...hypersonics prototyping fell from $576 million in FY20 to $382 million [emphasis added], and funding for the Long Range Standoff Weapon decreased from $713 million to $474 million.

The service maintained funding for the B-21 bomber, Air Force One replacement, T-7A trainer, and Next Generation Air Dominance fighter programs at about the same levels as FY20. In FY21, the Air Force requested $2.8 billion for the B-21, $801 million for Air Force One, $249 million for T-7 and $1 billion for NGAD.

The Air Force will keep F-35A procurement stable, buying 48 jets at about $5.8 billion. Despite ongoing problems with the KC-46’s camera system, the service will continue buying planes at a rate of 15 per year, spending $3.1 billion in FY21. It will also purchase another 12 F-15EX planes for $1.4 billion [emphasis added]...
https://www.defensenews.com/smr/federal-budget/2020/02/10/air-force-makes-reductions-to-b-1s-a-10s-global-hawk-drones-and-more-in-fy21-budget-request/

Mark
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BurmaShave

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Jarnhamar said:
Why on earth would they retire A-10s?

I imagine those will be the the ones that didn't get re-winged. 173 got new wings out of 282. Stands to reason those 109 that didn't will be retired.

As to why they didn't re-wing all of them, its role has been somewhat cannibalized. On the high end (non permissive environments, "smart bomb" truck, arrival time) by the F-35 and F-16, on the low end (loiter time, cost, manning, maintenance) by drones/UAVs/RPA/whatever-the-heck-we-call-em like Reaper.
 

tomahawk6

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Too many Colonels. The link below is for the leadership at Eilson AFB. You will see the issue on clicking the link.

https://www.eielson.af.mil/About-Us/Biographies/
 

dimsum

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tomahawk6 said:
Too many Colonels. The link below is for the leadership at Eilson AFB. You will see the issue on clicking the link.

https://www.eielson.af.mil/About-Us/Biographies/

So it looks like they have Cols doing the job of a LCol in our Wings.  But, theirs are a lot bigger both in terms of personnel and aircraft. 
 

MarkOttawa

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This problem just goes on:

USAF abandons 80% mission capability rate goal after F-22, F-35 and F-16 fail to hit target

The US Air Force (USAF) has abandoned mission capability rate goals for its Lockheed Martin F-22s, F-35s and F-16s, after none of the fighters hit the target.

In September 2018, former US secretary of defense James Mattis ordered the USAF and US Navy (USN) to increase mission capable rates for those aircraft and Boeing F/A-18s to more than 80% by the end of September 2019. The mission capability rate is the percentage of aircraft that are able to perform at least one mission over a period of time.

USAF chief of staff nominee General Charles Brown says the service has dropped that readiness goal.

“The Office of the Secretary of Defense determined the fiscal year 2019 80% mission capable rate initiative is not an FY2020 requirement,” he said in written testimony sent to the US Armed Services Committee and released on 7 May. “As a result, the air force returned to allowing lead commands to determine the required [mission capability] rates to meet readiness objectives.”

After initially making rosy projections about the F-35 reaching 80% mission capability, the Department of Defense (DoD) gradually walked back its forecast. In July 2019, it said F-35s and F-22s would fail to meet the goal. Nevertheless, F-16s were supposed to hit 80% mission capability by September 2019. In the end, not one of the USAF’s fighters achieved the mark.

The F-16’s mission capable reached a high of 75% in June 2019, F-22s reached a high of 68% in April 2019 and F-35s hit a high of 74% in September 2019, says Brown in his testimony. The USN reported in September 2019 that its fleet of F/A-18s surpassed the 80% mark [emphasis added].

“From April 2018 to February 2020, overall readiness increased 16%, and pacing-unit readiness – those units required in the first 30 days of Combatant Command war plans – increased 35%,” he adds.

Despite improvements, the end goal was not reached for a variety of reasons, says Brown.

Maintaining ageing aircraft is an extremely difficult and expensive task, while new, technologically advanced weapons systems present their own challenges [emphasis added],” he says. “We developed and are now implementing a Strategic Sustainment Framework that will both improve materiel readiness and set the conditions for long-term cost reduction by developing multiple sources of supply, enhancing our repair network capabilities and capitalising on conditions-based maintenance, plus other commercial best practices.”

Details of the new Strategic Sustainment Framework were not disclosed.

F-35s and F-22s are notoriously difficult to maintain because of complex designs and stealth body coatings, which must be periodically preserved by hand. In particular, the relatively new F-35 remains plagued with design and production problems resulting in some 873 deficiencies, according to the DoD’s most-recent Office of the Director of Operational Test & Evaluation report, released to the US Congress on 30 January.
https://www.flightglobal.com/fixed-wing/usaf-abandons-80-mission-capability-goal-after-three-fighters-miss-target/138318.article

Mark
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MarkOttawa

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MarkOttawa said:
More on USAF arsenal plane (aka "bomb truck") thinking, plus nuclear weapons command and control:

Mark
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Looks like won't be funding for clean-sheet design for arsenal plane--B-52, modified transport?

New Arsenal Plane Still ‘Very Nascent,’ [friend said: "Is that like a bit pregnant?"] Roper Says

A potential “clean sheet” Arsenal Plane for Air Force Global Strike Command could be done with the Digital Century Series approach, but the budget likely won’t allow for such a new start in the near future, service acquisition chief Will Roper said.

Speaking with reporters via a Zoom roundtable, Roper said he is working on a “variety of options” for Air Force Global Strike Command, and one of them is potentially a new Arsenal Plane concept, but it is in a “very nascent” form.

“My job is to have options so that the number of bombers can be achieved,” Roper said of the goal of 220 bombers USAF leaders have been voicing lately.

“The warfighters pick the mix and the quantity,” Roper explained. He’s looking at B-52 upgrades, “ramping up the B-21” stealth bomber buy, and other things “on the back burner” for AFGSC, but there have been “no significant changes made to our portfolio” of programs for long-range strike.

While the Air Force could “absolutely” design a new bomber using the model of the Digital Century Series—using digital twinning and digital threads that would simultaneously create a new aircraft design along with the factory to build it—it’s probably too swamped with other new starts right now, Roper said.

“Do we have enough budget to put something like that in? Right now, I don’t think we do,” he said. “I think we’re pretty limited with the nuclear recap, [the] Space Force standup, as well as all the modernization programs we have to get ready for a China/Russia fight.” These include hypersonics, the Advanced Battle Management System, and Joint All-Domain Command and Control. There are “a lot of cutting-edge objectives that are in the Air Force’s job jar on behalf of the Joint Force,” he said.

Bombers have been adaptable to lots of missions, and “a bomber makes a great missileer, as well. So I think the role of bombers will continue to evolve as we keep thinking through more exotic weapons and payloads that will help us in the high-end fight.”

Roper added that he’s “super-delighted that the Space Acquisition Council is just as excited” as he is about the concept of the Digital Century Series being applied to spacecraft. “So, I’m very happy to share the new religion I’ve gotten over the past year and a half.”
https://www.airforcemag.com/new-arsenal-plane-still-very-nascent-roper-says/

Mark
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Colin Parkinson

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Building a low threat operation aircraft, with high payload, long loitering times based on a commercial airframe would be a good bone to throw to aircraft companies. You likely need maybe 20 airframes.
 
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