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Light-attack aircraft is the solution to the US Air Force?s dwindling fleet

America?s Air Force faces a serious challenge ? a mismatch between available capacity and demand. As Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson recently explained in congressional testimony: ?We are too small for what the nation is asking us to do.? Since the end of the Cold War, the service has grown radically smaller through a series of force-structure cuts. In 1990, the Air Force had 2,893 fighter aircraft. Today, it has just 1,755. Bombers fell from 661 to a mere 157 in the same period.

At the same time, the national security environment is growing increasingly complex, with Russia and China asserting themselves on the high end of the war-fighting spectrum. North Korea possesses nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and Iran is not far behind. Nonstate actors such as the Islamic State, al-Shabab, and al-Qaida continue to pose threats.

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Inside the Air Force’s Plan to Revolutionize Pilot Training

When Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson visited AFWERX’s Pilot Training Next program in Austin, Texas, last year, she watched as trainees took flight from the seats in front of her — through the use of virtual reality. It piqued her interest enough to ask service officials to explore ways that similar flight simulator programs could be introduced to high schools to get young students involved in the nation’s endeavors to create more pilots.

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Air Force leaders on space deterrence: ?At some point, we?ve got to hit back?

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., and WASHINGTON ? Deterrence was the watchword among U.S. Air Force leadership during last week?s Space Symposium, and officials stated in strong terms that the United States is prepared to enact a show of force to prove its ability to respond to threats in space.

?There may come a point where we demonstrate some capabilities so that our adversaries understand that they will not be able to deny us the use of space without consequences,? Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters during a Wednesday roundtable.

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Air Force Makes Readiness Gains Even as Pilot Shortage Continues

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson painted a grim picture two years ago of the eroding readiness levels plaguing her service in the wake of sequestration and budget cuts, including aircraft atrophying on flight lines and pilots getting too few flight hours. It didn’t mean that the Air Force wouldn’t step up to fight in a conflict, she said.

“It means fewer will come back. I think we need to understand that,” she told reporters at the Pentagon in 2017.

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Building The Air Force We Need To Meet Chinese And Russian Threats

In January, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) released its unclassified assessment of China?s military capabilities, with the telling subtitle: ?Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win.? As DIA director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley explained: ?China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region.? He went on to emphasize: ??the PLA [People?s Liberation Army] is on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapons systems in the world. In some areas, it already leads the world.?

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New U.S. Secret Bomber Program Passes Critical Design Review

The Air Force?s secret stealth bomber program has passed a major early milestone, according to Air Force officials. “Our most recent review was last week, and the B-21 Raider is on schedule and performance,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a defense forum in California over the weekend.

Air Force officials confirmed to Popular Mechanics that she was referring to the Critical Design Review (CDR), considered a major milestone in the program. Here’s what that means?and what it means for the future of the next great bomber.

The central question of the Pentagon’s CDR process is determining whether a program is mature enough to dive into the deep end of full-scale fabrication and testing. There are details about factory hardware, production processes, and software specifications to look at. The review also matches the program requirements with a budget and a schedule. One can infer from this news that the CDR confirmed the Air Force?s stated $550 million per Raider price tag.

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PopularMechanics.com

Air Force hopes to train 1,500 new pilots each year by 2022 to help solve shortage

The Air Force hopes to be able to train 1,500 new pilots each year by fiscal 2022 as part of its effort to solve its troubling shortage of aviators.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee hearing Wednesday that the Air Force trained 1,160 new pilots in fiscal 2017, and expects to train 1,311 in fiscal 2019, before expanding further.

The Air Force has taken several steps to try to improve air crew?s quality of life and quality of service, and solve problems that might be leading some to choose to leave the Air Force. Wilson highlighted efforts to reduce operating tempos, revitalize squadrons and restore support staffs so air crew can concentrate on flying, as well as generous incentive pay and bonuses.

AirForceTimes.com

The first KC-46 delivery is not happening this October as planned

WASHINGTON ? The first KC-46 won?t be delivered this month as had been agreed upon by the U.S. Air Force and manufacturer Boeing, the service?s top civilian said Wednesday.

In an Oct. 17 interview with Bloomberg News, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson acknowledged for the first time that the delivery milestone has slipped once again. Service officials and Boeing executives are meeting the same day to discuss how best to address a list of unresolved deficiencies ? one of the major barriers keeping the Air Force from accepting the new tankers.

Last month, Defense News first reported that two new category-1 deficiencies had been added to the KC-46?s list of problems, bringing the total to five. A category-1 deficiency is the most serious grade of technical issues that have no workaround in place.

DefenseNews.com

These Air Force Trainees Spend Less Time In the Cockpit, More Time In Flight Simulators

In a makeshift classroom in Austin, Tex., 20 hand-picked airmen may represent the future of Air Force pilot training. They’re spending less time in the cockpit and more time in front of screens.

They’re the first participants in Pilot Training Next, an experimental program that relies heavily on virtual reality and artificial intelligence tools. The first class graduated this month.

“We haven’t really changed our pilot training for at least 20 years,” said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. “Yet technology and our understanding of how adults learn has changed quite a bit.”

The Austin classroom houses two rows of flight simulators. But they’re a far cry from the $2 to $3 million-dollar ones the Air Force normally uses. Each unit is made from an enhanced Windows PC, an HTC Vive headset, a gaming joystick and throttle. They cost about $10,000.

KPBS.org