The new leadership team is in place at US Air Force
headquarters. Gen Mark Welsh has officially taken office as the Chief of Staff
of the USAF as of this past Friday, 10 August. His biggest challenge will be the budget during his time in office, no doubt.
Meanwhile, over in the Pacific, Gen Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle has taken command of PACAF as of 3 August. The command is increasing in importance given the renewed US emphasis on the Pacific. Bombers and fighters like the B-2 and F-22 will continue to rotate to bases in the region as the US hopes to reassure allies that it will be there to counterbalance the rising influence of China.
In the future, the USAF hopes to build a Long Range Strike-Bomber to counter some of the anti-access/area denial capabilities emerging in the Western Pacific. But the service also needs a new stealthier unmanned aircraft to replace its fleet of Predators and Reapers in the mid-2020s, Maj Gen James Poss, assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance told an audience at AUVSI's North America show last week.
Unfortunately, the service does not have the money to build
that replacement aircraft. It will, however, piggyback onto the US Navy's
Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program.
The USN, meanwhile, is putting the final touches onto the key performance parameters for the UCLASS. When there is a RFP issued--relatively soon, there will be multiple contracts awarded with a down select to one in 2016. If all goes well thereafter, the Navy will have a more or less operational aircraft on the decks of its carriers by 2020.Read that story here.
Right now, the 1st Fighter Wing's 27th Fighter Squadron--the service's first F-22 squadron--is in Kadena, Japan. There the unit will operate alongside the 18th Wing's F-15Cs, tankers and AWACS. The 18th Wing--which has operational control of the Raptors--will focus on integrating the stealthy, supercruising Raptors with their active electronically scanned array (AESA) enhanced Eagle brethren. Together, the fighters will prowl around the region showing the US flag.
In other news, the Boeing CH-47 Chinook will celebrate its 50th anniversary in service this week on 16 August.