The new leadership team is in place at US Air Forceheadquarters. Gen Mark Welsh has officially taken office as the Chief of Staffof 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” Carlislehas taken command of PACAF as of 3 August. The command is increasing inimportance given the renewed US emphasis on the Pacific. Bombers and fighters like the B-2 andF-22 will continue to rotate to bases in the region as the US hopes to reassureallies that it will be there to counterbalance the rising influence of China.
In the future, the USAF hopes to build a Long Range Strike-Bomberto counter some of the anti-access/area denial capabilities emerging in theWestern Pacific. But the service also needs a new stealthier unmanned aircraftto replace its fleet of Predators and Reapers in the mid-2020s, Maj Gen JamesPoss, assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissancetold an audience at AUVSI’s North America show last week.
Unfortunately, the service does not have the money to buildthat replacement aircraft. It will, however, piggyback onto the US Navy’sUnmanned 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 storyhere.
Right now, the 1st Fighter Wing’s 27thFighter Squadron–the service’s first F-22 squadron–is in Kadena, Japan. Therethe unit will operate alongside the 18th Wing’s F-15Cs, tankers andAWACS. The 18th Wing–which has operational control of theRaptors–will focus on integrating the stealthy, supercruising Raptors withtheir 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 its50th anniversary in service this week on 16 August.