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The A-10 Shuffle
The Air Force wants to start consolidating its A-10 fleet and reduce the inventories as part of its latest Fighter Roadmap.

The Air Force’s latest plan would retire 42 A-10s next year, 35 of which are at Davis-Monthan AFB. In turn, the Air Force would send all of the A-10s (and HH-60s) currently based at Nellis AFB to Davis-Monthan AFB to (somewhat) replace them. This would be the first phase of the proposed 63-aircraft retirement plan.

As part of this horse trade, the Air Force plans to anoint Davis-Monthan as a Close Air Support (CAS) Center of Excellence. In return for losing its A-10 and HH-60 iron, Nellis makes room for new mission growth.

So What  
We’ve lost track of how many variations of the Retire the A-10 Game Plan have been tried over the last decade. It’s too easy to pick apart the divestment nuances - it’s also pretty pointless. 

At the end of the day, some A-10s will need to be retired to make room for all those extra F-35s Congress has been giving the Air Force the past few years. 

Those extra F-35s may have been bought 1-3 years ago, but they are rolling off the line today and require operator and maintenance manpower, as well as sustainment dollars…which was allocated from the A-10 (and F-16) fleet drawdowns.

ICYMI: The politically sacred number of 1,763 F-35As in the Air Force procurement plan is based on the F-35A replacing all A-10s and F-16s. If those assumptions change…so should the number.

Instead of programmatics, pay attention to the consolidation side of the story: The rationale of slapping a "CAS Center of Excellence" bumper sticker on Davis-Monthan.

We know what you’re thinking: WTF is a Center of Excellence anyway? The military has no definition or criteria, but in the business sector it's generally described as a focused group of diverse people that are formed to develop and proliferate best practices to address a skills/knowledge deficit within an organization. And that is the problem.

It’s one thing to be trepid about losing a ton of experience and lessons learned as the military winds down the Middle East operations after a generation when almost everything with wings was doing CAS.

But it’s unclear why now is the time for the Air Force to declare it has a knowledge deficit or skills proliferation issue that a Center of Excellence exists to solve.

Wait, What
More importantly, a Center of Excellence that is solely comprised of A-10s is the exact opposite of the diversity that is the strength of a Center of Excellence…and it unwinds years of Air Force “CAS is a mission, not a platform” talking points.

Remember in 2018 when the 24th Tactical Air Support Squadron was activated to reinforce the commitment to CAS...with F-16s? No one thought establishing a unit to specialize in a mission 17 years after the Air Force needed it was a good idea.

Apparently, neither did the Air Force; it was deactivated eight months ago.

What Now
The A-10 is the most emotionally-connected piece of iron in the Air Force because it exists to conduct one of the most emotionally-charged missions in the military. It’s not about the horse…unless you make it about the horse.

It will be interesting to see how the Air Force manages the mission vs. platform narrative it has essentially dug up from the grave, and how it carefully navigates the age-old debate between mission generalization and specialization ideologies in the process.
In That Number

This week Space Command signed a space situational awareness memorandum with Libre Space Foundation, making it the 100th data-sharing agreement it’s signed. Data sharing will be increasingly important as the proliferation of space continues. 
Trivia: The F-4G Wild Weasel was a highly modified F-4E that swapped the internal gun for an EW system that was VERY good at locating surface-to-air systems. How many antennas did the F-4G EW system have?
A) 12
B) 22
C) 32
D) 52
On the Radar
The Pentagon canceled its $10 billion JEDI cloud contract . Turns out that locking yourself into a 10-year contract generally doesn’t age well, whether it’s a car payment or a data architecture. The contract was canx’d 24 months after it was awarded to Microsoft due to 1) a change of needs, 2) the advancement of the tech since then, and 3) the Pentagon just wasn’t that well-versed in making this kind of decision. It now plans to release an RFP for its new Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability multi-cloud and multi-vendor indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity contract (JWCC MC MV IDIQ ABCDEFG).

Earth imagery competitors Planet and Satellogic both announced SPAC deals that will take them public. Planet runs the largest imaging constellation, whose 200 satellites produce 25 terabytes of data daily. Satellogic is much smaller (17 satellites in orbit), but plans on rapidly fielding a 300-satellite constellation using a vertically integrated production model that claims to crush its competitors by collecting 10X the imagery at 1/10th the cost. Expect more fireworks in this sector as this market explodes and the NRO, NGA, and Space Force all pursue commercial imagery data-sharing contracts.
They Said It
“We’re not there yet.”

— Acting Air Force senior acquisition lead Darlene Costello on the service’s progress to digitize its weapon system design, engineering, production, and testing.
Word Decoder
Commercial Solutions Opening: A CSO is a merit-based source selection tool that focuses on acquiring mature technology directly relevant to a specific program (i.e. not R&D or low TRL BS). This is one of the easiest paths for non-defense businesses to land a defense contract when they have a product already.

Why it Matters: The Air Force released a JADC2 CSO to build an internet-facing area to 1) vet and test newly acquired software tools, 2) build an unclassified DevSecOps enclave for app development, and 3) provide secure processing for a multi-level security network
Saved Rounds
  • Huntington Ingalls is acquiring Alion Science and Technology for $1.65B to add to its growing technical solutions division
  • The Marine Corps wants to establish a secure, digital repository of 3D printing plans for spare parts that is accessible anywhere in the world
  • G2 Ops won a $154 million much-coveted seldom-awarded SBIR phase III contract from the Navy to develop and implement cyber resiliency technologies for afloat and undersea platforms
  • The Air Force patents a novel body armor cooling system (invented by an officer) and is looking for someone to license production to bring it to market
  • Reaction Engines is working to test ammonia as a carbon-free aviation fuel (it’s already proving to be a big player in maritime transport)
  • The Army is going to embed EW coders and software developers with field units during an upcoming exercise to trial reprogramming at the tactical (and austere) edge.
  • Uvision Air is awarded a contract to supply its Hero-120 tube-launched loitering munition to the US Marine Corps to integrate on the Organic Precision Fire Mounted (OPF-M) system
  • ICEYE claims it's SAR commercial satellites are the first in the world that can perform Daily Coherent Ground Track Repeat imaging—tracking changes at ground sites or movement of ships at sea on a daily basis. Expect temporal resolution (ahem, weapons quality tracks) to improve as more satellites are launched.
  • The Air Force and Army are running experiments with bots to scrape contractor billing of materials to automate “fair and reasonable price” assessments for contracts in minutes—it usually takes 4 months
  • Navy Special Warfare showcased eCANNAB, an internally-created web-based material cannibalization management tool that allows users to process, track and report maritime cannibalizations across the fleet
  • Rafael’s new 150-mile Sea Breaker maritime strike missile combines man-on-the-loop datalink, artificial intelligence, and decision-making algorithms
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The 5 Second Debrief
Trivia Answer: D, 52. Yes, the F-4G had fifty-freaking-two flat plate EW antennas bolted all over the airframe.