The Air & Space Brief: SOCOM picks attack plane; ‘Salty’ new CSO; F-35s grounded
Welcome to the Defense One Air and Space newsletter. Here are our top stories this week:
SOCOM picks attack plane: U.S. Special Operations Command has chosen L3Harris Technologies to supply up to 75 attack planes based on a cropduster aircraft in a deal that could be worth $3 billion, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber writes. L3Harris’ aircraft is a weaponized Air Tractor AT-802, a turboprop agricultural aircraft that usually flies around 150 mph. The initial contract awarded Monday is worth $170 million, but could reach $3 billion by 2029 if all of the options are exercised.
F-35s grounded: The U.S. Air Force grounded the majority of its F-35s in the continental United States on Friday, temporarily taking its most advanced combat fighter jets out of service to inspect faulty ejection seats, the service said Friday, and Israel promptly followed suit with its aircraft. Military officials found issues in some aircraft with explosive cartridges used to propel a pilot’s ejection seat out of the jets. By Monday; however, U.S. European Command had returned its F-35As to flight, the Air Force said, according to Bloomberg.
‘Salty’ new CSO: President Joe Biden has named Lt. Gen. Chance “Salty” Saltzman to serve as the next Chief of Space Operations, as the Space Force moves past its creation and into the day-to-day responsibilities of protecting America’s space interests. Early in his military space career, Saltzman served as a Minuteman III launch officer. He later served as a satellite operator for the National Reconnaissance Office and led space operations squadrons, groups and wings at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Next-gen fighter: Northrop Grumman should not be discounted as a possible builder of the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation fighter jet, the company’s CEO said Tuesday. “As we think about sixth-generation aircraft, we are in the process of building the first of those, the B-21, and that's given us some fantastic experience and lessons that we believe we can apply to other sixth-generation aircraft, and so we're positioned as a competitor,” CEO Kathy Warden said during a quarterly earnings call.
Sign up to get The Air & Space Brief every Tuesday from Tara Copp, Defense One’s Senior Pentagon Reporter. On Aug. 2, 2020, SpaceX successfully carried two NASA astronauts back to the International Space Station, marking the first time a U.S.-launched spaceship had flown people to ISS since the retirement of the Space Shuttle.
From Defense One
SOCOM Orders Cropduster Attack Planes from L3Harris Technologies // Marcus Weisgerber
The contract, which could grow to 75 aircraft, marks a major victory for proponents of prop-driven close air support.
Air Force Grounds Most F-35s in US Due to Faulty Ejection Seats // Marcus Weisgerber
The extraordinary stand-down order from Air Combat Command does not cover every fighter in the fleet, overseas, or other service branches.
Northrop Grumman CEO: We Can Build a Next-Generation Fighter // Marcus Weisgerber
Kathy Warden said the company's B-21 stealth bomber positions it well to compete for the Next Generation Air Dominance warplane.