The Air & Space Brief: Robot wingmen, finally?; NASA smacks asteroid; Abortion flights; and more...
Welcome to the Defense One Air and Space newsletter. Here are our top stories this week:
Loyal wingmen, at last? The Air Force has long talked about giving pilots autonomous aircraft helpers to take care of tasks other than pulling the trigger. The popularity of the idea was on full display at last week’s Air and Space Forces Association’s Air, Space & Cyber conference. But if service leaders, who have been talking about this for years, and industry officials all want this to happen, what’s the delay? It’s taken until 2022 for key elements including advanced manufacturing, funding, and technology to come together, Defense One’s Lauren C. Williams reports from the show floor.
Supporting ‘freedom of choice’: Troops are volunteering to fly people in need to states where abortion is still legal, saying that part of the reason they joined the military is to fight for freedom, including “freedom of choice.” Elevated Access, a nonprofit group founded in April, has had more than 800 pilots volunteer their time and personal aircraft to fly pregnant people across state lines, including some current members of the military.
“Both of my grandparents served in World War II, fighting for an idea that’s bigger than themselves that America stands for freedom,” an active-duty Air Force officer told us. “That idea has evolved quite a lot since World War II….Now, that freedom transcends freedom of choice, but also means allowing women and men to stand on equal footing.”
Space Command basing fight rages on: Colorado senators are continuing to fight the Pentagon’s decision to base Space Command in Alabama 20 months after it was made, sending another letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall on Tuesday morning “to reiterate our concerns” about the command leaving Colorado. The senators asked Kendall to review how quickly the command could reach full operational capability as well as the costs if it stays at its temporary home at Peterson Space Force Base, despite a report finding this year that there was no political influence on the basing decision.
See also: An argument for keeping major HQs in states where abortion remains legal.
No Bruce Willis needed: On Monday, NASA crashed a spacecraft into the asteroid Dimorphos in an attempt to shift its orbit, a tactic that could redirect an asteroid on track to hit Earth. Officials will spend the next several weeks determining just how much the collision changed the course of Dimorphos, which orbits Didymos, a larger asteroid. No word on if Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” was playing in mission control.
Sign up to get The Air & Space Brief every Tuesday from Jacqueline Feldscher, Defense One’s Senior National Security Correspondent. On this day in 1993, Jimmy Doolittle, who received the Medal of Honor for his raid on Japan during World War II, passed away at the age of 96.
From Defense One
US Military: Bad Publicity Is Hurting Recruiting. Lawmakers: Fix Your Problems // Caitlin M. Kenney
As services miss end-strength and accession goals, senators at personnel hearing have some blunt suggestions.
USAF to Unveil B-21 Stealth Bomber in December // Marcus Weisgerber
The strategic bomber has been developed in near-total secrecy at Northrop Grumman's plant in Palmdale, California.
Air Force Awards $985M Hypersonic Cruise Missile Contract to Raytheon Technologies // Marcus Weisgerber
The company and its partner Northrop Grumman were chosen over bids from Boeing and Lockheed Martin.