U.S. Air Force

Today in the skies over New Mexico, Air Force students are practicing for the kill.

They sit at terminals at Holloman Air Force base, watching grainy images from a drone video feed. Thousands of feet below, at a desert training range, role players portray civilians and fighters inside a village. The students must find the proper target, then with a push of a button, they unleash a simulated airstrike.

Ralph Radford / AP Photo

Boeing says it’s doing all it can to meet a big deadline in August of next year, when the company is supposed to deliver the first 18 KC-46 aerial refueling tankers to the Air Force, but cost overruns on the program have been mounting.

Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson will be nominated as the next head of U.S. Northern Command, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Friday. If approved, she would be the first female head of a combatant command.

The U.S. military divides the world into geographic regions that are each overseen by a four-star general or admiral directing military operations across the branches of service. None of those combatant commanders has ever been a woman.

NASA / Flickr

Boeing says it’s confident the company will still be able to deliver 18 tanker aircraft to the U.S. Air Force two years from now in spite of problems that emerged in the most recent quarter. 

The KC-46 tanker program was the focus of a big fight between Boeing and Airbus for years before the contract finally went to Boeing. Now, the first tankers are being built in Everett.

Courtesy of Evergreen Public Schools.

Two airmen from the Northwest were killed in a helicopter crash in England this week. The Pave Hawk helicopter went down in a marshy nature preserve in eastern England, killing the entire four-member crew.

The Pentagon says the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration could leave the U.S. with a military that is simply unprepared for the most challenging combat missions. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told Congress in April that the military is eating its seed corn.

Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane is planning a public memorial service for three of its airmen killed in a mid-air explosion over central Asia.

The cause of the air refueling tanker accident last Friday remains under investigation, but the crash renews attention on a Boeing Company contract to replace the Air Force's aging tanker fleet.

Biggunben / Flickr

Some Air Force and Army bases in the Northwest are helping with the Libyan fight. Seven tankers and about 100 airmen from Fairchild Air Force Base are already working in undisclosed locations in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

AP

Boeing's chief rival for the lucrative Air Force tanker refueling contract ended a decade-long fight for over the work today, announcing it will not challenge the Defense Department's award for the project. 

The Herald of Everett's Michelle Dunlop reports EADS, the European parent company of Airbus, decided a challenge could not be mounted:

It's a day of celebration and pride at the Boeing plant in Everett, after the company won the $35 billion-dollar Air Force contract for a new aerial tanker fleet. 

The Pentagon wants Boeing to build the next generation of Air Force refueling tankers. The contract is worth $35 billion. Boeing's bid beat out rival EADS, parent of Airbus. 

The Air Force has tried for nearly a decade to replace its aging fleet of Eisenhower-era tankers, the equivalent of a flying gas station.

The planes will be based on Boeing's 767 jetliner.  The work is expected to impact 50,000 jobs, according to the Associated Press.

Washington's congressional leaders are celebrating the announcement. In a statement issued shortly after the Pentagon's choice was made public, Senator Patty Murray cheered the decision:

“This decision is a major victory for the American workers, the American aerospace industry and America’s military. And it is consistent with the President’s own call to ‘out-innovate’ and ‘out-build’ the rest of the world," Murray stated.

 

AP

Final bids were submitted Thursday by Boeing and Airbus' parent company, EADS for the contract to build the Air Force's in-flight refueling tanker. The Air Force could announce the winner as early as next month, but the award is likely to be sidetracked by politics and protests.