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Jeff Bezos, founder of the online retailing giant Amazon​.com, has unveiled a new commercial engine design for legacy military rockets.

Bezos, who also heads up the private spaceflight company Blue Origin LLC, was on hand with Tony Bruno, the new chief executive officer of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing Co. joint venture, United Launch Alliance LLC, on Wednesday at the National Press Club to announce an agreement to jointly fund development of the BE-4 engine.

The engine is designed to provide 550,000 pounds of thrust and replace the Russian-made RD-180 propulsion system currently on the Atlas V rocket, one of two boosters used by the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program to lift military and spy satellites into space. [Continue reading…]

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Airpower summary for Sept. 18, 2007The Air Force does not have a suitable replacement for the planned divestiture of the A-10 Warthog aircraft and U-2 spy plane, senior service leaders said Sept. 16 at the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference, National Harbor, Md.

“I don’t want to cut the A-10 and the U-2 – we don’t have a replacement,” said Gen. Michael Hostage III, Commander, Air Force Air Combat Command.

As part of its budget request for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, the service proposed retiring its entire fleets of A-10 attack planes and U-2 spy planes, and partial inventories of other aircraft. The proposed budget cuts to the A-10 and U-2 fleets are described by service officials as budget-driven necessities given current fiscal pressures.

The recommendations were driven in a large part by automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. Sending the close-air-support aircraft to the bone yard would save an estimated $4.2 billion over five years alone, Air Force officials have said.

[Continue reading…]

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The U.S. Air Force may in December certify the start-up rocket-maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp. to compete to launch military and spy satellites, a general said.

“I root for SpaceX to come into the competition,” Gen. John Hyten, head of Air Force Space Command, said during a speech Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual conference. But he warned that the company may not be ready in time.

“The most important thing for this nation is assured access to space that works all the time,” he said. “That’s why the certification for SpaceX, hopefully by Dec. 1, is a big event. But if they’re not ready on Dec. 1, we have to stand up and say that, and that’s going to be difficult because I want competition.” [Continue reading…]

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Active Denial SystemThe head of Air Force Special Operations Command says he is in the market for a directed energy beam weapon and plans to look at acquisitions possibilities as part of the 2017 defense budget.

Such a weapon could be used to knock out communications and power stations without the devastation and loss of life caused by bombs, rockets and missiles — something Air Force Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold said was on the mind of many who lived through Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989.

The operation to grab one-time U.S. ally and Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties. [Continue reading…]

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B-2 and strike eaglesThe Air Force plans to award a contract to build its new bomber to a single vendor by next spring or summer as part of its ongoing effort to engineer a stealthy long range bomber that can evade advanced air defenses, service leaders said Sept. 15 at the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference at National Harbor, Maryland.

“We’re about ready to enter into the next phase of the bomber. We’ve spent the last couple of years refining the requirements and maturing the technology. Within the next year we will down-select to one contractor and then start the heavy lifting of building the first bomber and testing,” Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, military deputy for Air Force acquisition, told Military​.com in an interview.

The new Long-Range Strike Bomber program, or LRS-B, plans to have new planes in the fleet by the mid-2020s. The Air Force ultimately plans to acquire as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane, she added. [Continue reading…]

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