In Washington, the House Armed Services Committee approved plans for a $716 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2019 by a 60–1 vote. Among other things, it provides the largest military pay raise in nine years. It now it heads for a vote by the full House later this month and negotiations will the Senate later this year. (Story)
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla), a member of the committee, said in a newsletter to constituents that the measure is a big victory for Northwest Florida. It includes $10 million for refurbishing the North Field Air Traffic Control Tower at Naval Air Station Whiting Field; $60 million for F-35A spare parts at Eglin Air Force Base; $34.8 million for F-35A Integrated Training Center Academics Building at Eglin; $28 million for F-35A Student Dormitory II at Eglin; and $31.9 million for Eglin Test Range Modernization.
Meanwhile in Pensacola, six admirals shared their thoughts on the future of Navy aviation Friday on the last day of the National Naval Aviation Museum's 2018 Symposium. Participating in a panel discussion, they told hundreds of young Navy and Marine flight students that the aircraft they fly and technology they use will change, but the fundamentals remain the fight-to-win mentality. The Pensacola News Journal has a summary on the comments by each of the admirals. (Story)
Over at Eglin Air Force Base, one of the busiest F-35 training units is hoping the Air Force can relieve some of the pressures of training student pilots with ineffective resources. The 33rd Fighter Wing, leading training wing for F-35 student pilots, hopes to receive additional F-35A fighters, along with considerable upgrades to its existing fleet, to keep up with training demands, said Col. Paul Moga, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing.
Moga told Military.com the unit has found smarter ways inside the existing structure of the 33rd to get more quality sorties into the curriculum despite limitations. "We're the first Air Force wing to start doing what we call 'hot swaps,'" Moga said, referring to different student/instructor pairs swapping out for back-to-back flights in a single aircraft in order to save time and execute more sorties.
The 33rd has 25 F-35As and the Navy, which also has a presence on the base and sends pilots through the training pipeline here, keeps 8 F-35Cs on station. The wing is authorized to have 59 aircraft. The fifth-generation stealth plane arrived here in 2011 and made the 33rd Fighter Wing the first U.S. F-35 training unit. The first class of student pilots started training in 2013. The planes, part of the first low rate initial production batch, need additional work. (Post)
Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $21.7 million modification to a previously awarded contract. This modification increases the quantity of Bell 407 variant commercial airframes through fiscal 2020 by seven in support of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned air system program of record. Work will be performed in Ozark, Ala., and is expected to be completed in December 2020. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Finishing work on Fire Scouts is done in Moss Point, Miss. … Bullock Tice Associates Inc., Pensacola, Fla., was among the companies that will compete for each order of a $49 million contract for architect and engineering services. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity.