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​ ​The 33rd Network Warfare Squadron relies on a $543 million weapon system called Air Force Cyber Defense to help it guard the Air Force's network from intrusions. Photos/Illustrations: Jessica Turner/USAF; SSgt. Alexandre Montes.


Meet USAF’s Most Widely Spread Cyber Weapon System

To help the 33rd Network Warfare Squadron accomplish its mission to defend the full Air Force Network (AFNET), it operates and relies on a special sidekick, the Air Force Cyberspace Defense (ACD) weapon system. The $543 million, custom-built suite of devices and programs is deployed throughout the AFNET ecosystem, always watching it, ever reactive to suspicious activity it recognizes. While ACD is largely meticulous and helpful, it presents a unique set of challenges---and rewards---for the 33rd’s cyber warriors. Read the full story from Gideon Grudo.

Hurricane Hunters Finish Busy Storm Season

The Hurricane Hunters finished one of the busiest hurricane seasons in their history as the storm season ended Nov. 30. The 2017 season for the C-130s and crews of the Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron included more than 800 flight hours, across more than 90 missions into 12 named storms, according to a release. The C-130s flew into the storms to collect data for the National Hurricane Center, which uses it to determine the direction and intensity of the storms. “The data we collect is essential to the NHC because the capabilities of satellites and drones are just not there yet,” said Maj. Kimberly Spusta, an aerial reconnaissance weather officer with the 53rd WRS, in the release. “To go into the center of the storm to get that data is critical so the NHC can produce the most accurate forecasts possible.” The named storms the squadron flew into include Harvey, Irma, and Maria—three category four hurricanes that made landfall in the US. During the hurricane off season, the squadron will continue to collect data on major winter storms including Nor’easters, along with participating in research projects and doing community outreach, according to Keesler.


ACC’s Logistics Commander Relieved of Duty

Air Combat Command’s one star general in charge of engineering, logistics, and force protection was removed from command on Nov. 27 for not maintaining a “healthy command climate.” Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler was removed from command by ACC head Gen. Mike Holmes following an inspector general investigation that found Buhler misused the official time of his subordinates, violated travel regulations, and abused his authority by improperly reassigning staff duties, according to an ACC statement to Air Force Magazine. Buhler is now working as a special assistant to Holmes, according to ACC. Buhler had served in the position since September 2015, and previously commanded the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB, Utah. The deputy director of logistics, Marc Novak, is serving in the position until a new director is appointed, according to ACC. —Brian Everstine

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First Afghan Air Force Black Hawk Pilots Graduate from Qualification Training

The first six Afghan Air Force UH-60 Black Hawk pilots graduated from their aircraft qualification training, the latest step for the fledgling service’s move to a more modern rotor fleet. The six pilots graduated during a ceremony Nov. 20 at Kandahar Air Field, following a six-week program administered by the US Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air advisers. “I am happily announcing that today a new page is opening in Afghanistan Air Force life,” Maj. Gen. Abdul Raziq Sherzai, the commander of the Kandahar Air Wing, said in a release. “In the past years due to civil wars, our air force capabilities reached to almost zero. Today we can see, that we are not far from standing on our own feet.” The Afghan Air Force is transitioning away from the aging, Russian-made Mi-17 to updated UH-60 Black Hawks as part of a modernization program that also includes more A-29 attack aircraft, MD-530 attack helicopters, and C-208 aircraft. The first pilots transitioned from the Mi-17, and the next 14 UH-60 pilots will train at Fort Rucker, Ala., next year. The AAF plans to have four qualified crews by fighting season 2018, according to the release. —Brian Everstine


Niger Approves Armed Reaper Flights

The US and Niger governments recently reached an agreement to begin flying armed MQ-9 Reaper operations inside the country, following the October ambush of US forces that resulted in the deaths of four Green Berets. The agreement was finalized within the past few days, according to Voice of America. The Air Force already has MQ-9s in the country, operated by the 323rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at Nigerien Air Base 101, according to US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa.

Pratt & Whitney Gets $353 Million for F-35 Engine Work

Pratt & Whitney on Friday received a $353 million contract for continued logistics support for the F-135 engine, which powers the F-35. The contract modification covers purchases for the Air Force – 39 percent of the total – along with the Marine Corps, US Navy, and non-US participants, according to a Pentagon announcement. The contract pays for maintenance of support equipment, common program activities, common replenishment spares, and unique maintenance for both the short takeoff variants and the carrier variants of the jet. The bulk of the work, 73 percent, will be conducted at Pratt’s facility in Hartford, Conn.

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RADAR SWEEP


—The 14 members of the AC-130U gunship crew, known as “Spooky 43,” were awarded the Mackay Trophy during a ceremony in Arlington, Va., on Nov. 29. The team helped save 50 lives during an intense battle in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in November 2016: USAF release.

—Boeing was awarded a contract with a $79.9 million ceiling for E-4B maintenance, after a tornado damaged part of the fleet this summer: DOD contract announcement.

—An F-35A from the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards AFB, Calif., recently supported the Army’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, during training at the National Training Center: DVIDS release.

—The 361st Training Squadron at Sheppard AFB, Texas, received two C-130J engines and propellers “in nearly new condition” after a mishap at Hurlburt Field, Fla., allowing students to receive hands on experience on the J-model before arriving at their assigned units: AETC release.

—The Center for Strategic and International Studies is channeling its inner Grinch this holiday season and launching a new series on its blog called “Bad Ideas in National Security.” The first bad idea focused on cutting the military housing allowance: Defense360.