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​A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess AFB, Texas, flies a 10-hour mission from Andersen AFB, Guam, through the South China Sea, June 8, 2017. Air Force photo by SSgt. Joshua Smoot.

B-1 Availability Rates on the Rebound

Five years ago, B-1 aircraft availability reached a historical low point. But thanks to the maturation of the bomber’s upgrade program, the timely assistance of stopgap civilian maintainers, and a recent increase in military manpower, B-1 availability is rebounding. By the time the Air Force completes the Block 16, or integrated battle station upgrades in 2020, the service expects availability rates for its fastest, heaviest-lifting bomber to improve even more, Col. Robert Lepper, chief of the combat aircraft division at Air Force Global Strike Command, told Air Force Magazine. Read the full report by Wilson Brissett.

Mattis: Posture Review Looking at All Legs of the Triad, Need for ALCM

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday would not commit to recapitalizing the Air Force’s air launched cruise missile inventory, and said he is reviewing all legs of the triad to determine the most effective, and cost-conscious, nuclear deterrent. He told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense panel that he spoke with former Defense Secretary William Perry, an advocate for scrapping the Air Force’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile fleet, and NATO deputy secretary general Rose Gottemoeller, who previously served as the under secretary of state for arms control, this week to “start from a position of knowledge” on the military’s nuclear forces. Read the full report by Brian Everstine.

DOD’s New Authority to Set Troop Levels Does Not Mean Immediate Changes

The Pentagon’s expanded authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, granted Tuesday by the White House, will be guided by strategy set by the State Department and will not immediately impact the current number of boots on the ground, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Wednesday. Read the full report by Brian Everstine.

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AFSOC Airmen Awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses

Four instructor pilots assigned to the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland AFB, N.M., were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for secretive missions on the CV-22 Osprey. Maj. Robert Meyersohn, Maj. Arjun Rau, TSgt. David Shea, and TSgt. Kenneth Zupow were presented with the medal during a May 23 ceremony for separate missions. Rau, Shea, and Zupow were awarded for a 2013 mission in South Sudan when they were called in to evacuate American and allied civilians and came under heavy fire, according to an Air Force Special Operations Command release. “More than 100 holes” were “put in each aircraft” by small arms fire, but airmen were able to successfully recover the aircraft and assist injured personnel. Meyersohn received the award for a 2014 mission in an unnamed country when he flew as a CV-22 flight commander and was tasked with recovering “precious cargo” from behind enemy lines. He led a three-aircraft formation into a high-risk area at night to retrieve the cargo and friendly ground forces, the release states. “These airmen’s actions are a true testament to what we talk about, train for, prepare for, and breathe every day,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty, commander of the 19th Air Force, during the ceremony.

Pentagon Determined to Continue THAAD Deployment in South Korea

The US military is working on a “way ahead” for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system after South Korea last week halted the deployment of the system to the country. Defense Secretary James Mattis, in a Senate Appropriations Committee defense panel hearing Wednesday, said the Pentagon is “trying to resolve this, so we have clarity on the way ahead.” New South Korean President Moon Jae-in is visiting Washington, D.C., later this month, and Mattis said that visit will be a way for US officials to assuage South Korean concerns about the THAAD deployment. South Korea’s new government suspended the deployment of the system last week, after two launchers had been deployed, until an environmental impact assessment is completed. The US planned to deploy a total of six launchers to South Korea. Moon, during the South Korean election campaign, called for the system to be halted, CNN reported. The Pentagon had negotiated with South Korea for years to deploy the system as a step to counter increased missile testing by North Korea and to protect US and South Korean forces.

House Proposes $6 Billion Increase in Military Construction, VA Spending

The House Appropriations Committee released the text of the fiscal year 2018 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill on Sunday. The legislation proposes $88.8 billion in discretionary spending, an increase of $6 billion over 2017 levels. That increase is sharpest in the Department of Veterans Affairs, which would see $4 billion—or five percent—growth in funding, including new spending on electronic health records and the processing of disability claims backlogs. “This legislation includes the funding and policies necessary to deliver on our promises to our military and our veterans,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) in a statement. “It also includes strong oversight measures to assure that tax dollars are being used wisely and to stop waste and abuse in its tracks, so that our troops and vets get the most benefit of every cent.” The measure also includes $638 million in funding for overseas contingency operations, including money for a ramped up European Reassurance Initiative. —Wilson Brissett

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RADAR SWEEP

—Travis AFB, Calif., was on lockdown Wednesday afternoon after reports of an active shooter situation at the base exchange. The lockdown was later lifted after officials determined it was a false alarm: CBS News

—The first Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation JF-17 Thunder/FC-1 Xiaolong multirole combat aircraft on order for the Myanmar Air Force appears to be​ conducting flight tests in China according to images posted on an online Chinese forum: IHS Jane's