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  • Campbell Takes Command of US, Coalition Troops in Afghanistan


    ​Army Gen. John Campbell, right, assumes command of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and US Forces in Afghanistan on Aug. 26, 2014. ISAF Headquarters photo by TSgt. David Zheng.

    Army Gen. John Campbell assumed command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US Forces in Afghanistan on Tuesday, relieving Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who has held the joint command for 18 months. Campbell will be the last ISAF commander as NATO will shift to an advise and assist mission with a sharply reduced force next year. In a statement from Washington, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he and President Barack Obama “have the highest confidence” in Campbell, who is starting his third tour in Afghanistan. Hagel also praised Dunford for his “extraordinary ability and judgment.” Dunford will become the next Marine Corps Commandant in October, relieving Gen. James Amos. However, the ceremony in Kabul was clouded by the continuing dispute over the outcome of the June runoff election for president. If the two presidential rivals fail to accept the results of the NATO-monitored audit it could trigger a civil war and prevent the Afghan government from signing an agreement that would allow US and NATO forces to remain. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would leave office Sept. 2, which could leave the country leaderless if the recount dispute continues. (DOD report) (Read Campbell's message to troops.)

  • Surveillance Flights Over Syria?


    ​The US has begun surveillance flights over Syria—a potential precursor to airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorist group, according to the Associated Press, which cited unnamed military sources. When asked about the surveillance flights during a press conference Tuesday in Kabul, Afghanistan, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said, "That was reported as a leak and I don't want to confirm or deny any of that," reported Stars and Stripes via the AP. Dempsey said the US has "some insights" into the "existence and activities of ISIS on the Syrian side," though he acknowledged "we certainly want to have more insights into that as we craft a way forward." White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday the President has not yet "made a decision to pursue any sort of military action in Syria." He noted that the President was to meet with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday, but he declined to say whether the Pentagon had presented any options to the President on striking Syria. "There are entire wings of that very large building that are dedicated to making sure the President has a range of plans and options that they can present to him if and when necessary," said Earnest. "But, I'm not going to be in a position to talk about the communication at this point." (White House transcript)

  • UAE and Egypt Strikes in Libya Not Helpful, Says DOD

    Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby on Tuesday confirmed reports the United Arab Emirates and Egypt carried out airstrikes against Islamist militias in Libya without US support. However, he declined to give further details on “diplomatic discussions” on the matter. Kirby said one strike occurred last week, and at the time it was “unclear” who conducted it. A second strike followed this past weekend on targets around Tripoli, he said. The US and several allies issued a statement on Monday denouncing foreign interference, and Kirby said the US believes Libya is already a “tenuous security environment” and unilateral military actions by other countries will not help resolve the fractured internal politics of the country. “We want the situation resolved ... through politics, and we discourage other countries from taking a part in Libya’s issues through violence,” Kirby said. UAE officials have neither confirmed nor denied their role in the attacks. The UAE fields one of the most modernized air forces in the region, and has a well-equipped fleet of F-16E/F Block 60 aircraft as well as aerial refueling capability.

  • Adapting Space and Cyber Learning at Nellis

    ​Unlike many of the platform-specific courses at the Air Force Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nev., the 328th Weapons Squadron is faced with turning out "patch wearers" for both the Air Force's space and young cyber community. The "domain-focused" approach in both these curriculums has meant a careful balancing act between building up specific skill sets and being able to integrate these unique tools along with the rest of the force. Lt. Col Richard Bourquin, commander of the 328th WPS, who oversees the Weapons School's space superiority and cyber warfare operations courses in his squadron, told Air Force Magazine that even though the school has shortened its post-sequester curriculum, "we still want to do as much integration as possible." As the 328th has worked to preserve these integration activities, early academics in the old course "fall off the table" and must be addressed in three-week "spin up courses" for students before they arrive at Nellis (for space students, this occurs at Peterson AFB, Colo., and for cyber warriors intermediate instruction happens at the 39th Information Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla.). Now, "we have to assume the student comes to us with as much knowledge as possible," Borquin said, and then we can refresh knowledge gaps on a "case-by-case basis" when needed.

  • B-1s, B-52s Conduct First Integrated Standoff Weapons Drill


    A B-52 Stratofortress from Minot AFB, N.D., takes off Aug. 14, 2014, during a standoff weapons integration training exercise at Ellsworth AFB, S.D. Air Force photo by SrA. Anania Tekurio.

    B-52s and B-1Bs recently conducted the first integrated standoff weapons exercise to share tactics, techniques and procedures and to improve their capabilities to employ the long-range munitions. Superfortresses from the 23rd Bomb Squadron at Minot AFB, N.D., and Lancers from the 34th Bomb Squadron flew a total of 15 missions out of the 34th BS’s home at Ellsworth AFB, S.D., using the nearby Powder River Training Complex. “The overall goal was to learn from each other in how we use our standoff weapons to determine the most effective way to employ these weapons with each other,” Capt. Christopher McConnell, a 28th Operations Support Squadron wing weapons officer, said in an Air Force release. “The standoff weapon capability of our aircraft is a critical asset for us to have,” said Capt. Joseph Manglitz, a 23rd BS B-52 pilot. Standoff weapons allow aircraft to strike targets from outside an adversary’s air defenses. The Air Force employs the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon, with a 73-mile range, and the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, with a range up to 500 miles. McConnell said they hope to make the integrated exercise a regular event for the bomber community.

  • DOD Hosts China Talks, Holds Firm on “Reckless” Intercept

    The US Navy is hosting regular staff discussions with Chinese People’s Liberation Army counterparts at the Pentagon this week in order to share concerns about air and maritime activities in the Western Pacific, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday. The talks come just one week after a controversial aerial encounter between a Chinese J-11 and a Navy P-8 surveillance aircraft. Kirby did not comment on the nature of the talks, nor if they would address the most recent incident, but said military-to-military ties between the two countries are important and should continue. “That is not made easier by incidents like this,” he said, noting cooperation is not helped by “reckless behavior” in international airspace. Replying to a question regarding a recent editorial in an ultra-nationalist Chinese newspaper, which said China would confront the US more if it does not scale back surveillance activities, Kirby noted the P-8 was conducting a routine mission in international airspace, and under no circumstances was it acceptable to “fly a fighter around a reconnaissance aircraft in the manner in which it was done.” The US has treaty allies in the region, has interests in the Pacific and will not be changing its operations, he added.

  • Test Moves Upgraded HARM Closer to Air Force Use

    The Air Force and Raytheon moved one step closer to fielding an improved capability against adversary’s air defenses, conducting a successful test shot of an upgraded High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). In the test, an F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron fired the improved AGM-88F, with the HARM Control Section Modification (HCSM), at an emitter located outside of an exclusion zone that held a similar emitter. The HCSM used its new global positioning system/inertial measurement unit capability to find and hit the correct emitter, Raytheon said in a company release. The test was conducted on the Utah Test and Training Range, by the F-16 flying out of Hill AFB, Utah. The Air Force awarded Raytheon the HCSM contract in 2012. The improved missile recently was cleared for full-rate production. An additional test shot that is required to determine if it is ready for deployment by the Air Force was conducted Aug. 6, and the results are pending, Raytheon representative Ashley Mehl said. The HCSM improvement gives the HARM greater accuracy, allows it to engage a wider range of modern air defenses and is resistant to counter-measures, the company said.

  • Obama Lays Out New Initiatives for Servicemen


    President Barack Obama Tuesday announced a series of actions designed to address continued concerns over the quality of healthcare US service members and veterans receive. Speaking before the American Legion National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., the President promised increased funding for veterans affairs in his Fiscal 2015 budget. Among these actions are new efforts to introduce access to mental health care, improve the transition between the Defense Department and VA care, implementing measures to address the high rate of homelessness among veterans, heightened suicide prevention training,  and more efficient processing of disability claims. Additionally, measures to help troops transition into civilian life —such as making mortgage lending more accessible, waiving the skills test for service members hoping to get a driver’s license in a new state, helping to transition military skills into job-ready skills, and improving access to college with interest caps on student loans for members of the military—were also discussed. “Fixing what's broken at the VA; ensuring the resources you deserve; delivering the health care that you've earned; eliminating the backlog; standing up for your rights and dignity; helping you realize the American Dream that you so honorably defended—these are our commitments to you,” Obama said. (White House transcript)

  • C-130 Marks 60 Years in Production


    Archived photo of the YC-130 Hercules during its ferry flight from Burbank, Calif., to Edwards AFB, Calif., on Aug. 23, 1954. The C-130 is still in production today, making it the longest running military aircraft production line in history. Air Force photo. ​

    In 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower was in his first term as President and an expansionist Soviet Union was generating global tensions in the emerging Cold War. On Aug. 23 of that year, a four-engine turboprop transport took its maiden flight at Lockheed Martin’s plant in Burbank, Calif. Sixty years later, the C-130 Hercules still is in production, making it the longest running military aircraft in continuous production in history. The Air Force took delivery of its first C-130As in December 1956, and a total of 428 different models of the Hercules are being flown by nearly every major Air Force command, the Air Force Reserve, and the Air National Guard. Hercules also are operated by the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard and are in military or civil use in 70 countries. According to Lockheed Martin, a total of 2,471 have been produced. And the latest model, the C-130J Super Herc, continues to roll off the assembly lines. “In its first six decades, the C-130 shaped aviation history, redefined industry standards and exhibited flexibility that other aircraft have yet to match,” George Shultz, Lockheed vice president and general manager C-130 programs, said in a company release. (USAF release).