The Afghan Air Force is “rapidly gaining capability,” standing up 20 more aircrews since their A-29 Super Tucanos began flying strike missions in April, the head of the US mission said. Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the Resolute Support mission, said the Afghan Air Force is flying MD-530 strike helicopters daily, and conducting most of their escort and resupply missions. “If I were to characterize how the Afghan Security Forces performed last year, I would say they were tested and they prevailed,” Nicholson said during a Friday briefing at the Pentagon. “This year, they went into the year with a campaign plan, which, last year, was more of a reaction to enemy activity.” The Afghan Air Force also includes a special mission wing, which flies night operations to support the 17,000-member Afghan Special Forces. These special forces missions are conducted without any US assistance about 80 percent of the time, he said.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.