Airmen Explore Multi-Domain Tech as Policy Takes Shape

LAS VEGAS—Tucked in a conference center on the outskirts of this growing technology hub, the Air Force is taking new steps to move multi-domain operations from a headquarters-level conversation to one tackled in all corners of the service. Multi-domain command and control, part of the broader multi-domain operations concept, has been one of the Air Force’s top focuses under Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein since 2016. It was the subject of a yearlong enterprise study that ran into 2017, then quietly morphed into a further research effort at Hanscom AFB, Mass. A recent gathering here hosted by AFWERX, an Air Force-owned innovation organization, aimed to streamline the process of connecting airmen with data-driven tools, even as bigger policy and operational questions are still being answered in the service’s top echelons. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Two US Service Members Killed in Afghanistan

Two US service members were killed July 29 in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced the same day. The Defense Department did not disclose the circumstances or the exact location of the incident, and will withhold the service members’ names until their next of kin is notified. This week’s deaths bring the total number of American service members killed in Afghanistan to 12 so far this year; 13 were killed in 2018. US combat operations have increased inside Afghanistan as the Taliban regains strength. Airstrikes there are on track to surpass last year’s total, which also represented a large increase over 2017. Violence in the country is growing ahead of Afghan presidential elections in September, including a July 28 bombing in Kabul that targeted current President Ashraf Ghani’s running mate and killed at least 20 people in the capital. —Brian Everstine

image of advertisement

USAF Invests Nearly $1 Million in Drone Tech

All 13 companies that pitched drone-focused technologies to the Air Force on July 24 walked away with a small-business contract, the service said in a recent release. The “Unmanned Aerial Systems Pitch Day” awarded businesses $975,000 in less than three hours, including one contract that was agreed to within five minutes. “Northeastern University facilities provided the backdrop for presentations on small drones that can fit in tight spaces like fuel tanks, and swarms of drones that can autonomously team up to track people and vehicles,” the Air Force said July 25. The event builds on the service’s effort to roll out new counter-UAS systems to protect certain assets. “These technologies include payloads that can defeat other drones, payloads to sense weather hazards to help unmanned aircraft navigate safely, and systems that can counter large groups of drones that pose a security threat,” Northeastern University said in a release. A dozen Pitch Days are planned this year following the success of the first such event in March, Northeastern added. Air Force Digital Program Executive Officer Steve Wert aims to award contracts to at least 100 companies through events aimed at working with commercial and nontraditional contractors. —Rachel S. Cohen

Hercs Head to European Exercises

C-130H Hercules aircraft will lend medical evacuation training and more to two separate military exercises in Europe for the next two weeks, the Air Force said July 28. One group, the 57th Airlift Squadron at Maxwell AFB, Ala., deployed to Romania’s Otopeni Air Base to practice collaborating with that nation during “Carpathian Summer.” The 158th Airlift Squadron from Savannah ANGB, Ga., as well as the 146th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Channel Islands ANGS, Calif., flew to Georgia’s Tbilisi Air Base for the multinational “Agile Spirit” exercise. “The brigade-level exercise will incorporate a simulated command post exercise, field training, and joint multinational battalion-level combined arms live-fire exercises,” according to a July 28 Defense Department release. “The training taking place during Agile Spirit ensures that US, allied, and partnered nations maintain our conventional deterrence capability with a combination of combat-ready forward forces.” About 3,300 military personnel from 14 allied and partner forces—including around 1,500 each from the US and Georgia—will participate. —Rachel S. Cohen

image of advertisement

ISIS Facilitator Killed in July 27 Airstrike

US forces in Africa killed one Islamic State of Iraq and Syria member in a July 27 airstrike in Somalia, according to a July 28 US Africa Command release. The military did not specify which aircraft performed the strike or what weapons it carried. It did not name the militant killed, identifying the person only as someone who “played a key role in facilitation for the group.” “The Golis Mountains are a known area for terrorist activity,” AFRICOM said in the release. “Precision airstrikes such as these support Somali security forces efforts to protect the Somali people from terrorism and support long-term security in the region.” AFRICOM said no civilians were injured or killed by the strike, though non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International believe the US government underreports civilian casualties in Somalia. —Rachel S. Cohen



Aircraft Mission-Capable Rates Hit New Low in Air Force, Despite Efforts to Improve

The Air Force’s aircraft readiness continued its multi-year slide in fiscal 2018, as the overall mission-capable rate for the aging fleet dropped below 70 percent—its lowest point in at least six years. Air Force Times

Air Force Wants More Money for Light-Attack Aircraft Effort

The US Air Force is seeking to give an extra boost to its light attack aircraft effort by shifting unspent money to the program.

DARPA’s Satellite Servicing Robot to Get Another Shot

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is considering proposals from potential new partners for its program to send a robot to space to repair satellites. Space News

OPINION: Compete or Not, But Go Full Steam Ahead on GBSD

“If the current GBSD requirements can be met through amending the RFP without delaying the program, then we can go in that direction,” Peter Huessy, director for strategic deterrent studies at AFA’s Mitchell Institute, writes. “Otherwise, as there is a precedent for going with a single bidder, we should proceed with the GBSD research and development contract.” Breaking Defense

Trump Says Coats Is Out as National Intelligence Director

Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, is resigning after a turbulent two years in which he and President Donald Trump were often at odds over Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump named a GOP congressman and fierce loyalist to replace him. Associated Press

Japan Wants to Be an Official F-35 Partner. The Pentagon Plans to Say No.

Japan has formally expressed interest in joining the F-35 program as a full partner, but the Pentagon plans to shoot down that request, Defense News has learned. Sources say Japan’s request to join the partnership creates major political headaches for the Pentagon, with fears it would cause new tensions among the international production base for the joint strike fighter and open the door for other customer nations to demand a greater role in future capability development. Defense News

One More Thing

Who Wouldn’t Want To Visit an Underwater Military Museum

Military museums are not uncommon, but the middle eastern country of Jordan is building what just might be the weirdest of them all: an underwater military museum. Obsolete tanks, armored vehicles, and even a helicopter from Jordan’s military have been sunk in the Red Sea to promote scuba diving tourism. Popular Mechanics