Restructured SMC Set to Launch Fifth AEHF Satellite

The Air Force’s fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite is set to launch Aug. 8, marking the first launch under the recently reorganized Space and Missile Systems Center. AEHF-5 is part of an effort to replace the older Milstar military communications constellation with electronic jamming-resistant technology that can transfer larger batches of information. One AEHF satellite provides more capacity than all five Milstar satellites, according to Lockheed Martin. The satellite, which is built by Lockheed and costs $1.1 billion, will launch from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. The program is comprised of six satellites. AEHF-5 was originally slated to head to space June 27. For the first time, the Atlas V will also drop off an experimental Air Force cubesat to test orbital debris tracking before the rocket delivers AEHF-5. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Possible Physical Fitness Test Changes Aim For Holistic Health

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright is pushing to improve the Air Force’s physical fitness test to focus more on “overall fitness, health, and wellness,” the service’s top enlisted airman said. The test is “too heavily weighted on the negative side,” Wright said, causing the service to pass over airmen who are good at their jobs but bad at PT tests, while airmen who do not belong in leadership can be promoted after faring well on the assessment. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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Air Operations Continue at High Tempo in Afghanistan

US airstrikes in Afghanistan saw a slight uptick in May compared to April, clocking in at the second-highest number of monthly airstrikes conducted in the country so far this year. American aircraft in May expended 635 munitions—up from 548 in the prior month—from manned and unmanned aircraft, for a total of 2,646 airstrikes in Afghanistan in 2019, according to statistics Air Forces Central Command released Aug. 4. The monthly total is the highest for a month of May since at least 2009, according to public strike tallies. Between April and May, US forces also reported about 1,600 surveillance flights, 935 airlift and airdrop sorties, and 422 tanker sorties. As of May 31, US aircraft had flown nearly 7,190 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance sorties, along with about 1,560 tanker sorties and 4,570 airlift sorties in 2019. All are on a pace to surpass last year’s levels as Afghanistan entered its heaviest fighting season of the year. Meanwhile, air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria continued to slow. In May, US and coalition aircraft expended 54 munitions in Operation Inherent Resolve, the fewest since the war began and a steep drop-off from April’s 90 strikes. —Brian Everstine

Boeing Gets $55.5 Million for KC-46 Boom Work

The Air Force on Aug. 2 awarded Boeing $55.5 million for continued work on the KC-46’s refueling boom to address a “Category 1” deficiency that is limiting the aircraft’s ability to refuel any USAF plane. The contract covers “system-level hardware and software critical design review of the boom telescope actuator redesign,” with work expected to be completed in February 2021, according to a Defense Department announcement. Currently, the KC-46’s boom is not sensitive enough to disengage from slower aircraft like the A-10—meaning that as of now, the Pegasus is not refueling Warthogs. Boeing is redesigning the boom to meet changes to the Air Force’s requirements. The Air Force is footing the bill to fix the boom, while Boeing is on the hook for other deficiencies with the KC-46’s remote vision system. —Brian Everstine

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Global Hawks Move to Yokota

The Air Force has moved RQ-4 Global Hawks to Japan to keep a close eye on the region as well as to avoid brewing storms. The Northrop Grumman-built Global Hawks are shifting to Yokota AB, Japan, from Andersen AFB, Guam, through the fall to avoid potential damage during typhoon season, according to a Pacific Air Forces release. PACAF moved its remotely piloted aircraft around the theater to Yokota in 2017 and to Misawa AB, Japan, in 2014, 2015, and 2018. RQ-4s collect high-altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information over flights that can last longer than a day to support missions across US Indo-Pacific Command. —Brian Everstine



North Korea Took $2 Billion in Cyber Attacks to Fund Weapons Program—UN Report

North Korea has generated an estimated $2 billion for its weapons of mass destruction programs using “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyber attacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, according to a confidential U.N. report seen by Reuters on Aug. 5. Reuters

Esper: US to Soon Put Intermediate Range Missile in Asia

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he wants to deploy an intermediate range conventional missile in the Pacific region within months, now that the Trump administration has formally pulled out of a Cold War-era arms control treaty with Russia. Associated Press via US News & World Report

Q&A with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein

On July 31, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein spoke with National Defense Magazine staff writer Connie Lee to discuss a wide range of issues facing the service. National Defense Magazine

An Airman’s Wife Was Sexually Assaulted by Their Air Force Sponsor. Now, She’s Fighting to Change the System

The Air Force failed to properly vet him, she said, and because he used his official position to prey on her, the service bears some responsibility. Air Force Times

Marines Eye Unmanned Systems to Keep F-35s Flying from Remote Bases

The Navy and Marine Corps are trying to buy new autonomous and unmanned systems more quickly for expeditionary ops, but as one general warned, “if I can’t sustain it, I’m hosed.” Breaking Defense

Kratos Primes Engine Pipeline in Anticipation of Valkyrie UCAS Orders

Kratos Defense and Security Solutions has begun placing engine orders in anticipation of receiving first series production contracts for its XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned combat air system before the end of 2019. Jane’s International Defence Review

UK Joins International Maritime Security Mission in the Gulf

The UK has reaffirmed its commitment to freedom of navigation and safe passage through the Gulf by playing a leading role in a new international maritime security mission, announced Aug. 5. The mission will see the Royal Navy working alongside the US Navy to assure the security of merchant vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. UK Ministry of Defence release

Australia Rules Out Hosting US Missiles

Australia on Aug. 5 ruled out hosting ground-based US missiles after talks with Washington’s top defense and diplomatic officials. Agence France Presse via

Hacker Community to Take on DARPA Hardware Defenses at DEF CON 2019

This August, DARPA will bring a demonstration version of a secure voting ballot box equipped with hardware defenses in development on the System Security Integrated Through Hardware and Firmware (SSITH) program to the DEF CON 2019 Voting Machine Hacking Village. The SSITH program is developing methodologies and design tools that enable the use of hardware advances to protect systems against software exploitation of hardware vulnerabilities. DARPA release

One More Thing

Can a Dragonfly Teach a Missile How to Hunt

A computational neuroscientist is studying whether a dragonfly’s excellent hunting skills can be replicated in a missile’s ability to maneuver and destroy targets midair with better precision. Dragonflies are vicious little creatures with a hit-to-kill track record of 95 percent, meaning only 5 percent of its prey escapes. C4ISRNET