MQ-9 Enterprise Matures as “Get-Well Plan” Faces Hurdles

The 432nd Wing’s new commander at Creech AFB, Nev., says the MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft community is reaching a turning point in maturity even as the Air Force continues hammering those airmen with a demanding workload. After the RQ-1 was first assigned to the Air Force in 1996, the service pulled pilots from other careers to make up an RPA workforce instead. Now, Col. Stephen Jones says the majority of MQ-9 pilots have graduated from an RPA training program, compared to earlier years when most airmen came from other programs. It will be up to that new community of organic pilots to decide what RPA culture looks like going forward. The wing’s culture is also shaped in part by the Air Force’s RPA “get-well plan,” which went into effect in 2016 to help drone operators achieve a healthier work-life balance. While it has spurred positive changes for the MQ-9 enterprise, there is more work to do, Jones said. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

F-35s Practice Adaptive Basing in the Middle East

F-35As stationed in the Middle East practiced how they can participate in combat operations from a temporary base by deploying from the United Arab Emirates to another, undisclosed location, the service said Aug. 12. An undisclosed number of Joint Strike Fighters deployed to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and operated out of an austere area with a skeleton crew of support airmen as part of an adaptive basing exercise called “Agile Lightning” from Aug 4-7. Airmen and support equipment piled into a C-17 to stand up operations for the stealth fighter, and once established at the base, they flew “essential missions” to protect US assets in the region, according to an Air Forces Central Command release. The aircraft and airmen are from the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, deployed to AFCENT from Hill AFB, Utah. “By executing the adaptive basing concepts we have only practiced at home until now, we increased the readiness, survivability, and lethality of the F-35A in a combat theater,” 4th EFS Commander Lt. Col. Joshua Arki said. “The Agile Lightning team worked hard to coordinate with multiple bases and across US Air Force core disciplines, such as logistics, munitions, force support, communications, air mobility, Combined Air Operations Center staff, etc.” —Brian Everstine

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Lockheed Using New Matrix to Vet Cyber Risks for Current, Future Systems

Lockheed Martin wants the Defense Department to adopt its recently designed framework that shows how well a military system can hold up against cyber attacks, amid growing recognition that the Pentagon’s weapon and business software is vulnerable to 21st-century threats. The contractor is using its “Cyber Resiliency Level” model on about 10 undisclosed test cases that include proposed, developing, and legacy military systems. Those pilots will wrap up by the end of 2019. When the pilots end, Lockheed expects it will inform its military customers of the results so the findings can help shape the programs. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Pentagon Report Details Shortfalls in Afghan Air-to-Ground Capabilities, Training

The US-led Train Advise Assist Command-Air mission in Afghanistan has not effectively taught Afghan forces to perform airdrops and airstrikes on their own, according to a new Pentagon watchdog report. The Defense Department Inspector General, in an Aug. 12 report, stated that the Afghans’ inability to coordinate airdrops “increases the risk that [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] units operating in areas without airfields or helicopter landing zones will not receive critical supplies.” Additionally, the inability of air liaison officers to coordinate strikes “could result in an increase in unsuccessful air-to-ground missions, as well as an increased risk of civilian casualties and fratricide,” the report argued. TAAC-Air fell short of its goal to develop capable tactical air coordinators because of a decision to stop training Afghans on airdrop skills. The DOD watchdog added that TAAC-Air did not ensure that the contractor-developed curriculum was detailed enough for the Afghan air liaison officers those contractors train. Going forward, the IG recommended NATO Air Command and TAAC-Air improve Afghan training by developing a plan with specific objectives and milestones to measure those forces’ air-to-ground capability. —Brian Everstine

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Hill Airmen Help Move, Rebuild Alaskan Town

As thawing permafrost forces out the inhabitants of a small Alaskan town, Air Force Reservists are helping give them a new home. Twenty-three Reserve airmen from the 419th Civil Engineer Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah, are spending their two-week-long annual tour training this month assisting with the process of moving and reconstructing the town of Newtok, Alaska, which became unlivable due to the phenomenon, a 419th Fighter Wing release said. The effort is part of the DOD’s joint Innovative Readiness Training initiative, through which service members from the Air Force, Army, and Navy support “key community services” throughout the country, the release states. Some permafrost thaw is typically seen each year, but “thawing is expected to increase with climate change,” according to the National Park Service. Thawing permafrost is an expensive threat to infrastructure in Alaska, which is warming up faster than any other US state, according to the US Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate Assessment. A January 2019 Pentagon report on select DOD installations’ vulnerability to climate-related risks deemed thawing permafrost a significant threat. However, none of the Air Force installations studied were found to be endangered by its effects. —Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory


Most Grounded C-130s OK’d to Fly Again

The Air Force has inspected, and cleared to fly again, most of the 123 C-130 Hercules that were grounded last week due to concerns about potential cracking in a crucial wing joint. Air Mobility Command has returned 74 C-130s to service as of Aug. 9, AMC spokeswoman Alexandra Soika said on Aug. 12. Just one of those grounded C-130s has been found to have a defect so far, she said. Air Force Times

Pentagon’s Watchdog Vows to Move Fast in Cloud Contract Probe

The Pentagon’s Inspector General is “expeditiously” conducting an extensive review of the Defense Department’s JEDI cloud-computing project, including potential conflicts of interest and misconduct in the competition that may generate as much as $10 billion in revenue. Bloomberg

Unsafe At Any Speed: Multiple Vulnerabilities Afflict 5G

US government agencies, especially the military, need to be wary of embracing 5G network technology, despite its benefits, simply because so many vendors are based in China. That means military networks may lag behind capabilities widely available to ordinary citizens with the latest smartphones. Breaking Defense

Security Assistance: US Agencies Should Improve Oversight of Human Rights Training for Foreign Security Forces

The US Government Accountability Office made three recommendations, including that the Secretary of Defense establish a process to systematically track mandated human rights training and develop a timeline for implementing monitoring and evaluation. GAO report

ULA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Submit Bids for National Security Launch Procurement Contract

United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Northrop Grumman, and Blue Origin have submitted their proposals for the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement. Bids were due Aug. 12. Space News

NORAD Commander: Space Sensing Layer Critical to Protecting North America

Find out the highest priority that NORAD’s leader has for American missile defense. Defense News

Russian Air Force Commander Details Trials of New Aircraft

The Russian Air Force (VVS), an integral part of the Aerospace Forces (VKS), will activate several new aircraft in the coming years, VVS commander Lt Gen Sergey Dronov told the Ministry of Defence’s official newspaper, Krasnaya Zvezda, on Aug. 12. Jane’s Defence Weekly (partial paywall)

One More Thing

3 Things Not to Bring to the Pentagon: a Loaded Shotgun, a Rusted Machete, and Jim Beam Vanilla

Strange things were afoot in the Pentagon’s southernmost parking lot on Aug. 6 when a man approached Pentagon Police Sgt. Kyle Murdock. During the course of the conversation, the man admitted he had a loaded firearm in his truck and gave police permission to conduct a search, said Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb. "Sgt. Murdock discovered a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, a rusted machete, two pocket knives, marijuana and a bottle of alcohol and arrested the individual," Babb said on Aug. 12. Task and Purpose