USAF Moving Ahead with Biggest Change to Promotion System In Decades

The Air Force is moving forward with changes to the way officers compete for promotions, beginning with the next lieutenant colonels board in March 2020. That board will see eligible majors compete not against the vast pool of officers who could be promoted, but instead within six new categories. The change means officers in smaller, specialized communities, such as cyber, space, or intelligence, will no longer compete against combat-experienced pilots and other airmen, as they did in the past. The service first floated the idea of a new promotion system in May, then put it on hold in order to gather feedback from the field over the summer. Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein endorsed the plan in September and Under Secretary Matt Donovan, who was acting secretary at the time, approved the plan Oct. 7. Read the full story by Tobias Naegele.

Submarine Forces Boss Tapped to Lead STRATCOM

Vice Adm. Chas Richard, the Navy’s commander of submarine forces, is next in line to lead US Strategic Command, after previously serving as its No. 2 uniformed official. The White House nominated Richard on Oct. 15 to succeed Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the incoming vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Senate Armed Services Committee will vet Richard at an Oct. 24 hearing. He is also up for a promotion to admiral. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

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Most US Forces Leaving Syria; Anti-IS Raids, Air Missions to Continue

As US forces withdraw from northern Syria, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon will maintain a presence in the country and continue sending in airpower-supported missions to fight the Islamic State. The plan is for US forces in Iraq to defend that country while carrying out further missions to stem the resurgence of the Islamic State, Esper said. “If US forces go into Syria to do a counter-[Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] mission, they will have air cover,” Esper said. “That’s just how we do business.” Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Fairchild Activates New KC-135 Squadron to Become “Super” Again

The 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild AFB, Wash., is again a “super” tanker wing after officially standing up its fourth squadron and receiving the first of 12 new KC-135s. The Oct. 18 ceremony officially reactivated the 97th Refueling Squadron at Fairchild—which was in use at the base from 1994 to 2004—adding to Fairchild’s existing 92nd, 93rd, and 384th Refueling Squadrons. “Super” tanker wings are those that encompass four squadrons. Fairchild already owned 44 KC-135s and will grow to around 60 Stratotankers. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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ISIS Reaps Gains of US Pullout From Syria

American forces and their Kurdish-led partners in Syria had been conducting as many as a dozen counterterrorism missions a day against Islamic State militants, officials said. That has stopped. New York Times (subscription required)

Congressional Leaders Travel to Afghanistan Amid Uncertainty Over Troop Deployments Overseas

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi make a surprise stop in Afghanistan on Sunday, visiting with U.S. military personnel and Afghan government officials as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation monitoring progress there. Military Times

Hikes are Coming to Air Force Lodging Rates Worldwide; Some in Europe Will be Doubling

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany—The nightly rates for rooms at the Air Force’s European inns will more than double starting next month as the services begin to foot the bill for most of their operating expenses. Stars and Stripes (subscription required)

Air Force Reviewing Boeing’s Bid for WGS-11, Projects Satellite Could Be Ready in Five Years

The deal reached in April was an “undefinitized contract action” which means that many of the details have not been agreed to. SpaceNews

Firefly Aerospace Partners with Aerojet Rocketdyne

Rocket startup company Firefly Aerospace said Friday it will partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne, a defense and aircraft contractor with roots dating to 1942. UPI

Reusable Rockets and the Limits of Space: Onboard the STP-2 Mission

In June, the US Department of Defense used SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy for the first time to propel several satellites into orbit. It was also the first time the DOD had reused boosters from a previous launch, which then landed again for further use. Grant Turnbull asks, is this the beginning of a new era of space launches for the US military? Airforce-technology

Artificial Intelligence Will Detect Hidden Targets In 2020 Wargame

The Army has developed AI to spot hidden targets in reconnaissance photos and will field-test it in next year’s massive Defender 20 wargames in Europe, the head of the service’s Artificial Intelligence Task Force said. Breaking Defense

Who Let the Air Force In? Airman First to Compete in Army Hand-to-Hand Combatives Tournament

With more than 65 competitors in this year’s tournament, SSgt. Christopher Kervick, a cybersecurity specialist assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, was the first and only airman to compete. DVIDS

Navy’s “Doomsday” Plane Hits a Bird, Suffers $2M in Damages

A Navy doomsday aircraft that would play a vital communication role in the event of a nuclear war had one of its four engines replaced this month after it struck a bird at a Maryland air station.
OPINION: Prepare for the Worst
"Now, with the fate of President Trump’s EMP Executive Order hanging in the balance, and at risk of being rendered meaningless, it may be helpful to remember what is at stake by revisting EMP Commission warnings that America faces an existential threat, and why," write William R. Graham, former chairman of the Congressional EMP Commission; R. James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency; and Peter Pry, former chief of staff of the EMP Commission. RealClear Defense

One More Thing

A British Actor Left Hollywood to Fight ISIS. Now He’s Marooned in Belize. It’s Quite a Story.

How a bleeding-heart idealist with a Kalashnikov and a respectable IMDb page got himself exiled from America. Washington Post (subscription required)