Air Force Shows Off Its Light Attack Experiment
The Air Force on Wednesday showed off its new experiment in the New Mexico desert, evaluating four commercial aircraft for a new light attack mission set. But, this isn’t a competition, officials claim. And don’t expect an acquisition program in the near future. Read the full report by Brian Everstine from Holloman AFB, N.M.
Mattis Issues Warning to North Korea
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis released a statement Wednesday warning North Korea not to continue down a path that could “lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.” The statement comes the day after President Donald Trump vowed to meet continued threats from Pyongyang with “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” and the North Korean army announced it is developing a plan to strike Guam, including Andersen Air Force Base there, with ballistic missiles. Mattis called on North Korea to “stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons.” He also restated the US preference to “resolve this global threat through diplomatic means.” But he affirmed that the US and its allies “have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack,” and he assured North Korea that any aggressive actions it takes “will be grossly overmatched” by the US and allied response. The US has a detailed pre-positioned air tasking order that maps out the first few days of conflict with North Korea, and it practices it often. Though the airspace in South Korea is roughly the size of Indiana, any potential air campaign in the early days of a second Korean War would be the “largest in modern history” and would include more than 2,000 sorties per day, officials told Air Force Magazine during a visit there last year. (See also: Keeping Peace in Korea from the December 2016 issue of Air Force Magazine.) —Wilson Brissett and Amy McCullough
Two USAF B-1B Lancers, assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron from Andersen AFB, Guam, fly alongside Japanese F-2s, Aug. 7, 2017. Courtesy photo.
B-1s Fly Intercept Training with Japanese, Korean Jets
Two B-1 bombers deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, flew bilateral training missions with fighter jets from Japan and the Republic of Korea on Monday. The sorties involved “intercept and formation training,” according to a Pacific Air Forces press release. The B-1s first flew to Japanese airspace, where they were joined by Japan Air Self Defense Force F-2 fighters. Next, they flew over the Korean peninsula, accompanied by KF-16 jets from the Republic of Korea Air Force, and performed a pass over the Pilsung training range in South Korea. “As demonstrated today, our air forces stand combat-ready to deliver airpower when called upon,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Diehl, commander of the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, according to the release. The B-1s recently deployed from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., and were the first Bones to deploy to Guam from that base since August 2016. USAF B-1Bs have flown 11 practice runs of a bombing mission to North Korea from Guam since the end of May as that country has increased its nuclear missile testing and rhetoric, reported NBC News. An actual mission would include support from satellites, remotely piloted aircraft, aerial refueling, and electronic warfare planes, current and former officials said.
Battlebots, With Drones
The Air Force is working with US Special Operations command in a drone competition called “Thunderdrone,” where small drones will compete, and fight, with each other to prove new unmanned capabilities. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced the Air Force’s involvement on Wednesday, saying the upcoming event will be a way to prove capabilities for small unmanned aerial systems, including swarming. The event is hosted by SOFWERX, which is inviting special operators, interagency partners, industry, and academia to participate, according to the event’s website. The event, held at a new “drone test range” will include a “prototype rodeo” in November. The competition will show which will be the “last drone standing,” Wilson said. The Air Force, along with the broader Defense Department, has been looking extensively at drone swarming. The service has an interest in following the development of small quadcopters, including through sponsoring drone racing events on national TV, said Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command. —Brian Everstine
US Service Members Sue Trump Over Transgender Ban
Five transgender US service members filed a federal lawsuit in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday seeking an injunction against President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. The Department of Defense had cleared transgender people to serve openly in June 2016, but Trump reversed that policy on July 26 and reinstituted a ban via a series of Tweets. Now the ban is being legally challenged by transgender members of the Air Force, the Coast Guard, and the Army, who together have nearly 60 years of service in the US military, according to a press release from GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), who filed the suit on the plaintiffs’ behalf. The suit argues that Trump’s ban violates the plaintiffs’ rights under the equal protection and due process clauses of the fifth amendment of the US Constitution, and that it unfairly reverses the 2016 policy. When that policy was announced, “thousands of service members followed protocol and informed their chain of command that they are transgender,” the release states. The suit argues it is now unfair to punish those same members with expulsion from the military because they followed previous policy.
Modernization Program At Risk of Repeating F-35 Acquisition Mistakes, GAO Says
If not adequately restructured in the near future, the cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s follow-on modernization effort could see unexpected cost increases, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office released Tuesday. At issue is the slow development of a new data processor needed for Block 4 capabilities on the aircraft. Read the full report by Wilson Brissett.
Expanded FAA Regulations Ban Drones Flying Near All AETC Bases
The Federal Aviation Administration has expanded its regulation of unmanned aerial systems to ban their operation within 400 feet of all Air Education and Training Command sites without permission. The FAA issued initial restrictions on drones flying near 133 Department of Defense, national security, and intelligence agency sites in April. FAA spokesman Les Dorr told Air Force Magazine the FAA plans to work with DOD periodically to issue expanded lists of prohibited sites, but that a fully updated list had not yet been issued. The decision to include all AETC sites on the FAA’s list was motivated in part by an incident on July 10, when an unauthorized drone entered the airspace of Vance AFB, Okla., resulting in “the grounding of flying training operations” at the base, according to a press release. Earlier this week, the Pentagon issued classified new guidance for military members allowing them to “retain the right of self-defense” against threats from UAS. —Wilson Brissett
US Sending Dozens More Marines to Afghanistan
US Central Command has approved a plan to send just under 100 additional marines to Afghanistan to help with force protection there, NBC News reported. The additional forces will be reassigned from a Marine crisis response unit already within CENTCOM and will support the Task Force Southwest mission based in Helmand province. Pentagon officials told NBC the new deployment is not related to President Donald Trump’s forthcoming change of strategy in Afghanistan but is instead a response to a direct request from a commander on the ground, USMC Brig. Gen. Roger Turner. Trump’s new strategy for the war in that country is expected before the end of the summer, but in the meantime the President has been clashing with congressional leaders over the way forward in the 16-year old conflict.
—AT&T has been awarded a 10-year contract by the Defense Information Systems Agency to replace its Hawaii network with a modern communications network to support US military personnel in the Pacific region: AT&T release.
—The Harris Corporation announced it has delivered its navigation payload for the third GPS III satellite to Lockheed Martin, which is producing the first ten space vehicles in the constellation: Harris release.