B-1s to Return to Flight This Week
Air Force Global Strike Command announced Tuesday that its B-1Bs will return to flight this week following a June 7 grounding, which includes bombers deployed to the Middle East, due to an ejection seat issue. The grounding gave the command time to “thoroughly evaluate the egress components” and assess risk, the command said in a statement. “We have high confidence that the fleet’s egress systems are capable and the fleet is ready to return to normal flight operations,” Maj. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, commander of 8th Air Force, said in a release. The grounding was announced following a May 1 incident where a B-1 was forced to make an emergency landing at Midland International Air & Space Port in Texas. Pictures of the aircraft showed an open hatch above the weapons systems officer’s position, which indicates a possible attempt to eject. That incident is still under investigation. US Army Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said he could not comment on military operations when asked Tuesday about the impact of the grounding and the B-1’s return to flight. —Brian Everstine
US Cancels First Exercise With South Korea Following Trump-Kim Summit
The US has moved forward on President Trump’s announced step to cancel “war games” with South Korea, canceling the upcoming Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian, which was planned for August. “Consistent with President Trump’s commitment and in concert with our Republic of Korea ally, the United States military has suspended all planning for this August’s defensive ‘wargame’ (Freedom Guardian),” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement Monday night. “We are still coordinating additional actions. No decisions on subsequent wargames have been made.” Trump announced last week, following his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the US would cancel exercises with South Korea, calling them “provocative” and overly expensive. Later this week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton will meet on the issue, said White, who noted there is no impact on other exercises in the Pacific. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Tuesday his country will continue exercises with the US, which are important to the region, according to NHK. —Brian Everstine
Pentagon Begins Planning for Space Force
US Forces-Afghanistan Nominee Outlines His Vision of Victory
Safeguarding US interests, building a “hardened” security force, and a political reconciliation with the Taliban will define victory in Afghanistan, the newest nominee to take over US forces in that country said Tuesday. US Army Lt. Gen. Austin Miller, who was nominated to take over US Forces-Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that, if confirmed, he would immediately review the amount and positioning of air assets inside the country to ensure that US forces can accomplish their mission. The biggest challenge going ahead is with neighbors in the area, such as Pakistan, not being “helpful,” along with an increase of violence in the country, Miller said. Miller has “personal experience” in advising and assisting critical Afghan special operations forces, he noted, and has seen it work in the counter terror mission. The US needs to “put money where you know you’ll have results” in building this component, along with the Afghan Air Force, which has shown to be effective in the fight. —Brian Everstine
US Led Coalition Denies Striking Iranian-Backed Militia in Syria
The US-led coalition is pushing back on claims it struck an Iraqi militia position in eastern Syria, which reportedly killed 22 members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization militia. The militia is backed by Iranian officials and is fighting ISIS in Syria, according to the BBC. The group, as well as Syrian state media, claimed two US guided missiles hit the position. Coalition spokesman US Army Col. Sean Ryan said that was not true. Coalition forces were not operating in the area, though Ryan would not say who the coalition believes conducted the strike. US and coalition forces operate east of the Euphrates River and the incident occurred to the West, he said. An unnamed US official said the strike was carried out by Israel because of the militia’s connection to Iran, though the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on that speculation, according to CNN. While the coalition does have intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and command and control assets in the area, Ryan would only say the coalition did not participate and did not speculate on what aircraft were in the area. —Brian Everstine
—The Air Force has awarded DynCorp International LLC out of Texas a $21.7 million contract modification for the VIP special air mission contract, which includes aircraft maintenance, base supply, and fuel for aircraft assigned to the 11th Wing and 89th Airlift Wing at JB Andrews, Md: DOD contracting announcement.
—Brig. Gen. James Craig assumed command of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa from Brig. Gen. William Zana on June 14: AFRICOM release.
—Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) concluded on June 15 in Kiel, Germany. Some 5,700 personnel from 17 nations participated in the exercise, which also include more than 40 aircraft, 42 ships, and two submarines: DOD release.
—Members of the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron conducted their first mission to Costa Rica recently, where they worked to build partnership capacity with the air vigilance service: DOD release.