Coalition Aircraft Maintain Elevated Strike Pace
US and coalition aircraft sustained the elevated pace of airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan in July, according to statistics released Tuesday by Air Forces Central Command. In Iraq and Syria, US and coalition aircraft dropped 4,313 weapons, extending the elevated pace of strikes in that conflict since May. On July 9, Iraqi forces declared victory in the battle to retake Mosul from ISIS, and US forces said on July 25 that they had not conducted airstrikes over the city for two weeks. Since the first airstrike of Operation Inherent Resolve on Aug. 8, 2014, US and coalition forces have dropped more than 94,000 weapons in the campaign against ISIS, according to an AFCENT press release. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, US and coalition aircraft dropped 350 weapons, which was the most active July in that country since 2012. —Wilson Brissett
Military Buildup Faces Tricky Congressional Path
A number of thorny challenges in Congress make it “difficult to see how a substantial buildup” of military spending could be enacted for Fiscal 2018, according to new analysis from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA). The most likely way to achieve the spending increases that both President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans want is through “an eye-popping increase in OCO [overseas contingency operations] funding,” writes the report’s author, Katherine Blakeley. Read the full story by Wilson Brissett.
Mitchell Dean Says LRSO Provides Critical Deterrence
The Long Range Standoff weapon (LRSO) is a “force multiplier” that is crucial to sustaining a credible US nuclear deterrent, said retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula in an interview with The Cipher Brief on Tuesday. Members of Congress looking to reduce the cost of modernizing the nuclear triad have argued that the Department of Defense can save money by dropping plans to develop LRSO as a replacement for the aging Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM). Even Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis questioned LRSO’s “deterrent value” during his confirmation hearing in January. But Deptula insisted that the LRSO is important because it “significantly increases the reach and target coverage” of the B-2 and B-21 bombers. He also argued that LRSO will continue to be critical after the arrival of the next-generation aircraft. “The B-21 and LRSO are not redundant—they are synergistic,” he said. Together, LRSO and the B-21 “will enable simultaneous target attacks against several targets from one aircraft making defense against this combination highly problematical,” Deptula said. This particularly deadly combination defines the strategic advantage of the LRSO, he said. It is a weapon that “strengthens deterrence by presenting an adversary an intractable challenge.” —Wilson Brissett
C-130 Crews Exercising Emerging Capability at Exercise
C-130 crews at Air Mobility Command’s largest exercise are practicing an emerging capability to quickly provide fuel at austere locations. Read the full story from Brian Everstine, who is reporting from Mobility Guardian.
USAF Contracts Northrop to Upgrade JSTARS Radios
USAF awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to replace existing radios on its E-8C JSTARS aircraft, while it disputes other work the company has done on the platform. Under the 14-month, $7 million contract, Northrop will upgrade the current Commander’s Tactical Terminal/Hybrid-Receive Only radios and “support” USAF in installing 16 aircraft kits for the upgrade “over the term of the contract,” a Northrop spokesperson told Air Force Magazine. The replacement will also modernize the cryptography of the terminals and wear-and-tear issues with them. The replacement radios are Air Force Tactical Receive System-Ruggedized (AFTRS-R), which Northrop says will assure “capability” for the fleet and the actors using it with regards to intel reports like warning against threats or hostiles, according to the company’s Aug. 8 announcement. AFTRS-R does this in part by gleaning data from airborne and overhead intel “collectors.” At the same time, USAF is disputing Northrop’s maintenance work on JSTARS, attempting to recover money from the industry giant. According to Stars & Stripes, USAF is claiming “damage to a radar during maintenance” among other things in arguing Northrop owes it nearly $15 million. For one, the service is seeking $7.3 million for July 2016 damages caused by mechanics and $7.6 million after a November 2016 Pentagon inspector general’s report claimed “a bonus fee” was “undeserved.” —Gideon Grudo
Super Hornet Evades Iranian Drone
A US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet had “an unsafe and unprofessional interaction” with an Iranian QOM-1 drone Tuesday, according to a US Central Command press release. The close call happened in the central Persian Gulf, where the F/A-18 was assigned to the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier. While the Super Hornet was in a holding pattern and preparing to land, the QOM-1 “executed unsafe and unprofessional altitude changes,” closing on the F/A-18 to a distance of 200 feet of lateral separation and 100 feet of vertical separation despite repeated radio calls to stay clear. CENTCOM said the F/A-18 “maneuvered to avoid collision” with the Iranian drone. The QOM-1’s “dangerous maneuver” was “not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws,” CENTCOM said, and this occurrence marked the 13th such “unsafe or unprofessional interaction” between US and Iranian forces this year. Monday, the Pentagon announced that it had issued new guidance, “very specific but classified,” to US military members to help them counter threats provided by unmanned aerial systems. —Wilson Brissett
Scientists who had been living at the East Greenland Ice Core Project, Greenland, for about six weeks board a 109th Airlift Wing LC-130 Skibird headed for Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, July 29, 2017. Air National Guard photo by MSgt. Catharine Schmidt.
Wings on Skis
The New York ANG’s 109th Airlift Wing recently completed its fifth rotation supporting National Science Foundation efforts in Greenland. The rotations require about 80 airmen and three or four LC-130s from the wing, which provides participating scientists with transportation, food, supplies, and correspondence from home. For this mission, the LC-130s are outfitted with skis. One project, the East Greenland Ice-core Project (East GRIP) is located 584 miles from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s major travel center, and focuses on ice core research. The other major project, Summit Camp, is 400 miles from Kangerlussuaq and 10,500 feet above sea level. Summit Camp is conducting atmospheric research. “These camps are far enough away from the beaten path that if it got there, we brought it,” said Maj. Justin Garren, operations chief for the Greenland mission, in a press release. “We’ll bring in the fuel, the food, the people. When the ice cores are ready, we’ll prepare them for shipment and bring them to the United States so they can make their way to whichever university is doing the research.” The wing has moved over 11,000 pounds of cargo and more than 6,000 gallons of fuel in support of the project since April.
—The Pentagon is considering using armed drones to conduct strikes on ISIS in the Philippines: NBC News.
—President Donald Trump told reporters on Tuesday that “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen:” Politico.
—The Marine Corps on Monday identified the three Marines who died when their MV-22B crashed off the coast of Queensland, Australia, on Saturday. They are: 1st Lt. Benjamin R. Cross, who was assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265; Cpl. Nathaniel F. Ordway, of VMM-265; and Pfc. Ruben P. Velasco, who was assigned to Battery G, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines: USMC release.
—World War II veteran Army Air Forces Pvt. William Gruber was laid to rest near Boulder, Mont., on Saturday. Gruber was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines and survived the Bataan Death March before dying in a POW camp on Sept. 27, 1942. His remains were exhumed from a Manilla burial site for transport to the US: San Francisco Chronicle.
—100 reservists from the 413th Aeromedical Staging Squadron from Robins AFB, Ga, traveled to Dobbins ARB, Ga, for aeromedical evacuation training: Dobbins release.