Cyber and ISR NAFs Combining, USAF “99 Percent Decided”
The 24th Air Force—also called Air Forces Cyber—will very likely combine with the service’s ISR-focused 25th Air Force, says the commander of 24 AF. The cyber NAF places its efforts mainly on creating cyber warriors and cyber capabilities, as well as maintaining and operating them in blue and red space, offensively and defensively. It often relies on information gleaned by the 25 AF, whose operation mainly focuses on electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Maj. Gen. Christopher Weggeman, commander of the 24 AF, argued the move will deconflict channels of communication and increase capabilities, and give USAF some needed “special sauce.” However, another reason may lie in the increased pressure Air Force Space Command, which currently houses 24 AF, has been facing as Congress is pushing the service to focus more on space. Read the full story from Gideon Grudo.
DOD Reports An Increase in Amount of Afghans AWOL During US Training
The number of Afghan service members who go AWOL during training inside the US has spiked recently, nearly doubling in 2016, a Pentagon investigation found. The increase has been due to threats to the Afghan’s safety upon return home, and a desire to seek asylum in the US or abroad, according to the Defense Department’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
The Block 5 MQ-9 Reaper was first flown in combat on June 23, 2017, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. The aircrew flew a 16-hour sortie with a full payload of weapons, including GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. Air Force photo by SrA. Christian Clausen.
RPA Changeover Complete at 386th AEW
The 46th Expeditionary Attack Squadron recently made the transition from the MQ-1 Predator to the MQ-9 Reaper: a bigger, more powerful aircraft, with better cameras, that is capable of carrying more ordnance to the fight. Jennifer Hlad has the full story from the squadron’s deployed home at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
Guardsman Celebrates 21 Years with Same Plane
In December 1996, Norbert Feist was hired for a full-time crew chief position with the Minnesota National Guard, and assigned to a brand-new C-130. Twenty-one years later, Feist is a master sergeant and still with aircraft 1004. And he’s not done yet: Feist will have served 23 years with the same plane by the time he retires. Jennifer Hlad spoke to Feist at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, where he’s currently deployed. Read her story.
SpaceX Gets Another $40 Million for RD-180 Replacement
The Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center has awarded another $40.8 million to SpaceX for the ongoing development of its Raptor rocket engine for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. The engine is one of a number of prototypes that SMC is investing in through public-private partnerships in order to develop a US-made replacement for the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine. SMC wants contractors to develop entire launch systems that also include US-made engines, and it plans to swap development money for launch services agreements with two contractors by 2020. SpaceX already received $33.6 million for Raptor development in January 2016. —Wilson Brissett
MDA Pays $86 Million for Digital Ballistic Missile Targeting
The Missile Defense Agency has awarded an $86 million contract to Torch Technologies of Huntsville, Ala., to provide target simulations for MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System. Under the contract, Torch will provide “digital representation of adversary missiles and flight test targets,” according to a Department of Defense announcement. The MDA performed the first successful live-test of its Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which is part of the BMDS, in May by intercepting an intercontinental ballistic missile. —Wilson Brissett
—Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, officially announces the liberation of Raqqa, Syria, from ISIS on Oct. 20: US Central Command release.
—Montana Air National Guard’s 219 Red Horse squadron built a “tent city” to shelter airmen and soldiers providing relief in Puerto Rico: 156th Airlift Wing release.
—Nellis AFB, Nev., on Oct 19 kicked off a Green Flag exercise, practicing close air support with soldiers at Fort Irwin, Calif: Nellis release
—The Air Force is considering doing away with the Airman Battle Uniform and replacing it with the Army Combat Uniform: Military.com.
—Maintainers from Hill AFB, Utah, deployed to South Korea for the F-35A’s first time on Asian soil. The F-35 is participating in the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition, also known as Seoul ADEX 17: Air Force release.