AFSPC Chief Points to “Strategic Inflection Point” on National Security Space

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—Historians will see 2017 and 2018 as “one of the most critical times in our national security space history,” Gen. Jay Raymond, the commander of Air Force Space Command, said here Tuesday at the 34th Space Symposium. This period, he told a session of the symposium, “will be seen, in my opinion, as a strategic inflection point for national security space, and a bold, bold shift towards warfighting in space superiority.” The historic shift, he said, has come about because of the alignment of vision, strategy, leadership, and resources, and because of partnerships with the National Reconnaissance Office, with allies, and with commercial industry. In addition, he pointed to “a clear and better understanding of the potential threat and the implications of that threat to our nation and to the joint force.” These steps, he said, have enabled the US to compete, deter, and win today and into the future. “Let me put this in airman’s terms,” he said, “I would say we have done a 9G turn toward space superiority.” —Steve Hirsch

Coalition Aircraft Proactively Protecting US Forces Following Friday’s Strikes

The US-led coalition has taken measures to protect its ground forces following Friday’s airstrikes on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, including having aircraft ready for protection. “We’re always assessing the threat and making sure we’re having the right airframes and assets that can still operate and support our forces,” coalition spokesman US Army Col. Ryan Dillon said Tuesday. The coalition had measures ready even before the mission, based on the Syrian response to last year’s Tomahawk missile strikes, Dillon said. USMC Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said Saturday the US had defensive counter air assets in the region during the strikes, and they stuck around to watch the Syrian regime’s response. Before the strike occurred, the coalition watched Syrian and Russian aircraft activity in the west of the country, though Dillon would not confirm whether this included Syria moving its assets to Russian bases. Before, during, and after the strike, the “deconfliction line” with Russia was active and its effectiveness has not changed, despite Russia’s negative public reaction to the strikes. While public focus has been on the Syrian regime, operations against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria have continued. At times, the pace of airstrikes has increased because the coalition has been able to take more time to do some “serious” deliberate target planning. —Brian Everstine

Griffin Says Lasers on Tankers Possible in Next Few Years

The Pentagon’s chief of research and engineering told House legislators on Tuesday the Defense Department is “not leveraging” its “technical advantage in directed energy weapons,” saying one of his top priorities is unifying those efforts across the department. More specifically, Michael Griffin said that “within a few years” he wants DOD to have a 100 kilowatt-class laser capable of being deployed on a Stryker and a “several hundred kilowatt class” laser on an Air Force tanker for self defense purposes. “By the later part of the next decade, I want to have a megawatt-class device that can go in space and protect us against enemy strategic missiles,” Griffin told the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing on innovations within DOD. “These things are within our grasp if we focus our efforts. They absolutely are within our grasp.” —Amy McCullough

O’Shaughnessy Pledges to Maintain F-15 Capacity for Homeland Defense

US Northern Command hopes to continue to fly and maintain its F-15s while working with the Air Force to keep the Eagles upgraded and operational, said USAF Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, who has been tapped to replace USAF Gen. Lori Robinson as head of US Northern Command. The Air Force has previously announced plans to retired F-15C and F-15D aircraft, which are largely flown by Air National Guard units for homeland protection. The plan is to replace them with F-35s as they come online. However, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) raised concerns about this plan Tuesday, claiming the F-35s will not be available fast enough and any plans to retire the F-15s would be premature. During his confirmation hearing, O’Shaughnessy, who is currently the commander of Pacific Air Forces, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that if he is confirmed he will work with the Air Force “to make sure we maintain that capability and capacity that is relevant to the threats we are facing.” The Air Force has said the retirement of the older F-15s is “inevitable,” and it would be expensive to keep the aircraft functional through the late 2020s. —Brian Everstine

NORTHCOM Nominee: Current Defenses Will Protect From North Korean Ballistic Missile Threat

The current ballistic missile defense system can protect the US from a North Korean strike, though there’s always room for improvements, the nominee to take over US Northern Command said Tuesday. USAF Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, currently the commander of Pacific Air Forces, said during his nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee there is “no mission more sacred than defending the homeland.” O’Shaughnessy has had extensive experience with US ballistic missile defense systems, both in his current job at PACAF and as the deputy commander of US Forces-Korea. He said the ground-based midcourse defense system is capable, though investments in additional interceptors will improve that capability. If confirmed, O’Shaughnessy said NORTHCOM will work with the Missile Defense Agency to continue tests of the GMD system, which are now increasingly focusing on more sophisticated ICBM targets. —Brian Everstine

PACOM Nominee Expresses Concern Over China’s South China Sea Posture, Hypersonics

China’s continued development in the South China Sea, building up both its kinetic and non-kinetic capability, is troubling and highlights the need for close military relationship with US allies in the region, the nominee to take over US Pacific Command told lawmakers Tuesday. Navy Adm. Philip Davidson, currently the commander of US Navy Fleet Forces Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee he has seen China build infrastructure in to support troops, fighter aircraft, ammunition bunkers, and a variety of other kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities in the contested region. This comes at a time when China is focusing heavily on developing hypersonics, which is becoming a concern for the military. To counter the threat, the US needs to continue developing its relationships with allies in the region. “Their security relationships with us are very, very important to us and also important to their security,“ Davidson said. —Brian Everstine

DOD to Create Artificial Intelligence Center

The Defense Department plans to establish an Artificial Intelligence Center focused on long-term AI technology that can be used for both offensively and defensively, Michael Griffin, head of research and engineering at the Pentagon, told members of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. The initiative was one of 14 recommendations made by the Defense Innovations Board that are currently under review by DOD leadership. Griffin said the center likely will fall under his portfolio and his team is looking at how it should be structured, who should lead it, where it will be located, and how other research efforts might “funnel” through it. Griffin said he “was told” there are “592 separate AI projects across the department,” and the center will help provide “some focus to all of that.” Eric Schmidt, the chairman of the Defense Innovation Board, who testified alongside Griffin, said AI training requires a significant amount of data, which DOD has, but “getting all that data in a place that’s usable, and discoverable, and useful for the mission at hand is crucial.” Some of the other recommendations, Schmidt said, include providing 100 engineers to combatant commanders “to go fix things,” making software a separate career path, and rewarding personnel for taking risks, even if their ideas aren’t initially successful. Schmidt said, “Leadership in DOD has generally indicated they strongly agree” with the recommendations. —Amy McCullough


—Seventeen Delaware Air National Guard airmen were hospitalized after being exposed to smoke and fumes inside a C-130 after taking off from New Castle ANGB. The Guardsmen were conducting medical training exercises, and were not seriously injured: The News Journal.

—A false alarm prompted the Syrian military to fire air defense missiles in the Homs region just days after the US, United Kingdom, and France launched a series of airstrikes on chemical weapons production and storage facilities in the country: Reuters.

—The Tennessee Air National Guard has opened an investigation after one of its members posted a video using a dinosaur hand puppet to recite the oath of enlistment during a recent ceremony:

—Lockheed Martin has submitted a proposal for the Air Force’s GPS III Follow On program, which will include up to 22 new satellites: Lockheed release.