White House Confuses Pilots, USAF with Friday Executive Order
The Air Force says it has no plans to forcibly recall pilots into Active Duty, but a late Friday executive order from President Donald Trump and ensuing coverage had pilots calling the service, seeking clarification. What Trump’s order actually did was increase the number of retirees allowed to serve in Active Duty, previously capped by provisions of Title 10 regarding when, how many, and for how long retirees are allowed to serve in Active Duty. Adding to the confusion is the service’s announcement earlier this month that it would be accepting applications from retired pilots to return to staff positions, a measure it’s taking in response to a critical pilot shortage. That initiative, until Friday, capped the amount of pilots the Air Force would accept at 25. That cap no longer exists. Read the full story from Brian Everstine and Gideon Grudo.
Air Force Not Preparing to Put B-52s Back on Alert
The Air Force says it is not making preparations to place its B-52 bombers on 24-hour nuclear alert, something the service has not done since the Cold War. Defense One reported on Sunday that such a move was underway and pointed to “various improvements” that have been made recently at Barksdale AFB, La., including the refurbishment of “an old concrete building” where bomber pilots on alert were housed during the Cold War. However, the Air Force says such changes are routine. Read the full story by Wilson Brissett and Brian Everstine.
Hill F-35As to Deploy to Japan
Twelve F-35As and about 300 airmen will deploy to Kadena AB, Japan, in the first F-35A rotation to the Asia Pacific. The aircraft, from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah, will deploy in early November, the Air Force announced. The deployment follows the F-35A’s appearance at the Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition, and the deployment of US Marine Corps F-35Bs to MCAS Iwakuni in Japan early this year. The upcoming deployment is a part of the US Pacific Command’s theater security package, which has been in operation since 2004. It is a “long-planned” deployment, according to the Air Force. “The F-35A gives the joint warfighter unprecedented global precision attack capability against current and emerging threats while complementing our air superiority fleet,” Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said in the release. “The airframe is ideally suited to meet our command’s obligations, and we look forward to integrating it into our training and operations.” —Brian Everstine
Vietnam Special Forces Medic Receives Medal of Honor
President Donald Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to retired Army Capt. Gary “Mike” Rose on Monday afternoon during a ceremony at the White House. Rose, a former medical sergeant with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), received the award for his actions on Sept. 11-14, 1970, as part of Operation Tailwind in Chavane, Laos, during the Vietnam War. Read the full story by Wilson Brissett.
The Predator’s End is Approaching
The MQ-1 Predator, the Air Force’s workhorse remotely piloted aircraft, will see its final combat sortie sometime in March of 2018, the service told Air Force Magazine Monday. The MQ-1 is being replaced by the more capable MQ-9 Reaper. The 15th Reconnaissance Squadron at Creech, AFB, Nev., is the only unit still operating the MQ-1, Air Combat Command spokeswoman Jennifer Spradlin said in an email statement. That unit will fly the final mission in March of next year, and the Predator will be demilitarized and prepared for storage at the Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., boneyard by December of 2018. The Predator already flew its final combat sortie in the US Central Command area of responsibility at the beginning of July. Predators operating out of Djibouti have been regularly flying in Africa, especially Libya, Niger, and Mali. —Wilson Brissett
Mattis, Pacific Defense Ministers Meet to Focus on North Korean Threat
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday convened with defense ministers from across the Pacific to plan future diplomatic efforts and military deterrence as Japanese officials warned the North Korean threat is at a “critical level.” Mattis arrived in the Philippines on Monday for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, where the focus will be on “how we reinforce the diplomatic efforts for the … campaign to return to a denuclearized Korean peninsula,” he said. The “regional security crisis” is caused by a “reckless” North Korean regime, including recent nuclear tests and the firing of missiles over Japan, added Mattis. Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Monday the threat posed by North Korea has grown to an “unprecedented, critical, and imminent” level, according to the Associated Press, via ABC News. The US, Japan, and South Korea need to take “calibrated and different responses” to effectively meet and deter that threat, he said. The official ASEAN defense minister’s meeting will be held Tuesday in the Philippines. —Brian Everstine
Pentagon Updates Timeline of Fatal Niger Attack
Initial air support did not arrive on scene to help ambushed Green Berets in Niger until two hours after initial contact, the Defense Department said Monday in an update to the timeline for the fatal Oct. 4 incident. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said during a Monday briefing at the Pentagon that the department owes the families of the four Green Berets killed, and the greater American public, transparency on the investigation into the incident. On Oct. 4, the joint US Army Special Forces and Nigerian military patrol was moving back to their operating base from visiting with local leaders in a rural town when they came under attack by about 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters. A US remotely piloted aircraft was on scene “within minutes,” but it did not strike, Dunford said. The investigation has so far shown that the US forces did not ask for outside help until about an hour after initial contact, Dunford said. It took French Mirage aircrews about a half hour to prepare and launch to provide air support, and it took them about another half hour to arrive on scene, Dunford said. The aircraft flew low to help disperse the attacking forces, but did not drop bombs. French Super Puma attack helicopters arrived on scene later, and evacuated three killed US soldiers—SSgt. Bryan Black, SSgt. Jeremiah Johnson, and SSgt. Dustin Wright. The fourth soldier, Sgt. La David Johnson, was not recovered until the evening of Oct. 6, Dunford said. —Brian Everstine
State Department Approves Possible Huey Sale to Czech Republic
The State Department on Monday announced the possible sale of UH-1Y utility helicopters to the Czech Republic, a move it says will help ensure “peace and stability in Europe.” If approved by Congress, the $575 million sale would include 12 helicopters, along with associated engines and armament. The Czech Republic would use the helicopters to “modernize its armed forces and strengthen its homeland defense and deter regional threats,” according to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency release. The principal contractors would be Bell Helicopter and General Electric.
—Security forces airmen assigned to the Indiana Air National Guard’s 181st Intelligence Wing have deployed to Puerto Rico in support of ongoing hurricane relief efforts: ANG release.
—Air Force officials recently opened the Persistent Attack and Reconnaissance Operations Center at Creech AFB, Nev., to serve as a “single point of contact” for MQ-1 and MQ-9 combat operations: ACC release.