DOD Denies Claim of Bombers Flying in South Korea Exercise Following North Korean Threat
The Pentagon on Wednesday said it has not changed an ongoing USAF and Republic of Korea Air Force-held exercise in South Korea, pushing back on claims that the service has pulled B-52s from participating in the large-scale exercise. Exercise Max Thunder 2018 is ongoing, held at Kunsan AB, South Korea, and other locations across South Korea and Japan. The exercise was the main point of contention, prompting North Korea to pull out of talks with South Korea and threaten to cancel next month’s summit with President Trump. North Korean state media said the exercise is a “flagrant challenge” to the recent agreement with South Korea, and “an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula,” according to the South Korean Yonhap news agency. The South Korean report stated that B-52s were expected to participate, causing speculation that the bombers would be pulled from participation. The Pentagon on Wednesday said the scope of the exercise has not changed, and that the bombers were not scheduled to participate, according to the Washington Examiner. B-52s from Barksdale AFB, La., are deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, as part of the Air Force’s Continuous Bomber Presence in the Pacific and have been flying in exercises throughout the region, most recently in Australia. Bombers have not typically participated in the regular Max Thunder exercises—the aircraft first flew in it in 2012 but there have not been USAF reports of bombers flying in the exercises since. —Brian Everstine
Air Force Cyber Mission Force Teams Now at full Operational Capability
All 39 of the Air Force Cyber Mission Force teams had achieved full operational capability as of May 11, more than four months before the US Cyber Command’s Sept. 30 deadline, the Air Force said Wednesday. The teams, which include more than 1,700 airmen, civilians, and contractors, are part of a total of 133 such teams, also including 41 from the Army, 40 from the Navy, and 13 from the Marine Corps. “Our teams are integral in performing and achieving the common-core mission of cyberspace superiority shared across all Department of Defense services,” AFCYBER commander Maj. Gen. Chris Weggeman said. The attainment of full operational capability completes the personnel and training elements of the Cyber Mission Force build, the Air Force said. “This is the battlefield of today and our cyber forces are ready,” Weggeman said. —Steve Hirsch
Brown Nominated to Take Over Pacific Air Forces
President Trump on Wednesday nominated Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown to receive his fourth star and take over command of Pacific Air Forces. If confirmed, Brown would take over from Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, who will lead US Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command. Brown is currently the deputy commander of US Central Command and before that was the commander of Air Forces Central Command for the early years of the anti-ISIS air war in Iraq and Syria. Brown is a command pilot with more than 2,900 flying hours in aircraft including F-16s, AC-130s, B-1s, B-2s, among several others. He previously commanded fighter wings in Italy and South Korea, and was commandant of the US Air Force Weapons School. —Brian Everstine
MQ-9, A-10s Help End Prolonged Taliban Assault on Afghan City
The Taliban on Wednesday withdrew from its prolonged onslaught on the Western Afghanistan city of Farah, after a battle that included air support form MQ-9s, A-10s, A-29s, and MD-530s and almost caused the district capital to fall. The Taliban entered the city on Tuesday, causing hundreds of local police and soldiers to flee and letting the insurgents largely take control, local officials told The New York Times. About 30 people, including security forces and civilians, were killed. US and Afghan Air Force aircraft responded, with A-10s flying “show of force” flyovers and an MQ-9 conducting airstrikes that killed 28 fighters, according to video posted by US Forces-Afghanistan. It is the latest effort by the Taliban to increase its control in the country, which grew to 12 percent of the population in early 2018, according to the Pentagon’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The Taliban, along with ISIS and al Qaeda, have regularly conducted public attacks in the country, though US officials repeatedly proclaim progress is being made. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told lawmakers earlier this month that “progress and violence coexist” in the country, and that the Taliban is mostly focusing on “soft” targets. —Brian Everstine
Rand Study Recommends Changes in Air Force Special Operations Recruiting
A new Rand Corp. study found that many students training for Air Force special operations and combat support specialties are not aware of the specialty’s mission and training requirements, and that recruiters may not have the knowledge and incentive to bring in high-quality candidates. The study, “Training Success for US Air Force Special Operations and Combat Support Specialties,” says the Air Force has tried to do something about training attrition in these specialties—including combat control; explosive ordnance disposal; pararescue; survival, evasion, resistance, and escape; special operations weather team; and tactical air control party—but the attrition has stayed high. The study points to reasons including the nature of the recruiting pool, utility of screening tools, and the training environment. It includes recommendations on how the Air Force could do a better job on recruiting, developing, and screening candidates, including more physical fitness training, and balancing marketing efforts with information providing a realistic job preview. —Steve Hirsch
Modernization Must Counter Innovation, Strategic Thinking from Nuclear Adversaries
The US must recapitalize its nuclear deterrent, or be forced to unilaterally and fundamentally alter the strategic balance of the globe at a time when the global nuclear balance is changing, the head of a major nuclear laboratory’s think tank said Wednesday. Speaking at an AFA Mitchell Institute event in Arlington, Va., Brad Roberts, the director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Center for Global Security Research, said the US has kicked all of its cans—warheads, delivery systems, delivery vehicles, command and control—down the road “to the point where the timelines are scrunched up against each other, painfully so.” If the deterrent isn’t modernized, major changes would be made such as withdrawing nuclear presence from Europe, depleting the dual capable aircraft fleet if the B61 bomb isn’t modernized, and legs of the triad could fall. “There are significant political consequences of the investment choices in front of us,” he said. The US is entering a new strategic chapter, and it cannot be laissez faire about decisions made by potential adversaries. These adversaries have “gone to school on us” and developed a “collection of ideas on how to emerge from conflict with the US and allies with their goals intact in someway.” These adversaries have “out-thunk and out-innovated us,” said Roberts. The US, through some steps in its recently released National Defense Strategy, has made some innovations, but there are still questions that need to be answered on the end game, the “theory of success,” and how to account for this out-thinking that has been done, he added. —Brian Everstine
USAF Concludes Investigation of 2017 McKinley Lab Fire at Eglin
Contractors were working on repairs when a fire last year caused an estimated $30 million in damage to an air-mixing facility at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin AFB, Fla., a new Air Force Materiel Command Ground Accident Investigation Board found, the Air Force announced May 11. According to an executive summary of the report, a contractor was using an oxy-acetylene torch to remove a corroded beam near coils containing methylene chloride, or R-30 refrigerant, which can explode when exposed to heat. The fire caused extensive damage to equipment and was determined to have consumed most of the roughly 4,000 tons of refrigerant. —Steve Hirsch
An entry in the May 16 Daily Report misidentified the date of a C-17 airdrop mission in Afghanistan. The mission was May 10. We updated the original entry.
—Air Force Reserve’s 433rd Maintenance and Operations Groups at JBSA-Lackland, Texas, conducted their required one-day safety standdown on May 14: AFRC release.
—The Air Force has awarded a $31.4 million contract to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics for software maintenance on the C-5M, with work to be conducted in Marietta, Ga., and completed by May 13, 2024: DOD contract announcement.
—The Air Force has called off the search for a box of grenade launcher ammunition about two weeks after it fell off the back of a Humvee in North Dakota, saying it has done everything it can to find the lost ammo and the container is safe as long as it is intact: Associated Press, via Military.com.
—Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson met at the Pentagon on Wednesday to discuss increased cooperation in the Arctic and NATO command structure reform: DOD readout of meeting.
—The Air Force Research Laboratory May 10-11 held a “listening forum” at Indiana University, one of six universities to hold such an event as part of USAF’s ongoing science and technology campaign: USAF release.