Syria Strike Story Shifting; AFCENT Says F-22s Flew Strike Cap, Basic JASSMs Used
Air Forces Central Command is correcting the record on the April 14 strikes inside Syria—the 19 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Munitions used in the mission were the standard version, not the extended range variants initially reported, and USAF F-22s played an “integral role” in the mission. Initial reports from a Pentagon briefing the day after the strike incorrectly stated that the 19 JASSMs were the Extended Range variant. However, in a statement to Air Force Magazine on Thursday, AFCENT said “the munitions used were JASSM-A, or the standard, non-extended range of the munition.” The strikes, which targeted the Barzah Research and Development Center in Damascus, were the first combat employment of the JASSM. Additionally, F-22s were in the air both during and after the strikes to protect ground forces, AFCENT said. “Thanks to its fifth generation capabilities, the F-22 was the only airframe suited to operate inside the Syrian integrated air defense systems, offering an option with which to neutralize [Integrated Air Defense System] threats to our forces and installations in the region, and provide protective air support for US, coalition, and partners on the ground in Syria,” AFCENT spokesman Capt. Mark Graff said. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak and Brian Everstine.
Lockheed Martin Gets $928 Million Hypersonic Missile Contract
Lockheed Martin’s space division in Huntsville, Ala. has won an Air Force contract worth nearly $1 billion to prototype a new Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon. Though the Air Force would not comment on the projected timeline for developing and producing the weapon, the service said it is taking a streamlined prototyping approach to get a system in service “as quickly as possible.” The HCSW, pronounced “Hacksaw,” is one of two USAF hypersonic concepts in the works; the other is the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
SMC Redesign Focused on Increasing Effectiveness
Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the head of the Space and Missile Systems Center, told reporters the SMC redesign, announced during Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson’s keynote at the 34th Space Symposium, is aimed at increasing the center’s effectiveness in developing military space systems. Read the full story by Steve Hirsch, who is reporting from Colorado.
USAF Takes to Capitol Hill to Air Frustrations with Lockheed, Boeing
USAF acquisition officials aired frustrations with lawmakers on Wednesday, blasting Lockheed Martin for not agreeing to pay for production issues on the F-35 and criticizing Boeing for continued delays on the KC-46 tanker. Even though two of the Air Force’s “big three” acquisition programs are facing issues, the third—the B-21 bomber—is progressing smoothly, with the preliminary design review finished and the first batch of software delivered. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Thunderbirds Resume Practice Flights, Airshow Schedule Remains Uncertain
The Thunderbirds resumed practice flights over the Nevada Test and Training Range on Wednesday, two weeks after Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, the pilot of the No. 4 jet, was killed when his F-16 crashed during training, Thunderbirds Commander Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh announced in a video posted to the team’s Facebook page. “While our hearts are still heavy with the loss of our wingman, we know he would want us back in the air and preparing to recruit, retain, and aspire once more,” said Walsh. Though the Thunderbirds have returned to flight, it’s still not clear when the team will resume airshow performances. Walsh emphasized that the Air Force has not officially cancelled any shows beyond the April 21-22 Wings Over Columbus Air and Space Show at Columbus AFB, Miss., but “further cancellations are possible.” The training sorties will not only “focus on maintaining our team’s proficiency with the demanding maneuvers” performed, “they also will strengthen our confidence following a trying two weeks in the squadron,” said Walsh. The safety investigation is ongoing, and Walsh said the Air Force is “taking a long hard look at our processes and training to ensure we’re performing … the right way and mitigating risks.” He assured viewers that when the team does resume official performances, “we’ll do so with the full confidence of senior Air Force leadership that we are safe and ready to perform.” —Amy McCullough
—Iraqi Air Force F-16s on Thursday conducted airstrikes on ISIS positions inside Syria for the first time. The strikes were carried out in coordination with the Syrian government, according to the Iraqi military: Reuters.
—A contingency of USAF airmen and HH-60G Pave Hawks are training on command and control tactics and disaster relief alongside Philippine military forces at Clark Air Base and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base: PACAF release.
—The White House on Thursday released a memorandum that aims to limit restrictions on the sales of armed remotely piloted aircraft and other weapons systems. Under the new policy, large US-made RPAs, such as the MQ-9 Reaper, will be able to be sold to more countries. Additionally, more “smart” weapons could be sold as the new policy gives consideration to weapons that can avoid civilian casualties: The New York Times.
—The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on Wednesday awarded Dynetics a $38.6 million contract for phase three of the development of the Gremlins program. Under the program, DARPA wants to let a C-130 deploy a swarm of drones that can then be collected after their mission is completed. The entire program, including this phase, will last 43 months at a total cost of $64 million: Dynetics release.