Secretary Heather Wilson awarded 10 Air Force Special Operations Command air commandos valorous medals, including the Air Force Cross, for their combined efforts during a fierce firefight in a village near Kunduz Province, Afghanistan on Nov. 2, 2016. Here, the nine aircrew members on Spooky 43, an AC-130U Gunship with the 4th Special Operations Squadron, receive Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals with Valor. Air Force photo by SrA Ryan Conroy.
Commandos Receive Air Force Cross, 9 other Valor Medals for Afghanistan Firefight
SSgt. Richard Hunter, a combat controller assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., received the Air Force Cross on Tuesday for his actions during a Taliban ambush in Kunduz province, Afghanistan, on Nov. 2, 2016. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson awarded the medal to Hunter during a ceremony at Hurlburt Field. At the same ceremony, Wilson also presented five Distinguished Flying Cross Medals and four Air Medals with Valor to nine other special operations airmen for their actions during the same battle. Receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross were: Maj. Alexander Hill, Maj. Aaron Hall, SSgt. Freddie Coffee, SSgt. Cody M. H. Flora, and SrA. Jonathon Russell. Receiving the Air Medals were: 1st Lt. Zachary Hanley, SSgt. Alexander Skidgel, SSgt. William Cody, and SrA. Raymond Bourne. Wilson praised all the honorees for how they “responded with extraordinary courage over and over and over again.” She said the actions of Hunter and his teammates that night in 2016 show that “special operations is the force that we call when we need the absolute best.” Wilson also honored the memory of Maj. Andrew Byers and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer, both assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Ft. Carson, Colo., who were killed during the firefight. Byers was promoted to major and received the Silver Star posthumously. —Wilson Brissett
Read more about SSgt. Hunter’s story here.
Speeding Up Acquisition a Bunch
The Air Force is trying to create a faster acquisition process, and it is willing to accept some failures along the path to success toward that goal, top uniformed acquisition chief Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch told an AFA industry audience Tuesday. But it will probably take a well-meaning failure or two with no one punished before the acquisition corps feels “empowered” to truly innovate. Bunch also gave status reports on numerous acquisition programs, revealing that work is proceeding apace on a B-52 re-engining and explaining the unusual funding priorities of the Long-Range Standoff Weapon. The T-X contract will likely be delayed, but USAF wants to accelerate the Combat Rescue Helicopter, and the service is dramatically increasing production of weapons after stockpiles ran dangerously low two years ago. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
US-Backed Fighters Declare Victory in Raqqa
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces on Tuesday claimed they have routed ISIS from its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, Syria. While the coalition commended the SDF on their progress, a spokesman on Tuesday warned there is still work to be done to ensure the city is safe. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
C-130 Ferries Relief Supplies to Somalia
A USAF C-130J and airmen responded on Tuesday to the massive bombing that shook Mogadishu, Somalia, flying relief supplies to help in the recovery to the attack. On Oct. 14, a massive truck bomb hit the Somali capital during rush hour, killing more than 300 and injuring more than 400 more. US Africa Command, responding to a request from the Federal Government of Somalia, sent a C-130J from the 449th Air Expeditionary Group at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, with medical and recovery supplies about 48 hours after initial reports of the attack, according to an AFRICOM release. The Pentagon on Monday said there are about 400 US troops inside Somalia working with government forces. Those troops were not in the vicinity of the attack at the time, Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Robert Manning said. —Brian Everstine
US Strikes ISIS in Yemen
US aircraft on Monday struck two ISIS training camps inside Yemen, killing dozens of ISIS fighters in a move aimed at disrupting their attempt to train new forces. Undisclosed aircraft hit the camps in the Al Bayda Governorate, where ISIS trained fighters how to use AK-47s, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, along with physical training. “ISIS has used the ungoverned spaces of Yemen to plot, direct, instigate, resource, and recruit for attacks against America and its allies around the world,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “For years, Yemen has been a hub for terrorist recruiting, training, and transit.” The strike was conducted in coordination with the Yemeni government, according to the statement. US aircraft have regularly struck Al Qaeda targets in Yemen, and in January US special operations forces conducted a raid on Al Qaeda operatives in the country. —Brian Everstine
492nd Fighter Squadron F-15s Return from Deployment
F-15Es from the 492nd Fighter Squadron have returned to RAF Lakenheath, England, after a six-month deployment to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. While deployed, the Strike Eagles flew nearly 11,000 hours on more than 2,000 missions and dropped almost 4,500 precision-guided munitions. The combat time was demanding, but the aircraft responded well. “The squadron had multiple instances of pilots conducting air-to-air intercepts while their weapons systems officers were conducting strikes—not sequentially, but literally at the same time,” said Lt. Col. Jeremy Renken, 492nd FS commander, in a press release. “It’s a testament to not only the aircraft and aircrews, but also to the ammo troops, weapons troops, specialists, back shops, and crew chiefs who … worked flawlessly when there was no margin for error.”
DARPA Wants Hackers to Gain Control of Unmanned Aircraft
In November, DARPA will host a software-defined radio (SDR) Hackfest where hacker teams will compete to gain control of unmanned aerial systems. The five-day event will bring together eight teams from academia, industry, and SDR hobbyists to the NASA Ames Conference Center in Moffett Field, Calif. DARPA has been working with the teams for the past year to develop skills and knowledge in SDR techniques. While the Hackfest will feature keynote speakers and numerous brainstorming sessions, the highlight of the event is a Nov. 17 demonstration flight test, where each team will have an opportunity to “exercise its SDR hacking skills with the goal of controlling a [UAS] through a specific set of operations,” DARPA announced. “At the end of the Hackfest, we hope to see new solutions to problems, better use and development of tools that expand the capabilities of everyone, and the buildup of new relationships with parts of the science, engineering, and technology communities that we have not interacted with before,” said Tom Rondeau, program manager of DARPA’s microsystems technology office, according to a press release.
—Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa, and four Nordic Air Chiefs took another step on Oct. 16 toward creating a Europe-base flag exercise, known as Arctic Challenge, which would be similar to Red Flag at Nellis AFB, Nev.: USAFE release.
—The Senate on Tuesday agreed by voice vote to send the National Defense Authorization Act to conference with the House and to send the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to lead negotiations on a final bill. The House approved the conference and its conference members last week: Washington Examiner report.
—The State Department on Tuesday approved the possible upgrade of F-16s for Greece, at a cost of about $2.4 billion. The sale, if approved by Congress, would upgrade the Hellenic Air Force’s existing F-16 fleet to the Block V configuration, which includes equipment such as Active Electronically Scanned Array radars, mission computers, Link 16 data link systems, among other equipment: State Department release.
—Some of the first airmen on the ground in Puerto Rico returned home on Oct. 17. The 35 members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group processed more than 7.2 million pounds of humanitarian aid and 3,887 passengers arriving in Puerto Rico from a variety of agencies responding to relief operations during their three-week deployment to San Juan: USAF release.
—A C-130H based at Maxwell AFB, Ala., made an emergency landing at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport after experiencing problems with its landing gear after takeoff. There were 14 people on board, but no one was injured: Military.com.
—Jeffrey Michaels, 64, has been charged with desertion and is in Air Force custody. Michels disappeared from Minot AFB, N.D., on July 6, 1977. He was found living in Florida with his wife and children and was using an alias: WFTV 9.