US, South Korea Kick Off Large-Scale Air Exercise
Thousands of airmen and hundreds of aircraft kicked off Exercise Vigilant Ace on Monday, focusing on realistic air combat alongside South Korea. The exercise shows that the threat is “very real” in the region, the commander of the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan AB, South Korea, said. Meanwhile, tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen to the point that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), on Sunday, called on the Pentagon to stop sending dependents to South Korea. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Raymond Assumes Command of New Joint Force Space Component
Gen. Jay Raymond took over as commander of all joint space forces on Dec. 1, part of a restructuring of US Strategic Command to streamline its structure. Raymond, who is also commander of Air Force Space Command, is now “dual hatted” as commander of the Joint Force Space Component. In addition to overseeing the organization and training of USAF space forces, he will execute “operational command and control of joint space forces,” according to AFSPC. The organization, which reached initial operating capability when Raymond assumed command, “will help change the collective mindset of space forces from providers of space capabilities to warfighters,” Raymond said at the Peterson AFB, Colo., ceremony. The move does not create or eliminate any positions. At the same ceremony, Maj. Gen. Stephen Whiting took command of 14th Air Force and became Raymond’s deputy commander of the Joint Force Space Component. —Brian Everstine
Mattis Presses Pakistan to “Redouble its Efforts” in Fighting Terrorism
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis pressed Pakistani officials to increase their efforts to fight terror as part of the US government’s broad South Asia strategy to counter the rise of the Taliban, ISIS, and other terror groups. During a meeting Monday in Islamabad, Mattis met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir, where he “recognized Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism,” according to a Pentagon readout of the meeting. During the meeting, Mattis also sought to find “common ground” with Pakistan, which has been long criticized for being soft on the Taliban and for its porous border with Afghanistan. Pakistan can play a role in facilitating a peace process in Afghanistan, but the country needs to “redouble its efforts” to confront militants and terrorism in the country, Mattis said during the meeting. Speaking with reporters en route to Pakistan, Mattis said the US and Pakistan have to find a way to work together. “We know there’s common ground; it’s how much more common ground can we find by listening to one another without being combative with one another, listening to others perspective,” Mattis said. —Brian Everstine
Rogers: Space Corps Inevitable, Will be Approved in Next Few Years
The creation of a new service focused on space is “inevitable” and will happen within the next few years, the lawmaker leading the movement said. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said the evolution of the space mission out of the Air Force and into its own service will happen and needs to be faster than the time it took for the Air Force to evolve from the Army Air Corps. “We don’t have 26 years for this. But it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable,” Rogers said Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum, according to Space News. Rogers led the effort to create the “Space Corps,” getting it into the House-passed version of the Fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. However, the language died in the Senate. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters on Nov. 30 the idea was well thought out, and it will be revisited. The measure died because the Senate was “not included in the discussions” and did not play a part in the initial formulation. The Defense Department and Air Force strongly oppose the move. —Brian Everstine
MDA Reportedly Looking at West-Coast THAAD Sites
The Missile Defense Agency is looking to build up its West Coast infrastructure with possible Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems as key lawmakers are pushing for additional funding for advanced systems. The MDA is “making a recommendation” for new sites, and will look at the environmental impact of the proposal, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) told Reuters. The new push is in addition to THAAD systems deployed in South Korea and Guam, along with seven other systems already inside the continental US, according to Reuters. In addition to the THAAD increase, two US senators are publicly pushing for more funding to develop new missile defense technology. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla,) and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Dec. 1 saying that in light of North Korea’s progress in testing its ballistic missiles, lawmakers need to designate $100 million for the “rapid development and deployment of new kinetic boost phase missile defense technology.” Read the full letter. —Brian Everstine
—US Strategic Command boss Gen. John Hyten said it’s “ridiculous” that because of USAF’s “process” it will take 12 years to field the next missile warning satellite, and even that timeline is considered “risky:” Defense News.
—Leaders from Air Force Space Command, US Strategic Command, and US Northern Command are discussing how best to update the service’s missile warning constellation, a topic that has taken on more urgency as North Korea’s ICBM and nuclear programs continue to advance: Space News.
—Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Rockwell has been appointed? for a third star and for assignment as the judge advocate general of the Air Force. Rockwell currently serves as the service’s deputy judge advocate general: DOD announcement.
—About 70 airmen assigned to the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 128th Air Refueling Wing deployed to various locations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Freedom Sentinel, and US Pacific Command’s theater support package: DVIDS release.
—C-5Ms from Travis AFB, Calif., delivered seven school buses to Port Au Prince, Haiti, through the Denton Program—a DOD humanitarian assistance transportation program—allowing more Haitian children the opportunity to attend school: AMC release.