CV-22 Unit at Yokota to be Activated this Fall, Signaling Permanent Beddown
The Air Force expects to formally active its first CV-22 unit in Japan “sometime this fall, signaling the beginning of permanent beddown at Yokota [AFB, Japan],” Pacific Air Forces spokesman Capt. Rake Keavy told Air Force Magazine. The first five Ospreys arrived at the base on Thursday, but are expected to deploy for training elsewhere “in the Northeast Asia, Indo-Pacific region,” shortly after arriving. Although the original plan was to send 10 Ospreys to Japan by 2021, Keavy said the current basing plan “calls for a phased basing of nine aircraft to Yokota AB.” The US government will continue to “coordinate closely with the government of Japan on the timeline as adjustments may be required depending on the situation,” Keavy said. (Watch a video of the Ospreys landing at Yokota.) —Amy McCullough
NATO Secretary General: Allies Increasing Their Share of the Burden for Collective Defense
NATO is modernizing its alliance forces and increasing its share of collective defense spending at a time when it is vital to both counter terrorism operations and responding to an increasing Russian threat in Europe, the alliance’s Secretary General said during a visit to the US. Jens Stoltenberg, speaking Thursday at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said European allies are “stepping up” because, “We take it seriously that we need a more balanced burden sharing.” While not all allied nations have reached the goal of two percent of gross domestic product spent on defense, more are increasing their spending and that means the countries in the alliance have “turned a corner, showing that they will carry their part of the burden and are investing more in defense.” NATO is collectively strengthening its conventional forces, and adding more intelligence capability and cyber defenses. Stoltenberg, during his visit, was scheduled to go to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 plant in Fort Worth; the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Peterson AFB, Colo., to visit NORAD. —Brian Everstine
F-35 Prepares for First Combat Deployment
An F-35B from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., visited US Central Command headquarters at MacDill AFB, Fla., on April 4 to “inform CENTCOM senior leadership” about the strike fighter before the US Marine Corps variant heads to the Middle East, according to a USMC release. The Marine variant, which will be the first F-35 to deploy to a combat environment, will be based aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex as part of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The deployment, originally announced in 2016, is expected in the near future though no specific date has been announced. In other F-35 news, on April 2 the Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin another $211.3 million contract for Block 4.1 common capabilities pre-modernization efforts in support of preliminary design review for the USAF and international partners, which is slated for July 2019. Block 3F, the version now being delivered, is the baseline version Lockheed was required to deliver under the development contract. All previous jets are expected to be upgraded to 3F configuration. Block 4 will be the “improved” version with more weapons, sensors, connectivity, etc. —Brian Everstine
US Strike Hits Al Shabaab in Somalia
US aircraft are increasing their pace of strikes against Al Shabaab in Somalia, conducting another strike on the group on April 5. The strike, which reportedly killed three terrorists and destroyed a vehicle near Jilib, was the second within a week. US forces are partnering with Somali National Security Forces and African Union Mission in Somalia troops to “protect US citizens and disable terrorist threats,” US Africa Command said in a statement. The strike took place while all US aircraft were grounded in nearby Djibouti, the home of Camp Lemonnier, following multiple crashes of US Marine Corps aircraft. The US military also maintains bases in nearby Ethiopia and the Seychelles islands. —Brian Everstine
Air Force Argues for Military Court Jurisdiction in Convicted Former Soldier’s Case
The Air Force last month filed a Supreme Court brief in support of a former soldier and convicted killer who is arguing that his appeal should be heard in the military court system rather than civil courts. The case involves Ronald Gray, a former Fort Bragg soldier who was convicted for a number of murders and rapes in Fayetteville, N.C., and on Fort Bragg during the 1980s, reported the Fayetteville Observer. The issue is whether military or civil courts, which have been trying to pass the case to each other, should hear Gray’s appeals, filed in the decade since former President George W. Bush approved his execution. In their brief, the Air Force’s Lt. Col. Nicholas McCue, Capt. Dustin Weisman, and Brian L. Mizer, who represent military members seeking review of constitutional claims in their cases, call on the Supreme Court to allow the appeal to be heard in military courts, saying Gray and others are “suspended in judicial limbo” between civil and military courts. —Steve Hirsch
—The Air Force recently launched a smartphone application aimed at making it easier for airmen to apply for service sports teams. The application, called APPTRAC, replaces Air Force Form 303, the Request for US Air Force Specialized Sports Training: Air Force release.
—A1C Timothy Wilsey on Thursday pleaded guilty to a charge of premeditated murder for the 2016 death of A1C Rhianda Dillard at Offutt AFB, Neb. Wisely strangled Dillard in a dormitory on base: The Associated Press.
—An Oklahoma Air National Guard unit teamed up with a Reserve unit in the state for joint aeromedical evacuation training March 27-30 at Will Rogers ANGB: AFRC release.
—Two Republic of Korea airmen are presumed dead after their F-15K Slam Eagle crashed southeast of Seoul on Thursday. The crash is not related to any joint training with US forces: Reuters.