US Conducts Open Skies Flight Over Russia, First Since 2017

An Air Force OC-135B Open Skies aircraft conducted an observation flight over Russia on Thursday, the first in more than a year, after an “impasse” blocked flights last year. The OC-135B is scheduled to leave Russia on Friday. The flight, which until the impasse was routine, comes about two months after an “extraordinary” flight by the US and other member nations over Ukraine. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

COPE North Paused Because of Typhoon

Pacific Air Forces’ largest annual multilateral exercise is on hold and aircraft have bedded down or evacuated as Guam prepares for Typhoon Wutip, the Air Force said Thursday evening. COPE North kicked off Feb. 18 and was scheduled to run through March 8; the “unplanned weather” that paused the training gave the nearly 3,000 participants “an opportunity to swiftly implement an inclement weather plan for the approximately 100 aircraft assigned to the exercise and test their ability to rapidly maneuver throughout the theater at a moment’s notice,” Col. Jason Cockrum, the COPE North 2019 exercise director, said in a written release. US airmen and marines, Royal Australian Air Force airmen, and Japan Air Self-Defence Force airmen were participating in the exercise, and will resume training once the weather improves, USAF said. Training objectives for COPE North include tactical airlift, contingency response, aeromedical evacuation, air superiority, interdiction, electronic warfare, and aerial refueling, and depending on when it resumes, “there is potential for some degradation in integrated humanitarian assistance/disaster relief training,” the Air Force said. However, responding to the typhoon does allow the airmen to test integrated procedures. “With the weather rolling in, we are united in using it as an opportunity to truly work together to rapidly solve problems just as we would in a crisis or contingency,” Maj. Matthew Sabraw, lead planner for COPE North 2019, said in the release. —Jennifer Hlad

Counter-Drone Systems, AI Software Among AFWERX Tech Accelerator Projects

Ten small technology companies this week began a three-month program with the Air Force and Techstars, an organization that helps businesses gain a foothold in the military and commercial markets. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

USAF Details Game Plan for 10-Day Base Housing Review Directed by SECAF, CSAF

The Air Force is in the middle of a housing “standdown,” reviewing all 74,500 of the service’s housing units worldwide by March 1 following a directive from USAF leadership to find health and safety risks in base housing. The 10-day review aims to examine all family housing units firsthand for health and safety risks, according to a release. It will consist of tours of each unit that are conducted with tenants present, plus the solicitation of input from airmen about relevant problems they’ve experienced in their units, the release said. “The results will give senior civilian and military leaders a more thorough understanding of the extent and severity of the problems and help inform responsive solutions,” the release said. The same directive that ordered the review stated it will be the duty of senior USAF leaders to identify and help fix many housing issues experienced by airmen and their families, the release said, including “the presence of black mold, rodent infestation, flooding, radon, and faulty wiring.” The directive also charged the Air Force Inspector General with evaluating the way the service “responds to complaints about conditions at base housing,” the release said. USAF policy is also being reviewed to determine whether any directives are keeping commanders from being able to properly respond to such complaints, the release said. —Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

Special Operations Airmen to Ruck 830 Miles from Lackland to Hurlburt

Twenty special operations airmen will undertake an 11-day, 830-mile ruck from JB San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, to Hurlburt Field, Fla., in memory of late combat controller SSgt. Dylan Elchin and the 19 other special tactics airmen killed in combat since Sept. 11, 2001. The ruck will begin before dawn on Friday and is slated to end on the afternoon of March 4, according to a 24th Special Operations Wing release. Ten two-person teams—all composed of special tactics airmen—will take part, with all participants completing the initial 4.7 miles together. The teams will alternate rucking an average 12 of miles per leg for a combined 70 miles per day. Planning marches for special tactics airmen who are KIA is a tradition within this segment of the Air Force Special Operations Command community, according to the wing. This year’s iteration of the event is the fifth since 2009. People can track the march and get live updates by visiting—Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

Contingency Response Wing Commander Relieved Due to Conduct Unbecoming an Officer

The head of the Air Force Expeditionary Center on Wednesday relieved Col. Ryan Marshall, the commander of the 621st Contingency Response Wing, because of a loss of confidence due to alleged conduct unbecoming an officer. Marshall had been the commander of the wing since June 2018. “This decision was made in the best interest of the men and women serving in the 621st CRW,” Expeditionary Center Commander Maj. Gen. John Gordy said in a release. “I hold our leaders to the highest standard because that’s what our Airmen deserve.” No additional details were released. Wing Vice Commander Col. James Hall has been named the interim commander, effective immediately. The 621st CRW, based at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., is the military’s only contingency response wing, tasked with missions such as rapidly deploying to quickly open airfields in austere locations. —Brian Everstine

Oregon Guard F-15 Experiences In-Flight Emergency

An Air National Guard F-15C was forced to make an emergency landing Wednesday at Portland International Airport in Oregon due to an undisclosed problem during a training flight. The pilot, from the 142nd Fighter Wing at Portland ANBG, experienced a problem at about 8:45 a.m. and went through checklists to return to base. The aircraft, trailed by other F-15s, was able to land at about 12:45, connecting to a barrier cable as a precaution. The pilot was not injured. The incident comes about one year after another F-15 base in Oregon, the advanced training school at Kingsley Field, grounded its operations, in part because missing paperwork after depot maintenance made it difficult to ensure that the wing’s aircraft were inspected properly. Shortly after that grounding, F-15Cs at Kadena AB, Japan, were also grounded, following a crash of a 44th Fighter Squadron Eagle near Okinawa. —Brian Everstine

Defense Department Watchdog Reviewing US Base in Niger

The Defense Department’s Inspector General is evaluating the airfield and base support for Niger Air Base 201, the largest Air Force-led construction project in the service’s history. The base near Agadez is a hub for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, with the 323rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron conducting MQ-9 operations in the region. The IG will evaluate whether the Air Force “effectively planned, designed, and implemented” requirements for the base, according to a Feb. 11 announcement of the evaluation. The base has been the focus of increased ISR operations since the October 2017 ambush that killed four US Army Special Forces soldiers. —Brian Everstine



AFRICOM Adds Logistics Hub in West Africa, Hinting at an Enduring US Presence

U.S. Africa Command plans to begin routing flights to Accra, Ghana, as the hub of a new logistics network to ferry supplies and weapons to the patches of U.S. troops operating across the continent’s increasingly turbulent western region. Defense One

Air Guardsman Arrested After Reportedly Posing as CIA Agent to Impress Woman at Church

A man pretends to be a CIA agent to impress a woman he’s developed an eye for, informing her she is “the target of a terrorist organization and that her life was in danger,” and that “if she did not follow his directions, she would be seriously injured or killed.” Air Force Times

CRW Delivers Agile Mobility Expertise During Exercise Green Flag Little Rock

The sound of gunfire echoed across the open field at the Geronimo Landing Zone as Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing based out of Travis Air Force Base, California, responded to a simulated base attack during a training mission in support of Green Flag Little Rock exercise, Feb. 6-17. Air Force News

Misawa Propulsion Airmen Speed Up F-16 Engine Delivery to PACAF Bases

The 35th Maintenance Squadron propulsion centralized repair flight received keys to a new storage facility that stores all F-16 Fighting Falcons engines for U.S. Pacific Air Forces installations in January 2019, enabling the team to provide engines to its sister aircraft bases more quickly. PACAF News

Pentagon Seeking Proposals For How to Use Sensors in Space to Quickly Target Enemy Missiles

A solicitation was issued by the office of Mike Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, inviting contractors to submit ideas for a “Time-Sensitive Target Mission Payloads Demonstration.” Space News

One More Thing …

Woodrow Wilson Foundation Finds Only One State Can Pass US Citizenship Exam

A new survey of 41,000 Americans conducted by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation demonstrates why a greater emphasis on American history learning is essential to the nation. The Foundation found that in the highest-performing state, only 53 percent of the people were able to earn a passing grade for U.S. history. People in every other state failed; in the lowest-performing state, only 27 percent were able to pass. Woodrow Wilson Foundation