Continued Suspension of Joint US-Korea Exercises Hasn’t Impacted USAF Readiness, for Now

The head of Pacific Air Forces said Monday that he doesn’t have “immediate concerns” for USAF readiness as large-scale exercises with South Korea have continued to be suspended, but if they don’t eventually resume there could be “difficulties” that should be addressed. PACAF boss Gen. Charles Brown said USAF bombers have not been flying to the Korean Peninsula or integrating with the Republic of Korea Air Force “for now.” Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

PACAF: China’s Increased Capability Hasn’t Translated to Increase in Tensions

While tensions have increased in areas such as trade and diplomacy, China’s buildup in the South China Sea and increased military presence in the area have not directly translated to increased tensions in the air, the head of Pacific Air Forces said Monday. PACAF Commander Gen. Charles Q. Brown said that in the four months since he has taken over the job, he hasn’t seen an increase in intercepts of US aircraft or any Chinese equipment, such as surface-to-air missile systems, “locking on” to USAF assets. While China has built up its presence on man-made islands in the South China Sea—with airstrips ready for heavy bombers and surface-to-air missiles—there is a difference between capabilities and intentions. China has increased its capability with the buildup, but hasn’t changed its intentions. There have been intercepts of USAF and Navy intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft but not of bombers, Brown said. These intercepts are “sporadic” and while they haven’t been unsafe, some could be deemed “unprofessional,” he added. —Brian Everstine

AMC Soliciting Ideas from Maintainers to Help Quality of Life, Address Issues With Aging Fleet

The head of Air Mobility Command is asking maintainers what they need to improve their quality of life. AMC boss Gen. Maryanne Miller on Monday released a video and set up a direct channel for airmen to reach out with ideas to improve their lives, address challenges they face on the flight line, and better improve training in the future. “The challenges we face today with our legacy fleet cannot go understated,” Miller said in the video. “As your commander, it is important that I understand the challenges of quality of life and quality of service as you do your job every day as a maintainer.” Miller said she will visit AMC bases and talk directly to airmen, and she is encouraging them to email with ideas. Miller first mentioned this effort in September, as a way to help the young maintainer force grow in experience and for the Air Force to help retain them in the service. “It is important to hear from maintainers to gain their perspective on what can be done to enhance quality of life and service,” Miller said in a statement to Air Force Magazine. “This will require consistent feedback, sustained dialogue, and a commitment to building trust at all levels of leadership. I need to hear their voice.” —Brian Everstine

Faller Takes Over Command of SOUTHCOM

Adm. Craig Faller took over as commander of US Southern Command during a ceremony Monday in Florida. Faller, who previously served as the senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, assumed command from retiring Adm. Kurt Tidd. Mattis, during the ceremony, said SOUTHCOM is positioned to “counter transnational threat networks, prepare and respond to natural disasters, and promote military professionalism and military-to-military exchanges across the region.” SOUTHCOM oversees a region that is largely secure and not prone to conflict because of international alliances, though countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba have shown to be anti-democratic. “Our fortunate, forward-looking hemisphere has made strides not only democratically, but also economically and militarily,” Mattis said. “As the political dimension matures and economic headwinds are encountered, our hemisphere’s militaries can be stabilizing forces, especially when we collaborate to protect our peoples from mother nature’s storms and manmade insults to civilization, whether terrorism, drug trafficking, or other security threats.” —Brian Everstine

Mountain Home Airman Becomes First USAF Pilot to Fly Growler in Combat

An airman from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, became the first USAF pilot to fly a US Navy E/A-18G Growler into combat on Nov. 19. First Lt. Jonathan Wright, who is assigned to the 390th Electronic Combat Squadron at Mountain Home and attached to the Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron 135, is also the first pilot straight out of undergraduate flight training to fly a Growler in combat, according to an Air Forces Central Command release. “It was a mix of excitement and a little anxiety,” Wright said in the release. “It was the first time for me going into country. I was getting to do what I’ve always wanted to do, flying in combat in a fighter jet. It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was 10 years old. Years of training had led to this moment of doing the real thing.” There are three USAF officers attached to the squadron, and Wright is the only pilot.


Airman Found Dead at Aviano

An American airman assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing was found dead on base early Monday morning, the Italian Defense Ministry said in a statement. Stars and Stripes

Looming Budget Crunch Puts DOD Space Strategy in Jeopardy

Deputy Defense Secretary Shanahan said funding for space, cyber warfare, hypersonic weapons and other modernization efforts will be shielded from cuts, but DoD has not revealed what military programs could be targeted to pay for the administration’s favored priorities. Space News

Hill AFB Fighters Will Start Dropping New Bombs in the West Desert

As Hill Air Force Base continues to ramp up F-35 combat operations, one of its fighter squadrons will soon begin dropping a new, powerful bomb out in Utah’s west desert. The Standard-Examiner

Trump Ramped Up Drone Strikes in America’s Shadow Wars

In his first two years in office, Donald Trump launched 238 drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia—way beyond what the ‘Drone President’ Barack Obama did. The Daily Beast

One More Thing:

Here’s what a rocket launch looks like from the International Space Station: NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day