Secret Afghan, Taliban Talks Ongoing as Violence Continues
Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives have been meeting in secret for “robust” peace talks, even as US artillery and aircraft have targeted the group, and insurgents wearing US Army uniforms conducted a suicide attack inside Kabul. US Forces Afghanistan Commander Gen. John Nicholson said the secret meetings, which are involving mid to senior level Taliban officials and Afghan leaders, show that some in the Taliban are growing tired of fighting, and there is “tremendous potential” with the discussions. The same day as Nicholson’s announcement, however, a group of reportedly Taliban and Haqqani network fighters, wearing old US Army Combat Uniforms and in a Ford Excursion, conducted a suicide attack on the Afghan Ministry of the Interior office in Kabul. The fighters were killed, with one Afghan casualty. On May 24, US M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems conducted a series of strikes on the Taliban in Helmand Province, killing more than 50, including a shadow governor. That strike is part of a series focusing on the Taliban’s drug infrastructure, which is largely centered in Helmand province. US aircraft have repeatedly pounded the Taliban’s funding system, including a May 25 A-10 strike on a Taliban unit in the Sangin District and a May 18 B-1 strike that hit multiple production and storage facilities across the country. —Brian Everstine
Hello Indo-Pacific Command, So Long PACOM
The US military command in the Pacific has a new leader and a new name. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced Wednesday that US Pacific Command will now be known as US Indo-Pacific Command, making the change at the swearing ceremony in for Adm. Philip Davidson as the new boss of the command. “Over many decades this command has repeatedly adapted to changing circumstance, and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west,” Mattis said during the ceremony at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The announcement follows weeks of speculation, and a move by the House Armed Services Committee to include a provision in its version of the defense bill to make the name change by 2020. Davidson, who previously was the commander of US Fleet Forces Command, on Wednesday took over for Adm. Harry Harris. Harris has been nominated to be the next ambassador to South Korea. —Brian Everstine
Turkish Minister: Ankara Could Go Elsewhere if US Bars F-35s
Turkey’s foreign minister reportedly said his country will go elsewhere for new fighter aircraft if the US bars its purchases of F-35s, the latest in a series of confrontational claims between the two countries on future military hardware. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Tuesday that Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system from Russia presents problems the US is discussing with Turkey. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of defense authorization legislation includes language directing the defense secretary to submit a plan to remove Turkey from the F-35 program out of concerns over the S-400 purchase and that country’s imprisonment of US Pastor Andrew Brunson on espionage and terrorism charges. According to Reuters, citing broadcaster NTV, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey could get aircraft from somewhere else, but the US would likely not be able to pull out of the deal. “The pre-payments for this project have been made,” Cavusoglu said, according to the report, “This is a comprehensive agreement. It’s not just purchasing, but also joint production.” —Steve Hirsch
IG Report: USAF Did Not Notify Oversight Body on F-15 Electronics Decision
Air Force officials failed to properly notify an oversight body when it cancelled part of a key electronic warfare program, according to a recently declassified Pentagon report. The May 21 Defense Department Inspector General’s report, “Air Force’s F-15 Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System,” said the Air Force, in developing its Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System aimed at improving F-15C and F-15E electronic warfare capabilities, last year cancelled the upgrade of 196 F-15C aircraft with the new system, cutting total production quantity by 47 percent. The report says officials “did not request Joint Requirements Oversight Council revalidation to verify whether the quantity decrease … would adversely impact the warfighter’s capability,” so officials do not know the full effect on other aircraft missions. The report says that, in response to the IG’s findings and recommendations, Air Force officials will submit the revised EPAWSS production quantity to the oversight council for review early next year and would review the decision if Congress does not approve F-15C retirement. —Steve Hirsch
F-15, Drone Almost Collided in England in January
A USAF F-15E from RAF Lakenheath, England, almost collided with a personal drone near the base, according to an investigation released this week. A UK Airprox report states the drone was flying at about 300 feet on Jan. 1?6 when the F-15 flew by it at about 520 mph, coming within 200 meters of the drone. The drone’s operator told police he “honestly believed” the two would collide. The Airprox board determined there was no blame in the incident, though it started discussions about planning military routes through UK airspace, the BBC reported. —Brian Everstine
—The Air Force is considering licensing arrangements to let third parties manufacture spare parts as a step to shorten the wait for replacements: Defense One.
—Five CV-22 Ospreys have landed at Yokota AB, Japan, for a stopover before flying in raining exercises in the Pacific region: Stars and Stripes.
—The Air Force has awarded Raytheon a $90 million contract for the AN/ALR-69A digital radar warning receiver system required for foreign military sales: Pentagon release.
—Airmen with the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron trained alongside Dominican Republic Air Force airmen from mid-April through early May in Santo Domingo: Travis AFB release.
—The Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Air Force Research Laboratory awarded the University of Wisconsin-Madison a $5 million contract to create a university center of excellence focused on machine learning: University of Wisconsin release.