US, Coalition Aircraft Set Record for Bombs Dropped in Afghanistan
US and coalition aircraft set a record for bombs dropped in Afghanistan in September. Meanwhile, the coalition pace in Iraq and Syria slowed to 3,550 bombs dropped after a record high of 5,075 in August. That total in Iraq and Syria was also the lowest since April of this year. During September, the US and its partners released 751 bombs over Afghanistan, the highest monthly total in that conflict dating back to January of 2012, the earliest month for which the Air Force supplies statistics. That’s more than 150 bombs dropped than the previous record of 589, set in August 2012, according to the most recent airpower summary released by Air Forces Central Command. That increase coincides with the Trump administration’s new strategy in Afghanistan, which includes changing rules of engagement for close air support from US and coalition aircraft.
RD-180 Replacement to Focus on Launch Systems
The Space and Missile Systems Center released a draft solicitation for launch services on Oct. 5 with implications for the Air Force’s RD-180 replacement strategy. The service will pursue its congressional mandate to end reliance on the Russian-made rocket engine, which currently powers the first-stage booster on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, by purchasing launch systems with US-made engines. SMC expects to award new launch services contracts to two companies in 2020 for launches beginning in 2022. Read the full report by Wilson Brissett.
DOD Needs Air Advisors, But First USAF Has to Find Them
Top military leaders have tasked Air Education and Training Command to get better at developing airmen with foreign advising experience, AETC boss Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson told Air Force Magazine. This “priority” comes straight from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein. Mattis told Congress on Oct. 3 the new strategy in Afghanistan will largely rely on an increased profile for military advisors because “those units with NATO and American advisors win, and those without them often do not win.” To help accomplish this mission, AETC has launched a new “developmental special experience,” or DSE, initiative, of which one of the goals is to help commanders more easily identify an airman experienced in a specific capability and utilize that knowledge. Read the full story from Gideon Grudo.
A B-1B Lancer, assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., takes off from Andersen AFB, Guam, Oct. 2, 2017. Air Force photo by TSgt. Richard Ebensberger.
B-1Bs Train with Australian JTACs
Two B-1Bs operating out of Andersen AFB, Guam, conducted bilateral training with the Royal Australian Air Force near Townsville, Australia on Oct. 2. The exercise, known as Black Dagger, involved a 12-hour sortie with the deployment of simulated and inert weapons directed by Australian joint terminal attack controllers. “The Australian and US air forces continue to work toward safeguarding security and stability in the region with missions focused on integrated operations,” said Brig. Gen. Stephen Williams, Pacific Air Forces director of air and cyberspace operations, in a press release. “Joint exercises like these validate our ability to train and operate together seamlessly and ensures our ability to collectively respond cohesively if necessary.”
Lockheed Martin Gets $9 Million to Test UAS-Based Laser
The Missile Defense Agency on Oct. 5 awarded a $9 million contract to Lockheed Martin for integration and testing of a low power laser to be used on an unmanned aerial system. The program is called Low Power Laser Demonstrator Phase 1, and the contract is for work on laser power and aperture size. The estimated completion date for the work is July 5, 2018. Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein has promised to push directed energy programs during his tenure. In July, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva committed to convene a meeting of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council to review recent developments in laser technology.
USAF Honors 2016 Sijan Award Winners
The Air Force recognized four airmen as winners of the 2016 Lance P. Sijan US Air Force Leadership Award at a ceremony at the Pentagon on Oct. 5. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson presented the awards, which are given annually to airmen who demonstrate extraordinary leadership. The 2016 winners are Lt. Col. Derrick Weyand, Capt. Austin Almand, CMSgt. Michael Daly, and SSgt. Ryan J. Holmes. Read the full report by Wilson Brissett.
USAFE Hosts Coalition F-35 Symposium
US Air Forces in Europe hosted an international F-35 symposium at Ramstein AB, Germany, Oct. 3-5 to discuss the fifth generation fighter’s introduction into the European theater. A total of 79 senior leaders from all branches of the US military, as well as eight allied nations, explored tactics, techniques, and procedures related to integrating F-35s into training. The F-35 is an asset that “we’re fusing into the system that guarantees the sovereignty of the skies overhead our NATO nations and our great partners,” said USAFE commander Gen. Tod Wolters in a press release. The F-35A’s first European deployment came in April to RAF Lakenheath, England. The fifth-generation fighter also made its public demonstration debut at the Paris Air Show in June.
—The Defense Department identified the three soldiers killed in Niger on Oct. 4. Army SSgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Wash.; Army SSgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and SSgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Ga., were in Niger as part of a joint US train, advise, and assist mission: DOD release.
—Saudi Arabia announced it planned to buy Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system—a move Former US European Command boss retired Adm. James Stavridis called a “step backwards in US foreign and defense policy:” Breaking Defense.
—Northrop Grumman was awarded a $130.5 million contract for three Block 30 Global Hawks for Japan along with two ground control elements, an enhanced integrated sensor suite, spare parts, and a site survey: DOD contract announcement.
—Maj. Chris Campbell, the 461st Flight Test Squadron director of operations, became the 500th F-35 strike fighter pilot to graduate training last month: USAF release.