Former STRATCOM Head Urges Caution on Changes to Nuclear C2
Retired Gen. Robert Kehler, former commander of US Strategic Command, urged Congress on Tuesday to be cautious in considering potential changes to the nation’s nuclear command and control (C2) protocols—that is, the decision-making procedures around the potential launch of a nuclear weapon. “Changes or conflicting signals can have profound implications for deterrence, for extended deterrence, and for the confidence of the men and the women in the nuclear forces,” Kehler told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Technological advances and an evolving threat environment have led the Senate to consider such a possibility for the first time in 40 years. Kehler and other witnesses advised upgrades to the existing C2 technology, but said Congress should leave the decision-making authorities as they are. Read the full story by Wilson Brissett.
ISIS Fighters, Families Escaped Raqqa
Operation Inherent Resolve pushed back on a BBC report Tuesday that cited a “secret deal that let hundreds” of ISIS “fighters and their families escape from Raqqa.” Speaking during a live press briefing from Baghdad, OIR spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon told reporters the deal between the Raqqa Civic Council, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and tribal elders was “not a secret.” On Twitter, he posted a press release from Oct. 14 about the arrangement, which was supposed to exclude foreign fighters. The agreement also stated that the civilians leaving the city would be screened, he said Tuesday. “We do not condone any arrangement that allows Daesh terrorists to escape Raqqa without facing justice, only to resurface somewhere else,” Coalition Director of Operations Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga said in the Oct. 14 release. “Daesh terrorists have been hiding behind women and children for three years and we are against any arrangement that lets them continue to do so,” Braga continued. Still, truck drivers the BBC spoke to said the convoy out of the besieged city lasted hours, and that the ISIS fighters rigged the trucks so that if something went wrong, they would blow up the whole convoy. The news agency also reported that foreign fighters were included in the convoy; in all about 250 ISIS fighters and 3,500 family members left, according to the report. —Jennifer Hlad
DARPA Awards BAE Systems $12.8 Million for Space C2 Development
DARPA has awarded a contract to BAE Systems worth up to $12.8 million for developmental work on advanced command and control systems for the space domain, the company announced Tuesday. “Military commanders must have superior space domain awareness in order to quickly assess, plan, and execute operations,” said Mike Penzo, director of ground resiliency and analytics at BAE, in a press release. Under the contract, BAE will establish a Space Enterprise Analysis Capability (SEAC) facility “designed to help the military quickly evaluate and integrate technologies for space C2,” said Penzo. The goal of SEAC is to create “a state-of-the-art, flexible, scalable, and secure enterprise software architecture” that can provide a foundation for future space C2 developments, as well as a test environment for trying out new capabilities against emerging threats. In August, the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center issued a call for white papers on technical advances in space command and control, and in October Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said moving C2 forward was one of the service’s top priorities in space. —Wilson Brissett
House Urges Solutions in Yemen
The House on Monday declared the two Authorizations for Use of Military Force that allow military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, do not authorize US help to the Saudi war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The House overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution expressing an “urgent need” for political solutions to the conflict, which began in 2015. The resolution notes that the Houthis have attacked the US coalition and its partners “multiple times,” including two strikes against an American Navy ship. Air Forces Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart recently said in a written statement provided to Air Force Magazine that US Central Command “has authorities to conduct a variety of missions in Yemen, all ultimately focused on bringing stability to the region and halting the spread of terrorism.” Read the full story by Jennifer Hlad.
—The Air Force’s final M-117 bomb was assembled by the 2nd Munitions Squadron, Barksdale AFB, La., on Nov. 8. First deployed in the 1950s, the M-117 has been phased out in recent years as weapons with smart bomb technology have been integrated into the force: AFGSC release.
—The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Kirtland AFB, N.M., recently conducted three more tests of the B61-12 gravity bomb. The unarmed bombs were dropped from F-15Es, and the service plans to test as many as 26 bombs, dropped for F-15Es and B-2s, in less than a year: AFNWC release.
—The House on Tuesday approved the $700 billion 2018 National Defense Authorization Act conference report by a vote of 356-70. Next, the NDAA will be taken up by the Senate: NDAA conference report.
—The Bell Boeing V-22 fleet, including the Air Force’s CV-22 and the Marine Corps’ MV-22 variants, has reached 400,000 flight hours. The MV-22 first entered service in 2007 and the CV-22 entered service with Air Force Special Operations Command in 2009: Bell Boeing release.
—The New England Patriots stayed at the Air Force Academy after its big win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday and coach Bill Belichick thinks the team might have a few things to learn from the Air Force while it’s there. “It is a highly competitive institution that is very difficult to get in … They do a tremendous job of training men and women to serve and defend our country, and they’re highly skilled in operating the most advanced, powerful equipment in the world, as well as having great discipline and leadership, and being in top physical condition to perform their jobs:” ESPN.
—An airman at RAF Mildenhall, England, was attached on social media after pictures surfaced of him taking a knee during a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Mildenhall War Memorial. USAF officials say the airman was feeling faint and was not trying to make a political statement: Stars and Stripes.
—The United States still has the edge in space, but other nations are catching up, said Air University commander Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast. “In my best military judgment, China is on a 10-year journey to operationalize space. We’re on a 50-year journey,” Kwast told CNBC.