AFA Urges the Air Force to Quickly Complete Reset, Resume Communications with Public
The Air Force has suspended most media embeds, base visits, and a large number of interviews while its public affairs officers undergo an operational security and “public engagement reset” that takes into account the return to a “great power competition” as outlined in the National Defense Strategy. AFA leaders acknowledged the need to protect classified information, but said it’s also important the Air Force continue to tell its story and communicate with the public. “We must keep America’s Air Force strong and ready and to do so requires frequent and consistent communications with the public,” said Spencer. “I hope the Air Force completes its ‘reset’ training quickly so they can resume communications with those taxpayers who deserve to know how they can make their Air Force better.” Read the full story by Amy McCullough.
After the Retirement, USAF Deciding What to do With Remaining Predators
While the Air Force held a ceremony officially retiring the MQ-1 Predator on Friday, there is still work to be done with the aircraft. The Air Force’s transition from the MQ-1 to a predominantly MQ-9 fleet will be complete by the end of the year, and “transition work” deciding what will happen to the 128 remaining MQ-1s in the service’s total active inventory is ongoing, Air Combat Command said in a statement to Air Force Magazine. The Friday ceremony at Creech AFB, Nev., was a chance to “honor the airmen who maintained and operated this platform as well as our teamwork with industry and coalition partners,” ACC spokeswoman 1st Lt. Annabel Monroe said. Many of these MQ-1s have been crated and prepared for shipping, but others still need to be demilitarized. The Air Force doesn’t expect the aircraft to be available to be sold to allied nations or private companies, Monroe said. Some have already gone to museums, such as the American Air Museum in England. The Air Force is still paying for operations and maintenance of the aircraft, including a March 9 contract to URS Federal Technical Services for a “high level” of support for the MQ-1, along with MQ-9 and RQ-4. —Brian Everstine
Air Force Close to Full Operational Capability for Cyber Teams
The Air Force is on its way toward attaining full operational capability for all of its Cyber Mission Force teams by the end of the current fiscal year, the service’s cyber chief told Congress Tuesday. Maj. Gen. Christopher Weggeman, commander of the 24th Air Force and of Air Forces Cyber, said during a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing that as of the beginning of this month, 35 of the 39 Cyber Mission Force teams had reached full operational capacity. “By comparison,” he told the Cybersecurity Subcommittee, “highlighting our extensive progress, at this time, at this same hearing 10 months ago, we only had 19 at FOC.” The remaining four, he said, are expected reach full capability by June—three months ahead of deadline. “AFCYBER has developed a team-by-team, name-by-name plan that ensures all teams will achieve FOC on time,” he said. —Steve Hirsch
CENTCOM Aiming to Build Afghan Air Force into a Key “Offensive Capability”
US forces in Afghanistan are building up the Afghan Air Force, along with Afghan special operations forces, to serve as the key “offensive capability” for the government to use against the Taliban, the head of US operations in the Middle East said Tuesday. In turn, the Afghan National Army and federal police need to be more “competent” to hold these gains, US Central Command boss Gen. Joseph Votel told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
US Aircraft Striking Al Shabaab in Somalia “Quite Robustly” Under New Authorities
US forces are striking al Shabaab “quite robustly” in Somalia where the group maintains a presence, and have moved into Mogadishu to continue the mission. USMC Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander of US Africa Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday the US mission in Somalia has two focuses: one kinetic and one in training. Kinetic strikes in the country have increased over the past year, after an April 2017 move to designate Somalia as an “active area of hostilities,” which gave AFRICOM more authorities to strike. Recently, US forces conducted three strikes in February and two in January, according to releases posted by AFRICOM. US forces are working with African Union Mission in Somalia forces to help train Somali forces because they “need to be at a place where they can conduct their own security.” As a part of this mission, an AFRICOM country team is “very tight” with the Somali government, and recently moved from Nairobi, Kenya, to Mogadishu to continue this mission, Waldhauser said. —Brian Everstine
Trump Fires Tillerson, Replaces Him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo
President Trump on Tuesday fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo at a time when the US is preparing for possible direct talks with North Korea, is facing a tense relationship with Russia, and an escalating war in Afghanistan. Tillerson said he was told Tuesday he was being replaced, and has delegated all responsibilities to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan as he “addresses a few administrative matters” before leaving at midnight March 31. During a brief statement in Foggy Bottom, Tillerson thanked Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and those in uniform who “protect us as Americans and our way of life daily at home and abroad.” Mattis has maintained a close relationship with Tillerson, saying in January that he has breakfast with him every week and talks two to three times per day to “settle all of our issues” before going to the White House. Mattis has repeatedly deferred to Tillerson on issues such as North Korea, which he said is a diplomatically led effort. Mattis was in Kabul on Tuesday, and did not speak publicly about the move as of Tuesday afternoon. —Brian Everstine
—TSgt. Phillip Dyer, an explosive ordnance disposal instructor at Eglin AFB, Fla., received the Airman’s Medal on March 9 for saving a double amputee from hypothermia and drowning in 2015: Eglin release.
—Air Forces Central Command on March 8-9 hosted a Defense Innovation Unit Experimental summit focused on innovation at the Combined Air Operations Center: AFCENT release.
—C-130s and airmen with the 109th Airlift Squadron and 133rd Airlift Wing flew in Operation Snowbird, an exercise that consisted of more than 30 sorties and 44 low-level routes: 133rd AW release.
—The Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute at Maxwell AFB, Ala., on March 12 unveiled a monument honoring 12 airmen who died defending a classified outpost in Laos in 1968: Maxwell AFB release.