Wilson: Personnel Shortfall, Low Weapons Stockpiles Hurting USAF Readiness

The Air Force’s biggest readiness shortfalls are in two specific areas: not enough people and not enough munitions, and the long-term budget outlook does not paint a rosy picture for the service, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said. In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Wilson said “first and foremost” the way to restore readiness is to build up the ranks. “The size of the Air Force declined significantly, but the operational tempo is still very, very high,” Wilson told the Examiner. Shortfalls in maintenance, pilots, cyber, and other career fields is putting “a lot of pressure on people, and really hurts our readiness,” said Wilson. Secondly, the Air Force needs to replace munitions fast enough to ensure the stockpiles are healthy enough to continue the fight in Afghanistan and against ISIS. The Pentagon must work with industry to get to a “very high level of production” to ensure the fleet is ready. The Fiscal 2017 budget “stopped the decline” of readiness, and 2018 “turned the corner, Wilson told the Examiner. “However, if there’s a continuing resolution at last year’s levels for the rest of this year, that “would mean a very, very deep impact in the remaining six, seven months of the year,” she said. (See also our February cover story: USAF Has Too Many Missions and Not Enough People.)

A-10s, MQ-9s, HH-60s Deploy to Afghanistan

The Air Force has sent A-10s, along with MQ-9 Reapers and HH-60G Pave Hawks, to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, as part of a renewed buildup of US forces in the country. The A-10s, originally slated to deploy to Turkey in support of the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, flew their first combat sortie within 24 hours of landing at Kandahar. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Mattis: Turkish Fight Against Kurds Could Assist ISIS

Turkey’s ongoing fight against US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria is a distraction from the effort to stabilize the region and could even give ISIS a chance to gain momentum after it was largely routed, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday. Turkish troops and aircraft on Saturday began targeting Kurdish militia fighters in the enclave of Afrin, forcing hundreds to flee south away from the Turkish border, according to the BBC. Mattis, speaking in Jakarta, Indonesia, said this violence “disrupts what was a relatively stable area of Syria. It distracts from international efforts to ensure the defeat of ISIS, and this could be exploited by ISIS and al Qaida,” according to Voice of America. Turkey needs to “exercise restraint” and limit its operations, which have already disrupted humanitarian aid, Mattis said. Turkey said it is targeting YPG fighters because they are allied with Kurdish PKK separatists inside its borders, a group it deems to be terrorists. NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller visited Turkey this week as the conflict began, and reiterated that the country is a “key” ally in the organization. “In this neighbourhood, NATO recognizes that you face a number of difficult security challenges,” Gottemoeller said Tuesday in Istanbul. “Among all NATO Allies, Turkey is the most exposed to instability and turmoil stemming from the Middle East.” —Brian Everstine

Coalition Strikes Large ISIS Gathering in Syria, Killing About 150

US-led coalition strikes on Jan. 20 killed about 150 “hard-core” ISIS fighters in a rural area of Syria at a headquarters and command and control center located in the contested Middle Euphrates River Valley, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve said in a Tuesday statement. Continued intelligence and surveillance sought to ensure there were no civilians in the area. US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, who are in are engaged in heavy fighting with the last remnants of ISIS, helped observe the targets. ISIS has lost about 98 percent of the land it once held, but it is still able to “mass large numbers” to try to hold land in Syria, the coalition said. US aircraft have largely shifted away from ongoing strikes against ISIS as airdrops have slowed to a pace not seen since the war kicked off in 2014. —Brian Everstine

JB San Antonio General to Receive Order of the Sword

Retired Maj. Gen. Leonard Patrick will receive the Order of the Sword during a Feb. 9 ceremony at JBSA-Lackland, Texas. The award is the top honor the enlisted force can bestow upon a general officer. Patrick spent 14 of his 35 years in uniform at Air Education and Training Command assignments, having last served as the vice commander of AETC. “General Patrick’s service has significantly contributed to the Air Force enlisted corps, and perhaps nowhere more so than here in San Antonio where General Patrick served both his first and final command positions, and during which time he also commanded all basic and technical training for enlisted airmen throughout the Air Force,” said CMSgt. Juliet Gudgel, AETC command chief. —Steve Hirsch


—The State Department said an unspecified number of Americans were killed in the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan: CNN report.

—A total of 129 New York National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated on Monday in preparation for possible flooding in upstate New York: DOD release.

—Members of the 187th Fighter Wing returned home to Dannelly Field ANGB, Ala., on Monday after a three-month deployment to Southwest Asia: Alabama Today.

—Lt. Col. Iris Ortiz Gonzales, a Puerto Rico native and clinical flight commander with the 55th Dental Squadron at Offutt AFB, Neb., recently worked with a church in Florida to charter a private jet to carry much-needed supplies to Puerto Rico, where many of her family members still live without ?electricity: USAF release.

—Red Flag 18-1 kicked off at Nellis AFB, Nev., on Monday and will run through Feb. 16: ACC release.