An F-16 pilot assigned to the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan AB, South Korea, sustained “minor injuries” after ejecting from his aircraft during a routine landing “near the Kunsan Air Base runway” around 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 2, according to an Air Force release. The pilot was transported to a medical facility, and no other information was immediately available. The wing has suspended “all military and civilian flying operations to ensure the safety and security of people and assets,” the release states.
Air Combat Command has pulled its E-8C Joint STARS fleet out of the Middle East after 18 years, another change for the platform that recently saw its long-running replacement effort canceled and is ramping up in-house maintenance. “Joint STARS has been continually deployed to the [US Central Command] area of responsibility every day since November 2001,” according to a press release from Robins AFB, Ga., where the fleet is based. “Since then, they have flown 10,938 sorties, equaling 114,426.6 combat flying hours in support of nearly every CENTCOM operation including Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Freedom Sentinel, and Inherent Resolve.” The last E-8C jet left Al Udeid AB, Qatar, on Oct. 1 amid a broader reshuffling of troops in the region as combat operations against the Islamic State group wind down and as the US largely leaves Syria.
Kevin Williams, the Air Force’s director of studies, analyses, and assessments, died on Nov. 29 following an illness. Williams retired from the Air Force in 2005 after 25 years in uniform, but he immediately came back as a civilian, serving in a variety of SES positions. He flew the A-10, F-16, and F-111 operationally, and had flying and command assignments in Iraq, England, South Korea, and the United States. “We’ll miss Kevin tremendously. He was a fellow warrior who led fighter units across the globe and was a bright mind bringing rigor and analysis to our Air Force. He was an athlete who continually challenged himself to be better, go further, and go faster. Most of all, Kevin was a friend with an unstoppable attitude who offered a warm smile to all he met,” Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein wrote in an email.
The Air Force’s Space Fence finished its initial operational test and evaluation phase in November, kicking off a trial period to see if the system works well enough to accept it for regular operations. Space Fence’s first increment is neither in space nor a physical fence, but a series of ground-based sensors that will help identify and track about five times more debris than is currently doable—up to 100,000 objects or more—as the public and private sectors send more satellites and other objects into orbit. The system is expected to detect smaller objects from farther away than was previously possible. Air Force Space Command reviewed the Lockheed Martin program on Nov. 21 and agreed to start the operational trial period, according to the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.
The US targeted members of the al-Shabaab terror group in a Nov. 30 airstrike near Jilib, Somalia, US Africa Command said in a press release the same day. AFRICOM did not say whether anyone died in the strike, but noted it does not believe any civilians were injured or killed. “US Africa Command will continue to work with its partners to transfer the responsibility for long-term security in Somalia to the federal government of Somalia and its member states,” the release stated. “US forces will use all effective and appropriate methods to assist in the protection of the Somali people, including partnered military counterterrorism operations with the federal government of Somalia, [African Union Mission in Somalia], and Somali National Army forces.” AFRICOM has reported dozens of US airstrikes in Somalia this year, as the command says the Jilib-area attacks disrupt al-Shabaab’s ability to maneuver.