Unarmed Minuteman III test launch from Vandenberg

ICBM Shuts Itself Down Before Launch, Test Aborted

An unarmed Minuteman III test launch was aborted May 5 when the missile’s computer detected a fault during its terminal countdown and stopped the launch process, Air Force Global Strike Command said in a statement. The Air Force regularly tests its ICBM fleet with launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, to ensure the missiles are effective. “The missile did exactly what it was designed to do,” Air Force Global Strike Command said. “During terminal countdown, the missile computer detected a fault in the sequence of checks it does prior to launching. Upon detection of this fault, it shut itself down.”
Skyborg first flight

Skyborg Makes First Flight Aboard Kratos Mako

The Skyborg software and hardware suite allowing unmanned aircraft to team with crewed ones flew for the first time April 29, the Air Force said, launching a series of experiments meant to prove the safety and effectiveness of the approach.
B-52 Al Udeid

More B-52s Land in Middle East as Afghanistan Withdrawal Continues

Two more B-52s arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on May 4, bringing the total number of Stratofortresses deployed to the region to six as the U.S. continues its withdrawal from Afghanistan. The bombers, from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., will be available to conduct airstrikes to “protect the orderly and responsible withdrawal” from the country, Air Forces Central said in a statement. “U.S. Central Command is committed to providing the necessary force protection to ensure the drawdown is conducted in a safe manner,” according to the statement.

Registration Opens for the Second Annual Hack-A-Sat Program

The Department of the Air Force wants to know if you can hack its satellites. Registration for the second Space Security Challenge: Hack-A-Sat opened May 4, with the qualification event slated to run June 26-27. The top eight teams will move on to the next round, where they will compete in a “capture-the-flag-style hack-a-sat” final event Sept. 17-19. The first-place winner will receive $50,000; second place will win $30,000; and third place will earn $20,000.
Michael B. Donley

Former SECAF Donley Returns to Pentagon as the ‘Mayor’

Former Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley is back at the Pentagon, taking over a job he previously held before leading the service. Donley on May 5 began serving as the director of administration and management, the job known as the “mayor of the Pentagon,” Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said during a briefing. Donley held the same job from May 2005 to June 2008 before being named Air Force Secretary. Donley stepped down as chairman of the board of trustees of The Aerospace Corp. on April 30 to re-enter federal service, according to a press release.

Radar Sweep

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Space Command is Tracking Chinese Rocket-launch Junk Careening Wildly Toward Earth

Stars and Stripes

U.S. Space Command is actively tracking part of a large Chinese rocket freefalling wildly from space and expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on May 8. Where the debris will land will remain unknown until shortly before it crashes, the Pentagon said May 4. The out-of-control space junk was part of the core launch stage used by China to propel the Long March 5B rocket into space on April 29.

Turmoil Atop the California National Guard

Los Angeles Times

In the California National Guard, the general who commanded its air branch has been fired, a second key general was suspended, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has placed new limits on the organization’s use of fighter jets for civilian missions. Newsom’s office and the head of the Guard, Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, refused to provide details on the reasons behind the recent leadership changes other than a statement from the Guard saying that the organization “is committed to facilitating a positive working environment for all of its members, regardless of gender and ethnicity.”

Air Force Awards First Airworthiness Approval for Human Flight in Electric Aircraft Program

USAF Release

The U.S. Air Force has awarded the first airworthiness approval for a manned electric aircraft to BETA Technologies, a partner in the AFWERX Agility Prime program. This enables BETA to begin flying its ALIA aircraft in the Agility Prime program. The airworthiness award from the Air Force is the latest milestone in BETA’s test program after recently entering its next phase of flight testing.

Exclusive: Army Plan May Loosen IC Grip on Sat-Based ISR

Breaking Defense

The Army is negotiating with the Intelligence Community and Space Force about ensuring operational control of any future Army-built ISR payloads hosted on DOD, IC, and/or commercial satellites, says Willie Nelson, the de facto head of Army space programs. … Why? If the service wins even a modicum of control over where future IC ISR birds are ‘pointed’—a prerogative the IC traditionally has zealously guarded—it would represent a major break with the past.

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Dayton Files $300 Million Drinking Water Contamination Lawsuit Against Wright-Patt

Dayton Daily News

The city of Dayton, Ohio, formally filed a drinking water contamination lawsuit against Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the U.S. Department of Defense on May 3, seeking damages of up to $300 million. The suit, filed in the Southern District of Ohio, accuses the base and the DOD of failing to stop water containing a group of so-called “forever chemicals” known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances―or PFAS―from flowing daily into the city’s Mad River Wellfield. The wellfield is one of several that Dayton uses to supply drinking water to more than 400,000 customers in Dayton and Montgomery County.

Space Force to Clear Refurbished Falcon 9 Booster for Upcoming GPS Launch

Space News

The U.S. Space Force this month will complete a design review of a previously flown SpaceX Falcon 9 booster that launched a military GPS satellite to orbit last fall. The booster is expected to fly another GPS satellite sometime in June. The upcoming launch of the fifth GPS 3 satellite known as SV05 will be the first mission under the national security space launch program to use a refurbished Falcon 9 booster. The satellite, made by Lockheed Martin, arrived at Cape Canaveral, Florida, last month.

F-35 Caucus Urges Continued Support for Production Ramp, Long-term Sustainment

Inside Defense

A group of 132 House lawmakers have reiterated their support for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, sending a letter to House Appropriations and Armed Services committee leadership advocating for continued investment in procurement and sustainment costs amid increased scrutiny of the program's performance. The April 28 letter, signed by members of the JSF caucus, calls for increased funding for sustainment and support for the Defense Department's yet-to-be-released fiscal year 2022 procurement request, as well as any unfunded requirements lists from the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.

Air Force Testing New Capabilities for MQ-9 Drone During Exercise


The 174th Attack Wing is working with multiple Pentagon contractors and academic researchers to establish new capabilities for the MQ-9 Reaper drone aircraft, the Air National Guard announced May 4. According to a press release from the wing, the new capabilities include battlefield and airspace communications enhancements as well as target identification tracking and processing.

Loft Orbital Wins Space Force Contract for Edge Computing in Space

Space News

Loft Orbital announced May 5 it won a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the Space Force to support the development of an edge computer that can analyze data in space. The contract is a Phase 2 SBIR sponsored by the Space and Missile Systems Center. The company will receive $750,000 in government funding and $750,000 in matching private funds for a total $1.5 million to finance the development of an edge computer processor that will function as a “brain” on Loft Orbital spacecraft.

Study Calls on U.S. to Change How it Buys Space Technology, Reduce Congestion in Low Orbits

Space News

The Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress released a new report May 4 calling on the U.S. government to accelerate the procurement of commercial space technologies and manage growing congestion in low-Earth orbit. CSPC is a nonpartisan think tank led by former members of Congress Mike Rogers of Michigan and Glenn Nye of Virginia. In a 2019 report, the group called out DOD for not opening up opportunities for emerging commercial space companies and was especially critical of the national security space launch program. Many of the same points were made in the 2021 report.

One More Thing

Gadhafi's Private Jet is Back on the Move in Southern France


The images that came out of Tripoli International Airport in August 2011 have become defining symbols of the downfall of the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, the autocrat who ruled Libya with an iron fist for over four decades. Rebel forces had just taken control of the country's airport and captured a major prize. Short of capturing Gadhafi himself—Libya's ousted leader would be killed by rebel forces weeks later—they had taken hold of one of his gaudiest symbols of power. … After years in storage in southern France, it was spotted by photographer Clement Alloing on May 3, 2021, flying over Perpignan. Here's the story of how it got there.