c-17 kabul

Kabul Evacuation Flight Sets C-17 Record With 823 On Board

The Aug. 15 C-17 evacuation flight from Kabul set a new record—by far—for the number of passengers carried on a Globemaster III flight at 823 people, a dramatic rise from the initially reported number on the flight. The crew of the C-17, call sign REACH871 from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, decided for themselves to take off from Hamid Karzai International Airport with the plane packed full of Afghan evacuees because of a “dynamic security environment” as the situation at the airport deteriorated. A photograph of the flight has circulated around the world, showcasing the USAF airlift mission out of Afghanistan. Air Mobility Command, in a statement Aug. 20, said the initial count of 643 included only adults sitting in bus seats after the C-17 landed at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. It did not include the 183 children sitting on adult laps.
kabul airlift

Civil Reserve Air Fleet Activated to Help with Kabul Evacuations

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Aug. 22 activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet to assist with the ongoing airlift out of Afghanistan. Tens of thousands have fled the country. The Stage 1 CRAF activation includes 18 aircraft—three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines, which will fly from staging bases in the region but not from Kabul. It is the third activation in the history of the program, after Operations Desert Shield/Storm in 1990 and Operation Iraqi Freedom. As of early Aug. 22, 25,100 personnel had flown out of Kabul on military and coalition flights since the evacuation began on Aug. 14. The evacuation airlift out of Kabul halted for several hours Aug. 20 as the staging facility at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, hit its capacity limit with several thousand still staged to leave Kabul. Flights had since resumed.
biden afghanistan

Biden Promises to Evacuate All Americans and Afghans Who Helped Coalition Forces

President Joe Biden extended his commitment Aug. 20 to evacuate all Americans in Afghanistan, as well as the Afghans who helped coalition forces, even if it could not be done by a self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline. Military commanders in recent days had promised only “as many as possible” Afghans would be evacuated by the deadline and said the U.S. would not push out its perimeter or retrieve evacuees in distress. Biden said he would order operations beyond the airport as necessary to rescue Americans.

US Has Not Recognized Taliban Government, No Decision on Aircraft and Airmen that Fled

The State Department has not recognized the Taliban government, and despite the presence of dozens of U.S.-provided aircraft and hundreds of Afghan service members in neighboring countries, the U.S. is focusing its attention on evacuating the thousands of Afghans and Americans still in Afghanistan. The State Department said the Afghan aircraft were secure and the service members were safely in the care of the respective governments. “Due to the critical situation in Afghanistan, we are focused on the humanitarian effort, which is currently affecting Afghanistan and its neighbors," a State Department spokesperson told Air Force Magazine.
KC-46 missions

KC-46s Conduct First Operational Missions as Need for KC-10s, KC-135s Ramps Up Downrange

With KC-135s and KC-10s surging forward to help with the ongoing airlift out of Afghanistan, KC-46s are picking up some slack back home with the new tanker's first operational taskings under Air Mobility Command's plan to have the Pegasus start flying limited operations. KC-46s have flown three missions tasked by AMC’s Tanker and Airlift Control Center. During the first on Aug. 11, a KC-46 from the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., refueled F/A-18s using the tanker’s centerline drogue system. “The timing is perfect,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel A. DeVoe, commander of the 618th Air Operations Center, also known as the TACC, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
lockheed martin skunk works

Skunk Works Looks to Bridge Tanker, KC-Z, and Lighter-Than-Air

The next phase of the Air Force’s long-term tanker recapitalization program may have some Lockheed Martin Skunk Works flavor, and the advanced development unit is looking ahead to the stealthy KC-Z competition and a potential lighter-than-air transport, Skunk Works Vice President and General Manager Jeff A. Babione said. The advanced development unit is also still investing in its P791 airship concept, Babione said. Airships have the potential of “revolutionizing how we move large volumes,” particularly because airships don’t need a large infrastructure of runways.
fighter wings

USAFE Fighter Wings Conduct Rare Air-to-Air Live Fire Training

F-16s and F-15s from the Air Force’s 31st and 48th Fighter Wings linked up in northwestern Wales in mid-July, conducting a rare air-to-air live fire training exercise in the U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa (USAFE) area of responsibility. For the 31st Fighter Wing, based out of Aviano Air Base, Italy, it was the first time in 14 years that the wing’s F-16Cs were able to conduct such training in Europe.

Radar Sweep

New US Air Force Secretary to Shake Up Advanced Battle Management Program

Defense News

The new U.S. Air Force Secretary says he’s skeptical about current plans to build the service’s Advanced Battle Management System, signaling the program could be heading for an overhaul. “I want to focus it more on specific operational return on investment,” Frank Kendall told Defense News in an Aug. 13 interview. “Where do we get the most improvement in performance operationally in the battlefield, for investments in that type of technology?”

Pentagon Poised To Unveil, Demonstrate Classified Space Weapon

Breaking Defense

For months, top officials at the Defense Department have been working toward declassifying the existence of a secret space weapon program and providing a real-world demonstration of its capabilities, Breaking Defense has learned. The effort—which sources say is being championed by Gen. John Hyten, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—is close enough to completion that there was a belief the anti-satellite technology might have been revealed at this year’s National Space Symposium, which kicks off Aug. 23.

Afghan Officer Who Fought with US Forces Rescued from Kabul

The Associated Press

Time was running out for Mohammad Khalid Wardak, a high-profile Afghan national police officer who spent years working alongside the American military. Hunted by the Taliban, he was hiding with his family in Kabul, constantly moving from place to place as they tried—and failed—several times to reach a rendezvous point where they could be rescued. After at least four attempts in as many days, the family finally was whisked away by helicopter Aug. 18 in a dramatic rescue.

Enlisted Development ‘Action Plan’ Coming this Fall, Chief Bass Says

Air Force Times

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass is preparing to take a “hard, holistic look” at the world of professional military education as part of her enlisted development action plan due out this fall, the service’s top enlisted leader told Air Force Times on Aug. 18. “How do we develop our Air Force—specifically, our enlisted corps from E-1 to E-9—in a way that will allow us to be the very best Air Force that we need to be in 2030 and beyond?” she said. “The foundation of all of that is really leadership development.”

Afghan Aftermath: Will Pacific States See Weakened US?

Breaking Defense

“The world has witnessed how the US evacuated its diplomats by helicopter while Taliban soldiers crowded into the presidential palace in Kabul,” the official and hawkish Chinese English-language Global Times editorial page wrote within hours of the Taliban taking the capital. “This has dealt a heavy blow to the credibility and reliability of the US.” But is it that obvious? More importantly, is it true? And how will America’s allies, partners, and adversaries judge the strategic implications?

Night Stalker Special Ops Helicopters Now in Kabul Could be Critical to Evacuation

The Drive

Based on publicly available images on the ground and from satellites, the 160th SOAR had a small presence of a couple of transport helicopters in Kabul when the city fell to the Taliban on Aug. 15, but since then, their numbers have been significantly bolstered, most notably by a contingent of at least eight AH/MH-6 Little Birds as well as specially modified MH-60 Black Hawks and MH-47 Chinooks. These two larger types are capable of in-flight refueling and can deploy directly without having to be broken down to be flown in on transport aircraft, which are currently highly taxed bringing in standard forces to protect the airport in Kabul and flying out Americans and Afghan allies.

Space Force Awards $32 million in Contracts to Startups and Small Businesses

Space News

At a virtual pitch event Aug. 19, the U.S. Space Force selected 19 companies that each will receive Small Business Innovation Research Phase 2 contracts worth $1.7 million. The Space Force Pitch Day marked the launch of SpaceWERX, a new industry outreach organization funded by the Space Force and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Lt. Col. Walter McMillan, SpaceWERX director, said 24 companies pitched products over two days.

One More Thing

Air Force to Honor B-52 with Air Power Legacy Series in 2021

Air Force Academy release

The Air Force football team is honoring the B-52 Stratofortress with the 2021 edition of the Air Power Legacy Series uniform. The Falcons will debut the uniform for the Navy game Sept. 11, the 20-year anniversary of 9/11. The helmet is designed after the B-52s that flew in Operation Linebacker II and are painted in the Air Force SEA (Southeast Asia) camo, with USAF on one wing and the roundel on the other.