The U.S. Air Force's U-2S Dragon Lady spy planes were among the assets tapped to monitor and collect intelligence on a Chinese government surveillance balloon during its recent trip across parts of the continental United States and Canada. An F-22 Raptor stealth fighter finally shot down the balloon with an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4, and efforts are now underway to recover the wreckage from the Atlantic Ocean. A U.S. defense official confirmed the use of the U-2S as part of the broader response to the Chinese spy balloon to The War Zone . It's not immediately clear all the points along the balloon's voyage that U-2s were present.
Air Force Wants Small Businesses’ Help with Command and Control for Large Numbers of Autonomous Systems
The Air Force will soon tap small businesses to develop novel, decentralized methods for enabling the command and control of unmanned systems operating in vast quantities. Via a new small business innovation research (SBIR) opportunity that’s set to open Feb. 8, the service aims to prototype reliable C2 capabilities for emerging, autonomous platforms that are designed to complete tasks independently or with minimal supervision from human operators. Broadly, the Pentagon considers such capabilities increasingly vital for mission needs now and down the line.
As the Biden administration readies to release its federal budget requests for fiscal 2024, the Defense Department is facing new congressional demands to justify its expanding use of streamlined acquisition authorities that are meant to rapidly put capabilities into the field, in part by bypassing some traditional checks and balances.
In Episode 114 of the Aerospace Advantage, John Baum chats with retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Todd Harmer, Anthony Lazarski, and Caitlin Lee about some of the latest developments in the national security realm. Our conversation begins with a discussion regarding the Congressional debt ceiling debate and the potential impact various outcomes could have upon defense. We then examine Turkey’s desire to secure F-16s and how this connects into broader NATO membership plans for Sweden and Finland. The conversation also covers if and how airpower assistance can be provided to Ukraine and DOD’s new policy on AI.
Federal appeals court judges closely questioned a Biden administration attorney Feb. 6 on the consequences military personnel might face for refusing COVID-19 vaccinations, even though Biden’s vaccine mandate for military personnel has been rescinded. Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who refuse to be vaccinated for religious reasons told a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that federal court injunctions against the mandate are still needed, in part because decisions on deployments and assignments can still be made based on vaccination status.
The U.K. must change the way it procures weapons to rebuild stocks for the British military and sustain support for the Ukraine, the Labour Party’s shadow defense secretary will say in a speech scheduled for Feb 7. “We need to shift parts of our defense industry and Ministry of Defense procurement on to an urgent operational footing, both to support Ukraine for the long-term and to replenish U.K. stocks for any future conflict,” John Healey, the Labour defense spokesman is due to say in a speech
U.S. defense contractor CACI International announced Feb. 6 it signed an agreement with the U.S. Army to collaborate on the development of space sensors and payloads for positioning, navigation and timing. The company, based in Reston, Va., signed a five-year cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Technical Center, located in Huntsville, Alabama.
Troops stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey were all accounted for Feb. 6, and there were no casualties or major damage to the installation, according to base officials, after a deadly earthquake hit the country overnight, leaving thousands of people dead. “While this is a developing situation, all U.S. government personnel assigned to the 39th Air Base Wing have been accounted for and we have no suspected or confirmed U.S. casualties at this time,” Incirlik Air Base shared on social media. “Additionally, no U.S. facilities on base have sustained major damage.”
Mark Holmes spent his last 16 months battling Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, undergoing chemotherapy, committing his life story to home video for his kids to one day watch and wondering how he had gone from picture-perfect health to bedbound. When the former Air Force major died at 37 in 2020, he had no idea others from his base had developed the same cancer.
The changes that have drastically curtailed health care access for more than 6,000 civilians and an untold number of contractor employees in Japan, though dramatic, vary somewhat from installation-to-installation, and the underlying causes are also multifaceted. Because of that, they’re also difficult to completely resolve overnight. Defense health officials are quick to point out that there has been no official change in policy: On paper, DOD civilians have always been treated on a space-available or “Space-A” basis at military treatment facilities (MTFs), and active duty service members and their families have the first priority for available appointments. What appears to have changed the most is the department’s definition of what “space available” means.
The saga of that Chinese spy balloon floating across the continental United States at an altitude of about 60,000 feet came to an end over the weekend after a pair of F-22 Raptors from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Va., sent the balloon plummeting into the ocean with a single AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. While downing a balloon is an unlikely kill in the 21st century, the call signs used by those jets, as well as a second pair of F-22s, were a nod to an American fighter ace who made his name doing just that during World War I.