USAF’s New No. 2: Slife Sworn in as Vice Chief of Staff

After a monthslong wait, the Air Force has a new No. 2 officer. Gen. James C. “Jim” Slife was sworn in as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force and received his fourth star on Dec. 29. Slife will now help guide the service through what are expected to be significant changes. The Air Force will soon unveil its plans for “re-optimization,” which Slife had been helping shape in his previous role as deputy chief of staff for operations (A3).
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launches USSF-52 carrying a United States Space Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A. U.S. Space Force photo

X-37 and Chinese Space Plane Both Launch: ‘Two of the Most Watched Objects on Orbit’

After multiple scrubbed launches, the Space Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle returned to orbit Dec. 28, riding a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The launch of the secretive reusable space plane came two weeks after China launched its own mysterious spacecraft, “Shenlong,” on Dec. 14. Initially, the Space Force had planned to launch X-37 before Shenlong, on Dec. 7, but that date was pushed back several times due to ground issues, weather, and pad availability. 

Radar Sweep

The Air Force Said Its Nuclear Missile Capsules Were Safe. But Toxic Dangers Lurked, Documents Show

The Associated Press

A large pool of dark liquid festering on the floor. No fresh air. Computer displays that would overheat and ooze out a fishy-smelling gel that nauseated the crew. Asbestos readings 50 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety standards. These are just some of the past toxic risks that were in the underground capsules and silos where Air Force nuclear missile crews have worked since the 1960s. Now many of those service members have cancer.

Air Force Cyber Wing Looking for New Ways to Recruit, Keep Top Talent


Amid a global competition for cyber experts, one Air Force wing is looking at new and different ways to recruit and retain service members with the right know-how. Attracting and maintaining top talent is becoming even more critical as the Air Force must provide six additional cyber mission force teams on behalf of U.S. Cyber Command.

US Navy Sinks Houthi Rebel Boats after Red Sea Attack on Container Ship


The U.S. Navy destroyed three boats carrying Houthi rebels in the Red Sea on Dec. 31 after fighters attempted to board a container ship in the second attack against the vessel this weekend. Helicopters from two destroyers, the USS Eisenhower and USS Gravely, were dispatched after the Maersk Hangzhou issued a distress call at 6:30 a.m. Dec. 31, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said on X, the ship's second request for help in 24 hours.

New in 2024: Air Force Plans Autonomous Flight Tests for Drone Wingmen

Defense News

The U.S. Air Force’s plan to create a fleet of drone wingmen to fly alongside piloted fighter jets will accelerate in 2024, as the service ramps up its experimentation with autonomous flight. These drones, which the Air Force calls collaborative combat aircraft, are intended to fly alongside F-35s and the future Next Generation Air Dominance platform.

Six More Ukrainian Pilots Now Training on F-16s in Denmark, More on Their Way

Defense One

Six Ukrainian pilots are learning to fly F-16s in Denmark, the third cohort to be trained on the fighter jet since July, when the U.S. decided to allow European allies to export the plane to Ukraine. The pilots first traveled to the United Kingdom to hone their English skills, according to a U.K. Defense Ministry press release.

Pentagon Agencies Team Up in Upcoming Launch of Hypersonic Tracking Satellites


The Missile Defense Agency confirmed that a national security space mission that had been projected to launch in December 2023 is being delayed until the second quarter of 2024 due to technical issues with one of the spacecraft. MDA’s national security mission, designated USSF-124, includes six satellites designed to track hypersonic missiles. Four of the satellites are missile-tracking sensors made by L3Harris for the Space Development Agency’s Tracking Layer constellation. The other two satellites—one made by L3Harris and the other by Northrop Grumman—are part of MDA’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) program.

Chinese Spy Agency Rising to Challenge the CIA

The New York Times

The Ministry of State Security, China’s main intelligence agency ... has built itself up through wider recruitment, including of American citizens. The agency has also sharpened itself through better training, a bigger budget, and the use of advanced technologies to try to fulfill the goal of Xi Jinping, China’s leader, for the nation to rival the United States as the world’s pre-eminent economic and military power.

EVENT: A Celebration of Character & Courage: Vietnam War 50th


Join the Air & Space Forces Association and 40 supporting organizations at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, at 4 p.m. for a special commemoration of the service, courage, and legacy of Vietnam War Veterans and Gold Star Families, and a renewal of American commitment to account for those heroes who remain missing 50 years after the war’s end.

Pentagon Announces Overhaul in How the Military Will Investigate Serious Crimes

Task & Purpose

A major overhaul in how the military investigates and prosecutes sexual assaults and other serious crimes launches today as the Pentagon shifts decision-making from unit commanders to independent prosecutors to determine if an accusation should go to court martial. Starting Dec. 28, cases of military members accused of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse and murder—regardless of where they occur—will be overseen by an independent office staffed by specially trained lawyers the Pentagon is calling “special trial counsels.”

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Pratt & Whitney Is Aiming for NGAP on Top of F-35 ECU

Inside Defense

Pratt & Whitney doesn't plan on giving up on its next-generation propulsion efforts after winning the Engine Core Upgrade contract to re-engine the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet, Jill Albertelli, president of military engines, told Inside Defense.

One More Thing

Race into 2024 with a New Military Marathon Challenge

Air Force Times

Runners take your mark, get set, and go! Starting Jan. 2, interested racers may register their intent to participate in the new Armed Forces Series Challenge, an undertaking that involves completing five service-led races: the Coast Guard Marathon, the Air Force Marathon, the Army Ten-Miler, the Marine Corps Marathon, and the Space Force T-Minus 10-Miler.