SOCOM Plans Fiscal 2022 Demonstration of High-Energy Laser on AC-130J

US Special Operations Command is planning an operational flight demonstration of a high-energy laser on an AC-130J at the end of Fiscal 2022, a senior SOCOM official told Air Force Magazine this week. Air Force Special Operations Command chief Lt. Gen. Brad Webb said in February he was “cautiously optimistic” the Air Force would get the funding to go ahead with plans to put lasers on gunships. Air Force Col. Melissa Johnson, program executive officer of SOCOM fixed wing aircraft, said in an emailed statement the command is in the process of purchasing subsystems. “In addition to subsystem component procurement, assembly, and ground test, development of structure to isolate aircraft vibrations and flight test of an optical window on AC-130J will be accomplished,” she said. The planned demonstration, she added, is aimed at informing future requirements—SOCOM’s use of a particular airframe for this demonstration “does not mean that will be the final answer for full-up operations,” she added. —Steve Hirsch

Air National Guard Pilot Lt. Col. Daniel Flannigan Wins Kolligian Trophy

Lt. Col. Daniel Finnegan, the Vermont Air National Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing plans officer, on Monday was awarded the Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy by Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein for his skill in dealing with a dramatic in-flight emergency during an F-16 test flight in Kuwait last year. Two minutes after takeoff, a major electrical fire melted the aircraft’s circuits and cut connections to the power generator, killing displays and navigation instruments. “I remember looking out the left side, seeing what I could see for visual references, which was nothing, and then hearing the emergency power unit fire,” Finnegan said. “I looked around and the entire cockpit was blacked out.” Unable to determine how much power he had left, where he was, his speed, or whether his landing gear was down, he eventually found a road to guide him back. He regained some radio communication, and performed emergency landing gear procedures, but discovered his speed brakes on the rear and leading-edge flaps weren’t working. He conducted a heavy-weight landing on “feel” alone, avoiding further damage to the aircraft. —Steve Hirsch

NATO Releases First Joint Airpower Strategy

NATO on Tuesday unveiled its first Joint Airpower Strategy, saying the speed and flexibility provided by airpower are key to the alliance’s ability to accomplish its three core tasks—collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security. However, a rapidly changing security environment, coupled with advances in technology, mean the Alliance can no longer assume air superiority. “The development, proliferation, and integration of adversary ballistic and cruise missiles, advanced layered air defense, cyber, and electronic warfare systems will change the dynamics of alliance air operations, which have more recently been conducted in permissive conditions,” states the strategy. Future development should look to address potential vulnerabilities with cyber and space-based capabilities, and the Alliance must be able to conduct multi-domain command and control. In the future, NATO must take advantage of live, virtual, and constructive technology to create a realistic training environment that can rapidly adapt if necessary. “As we take steps to increase the readiness of armed forces across the Alliance, the new strategy will help ensure that allied air forces remain world class, flexible, and ready for any possible contingencies,” said NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu in a release. This is the first strategy released by NATO since the maritime strategy was unveiled in 2011. —Amy McCullough

Senate Looks to Address Security Clearance Backlog

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday took steps to modernize the security clearance process and tackle the growing backlog of background investigations. The measure, which was introduced by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), was attached to the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which the committee unanimously approved, according to a release from Warner’s office. The Government Accountability Office previously put the government’s personnel security clearance process on its high-risk list, citing a need for reform. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has said the service has as many as 79,000 airmen and civilians waiting for their security clearance, a significant increase from the backlog of 48,000 in 2016. She said USAF is working with the Office of Personnel Management, and has considered the possibility of using Skype video chats for interviews, or setting up regional “hubs” for interviews that need to be held in person. “It has long been clear that the 70-year-old process that grants clearances to government personnel and contractors is in desperate need of reform,” said Warner. “I am pleased this bill provides a fix for this broken process and begins to ease the growing security clearance backlog that undermines the government’s ability to deploy the right people to address some of our greatest national security challenges.” —Amy McCullough

Deputy Resolute Support Air Commander Lauds Afghan Air Force Growth

The deputy air commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission said Wednesday the Afghan air force is increasing both its abilities and proficiency in its fight against the Taliban. Speaking to Pentagon reporters by teleconference from Kabul, Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch, who is also the vice commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force Afghanistan, said the Afghans continue adding new capabilities, from dropping laser-guided bombs to combat air drops to integrating UH-60 helicopters into their operations. Before the recent cease fire, Bunch said the US-led air campaign had destroyed 154 Taliban targets, including narcotics production, storage and trafficking locations, weapons and explosive caches, headquarters, and staging areas. The Afghan Air Force also conducted 19 strikes using its A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft. “This is an air force that gets better every day,” he said. —Steve Hirsch


—The Defense Department is proceeding with plans to improve missile defense systems in South Korea aimed at countering a North Korean attack, even though US-South Korean exercises are on hold, Air Force Lt, Gen. Sam Greaves, the head of the US Missile Defense Agency, said in an interview: Bloomberg.

—Air force leaders from 19 countries met in Panama City June 18-22 for the 58th Conference of American Air Chiefs to build partnerships, discuss their collective mission, and plan exercises: Air Combat Command release.

—Three USAF Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy instructors held the first Senior NCO mobile education course at Boboc AB, Romania, a two-week version of the five-week course held at Maxwell AFB, Ala.: USAFE release.

—NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said he supports the creation of a Space Force as a sixth military service, citing numerous threats to US satellites and the increasingly congested and contested space environment: The Hill.