F-35Bs Join Show of Force Response to North Korean Launch

Four US Marine Corps F-35Bs joined two B-1B bombers, two Japanese F-15Js, and four Republic of Korea F-15Ks Wednesday in a show of force mission conducted “in direct response” to North Korea’s Aug. 28 launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile over northern Japan. US Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, who also completed an unscheduled visit to the Japanese ministry of defense, said the exercise demonstrates “our solidarity with our allies” and shows that “our forward-deployed force will be the first to the fight.” Read the full report by Wilson Brissett.

McCain, Reed Ask Mattis for Statement on CR Impact

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis Tuesday warning him that a continuing resolution to fund the federal government at the end of September is likely. The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee asked Mattis to provide “an in-depth list of impacts on the military” of three- and six-month continuing resolutions. “Absent a budget agreement,” the Department of Defense will be limited to Budget Control Act spending levels, which “will result in billions of dollars in cuts to the defense budget” at a time when the US military is already experiencing “diminished readiness, strained modernization, and increasing operations,” according to the letter. McCain and Reed asked for a response from Mattis by Sept. 8. “Continuing resolutions have significant negative impacts on our military,” McCain said in a press release. “If this is the path Congress decides to take, we must know the consequences we are choosing for our men and women in uniform.” —Wilson Brissett

Iraqi Security Forces Liberate Tal Afar

The Iraqi government announced Thursday the liberation of Tal Afar from ISIS control. Iraqi Security Forces produced “a stunningly swift and decisive victory,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, told reporters during a press briefing. The town fell quickly in part because it “was largely isolated” for about eight months leading up to the attack, and the battlefield was prepared by “a lot of shaping fires” and “precision strikes on leaders,” Townsend said. When the assault began, 10,000 ISF forces “attacked with a great deal of power on five axes of attack” and killed or captured more than 1,000 ISIS fighters. Townsend said some ISIS fighters from Tal Afar are still “hiding in the rough country to the north,” but “not in large numbers.” The victory moved US and coalition forces one step closer to what Townsend said would be “the final stand of ISIS” in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. That battle will unfold over 250 km, or 155 miles, of territory, Townsend said, and will require delicate deconfliction of a combat zone that will include Russian forces, Iran-backed militias, and Syrian regime personnel in addition to US and coalition forces.

Spotlight: MSgt. Johann Ko

MSgt. Johann Ko, an MQ-9 evaluator sensor operator with the 78th Attack Squadron at Creech AFB, Nev., is one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2017. Ko flew 952 combat hours supporting National Command Authority objectives that enabled 19 engagements and killed 47 insurgents. He led an 11-person flight and authored wing-, group-, and squadron-level awards packages to secure awards for 11 airmen. As an MQ-9 instructor and evaluator, Ko executed 56 upgrade events, taught over 85 flight hours, and certified 11 members on moving target attack. Additionally, Ko led 28 Total Force integrated aircrew members as section chief. His team eliminated two Tier 1 high-value targets and was awarded back-to-back 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Mission Crew of the Quarter awards. Ko graduated from the NCO Academy as a distinguished graduate. Air Force Magazine is shining the spotlight on each OAY in the days leading up to AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference, which starts Sept. 18 in National Harbor, Md.

US Commanders Feeling Their Freedom Under Trump

The top general in Iraq and Syria said Thursday that US commanders have more freedom to maneuver under President Donald Trump, though he acknowledged that both the Obama and Trump administrations were equally committed to defeating ISIS on the battlefield. “The current administration has empowered the chain of command to make more decision on their own,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told reporters at an Operation Inherent Resolve update. “We don’t get 20 questions with every action that happens on the battlefield,” Townsend said, and “a key result of that is that we don’t get second-guessed a lot.” Instead of “always calling back to higher headquarters for permission” to take action, commanders are “freed to act” under Trump. “Every commander that I know of appreciates being given the authority and responsibility and then the backing and trust,” Townsend said.

US Investigating Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan Strikes

The US is investigating a series of airstrikes Wednesday in the Pul-e ‘Alam District of Logar Province, Afghanistan, because of “potential civilian casualties,” according to a US-Forces Afghanistan press release. The strikes were carried out in support of joint US-Afghan operations in the area, a spokesman for the provincial government told the New York Times. The spokesman also said at least 11 civilians had been killed and 16 wounded in the strikes, which also killed two Taliban commanders. “United States Forces-Afghanistan takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously,” USF-A said, adding that they are “working with our Afghan partners to determine the facts surrounding this incident.” A United Nations report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan released in July found that 1,662 civilians had died in the conflict between January and June of 2017, a two percent increase from the same period in 2016. The same report found that the number of civilians injured decreased by one percent. —Wilson Brissett


—USAF Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said North Korea does not yet have the capability to “actually target and strike the United States with a nuclear weapon,” thought it does have the “capability to build a missile that can range” that distance: Bloomberg.

—The Air Force is planning to launch the fifth mission of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle on Sept. 7: USAF release.

—The Air Force has extended the advance notice it gives squadron commanders on enlisted personnel promotions one week. The change first took effect in July and comes as part of the service’s effort to revitalize the squadron: AFPC release.

—Abu Amjad, a top commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, was killed during the ongoing battle for Raqqa on Tuesday:? US Special Envoy tweet.