Air Force Mulling Future A-10 Retirements
The Air Force is considering retiring three of its nine A-10 squadrons, but lawmakers are already starting to push back on the idea. In testimony to the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee last week, Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force’s senior uniformed acquisition official, said the Air Force is “committed to maintaining a minimum of six A-10 combat squadrons flying and contributing to the fight through 2030.” But additional A-10 force structure is “contingent on future budget levels and force structure requirements,” Bunch said in prepared testimony. While Bunch didn’t explicitly say the remaining three squadrons would be retired, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.)—herself a former A-10 pilot—said Bunch’s statement was the first time the Air Force publicly said it would drop three squadrons, and “I’d really like to know what those planning assumptions are of the six squadrons,” McSally said. The commitment covers at least 171 combat-coded A-10s, of the 283 fleet in total. “The A-10s are now in the DMZ [demilitarized zone], in South Korea, they’re kicking butt against ISIS, they’re deploying with the European Reassurance Initiative,” McSally said. “I was over in Estonia. They’re welcoming them to come back anytime soon with the Russian aggression there. From my view and experience, if we need that capability, until a proven, tested replacement comes along, nine squadrons is the absolute minimum.” —Brian Everstine
F-35s Remain Grounded at Luke
F-35s at Luke AFB, Ariz., remained grounded Monday following a series of hypoxia-like incidents reported by pilots. The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke decided to continue the grounding “to coordinate analysis and communication between pilots, maintainers, medical professionals, and a team of military and industry experts,” wing spokeswoman Maj. Rebecca Heyse said in a statement. The group of experts is analyzing the five hypoxia-like incidents reported by F-35A pilots and options for possible risk mitigation. The grounding, which is limited to Luke, comes as the F-35 prepares for its debut at the Paris International Air Show next week. F-35As from Hill AFB, Utah, will participate in the display.
DOD Identifies Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan Insider Attack
The Pentagon on Monday identified three soldiers killed in a reported insider attack in Eastern Afghanistan on Saturday. Sgt. Eric Houck, 25, of Baltimore; Sgt. William Bays, 29, of Barstow, Calif.; and Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, 22, of Youngsville, N.C.; were killed after being shot in Pela Valley, Nangarhar Province. The soldiers were assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Company D, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky., according to a Pentagon release. The incident is under investigation, though the Taliban has claimed responsibility. The Associated Press reported that the Taliban infiltrated the Afghan army “just to attack foreign forces.” Nangarhar Province, where American forces are fighting ISIS-Khorasan, has been the site of multiple US deaths this year. It is also where the Air Force dropped the GBU-43/B “Mother of All Bombs” against an ISIS tunnel structure. A US convoy, with Afghan personnel, also was struck by a roadside bomb and small arms fire on Monday in the region, US Forces-Afghanistan announced. There were no US casualties in that incident. —Brian Everstine
An F-22A Raptor with the 27th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron rests on the flight line after flying in support of Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, May 3, 2017. Air Force photo by SSgt. Marjorie A. Bowlden.
US, Coalition Aircraft Set New High in Airstrikes against ISIS
US and coalition aircraft in May conducted the highest number of airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as US-backed forces worked to clear the group’s two largest holdouts. Aircraft with the US-led Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve released 4,374 weapons in 5,216 sorties last month with at least one bomb dropped, according to statistics released by Air Forces Central Command. The amount eclipsed the coalition’s second-highest tally, set in March, by about 500 strikes. So far this year, tankers have flown 28,072 refueling sorties and airlift aircraft have flown 3,543 airlift and airdrop sorties. In Afghanistan, combat aircraft conducted 328 airstrikes in May during 431 sorties with at least one bomb dropped.
US Strikes al Shabaab in Somalia
US aircraft on Sunday struck an al Shabaab training camp about 185 miles southwest of Mogadishu, Somalia, as part of the increased campaign by the US against militants inside that country, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement. The operation was conducted “in coordination with … regional partners as a direct response to al-Shabaab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces,” White said. The strike came under increased authorities approved by President Trump in March, which allows the military to conduct “legal action” against al Shabaab in support of partner forces in Somalia. The military said in April these authorities would translate to “additional precision fires” in support of African Union troops. Somalia has been designated an “active area of hostilities.”
US Assisting Philippine Forces to Clear Sieged Town
US special forces and surveillance aircraft are assisting Philippine forces in ousting ISIS-aligned fighters from a town in the south of the country. US forces are providing “technical support” as Philippine military fighters work to clear Marawi City, Reuters reported. The US forces are providing security and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assistance, according to the Pentagon. In addition, a US Navy P-3 Orion was seen flying over the town, Reuters reported. The assistance comes at a time of strained US-Philippine military relations. Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly questioned the need for US assistance and put into question future deployments by US forces inside the Philippines.
—Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, commander of Naval Air Systems Command, told members of the House Armed Services Committee recently the service “has considered using other aircraft, potentially Air Force,” to replace its grounded fleet of T-45 trainer jets: Stars and Stripes
—The Air Force’s Fiscal 2018 budget request includes an 8.7 percent increase in funding for aircraft depot maintenance and contractor logistic support compared to Fiscal 2017 omnibus appropriations: Bloomberg Government
—Sundance Head, the winner of season 11 of NBC’s “The Voice,” will launch his tour of 10 Air Force Bases on June 30 at Beale AFB, Calif.: USAF release