NDAA Brings Back National Drone Registration
The final version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act would restore a federal registry for unmanned aerial systems aimed at securing airspace as civilian users of the small UAS proliferate across the nation. The Federal Aviation Administration registry was vacated by a federal judge in May. The NDAA would also authorize collaboration between the FAA and the Department of Defense on technologies that promise to enable safe domestic operations for larger remotely piloted aircraft, like the Air Force’s MQ-9. Read the full story by Wilson Brissett.
B-1s, Three Navy Carriers Demonstrate Show of Force in Pacific
Two B-1 bombers operating from Andersen AFB, Guam, participated in a massive show of force over the Western Pacific alongside three Navy carriers on Nov. 11. The joint exercise was the first time in a decade three US carriers have sailed together. The B-1s were accompanied by Navy F/A-18s and conducted a flyover of the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz, and USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike groups. “Our ability to integrate with our joint partners is critical to ensuring continued security and stability in the region,” said Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, in a press release. “Together we present an extraordinary military force. We are grateful for this unique opportunity to enhance our interoperability across platforms and services while also demonstrating our commitment to our allies, partners and friends throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific.” The bombers are deployed from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., as part of the Air Force’s continuous bomber presence in the Pacific area of responsibility.
Special Forces Ambush Investigation Visits Nigerien Village
A joint US Africa Command and Nigerien military investigation team visited the village of Tongo Tongo, Niger, on Sunday to continue piecing together what happened on Oct. 4 when four US Special Forces members were ambushed and killed. The team interviewed villagers, examined areas of interest related to the attack, and retraced the events surrounding the ambush, according to an AFRICOM press release. AFRICOM’s Chief of Staff, Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, is leading the investigation, which the Department of Defense has said will be completed by January 2018. The body of one of the four deceased soldiers, Sgt. La David Johnson, “was found with his arms tied and a gaping wound at the back of his head,” suggesting he may have been executed, according to two residents of Tongo Tongo, the Washington Post reported on Nov. 10. While the investigation has not confirmed this report, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said on Oct. 19 one of the soldier’s bodies was recovered days later from local nationals who contacted US forces. —Wilson Brissett
US Kills Al Shabaab Militants in Somalia Airstrikes
US forces supporting the government of Somalia conducted airstrikes there last week. The strikes targeted leaders of the militant group al Shabaab. The Nov. 9 strike was in the Bay region, about 100 miles west of the capital, Mogadishu, and it killed “several militants,” according to a press release from US Africa Command. On Nov. 11, US forces struck al Shabaab militants near Gaduud, about 250 miles southwest of Mogadishu, “killing one enemy combatant,” according to a second AFRICOM release. The second strike was conducted under “collective self-defense authorities,” as US forces had “observed the al Shabaab combatant participating in attacks on a US and Somali convoy,” prior to the US strike. These were the third and fourth US airstrikes in Somalia announced by AFRICOM in November. —Wilson Brissett
SMC Awards Contracts for Weather Follow-On and Pathfinder SATCOM
The Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center recently awarded contracts for two satellites. One is for a microwave satellite (WSF-M) in the Weather System Follow-on series, which will replace the aging Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. DMSP was first deployed in 1962 and tracks weather for the Department of Defense, including hurricanes and typhoons, in remote areas. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation of Boulder, Colo., received a $460 million system design and risk reduction contract for WSF-M. SMC said the contract was “a competitive acquisition” with “two offers received.” SMC also awarded a $19 million contract to Artel, LLC, of Herndon, Va., for the Pathfinder 2 program, which will take advantage of existing commercial technologies to “demonstrate innovative and resilient wideband alternatives” for satellite communications. Specifically, PF #2 will “acquire at least one pre-launch transponder” for use over the continental US. —Wilson Brissett
First Class of USAF Civilians Graduates from Leadership Course
Twenty-three Air Force civilians recently graduated from the service’s first leadership course dedicated to training civilian supervisors of Active Duty airmen. The program is an accelerated, five-day version of the Airman Leadership School conducted at Keesler AFB, Miss., and is designed to educate civilians on practical problems in squadron leadership. The full ALS program takes 24 academic days to complete, and Keesler was reluctant to release more than two of its civilian workers for that many days. As such, only 14 civilians per year were able to attend ALS. With this pioneering effort, Keesler is hoping to demonstrate a professional education feature that can become part of the Air University curriculum. “Our civilians are an integral component of our Air Force team and their supervision of our Active Duty airmen directly leads to mission success or failure,” said MSgt. David Boydston, ALS commandant, in a press release. “Just as we develop enlisted leaders through rigorous professional military education, our civilians deserve the same opportunity to fine-tune their supervisory skills, consider leadership alternatives, and network with leaders throughout the installation.”
—A former USAF judge advocate general said “it’s almost inevitable the Air Force will be sued” because of its failure to report the Texas church shooter’s criminal activity, which allowed him to legally purchase a gun. Experts say the potentially liability could be in the millions. “What is being shot while you’re in church, watching your baby be killed—what’s it worth?” asked the Air Force’s former top prosecutor Don Christensen: Stars and Stripes.
—Eleven F-16s and about 150 personnel from Eielson AFB, Alaska, have temporarily been assigned to Nellis AFB, Nev., in support of the F-16 weapons instructor course at the US Air Force Weapons School. The aircraft and airmen will be at Nellis for six months: PACAF release.
—Naval Air Systems Command has awarded Lockheed Martin a $34.6 million contract for “technology maturation and risk reduction pre-engineering, manufacturing, and developing activities for dual-capability F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft and small-diameter bomb II in support of the Marine Corps and Air Force.” Work is slated for completion in July 2018 and will be conducted at Forth Worth, Texas: DOD Contract announcement.