Mattis Bids Farewell to Troops

Hours before Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was to take the helm as the US military’s top leader, outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged military members to remain focused on the mission, saying the Department of Defense remains in good hands. “I am confident that each of you remains undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life,” wrote Mattis in a farewell address to troops on Dec. 31. “Our department has proven to be at its best when times are most difficult. So keep the faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes.” Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

SERE Specialists Working to Expand Their Ranks, Improve Recruitment

Survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialists—one of the Air Force’s smallest and critically undermanned career fields—are working to expand their ranks and dispel misconceptions about the job. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Ninth Air Force Now a Joint Task Force-Capable Headquarters

Ninth Air Force has reached initial operational capability as a Joint Task Force-capable Headquarters, checking off a major item in the Air Force’s effort to strengthen joint leaders and teams. The final Mission Readiness Exercise, conducted Dec. 10-14, was the culmination of a year’s worth of exercises, which have allowed the Air Force to build and improve its processes. “It’s that broad focus that enabled us to achieve IOC and paves the way to [full operational capability,” said Col. Sean Cosden, J3 Operations Directorate director, in the release. The JTF certification adds “one more arrow to [DOD’s] joint quiver,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Zobrist, Ninth AF commander, in the release. Given the importance air operations have played in military operations over the last two decades, the certification will provide US military leadership more command and control options. The Army has built JTF leadership into its organization, so DOD has tended to look first at the Army to lead past Joint Task Forces, even if the crisis called for an air-intensive campaign. Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein announced in September 2017 at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference that he intended to change that. “We’re getting back into the business of Joint Task Forces,” he said at the time. —Amy McCullough

USAF Forms Working Group to Improve Open Architecture Systems

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, on Dec. 27 awarded eight companies $22.5 million each to form a collaborative working group focused on developing and improving open architecture standards, according to a Defense Department contract announcement. The working group will be made up of BAE Systems, Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc, Goodrich Corp., Harris Corp., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon. The overall goal is to “promote adaptability, flexibility, and expandability; support a variety of missions and domains; simplify integration; reduce technical risk and overall cost of ownership of weapon system programs; enable affordable technology refresh and capability evolution; enable reuse; enable independent development and deployment of system elements; and accommodate a range of cybersecurity approaches,” according to the announcement. Work will primarily be conducted in Nashua, N.H.; St. Louis; Poway, Calif.; Westford, Mass.; Clifton, N.H.; Fort Worth, Texas; and Melbourne, Fla.; and is slated for completion by Dec. 31, 2022. —Amy McCullough



Four Big Questions for the Air Force in 2019

As the Air Force leaves 2018 behind and flies into into a new year, the service may face some big changes to its organization and aircraft inventory. Defense News

Arizona’s Luke Air Force Base Feels Effects of National Pilot Shortage

Luke Air Force Base is feeling the effects of a national pilot shortage, which has left the Air Force without enough pilots, maintenance crew and support staff to fully power U.S. military needs.

Airport: Military Jet Slides Off Runway During Training

Officials say a military jet slid off a runway at a Virginia airport during training exercises, but no injuries have been reported. Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport spokeswoman Jessica Wharton said Friday that the aircraft based at nearby Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton was training at the civilian airport. She said it’s unclear what happened, but weather doesn’t appear to be a factor. Associated Press

Air Force Looks to Use Fleet’s Largest Cargo Plane for Medical Evacuations

The Air Force is moving ahead to certify the cargo hold of its largest plane, the C-5M Super Galaxy, for use in medical evacuations for both casualties of war and victims of natural disasters. Stars and Stripes

Air Force to Accelerate Deployment of Anti-Jam Satellite Communications Equipment

The Air Force is cyber hardening military satellite communications equipment amid worries that foreign hackers could infiltrate U.S. networks. “Adversaries are getting better and more able to penetrate our unclassified or barely protected systems,” said Col. Tim Mckenzie chief of the advanced development division for military satellite communications at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Space News

Air Force Begins to Roll Out Special Cyber Defense Teams

The Air Force is beginning to build specialized cyber teams across the service whose primary mission is to defend local installations and critical mission tasks from cyberattacks. Fifth Domain