TRANSCOM: Unstable Funding, Maintenance Shortfall Impacting KC-135 Readiness

The Air Force’s aging KC-135 fleet has taken a “dip” in readiness recently as the fleet faces issues of maintenance capability and a lack of parts, all at a time when the KC-46 faces additional delays, the head of US Transportation Command said Tuesday. USAF Gen. Darren McDew told the Senate Armed Services Committee the Stratotanker fleet has a “number of factors” working against their readiness, largely the capability of maintainers and parts, all compounded by a series of continuing resolutions that have forced the Air Force to “make tough decisions on what they can fund and what they can’t fund, when they can fund those things.” The Air Force “understands the nature of the problem,” and McDew said he hopes continued regular funding will help the KC-135 fleet become healthy. The first delivery of the KC-46 Pegasus has been regularly delayed, with the Air Force now expecting it in the fall. McDew said he and senior Air Force leaders are committed to getting a KC-46 delivered when it is “operationally capable.” —Brian Everstine

Thunderbirds Cancel Performances in Wake of Crash

The Air Force Thunderbirds have canceled their next two shows following the April 4 crash that killed pilot Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno. In a Monday statement, Thunderbirds Commander Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh said the team is focusing on taking care of Del Bagno’s family and recovering as a squadron, and will then look at getting back to executing its mission. “His loss comes as a shock to his family, friends, and wingmen,” Walsh said. “We remember Cajun as an airman, a warrior, a talented fighter pilot, and a great friend with more than 3,500 flight hours in over 30 different aircraft. He lived to fly and inspire the next generation.” For now, the team has canceled its performances scheduled for April 14-15 at Lakeland, Fla., and April 21-22 at Columbus AFB, Miss. Further cancellations may occur, according to the statement. There have been many tributes to Del Bagno since the crash, including skywriting by the Thunderbirds near Santa Clarita, Calif., that spelled “Cajun our Hero,” according to video posted by the Santa Clarita Valley Signal. The memorial service will be held Wednesday at 4:44 p.m. (Del Bagno flew the No. 4 Thunderbirds jet) at the Thunderbird hangar at Nellis AFB, Nev. —Brian Everstine

Mattis, Trump Cancel Trips as Response to Syrian Chemical Attack Expected

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and President Trump canceled weekend trips as the US prepares to respond to last weekend’s alleged chemical attack by the Syrian regime. Mattis was scheduled to visit Nevada and San Francisco, while Trump was expected to go to South America but the White House said he would stay to “oversee the American response to Syria,” according to ABC News. Trump said Tuesday he is formulating his response to the Saturday chemical attack that killed dozens in a Damascus suburb. Mattis, when asked directly about the attack on Monday, said he would not rule out attacking the Syrian regime and that the US and its allies would “address the issue” of why chemical weapons are being used. Following the attack, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced it was deploying a team to the site of the attack to “establish facts surrounding these allegations.” The US military quickly responded to a chemical attack last year, launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting the Syrian Air Force base where that attack was launched. —Brian Everstine

USAF Active Duty, Reserve Suicides Increase Slightly in 2017

A total of 85 airmen took their own lives in 2017, including 20 in the fourth quarter, the Defense Department reported on Tuesday. The number of suicides in the active component increased slightly from 61 in 2016 to 62 in 2017, as well as in the Air Force Reserve from 10 in 2016 to 11 in 2017. However, the number of suicides in the Air National Guard saw a slight decrease, dropping from 14 in 2016 to 12 in 2017, according to the department’s latest Quarterly Suicide Report, published by the Defense Suicide prevention Office. Overall in 2017, the US military reported 285 suicides in the active component, compared to 280 in 2016, and 219 in the reserve component (Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve combined), up from 202 in 2016. —Steve Hirsch



—A newly updated B-1B Lancer assigned to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing has returned to the anti-ISIS fight, having recently conducted its first combat mission since 2016 in the US Central Command area of responsibility: AFCENT release.

—Officials say Russia has been jamming US military drones in Syria, which is having an effect on military operations. The jamming began weeks ago after suspected chemical attacks on civilians, according to the officials, who say Russia, fearful of US retaliation, began jamming the GPS systems of drones: NBC News.

—A piece of parachute equipment landed on an off base school near Yokota AB, Japan, spurring an Air Force investigation. The incident comes on the heels of protests by Japanese residents about US military activity, including the arrival of the first five CV-22 Ospreys at Yokota: Stars and Stripes.

—A USAF F-16 demonstration team participated in the Wanaka International Airshow in New Zealand for the first time since the show started in 1988. The Air Force was at the show in 2008 and 2010 with the LC-130 and in 2016 with the C-17: DOD Release.