Predators, Reapers Kept Persistent Watch as ISIS Lost Raqqa

USAF MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers flew more than 44,000 hours providing over watch and close air support as US-backed fighters liberated the city of Raqqa, Syria, from ISIS earlier this year. The remotely piloted aircraft accounted for one fifth of the coalition’s airstrikes against ISIS targets in the city. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Pentagon IG Finds One Quarter of Military Criminal Fingerprints Not Reported to FBI

The military failed to submit the fingerprints of convicted military service members to the FBI, as required by law, about one quarter of the time, according to a new report by the Pentagon’s inspector general. The review focused on the 2,502 criminal convictions of service members that should have been submitted to the FBI between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2016, and found that the fingerprints of troops in 601 of those cases were not submitted. The Air Force fared better than other services, with 14 percent of the fingerprints not submitted, compared to 28 percent in the Army, 29 percent in the Navy, and 29 percent in the US Marine Corps. Air Force security forces failed to submit 60 percent of fingerprint cards and final disposition reports to the FBI, while the Air Force Office of Special Investigations failed to report two percent. The review began in February 2017, before Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ordered an in-depth review of military criminal process following the October mass shooting at a Texas church by a former airman who had been convicted in a general court martial and given a bad conduct discharge. In the report, the Defense Department Inspector General recommends the services going forward promptly submit all fingerprints that were not previously submitted, along with reviewing their databases, command oversight, and other reporting programs. Read the full report. —Brian Everstine

Eglin Activates New Cyber Test Group

Eglin AFB, Fla., on Monday stood up its first cyberspace test group focused on evaluating the Air Force’s cyber capabilities. The creation of the 96th Cyberspace Test Group, which falls under the 96th Test Wing at Eglin, will create up to 50 new positions at the Florida base, with three subordinate squadrons, along with a business and logistics division. “Our cyberspace test mission has grown rapidly and its focus is so different from other test squadrons,” Maj. Gen. David Harris, commander of the Air Force Test Center, said in a press release initially announcing the creation of the group. “It has become increasingly apparent our cyberspace test assets need their own command structure to maximize their effectiveness and efficiency.” The unit, formed from the existing 46th Test Squadron, will test and validate Air Force systems and networks, including those that focus on command and control; communications; computers; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; cybersecurity operations; and electronic warfare.” —Brian Everstine

America’s Unique Position in Space Likely Ending, and It Should Start Acting Like It

Speaking at the Capitol Tuesday, space analysts James Vedda from the Aerospace Corporation and George Washington University’s Peter Hays presented policy recommendations they’d distilled from interviews with more than 30 experts across the space field, comprising government, academia, industry, military, NGOs, and other sectors. Their findings are based on concerns arising in part by what the researchers call the “democratization of space,” or the ever-increasing presence of non-US actors in the domain, including small satellites “being deployed on orbit on behalf of universities, high schools, and even middle schools.” (Read “Major Policy Issues in Evolving Global Space Operations,” the full report published by AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.) Missions other than nuclear command and control and its ilk should join a list of opportunities to partner with industry on space management, or even to hand off entirely to the private sector, the two surmised, adding a push to end an American philosophy of domination in space and accept a more and transparent one. Read the full story from Gideon Grudo.

USAF-Funded Oxford Research Uses Falcons to Guide Drone Development

The tactics used by birds of prey to hunt can be used in the development of small, unmanned aerial systems to hunt other drones, Oxford University reported in a study originally funded by the US Air Force Research Laboratory. The study, released Monday, finds that peregrines’ aerial hunting follows geometric rules, similar to visually guided missiles, to close in on prey. Using cameras mounted on falcons and miniature GPS receivers, researchers found that the terminal attack trajectories use proportional navigation, and the birds rely on information about the attacker’s line of sight to target instead of needing any information on a target’s speed or distance, according to an Oxford press release. “Our GPS tracks and on-board videos show how peregrine falcons intercept moving targets that don’t want to be caught,” said Graham Taylor, a professor in Oxford University’s Department of Zoology. “Remarkably, it turns out they do this in a similar way to most guided missiles. Our next steps is to apply this research to designing a new kind of visually guided drone, which will be able to remove rogue drones safely from the vicinity of airports, prisons, and other no-fly zones.”—Brian Everstine


—An airman assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing was found dead inside a residence at Altus AFB, Okla., on Sunday. The death is under investigation and the Air Force has not yet released the name of the airman:, via the Associated Press.

—An F-22 Raptor participating in exercise Vigilant Ace had to be towed to a hangar shortly after touching down Monday morning at a South Korean base in Gwangju, but US Air Force officials said, “Maintenance looked at the jet and nothing was wrong.” This is the first time F-22s have participated in the exercise: Stars and Stripes.

—As the US and South Korea kicked off exercise Vigilant Ace on the Korean Peninsula, the Chinese air force staged its own drills with various reconnaissance planes, fighter jets, AWACS, and surface-to-air missile units over the Yellow and East seas near the peninsula: South China Morning Post.

—A coalition airstrike killed the Taliban’s “red unit” commander, one of his deputy commanders, and three other insurgents in Helmand province on Dec. 1. The insurgents had planned “numerous suicide bombings, IED attacks, and coordinated assaults against civilians, Afghan, and coalition forces:” DOD release.

—Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and senior leaders of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense met in Baghdad on Tuesday to discuss how to capitalize on recent gains and ultimately defeat ISIS: DOD release.

—The 16th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon AFB, N.M., recently acquired a C-130H to be used for aircrew training, freeing up the squadron’s combat-coded aircraft for operational missions: Cannon release.

—An F-35A lost a side panel during a training flight off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, on Nov. 30. The one pound panel, about 24 inches long, is likely “lost over the ocean,” and the jet landed without incident: Stars and Stripes