Air Force Magazine

Daily Report
Friday, October 23, 2015

Obama Vetoes NDAA
—JENNIFER HLAD

President Obama vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act late Thursday afternoon, a move Republican members of Congress derided as a partisan political game that puts US troops at risk. Obama said in a veto ceremony at the White House that while the bill “does a number of good things,” it “falls woefully short in key areas,” namely by keeping the sequester in place and using budget “gimmicks,” preventing a “wide range of reforms that are necessary for us to get our military modernized.” The legislation also blocks Obama’s ability to close Guantanamo. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a press conference shortly before the veto that in his more than 25 years in the Senate, he has never seen anything as “misguided, cynical, and downright dangerous” as vetoing an NDAA “for reasons that have nothing to do with defense.” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a pilot in the Air National Guard, said if he was deployed right now and heard that the President was vetoing the defense bill, he would be “deflated and disheartened.” In a written statement, the highest-ranking member of the SASC, Sen. Jack Reed, said troops “deserve a budget that matches their courage and sacrifice,” and urged Congress to drop “the [overseas contingency operations] fund charade” and get back “to honest budgeting.”

 

US Service Member Killed Freeing Iraqi Hostages
—BRIAN EVERSTINE

One US service member died during a rescue operation early Oct. 22 in Hawijah, Iraq, that freed 70 captives held by ISIS, including more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. Defense Secretary Ash Carter approved the operation, which came at the request of the Kurdistan Regional Government, even though there were no American hostages and the US military did not know specifically who was being held at the compound. The US service member, whose name and service affiliation had not yet been released as of Thursday, was shot while trying to rescue the captives and later died. Four Peshmerga fighters also were injured, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said on Thursday. US intelligence showed that hostages had recently been executed, and those still being held captive were at risk of a mass execution “within hours,” said Cook. “We acted, and thanks to the actions of not only Iraqi forces involved here but the US forces here, lives were saved.” Five ISIS fighters were captured in the operation and the Kurdistan government reported more than 20 ISIS fighters were killed. Cook said the operation is consistent with the United States’ train, advise, and assist mission in Iraq. Peshmerga forces took the lead in the assault on the compound while US forces assisted them, Cook said.

Whiteman, Malmstrom Claim Global Strike Challenge Top Prizes
—ELISE STEINBERGER

Air Force Global Strike Command named the top bomber and ICBM wings during a ceremony marking the conclusion of the annual Global Strike Challenge at Barksdale AFB, La. The 509th Bomb Wing from Whiteman AFB, Mo., and the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing took home the Fairchild Trophy for best bomb wing for the fourth time since the competition began in 2010. The 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., claimed the Blanchard Trophy for the best ICBM wing for the first time as part of the Global Strike Challenge. The wing last won the trophy in 2008 during Air Force Space Command’s Guardian Challenge, a wing spokeswoman told Air Force Magazine. The award demonstrates how far the wing has come since last year’s cheating scandal. “It’s a trend, and we’re trending in the right direction,” Malmstrom Vice Commander Col. Jay Folds told the Great Falls Tribune. Although Folds acknowledged there is still work to do, he said morale has greatly improved. “This is our Top Gun. These airmen are the best of the best. We just delivered on that, we just proved that to the world,” reported the paper. Airmen from AFGSC’s nine wings participated in the 2015 challenge along with units from Air Combat Command, Air Force Reserve Command, and the Air National Guard, states a release.

  

KC-46 Development Aircraft Visits Edwards
—ARIE CHURCH

The KC-46A program’s first test aircraft arrived at Edwards AFB, Calif., Oct. 15, for two weeks of specialized trials, officials announced. The provisioned 767-2C, EMD-1, will undertake ground-effect characterization and fatigue testing in the fuel-receiver role. “For ground effects, Edwards … provides calm morning weather and long runways, including the lake beds, both are requirements to take the data,” Capt. Dylan Neidorff, KC-46 test operations engineer, said in a release. “For fuel on-load fatigue, Edwards has a top notch special instrumentation section [that] provides modifications to legacy tanker aircraft to support data collection on the 767-2C,” he added. Ground effect flights will aid in accurately replicating the KC-46’s characteristics in the flight simulator. For fueling checks, the aircraft’s durability will be put to the test receiving from both the KC-10 and KC-135. The first phase of developmental testing is largely conducted from Boeing’s production facilities in Washington, but will move to Edwards in 2016. The fully equipped KC-46A tanker flew for the first time in September, and extended its boom for the first time in flight earlier this month.

Predicting, Depicting Effects of Cyber Weapons
—BRIAN EVERSTINE

To understand the needs in future combat, the Air Force can’t go it alone, said Maj. Gen. VeraLinn Jamieson, Air Combat Command’s intelligence director. There is a coming avalanche of big data, with new fifth generation aircraft collecting intel, along with the development of new space assets, and a better understanding of cyber war. “Not everyone understands the absolute crush of data that is heading our way with the new system of systems,” Jamieson said during a Thursday Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. The Air Force needs help from industry and academia to understand the use of the combat cloud and open architecture systems, advances in electro-magnetic spectrum, and how to interoperate with coalition partners. “We have learned and matured in our thought and in our experience in fighting for the past 15 years. We’ve got to share this and we’ve got to have an open dialogue,” she said. ACC has started working with academia to develop a mathematical algorithm “to predict and depict the effects of cyber weapons.” RAND Corp also has completed a one-year study evaluating six cases, four of traditional cyber attacks and two of electronic warfare attacks. “We believe we have the start of an algorithm that will actually be able to look at being able to predict the effects of cyber capabilities,” Jamieson said. The ability to evolve will be integral. By 2030, competitors will have technological advances beyond the capabilities of the US, but the US military will not lose its technological edge because of its ability to “creatively com e up with a way to out think,” she added.

ACC Intel Chief: New Tactics Needed
—BRIAN EVERSTINE

The Air Force’s current tactics, techniques, and procedures for analyzing and acting on intelligence will not keep pace with a coming onslaught of big data, and the service needs to begin working on ways to operate with allies to establish future tactics, said Maj. Gen. VeraLinn Jamieson, Air Combat Command’s director of intelligence, during a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event on Thursday. Operations in Syria are an opportunity to test and execute a new generation of tactics, techniques, and procedures based on evolving ways to collect intelligence, through both manned and unmanned aircraft, as well as methods in space and cyberspace, which can then be used to “finish” targets on a battlefield, said Jamieson. In future operations, the mission will be to find, fix, and finish a target. A mission will be the desired effect, instead of a current mission focused on an individual means to collect information or the role of an aircraft. During the event, Jamieson presented a Mitchell Forum paper, called An ISR Perspective on Fusion Warfare, outlining how to use intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance as one part of a “fusion” of systems to help make decisions in future combat.

Military Always Under Attack
—JENNIFER HLAD

The military must change the culture so that every soldier, sailor, airman, marine, and civilian recognizes that “they’re under attack all the time,” Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of US Strategic Command, told defense reporters Thursday in Washington, D.C. While cyber command is still building its workforce, it also is important for people to recognize that “everyone is a cyber warrior,” Haney said. He also spoke of the importance of a long-range cruise missile, noting that the current Air-Launched Cruise Missile will be “decades past its expected lifetime” when a long-range strategic option comes aboard. “We must have a multi-pronged approach,” so that any adversary knows that escalating a conflict would be very costly, Haney said. A nuclear triad approach is important now and will continue to be in the future, he said, particularly in light of modernization and developments in countries like Russia and China. “We need this capability,” Haney said. (See also Lot 13 JASSM Contract Awarded and Lockheed Expands Facility for JASSM, Other Cruise Missiles.)

Building Viper Brothers
—ARIE CHURCH

The Romanian air force is preparing to receive its first F-16s next year by training with Alabama Air National Guard F-16 pilots and maintainers deployed to Romania for Exercise Dacian Viper this month. “This is the multi-role fighter that the United States military flies and knows best,” US ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm said during the exercise’s opening ceremony at Campia Turzii AB, Romania, Oct. 16. “We plan to teach you everything we know about this fighting platform so that when we deploy together … there is little to no difference between our capabilities,” he added. Romania purchased 12 surplus Block 25 mid-life upgraded F-16A/Bs from the US and Portugal in 2013, and announced its intent to acquire 12 additional aircraft earlier this year,Romania Insider reported. Six aircraft have already been refurbished, allowing Romanian aircrew to begin training in Portugal before the first jets are delivered in 2016. The Romanian air force is upgrading Fetesti Air Base in southeastern Romania to host the jets, which will replace the Mig-21. Alabama is paired with Romania through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, and the 187th FW has been consistently involved in helping the Romanian air force stand up its F-16 capability. Dacian Viper runs through Oct. 30.

   

Russian Roulette in Syria
John A. Tirpak

Russia’s air campaign in Syria has dramatically changed the complexion of the civil war there, boosting the chances that Syrian President Bashar al Assad will be able to cling to power while weakening anti-regime forces, including those backed by the US. Russia says its air campaign is targeted against the so-called Islamic State, but the actual areas struck are those where other rebels are operating, including the US-supported Free Syrian Army. Assad has traveled to Moscow to thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for the intervention and “help.” Russia also has taken the opportunity to show off its technological prowess with a volley of cruise missiles, clearly meant to send a message to the West that Russia is a true peer of the US and its allies. With R ussian and US-led coalition aircraft operating in close proximity, it’s been necessary to reach an aerial deconfliction agreement between the two countries. How long Russia’s involvement will last is anyone’s guess, but the proximity of coalition and Russian combat aircraft raise the danger that either side could “miscalculate” and strike the other’s forces. Russia’s intervention has vastly increased the complexity of the already intensively complicated four-year-old conflict, which China has now denounced as a “proxy war” between superpowers lapsing back into a “Cold War mindset.” (Read the full story, which will be published in the December issue of Air Force Magazine.)

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Sequester

It’s not uncommon in conversations around the detachment and with other cadets that the word, “sequester” presents itself. But what exactly does the word entail? Most know that it involves the federal budget, and it’s not hard to guess by the context that it involves cuts to it, but few know why or the real nature of the cuts. The sequester, as its colloquially come to be known, is a set of automatic spending cuts to the US federal budget put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. As designed, the cuts are projected to trim a total $1.2 Trillion from federal spending, spread evenly between 2013 and 2021, with half coming from defense spending and half from discretionary domestic spending.  The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that defense spending will rise at a gradual rate of 2.1% through 2023, but fall from a share of 4.3% of US GDP to 2.8% by 2023. As a result of these projections, the Air Force produced a plan in 2012 to cut 7,400 guard and reserve positions as well as 4,200 active-duty slots by 2017. However, this quickly become politically unpopular and was changed to slash 6,100 active duty airmen, while cutting 1,400 guardsmen and 1,900 reservists. Given the winding down of conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as uncertainty in the projected defense budget in the coming years, the Air Force will have to continue to be flexible in its response to these changing circumstance.

– C/3C Cotterill