U.S. Air Force

Air Force says nuclear weapons and stealth bombers remain ready for war, despite COVID-19

U.S. B-2 stealth bombers and nuclear-armed ICBMs are ready to attack and defend in minutes, should America be suddenly catapulted into a massive, great-power war — despite the perils, distractions and challenges of COVID-19, senior Air Force officials said. “Rest assured, we have taken the necessary steps to make sure our bomber and ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] forces are ready to go and can reach any target on the planet at any time,” Gen. Tim Ray, Air Force Global Strike commander, said in an Air Force statement. Crews manning the U.S. nuclear arsenal, for instance, have implemented some measures of distancing and isolation, yet in a manner that preserves their crucial command and control systems, enabling them to instantly respond to attack if needed. U.S. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, which might roughly take a half-hour or less to travel through space to a target, could quickly obliterate any location launching nuclear attacks on the U.S. It is precisely this kind of assured retaliatory destruction which, according to the Pentagon’s strategic nuclear posture, keeps the peace. U.S. ICBMs stand ready in weapons silos in an expansive area in the Western part of the country including Montana and Wyoming. For all of these reasons and more, it goes without saying that the Air Force is pushing to ensure these weapons are ready, under any circumstances. Ray’s comments seem designed to send a clear message to adversaries, suggesting that the COVID-19 crisis does not make the U.S. vulnerable to attack, should rivals seek to take advantage of the current circumstance. Operations involving the Air Force’s nuclear weapons arsenal and bomber fleet continue, Ray explained. Regarding nuclear weapons, this amounts to readiness drills, training and other kinds of measures intended to ensure force readiness. When it comes to the Air Force’s stealth bomber fleet, intended to ensure an undetected first-strike upon enemies should that be needed, forward-positioned assets and exercises are ongoing. As recently as March of this year, the Air Force deployed a task force of B-2 bombers to Portugal in support of U.S. European Command. An Air Force report explained that the forward-positioned bombers, from 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, are conducting theater integration and flying training missions from various installations across the European Continent. European integration, among other things, doubtless refers to exercises intended to interoperate and network U.S. stealth bombers with allied systems and technologies on the continent. While the presence of ICBMs is of course somewhat self-evident, B-2s have a particular and at times complex deterrence-oriented mission set. They can, of course, drop nuclear weapons should they be called upon to do that by commanders, yet at the same time B-2s are engineered with a decided conventional warfare mission. The stealth bombers are intended to elude enemy radar in order to find and destroy enemy air defenses, thus opening up an air corridor for other attack warfare platforms to attack and conduct missions. This mission helps assure adversaries that they are by no means impenetrable to attacks from fighter jets, long-range missions and other weapons of key strategic value. While first emerging decades ago, the B-2 has continuously been modernized by Air Force weapons developers. The stealth platform has been receiving new digital cockpit technology, faster computer processors, improved weapons applications and new sensors able to detect the location of enemy air defenses.

Thunderbirds honor coronavirus responders with Las Vegas flyover for ‘true heroes’

High in the skies over Las Vegas, the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron — also known as the “Thunderbirds” — showed its support on Saturday for those on the frontlines responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The Thunderbirds said the flyover was to show appreciation and support for health care workers, first responders and other essential personnel in Sin City and around the nation working in the battle against COVID-19. “It is an honor to fly for the Americans at the forefront of our nation’s fight against the coronavirus,” Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbirds commander and leader, said in a news release. “They are true heroes and we look forward to demonstrating the support of the 685,000 total force Airmen of the U.S. Air Force for health care workers, first responders and COVID-19 essential personnel in Las Vegas and across the nation.” The flyover on Saturday featured eight F-16 Fighting Falcons, which soared throughout Las Vegas starting at 2:30 p.m. and lasted about 25 minutes. The Thunderbirds’ flight path started at Nellis Air Base and took them through Centennial Hills, Summerlin, Spring Valley, along the Las Vegas Strip, and down to Henderson before returning to Nellis Air Force Base. Images showed the aircraft soaring over the famous Las Vegas Strip and casinos now empty due to the virus outbreak. Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett shared a video on Twitter of an inside look of the planes flying over the Strip. Las Vegas residents were able to enjoy the flyover safely from their home-quarantine. The Thunderbirds had asked that people refrain from traveling to landmarks and gathering in large groups to view the flyover. “While our jets will be flying close together, we want (to) stress that no one should travel or gather to see us fly,” Caldwell said. “We want Las Vegas residents to look up from their homes and enjoy the display of American resolve and pride while keeping front line coronavirus responders in their hearts during this unprecedented time in our nation.” Officials in Clark County, Nevada, said the show in the sky was a “great viewing experience” as the aircraft flew by. “We haven’t had much to enjoy lately, but today the Nellis Air Force Base U.S. Air Force team provided a much-needed lift,” the Clark County communications team said on Facebook.

How great is this?!?  I’m sure the folks in Sin City really appreciated this.  The Thunderbirds are based there at Nellis AFB.  So, this was a real  treat for the locals.   To see videos and pics from yesterdays show, click on the text above.      🙂

Air Force to allow uniformed members to wear turbans, hijabs, beards in new dress code update, officials say

The United States Air Force updated its official dress code policy this month, in observance of religious practices, to allow military personnel to wear turbans or hijabs as a part of the uniform. The Air Force released an update to the “Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel” code on Feb. 7, now permitting airmen to request a waiver to wear religious apparel while in uniform as long as they are “neat and conservative.” The material used for headwear must resemble the color of the assigned uniform. This includes camouflage, and must be worn in a fashion that presents a “professional and well-groomed appearance.” In addition to religious apparel, members also can request permission to have unshorn beards and unshorn hair. If the length of the beard exceeds 2 inches, it must be “rolled an or tied” to meet the new standards. The code has been updated to include hijabs, beards, turban or under-turban/patka, unshorn beards, unshorn hair, and indoor/outdoor head coverings. The Air Force will be able to deny any request if it “furthers a compelling governmental interest.” Special requests to observe religious practices previously have been approved. In 2018 Staff Sgt. Abdul Rahman Gaitan became the first Muslim airmen to receive a beard waiver for religious reasons, according to the Air Force Times. Airman 1st Class Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa became the first active-duty Sikh to be permitted to wear a turban, beard and long hair the following year.

Just crazy…  This is political correctness gone insane.  To the non-military population, this may seem like progress.  However for those of us who have actually served in uniform, this is exactly the kind of thing that undermines the whole point of even having a uniform.  If they make an exception for this reason, then it opens the door for others to say, “well, what about me and what’s important to me?”  And before long, the whole notion of “uniform” ceases to exist.  The whole point of having a uniform, is …well…uniformity; not individuality.  And, we have a 100% volunteer military.  If wearing the uniform runs contrary to your beliefs, then work in an industry or sector that is more in keeping with those beliefs.  The military isn’t for everyone.  Thank God this crap wasn’t happening when I was in…and I suspect it’ll only continue  to get worse.

Air Force preps for massive cyberattacks on large weapons systems

The Air Force is massively revving up efforts to defend stealth fighters, nuclear-armed missiles, air-launched weapons and crucial combat networks from crippling wartime cyber attacks by taking new steps with a special unit put together to find and fix vulnerabilities. The service has now solidified key weapons development procedures for its Cyber Resilience Office for Weapons Systems, or CROWS. The concept for the office, established by Air Force Materiel Command, is grounded upon the realization that more and more weapons systems are increasingly cyber-reliant. “CROWS has completed an acquisition language guidebook to support program offices in development of contracting documents ensuring cyber resiliency is baked into acquisition efforts,” Capt. Hope Cronin, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven. This phenomenon, wherein cybersecurity threats continue to rapidly expand well beyond IT and data systems to reach more platforms and weapons systems, is often discussed in terms of a two-fold trajectory. While advanced computer processing, sophisticated algorithms and better networked weapons and fire control bring unprecedented combat advantages, increased cyber-reliance can also increase risk in some key respects. For instance, successful hacking or cyber intrusions could disrupt vital targeting and guidance systems needed for precision weapons, derail computer enabled aircraft navigation and targeting, or even seek to change the flight path of a drone or ICBM. CROWS is also designed to harvest the best thinking when it comes to anticipating potential enemy cyberattacks. By working to “think like and enemy,” CROWS experts work with weapons developers to find vulnerabilities and areas of potential attack. As part of this, the rationale for the effort is to therefore “bake in” cyber protections early in the acquisition process so as to engineer long-term cyber resilience. “CROWS efforts have been successful in identifying the highest risk cyber vulnerabilities and then working with the program offices to develop mitigation solutions to reduce those risks,” Cronin said. The CROWS has also developed multiple cyber training courses and published a cyber assessment methodology to be used in support of testing processes, Cronin added.

US Air Force picks SpaceX for 2020 satellite launch

Back in 2014, SpaceX decided to sue the US government after the military gave United Launch Alliance (ULA) a sweetheart deal for sending government payloads into space. The reason was simple: a complete lack of competition for 36 launches. The end result was a settlement and SpaceX receiving certification for launches. As CNN reports, SpaceX’s lawsuit was worth the effort as the US Air Force just opted to award SpaceX a contract for the launch of a military satellite in 2020. The only other bidder, ULA, was unsuccessful and isn’t commenting. This counts as SpaceX’s second military contract, but the first that will use a Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket. The Air Force refers to it as an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch service contract. SpaceX has been awarded a “$130 million firm-fixed price contract for launch services to deliver Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-52 satellite to the intended orbit.” It sees the company provide a total launch solution with the launch happening at some point in 2020 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The AFSPC-52 is part of a classified mission, so we have no idea what systems it will be carrying into orbit. However, it will be operated by the Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center, which specializes in, “Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.”

Air Force deploys A-10s to Afghanistan to ramp up Taliban fight

The U.S. Air Force has deployed A-10 Thunderbolt jets to Afghanistan for the first time in more than three years to provide close-air support for American and Afghan troops — the latest sign of escalating military operations and deepening U.S. military involvement by the Trump administration against the Taliban, more than 16 years after the 9/11 attacks. “As we’ve applied increased pressure on the Taliban and their revenue sources with precision airpower, we’ve gained considerable momentum in our effort to force them to reconcile or face defeat,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, head of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, in a statement to Fox News. “As U.S. advisors move closer to the front lines in support of our Afghan partners, this additional airpower will give them the decisive advantage necessary to advance with confidence.” The newly arrived A-10s flew their first combat missions in Afghanistan less than 24 hours after arriving at Kandahar Airfield on Friday, January 19. The jets are from the 303d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. In addition to the A-10s, Air Force Central Command has sent more MQ-9 Reaper drones, and HH-60G helicopters used by Air Force special operations forces for combat search and rescue. The additional jets and helicopters will report to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, located an hour north of Kabul. The Air Force is sending 12 A-10 jets to Kandahar Airfield. The Air Force Reserve unit was previously scheduled to replace the A-10s operating out of Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to take part in the ISIS fight in Iraq and Syria — but with the terrorist group having lost 98 percent of the territory it once controlled due to in part a relentless air campaign, top military brass decided the jets were needed in Afghanistan to support Afghan and American troops on the ground. The U.S. Air Force says more than 4,300 bombs were dropped last year in Afghanistan, far fewer than the nearly 40,000 dropped against ISIS in Iraq and Syria over the same period. This fall, 3,000 additional U.S. troops arrived in Afghanistan. By April, the U.S. Army is planning to send up to 1,000 more from Fort Benning, Ga. — the first soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigade, a unit made up of experienced officers and enlisted soldiers to advise Afghan troops closer to the front lines. The additional troops will bring the U.S. total to roughly 15,000. There were roughly 8,400 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan when President Trump took office. The U.S. military dropped more bombs in Afghanistan in 2017, than in 2012 when the U.S. military had nearly 100,000 troops on the ground, according to the Air Force. The spike in airstrikes began after Trump took office last year. As the war against ISIS winds down in Iraq and Syria, more Air Force jets and drones are being sent to Afghanistan. The new jets arrive at a time when both the Taliban and an ISIS-affiliate have stepped up their attacks on Afghanistan’s capital. The Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack lasting more than 13 hours at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel by six gunmen, killing an estimated 18 civilians, mostly foreigners, according to local media reports. A significant number of the air strikes in Afghanistan last year targeted an ISIS-affiliate, responsible for other attacks inside Kabul at the end of the year, killing more than 100 civilians. Senior military leaders want to attack the Taliban using the same tactics used successfully against ISIS in Iraq and Syria — destroy major revenue sources to dry up funding which supports the organization. The top American commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., wants to go after the Taliban’s poppy crops used to make heroin, in much the same way the U.S. relentlessly attacked a major funding source for ISIS — oil. “This is allowed under the authorities that I was granted under the new U.S. strategy,” Nicholson told reporters late last year. “I could not do that previously.” “(Afghanistan) President (Ashraf) Ghani said, he believes we have turned the corner and I agree,” Nicholson added. Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch said in December that U.S. airstrikes destroyed 25 narcotics-processing labs worth $80 million from the Taliban inventory in Helmand Province, not far from neighboring Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, where the new A-10s will be based. The A-10 dates back to the mid-70s, a jet made famous for its 30mm Gatling gun, which can fire 3,900 rounds a minute, the preferred air asset by U.S. ground troops for decades — to take out enemy forces at close range. The “Warthog,” as the jet is known, was designed to loiter above the battlefield at low altitudes protected by reinforced armor around the cockpit with a bulletproof-glass canopy. The newest A-10 was built in 1984, however. Because of its age, the jet has been a target for Air Force cuts in recent years as budgets tightened. But the jet maintains strong support on Capitol Hill, and has continued to be requested on the frontlines. A squadron of 12 A-10s deployed to Turkey in 2015 to strike ISIS. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the Senate Armed Services Committee in December that she supported keeping the aging jets until the mid-2020s. “I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” she said.

As are we, here at The Daily Buzz!  Glad to see they’ll be joining the fight in Afghanistan!  Having spent some time personally in Afghanistan, I know just how much the troops on the ground love to see Warthogs softening the battlefield and chewing up the enemy.  Excellent!!   🙂

Next job for US Air Force: Space cop?

The United States Air Force may become a sort of space cop in the not-too-distant future. An off-Earth economy cannot truly take off unless moon miners and other pioneering entrepreneurs are able to operate in a safe and stable environment, said Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas Schilling, of Air University. “The [U.S.] Navy secures the freedom of action for commerce globally for the good of all humankind, and I think it’s going to take a force very similar to that to provide the predictability and security that the marketplace of space will need,” Schilling said April 4 during a panel discussion at the 33rd National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “I think that would be the role of the United States Air Force moving into the future.” Somebody needs to secure and protect “strategic choke points,” such as lunar ice deposits and gravitationally stable spots near the moon, where spacecraft can camp out without burning fuel, Schilling added. “Fundamentally, I’d like that to be somebody with a value system that reflects the values that I share,” he said. “I believe in the value of individual property rights and the rule of law.” United Launch Alliance (ULA) CEO Tory Bruno moderated the panel, which featured Schilling, Offworld CEO Jim Keravala, Made In Space CEO Andrew Rush and former NASA astronaut Sandy Magnus, executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The panel focused on how activities in cislunar (Earth-moon) space could help spur the establishment of a sustainable off-Earth economy — the basic idea behind the ULA-led “Cislunar 1,000” plan. “We have a vision: Within just a couple of decades from this moment in time, there will be 1,000 men and women living and working in space permanently,” Bruno said. “As NASA and other people push deeper into deep space to explore, we want to develop the space between here and the moon.” This vision is not so far-fetched, panelists said. Indeed, humanity may have recently reached an inflection point in the quest for off-Earth settlement, thanks to the combination of advancing technology, a glut of investment money and a coalescing community of customers and end users, Keravala said. Some of this technology is pretty high-profile. Made In Space is already manufacturing products on demand for customers using its 3D printer aboard the International Space Station, for example, and both SpaceX and Blue Origin have landed and re-flown rockets — an approach that could lower the cost of spaceflight significantly. “We have an opportunity to do this now,” Magnus said, referring to the Cislunar 1,000 vision. “It’s going to take some time to build this, but the momentum’s there, and it’s very exciting.” Establishing a secure environment in which such a space settlement can exist is part of the overall effort, Schilling stressed.

Agreed!  To watch the video of the entire panel discussion, click on the text above.

Air Force Special Operations Establish Role in ISIL Fight

Air Force commandos are already operating in the war against the Islamic State, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command said Monday.

An interesting public admission.. If the USAF Special Operators are openly admitting being in the fight, I suspect that a good chunk of the 1,500+ troops already on the ground (so yes, there ARE “boots on the ground” despite what the President is saying to the contrary) are from the special ops community representing the other services (i.e. Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, etc.). Of course there are intel folks, and logistical personnel. But, I’d imagine the majority are special operators of various specialties.