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​An Air National Guard C-130J Hercules aircraft equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System drops a line of fire retardant on the Thomas Fire in the hills above the city of Santa Barbara, Calif., Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th Airlift Wing has been supporting CAL FIRE’s efforts to battle the Thomas Fire raging in Southern California, and members of the New York Air Guard recently deployed to support the efforts. ANG photo by SSgt. Nieko Carzis.

New York Guardsmen Deploy to Help California Fire Response

Members of the New York Air National Guard deployed to California this week to help that state’s Guardsmen fight sprawling wildfires. Nine airmen from the New York Guard’s 174th Attack Wing deployed to Hancock ANGB, N.Y., to help with MQ-9 Reaper surveillance flights that assist local authorities fight the Thomas Fire, which has burned 234,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 structures, according to a Guard release. “We’ve been working this fire since [Dec. 5] and have been working 24-hour operations since then,” said Maj. Nicholas Edwards, the director of incident awareness and assessment for the California Air National Guard’s 222nd Intelligence Support Squadron, in the release. “We want to do everything we can.” Reapers have been helping local authorities by flying over the fire and using sensors that can see through smoke to help map fire lines and observe fire expansion, according to the Guard. MQ-9s have been flying in support of response to multiple fires in California starting in early October.   —Brian Everstine


Lockheed Gets $961 Million Targeting Pod Contract

The Air Force this week awarded Lockheed Martin a $961 million contract for 683 Sniper targeting pods. The five-year contract includes logistics, spares, software, and sensor advancements, according to a Lockheed release. The Sniper pod is used on multiple USAF aircraft, including the F-15, F-16, A-10, B-1, and B-52. “This contract enables us to respond promptly to the needs of our warfighters, including maintaining Sniper’s availability and reliability rates while advancing capabilities through pod upgrades,” USAF program manager Nicole Visosky said in the release. The pod detects, identifies, automatically tracks, and laser-designates small targets at long ranges, and is used to employ laser- and GPS-guided munitions, according to Lockheed.


F-35 Reaches Weapons Delivery Milestone

Testers with the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the F-35 Integrated Test Force recently completed Weapons Delivery Accuracy flight tests on the Joint Strike Fighter, which first began in July 2013. During the tests all three F-35 variants delivered AIM-120, AIM-9X, and the UK’s Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile. Testers also confirmed air-to-ground delivery of the Paveway IV, GBU-39 small diameter bomb, the GBU-12, the Joint Direct Attack Munition, and the Joint Standoff Weapon. “Weapons delivery accuracy tests are important, because without proof that the F-35 can actually drop these weapons where we need them to go, then the F-35 is just an information-gathering system,” said Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, 461st FLTS commander and F-35 ITF director. “The F-35 proved it was extremely capable in delivering these weapons where we wanted it and how we wanted it delivered. These are the most complicated and intricate missions that we had and the jet did extremely well.” The final tests on the F-35's GAU-22 25mm gun wrapped up in early December, following completion of air-to-air tests in August and air-to-ground tests in October, according to a USAF release.

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US Aircraft Bombed ISIS, Al Qaeda More than 120 Times in Yemen This Year

US aircraft conducted more than 120 airstrikes against al Qaeda and ISIS in Yemen in 2017, a dramatic jump from previous years. Strikes have targeted the two groups in ungoverned areas that are used as a “hub for terrorist recruiting, training, and base of operations to export terror worldwide,” US Central Command said in a Wednesday statement. The US conducted 10 strikes in November that targeted senior al Qaeda leaders across the Arabian Peninsula, and a series of strikes in October killed more than 50 ISIS fighters. “The removal of key facilitators in this region will interrupt AQAP’s freedom of movement and likely force the group into a reactionary posture, limiting their ability to challenge Yemeni Security Forces and partnered advances,” CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in the release. CENTCOM publicly announced 29 strikes through all of 2016, according to a tally of statements posted by the command. —Brian Everstine


US-Led Coalition Announces Non-Combat-Related Death

A servicemember died Wednesday in an apparent non-combat-related incident in Southwest Asia. The nationality or service of the unnamed individual was not immediately released. The incident is under investigation, according to a Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve statement.


USAF’s Network Gateways Changing Hands, Eliminating “Blind Spots”

The Air Force is changing the way it allows web traffic into and out of its networks, relinquishing general oversight and maintenance of these entryways to the Defense Information Systems Agency. By the end of September 2019, the service plans to have a major portion of its unclassified traffic enter through what are called joint regional security stacks (JRSS), rather then entering through today’s 16 virtual gateways. JRSSs are sets of equipment—like servers and interfaces—running programs and protocols from firewalls to intrusion detection to enterprise management. Each JRSS is like a virtual portcullis. Once the Air Force hands over the enterprise to DISA, some cyber warriors could then transition from “technicians to tacticians,” enabling them to think on a “higher level” in support of the warfighter, Lt. Col. Justin Mokrovich, commander of the 26th Network Operations Squadron, told Air Force Magazine. Read the full story by Gideon Grudo.

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RADAR SWEEP


—The State Department has approved a possible $200 million foreign military sale to Poland for follow-on support and sustainment services for its F-16 fleet: DSCA release.

—Between 9,000 and 11,000 Mosul residents were killed in the nine-month battle to liberate the city from ISIS, according to an Associated Press investigation.

—Air Forces Central Command boss Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigian pens an op-ed touting the significance of air-ground teamwork in defeating ISIS in Iraq: Fox News.