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​An F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing takes off in Southwest Asia, July 6, 2017. The aircraft is armed with a variety of munitions to combat the threat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Air Force photo by SrA. Damon Kasberg.


Iraqi Forces Still Fighting to Hold Mosul, Coalition Moves Focus to Other Areas

Iraqi forces are “unambiguously focused” on holding the recently freed city of Mosul, while US and coalition jets are pressuring ISIS in other holdouts across the country, the head of the US’s ground advising effort said Friday. Iraqi Security Forces are still back clearing and holding areas of West Mosul, while East Mosul is “thriving,” said US Army Col. Pat Work, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve Task Force Falcon—an element of the coalition adviser network—and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, during a Friday briefing. For example, 17 of 24 power stations in the East are up and running and regular daily life has mostly returned. While Iraqi Security Forces consolidate their gains, US and coalition aircraft are always pressuring ISIS “in all of its safe havens,” Work said. Recent US and coalition airstrikes have hit ISIS targets in the next largest safe haven of Tal Afar, according to US Central Command. Also, on July 19, a coalition airstrike destroyed an ISIS drone near the town of Rawah, further highlighting the danger posed by the devices. —Brian Everstine


US Strike Kills Friendly Afghan Forces

A US airstrike in Helmand Province on Friday afternoon killed multiple friendly Afghan National Defense Security Forces, the Pentagon announced. US aircraft were supporting an ANDSF operation in the Gereshk District when a strike on a compound killed the Afghan forces, who were gathered on the target, according to a US Forces-Afghanistan release. US officials notified Afghan officials about the incident, and expressed their condolences in the statement. The US is opening an investigation into the incident. —Brian Everstine


Hawaii Campaign Aimed at Potential North Korean Missile Attack

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency has begun a new campaign to help residents prepare for the possibility of a North Korean nuclear missile attack on the state, Hawaii News Now reported. Though the agency said the threat of such an attack likely is low, it outlined a set of disaster response plans for what it considers a worst-case scenario: ​a 15-kiloton nuclear warhead exploding 1,000 feet above Honolulu. In that eventuality, the core message to the public would be, "Get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned.” In November, the state will also start testing a new emergency siren that would be used to alert the public in the case of a missile attack. The agency said it would take about 20 minutes for an ICBM to travel from North Korea to Hawaii, and the public would have only eight to 12 minutes notice before detonation. "There is clear evidence that [North Korea] is trying to develop ballistic missiles that could conceivably one day reach our state," agency administrator Vern Miyagi told HNN. “Therefore, we cannot wait to begin our public information campaign to ensure that Hawaii residents will know what to do if such an event occurs.” On July 4, North Korea successfully tested an ICBM for the first time.

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NATO Allies Concerned About Upcoming Russian Exercise

A Russian military exercise planned for September is raising concern among US allies in Europe that the war game may provide cover for future Russian aggressions on the continent. “People are worried this is a Trojan horse,” said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of US Army Europe, in an interview with Reuters. The Zapad 2017 exercise will take place in Belarus, and Hodges said NATO observers will be watching closely to make sure Russia does not use the exercise as an opportunity to leave behind new military equipment in the former Soviet republic. The size and scope of Russian military exercises has caused concern previously among US commanders in Europe. In March, US European Command chief and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti warned Congress about the Russian practice of holding “snap exercises” that are either unannounced or that vary significantly from announced plans. The worry is real, Scaparrotti said, because in 2014 Russian forces “used an exercise to shield what was a violation of the sovereignty of … Ukraine.” Hodges said that while the US plans to observe Zapad 2017 very closely, NATO military presence would remain unchanged because, “We want to avoid anything that looks like a provocation.” —Wilson Brissett

Eight European Countries Discuss Future F-35 Operations

More than 50 top officials from eight nations came together to determine the future force projection and theater integration of the F-35. The US-hosted forum included representatives from Denmark, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, according to a US Air Forces in Europe release. This meeting, and future collaboration, is needed to develop common tactics, techniques, and procedures for the countries that all fly the F-35 in the region. “At the end of the day, if we can say that this is something we’re fusing into the system that guarantees the sovereignty of the skies overhead, our NATO nations, and our great partners, then we’re in a great place,” USAFE Commander Gen. Tod Wolters said in the release. The countries will come together for a multilateral symposium in October. The Air Force will begin basing its F-35As at RAF Lakenheath, England, in 2020, but the F-35’s presence in Europe has already been increasing, with multiple deployments to Lakenheath, forward locations in Eastern Europe, and the Paris Air Show so far this year. —Brian Everstine

Newly Merged 4th SOPS Assumes Control of WGS Satellite

The 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., assumed control of a wideband global SATCOM (WGS) satellite for the first time on July 14. The satellite is the ninth in the WGS constellation, and the first to come online since the recent inactivation of the 3rd Space Operations Squadron. WGS-9 was built by Boeing and launched in March from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. “Similar to what the F-35 is to the flying community, the WGS spacecraft is the new thing in military satellite communications—it’s the top of the line,” said 4th SOPS commander Lt. Col. Armon Lansing in a press release. “There is no other spacecraft in the world that does what this one does.” The first WGS satellite launched in 2007, and the constellation provides enhanced global communication for the US military. “WGS increases the bandwidth of that constellation by about 13 percent,” said 1st Lt. Steven Ramos, a 4th SOPS satellite engineer. “Just having that additional bandwidth allows us to support more users. Having more users to be able to get the mission done on the ground is a huge advantage to the warfighter.”
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The Air Force tested earlier this month a rocket for its Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) Program 4. Screenshot from University of Queensland (Australia) video.

USAF Tests Hypersonic Rocket in Australia   

The Air Force earlier this month tested a rocket for its Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) Program 4. The test was a collaboration between Australia’s Defense Science and Technology Group, Air Force Research Laboratory, University of Queensland, and industry partners, including Boeing and BAE Systems. The launch is the latest in an effort to build a system of rockets that can achieve their missions in very short amounts of time, traveling upwards of five times the speed of sound. This particular rocket, a “free-flying hypersonic glider,” according to a 15-second YouTube video showing the launch, was designed to fly at Mach 8, or just under 5,000 miles per hour. However, according to a DOD release, it’s the “enhanced maneuverability and smooth flight path” of the rockets that is their highlight. The Australian Defense Department hails the $54 million project to develop hypersonics—which goes back to 2009—“one of the largest” research collaborations between the US and Australia. Though the test marks the last in the HIFire 4 Program, Australia’s defense minister Marise Payne told news.com.au the US and Australia will now begin planning the next phase of hypervelocity flight experiments. —Gideon Grudo

Building a Habitat for Deep Space

Lockheed Martin is working with NASA to transform a cargo container from the shuttle era for use as a habitat for astronauts working in deep space. The new habitat will be built from the Donatello module, which was previously used to carry payloads to the International Space Station, and will support both manned and unmanned operations. The effort is part of Phase II of a public-private partnership called the Next Step Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP). Over the next 18 months, the Lockheed Martin team plans to build a full-scale prototype of the habitat at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The habitat is being designed to dock with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which will provide a command and control deck for a Deep Space Gateway. The new habitat would allow astronauts to live and work near the moon in deep space, ultimately gaining the experience necessary to support missions to more distant deep space destinations, including Mars.

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RADAR SWEEP


—A helicopter assigned to JB Andrews, Md., made an emergency landing on a field in Takoma Park on Friday after a light indicator went off in the aircraft. The landing was a precautionary measure. No one was injured: Washington Post.

—As of July 31, all airmen will have to complete a mental health assessment as part of their annual periodic health assessment. The change is part of a​ USAF effort to ensure “airmen suffering from undiagnosed mental health issues are referred to the necessary care:” USAF release.