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​F-22 Raptors assigned to Tyndall AFB, Fla., fly in formation over Altus AFB, Okla., April 17, 2017. The F-22s stopped at Altus to refuel during a flight from Florida to Nevada to participate in last year's Exercise Neptune Falcon. Air Force photo by SrA. Nathan Clark.


Large-Scale USAF Exercise Underway Across the US

Dozens of USAF aircraft, including B-2s and plenty of tanker support, have been spotted across the continental US for an ongoing “interoperability exercise,” but the Air Force isn’t saying much about it publicly. Beginning Thursday, multiple B-2s were spotted above Minnesota and across the upper Midwest, B-52s were seen heading toward the Eastern Seaboard, and groups of KC-10s appeared to be supporting them. The 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis AFB, Nev., confirmed a large exercise was underway, called Neptune Falcon/Neptune Hawk. These are “joint air interoperability exercises designed to maintain readiness and evaluate employment capabilities in a realistic training environment,” Nellis spokeswoman Maj. Christina Sukach said in a statement. The exercise runs from April 16 to May 5. Nellis did not provide specifics on the number of aircraft or units involved. Air Force Global Strike Command did not confirm the exercise, instead saying in a statement, “Our bombers routinely participate in scheduled air training exercises designed to enhance interoperability. These training opportunities develop and improve ready air forces.” Air Mobility Command would not comment on the tanker involvement. Neptune Falcon is an annual exercise, and last year 509th Bomb Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets said in a message that the exercise is the “Rose Bowl” of exercises for operations and maintenance. At one time during the 2017 exercise, 10 B-2s were airborne, flying 10 sorties, which averaged more than 16 hours in duration. That iteration also featured fighter aircraft, including F-22s from Tyndall AFB, Fla. —Brian Everstine


Pentagon: No Change in Readiness Following North Korea’s Move to Stop Testing

There has been no change to US military posture on the Korean Peninsula, with exercises still ongoing and US forces maintaining a high state of readiness despite the North Korean regime’s recent announcement that it plans to halt nuclear testing. Pentagon spokesman US Army Col. Robert Manning told reporters Monday that US forces are still alert and ready to “fight tonight,” even as some tensions have eased. North Korea announced on Saturday (local time) it was stopping nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, along with closing a nuclear test site. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in a statement that “nuclear weaponization” had been achieved and additional testing wasn’t necessary, according to the BBC. The move came in advance of a planned meeting between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-In, and a possible meeting between Kim and President Trump later this spring. On Monday, South Korea furthered the de-escalation by shutting off the broadcasting of propaganda on the border with North Korea, the BBC reported. —Brian Everstine

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AFA Announces Winners of CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition

AFA’s CyberPatriot program announced the winners of its 10th CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. Among the Open, All Service, and Middle School Divisions of the competition, Team Togo from North Hollywood High School in North Hollywood, Calif., won the national championship in the Open Division, Team Cyber Warriors 0 from Troy High School in Fullerton, Calif., won the national championship in the All Service Division, and Team CyberAegis Cancer Minor from Oak Middle School in San Diego, Calif., won the national championship in the Middle School Division. “The CyberPatriot X National Finals Competition event was the perfect culmination to the biggest and most challenging season in our history,” said Bernie Skoch, the CyberPatriot National Commissioner. “We watch in amazement each year as our student competitors get more proficient at the rigorous tests we put them through. We are thrilled that each season brings even greater enthusiasm and energy from these brilliant leaders of tomorrow.” Northrop Grumman awarded $52,500 to the winners of CyberPatriot X, bringing its total scholarship contribution to more than $400,000 since becoming Presenting Sponsor in 2011. Scholarships are awarded to each member of the first place ($2,000), runner-up ($1,500), and third place ($1,000) teams in the Open and All Service Divisions. The CyberPatriot X competition began in October 2017 with 5,584 registered teams, a 26 percent increase from the previous competition year. Click here to see the full list of winners.


AFRL and Coast Guard Lab Agree to Team Up

The Air Force and the Coast Guard are now collaborating on the development of unmanned systems, modeling, and simulations. The Air Force Research Laboratory and the Coast Guard Research and Development Center on April 12 signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at collaboration between the labs at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and at the Coast Guard’s New London, Conn., facility, according to an Air Force Materiel Command release. There are reportedly already projects in the works with the goal to get research and capability deployed quickly. “The Coast Guard has access to resources that we don’t have and, through the collaboration, we will be able to access those resources—like different test platforms,” Tammy Collins, AFRL Partnering Division alliance manager, said in the release. —Brian Everstine

VA Awards Contract Aimed at Studying Biological Samples from One Million Vets

The US Department of Veterans Affairs recently awarded a contract as part of its goal to register one million veterans in a study to determine biomarkers of wellness and disease. The contract with Metabolon, Inc., focuses on analyzing samples from the veterans to create a database of genetic, military, and environmental exposure, lifestyle, and health information, according to a news release. The Million Veteran Program, started in 2011, includes more than 640,000 enrollees, according to the VA.

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RADAR SWEEP


—The US Air Force, at the request of the Niger government, is building a base for MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft and fighter jets just outside of Agadez, Niger. “The $110 million project is the largest troop labor construction project in US history, according to Air Force officials. It will cost $15 million annually to operate:” Associated Press via Fox News.  

—Some 600 union workers are expected to strike for one day april 24 at Cameri Air Base, where Italy’s F-35 final assembly work is conducted. Workers are protesting use of employment agency contractors at the site, saying there is no job security for staff members: Defense News.

—The US Air Force F-35 Heritage Flight team is in Germany for the Leadership in Aerospace Berlin Air and Trade Show, April 25-29: Team Facebook post.

—The 621st Contingency Response Wing hosted the African Partnership Flight program, a one-week military-to-military engagement with 55 representatives from Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia: DOD release.

—The 911th Airlift Wing at Pittsburgh International Airport ARS, Pa., is transitioning from the C-130 to the C-17: AFRC release.

—The Mongolian Air Force Command has requested airman to airman talks with Pacific Air Forces to strengthen relations between the two services and improve skills. PACAF participates in bilateral talks with air forces from 13 nations: PACAF release.