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Capt. Elizabeth Forbes, Deputy, AEHF Launch Operations, and 1st Lt. Philip M. Castillo, Project Officer, AEHF Launch Operations, Space and Missile Systems Center, observe and monitor the launch exercise procedures during the third Integrated Crew Exercise for the AEHF-4 satellite launch, on Aug. 30, 2018, at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. SMC photo by Walter Talens.

​White House Reportedly to Stand Up Space Command This Week

President Trump will reportedly release an executive order creating US Space Command this week. SPACECOM will be the military’s 11th combatant command, following the creation of US Cyber Command earlier this year, and is a precursor to the planned creation of a separate military service for space operations. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.


Third F-35 Squadron at Hill Receives Aircraft

A third F-35 squadron at Hill AFB, Utah, received its first jets on Dec. 12, bringing the total number of aircraft to 52 at the Air Force’s first F-35 operating location. The 421st Fighter Squadron joins the 34th and 4th Fighter Squadrons and Aircraft Maintenance Units at Hill, which is slated to receive 78 F-35As by the end of next year. The base began to receive the jets in October 2015 and previously flew F-16s. The 421st stood up earlier this year, with pilots and maintainers operating on jets loaned from the other squadrons at the base. “Our pilots and maintainers have been working hard and we’re ready to fill the squadron out and fulfill the wing’s mission: to rapidly employ combat power,” 421st FS Commander Lt. Col. Richard Orzechowski said in a press release. —Brian Everstine

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Series of Strikes in Somalia Kill More Than 60 al Shabaab Militants

US aircraft conducted six airstrikes near a village in Somalia’s south-central Banaadir province over the weekend, killing 62 suspected al Shabaab fighters. Four strikes on Dec. 15 near Gandarshe, south of Mogadishu, killed 34 militants, with two more the next day killing 28, US Africa Command said in a Monday release. The strikes were coordinated with the Somali government, targeted “a known al-Shabaab encampment,” and reportedly did not injure any civilians, according to AFRICOM. They come days after the White House announced a new Africa strategy, in which US forces would limit support for prolonged peacekeeping interventions and instead support “effective and efficient” missions. —Brian Everstine

USAF Gets Acquisition Authority Back on Most Programs

The Defense Department has returned management authority to the services on 75 percent of major programs, retaining authority on only “nine of 89 ACAT I” programs, Pentagon Acquisition Chief Ellen Lord told reporters on Monday. For the Air Force, the ones still held at her level include the GPS III ground control station, known as OCX; the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle rocket enterprise, and the VC-25B Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization project. She also has authority over the F-35 multi-service fighter program, and six other projects in the Army and Navy. “OCX is probably the key program that I mostly watch from the Air Force. I think it’s a program that is not where we want it to be right now,” Lord said, but “it has improved tremendously, especially over the last six months.” Prime contractor Raytheon “has totally changed the way they do software,” embracing new methods such as “automated testing every night.” The company is also willing to listen when “we throw the flag down and say something’s not right.” The first GPS III satellite is set to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., on Tuesday. Lord said OCX is “one that we will still manage from this level, but it has seen significant improvement.” She wants to see speedier writing of code and finding and correcting the errors in that code.  —John A. Tirpak

Pentagon to Rewrite Acquisition Rule Book

Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord said she has a number of objectives for calendar 2019, including an overhaul of the rules governing how the Pentagon buys things, establishing cybersecurity rules for Pentagon contractors, and increasing the number of “rapid prototyping” projects from 10 to 50. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

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RADAR SWEEP


Air Force Says it Doesn't Have Concerns About SpaceX's Processes as NASA Launches a Safety Review
A US Air Force official said the service does not have concerns about SpaceX’s procedures, just weeks after NASA said it would conduct a study into the workplace safety culture at SpaceX and Boeing Co. LA Times

Remains Identified of Air Force Pilot Killed During Daring Vietnam Rescue Attempt
Air Force Col. Richard Kibbey, 32, of the Albany suburb of Delmar, has been accounted for by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Air Force Times

SOCOM Ranks High on Best Places to Work in Federal Government List
The U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa is ranked No. 33 out of 415 agencies as one of the best places to work in the federal government. Tampa Bay Business Journal

New BAH Rates for 2019 Rise 2.5 Percent
The Pentagon on Friday released the new 2019 Basic Allowance for Housing rates that will take effect in January, which show that service members on average will see a 2.5 percent uptick in housing allowance. Military Times

Aramco and Raytheon to Set Up Cyber-Security Joint Venture
Oil major Saudi Aramco and US-based defence firm Raytheon will form a joint venture for cyber-security services in the kingdom and the region. The National

One More Thing ...

Conspiracy Theorists Claim Birds Aren’t Real, Actually Spy Drones for US Government
There’s a new conspiracy in town, and this one may stick around for a while. Techly.co