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​Defense Secretary Jim Mattis addressed the Air Force Association's Air, Space, and Cyber Conference in September 2017. He resigned Thursday, citing differences in vision and approach with the president. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

​Mattis Resigns as Defense Secretary

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned on Thursday, citing multiple policy differences with President Trump. Noting his views on partnership with allies, Mattis told the president in a pointed resignation letter that Trump has “the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects.” Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Updated F-35 Will Get Maritime Strike Capability

The F-35’s Block IV update will add a new mission set: expanded capabilities to strike targets at sea, the head of the Joint Program Office told Air Force Magazine in an interview. JPO boss Vice Adm. Mat Winter also endorsed keeping Turkey in the program, and confirmed Japan’s expanded order for the aircraft. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Report Details Confusion of Mistaken Active Shooter Response at Wright-Patterson

A mistaken call of an active shooter during a planned mass casualty exercise sparked a series of miscommunications and, ultimately, a security forces airman repeatedly firing his M-4 at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, the Air Force found in a report released Wednesday. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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Pentagon’s Space Force Plan Nixes Separate Secretariat, Expands Joint Chiefs

The Pentagon will propose creating a new US Space Force within the Air Force, under a new plan circulating in the Pentagon, according to a Defense News report and others familiar with the issue. Under the plan, the new Space Force’s chief of staff would become the eighth member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and report to a new undersecretary responsible for the Space Force. The model is similar to that of the Navy and Marine Corps, which have their own service chiefs, but a share a single secretariat for oversight. Read the full story by Tobias Naegele.

Gatwick Airport Crisis Spotlights Drone Threat

London’s Gatwick Airport closed for more than 20 hours starting Thursday, disrupting the European air travel system, because unauthorized civilian drones were flying over the airfield, forcing a halt to flight operations. The incident underscored the rising problem of low-cost, low-tech drones able to close an airfield. Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes has complained that his legal options to shoot drones down are limited. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Grassroots Initiative Gives Airmen Home Away from Home for the Holidays

A grassroots initiative led by an independent, unofficial organization of Air Force parents, families, and spouses is helping to match up airmen stationed or deployed far from home with USAF families willing to “adopt” them for the holidays. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

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Hack The Air Force 3.0 Uncovers Over 120 Vulnerabilities in USAF Website, Systems

The Hack the Air Force 3.0 bug bounty challenge, co-hosted by the Defense Department and the security platform HackerOne, identified “over 120 valid security vulnerabilities,” according to a Dec. 20 release. This year’s contest “focused on public-facing Air Force websites and services from October 19 to November 22, 2018,” it said. In return for their help in identifying these cyber weaknesses, the service awarded more than $130,000 worth of total prize money to almost 30 white-hat hackers whose security flaw-related findings checked out. “It’s critical to allow these researchers to uncover vulnerabilities in Air Force websites and systems, which ultimately strengthens our cybersecurity posture and decreases our vulnerability surface area,” USAF Capt. James Thomas of Air Force Digital Services said in the release. Further, Thomas said, opening these challenges to a larger number of hackers from more nations will let USAF mine a wider “range of talent and experience” in its quest to make its networks more resilient. People from 191 countries were eligible to enter this year’s event, which was the third iteration of the service-specific cyber challenge. In the release, HackerOne CEO Marten Mickos praised USAF’s “relentless dedication to uncovering vulnerabilities before their adversaries through innovation measures” as “unmatched.”—Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

AFSOC Stands Up MQ-9 Squadron at Hurlburt

Air Force Special Operations Command this week stood up a new MQ-9 Reaper squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The new squadron, the 65th Special Operations Squadron with the 1st Special Operations Group at Hurlburt, was created as part of an increase in MQ-9 operations and to give airmen a new assignment option in addition to an AFSOC Reaper squadron at Cannon AFB, N.M. The new squadron, which officially activated during a Tuesday ceremony, will include more than 60 new personnel at the base, though no new aircraft will be based there. Hurlburt is already home to the Air Force Reserve’s 2nd Special Operations Squadron. —Brian Everstine
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RADAR SWEEP


Northrop Grumman Receives $3.6B Contract for Infrared Missile Countermeasures
The Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman $3.6 billion for an extended contract for Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures production and support services. UPI

US Withdrawal From Afghanistan Focus of Talks to End War, Taliban says
The latest talks between the Taliban and a U.S. peace envoy on the war in Afghanistan focused on the withdrawal of NATO troops, the release of prisoners and halting attacks on civilians by pro-government forces, a Taliban spokesman said Wednesday. Military Times

Raytheon Awarded $141 Million For 1,260 Small Diameter Bomb II Glide Bombs
Raytheon was awarded a $141 million contract to produce 1,260 Small Diameter Bomb II glide bombs and associated equipment, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a December 18 release. The Defense Post

Inside the Nasty Battle to Stop Amazon From Winning the Pentagon’s Cloud Contract
A salacious dossier, a mystery client with an alias, dueling allegations of sexual misconduct. They’re all part of the dirty-tricks campaigns unleashed over the last 10 months as some of the U.S.’s technology giants battle to win a $10 billion cloud-computing contract that the Pentagon plans to award to a single company. Bloomberg

South Korea Seeks Smaller Military Drills With US Amid North Korea Talks
South Korea wants to hold smaller joint military drills with the United States next year, the defense ministry said on Thursday, scaling back larger exercises as part of an effort to boost nuclear diplomacy with North Korea. Reuters

One more thing...

Ho, Ho, Ho!
NORAD has been tracking Santa’s progress on Christmas Eves since 1955. Generations of children (and adults) have listened to the radio, called a telephone hotline for updates, followed television reports, and since 1997, followed NORAD Tracks Santa on the internet. This year, don’t wait for Christmas Eve to visit NORAD’s Christmas-themed website, which features new games daily, stories, history, videos, music, and—not incidentally—facts about the North American Aerospace Defense Command. NORAD Tracks Santa