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​Air operations in Afghanistan increased significantly in Afghanistan in 2017. Here, an F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 77th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, is refueled by a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron Det 1 over the skies of Afghanistan Nov. 22, 2017. Air Force photo by SSgt. Sean Martin.


US Finishes 2017 With Large Increase in Strikes Inside Afghanistan

The operations tempo for US aircraft inside Afghanistan continued to rise, with 2017 marking the highest total of airstrikes in that war since 2011. The increase is due in part to a new offensive hitting Taliban drug-making targets in Helmand Province. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.


Wilson Touts Five-Year “Speed Wins” Plan

The Rapid Capabilities Office will serve as a template for Air Force acquisition in the future, and new programs will have to be compressed from 20 years in length—from requirements-setting to deployment—to less than five, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Steven Wilson reported in an interview with Air Force Magazine. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

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Nellis Pushes Simplified Red Air Requirements in Favor of Speedy Transition

Industry leaders say there was a “very animated” and “lively” discussion over requirements at a recent industry day for phase two of the contract adversary air program at Nellis AFB, Nev. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.


Mattis Visits Mountain Home to See USAF Readiness, Range Health

The US military’s readiness isn’t where it should be, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters while visiting Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, where those who fix the airplanes provided an up-close reality check on the health of the Air Force’s fleet. Mattis stopped by Mountain Home on Tuesday to “get that reality of what it’s like when you’re out there trying to fix an airplane,” he told reporters. “Are you getting the various parts you need in time? Do you have enough people, the right kind of skills there? So I’m looking at readiness, but with a little more precision.” The military as a whole faces a readiness shortfall, with Air Force leaders saying they are currently too small to do what the service is asked to do. Mountain Home is home to USAF F-5Es of the 366th Fighter Wing, along with a contingent of Singaporean F-15Es and one of the largest training ranges in the Air Force. During the visit, Mattis said he spoke with airmen about what they need and was briefed on the health of the range. “We’re working on readiness right now,” Mattis said. “What I look for, though, are these troops there doing everything they can.” (See also our February cover story, USAF Has Too Many Missions and Not Enough Airmen.) —Brian Everstine

Keesler Reservists Deploy to Southwest Asia

A contingent of 150 Reservists and several C-130J aircraft from Keesler AFB, Miss., have deployed to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, in support of Operations Freedom’s Sentinel and Inherent Resolve. Aircrews from the 815th Airlift Squadron, maintainers from the 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and support personnel from the 403rd Wing will provide airlift, airdrop, and aeromedical evacuation support throughout the Central Command’s area of responsibility. This is the first deployment for the 803rd AMXS, which was activated in 2016. The 815th AS had been slated to close in 2014, but that recommendation was reversed and the squadron reached full operational capability in November. —Steve Hirsch

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RADAR SWEEP


—First Lt. Dominic Vicino, who is assigned to the 2​0th Space Control Squadron, was awarded the Airman’s Medal for rescuing three people in rough waters at Miramar Beach, Fla., in March 2017: USAF release.

—The Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., has awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne a $20 million contract for solid-boost rocket technology. Work will be completed at the company’s Rancho Cordova, Calif., facility and is slated for completion in January 2023: DOD contract announcement.

—The French air force inducted its first extended-range C-130J-30 into service on Jan. 15. The aircraft will be one of four C-130J variants to enter the fleet: IHS Jane’s.