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RAF Lakenheath, England, airmen practice building and loading bombs as part of the first Combat Ammunition Production Exercise, which ran from July 16-19. Staff photo by Amy McCullough.

​USAFE Wraps Up Live Munitions Exercise at Lakenheath

US Air Forces in Europe wrapped up its inaugural Combat Ammunition Production Exercise at RAF Lakenheath, England, on Thursday. The exercise, which was funded primarily through the European Deterrence Initiative, gave airmen hands-on experience with a variety of live munitions. The exercise, which was a significant departure from day-to-day operations in which mostly inert munitions are used, also coincided with F-15 surge operations at the base, more closely simulating real-world combat operations. As teams built the weapons and loaded them onto vehicles to transport to quality check, F-15E Strike Eagles consistently roared overhead. Read Amy McCullough’s full report from Lakenheath.​

Air Force Astronaut Looks Forward to New Experiences in Space

Air Force Col. Nick Hague is expecting a steady stream of new experiences when he takes off in October as a first-time astronaut for a six-month mission on the International Space Station, he told Air Force Magazine in a Friday interview.  Read the full story by Steve Hirsch.

US Strikes Continue at a Steady Pace in Afghanistan

US airstrikes on ISIS and the Taliban in Afghanistan continued at a high pace in June, with 572 total strikes in that month. This pace was steady as strikes continued to decrease in Iraq and Syria, where 356 bombs were dropped at the same time, according to statistics released Friday by Air Forces Central Command. So far this year, US manned aircraft have flown 412 sorties with at least one weapons release, and 2,911 total bombs dropped. In Iraq and Syria, US and coalition aircraft have, so far this year, dropped 2,892 bombs. That figure is well below the pace of previous years. By this point last year, for example, US and coalition aircraft had dropped 23,413 total weapons, according to AFCENT. —Brian Everstine

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Operational Testing Underway for StormBreaker, Formerly Known as SDBII

Raytheon could begin integrating the StormBreaker bomb, formerly known as the Small Diameter Bomb II, onto the F-15E Strike Eagle within the next year, officials said. The first operational tests were conducted in early June, said Cristy Stagg, Raytheon program director for StormBreaker. Cragg said the weapon “performed as expected in the first eight shots,” but the company is still waiting for an official report from the government. “Operational test is planned for 12 months. However, there is an effort to accelerate the program,” she told Air Force Magazine via email. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

SC Guard F-16s, Airmen Deploy to Southwest Asia

About a dozen F-16s and about 300 airmen from the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing recently deployed to southwest Asia. The aircraft and airmen will fly primarily close air support and defensive counter air operations, though the Air Force would not release where they were going or if they will contribute to an ongoing mission, but said they will be deployed for about four months. The aircraft will be assigned to the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, which has recently flown missions targeting ISIS. “They’ll be conducting suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses,” South Carolina Air National Guard Col. Akshai Gandhi said in a release. “That’s kind of, the modern-day evolution of the ‘Wild Weasel’ mission from Vietnam which is the Swamp Fox specialty and primary mission set.” —Brian Everstine

Thunderbirds Name New Members for 2019 Season

Air Combat Command on Friday announced the new class of officers who will fly the Thunderbirds next year. The new commander and Thunderbird No. 1 will be Lt. Col. John Caldwell, currently the commander of the 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla. Capt. Michael Brewer will be Thunderbird No. 3, Maj. Whit Collins will be No. 4, Capt. Michelle Curran will be No. 6, Maj. Jason Markzon will be No. 8, and Lt. Col. (Dr.) Noel Colls will be No. 9, the team’s flight surgeon. “This year’s exceptional officer applicant pool reflects the incredible degree of talent, motivation and diversity that exists throughout our Air Force. It was a tough selection process, but ultimately these officers rose to the top,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, the outgoing team commander, in a release. The 12 two-year positions on the team are staggered, so the remaining positions will be replaced for the 2020 season according to ACC.

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RADAR SWEEP


— About 500 airmen from Yokota AB, Japan, and the Royal Malaysian Air Force on July 20 wrapped up Cape Taufan 18, a five-day exercise focused on interoperability between the two services: PACAF release.

—Retired Brig. Gen. Dave Stilwell, who last served as a top Asia official on the Joint Staff, is reportedly the top pick to lead the State Department’s Asia team: The Washington Post.

— Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in a letter to Senate leaders last month, urged Congress to not remove Turkey from the F-35 program: Bloomberg News.

—Two airmen at Cannon AFB, N.M., have died in recent weeks in unrelated incidents: Air Force Times.