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​Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, far right, speaks alongside Australian Minister for Defense Marise Payne, far left; Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop​, left center; and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right center, during a press conference in Palo Alto, Calif. Screenshot photo

​DOD Awaiting Guidance, Holding Steady in Syria Following Trump, Putin Summit

The Pentagon hasn’t received any further guidance and is maintaining its current posture on operations in Syria following President Trump’s recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where the two leaders discussed working together in that ongoing conflict. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking at a joint press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Australian Minister for Defense Marise Payne in Palo Alto, Calif., said the Pentagon “will not be doing anything additional until the Secretary of State and President have further figured out, at what point, we’re going to start working alongside our allies with Russia in the future. That has not happened.” The US and Russia continue to de-conflict operations in Syria, and that is the extent of contact between the two nations, he said. During the joint press conference in Helsinki, Putin said establishing peace and reconciliation in Syria could be “the first showcase example” of joint work between the US and Russia. Trump added “cooperation between our two countries has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives.” —Brian Everstine

GE Aviation to Offer Two Engines in USAF’s B-52 Re-Engining Program

GE Aviation plans to offer two engines—the CF34-M and the more advanced Passport engine—in the Air Force’s B-52 re-engining program, which is finally gaining steam after decades of debate. Speaking to reporters at the Farnborough International Air Show in England last week, company CEO David Joyce said GE is confident that both engines are “good candidates” for the program, saying if USAF chooses the Dash-10, which currently flies on the Embraer 190, “the airplane might go 50 years without having to remove an engine because of deterioration,” while the Passport would increase fuel burn by double digits. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

Compromise NDAA Would Block Delivery of F-35s to Turkey

The House-Senate conference report on the Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act legislation, released Monday, would bar delivery of F-35s to Turkey until completion of a report on the impact of Turkish unhelpful behavior, including an assessment of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program, and of the operational and counterintelligence risks of deployment of the Russian S-400 air and missile defense system on weapons systems the US operates jointly with Turkey. It is the latest step in the contentious discussion about Turkey’s future with the F-35, and comes weeks after Turkey took delivery of its first two F-35A for training at Luke AFB, Ariz. The conference report is available online, as is a joint explanatory statement on the legislation. Approval of the conference language clears the way for final congressional approval of the bill, which is expected to start this week with a House vote. —Steve Hirsch​

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Mattis: Iran Needs to Act Responsible, End Destabilizing Acts in the Middle East

Iran is continuing to be a “destabilizing influence” across the Middle East, including propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and showing “malfeasance” in Yemen, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday, expanding on the US position following a Twitter threat from President Trump. “It is time for Iran to shape up and show responsibility as a responsible nation,” Mattis said, expanding that Iran has expanded its disruption into places such as Bahrain to “the kingdom” of Saudi Arabia. Trump, late Sunday, issued a direct, all-caps threat to Iran on Twitter saying Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would face “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED” if he continued to threaten the US. Mattis was asked about the threat, and said the president “was making very clear that they are on the wrong track.” —Brian Everstine

Qatar Begins Upgrades to Al Udeid

Qatar on Tuesday officially kicked off a large-scale plan to upgrade Al Udeid AB, with the goal to improve its infrastructure to make it a permanent US base. Qatari state media posted photos of a ribbon cutting with Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah and USAF Brig. Gen. Jason Armagost, commander of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, at Al Udeid. The renovations will include new, permanent barracks and service buildings “to support joint security efforts, as well as raising the quality of life of troops residing at the air base,” according to the Qatari Government Communications Office. The overall cost will be about $1.8 billion, al-Attiyah told The Washington Post. The project shows Qatar is “working with the US to draw up a road map to make the air base permanent,” according to a statement on the expansion. The base currently hosts more than 10,000 US and coalition service members. It is the home of the Combined Air Operations Center that controls US and coalition air operations throughout the Middle East, and the flight line includes aircraft such as USAF bombers, tankers, and command and control aircraft, along with coalition jets. —Brian Everstine

Senate Confirms Wilkie as VA Secretary

The Senate on Monday confirmed Robert Wilkie to be Veterans Affairs Secretary by an 86-9 vote. President Trump announced his choice of Wilkie, then the acting secretary, in May. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) praised the vote, saying he was confident Wilkie “is the right leader because he has the expertise, the judgment and the character to take on the challenges that lie ahead and will bring stability and leadership to the VA.”   He said he looked forward to working with Wilkie “to help transform the VA into a department worthy of our veterans.” —Steve Hirsch

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RADAR SWEEP


—USAF and USMC aircraft and personnel have deployed to Northern Australia to take part in the Pitch Black exercise, which will include a total of 140 aircraft from 14 nations. The exercise runs through Aug. 17: PACAF release.

—Mental health disorders are the most common medical diagnoses in service members just before they separate, according to a new study: Stars and Stripes.

—Airmen at Fairchild AFB, Wash., recently conducted the first ever flight test of the Joint Service Aircraft Mask, a new chemical defense system that will replace the current masks that have been in service for about six decades: AMC release.

—Israel on Tuesday shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet it claimed was flying over Israeli-occupied Golan Heights: BBC News.

—The Air Force Research Laboratory and IBM on July 19 unveiled the world’s largest neuromorphic digital synaptic super computer, named Blue Raven: AFMC release.