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​The Air Force on Thursday identified the nine airmen killed in Wednesday's WC-130H crash. All were assigned to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard. Photo by A1C James Richardson​.


Puerto Rico Guard Identifies Crew in Fatal WC-130H Crash

The Puerto Rico Air National Guard on Thursday named the nine airmen who were killed when their WC-130H crashed near Savannah, Ga., on Wednesday. The WC-130H, one of the oldest in the Air Force’s inventory, was headed to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., when it crashed. The nine airmen, all from Puerto Rico, had a combined 167 years of service. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.


Lasers Harassing US Crews Flying in Djibouti, US Points Blame at China

The Chinese military at a base in Djibouti is reportedly targeting US aircraft flying in and out of Camp Lemonnier, including injuring a US C-130 crew recently. The US base issued a notice to airmen urging them to “exercise caution” flying in certain areas because lasers have been directed at US aircraft over the last few weeks. The active notice to airmen, posted on the Federal Aviation Administration website on April 14, states there have been “multiple lazing events” originating from coordinates that are in the area of the Chinese base. During one incident, a C-130 was exposed to military-grade laser beams, which caused two minor eye injuries. The US formally issued a protest with Beijing over the incidents, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Thursday. “This activity poses a true threat to our airmen,” she said. The US military has repeatedly claimed China is working to raise its influence in Africa, especially through its base in Djibouti. US Africa Command boss USMC Gen. Thomas Waldhauser told lawmakers in March the US must assume China is conducting counter intelligence operations on the US from the base. —Brian Everstine


Air Force Formally Announces B-21 Bases

The Air Force officially announced on Wednesday that the current homes of USAF’s B-1 and B-2 bombers will receive the B-21 Raider when the aircraft comes online in the mid-2020s. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson previously assured Congress the current bases will receive the new bomber, and the service’s recent “Bomber Vector” outlined that the Air Force would swap out B-1s and B-2s as Raiders become available. The Air Force, in the announcement, states it selected Dyess AFB, Texas; Ellsworth AFB, S.D.; and Whiteman AFB, Mo., as the reasonable alternatives for B-21s. “Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21,” Wilson said in a release. “We expect the first B-21 Raider aircraft to be delivered in the mid-2020s.” Barksdale AFB, La., and Minot AFB, N.D., will continue to fly the B-52, which will remain in service through 2050. The final decision on B-21 basing will be made in 2019 following an environmental impact study. Wilson told the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 24 the Air Force expects a minimum of 100 B-21s and assured lawmakers that “if you have a bomber base now, you’ll have a bomber base in the future.” —Brian Everstine

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CYBERCOM to Become Combatant Command on Friday

US Cyber Command will officially become a combatant command on Friday, making it the 10th unified combatant command in the military. The move will be formally taken during a ceremony at Fort Meade, Md., when US Army Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone receives his fourth star and takes over command of CYBERCOM and the National Security Agency. The decision to elevate the command was first announced last August, when President Trump directed the military to begin the process of elevating CYBERCOM from under US Strategic Command as a way to “strengthen our cyberspace operations and create more opportunities to improve our nation’s defense,” he said in a statement at the time. The move is evidence that the cyber domain will “define” warfare in the future, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Thursday. —Brian Everstine


Travis Extender Takes MV-22s on Longest Flight in USMC Osprey History

A KC-10 Extender from Travis AFB, Calif., helped a fleet of six USMC MV-22s fly their longest continual flight in the aircraft’s history last month. On March 10, the KC-10 from the 9th Air Refueling Squadron took off from JB Charleston, S.C., to meet up with the six MV-22s that left from L.F. Wade International Airport in Bermuda for a one of a kind flight — weather forced the Ospreys to take a southern route instead of a northern route across the Atlantic through Canada, according to an Air Mobility Command release. The new route is about 600 miles longer than any other flight taken by an MV-22, according to the USMC. Throughout the flight, the KC-10 had to fly slower than normal to repeatedly refuel the aircraft, which presented a challenge in planning for the Travis crew. While it is common for Extenders to refuel jet aircraft at about 300 nautical miles per hour, Ospreys needed to refuel at about 200 mph, according to AMC. “It was different, and it was pretty neat to explore what we’re capable of doing,” said 1st Lt. David Burleson, KC-10 pilot with the 9th ARS, in the release. The Ospreys were deploying to Moron AB, Spain, as part of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response Africa, which is on alert to respond to crises in Africa. On the return flight, the KC-10 also refueled two Ospreys from Moron to Bermuda, according to the release. —Brian Everstine

Defense Economist: US Should Target Russian, Chinese Economic Prowess

It’s time to adopt a strategy of “inflicting costs” on Russia and China, says longtime Washington, D.C., economist Bill Schneider, who also chairs the Defense Science Board. Through the 1970s and early 1980s, a “drought of modernization” in the US helped Soviets gain economic and defense footing, Schneider said, posing “new threats” to America and its allies in Europe. What’s “more challenging in the long term,” Schneider added, are emerging economic agreements between Russia and China, which have shook on dozens of treaty-based cyberspace and military agreements in recent years and collaborate militaristically. Read the full story from Gideon Grudo.

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MDA Awards Lockheed Two THAAD Contracts

The Missile Defense Agency on Wednesday awarded Lockheed Martin two contract modifications for additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems. The first modification of about $145.3 million covers an additional lot of interceptors, one-shot devices, and associated support. This modification brings the total contract for THAAD interceptors to $1.431 billion, according to a Pentagon announcement.  The second modification, valued at about $18 million, covers additional transportable missile round pallets. The new modification brings the total value of this contract to $995.9 million, according to the Pentagon. The US recently deployed new THAAD systems in South Korea and has been testing the system across the Pacific. —Brian Everstine

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RADAR SWEEP


—A Russian Su-30SM fighter jet crashed after taking off from the Hmeimim airbase in western Syria on Thursday, killing both pilots: AFP.

—Air Force researchers are working with academia to find new ways to better clean contaminated groundwater at bases across the country. The Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Broad Agency Announcement program has awarded more than $7 million in contracts to find innovative technologies to address this problem: AFIMSC release.

—An off-duty security forces officer at Barksdale AFB, La., saved a teenager from a rollover car crash near the base in early April: Barksdale release.