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A B-1B deployed to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, prepares to take off in support of a Friday night strike against Syrian chemical weapons facilities. AFCENT Twitter photo.

​Syria Strike Marks Combat Debut for JASSM-ER

The April 14 (local time) US, UK, and French strike on Syrian chemical weapons research and storage facilities marked the first combat use of the AGM-158B JASSM-ER (Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range), according to information provided by the Pentagon. Two B-1 bombers of the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, staging out of Al Udeid AB, Qatar, carried and launched the 19 JASSM-ERs used in the raid. Neither those missiles nor any of the Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles launched from US ships were shot down by Syrian air defenses, Joint Staff director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said at a Saturday Pentagon briefing. McKenzie reported that 40 Syrian surface-to-air missiles were launched blindly in defense, and only “after the last impact” of weapons launched by the US-led force. He warned that Syrian and Russian propaganda channels would try to point to damage from the surface-to-air missiles as evidence of an imprecise coalition attack, saying, “if you shoot it into the air, it’s got to come down somewhere.” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, also at the briefing, said that “Russian trolls”—internet propagandists—had stepped up activity by “2,000 percent” in the hours following the strikes. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak and Brian Everstine and see an Air Force Magazine infographic on the various factions fighting in Syria’s seven-year civil war.

B-52s Return From CENTCOM After Breaking Records That Stood Since Vietnam

During their two-year deployment to the Middle East, USAF B-52s set records for the airframe in numbers of weapons dropped and continuous sorties flown, breaking marks set by Stratofortresses in the legendary Linebacker II days of the Vietnam War. B-52s took off from Al Udeid AB, Qatar, for the last time April 11 and returned home after 1,850 missions targeting ISIS and the Taliban, dropping nearly 12,000 weapons across US Central Command’s area of responsibility, according to an Air Forces Central Command release. In June 2017, B-52 crews deployed from the 23rd Bomb Squadron at Minot AFB, N.D., and flew 400 consecutive B-52 missions without a maintenance delay, breaking a record that stood since Operation Linebacker II in 1972, according to AFCENT. Beginning in September 2017, crews from the 69th Bomb Squadron continued that record, flying 834 consecutive B-52 missions. This broke the 761 mission record set by B-1s in CENTCOM, according to AFCENT. The B-52s have been replaced by B-1s for CENTCOM missions. —Brian Everstine

The Lord’s Right-Hand Man for Software

Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord has brought in a new assistant to oversee software development. Jeff Boleng, who will carry the title of “special assistant for software acquisition,” will focus “90 percent of his time on F-35,” Lord told reporters in her Pentagon office Friday. Boleng comes from Carnegie Mellon University, where he was acting chief technology officer at its Software Engineering Institute. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

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Lord Says No Referee on F-35 Program Split, No New JPOs for Emerging Technologies

The time has come to “rebalance” the need to achieve commonality between the three variants of the F-35 and focus on the individual needs of its service users, Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord told reporters Friday. She also said that while programs in new “technology domains” such as Hypersonics, Artificial Intelligence and Directed Energy will share their discoveries within the Pentagon, the DOD leadership is not yet considering ny joint-service programs that would unify them.  Read the full story by John A. Tirpak. 


Citing Shortage, GAO Says Air Force Should Re-evaluate Fighter Pilot Requirements

A Government Accountability Office report Wednesday called on the Air Force to re-evaluate fighter pilot squadron requirements, including revising the current assumptions of fighter pilots’ workloads and gauging the impact of future incorporation of drones, into combat aviation. The report also called for the Navy and Marine Corps to reevaluate their current fighter squadron requirements. Read the full story by Steve Hirsch.


Report Warns on Threats to US Space Systems

The Center for Strategic and International Studies Friday released a report calling on officials to urgently pay attention to threats against US space systems and ground stations. Space Assessment 2018, reviews open-source information on the counterspace activities of other countries, especially China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Read the full story by Steve Hirsch.

Benedict Calls for Increased USAF-Navy Cooperation in Triad

Navy Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, the departing director of Navy strategic systems programs, Friday lauded commonality and collaboration between the Navy and Air Force in maintaining the US nuclear triad, saying he would continue to advocate it after his expected retirement this year. Benedict made the remarks during a Mitchell institute Nuclear Deterrence Breakfast Series appearance in Washington. Asked where he saw collaboration between the two services in the success of the triad, he said he sees it as critical “everywhere.”  He pointed to the value of taking advantage of talent and experience, and particularly of cutting costs to taxpayers. “I believe,” he said, “that we can either figure out between the two services how to change our interaction, how to change our cultures … or, unfortunately, we may have to change what we actually get to deliver, and I think that would be a real shame for the nation.” Adding that he said he expects to continue to advocate Navy-Air Force commonality as a civilian, he said, “we must look at commonality as a way to deliver what is fundamental to this nation.” —Steve Hirsch

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RADAR SWEEP


—Exercise Flintlock 2018 began on April 11 in Niamey, Niger. Some 1,900 service members from more than 20 countries are participating in the exercise, which is being led by African special operations force units for the first time: AFRICOM release.

—Lockheed Martin was awarded a $13.9 million contract modification for long-range, anti-ship missiles, or LRASM: UPI.

—US forces on April 11 conducted an airstrike in Somalia, destroying a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device near Jana Cabdalle: AFRICOM release.

—The Air Force on Thursday awarded Global InfoTek, Inc.; Radiance Technologies, Inc.; Assured Information Security, Inc.; CNF Technologies Corp.; and Invictus International Consulting LLC a shared $950 million contract for Agile Cyber Technology 2. The program provides a “focused yet flexible, rapid contracting vehicle” for the Air Force Research Laboratory aimed at cyber capabilities: Pentagon release.

—SSgt. Casey Andersen, a helicopter crew chief instructor with the 362nd Training Squadron, on April 9 became the first airman to be awarded the Basic Army Instructor Badge: USAF release.

—The two top members of the House Armed Services Committee Friday took the first step toward putting together the Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, introducing a version of the bill containing only the proposals made by the Defense Department: House Armed Services Committee release.

—An A-10 pilot’s unintentional failure to stick to altitude deconfliction, coupled with task over-saturation, a misperception of the changing environment, and environmental conditions caused two Warthogs to collide during US Air Force Weapons School training last year near Nellis AFB, Nev. Both pilots safely ejected, but the aircraft were considered a total loss: Air Force Magazine story (Editor's note. This story originally ran on the April 13 Daily Report, but the link was broken.)