The Air & Space Brief: HKIA hijacking update; Airmen face consequences of vaccine refusal; Space Force on China launch
Welcome to the Defense One Air and Space newsletter. Here are our top stories this week:
The hijacking that wasn’t: An eye-catching Air Force press release about the final days of U.S. operations at Kabul airport prompted a lot of questions and a clarification from U.S. Central Command last week. The Air Force wrote about what happened after an intelligence tip that there were hijackers on board a commercial plane. But there weren’t any hijackers, Central Command said a day later, and no hijacking. “There was no active attempt to hijack the aircraft,” Central Command said.
‘You are hereby reprimanded’: The Air Force has begun to send letters of reprimand to airmen who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine, with one airman told to begin the process of separating from the military. Today is the last day airmen can get their first vaccination to be done by the Nov. 2 deadline. Meanwhile, the Air Force has also set up a process to evaluate those who seek a religious waiver.
Vaccine, part 2: Texas is home to many of the aviation and aerospace manufacturers the Air Force and Space Force rely on, and the Pentagon was blunt about the need for those contractors to be vaccinated, despite the recent executive order signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Vaccines are mandatory, the Pentagon said—the Biden administration directive takes precedence.
About that missile launch: The White House, Pentagon, and Space Force provided closely aligned statements on the reported launch of a Chinese hypersonic missile that could orbit the globe then proceed to target. None directly acknowledged what the launch accomplished, but continued to press for the U.S. to develop capabilities to respond. A Space Force spokesman told Defense One: “While we have nothing to offer on the recently reported Chinese missile launch, Chief of Space Operations General Raymond has repeatedly highlighted China as the pacing challenge in space. He has warned that the speed at which China is advancing its space capabilities should be cause for great concern. He has also made clear that the U.S. Space Force must develop space capabilities at operationally relevant speeds to stay ahead of growing threats posed by our nation’s strategic competitors.”
From Defense One
Almost Hijacked? Officials Dispute Scare Amid Ongoing Afghanistan Evac // Tara Copp: While the chaos at HKIA is over, the effort to evacuate Afghans is not. Here’s how the U.S. is still getting people out.
‘You Are Hereby Reprimanded!’ Airman Told to Begin Separation Due to Vaccine Refusal // Tara Copp: Airmen, sailors who refuse vaccine are looking at career-ending consequences. Will the church step in?
Pentagon Orders Texas Contractors to Mandate Vaccines for Employees, Despite Governor’s Ban // Marcus Weisgerber: The Defense Department says the federal contractor vaccine order supersedes state laws.