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  • A-10 Paralysis Threatens F-35 IOC

    The Air Force doesn’t expect to get permission to retire the A-10 Warthog, and that’s a big threat to declaring initial operational capability with the F-35 on time, F-35 system program manager Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan said Thursday. “I’m very worried” about meeting the August 2016 IOC date for the Air Force because “we may not be able to give them … what they need” in time, he said at a press conference. USAF needs 1,100 F-35 maintainers in place to declare IOC, and 800 of them were to be “experienced” crew chiefs and backshop people brought over from the A-10 community, Bogdan explained. If Congress won’t allow the A-10’s retirement, the Air Force will not only have to come up with an extra 800 people somewhere to send to the F-35, but the number of experienced maintainers available will be smaller. It takes “a lot longer” to train a brand-new maintainer to be a 5-7-level tech than the “tech sergeants, master sergeants, and senior master sergeants who sign off” on the jet’s paperwork before it can fly, Bogdan said. Meeting USAF’s requirements is now “a goal that’s really hard to get to,” though he has not abandoned it, Bogdan said.

  • F-35 LRIP 8 Numbers In

    The contract for the low-rate initial production lot of 43 F-35s with Lockheed Martin, agreed to on Monday, came out to be $4.55 billion, program manager Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan reported at a press conference Thursday. He revised a previous estimate, which said the per-plane cost dropped 3.6 percent from Lot 7 to Lot 8; it actually dropped 3.4 percent, due to currency fluctuations regarding partner funds. Pratt & Whitney also agreed to a $1.05 billion deal for Lot 8 engine production, for 48 engines, with a price reduction from Lot 7 to Lot 8 of 4.5 percent, Bogdan said. Including Lot 7, the price has dropped nine percent. Both Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney are getting “back on the curve” for desired cost reductions, Bogdan said, reiterating that if things stay on track, F-35 flyaway unit costs will be in the $80 million to $85 million range by 2019. Those costs might be lower still, since they don’t count savings that may accrue from doing multiyear buys, or a quasi-multiyear buy that adds in partner purchases before then, as well as “Blueprint for Affordability” savings initiatives that begin in Lot 9.

  • F-35 Noise “Good to Go”

    Studies of F-35 noise relative to legacy fighters will be released Friday, and will show that “on the ground, at full military power,” which is full power without afterburner, the F-35 is “actually quieter, by a little bit” than legacy aircraft such as the F-15, F/A-18, and F-16, F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said Thursday. That means the F-35 is “good to go” for beddowns in the US, he said. This “real noise data” should dispel rumors that the F-35 will be much louder than its predecessors. Part of the reason is that the F-35 is “very sleek in its outer mold line, without a lot of drag,” Bogdan said. Using afterburner, however, the F-35 is considerably noisier than its predecessors, as it generates 43,000 pounds of thrust. Its noise will be on a par with the old F-4 Phantom, Bogdan reported. Although its character is different, the F-4 noise is deeper than that of the F-35, he said. The differences, however, may be hard to detect with the human ear, which cannot perceive differences of up to three decibels, he reported. The numbers were developed in 2013 and “validate” numbers developed in 2008 with an early, pre-production version of the F-35.

  • Marine Corps IOC Still Possible

    ​Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's acquisition, technology, and logistics chief, this week said the Marine Corps probably won't be able to declare initial operational capability with the F-35 by the planned July 2015 date, reported Aviation Week. However, Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan said Thursday he hasn't given up trying. "I read what Mr. Kendall said," Bogdan told reporters in a press conference, and "he's recognizing that there's risk" in meeting the July 1 date.  The big roadblocks, Bogdan said, are getting 10 identically configured aircraft to the Marine Corps on time, working off the flight test backlog caused by the June airplane fire, and getting mission data files—information in the computers regarding geographical, threat, and other information—fully "populated" before IOC. However, all this may still be done, and Bogdan won't say die until just before midnight on June 30, he added. If there is a slip, however, Bogdan said it will be "weeks, not months," and far, far better than when the program saw slippages of years. Bogdan said he's "made a promise" to USMC and will do all he can to keep it. On the wall of his conference room is a sign that on Thursday read "Countdown to USMC IOC: 244 (days)."

  • Russia Ups Air Activity in Europe


    Russia intensified air exercises over Europe this week, forcing NATO to scramble British, Danish, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Turkish fighters, Alliance officials said. "NATO detected and monitored four groups of Russian military aircraft conducting significant military maneuvers in European airspace over the Baltic Sea, North Sea/Atlantic Ocean, and Black Sea," stated an Oct. 30 NATO release. "These sizable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace," according to the release. Allied fighters intercepted a total of 26 Russian combat aircraft, including two flights of TU-95 strategic bombers supported by tanker aircraft and fighter escorts off Norway, Britain, and Portugal on Oct. 29. F-16s scrambled over the Baltic to investigate a group of strike aircraft the same day, mimicking a similar strike group the preceding day. "NATO has conducted over 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft in 2014 to date, which is about three times more than were conducted in 2013," officials stated in the release.

  • 442nd FW Welcomes Airmen Back From Bagram


    TSgt. James Register proposes to his girlfriend after landing at Whiteman AFB, Mo., on Oct. 26. His friends and family met him with signs that spelled out “Welcome Home Jimmy” for him, but then flipped to spell out “Welcome to the family” for her. Air Force photo by A1C Halley Burgess.

    More than 300 Active Duty and Reserve airmen—“the final, largest wave of personnel”— returned to Whiteman AFB, Mo., after a seven-month deployment to Bagram, Afghanistan, this week, according to a release. The group accumulated over 9,600 flying hours during 2,500 missions, which “supported more than 400 requests for assistance from troops in combat, expending more than 50,000 rounds and 57,000 pounds of munitions spent,” states the Oct. 27 release. "They did a great job and they're the reason we flew successfully,” said Lt. Col. Bryan Stone, deployed commander of the 442nd Fighter Wing’s A-10 squadron. “It's been a long seven months. I'm proud to bring them home."

  • Nuke Labs Head into High Gear

    The US' nuclear laboratories and production plants are looking ahead to the "most intense activity" level in years, making consistent funding and careful planning essential, said National Nuclear Security Administration Director Frank Klotz. "There is a significant ramp-up in terms of the work activities that are associated with life extension … and we have to work on a warhead for what the Air Force refers to as the Long-Range Standoff Vehicle," Klotz said at a press roundtable in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 29. NNSA's facilities are into the engineering and design phase with the B61-12 nuclear free-fall bomb and Navy W-88 warhead and are "halfway into the production" of the Navy's life-extended W-76, said Klotz. "We have phased these in such a way that we balance the workload across several years," he said.  "What is extraordinarily important is one, that there be consistency of funding to carry this out." However, Klotz said funding fluctuations play "havoc" with timetables, causing rippling consequences over decades-long modernization programs.

  • Cyber Commander: US Must Partner With Industry


    US Cyber Command boss Adm. William Rogers said collaboration between the Defense Department and private industry is key to protecting the nation’s information systems, according to a Pentagon release. "There's no one single group or entity that has all the answers, nor is there one single group or entity capable of executing the solutions that we need to do,” said Rogers during a Tuesday speech at the US Chamber of Commerce.  Rogers said he views the United States’ current cyber security challenges “as a national security issue,” but that the threats are not unlike those presented in the private sector. "If there's one thing you learn in the military,” Rogers said, "you do not wait until the day of the crisis to suddenly say to yourself, 'Boy, I guess we better do some training with each other, or I guess we better understand what our partners needed and what they don't need, and what's effective for them and what is not effective.'" DOD is already working with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, but the federal government must do a better job of addressing industry concerns around the legal liabilities of partnering with federal agencies.

  • Nellis Conducts Major Accident Response Exercise


    Firefighters from the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron arrive on the scene of a simulated aircraft crash site during a major accident response exercise at Nellis AFB, Nev., Oct. 28, 2014. Air Force photo by SSgt. Siuta B. Ika.

    Nellis AFB, Nev., held a major accident response exercise (MARE) to test the capability and response of first responders and emergency personnel in the event of a major incident, such as the 1988 collision of three Italian fighter jets during an airshow at Ramstein AB, Germany. During the event, airmen were called to respond to a simulated crash that killed or wounded more than 25 people. Firefighters from the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron responded to put out the fire, and security forces airmen helped spectators and maintain crowd control. Teams from the 99th Medical Group also set up a triage site and helped transport the wounded to facilities on and off base. Nellis officials graded the response as “effective.” The MARE event, a requirement for the installation in advance of its upcoming “open house,” benefits base response capabilities in a host of scenarios, Nellis officials said. “Although we hope a scenario like this never comes to fruition, it can happen any time,” said MSgt. Jeffrey Wyatt, the 99th Air Base Wing inspector general exercise planner. Wyatt said Nellis hosts many exercises, such as Red Flag, Green Flag, and the base’s training activities.

  • Five-Year Air and Space Rehab


    The National Air and Space Museum's flagship building in Washington, D.C., as seen from the National Mall. Smithsonian image.

    The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is planning a five-year overhaul to its exterior and mechanical systems starting in 2017, during which portions of the museum will be closed, Smithsonian officials announced. The sheathing of the building is 1.25-inch-thick Tennessee pink marble—a type of limestone—which is warping and cracking and won’t withstand further weathering. The envelope of 13,000 panels conceals the museum’s 38-year-old electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems, which were expected to last 25-30 years and must be replaced.  After the rehab, the museum will be more efficient, meeting or exceeding “best-practice standards for sustainability and energy use.” As portions close for the rehab, galleries will be updated. For example, the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall will be renovated in time for the museum’s 40th anniversary in 2016. Some portions of the museum will remain open during the entire rehab, the cost of which will be determined after design is complete. Federal appropriations will be sought to fund the overhaul, but private funds will be solicited to update the exhibitions. Opened in 1976 with an anticipated attendance of three million visitors a year, the museum has become the most popular in the world, typically drawing between seven and nine million visitors annually.