Force photo by SSgt. Jason Westberry.
Air Force still doesn’t know where it will find some 800 maintainers it needs
for the F-35 fighter, service F-35 integration chief Maj.
Gen. Jeff Harrigian said Thursday. Speaking at an AFA Mitchell Institute
for Aerospace Studies event in Arlington, Va., Harrigian—recently minted as the
Chief of Staff’s “single point of contact” between USAF and the F-35 Joint
Program Office—said the service still “has some work to do” to identify an F-35
maintainer pool. The plan was to harvest A-10 maintainers freed up by retiring
that airplane, but Congress, for the second year in a row, is making
clear in budget markups that it wants to keep the A-10s. Conclusive
planning is “somewhat dependent” on the final, signed defense authorization,
Harrigian said, but USAF is looking at drawing from other systems. However,
with no letup in demand for any USAF capabilities, that probably won’t work, as
“we’re still going to have to deliver those forces while we continue to grow”
the F-35 workforce, he acknowledged. Another option is to assign very junior
maintenance airmen to the F-35, but that would skew the desired “balance” of
maintainer experience levels, Harrigian said. The clock is ticking, though. “By
this fall, we’re going to have to have a pretty solid understanding of where we
need to go” on the issue, he said, noting initial operational capability, set
for August 2016, won’t be affected by the issue. However, Chief of Staff Gen.
Mark Welsh said
in January IOC could indeed be “at risk” if Congress failed to approve the
service’s force structure proposals allowing experienced maintainers to
transfer to the F-35.
only hasn’t the Air Force solved the problem of how to get its fifth-generation
F-22s and F-35s talking to each other, it still hasn’t figured out whose job it
is to fix the problem, service F-35 integration director Maj.
Gen. Jeff Harrigian said Thursday. “It’s not me,” he told reporters after an AFA Mitchell Institute event, adding
that the inability of the two fighters to stealthily communicate is one of the
problems that drove the creation of his office, which serves as a single point
of contact between USAF, the F-35 Joint Program Office, and the contractors.
“You’ve got to have the ‘who owns this?’” discussion, he said, adding that he
is working with Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and Air Combat Command chief
Gen. Hawk Carlisle to answer it. He said the looming inception of the F-35 into
the fleet could be a “forcing function” to solve not only fifth-to-fifth gen comms, but also fourth-to-fifth and other
issues. He said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about a solution, noting, “there’s
things being done on this,” but as to command and control issues, “I haven’t
taken that on, yet.” Industry officials suggested the problem might not be
USAF’s fault, given that USAF can’t buy a solution unless it’s compatible with
an inter-service interoperability standard … and there may not be one, yet. The two jets actually can communicate one-way: F-22s can receive info from F-35s via the Link 16 datalink, but not send.
The Air Force is
holding to its Aug. 1, 2016, initial operational capability date for the F-35A,
but this date should be seen as merely a “pit stop” on the way to a more robust
capability, Air Force F-35 integration director Maj.
Gen. Jeff Harrigian said Thursday. At an AFA Mitchell Institute briefing in
Arlington, Va., Harrigian said, “the plan to [get] to IOC is solid,” and he’s
satisfied USAF will have the 12 jets needed with the necessary software,
maintainers, and parts in order for Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Air Combat Command
chief, to declare IOC on time. However, there are “challenges” to achieving IOC,
including having deployable versions of the Autonomic
Logistics Information System (ALIS) maintenance kit and some software,
which is behind schedule. He said Carlisle thinks “there will be some
deficiencies,” and has some “concerns about data fusion” on the F-35, but these
may not be sufficient to delay IOC. Harrigian also said that correcting some
deficiencies in the 3F version of F-35 software may “slip” to be corrected in
the Block 4 update, which is supposed to be a series of improvements and
upgrades to weapons and functionality. F-35 system program office spokesman Joe
Della Vedova acknowledged there will be “some cleanup” in the Block 4 update.
planned for the F-35 Block 3F—the planned all-up configuration for all three
services flying variants of the fighter—will migrate to the Block 4 upgrade,
Air Force F-35 integration director Maj.
Gen. Jeff Harrigian explained Thursday. Most of the planned 3F capabilities
that will become part of the first upgrade package live “in the classified
world,” Harrigian said, begging off detailing what they are. “Some of it is
hardware-driven, some of it’s software driven,” he told reporters after an AFA
Mitchell Institute event. However, he said USAF is working to find “mitigation
strategies” to make sure some of those capabilities “don’t move” from the 3F
configuration. USAF is trying to determine, “What’s the constraint? Is it time?
Is it money? ... And, that’s the discussion we need to have” with the Joint
Program Office, he said.
Margaret Romero, commander of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration
Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., was relieved of command “due to a loss of
confidence” in her “ability to effectively lead the organization,” according to
an Air Force statement. Brig.
Gen. Carl Buhler, commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, which
oversees the group, made the decision on May 11, according to the short
statement. However, officials did not say what caused him to lose confidence in
Romero, who led the 309th since last June. The AMARG is most commonly referred
to as the “boneyard” because it is the Air Force’s main storage site for
aircraft. Col. Matthew Powell, deputy commander for maintenance at the Ogden
Air Logistics Complex, has been appointed the new commander, according to the
Air Force released the unclassified
sections of its 20-year strategic master plan, which aims to outline the practical
applications of the 30-year
strategy published last year.
"We must be more flexible in our posture at home and overseas, … align
our science and technology efforts with innovative concepts … that will offer
the opportunity to dominate in the future environment we envision, and adapt
rapidly when it changes," service Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of
Staff Gen. Mark Welsh wrote in the plan's introduction. The plan states that
the Air Force's two main goals are to increase "agility" and
"inclusiveness," according to its executive
summary, released May 21. The plan targets agility by "strengthening
our culture of adaptability and innovation" in future training, weapons,
and organizations, according to the document. "Inclusiveness" aims at
"empowering the members of the Air Force team, improving the structure and
culture that populates it, and expanding our connections both outside and
within the service," it states. Service leaders said the plan "fills
a void in strategic direction," gives "year-on-year coherency"
to planning, and provides "actionable tasks" for every level of
command. The SMP gives a 20-year outlook, which will be updated every two
years, while its four annexes—covering human
posture, capabilities, and science and technology—will be updated annually.
bestowed its highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, upon the
1,447 American fighter aces on May 20 for their “heroic service to the United
States throughout the history of aviation warfare,” according to a statement
from House Speaker Rep. John Boehner’s office. Thirty-six of the 77 remaining
Aces—who range in age from 72- to 104-years-old—attended the ceremony in the
Emancipation Hall at the Capitol Visitors Center. “What an honor it is to
welcome these living legends to the United States Capitol,” said Boehner,
according to a
release from the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Wash., home to the American
Fighter Aces Association. “This medal is meant to honor the feats these men
achieved and the sacrifices their families made to keep the skies, and the
world, safe for democracy.” The museum enlisted the help of some 20 pilots and
“a fleet of small and mid-sized jets to fly the Aces and their families” to
Washington, D.C., so they could participate in the ceremony. “Because wars are
fought differently today, the American fighter Ace is indeed passing into history
at a rapid rate,” said Doug King, president and CEO of The Museum of Flight, in
the release. “Before today’s ceremony, our single purpose was to get as many of
these living Aces as possible to Washington, D.C., for this celebration of
their bravery and their lives.” To become an Ace a pilot must shoot down at
least five enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat. Congress unanimously
passed a resolution honoring the Aces last year.
H-6K bombers with the People's Liberation Army Air Force carried out an exercise over the Miyako Strait for the first time on May 21, according to PLA officials and the Xinhua state news wire. The exercise, which the PLA said was intended to "level up the PLA Air Force's mobility and combativeness" in operations over water, was within international airspace and did not disrupt any civil aviation. The Miyako Strait lies between Okinawa and Miyako Island in the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan. The drill is the second long-range PLAAF drill in the past two months, with its first long-range Western Pacific exercise taking place this past March over the Bashi Channel. Pictures posted by the Ministry of Defense show the exercise featured what appears to be the PLAAF's H-6K bomber, a Chinese version of the Tupolev Tu-16, which is capable of carrying cruise missiles. PLA officials said the exercises are not targeted at any particular country, but added similar exercises may be planned in the future and will simulate real-world scenarios. Chinese forces are working to improve long-range aviation capabilities beyond Chinese territory, according to PLA watchers, and have expanded training and exercising activities as a result.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, weighed in on the
changing situation in Ramadi, Iraq, on May 20, saying Iraqi forces deliberately
retreated and were not driven out by ISIS forces. During a stop in Brussels,
said US officials are working with Iraqi leaders to figure out what
happened, stressing he believed Iraqi security forces drove out of the city
during a May 16 sandstorm after assessing their position. A large group of
Iraqi security forces were deployed in Anbar Province, but believed they were not
supported well enough to face an ISIS offensive, he added. The sandstorm also
precluded US air support, which was critical to operations in Tikrit
in March, causing the Iraqi commander on the ground to make “what appears
to be a unilateral decision to move to what he perceived to be a more
defensible position,” Dempsey said. Over the past week, reports indicated ISIS
had pushed Iraqi security forces out of large portions of Ramadi, the capital
city of Anbar Province, which lies west of Baghdad. Ramadi has been disputed
territory for months, going back to late
last year when ISIS forces seemingly threatened to overrun most of the
province on their way to Baghdad’s international airport.
the Air Force attempts to rebalance its remotely piloted aircraft force
structure, it continues to buy more aircraft for the booming mission. On May
20, USAF announced a $72 million contract modification
award to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for eight more MQ-9 Reaper
Block 5 production aircraft. Work on the extension will be performed at the
company’s facility in Poway, Calif., and will be complete by December 2017. The
5 variant, an upgrade from the original Block 1 “Predator B,” offers
greater electrical power, more gross takeoff weight, enhanced communications
and payload integration, and “trailing arm” main landing gear.
James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined three
common misconceptions regarding ballistic missile defense during a recent
speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington,
D.C. The first, “and most obvious,” he said, is that the United States’ defense
system can’t “hit-to-kill.” He cited the successful June 2014 test interception of an
intermediate-range ballistic missile launched from the Army’s Reagan Test Site
on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands as an example. “Overall, the
ground-based missile defense system is four for seven, and there’s nothing like
having your most recent shot a success,” Winnefeld said during the May 19
speech. He also cited the US’s “excellent track record with our regional
systems,” noting that “THAAD is 11 for 11; AEGIS BMD is 21 for 25; and the
Patriot PAC-3 is 21 for 25.” He added, “That’s not bad, but we’re determined to
make it even better." Second, Winnefeld said it’s not “as easy as it might
look on paper” for an adversary to employ ballistic missile defense
countermeasures. And, finally, he said, “It would be hubris” to think that
“missile defense needs to be 100-percent effective in order to be successful.”
Though he said that will always be the goal, Winnefeld acknowledged that, “No
system can achieve perfection even though we always strive for it.” (Winnefeld transcript.) (See also A Pain and No Gain Approach to Missile Defense.)
Col. Rod Todaro (center-left), 412th Operations Group
commander, and Lt. Col. Michael Davis (center-right), 412th Flight Test Squadron
commander, furl the 412th FLTS guidon signifying the inactivation of the
squadron. Air Force photo by Rebecca Amber.
412th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, Calif., officially inactivated in a
ceremony there earlier this month, bringing an end to the unit's combined
senior leader airlift and test mission, officials announced. The squadron's
single modified KC-135 "Speckled Trout" aircraft will shift solely to
the test support role with Edwards' 418th FLTS, according to a May 20 release.
"It's the only KC-135 on base that's receiver capable, so we're planning
on using it as part of the testing with the KC-46," said former 412th FLTS
Commander Lt. Col. Michael Davis. Gen. Curtis LeMay directed the modification
of a KC-135 to transport senior Air Force leaders in 1957 and "the Trout
in its various forms and squadrons has transported 15 Chiefs of Staff over the
years," Col. Rodney Todaro, 412th Operations Group commander said. The
412th FLTS stood up Jan. 1, 1994, according to the release.
will not publish its next column until Tuesday, May 26 because of the Memorial
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