An E-8C JSTARS from the 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron lands after a mission on Sept. 12, 2016, at Al Udeid AB, Qatar. Air Force photo by TSgt. Carlos J. Trevio.
The Air Force grounded four of its E-8 JSTARS aircraft for inspections at Robins AFB, Ga., after they were delivered from a Northrop Grumman depot that is believed to be associated with a trend of mishaps. The aircraft “are being inspected for possible safety of flight issues,” spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement Friday. Air Force Materiel Command “is concerned about a trend of mishaps, mostly minor but at least one significant, that appear associated with” the Northrop Grumman Lake Charles Maintenance and Modification Center in Louisiana, an AFMC spokesman Chuck Paone told Air Force Magazine in an email. The significant mishap consisted of water being found where it should not have been, resulting in damage exceeding the cost threshold. AFMC Chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski directed the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to develop the inspection criteria Sept. 16, Paone said. Two of the aircraft have completed their inspections, and the other two are expected to be finished by Sept. 24. The results are still being evaluated. An independent review team will inspect and validate the quality assurance process at the depot, where another five aircraft are now. Northrop Grumman JSTARS program director Bryan Lima said the company "is committed to quality and safety" and is "working with the Air Force to ensure that the Joint STARS aircraft are mission ready." The rest of the service’s JSTARS are still flying worldwide; the aging fleet reached one million flight hours on Sept. 6. “The Air Force is committed to recapitalizing the JSTARS fleet as soon as realistically possible, and ensuring that JSTARS can continue to support this critical COCOM requirement,” Stefanek said in the emailed statement. (See also: The JSTARS Recap from the February 2015 issue of Air Force Magazine.)
A U- 2 Dragon Lady takes off from Beale AFB, Calif., at 9:01 a.m. on Sept. 23, 2016. The flight commemorated Lt. Col. Ira Eadie, of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale, who was killed when his U-2 crashed on Sept. 20, 2016. Screenshot photo.
The U-2’s worldwide flying operations were not disrupted by Tuesday’s crash near Beale AFB, Calif., the Air Force announced Friday. Beale temporarily stopped flying training missions after the fatal crash that claimed the life of Lt. Col. Ira S. Eadie. A second pilot safely ejected and sustained non-life-threatening injuries. However, a Dragon Lady took off from the base at 9:01 Friday morning—a time representative of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, which Eadie was assigned to, according to a base spokesman. “Our ability to fly missions in support of commanders has not been impacted by the recent crash,” said Col. Larry Broadwell, commander of the 9th RW, according to the release. “We continue to carry out our mission of providing high altitude ISR and delivering that decision advantage to combatant commanders.” (Watch video of Friday's flight.) (See also: Reconnaissance Never Sleeps from the August 2016 issue of Air Force Magazine.)
Gen. Yoshiyuki Sugiyama, Japan Air Self Defense Force Chief of Air Staff, addresses an audience as Japan’s first F-35A aircraft is revealed at the Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, Sept. 23, 2016. Lockheed Martin photo by Beth Steel.
Japan rolled out its first F-35A Lightning II Friday at a ceremony attended by senior Japanese and US officials at Lockheed Martin’s Forth Worth, Texas, assembly facility. With the initial aircraft, AX-1, on the stage in the background, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson called the event an “important milestone for the special relationship between the United States and Japan.” Hewson said that three more F-35s for Japan would be made in Fort Worth, to be followed by another 38 that would be made in Mitsubishi’s final assembly and checkout facility in Nagoya, Japan. “The F-35 will be the treasure of Japan,” said State Minister of Defense Kenji Wakamiya. “The F-35A will be the engine that moves our strong alliance forward,” added Gen. Yoshiyuki Sugiyama, Chief of Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.
Iraqi Security Forces liberated the city of Qal'at Sherqat, also known as Ashur, on Sept. 22, moving closer to its goal of taking back Mosul from ISIS, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said during a Friday briefing. “The removal of Daesh from Sherqat moves them further away from Iraqi supply lines and inhibits their freedom of movement, leading up to the liberation of Mosul,” Dorrian said. Also, coalition forces conducted airstrikes along the Tigris River, destroying ISIS weapons caches and boats and targeting “tactical units that may otherwise have been engaged in the liberation battle.” US commanders have said the coalition is prepared for the battle to reclaim Mosul and are waiting on the go ahead from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi.
Afghan Special Forces enabled by US counter-terrorism forces have reduced the number of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan by 25 percent since late July, Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the Resolute Support mission and US Forces Afghanistan, said Friday. Twelve top leaders, including emir Hafiz Sayed Khan, have been killed during that same period, Nicholson told reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon. Between 1,200 and 1,300 fighters are believed to still make up the group that is concentrated in the Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan though it has direct links—advisory and financial—to the parent group in Iraq and Syria, Nicholson said.
President Obama has tapped Lt. Gen. John Thompson to lead the Space and Missile Systems at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., and Maj. Gen. Robert McMurry for his third star and assignment as commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, according to a Sept. 23 release. If confirmed, McMurry, who currently commands the Air Force Research Laboratory, would replace Thompson, who has led AFLCMC since October 2014. Thompson would replace Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, who has led SMC since October 2014. The Air Force has not yet announced a new assignment for Greaves.
The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center is buying two more GPS III satellites from Lockheed Martin for $395 million, the Pentagon announced Sept. 21. The GPS III Space Vehicles 9 and 10 satellites are expected to launch in 2022, according to a release. United Launch Alliance is scheduled to launch the first GPS III satellite in May 2017, and SpaceX is scheduled to launch the second in May 2018, but it’s not clear if the recent explosion of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket will cause delays. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman are competing to build the 11th GPS III space vehicle.
US Transportation Command announced the release of a new strategy on Friday. The plan seeks to address the changing nature of global threats by prioritizing readiness, cyber capabilities, evolving to meet new challenges, and developing a flexible workforce. “We must anticipate and adapt to challenges that will require us to perform our missions more often in non-permissive, remote, austere, and distributed locations,” the report states. The command intends to meet these challenges, in part, through the use of “additive manufacturing to print exact working replicas of replacement parts” around the world instead of shipping them. Other solutions the report mentions include the use of “autonomous and robot-assisted ground and air refueling,” “drone delivery,” and “driverless vehicles.”
CMSAF James Cody speaks at ASC16 on Sept. 21, 2016. Staff photo by Heather Lewis.
Despite the Air Force’s ongoing “do more with less” mentality, senior leaders are doing their best to “figure out the right balance” between work and family life, said CMSAF James Cody in response to a question during the senior leadership panel at ASC16 on Wednesday. The Air Force has seen a rise in suicide rates and increased mental health issues, which point to an overworked force. When will “do more with less” stop? asked the individual. Cody admitted that leaders at every level have to acknowledge the issue, but that it has to be put in perspective. “We’re the smallest air force we’ve ever been,” he said, but airmen today are putting in the same 12 hour shifts airmen 30 years ago put in. “Heck yeah, we do a lot more today,” he said, “but we have a lot more assets at our fingertips to be able to do a lot more.” He argued that the discussion really is about what is reasonable and what is sustainable. “It’s a little bit unfair to just sit there and [ask] when does it stop,” he said. “It stops when the nation tells us … to stop.” Senior leaders “don’t just sit up in the Air Staff and think about new things to have people in the field do,” he said. “Quite the contrary. We try to balance that workload based on the requirements.”
SSgt. Cole Carroll, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal craftsman at Spangdahlem AB, Germany, investigates an improvised explosive device during the Northern Challenge 16 exercise in Iceland, Sept. 19, 2016. USAF photo by SSgt. Jonathan Snyder.
Airmen from Spangdahlem AB, Germany and Aviano AB, Italy traveled to Iceland to participate in Exercise Northern Challenge 2016. The training, which began Sept 12, focused on disabling improvised explosive devices and was intended to prepare countries enrolled in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program for deployments. Other participants included forces from Germany, Denmark, Poland, Norway, Belgium, Great Britain, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Italy, and the Netherlands, according to a release. “With all these partner nations working together to defeat a common network, you really get the advantage of different points of view, which will help each other improve tactics, techniques, and procedures,” said Capt. Kyle Fuller, commander of the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight at Aviano.
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