B-2s Make First DeploymentAir Combat Command successfully executed a forward deployment of B-2 stealth bombers. The March 23-April 3 deployment of two aircraft and some 200 airmen to Andersen AFB, Guam, marked the first-ever deployment of B-2 bombers for a sustained training operation from a forward location.
The aircraft and personnel came from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo.
The purpose of the action was to demonstrate the B-2's ability to deploy and operate from locations around the world, officials said. Exercises included weapons drops at a bombing range in the Northern Marianas and a series of low-level mission flights.
The action came not long after a senior Pentagon official cast doubt on whether the B-2s were ready to take part in real-world operations. Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre, meeting with reporters on Feb. 25, maintained that only two or three B-2s have been modified to the advanced Block 30 configuration which allows them to carry a full load of conventional weapons.
"It takes a long time to develop a warbird, and this one is still developing, to be honest," said Hamre.
Boeing Plans Kelly UnitBoeing will establish a logistics and support center for large aircraft at Kelly AFB, Texas, company officials announced on Feb. 20.
The new center will handle both military and civilian aircraft, with its workload split evenly between the two categories. Its first job, set for this spring, will involve modifying DC-10 and MD-11 cargo airplanes for Federal Express. Boeing will also soon move its C-17 support activities to Kelly.
The announcement comes nearly three years after a Base Realignment and Closure Commission voted to close Kelly by 2001 and move its Air Force work to other government depots. The new Boeing operation--established under a 20-year lease with the Greater Kelly Development Corp.--will create some 800 jobs. That is far short of the 12,000 workers employed at the big depot at its peak, but the number could grow as the Defense Department steers more depot maintenance work to private contractors.
Justice, DoD Seek to Halt LockheedNorthrop MergerIn a move that could bring the end of the rapid consolidation of US defense industries, the Justice Department on March 23 filed suit in federal court to block Lockheed Martin's proposed $12 billion purchase of Northrop Grumman.
Government officials said they are concerned about lack of competition in a number of key areas of technology if the deal is allowed to proceed. The Justice Department contends that the new firm would have a monopoly in airborne radars and electro-optical missile warning systems, according to a court filing.
Lockheed Martin/Northrop Grumman might also have a dominant position in stealth technologies and remote mine-hunting gear, they said.
Furthermore, the Pentagon is worried about the dwindling number of US corporations capable of producing combat aircraft. If Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are allowed to combine it would be one of only two such firms-Boeing/McDonnell Douglas being the other.
Attorney General Janet Reno and Defense Secretary William S. Cohen announced the lawsuit, saying the combination of the No. 1 and No. 3 defense contractors would stifle competition and dampen innovation. "This merger isn't just about dollars and cents," Reno said. "It's about winning wars and saving lives."
Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman executives vowed to fight the government in court. They said their union is necessary if they are to be able to compete against electronics giant Raytheon for new business. If the deal does not go through, Northrop Grumman in particular might become isolated as a weaker fourth competitor in a market dominated by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon, said analysts.
USAF Space Support Improved Since '91 Persian Gulf WarSince the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the US Air Force has vastly improved its ability to deliver precise targeting and location information from space, said top officials of US Space Command in a Feb. 18 Pentagon news conference.
The upgrades of the last seven years mean US forces would rely heavily on space support during any future conflict in the Gulf region. "Space-based information has become like electricity or water--nobody really appreciates it until they flip that switch or turn that faucet, and it's not there. That information is important now and will become even more critical to our future warfighting capability," said Maj. Gen. Gerald F. Perryman Jr., commander of 14th Air Force, a US Space Command component which oversees USAF space operations from Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
Theater missile warning is one area that is much better today than it was during Desert Storm. During the war with Iraq it took nearly five minutes to alert people on the ground of an incoming Scud missile. Warning time now is "dramatically better," said Space Command Commander in Chief Gen. Howell M. Estes III. The exact figure is classified.
That is at least partially due to the establishment of the 11th Space Warning Squadron at Falcon AFB, Colo., in 1995. That unit is the only one in USAF specially tasked with using information from Defense Support Program early warning satellites to identify theater ballistic missile launches.
The squadron has a window of about 30 seconds to determine if a flash detected by DSP equipment is indeed a hostile launch. Information about confirmed Scud shots is disseminated via both voice and data networks.
Location information is another much-improved area that is reliant on space systems. US military forces now have access to a full constellation of 24 Global Positioning System satellites, as opposed to only 16 during the Gulf War. GPS is also now linked to precision guided weapon systems.
"This new generation of smart weapons will save lives," said Perryman. "Our pilots are no longer tied to their target. ... They can 'fire and forget' thanks to the accuracy provided by GPS targeting and guidance systems."
B-2 Panel Releases FindingsA Congressionally mandated review board has concluded that the Air Force should use its B-2 bomber money for the baseline stealth program and to upgrade the deployability, survivability, and maintainability of the existing B-2 force--not attempt to procure more of the stealth bombers.
The Panel to Review Long Range Airpower was charged by lawmakers with deciding whether the upgrade approach or continued low-rate production should be the continuing focus on the B-2 program.
Heading the panel was a former USAF Chief of Staff, Gen. Larry D. Welch. Another ex-service chief, Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, and former Air Force Secretary Donald B. Rice were among its other members. The panel also included Samuel Adcock, Daimler-Benz Corp.; former Sen. James Exon (D-Neb.); John Foster, TRW Inc.; Frederick L. Frostic, Booz·Allen & Hamilton, Inc.; Walter Morrow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory; and retired Air Force Gen. Robert L. Rutherford.
The review board also recommended that the Pentagon make better use of its current bomber force--B-1s and B-52s, as well as B-2s--through more operational attention and more money for support and upgrades. DoD needs to develop a long-term bomber sustainment plan, said panel members.
USAF Eyes U-2 Follow-OnThe U-2 surveillance airplane has been one of US intelligence's most valuable tools since the early days of the Cold War. But the design is aging, and Air Force officials believe now is the time to begin planning the U-2's replacement.
By the end of the year service planners expect to draw up a mission requirements statement for a next-generation spy aircraft dubbed "U-X." Current concepts call for U-X to be able to operate in both manned and unmanned modes and to be capable of collecting a wide variety of data, including imagery, signals intelligence, and measurement and signature intelligence.
Still to be determined: Whether U-X will be a traditional air breather or a transatmospheric vehicle and whether it should be capable of hypersonic speed.
The U-X will not be a derivative of current unmanned aerial vehicle programs such as the Global Hawk, according to the Air Force.
Development of the new system is expected to begin in 2010, with first aircraft delivery scheduled for eight years later. The current fleet of 35 U-2s would be phased out by 2025, the end of their predicted structural lifetime.
U-2s are already undergoing upgrades in an effort to keep them fully capable until their replacement shows up in adequate numbers. Modifications include replacement of the airplane's Pratt & Whitney engine with a General Electric F118-GE-101 capable of boosting the airplane's operational altitude by 5,000 feet and radar and defensive system upgrades.
C-141 Accident Laid to German AircraftA USAF investigating board blamed a German aircraft flying at the wrong altitude for the Sept. 13 crash of an Air Force C-141 in the south Atlantic. The accident claimed the lives of nine on the C-141. Another 24 aboard the German aircraft, a Tu-154, also perished.
The Air Force on March 31 released the accident investigation report detailing the circumstances of the midair collision of the two aircraft off the coast of Namibia, in southwest Africa. The board, headed by Col. William H.C. Schell Jr., 375th Airlift Wing vice commander, Scott AFB, Ill., said the Tu-154 was flying at the wrong cruise altitude. The board further learned that the German aircraft's planned and actual flight altitudes violated the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The C-141 had departed Namibia for Ascension Island in the Atlantic after delivering US Army personnel and mine-clearing equipment to Windhoek Field, Namibia.
F-16 Crashes Off KoreaA pilot assigned to the 51st Fighter Wing, Osan AB, South Korea, died on March 25 in the crash of his F-16 fighter over the Yellow Sea between the Korean peninsula and China.
The crash occurred during a routine combat training mission being carried out by a formation of four aircraft, USAF said.
The Air Force identified the pilot as Capt. Keith A. Sands of Tulsa, Okla. The body of Sands was located by a search team about 11 hours after the crash.
The cause of the accident is unknown. The Air Force said it had launched a formal crash investigation.
Cohen Orders Training ChangesIn a sweeping directive aimed at improving basic training, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen on March 16 ordered US military services to toughen physical fitness standards for recruits, as well as do more to separate male and female enlistees in their boot camp living quarters.
The guidance marked Cohen's response to the work of a special panel on training issues headed by Nancy Kassebaum Baker, the former Republican Senator from Kansas.
At least for now, Cohen rejected the panel's recommendation that the military services segregate trainees by sex for much of their basic experience.
Still, the Pentagon chief insisted that his orders will improve one of the most crucial periods in the life of all US military members. "We must do more to ensure that basic training provides the skills, the discipline necessary to become a valuable member of our armed forces," said Cohen.
SECDEF's Training ChangesThe new plan addressed three general training areas:
In addition, the Pentagon will accept a number of other recommendations made by the Kassebaum Baker panel, said Cohen. They include increases in the number of female recruiters and trainers, reexamination of recruitment advertising to put more emphasis on patriotism and challenge, and institution of training meant to produce professional relationships without use of such blanket policies as "no talk, no touch" between the sexes.
Drawdown Incentive Plan ClosesThe 1998 Air Force drawdown incentive program for officers has ended early, service officials announced on Feb. 18.
Plans had called for 1,000 officers to take early retirement and another 700 to leave after being granted service commitment waivers in 1998. Last year, applications for the drawdown plan were accepted into late summer. This year the numbers choosing to leave are such that the program was closed March 3.
The early retirement program is voluntary. The Air Force started accepting paperwork for those wanting entry last Dec. 2. A week later they were nearly a quarter of the way toward their 1,700 goal.
Officer Training Selection Rates UpNow is a good time for airmen and civilians to apply to Officer Training School, because selection rates are currently high, say Air Force officials.
At an OTS selection board in February, 35 percent of 650 applicants were chosen to attend the 13-week course, which commissions graduates as second lieutenants.
"We're ramping up our OTS production to meet the Air Force's need for new line officers," said Maj. Dori Johnson, chief of line officer accessions for USAF Recruiting Service. "Although OTS selection remains very competitive, across the board our selection rates are way up."
Civilian college graduates can apply for OTS through Air Force recruiting offices. Active duty enlisted members apply through base education offices. Applicants can choose from four OTS programs: pilot, navigator, technical, and nontechnical.
Some categories are in greater demand than others. Seventy percent of applicants in the navigator program were accepted, more than double the rate of last year. The pilot selection rate was more than 31 percent. Figures for technical and nontechnical program applicants were 49 percent and 14.3 percent, respectively.
OTS applicants must be US citizens, 18 to 29 years old, and meet certain physical requirements.
Wing Drop Problem "Solved," Navy's Top Admiral AssertsWing drop problems in the F/A-18E/F have been essentially solved, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jay L. Johnson told Congress March 12. The Navy still had to give Pentagon officials a formal briefing on the change and receive their concurrence.
In the wing drop phenomenon, asymmetric lift causes uncommanded banking of the aircraft during flight. To fix it "the porous wing full fairing is the right answer for us," Johnson said.
Researchers are currently fine-tuning the exact porosity of such fairings and are no longer considering any other approaches, added Rear Adm. Dennis McGuinn, the Navy's director of warfare.
The wing drop glitch endangered F/A-18E/F funds. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen testified earlier that he would not allow the release of $2.39 billion in 1998 money for the Lot II buy of 20 airplanes unless the problem was solved.
Falcon Name ChangesThe Air Force has approved changing the name of Falcon AFB, Colo., to Schriever AFB in honor of retired Air Force Gen. Bernard A. Schriever, father of the USAF space and missile program. Falcon, which derives its current name from a nearby town, is home to the 50th Space Wing, the Joint National Test Facility, and the Space Warfare Center, including the Space Battlelab.
Among his other accomplishments, Schriever was responsible for crucial development of the ICBM program when he was commander of the Western Development Division of Air Research and Development Command in the mid-1950s. He also helped transform Atlas and Titan missiles into reliable launching systems for sending men into space in the Mercury and Gemini programs. He retired in April 1966.
Enola Gay Exhibit Closes
The Enola Gay exhibition will end its long run at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington May 18 because of major structural renovations to the museum. The exhibition, built around the famous B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, has drawn almost four million visitors since it opened in June 1995.
It has been, by a wide margin, the most popular special exhibition in the history of the museum, but it is not the exhibit originally planned by the curators and the since-departed museum director. In 1994, Air Force Magazine and AFA touched off a national controversy by reporting on the museum's intention to use the Enola Gay as a prop in a political horror show. That scheme was eventually scrapped and a new director appointed.
Donald D. Engen, the current director, directed that the exhibition remain open through Armed Forces Day on May 16 and close the following Monday, when major refurbishing-much needed by the museum which is showing the effects of 22 years of visitor traffic-gets under way.
The Enola Gay will be a central element in the National Air and Space Museum's Dulles Center, scheduled to open in suburban Virginia in late 2001.
The Battle of Arlington Ridge
Arlington, Va., April 3--The campaign by Marine Corps veterans and a neighborhood group to block construction of an Air Force Memorial on Arlington Ridge, overlooking the Potomac River, intensified as it entered its second year.
The dispute began in April 1997 when local residents formed a group called "Friends of Iwo Jima" and began collecting names on a petition to "relocate" the Air Force Memorial. Their main concern seemed to be that it might bring more cars and visitors to the area. Their public statements, however, centered on the claim that the Air Force Memorial encroached on the "sacred ground" of the Marine Corps Memorial, which occupies about a third of Arlington Ridge.
Marine Corps veterans soon rallied to the alarm and joined efforts with the neighborhood group in a relentless media and Congressional lobbying program. The Marine Corps, which had been notified in 1994 of plans for the Air Force Memorial and posed no objection, has lent its support to the campaign as well.
In March of this year, all three of the organizations--the National Park Service, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the Commission of Fine Arts--designated by Congress to review plans for memorials and which had given the Air Force Memorial their clearance to go ahead found themselves under attack.
An affidavit filed on behalf of Friends of Iwo Jima in federal district court accused the National Capital Planning Commission of yielding to "improper influence" from the Air Force Memorial Foundation in approving the project. Thus far, there has been no public explanation of the charge.
Eight US senators, all former Marines, wrote to Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt asking for a full review of the National Park Service's environmental study of the site for the Air Force Memorial. The letter was signed by Senators Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.), Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), John Chafee (R-R.I.), John Glenn (DOhio), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Charles S. Robb (D-Va.), Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), and John W. Warner (R-Va.).
The controversy surged, however, when the Friends of Iwo Jima discovered and circulated to the news media the transcript of a 1994 meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts in which J. Carter Brown, the commission chairman, had referred to the Iwo Jima Memorial on Arlington Ridge as "kitsch." The dictionary definition of kitsch is "something that appeals to popular or lowbrow taste and is often of poor quality."
The context for Brown's statement was a discussion about what form the Air Force Memorial might take. Brown said that one option would be to "put up a statue of an airman that would bring us all to tears. I don't see that happening. I think we are going to get kitsch if we do that. ... I would say that the Iwo Jima Memorial is kitsch. ... It was taken from a photograph, it is by a sculptor, even though he was a member of this commission at one point, who is not going to go down as a Michelangelo in history--and yet it is very effective, largely because of its site."
Marine veterans called for Chairman Brown's ouster, as did Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon (R-N.Y.), a former Marine, who has joined the Friends of Iwo Jima in a lawsuit to stop the Air Force Memorial. Solomon is also chairman of the House Rules Committee and sponsor of two of the three bills now pending in Congress to keep the Air Force Memorial off Arlington Ridge. His latest measure, introduced Feb. 11, provides for the federal government to reimburse the Air Force Memorial Foundation for "site specific design expenses" up to $1.5 million if the project is moved to another location.
Retired Maj. Gen. Charles D. Link, the new president of the Air Force Memorial Foundation, has been taking members of Congress and other public officials for tours of the Arlington Ridge site to show them that much of what they have heard is misleading or wrong. "If I had to rely only on the information provided by opponents of our memorial, I, too, would be concerned," Link says.
Link's own information package reproduces a "perspective" drawing that appeared in the November/December issue of The Word, journal of the Marine Corps Reserve Officers' Association. It supports the "encroachment" theme and leaves the clear impression that the Air Force Memorial will rise above the Iwo Jima Memorial and crowd it. The Word exhorts its readers to write to Congress to stop this outrage.
The true relative size and elevation of the two memorials are seen in the architect's certified drawing. The Air Force Memorial is well separated from the Iwo Jima monument, and will be located down a hill and screened by a stand of tall, mature trees.
Col. Andy Harp, president of the Marine Corps Reserve Officers' Association, continues the attack in the March/April issue of The Word, declaring that the Air Force Memorial will have a "drive-in garage" and be "within 150 yards" of the Iwo Jima Memorial. The distance is more than 500 feet and the garage exists only in Harp's imagination.
Of the 25 acres in the Arlington Ridge tract, the Marine Corps Memorial and parade ground take eight acres, the portion allotted when the memorial was built in the 1950s. The Netherlands Carillon takes another three acres. Two acres have been approved for the Air Force Memorial, leaving the remaining 12 acres as open space. Link points out to visitors touring the site that commercial establishments across Route 50 are closer to the Marine Corps Memorial than the Air Force Memorial is.
People who attended the dedication of the Air Force Memorial site last October noticed that they could not see any part of the Iwo Jima Memorial--not even the flag flying above it--from where they stood down the slope.
The project to build an Air Force Memorial started in 1992 with the creation of the Air Force Memorial Foundation. Since then, it has followed the elaborate process prescribed for proposed monuments by Congress, and has satisfied all of the requirements imposed by oversight authorities. The design of the memorial is based on a five-pointed star. The structure will be open to the elements, capturing the impression of space and air. It was designed by James Ingo Freed, who was also the architect for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
USAF Can't Use "Don't Promote Me" Letters
Congress is looking askance at an Air Force proposal to reject separation pay for officers who have written letters to promotion boards asking not to be advanced.
Lawmakers understand that the service has a problem with some members whom it believes are attempting to manipulate the personnel system to obtain involuntary severance bonuses. Senate aides have asked Air Force officials to find another way to deal with the trend.
The manipulation works like this: Officers know that being passed over twice for promotion is important in becoming eligible for involuntary separation pay. Those who are planning to leave the service anyway, but want severance cash, simply communicate to promotion boards that they do not want a promotion. Last year, boards received 107 letters asking to defer promotions to major, for instance.
The incentive to use this ploy is considerable. Separation pay can range up to $52,000 for a captain with 12 years of service.
Using these letters against the writers when it comes to handing out severance bonuses would be problematic, however. Currently, all correspondence to promotion boards is considered to be confidential.
One solution might be to direct the boards to simply ignore all such letters. Lt. Gen. Michael D. McGinty, the service's top personnel officer, has already announced that officers who turn down proffered promotions will no longer be considered passed over. They will continue to serve at their lower rank but will stay on the "selected" list, negating chances of involuntary separation cash.
Feingold Attacks Navy Super Hornet
Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), a harsh critic of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, took to the Senate floor March 23 to deliver a scathing attack on the Navy's newest fighter, which has been troubled in recent times by wing drop and other anomalies in its testing program.
"We should discontinue the ... program before the American taxpayers are asked to shell out additional tens of billions of dollars for an unnecessary and flawed program," he said.
The senator maintained that the aircraft is in technical trouble and doesn't provide much of a boost in capability over the current F/A-18C/D models. "The ... 'Super Hornet' program is foundering, and the Defense Department is doing everything in its power to keep it afloat," said Feingold.
He said that, after reviewing the program, investigators from the General Accounting Office recommended that the Navy take a more cautious approach to the program and conduct detailed tests before buying more of the airplanes.
Even so, he said, the Super Hornet team is struggling to keep the aircraft alive by minimizing its problems, the senator charged. "The story has a little bit of deception and what might be called good old-fashioned government cover-up," he said.
The Navy maintains that the aircraft is in solid shape and is vitally needed as a replacement for the A-6, F-14, and F/A-18C/D carrier aircraft that have either aged out of the inventory already or will do so over the next decade.
Chief Benken Goes to the Hill
In three appearances before committees of Congress, CMSAF Eric W. Benken vowed that the Air Force will continue to push for new and improved housing for married and single airmen, along with programs to boost morale, welfare, and recreation.
The Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force asked the lawmakers with whom he met to continue to support construction projects and other quality-of-life programs for Air Force people who are having to cope with very high operation and personnel tempos.
He said, "Never in America's history has its armed forces been as strong as [they are] today. Never before has its air arm been as mighty. Never in our 51-year history have we asked our blue-suiters to do so much."
The chief said everyone understands that the national mission today requires high tempos. However, he noted, the effect on Air Force people could be negative. "We are busy," Benken said. "The numbers show that. But more importantly, our people and their families are feeling it."
Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag