Oklahoma Depot Hits Jackpot
Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, Tinker AFB, Okla., has won a $10.1 billion contract to conduct engine work now carried out at San Antonio Air Logistics Center, Kelly AFB, Texas. It is the biggest such repair and overhaul contract competitively awarded by the Air Force, according to officials.
The award will save the service about $1.8 billion over 15 years, said Darleen A. Druyun, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition and management, at a Feb. 12 announcement. She said the savings would provide badly needed cash for modernization efforts.
The last round of base closings put the work up for grabs. The 1995 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission reported that San Antonio ALC and Kelly AFB, Texas, should be realigned. The commission further urged that ALC workloads be consolidated at other military depots or with similar private sector commercial activities.
Following up on the commission's recommendations, USAF conducted a competition for the propulsion business work of San Antonio. It received bids from Oklahoma City ALC and from Pratt & Whitney, which proposed to leave the work in San Antonio.
Though much of the propulsion work will now move to the north, some will stay in Texas. Lockheed Martin's Kelly Aircraft Co., a major Oklahoma City ALC subcontractor, plans to do its share of the work at the Greater Kelly Development Corp. facilities in San Antonio.
The propulsion business area workload consists of repair and overhaul of TF39, T56, and F100 non-core engines, modules, and associated fuel accessories, together with two-level maintenance of the TF39 and TF56 engines.
Senate Boosts Pay, Retirement
US military personnel are well on their way to getting their biggest raise in pay since the early Reaganera increases.
On Feb. 24 the full Senate passed a sweeping pay and pension bill that would increase military salaries by 4.8 percent, starting next January. It would allot selected bonuses of up to 10.3 percent and increase pensions of retirees to 50 percent of basic pay, up from 40 percent. In addition, the bill would permit a career service member, if he or she so desired, to stay with the 40 percent retired pay formula and, at 15 years of service, take a $30,000 lump sum payment, which he or she could invest.
Passage of the bill marked a bit of one-upmanship on the part of the GOPled Senate. The Clinton Administration proposed a somewhat less generous package consisting of a 4.4 percent raise and bonuses up to 9.9 percent.
The Administration had not proposed a full pension inflation adjustment-as the Senate approved.
"There is one thing that takes higher priority than budgets, and that's the defense of our country," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi after the legislation passed.
The White House is not happy about the Senate raising its bet, but officials indicated that it would be difficult for the President to veto the stand-alone pay and pension bill over its relatively narrow differences with Clinton's own proposal.
AEFs Seen to be on Track
Air Force officials said that the first two Air Expeditionary Forces will be ready for action in October-90 days before the comprehensive Expeditionary Aerospace Force concept becomes fully operational in January 2000.
Home bases for the lead AEFs will likely be Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., and Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, Maj. Gen. Donald G. Cook, director of AEF implementation, said Feb. 16.
AEFs will consist of people and equipment from multiple wings and bases. The home base will provide a common ground for training and a command structure.
The Air Force is four to five years away from 10 complete AEFs, mainly because it does not have the equipment to ensure they are all equal in capability. The service leadership is not interested in some AEFs being more capable than others, said Cook.
At any given time, two AEFs will likely be deployed on 90-day rotations, and two other AEFs will be on call. Not all the aircraft and personnel of a particular AEF will be necessarily involved in a deployment. Different percentages of assets will be called upon, depending on need.
DoD to Tricare: Heal Thyself
Military medicine provides an excellent level of care, but the Tricare system still has much room for improvement.
Rudy de Leon, defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness, gave that assessment to attendees at the annual Tricare conference held in Washington in early February.
The system needs to do better about how and when patients receive care, how they learn about their health care options, and how and when bills are paid.
"As I talk with our beneficiaries at home and on deployment, a common theme emerges," said de Leon. "Active duty members and their families are pleased with the quality of health care they receive. The problems exist in the level of service."
To learn more about specific problems, de Leon has been holding town hall Tricare meetings across the country. He said most complaints fall into two categories: how long it takes to get through on the telephone to make an appointment and the number of times patients have to deal with their whole bill because the doctor hasn't been paid.
"We must resolve that the system will not allow young military families to be hounded by bill collectors or surprised by out-of-pocket costs," said de Leon. "And we must do all we can to pay our health care providers on time so that the best civilian doctors and other health care professionals will want to participate in the Tricare system."
Defense health officials hope to re-engineer the way the 27 million Tricare claims are processed each year.
By the end of 1999, Tricare will move to Medicarelike standards for its claims processing. This means that 95 percent of error-free claims filed by health care providers will be processed within 14 days, and 95 percent of "clean" claims submitted on paper will be processed within 30 days.
The current Tricare standard-that 75 percent of all claims be processed within 21 days-has been criticized as insufficient by providers, beneficiaries, and such officials as Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis J. Reimer.
Army Aims To Move Faster
The Army is creating light strike forces in an effort to improve its ability to deploy swiftly to world trouble spots, Army Secretary Louis Caldera announced at a Feb. 16 session of the Defense Writers Group in Washington.
The first experimental strike force, consisting of 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers, will be formed within the year at Ft. Polk, La., where it will be tested in wargames.
The force will eventually include lighter, but technically sophisticated, tanks and artillery, said Army officials. Current Army divisions are designed for conventional warfare, have heavy weapons, and up to 18,000 soldiers.
The goal is to provide units that combine deployability with a heavy unit punch. "We want to get to the fight quickly," said Caldera.
Air Force Nominee Emerges
A former acting head of the Department of Energy emerged in early March as President Clinton's likely nominee for the long-vacant post of Secretary of the Air Force.
Charles B. Curtis, 58, would be the second name put forward by the Administration to fill the job left empty when Sheila E. Widnall stepped down in October 1997. The first, Florida state Sen. Daryl L. Jones, was rejected by the Senate Armed Services Committee when lawmakers decided he had misled them about some aspects of his Air Force Reserve career.
Curtis is a Washington lawyer and former Army Reservist. Government service included a stint as head of DoE's defense and national security programs. He was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the Carter Administration.
He and Defense Secretary William S. Cohen are former law school classmates. Both graduated from Boston University School of Law in 1965.
DoD Pushes Base Closure Again
Defense officials are again pushing Congress to allow more base closings. They think their chances of winning are better this year than last year, when lawmakers voted against a new Base Realignment and Closure round.
If they get a green light, no installation will be immune to possible closure.
"We in the Air Force need a BRAC very badly," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan said in January. "We have too many forces spread out over too many installations."
Pentagon chiefs have been making their arguments for base closings in some unusual settings. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen made a pitch for the move during a Jan. 28 speech before the Illinois House of Representatives.
"It should offend every one of us that serious needs for our troops remain unmet while we squander money on facilities we no longer need," he said.
One reason officials believe they may prevail in 1999: a possible change of heart by a key base closure opponent of recent years. Sen. John Warner (RVa.), who cast a deciding committee vote against BRAC last summer, has been discussing a closure bill with the Pentagon. As the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Warner will have considerable influence over the fate of such legislation.
"There isn't a person up here who doesn't recognize that there are ... [more] bases than we need," said Warner at a Jan. 27 Capitol Hill briefing.
Last year, Congressional opponents said there was little evidence that previous closures had actually saved money and that the effect on surrounding communities was unpredictable. Since then, a General Accounting Office report backed up Pentagon claims that recent closing rounds have saved money-$2 billion to $3 billion a year-and that most lost jobs were replaced in two years.
Lawmakers remain suspicious that the Clinton Administration may play politics with base closings by favoring one state over another. However, proponents say Clinton is now likely to be out of office before another BRAC round is completed. This, they say, could help alleviate political concerns.
Air Force Buys Ad Time
For the first time in its history, the Air Force will pay for national television advertising to support its recruitment efforts.
Plans called for an initial $17 million purchase of ads to air during NCAA basketball games that led up to the Final Four Tournament in March. Plans call for another $37 million network ad campaign to take place in the fall.
Air Force leaders are taking this step in response to harsh recruiting difficulties. In the first quarter of Fiscal 1999, the service fell short of its goal by 6 percent-or a total of 696 airmen. Officials do not want to fall short for the entire year, a problem that has not been experienced since 1979.
"It's too early for us to say with certainty that the Air Force will not meet its recruiting mission, but our indicators are not encouraging," said Brig. Gen. Peter U. Sutton, commander of Air Force Recruiting Service. "We need the awareness that television can generate right now, so it can begin to have an impact this year."
In past years, the Air Force has relied on non-paid TV public service announcements to augment national and local print advertising. But such spots are shown irregularly and have an uncertain recruiting effect, said officials.
USAF General To Head Spy Agency
President Clinton has nominated Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael V. Hayden to be the director of the National Security Agency.
Hayden has had years of experience in intelligence gathering and information warfare, making him a natural to lead the nation's secret code-breaking and eavesdropping organization. Currently deputy chief of staff for the United Nations Command in Korea, he has also commanded Air Intelligence Agency and run the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center at Kelly AFB, Texas.
If confirmed by the Senate, he would take the helm of an agency that is still adjusting to its new duties in the postCold War world.
The NSA's job has been made more difficult in recent years by the rise in fiber-optic cables, digital cellular telephones, and proliferating encryption technology, say experts. All these developments make it harder than ever to clandestinely glean communications data useful to US national interests.
Titans Cleared for Launch
After a six-month stand-down, the Air Force's Titan rocket fleet is ready to start counting down toward its next launch.
Air Force officials suspended Titan flights after the loss of a Titan IVA last Aug. 12. Range safety officers at Cape Canaveral AS, Fla., were forced to destroy the launch vehicle about 40 seconds after liftoff, due to indications it was breaking up.
An accident investigation board has determined that electrical shorts in the vehicle power supply wiring harness were the most likely reason for the catastrophic failure. The board found evidence that a wire with damaged insulation-undetected during prelaunch inspections and tests-intermittently shorted as vibration increased after liftoff.
Shorting caused intermittent loss of power to the missile guidance computer, resulting in eventual loss of control.
Armed with this information the Air Force has developed a list of necessary corrective actions. It includes reinspection of all wire harnesses on current Titans, redesign or modification of systems related to power and guidance, and inspection improvements.
A Titan IVB carrying a Defense Support Program satellite is scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral by early April. A Titan II launch from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., is set for late April.
The Pentagon moved to kill the DarkStar Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program in midJanuary and divert remaining funds in its budget to a rival long-range UAV program, Global Hawk.
DarkStar was intended as a stealthy eye in the sky that could sneak past enemy defenses and provide commanders with real-time intelligence. Acquisition officials decided, however, that stealthiness was not a major virtue for a small, unmanned aircraft intended to fly at high altitudes. They opted instead for range, payload, and cost advantages provided by the larger, less-expensive Global Hawk.
Global Hawk, built by Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical, has completed at least 12 test sorties at Edwards AFB, Calif., as it looks toward a spring military utility assessment that will determine how it might be used in joint battlespace operations.
Two January test flights were cut short due to a faulty reading on the engine's oil sensor and a crack in the vehicle's hydraulic pump casing. However, during a Jan. 22 test, the UAV took in images from synthetic aperture radar, electro-optical, and infrared sensors, and sent them to ground controllers in real time.
"For the first time, all four of Global Hawk's command and control and imagery transmission data links were operational," said Lt. Col. Pat Bolibrzuch, program manager of the Joint High Altitude Endurance UAV Office.
DarkStar could yet be revived, as a number of members of the House and Senate have asked DoD to reconsider the move.
Anthrax Vaccine Safe, Says DoD Doctor
There is no truth to recent reports that contaminated anthrax vaccine has recently been shipped to military units, said the Pentagon's top doctor on Feb. 3.
Neither the Department of Defense nor the Food and Drug Administration has found any evidence of microbial contamination in vaccine vials, insisted Dr. Sue Bailey, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. The manufacturing process for the vaccine has met all FDA requirements, she said.
"There have been no vials shipped or any immunizations given any of our service members with lots or vials that were contaminated in any way," she said.
Last February, the manufacturer found some vials with bits of stopper or other foreign matter floating in them. They were pulled from shipment.
"That is part of the usual quality assurance practices," said Bailey.
Some 166,000 US service personnel have already received the first of the series of six shots needed to protect against anthrax, according to Pentagon officials. About 76 people have refused the shots, saying they doubted the immunization's effectiveness, safety, or necessity.
At Travis AFB, Calif., A1C Jeffrey Bettendorf refused several orders to take the shots last year. After a special court-martial on the matter was scheduled for March 16, Bettendorf requested discharge in lieu of facing court-martial. The airman was discharged "under other than honorable conditions."
He was a member of the 815th Air Mobility Squadron, a unit that deploys quickly into high-threat areas and thus needs protection against biological warfare, according to commanders.
C-5 To Get Much-Needed Upgrades
The Pentagon is pushing forward with much-needed upgrades to improve reliability and maintainability of its C-5 airlifters.
On Jan. 22, DoD officials awarded a Lockheed MartinHoneywell team a contract to add digital avionics to the C-5 transport. This C-5 Avionics Modernization Program will lead to replacement of the aircraft's automatic flight control system (autopilot) with a modern digital version. In addition, the effort will install a new communication/navigation system to meet global air traffic management standards and six new liquid crystal displays for flight and engine instruments.
Flight testing of the new avionics is scheduled to begin in October 2001.
Phase 2 of the overall modernization plan calls for re-engining the C-5 fleet. The current TF39 power plant has been rendered obsolete by today's big commercial turbofan engines.
Replacement of TF39s with new GE CF6-80C2 engines would boost the C-5 mission capable rate back into the mid-80s percent range, about equal with other Air Mobility Command aircraft, according to Lockheed Martin officials. The engines would also increase the mission capable hours by nearly one-half and takeoff thrust by nearly 22 percent.
An additional 40 subsystem and structure improvements, such as new pylons and thrust reversers, will yield like-new departure reliability, according to Lockheed Martin. Flying hour cost will be cut 34 percent. All these benefits come at a cost of less than 20 percent that required for comparable new airplanes.
F-22 1999 Milestones
Lockheed Martin delivered the mid-fuselage for the fourth flying F-22 to its Marietta, Ga., assembly plant late last year-and right on schedule.
Raptor 04 will be the first F-22 with a full complement of avionics. Its mid-fuselage, the most complex part of the plane, has about 40 percent more wires, by length, and the first fiber optics of any F-22 yet.
"In terms of internal changes, this represents our final evolutionary step towards a production configuration," said Mary Ann Horter, F-22 airframe manager at Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems in Fort Worth, Texas.
Block 1 avionics flight testing in a 757 flying test bed was scheduled to begin in February or March and be completed by summer.
In other planned program milestones, a non-flying static test F-22 was to begin formal testing in the spring to verify the structural capability of the F-22 design. Raptor 03, the third flyable F-22, is expected to be flown for the first time in the fall.
The year's end should see the first flight readiness review for Raptor 04, as well as the contract award for Lot 1 aircraft and engines, and a long-lead funding contract for a Lot 2 of 10 aircraft and 25 engines.
Joint Experimentation Program To Begin
The Pentagon plans to begin a new program designed to fund exercises and experiments aimed at building forces as foreseen in Joint Vision 2010.
The Congressionally mandated Joint Experimentation Program is penciled in for $30 million in 1999 and $350 million over the next six years, according to budget documents.
Last year, US Atlantic Command was named executive agent for the effort. In December, USACOM issued a Joint Experimentation Campaign Plan that called for a "totally new" force development method.
Fred D. Orazio Sr., an Air Force aerospace design pioneer who helped break the sound barrier, died Jan. 17 in Centerville, Ohio, at the age of 86. A Pennsylvania native, Orazio arrived at Wright Field, Ohio, in 1939 to work in the design branch of the Army Air Corps Aircraft Laboratory. Teamed with George Bailey, he did preliminary design work for what, shortly after the war, became the first airplane to surpass Mach 1, the X-1. During the remainder of his long Wright Field career, Orazio contributed to technical efforts such as the X-20 Dyna-Soar and the Air Force's man-in-space effort. In 1971, he received the Air Force Association's Theodore von Karman Award.
Battle at Arlington Ridge
Arlington, Va., March 4--The announced subject of the National Park Service hearing Feb. 17 was comment on the Environmental Assessment for the Air Force Memorial to be located on Arlington Ridge, overlooking the Potomac River. However, a parade of almost 60 speakers representing groups opposed to the project soon turned the hearing into an attack on the Air Force Memorial, contending that it would encroach on the Marine Corps Iwo Jima Memorial, which occupies eight of the 25 acres on the ridge.
The leadoff speaker was Maj. Gen. David F. Bice, who appeared in uniform and declared the official opposition of the US Marine Corps to the placement of the Air Force Memorial, even though it would be 500 feet away from the Iwo Jima monument, down a slope, and screened by a stand of mature trees. Others in the lineup took a more emotional--and sometimes strident--tack, arguing that the presence of the Air Force Memorial on "hallowed ground" would be a "travesty" and even that it would "pollute" Arlington Ridge.
A small contingent from the Air Force Memorial Foundation, the Air Force Association, and the Air Force Sergeants Association had a few minutes on the program, but the presentations were dominated by the opponents, who were cheered on by more than 200 supporters in the audience.
The next day, AFA President Thomas J. McKee, who had been present at the Park Service meeting, issued a national Call to Action to members of the Air Force Association, asking them to communicate their views on the matter to the Park Service and other oversight groups.
Since time ran out on Feb. 17 before all of those who signed up to speak were heard, a follow-on session was held on March 3--and this time, supporters of the Air Force Memorial were there in strength.
Responding to those who said the Air Force Memorial would "pollute" Arlington Ridge, AFA Chairman of the Board Doyle E. Larson said that "we have not--nor would we ever--show such utter disrespect, either for the Marine Corps War Memorial or for the Marine Corps war dead. We revere the memory of the Marines who fell at Iwo Jima, indeed, the memory of all 19,733 Marines who died in battle in World War II.
"However, if there should be present those who do not already know it, let them listen now and listen well. The combat dead of the Army Air Forces in World War II--52,173 of them--deserve a similar respect, and we of the Air Force Association will insist on this respect on their behalf."
Also entered into the record of the hearing was the text of a letter, sent March 1 by Congressmen Cliff Stearns, Sam Johnson, and Van Hilleary to all members of the US House of Representatives, pointing out that the Air Force Memorial Foundation had followed exactly the complex laws and procedures prescribed by Congress and saying that the men and women of the Air Force "deserve a memorial of their design, erected in a solemn place of their choosing, approved as a result of a rigorous process we legislators enacted over 10 years ago."
Spokesmen for the Air Force Memorial noted some of the erroneous statements made at the Feb. 17 meeting, the most serious of which was the repeated claim that a superb alternative site was available at the location of the Navy Annex. In fact, that site is presently occupied (by the Navy Annex) and the Department of Defense says it will continue to be required for the next 21 years.
Those who had made another fraudulent claim, that the Marine Corps was blindsided by the plans for the Air Force Memorial, were reminded that the former commandant of the Marine Corps testified to the US Senate that he and the Marine Corps leadership had been apprised of the plan in 1994 and "did not impose any objection."
Arlington Ridge--the official name for which is the "Nevius Tract"--consists of 25 acres. The Marine Corps Memorial and parade ground cover eight acres, the Netherlands Carillon takes up three acres, and two of the remaining acres have been approved for the Air Force Memorial. Marine Corps supporters like to refer to Arlington Ridge as "Iwo Jima Park" and hold that nothing else should ever be built on any of the rest of the tract.
They prefer to ignore a letter from the Department of the Interior on Jan. 5, 1954, "outlining the provisions under which the Marine Corps War Memorial Foundation, Inc., is authorized to erect the memorial as a part of the development of the Nevius Tract."
Those provisions, countersigned as acceptable and understood by Maj. Gen. Merrit A. Edson, USMC (Ret.), president of the foundation, included the stipulation that "this authorization is granted with the understanding that the Marine Corps Memorial is an element of an ultimate development of the Nevius Tract and that the future development of this tract may require revisions in the development of the grounds and planting in the immediate vicinity of the Marine Memorial in order to bring this memorial into conformity with the ultimate developments of the entire area."
It was not until much later that Marine Corps supporters and others began to assert that Arlington Ridge belonged to the Iwo Jima Memorial alone.
George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, is more worried about Moscow's direction than he was a year ago, and he says that Russia is backsliding on its promise to curb its transfer of advanced missile technology to Iran.
The Clinton Administration has not succeeded with its strategy of slapping sanctions on Russian firms and institutions involved in the spread of advanced weapons, according to Tenet's Feb. 2 testimony on the threats facing the nation.
"There were some positive signs in Russia's performance early last year, but unfortunately there has not been a sustained improvement," he said. "Especially during the last six months, expertise and materiel from Russia has continued to assist the Iranian missile effort in areas ranging from training to testing to components."
Furthermore, Russia's growing lawlessness, combined with public sentiment for a strong hand at the helm, may illuminate a "dangerous path for a country with Russia's authoritarian history," according to the nation's top intelligence official.
Other threats abound, according to his rare public testimony. North Korea is close to developing ballistic missiles that could be capable of hitting parts of the continental United States, he said. Its recent test of a three-stage rocket, although unsuccessful, "demonstrated technology that, with the resolution of some important technical issues, would give North Korea the ability to deliver a very small payload to intercontinental ranges ... although not very accurately."
An advanced two-stage North Korean rocket now in development might threaten Alaska and Hawaii and portions of the US mainland, with more accuracy, he said.
Meanwhile, resourceful terrorists such as Saudi exile Osama bin Laden are planning attacks similar to the 1998 African embassy bombings. The potential profitability of smuggling items related to Weapons of Mass Destruction may lead to international organized criminal interest that would facilitate transport of WMD materials to rogue states and terrorists. Drug production has declined in Peru and Bolivia but increased in Colombia, so that drug shipments to the US are increasing overland through Central America and Mexico.
"What is noteworthy is the manner in which so many issues are now intertwined and so many dangers mutually reinforcing," said the US DCI.
The Defense Department in February awarded contracts for preliminary work on a new fleet of satellites that could perform from space the same kind of synthetic aperture radarmoving target indicator mission now performed by E-8 Joint STARS aircraft.
The new program, called Discoverer II, is a joint effort by the Air Force, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office.
Its goal is to put into orbit two research and development satellites by 2003 for a year-long demonstration. If successful, further operational launches could begin by 2007.
The project could relieve pressure on the Joint STARS aircraft, which are in constant demand by regional commanders in chief. The system provides near-real-time indication of whether and where any vehicles are moving in a theater of operations.
Acting Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters said at AFA's Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., that even a full complement of 19 Joint STARS would be insufficient to meet CINC requirements. Only 14 are funded.
The Discoverer II satellites are to "be capable of detecting and tracking moving targets on the Earth's surface, producing high-resolution imagery, and collecting high-resolution, digital terrain mapping data," the Air Force said.
Forces in the field are to be able to query the satellites themselves and get back the requested data in near real time, "directly from the satellite itself," worldwide and in all weather, the service added.
The system would eliminate "blind spots" in coverage and provide even more precise fixing of targets.
A major component of the program is to demonstrate the feasibility of building the satellites at a cost that would permit a large constellation to be deployed. The target costs are $100 million each, with a 20-year, 24-satellite fleet operating cost under $10 billion.
Competitive contracts were awarded to Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, Colo.; Spectrum, Astro, Inc., Gilbert, Ariz.; and TRW Defense Systems Division, Redondo Beach, Calif. One or two of the competitors deemed offering the best concepts will proceed to satellite fabrication in late 2001.
"If successful, the Discoverer II program will usher in a revolution in the coverage and timeliness of reconnaissance and surveillance support under the direct control of theater commanders in chief or joint task force commanders," USAF asserted.
-John A. Tirpak, Senior Editor
Boeing Revises JSF Design
Boeing revised its design for the Joint Strike Fighter to save weight, improve maneuverability, and reduce carrier-landing speed, company officials said in February.
The clipped-delta platform of the concept Boeing originally offered in the competition has been supplanted by its Model 373, which features a more conventional wing/empennage layout, as well as a more swept chin inlet.
Company program manager Frank Statkus told reporters the change was made to reflect the "constantly maturing" requirements laid out by the JSF Program Office.
"Design evolution is inherent in the process," Statkus said. "Every time the requirements changed, the configuration changed." He acknowledged that "we needed to save some weight" on Boeing's Model 372, because it didn't meet requirements. The redesign, however, has not only improved expected handling but also paid some benefits in radar cross section reduction, Statkus added.
Under the JSF contracts, Boeing and competitor Lockheed Martin each are to fabricate and fly two demonstrator aircraft. The Boeing versions--X-32A and X-32B--are well into construction and will still reflect the previous configuration.
Statkus, however, said the two demonstrators will still meet program requirements: to demonstrate commonality among variants; Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing hover and transition; and low-speed flying qualities for carrier operations. The two planes are not intended as prototypes of the ultimate product, he pointed out.
"It was never part of the program to fly the exact version you'd build" in production, he asserted.
He insisted that the flight control laws written for the plane will not be affected by the change in weight or center of gravity and that the redesign is not a substantial departure from what the company has been proposing so far. He allowed, however, that "we still have work to do" to improve the pattern of dispersal of hot gases around the STOVL version of the plane, to improve the environment for ground crews.
The configuration is not likely to change again, at least externally, Statkus also said. Should requirements change again, Boeing will seek to meet them with internal changes, to avoid altering the airflow patterns around the inlet and wing. Further efforts to cut weight will also focus on internal structure and components.
Statkus said Boeing is "within a few percent" of where it needs to be to complete the program at the planned cost. So far, the company has expended 58 percent of the amount budgeted for the project; it is also about 54 percent of the way through the program.
There is no truth to the rumor that the Pentagon has set a mandatory date to obtain the new automated ID card, say Air Force personnel officials.
Such rumors have been circulating widely in recent months, note members of the Air Force Personnel Center, Randolph AFB, Texas.
If a mandatory date is established, it will be well-publicized in advance. Meanwhile, retirees with a family member who requires renewal of an ID card may request issuance of a new automated card for themselves at the same time.
Updated information can be found on the Internet at www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/deers.
Survivor Benefit Plan Open Enrollment
March 1 marked the opening of a year-long Survivor Benefit Plan Open Enrollment period mandated by last year's defense authorization bill.
Those eligible to take part are service members or former members who, on Feb. 28, 1999, were not participating to the fullest extent possible in both the Survivor Benefit Plan and the Supplemental Survivor Benefit Plan. They must also have been eligible to elect a greater SBP and/or SSBP coverage than now in effect, but did not.
The deadline for enrollment is Feb. 29, 2000. Those interested must submit a DD Form 2656-3, Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) Open Enrollment Election.
Open period enrollees will have to pay two kinds of premiums. The first are the normal monthly premiums paid for the coverage, beginning with the effective date. The second is a one-time open enrollment (buy-in) premium.
The amount of this buy in is determined by the length of time the retiree had an eligible beneficiary but did not opt for SBP protection. If enrollees desire, the buy in can be deducted from retired pay in monthly installments, although there are limits as to how much can be taken out.
Details may be obtained from an SBP counselor at a military installation or by calling toll free (800) 531-7502.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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