Airman Killed in Afghanistan
SSgt. Phillip A. Myers, 30, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 48th Civil Engineer Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, Britain, died April 4 in the Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan from wounds caused by an improvised explosive device.
A native of Hopewell, Va., Myers had been serving with the 755th Air Expeditionary Group in Kandahar. He was promoted posthumously to the rank of technical sergeant for his accomplishments prior to his death.
Myers received a Bronze Star Medal in March 2008 for his actions during a previous deployment to Iraq. RAF Lakenheath also selected Myers as its outstanding civil engineer military technician, presenting him the 2008 Maj. Gen. Eugene A. Lupia Award.
Airman Killed By IED
SSgt. Timothy L. Bowles, 24, a fire truck mechanic assigned to the 3rd Logistics Readiness Squadron at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, was killed March 15 by an improvised explosive device near Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
Bowles had been serving in Afghanistan since November 2008 with the 755th Air Expeditionary Group’s Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team. The IED destroyed the vehicle that he was in. It was part of a four-vehicle patrol checking on a local school.
Bowles was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and grew up on Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., where his father was stationed.
Test Pilot Dies in F-22 Crash
Lockheed Martin test pilot David P. Cooley, 49, was killed in the March 25 crash of an F-22 Raptor fighter about 35 miles northeast of Edwards AFB, Calif., where the aircraft was assigned for test purposes.
Cooley joined Lockheed Martin in 2003, having retired as a lieutenant colonel after 21 years in the Air Force. He was working with the F-22 Combined Test Force at Edwards where USAF and company pilots conduct Raptor testing.
The Air Force is conducting an investigation into the crash, which was the second involving the F-22. In December 2004, a Raptor went down at Nellis AFB, Nev., during the aircraft’s test and evaluation period. Its pilot ejected safely.
Airman Receives Air Force Cross
SSgt. Zachary J. Rhyner, a combat controller with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope AFB, N.C., received the Air Force Cross March 10, joining an elite group of only 187 airmen—including 23 other enlisted airmen—who have been awarded the service’s highest military decoration.
Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley presented Rhyner with the medal during a ceremony at Pope in recognition of Rhyner’s uncommon valor during a mission with a team of US and Afghan special forces in Afghanistan’s Shok Valley on April 6, 2008, that evolved into an intense 6.5-hour battle with insurgents.
Although shot three times and seriously wounded in his leg, Rhyner called in more than 50 air strikes to prevent the team from being overrun and provided suppressive fire to aid in the extraction of his colleagues. A senior airman at the time of the battle, Rhyner also received a Purple Heart during the ceremony from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz.
Donley Stays On
The White House announced Feb. 26 that Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley would remain in his current post as USAF’s top civilian official under the Obama Administration. In a press release that day, President Obama characterized Donley as one of the "distinguished individuals" staying on from the Bush Administration who possess "the commitment and expertise to help guide the Department of Defense at this critical time for our nation."
Donley became Acting Secretary in June 2008 after the departure of Michael W. Wynne. Donley was sworn in officially as the 22nd Air Force Secretary last October. On the eve of the new Administration taking power, he expressed his willingness to keep serving until replaced or otherwise asked to depart.
Air Guard Gets New Leaders
Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Moisio, an Arizona Air Guardsman, became deputy director of the Air National Guard on March 6. He filled the post left vacant in June 2008 when now-Maj. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III took on a new assignment on the Air Staff.
Moisio, an Air Force Academy graduate, joined the Air Guard in 1984 after serving as an A-7D and A-10 pilot in the active duty Air Force. He served most recently as commander of the 162nd Fighter Wing, an F-16 pilot training unit at Tucson Arpt., Ariz.
In another leadership move, CMSgt. Christopher Muncy from the Ohio Air National Guard was announced Feb. 23 as the Air Guard’s new command chief, succeeding CMSgt. Richard Smith, who is retiring after 37 years of service. Muncy, who served most recently as command chief of the Ohio ANG, joined the Air Guard in 1979.
Osprey Ready for Combat
Air Force Special Operations Command in early March cleared the CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft to conduct combat operations worldwide, if called upon. The platform, which replaces the now-retired MH-53 helicopter, is designed for long-range infiltration, extraction, and resupply.
AFSOC spokesman Don Arias said March 16 that Hurlburt’s 8th Special Operations Squadron had six CV-22s at its disposal that were ready for operations. As a run-up to the initial operational capability milestone, AFSOC sent four CV-22s to Africa’s Trans-Saharan region in November 2008 to participate in a multinational military exercise called Operation Flintlock.
The Air Force plans to buy 50 CV-22s. The Marine Corps version of the Osprey, the MV-22, has served in Iraq and is being considered for duty in Afghanistan.
2010 Defense Topline Grows Slightly
President Obama released his Fiscal 2010 base budget on Feb. 26, including a $533.7 billion topline for the Department of Defense. This defense topline request represents a nearly four percent increase over the $513 billion appropriated by Congress in Fiscal 2009.
As of late March, the Administration was expected to present the budget details to Congress in May. Testifying before the House Budget Committee March 3, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter R. Orszag offered some insights into the defense budget, saying it would provide for the increase in Army and Marine Corps end strength, give service members a 2.9 percent pay raise, improve military housing, and provide better medical treatment for wounded troops.
At the same time, Orszag said it would set realistic requirements and incorporate "best practices" to control cost growth and schedule slippage of weapons programs.
US Downs Iranian UAV in Iraq
A US fighter aircraft shot down an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle Feb. 25. The UAV had intruded into Iraqi airspace and had spent more than an hour well inside Iraqi territory, Multinational Force-Iraq officials said March 16.
The incident is said to have occurred about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad. The UAV was thought to be an Iranian-made Ababil 3 model.
According to MNF-I officials, two coalition aircraft were directed to visually identify the UAV after it was detected inside the Iraqi border. They tracked it for more than one hour before engaging it. An MNF-I official said it "was not an accident on the part of the Iranians."
USAF Gains First MC-12W
Air Force officials accepted the service’s first MC-12W Liberty Project Aircraft from Hawker Beechcraft March 19 in a ceremony at the company’s facility in Wichita, Kan.
This MC-12W, dubbed Liberty One, is the first of 37 modified King Air 350 aircraft that the Air Force is acquiring to bolster its overhead intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance arsenal in Afghanistan and Iraq. The first MC-12s are expected to be fielded in Southwest Asia this month.
"The MC-12W will provide a comprehensive signals and imagery intelligence collection capability," said Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, deputy chief of staff for ISR, who attended the acceptance ceremony, along with Brig. Gen. Blair E. Hansen, USAF’s director of ISR capabilities.
USAF Details Stimulus Projects
The Air Force announced March 20 that it will receive about $1.7 billion for various infrastructure projects out of the total $7.4 billion that the Department of Defense was allocated under the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
This funding will enable more than 1,500 maintenance and repair projects valued at $1.1 billion, said Air Force Civil Engineer Maj. Gen. Del Eulberg. There will also be $260 million for Air Force military construction and housing, $100 million for four dormitories, $80 million for seven child development centers, and $80 million for two military family housing projects, he said.
Additionally, Air Force engineers will construct four energy conservation investment program projects using $17 million provided to the Department of Defense. ARRA funds will also support Air Force fuel-cell, wind, and solar energy research.
Missile Wing Passes Inspection
The 90th Missile Wing at F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo., passed a limited nuclear surety inspection conducted by Air Force Space Command officials at the base March 11-13, receiving an overall grade of "satisfactory," the highest possible rating. With the passing grade in this demanding type of inspection—in which the inspectors demand perfection—the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile unit remains certified to perform its nuclear mission, AFSPC said March 13.
The limited-scope inspection was prompted when the wing fell short in a larger NSI in December 2008 when inspectors observed deficiencies in certain areas.
The 341st MW at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., passed its own reinspection in February after coming up short in its previous NSI last year.
Reservist Wins Landmark Case
A federal judge ruled on March 19 that Wachovia Securities, now a part of Wells Fargo, must pay Michael Serricchio, a financial advisor and Air Force Reservist who was activated shortly after 9/11 and served in Southwest Asia, about $1.3 million in compensation and damages for violating his employment rights by demoting him on his return from military service in 2003.
The company must also reinstate him at the appropriate level. This settlement is the largest of its kind involving the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, the New York Times reported March 21.
"I know that other returning servicemen have faced similar problems, and I hope that the decision in my case will encourage them in their fight to vindicate their rights," Serricchio said.
First MALD Delivered
The Air Force accepted delivery of its first Miniature Air Launched Decoy from manufacturer Raytheon during a ceremony March 16 at the company’s facility in Tucson, Ariz. This first unit is one of the MALDs being built during the program’s low-rate initial production phase, which began in mid-2008.
"The warfighter now has an incredible new capability," said Ken Watson, the Air Force’s MALD program manager. USAF’s goal is to have enough MALDs in its inventory in March 2010 so that the decoys could be used operationally, if needed.
The MALD is a low-cost, expendable flight vehicle with a range of about 500 miles that is designed to duplicate the flight profiles and signatures of US and allied aircraft in order to fool enemy air defenses. The decoy has been tested on the B-52 and F-16.
Civil Engineers Afghanistan-bound
The Air Force intends to surge civil engineering capacity into Afghanistan in the coming months to help construct new facilities, airstrips, and infrastructure to accompany the US troop buildup there, Maj. Gen. Del Eulberg, USAF’s civil engineer, told reporters in the Pentagon March 16. This includes shifting resources from Iraq, he said.
"It’s critical that we get engineering support over there as quickly as we can," said Eulberg, noting that current major operational hubs such as Bagram Air Base and Kandahar Airfield are already maxed out with missions.
To support the increased demands, the Air National Guard notified its civil engineer units in March that involuntary deployments are in store during the next two years. Also, Air Force Reserve Command activated the 209-member 560th Rapid Engineers Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron on March 8 at Charleston AFB, S.C. B-2s Join Raptors on Guam
About 250 airmen and four B-2A bombers from the 13th Bomb Squadron at Whiteman AFB, Mo., started arriving at Andersen AFB, Guam, on Feb. 23 to begin a four-month deployment in the Pacific as part of a routine rotation of US forces in the region. They relieved about an equal number of airmen and six B-52Hs from the 23rd BS at Minot AFB, N.D., that had been serving on the island since October 2008.
The B-2s joined a contingent of 12 F-22s from the 90th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, that arrived at Andersen in January for a three-month operational stint. This marked the first time that the two kinds of stealth aircraft operated out of Guam at the same time, presenting what Lt. Col. Jason Armagost, commander of the 13th BS, called an "unparalleled opportunity" to flesh out the capabilities of the two low observable aircraft types.
UAV Agreement Signed
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz and his Army counterpart Gen. George W. Casey Jr. have approved the Army-Air Force multirole unmanned aircraft system enabling concept, dubbed Task 11, Air Combat Command announced Feb. 25. Implementation is expected within one year.
"This is a major step forward," said Maj. Gen. Frank Gorenc, ACC’s director for air and space operations. ACC worked with Army Training and Doctrine Command to develop the concept, which seeks to improve how each service utilizes its theater-capable, larger-size UAVs to support joint operations.
At the same time, Task 11 is meant to ensure that each service can meet its own specific requirements. For the Army, this means the ability to use its UAVs as part of an organic ground force. For the Air Force, it is the ability to operate as part of an air-only strike package.
Bronze Star Medals Awarded
Lt. Col. James Boles Jr. received a Bronze Star Medal March 13 for his exceptional service as chief of the Joint Regional Contracting Center in Mosul, Iraq, during a one-year deployment. He heads the Electronic Warfare Contracting Division at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Ga.
On March 12, Lt. Col. Carlos Camarillo, commander of the 586th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his work during a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia.
Also receiving Bronze Star Medals were: 1st Lt. Brian Rutt, a member of the 52nd Security Forces Squadron at Spangdahlem AB, Germany, Feb.19, for his activities leading 59 airmen working USAF’s Police Transition Team mission during a one-year deployment to Iraq, and TSgt. Wesley Rincker, an airman with the 509th LRS at Whiteman AFB, Mo., March 2, for his actions as a convoy commander in Iraq.
SSgt. Timothy P. Davis, a combat controller assigned to Hurlburt Field, Fla., who was killed by a roadside bomb Feb. 20 in Afghanistan, was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star Medal March 1.
Indiana ANG Unit To Fly A-10s
The Indiana Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing at Fort Wayne will replace its F-16s with A-10s over the course of several years, Fort Wayne’s News Channel 15 reported Feb. 28.
Rep. Mark Souder (R) said the change from F-16s to A-10s would keep the 122nd FW alive longer. Although the wing just completed a conversion from its F-16 Block 25 aircraft to newer Block 30s in February, the unit will have a longer life span with the A-10s.
"It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this was a good deal," Col. Jeff Soldner, 122nd FW commander, told News Channel 15.
Murtha Champions F136 Engine
Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee defense panel, on March 25 asserted his support for continuing the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 engine, the second power plant being developed for the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter.
"Both the House and the Senate feel very strongly about the alternative engine" and "expect the Air Force to eventually build [it]," Murtha said of the F136 during a hearing on Air Force and Navy combat aircraft acquisition.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense has tried unsuccessfully to kill the F136 program, citing its cost. Murtha’s rationale for keeping the F136 alive, in addition to Pratt & Whitney’s F135, is that past experience in fighter programs has shown the merit in having two engine suppliers. Plus, this approach would be "cost effective" given the long run expected for the F-35, he said.
Boeing Unveils Stealthy F-15
Boeing revealed its new F-15SE model, the "Silent Eagle," on March 17. The company claims that this new F-15 variant would have the level of stealth approved by the US government for release to international customers. It employs several design changes such as using conformal pallets for internal carriage of weapons and fuel, canting the vertical fins outward, and applying stealth coatings across the whole aircraft.
Boeing says it is marketing the Silent Eagle to international customers, especially those who already fly versions of the F-15. Boeing spokesman Damien Mills said the new variant provides "more options" for those customers and addresses "their desire for a stealthy platform without the trade-offs typically associated with stealth," such as high support costs, reduced range, and reduced payload.
New Weapon for Reaper’s Quiver
The Air Force is working to clear the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, a 500-pound satellite-guidance-aided bomb, around July for operational use on the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle. "Putting the JDAM on the Reaper significantly increases its lethality on the battlefield," said Col. Chris Coombs, commander of the 703rd Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The Reaper has emerged as a critical overhead asset in Afghanistan and Iraq for finding and attacking ground targets.
Currently, Reapers carry 500-pound GBU-12 laser guided bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire ground-attack missiles in combat. Coombs said the next step after the JDAM is to integrate the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb on the Reaper.
WWII Fighter Pilot Dies
Retired Air Force Col. John M. Thacker, 90, died of kidney disease March 6 at his home in McLean, Va., the Los Angeles Times reported March 25. Thacker was one of the few fighter pilots who got into the air during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, to counter the attackers, receiving a Silver Star for his actions that day.
He later commanded a fighter group during the Korean War and last served as inspector general of Headquarters Command at Bolling AFB, D.C., before his retirement from the Air Force in 1970.
Thacker was born Aug. 9, 1918, in Petersburg, Va., and grew up in Miami. He left the University of Florida in 1940 to join the Army Air Corps.
More Lawmakers Support Split Buy of Tankers
"I think that a consensus is developing" in Congress for a split buy, Abercrombie told reporters after speaking at a defense industry conference in Washington, D.C., March 11.
This strategy is juxtaposed against Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates’ stated preference for taking another stab at a winner-take-all competition even though the KC-X effort faltered last year amid controversy after Northrop Grumman’s KC-30 tanker was selected over Boeing’s KC-767. The belief is that a split buy is the best means of ending the current stalemate between the companies and their supporters in Congress.
Abercrombie joined Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), head of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, in endorsing the split-buy strategy. Murtha said March 12 he was working to include billions of dollars in the next war supplemental to jump-start a split-buy tanker acquisition.
C-130 Fleet Sidetracked by Faulty Barrel Nuts
Days later, the inspections spread to all C-130 variants, including the service’s newest C-130J Super Hercules platforms, thereby bringing the total number of aircraft affected to 597.
As of mid-March, all C-130s, save one being converted to a ground trainer, had undergone the inspection, and two-thirds of the fleet had been returned to flight status. Roughly half of all C-130s were found to have cracked nuts.
Those parts were replaced when possible. Some aircraft with them were in line to be repaired, waiting on the arrival of the new bolts which were of limited supply initially.
The War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By April 17, a total of 4,277 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 4,266 troops and 11 Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,433 were killed in action with the enemy while 844 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 31,193 troops wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This number includes 17,459 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 13,734 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Predator Mission Takes Fleet to 500,000 Hours
The US Predator unmanned aerial vehicle fleet surpassed 500,000 total flying hours Feb. 18 during the sortie of an Air Force MQ-1 over Iraq flown remotely by airmen of the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron back at Creech AFB, Nev.
The milestone came in the midst of the unprecedented buildup of UAVs in Southwest Asia to meet soaring demands for overhead intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance capability. Predators which operate from bases such as Joint Base Balad in Iraq now accumulate more than 19,000 flight hours a month, 95 percent of which are flown in the region, according to USAF figures.
Col. John Montgomery, vice commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech, USAF’s sole unmanned aircraft wing, said the ability of the Predator and its larger cousin the MQ-9 Reaper to maintain eyes in the sky on ground targets and points of interest has made these aircraft "completely invaluable" to the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Montgomery, speaking with reporters who visited Creech in March, said the Predator’s accident rate has improved vastly even though MQ-1s are flying a staggering operations tempo. While an average F-16 wing flies about 15,000 hours a year in combat with 72 aircraft deployed, Predators are flying about 10 times that number of hours in theater right now with fewer airframes, he said.
As of March, the MQ-1 fleet had around 6.6 accidents per 100,000 flight hours, with the rate declining.
During that same month, the Air Force was operating 34 combat air patrols of MQ-1 and MQ-9s over Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of US Central Command’s area of responsibility in Southwest Asia. Air Force officials said the service is on course to meet its goal of having 50 CAPs in Fiscal 2012.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By April 17, a total of 674 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 673 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of these deaths, 450 were killed in action with the enemy while 224 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 2,778 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 983 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 1,795 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
C-130J Unit Activated for Afghan Buildup
To assist the buildup of 17,000 more troops into Afghanistan ordered by President Obama in February, the Air Force activated the 772nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, a new C-130J unit, on March 15.
Based at Kandahar Airfield, the squadron will support the movement of personnel and cargo into the country. The unit falls under Kandahar’s 451st Air Expeditionary Group.
"Tactical airlift is a high-demand asset here, and we are at the leading edge of the Afghanistan surge of forces," said Col. Ted Osowski, commander of the 451st AEG, adding that the C-130Js are "going to be busy."
The squadron is composed of eight C-130Js and around 120 operations personnel and maintainers, deployed from the 41st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock AFB, Ark. The 41st AS is the Air Force’s sole active duty operational C-130J unit currently with combat experience, having previously deployed to Southwest Asia in early 2008.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates on March 18 recommended Air Force Lt. Gen. Douglas M. Fraser, deputy commander of US Pacific Command, to be the next head of US Southern Command. He would be the first Air Force leader of SOUTHCOM, if the Senate confirms his nomination.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz on March 9 formally approved the plan making Air Force Reserve Command’s 93rd Bomb Squadron at Barksdale AFB, La., the B-52H formal training unit.
The Air Force successfully launched Global Positioning Satellite IIR-20(M) into orbit March 24 from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., aboard a Delta II rocket. The modernized Block IIR satellite joined 33 other GPS spacecraft in the current constellation.
SrA. Angela Huguley, an air traffic controller from Tinker AFB, Okla., in February received the Lt. Gen. Gordon A. Blake Aircraft Save Award for her decisive action in the control tower at Ali Base, Iraq, on Oct. 6, 2008, that is credited with saving 19 lives. She redirected an Army aircraft that was about to land on a closed runway.
The Thunderbirds air demonstration squadron kicked off its 2009 flying season with shows March 21-22 at Luke AFB, Ariz. The unit has more than 73 shows on tap through mid-November.
The 912th Air Refueling Squadron, a KC-135 tanker unit at Grand Forks AFB, N.D., was inactivated on March 20, becoming the second of Grand Forks’ four KC-135 squadrons to cease operations as the base transitions from tankers to unmanned aerial vehicles by October 2010.
The Air Force Global Logistics Support Center opened its new headquarters building, Feb. 26 at Scott AFB, Ill. It is the first of two buildings being constructed for the center at Scott.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news about the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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