First Woman Four-Star Heads AFMC
Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger assumed command of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, June 5. Wolfenbarger, who is the first woman to rise to four-star rank in the Air Force, succeeded Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, who had led AFMC since November 2008.
Wolfenbarger credited the Air Force’s consistent efforts toward diversity for granting her the opportunity to lead a major command.
"This culture has been cultivated over many years, driven by leadership at every level who acknowledge and appreciate the value of contributions from every airman," she said at the change of command ceremony.
Hoffman retired from the Air Force after 38 years of active duty service July 1.
B-52 bombers simultaneously flew in two major exercises, flexing both nuclear and conventional strike muscle on a global scale late this spring.
As two B-52s were returning to Barksdale AFB, La., from a simulated maritime strike in the Baltic Sea, 10 bombers launched on a mass nuclear-generation exercise from Minot AFB, N.D., June 11, Air Force Global Strike Command said.
Participation in Baltops, a NATO exercise in the Baltic, "was a good example of how the Air Force can support the US Navy’s operations by striking targets at sea," said Robert Thomson, AFGSC exercise division chief. "This type of exercise is a prime example of how teamwork among different nations can help increase stability," he added.
Constant Vigilance—the second major exercise for the bomber force in 24 hours—proved the nuclear bomber force’s ability to "respond quickly and efficiently to real world situations," said Thomson.
Both exercises validated AFGSC’s ability to "support both conventional and nuclear missions simultaneously," he added.
Kadena Air Combat
More than a dozen South Korea-based Air Force F-16 fighters and some 150 airmen flew to Japan for two weeks of air-to-air combat drills, tangling with F-15s at Kadena Air Base, in June.
"This dissimilar air-to-air combat training is vital to preserving the Pacific Air Forces’ ability to gain and maintain air superiority," said Lt. Col. Douglas Thies, commander of the F-16 contingent from Kunsan AB, South Korea, which arrived at Kadena June 8.
"The chance to engage with the F-15 Eagles provides a unique opportunity … to test my abilities against a different aircraft and learn how it operates," said Capt. Keegan Dale.
Kadena-based AWACS aircrews directed the 44th Fighter Squadron F-15s against the visiting Falcons, garnering realistic experience controlling aerial engagements and giving its tanker crews practice in refueling a variety of aircraft.
Last USAF C-17 Ordered
The Air Force ordered its 224th—and likely final—C-17 Globemaster III airlifter from Boeing Co. in a $169.8 million contract announced June 19.
Boeing expects to roll out the aircraft from its Long Beach, Calif., facility next May, the Pentagon said in June.
Congress originally appropriated funds for the Air Force to build a fleet of 223 C-17s, but added money to replace one lost in a 2010 Alaska crash.
The replacement aircraft restores the fleet size to its planned 223-airframe inventory, and Air Force leaders maintain this is sufficient to meet current defense plans, with a small reserve margin.
The Pentagon is running a mobility study to assess how well it believes the transport enterprise—including airlift—supports the new defense strategy.
Pakistan Supply Routes Reopened
Pakistan reopened its overland supply routes to NATO forces for the transit of nonlethal materiel after nearly eight months of blockade, the State Department announced in early July. "This is a tangible demonstration of Pakistan’s support for a secure, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan and our shared objectives in the region," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in the statement July 3. Pakistan closed its roadways to NATO last November in reaction to an allied airstrike that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan’s move will "help the United States and ISAF conduct the planned drawdown at a much lower cost," said Clinton, adding that the government agreed to "continue not to charge any transit fee in the larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region.
The Pakistan Bill
Pakistan’s long hold on the use of supply routes through its territory—not counting extortionary kickbacks—had cost the Defense Department an extra $100 million a month to move materiel to and from Afghanistan, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in June.
Before it agreed to lift the restrictions, Pakistan demanded an additional $5,000 per stranded shipping container, up from roughly $250 before Pakistan slammed the door on NATO last November.
"We have to avoid caving in to what I consider ... blackmail by Pakistan," Levin told journalists at a breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C. "That’s 20 times more. We can’t give in to that," he added.
Lack of access to the overland supply routes would have made it almost impossible to meet President Obama’s 2014 deadline to the US military withdrawal, said a former US regional commander in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan Jr., in April.
Levin, who visited Afghanistan in June, said he is, however, optimistic that another recent deal, to allow troops and supplies to transit neighboring Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, could alleviate problems.
F-22 Backup O2 Systems Ordered
The Air Force in early June awarded Lockheed Martin a $19.2 million contract to procure the first batch of automatic backup oxygen systems for the F-22 fleet.
The service is installing A-BOS on all F-22s as an added safety margin to protect pilots from hypoxia-like symptoms intermittently reported over the last couple of years and which led to a fleetwide grounding in 2011.
Lockheed Martin will provide 40 A-BOS kits for retrofit, plus nonrecurring engineering activities and 10 spares by April 2013 under the terms of the June 5 contract.
In May, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told the Air Force to accelerate its A-BOS retrofit schedule to modify all 185 F-22s a year earlier than originally planned.
The first A-BOS retrofit on the new timetable is slated for December, and the service aims to refit the entire fleet by June 2014.
Great Lakes, Great Partners
Michigan Air National Guard A-10s and KC-135s recently flew to Estonia to solidify interoperability with allies in the Baltic region, specifically for joint operations in Afghanistan.
The 127th Wing jets from Selfridge ANGB, Mich., and airmen from across the state arrived at Amari AB, Estonia, for Exercise Sabre Strike 2012, integrating with forces from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The exercised commenced June 10.
"The cooperation that we have enjoyed with the Estonian Air Force has been outstanding," said CMSgt. Dennis Barriger, one of the Michigan Air Guardsmen deployed to Estonia.
In addition to the nearly 150 Guardsmen, some 2,000 soldiers and airmen from Britain, Canada, Finland, and France participated in the US Army Europe air and ground exercises held simultaneously across Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania June 10-22.
51 and Counting
USAF launched a secret national security payload atop an evolved expendable launch vehicle booster on June 29, marking 51 successful EELV launches without a failure, Air Force Space Command announced.
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carried the National Reconnaissance Office NROL-15 payload to orbit from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. It was the second EELV launch in nine days. Overall, USAF has recorded 87 consecutive successful national security space launches since 1999.
"We are proud of this launch success record, an amazing record in the history of spaceflight," said Gen. William L. Shelton, AFSPC commander, of the earlier, June 20, launch.
EELV rockets include both ULA’s Atlas V-based booster and Delta IV rockets, which launch from Cape Canaveral or Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
"This morning’s flawless launch is the product of many months of hard work and collaboration of government and industry teams," Col. James D. Fisher, director of NRO’s space launch office, said after the June 20 launch.
No SOF Landing
The Air Force has dropped—for now—its plans for a low-altitude special operations training in parts of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, according to 27th Special Operations Wing officials at Cannon AFB, N.M., this spring.
"The need for the low-altitude training still exists," but as a result of changing needs in Afghanistan and "the many public comments received," the wing is rethinking its proposal and considering another, more in-depth environmental review, the Air Force said in a news release.
"I want to ensure that pilots and crews receive the training they need to perform their combat missions," Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), representing a constituency affected by the training, said in a June 6 statement. Welcoming the Air Force’s move, he added that USAF’s "training plan needed to be better coordinated with local communities and other airspace users."
The wing is refining its requirements and expects to have a revised plan for special operations flight training needs in early 2013.
The Final Drone of Phantoms
The last F-4 Phantom destined for conversion to a QF-4 aerial target drone recently entered the 309th Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group’s refurbishment line at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., according to the base newspaper, Desert Lightning News.
Regeneration workers towed the RF-4C reconnaissance version from the base’s aircraft boneyard into the rework hangar to prepare for its modification to drone configuration.
The recce Phantom, serial No. 68-0609, will become the 318th QF-4 drone supplied to the Air Force when it is delivered next January.
Once this conversion is completed, the 576th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Squadron refit team will begin work on the Air Force’s QF-16 Falcon full-scale aerial target program.
Davis-Monthan has 210 F-16s in stock, from which the Air Force plans to convert some 126 to QF-16 drones, according to AMARG officials.
The Boeing-modified prototype QF-16 flew its maiden sortie in May.
Navy Global Hawk Is Triton
Northrop Grumman unveiled the Navy’s first production Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft on June 14, bestowing on it the name Triton. The ceremony was held at the company’s Palmdale, Calif., facility June 14.
The name is in keeping with a Navy tradition of naming surveillance types for Greek sea gods. The MQ-4C Triton’s symbolic namesake is the mythical messenger of the sea.
Working in tandem with the Navy’s new P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, Triton extends the aircraft’s field of view, feeding back data from its 360-degree multifunction active sensor radar, according to the Navy.
Triton was developed under the sea service’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program. "Today is a significant day for the BAMS team," said Rear Adm. William E. Shannon III, program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons.
Triton will "provide the fleet a game-changing persistent maritime and littoral intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability," he said.
Based on USAF’s RQ-4B Global Hawk, Triton should become operational in 2015. The Navy plans to buy a total of 68 production MQ-4Cs.
Mysterious Raptor Accident
The Air Force released few details about a May 31 F-22 accident at Tyndall AFB, Fla.
"Everything surrounding that incident" is under investigation , said 325th Fighter Wing spokesman Herman Bell.
Tyndall’s 325th Fighter Wing trains pilots transitioning to the Raptor from other fighters, and the mishap sortie occurred the second time the student flew the F-22, according to Bell.
Though the pilot was uninjured, the aircraft suffered "a number of scrapes on the bottom," Bell said, and had to be towed from the scene.
The F-22 is "still fully intact," but the accident will likely be considered a Class A mishap, totaling more than $1 million in damage, said Bell. "The individual walked away unharmed. That’s the important thing."
Sharpening the Lancer
B-1B bombers are getting one of the most comprehensive cockpit and operator station reworks ever. The upgrade includes new displays, network interfaces, and controls.
Cockpit upgrades include two new eight-by-10-inch multifunction displays with digital flight instruments and color moving maps, 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron officials at Dyess AFB, Tex., said in a June press release.
The bomber’s two weapon crew workstations get five new color displays with similar map and sensor displays, in addition to new keyboard and cursor hardware.
"The B-1 has never seen this many upgrades in one block," said Maj. Thomas Bryant, assistant director of operations with the 337th TES.
In addition to the new panels, a modernized data link will integrate the B-1 into Link 16 networks and allow external targeting information to go directly into the B-1’s own system.
"These upgrades will give us an entirely new aircraft; this is a game changer," Bryant said. The upgrades are being made under the Sustainment Block 16 modification effort.
Developmental testing is slated to begin next March, followed by operational testing beginning in September 2013.
Russia’s Next Generation Bomber
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reiterated Russia’s commitment to developing a fifth generation strategic bomber during a visit to an aircraft factory in Kazan in June.
Simply updating the existing Tu-95MC and Tu-160 bomber fleets to extend their service lives isn’t sufficient, Medvedev said, according to a UPI report citing Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti. He insisted Russia must develop a new bomber.
Medvedev’s comments came just days after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin claimed that modern air defenses rendered bombers obsolete from the outset, sparking a row with Russia’s military Chief, Gen. Nikolai Makarov.
"If we reach production phase, this plane will outperform any modern aircraft of the same class, including those built by the Americans," said Makarov, according to RIA Novosti.
Makarov said Russia has already "made some progress in the development of the new bomber."
Devil in the Details
USAF halted integration work on its Blue Devil Block II surveillance airship due to "delays, technical challenges, and higher-than-expected deployment costs," a service spokeswoman said in June.
Virginia-based firm Mav6 designed the craft to locate and monitor improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan, winning a fixed-fee Air Force contract in 2010 to build, test, and deploy the airship.
"Since that time, technical problems have remained, to include flight-control software, tailfin design, and electrical system wiring," she said June 8.
The airship’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance payload was to include full-motion video, wide-area motion imagery systems, signals intelligence, and multiple data links, she said.
The Air Force will continue to use the Blue Devil Block 1 imagery and sensor suite, mounted on modified business aircraft, to support troops in Afghanistan into Fiscal 2013, USAF’s science chief Steven H. Walker, told lawmakers in February.
Norway’s Defense Minister, Espen B. Eide, has authorized purchase of the country’s first two F-35 strike fighters as part of an estimated $4 billion deal for as many as 52 of the aircraft. "For the first time in three decades we are now ordering new combat aircraft for the armed forces," Eide said in announcing the agreement June 15.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta earlier in June approved a Norwegian request to integrate its indigenously developed Joint Strike Missile on the F-35. Approval paved the way for the formal purchase deal.
Eide said Norway will now "begin preparations for the final phase" of JSM development "after receiving confirmation from US authorities of their support."
The order is the largest defense acquisition in Norway’s history, according to the defense release.
Most of the fleet will be based at Ørland in central Norway, with a small quick-reaction alert force detached to the country’s far north. The initial aircraft are slated for delivery in 2016, Reuters reported.
Earlier in the month, the Pentagon also notified Congress of a potential sale of two C-130J airlifters to Norway. The $300 million deal would replace a C-130J lost earlier this year and boost Norway’s overall airlift capacity.
F-35 in Ballistic Missile Defense
A testbed F-35 fighter’s active electronically scanned array radar and distributed aperture system detected and tracked several ballistic missiles earlier this year, contractor Northrop Grumman revealed in June.
The AN/AAQ-37 DAS and AN/APG-81 radar simultaneously locked on and tracked five ballistic rockets from launch to well past the second-stage burnout, according to a company release June 26.
"Northrop Grumman demonstrated these ballistic missile tracking modes with only minor modifications to the baseline F-35 radar and DAS software," said Jeff Leavitt, vice president of Northrop Grumman’s combat avionic systems business unit.
Bare Base Consolidation
The Air Force consolidated its contingency response mission under the administrative control of a single wing at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., inactivating the 615th Contingency Response Wing at Travis AFB, Calif., this spring.
"The 621st CRW must remain ready to answer the call whenever and wherever," said Maj. Gen. William J. Bender, commander of the Air Force Expeditionary Center at McGuire, during the 615th’s inactivation ceremony May 29.
McGuire’s 621st CRW now oversees all airmen specially trained in the rapid set-up and operation of air bases at austere sites worldwide. The unit’s two response groups and single operations support group now report directly to the 621st CRW.
Old School, New School
The Air Force elevated its foreign air advisory course to a full-up schoolhouse, christening the US Air Force Air Advisor Academy in an activation ceremony at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., June 12.
The course was started to equip US advisors to train Afghan and Iraqi airmen, but today "the skill set air advisors bring to the fight is highly sought after in all areas of responsibility," said 37th Training Wing Commander Col. Eric Axelbank.
The course was always run by Air Education and Training Command, but hosted by Air Mobility Command’s expeditionary center at McGuire since its founding in 2008.
The new academy remains at McGuire, but now reports directly to AETC’s 37th TRW at JBSA-Lackland, Tex., said a wing spokeswoman.
Graduates are tasked with helping develop nascent air forces across US Africa Command, US Central Command, and US Southern Command areas of responsibility. The school plans to graduate roughly 1,500 airmen annually, in a variety of specialties.
Another New Mobility Study
The Office of the Secretary of Defense has launched a study to assess the air, land, and sea mobility capabilities of the armed forces to examine whether these match the requirements set out in the new national military strategy.
In its Fiscal 2013 budget request the Air Force proposed cutting the air mobility fleet to 275 strategic transports and 318 theater airlifters. USAF’s proposed airlift fleet would support the new framework with "slightly" excess capacity, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz said in March.
The Mobility Capabilities Assessment for 2018 study "is one of many future efforts designed to provide senior leaders with insights regarding future capabilities," said OSD spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin.
Schwartz said he thinks the study will validate USAF’s force structure proposals and offer analytical proof of their soundness.
The nine-month study is a joint undertaking by OSD’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, the Joint Staff, and US Transportation Command, Irwin said June 8.
AFSOC Training Grows
Air Force Special Operations Command recently stood up a training wing to meet the increased demand for air commandos, activating the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
The 24th SOW "allows a single commander to lead the recruiting, training, and development of our special tactics warriors and ultimately provide combatant commanders with world-class airmen to accomplish their mission," said AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. Eric E. Fiel, speaking at the June 12 activation.
AFSOC now boasts three dedicated wings—the 1st SOW and 24th SOW at Hurlburt, as well as the 27th SOW at Cannon AFB, N.M.
Resident expertise will include airfield reconnaissance, assessment, and control, joint terminal attack control, personnel recovery, weather, and environmental reconnaissance, according to Hurlburt officials.
Montana Fights F-15 Move
The state of Montana has sued the Pentagon to halt the transfer of the Montana Air National Guard F-15s to California, putting Defense Department plans on hold until the federal case is decided.
Though the Great Falls unit will reequip with eight C-130s drawn from the Texas Air Guard, the new aircraft would arrive "up to 18 months" after the F-15s are scheduled to leave, said Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock.
"The state of Montana is left with no choice but to act to prevent a mission gap that would leave the Montana Air National Guard at enormous risk," stated a Montana Department of Justice June 15 news release.
The 120th Fighter Wing in Great Falls operates 15 F-15s, all of which would go to the California Air Guard under USAF’s Fiscal 2013 force structure rearrangements. This gap "would cause irreparable harm" to the wing’s operations, Bullock said.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) petitioned the federal court to declare that any F-15 transfer may only occur with his consent, and only after the C-130s are fully prepared to stand up at Great Falls, according to court papers.
Loaner Falcons Packed Away
The last of 34 F-16s loaned to Italy under the Peace Caesar program touched down at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., for storage at the beginning of June.
A flight of six F-16s arrived at Davis-Monthan in May, followed by another six on June 1, according to Teresa Pittman, spokeswoman for the base’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group.
The F-16s were lent to Italy at that country’s request when the Italian Air Force had to retire its F-104 Starfighters before its Eurofighter Typhoons were fully delivered.
Italy received the first aircraft in 2003 to ensure unbroken coverage of its national airspace. It operated the jets until this year.
Eurofighter announced that Italy’s Typhoons finally assumed sole responsibility for defending Italian airspace in May.
Crash Site Found in Alaska
Defense Department archaeologists are investigating the wreckage of a C-124 Globemaster transport that crashed in Alaska in 1952.
An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew first spotted and photographed the unidentified wreck site on a training sortie over Knik Glacier June 10, according to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.
Several days later, a specialized JPAC investigation team arrived from JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to survey the crash site roughly 45 miles east of Anchorage. After identifying the aircraft, the team collected bone fragments and personal equipment for identification at a lab in Hawaii, reported the Associated Press June 28.
The Military Air Transport Service C-124A was flying a routine transport hop from McChord AFB, Wash., to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, when it went missing with 41 passengers and 11 crew aboard, according to a report in the Anchorage Daily News.
At the time, USAF and Civil Air Patrol search airplanes succeeded in locating the crash but found no survivors among the 52 people known to be on board, and the aircraft has since been buried in deep snow.
Berlin Candy Bomber Honored
Officials earlier this spring dedicated the C-17 Aircrew Training Center at JB Charleston, S.C., in honor of retired Col. Gail S. Halvorsen, the famous "Candy Bomber" of the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift.
"Halvorsen’s kindness provides the ‘why’ to what we do day in and day out as an airlift wing," said Col. Erik W. Hansen, 437th Airlift Wing commander, christening the center June 15.
Famed for dropping packets of candy out the flare chute of his C-47 and C-54 transports to German children in bombed-out Berlin during the Soviet blockade, Halvorsen’s greatest legacy was the compassion he showed as an airman, stressed Hansen.
"When I first flew over Berlin, I could look through the buildings," recounted Halvorsen—now 92 years old—at the ribbon cutting. "I didn’t understand how two million people could have lived there," he recalled.
"There are 31 American heroes and 39 British heroes of the Berlin Airlift ... and I’m not one of them," said Halvorsen, accepting the honor for his fellow airmen who died in crashes during the airlift.
Four Airmen Die Fighting Western Wildfires
Four airmen died and two more were seriously injured July 1 in the crash of their C-130, flying in firefighting operations in South Dakota.
Killed were Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal, 42, of Mooresville, N.C.; Maj. Joseph M. McCormick, 36, of Belmont, N.C.; Maj. Ryan S. David, 35, of Boone, N.C.; and SMSgt. Robert S. Cannon, 50, of Charlotte, N.C. The names of the injured had not been released at press time. Officials at US Northern Command are still investigating the cause of the crash.
The Air National Guard C-130 of the 145th Airlift Wing, based at Charlotte-Douglas Arpt., N.C., crashed while fighting the White Draw fire near Edgemont, S.D. It was equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) and was one of a number of C-130s dispatched to help control wildfires in several states.
The airmen had arrived at Peterson AFB, Colo., the day before the crash to help the US Forest Service fight several fires in the Rocky Mountain region. Hot, dry weather and high winds have made this summer one of the worst fire seasons to date.
USAF suspended MAFFS activities following the crash until safety and flight procedures could be reviewed with participating crews. The aircraft resumed firefighting duties July 3.
MAFFS—large tanks, usually filled with fire retardant—roll into a C-130’s cargo area and enable the aircraft to spray from a low altitude a 100-foot-wide band of retardant in a quarter-mile line in a matter of seconds. The US Forest Service requests the firefighting aircraft to augment its fleet when those assets are maxed out. Before the accident, the Forest Service had eight operational MAFFS at their disposal and one backup.
Between June 25—when the MAFFS were called to Colorado—and July 5, C-130s dispersed an estimated 320,000 gallons of fire retardant in the region.
Four MAFFS were called to combat the Waldo Canyon Fire, which came within five miles of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. High altitude, high temperature, and heavy smoke made the fires difficult to contain, and more fires erupted in Colorado, South Dakota, and Wyoming. By June 30, all the MAFFS in the country were in the Rocky Mountain region.
—Seth J. Miller
Commander Pulled After CV-22 Crash
Air Force officials relieved the commander of the 8th Special Operations Squadron following the crash June 13 of one of its CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors on a training sortie from Hurlburt Field, Fla.
The 1st Special Operations Wing justified the removal based on a "loss of confidence" in the commander’s "ability to effectively command the unit," Col. James C. Slife said in a statement June 21.
The squadron’s demanding mission "require[s] new leadership to maintain the highest levels of precision," he added.
All five of the Osprey’s aircrew were injured in the crash. At the time of the accident, the aircraft was on a two-ship gunnery training sortie over the neighboring Eglin Range Complex. First responders found the aircraft upside down and severely damaged, said Slife.
Maj. Brian Luce, one of the pilots, and TSgt. Christopher Dawson, a flight engineer, were released from the hospital two days after the crash. The squadron temporarily suspended flight operations to attend to the victims and their families.
Capt. Brett Cassidy, the second pilot, was released from the hospital June 19, according to Hurlburt officials.
At press time flight engineers TSgt. Edilberto Malave and SSgt. Sean McMahon were still undergoing treatment and rehabilitation.
A board of officials is investigating the accident.
NATO Stands With Turkey
NATO condemned Syria’s shootdown of a Turkish RF-4 Phantom reconnaissance aircraft off the Syrian coast, expressing solidarity with Turkey—a NATO member—in an emergency meeting June 26.
"We consider this act to be unacceptable and condemn it in the strongest terms," stated NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen, following the ambassadorial meeting convened at Turkey’s request in response to the attack.
The Alliance’s 28 members stopped short of threatening military action against Syria, vowing instead to "follow the situation closely and with great concern," according to NATO’s statement.
"Let me make this clear. The security of the Alliance is indivisible. We stand together with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity," said Rasmussen.
Turkey claims Syrian air defenses deliberately shot down the RF-4 in international airspace after the aircraft inadvertently entered Syrian airspace on a training sortie June 22. Instead of scrambling fighters to intercept the aircraft, Syrian air defenses breached peacetime protocol, firing on the Phantom without warning, according to a Turkish foreign ministry statement.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the shootdown as "yet another reflection of the Syrian authorities’ callous disregard for international norms, human life, and peace and security." At press time, the Phantom crew was still missing.
The War on Terrorism
Operation Enduring Freedom
As of July 12, a total of 2,030 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 2,027 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,601 were killed in action with the enemy while 429 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 16,781 troops wounded during OEF.
Air Commando Posthumously Awarded Silver Star
Combat controller SrA. Mark Forester was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in Afghanistan, in an Air Force Special Operations Command ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla., in June.
"Though he cannot be here to accept this recognition and probably would have shunned the attention if he were, we honor and document his heroic actions in the presence of his family, his teammates, and his friends," said Lt. Gen. Eric E. Fiel, AFSOC commander.
Forester was killed by an insurgent sniper’s bullet while assisting a fallen comrade to safety during an assault on an insurgent haven in Uruzgan province, on Sept. 29, 2010. His actions that day "led to the elimination of 12 insurgents and capture of a significant weapons cache," AFSOC stated in a news release.
His parents, Ray and Pat Forester, of Haleyville, Ala., accepted the award on his behalf at Hurlburt, June 15.
"We commit his actions forever to memory, as is due a true hero and brother-in-arms," said Fiel. The Silver Star is the third highest combat military decoration awarded for valor in the face of the enemy.
Pilot Error in C-17 Mishap
Investigators determined that pilot error was the chief cause of a landing accident that severely damaged a C-17 airlifter at FOB Shank, Afghanistan, in January, Air Mobility Command announced.
"The pilot and co-pilot failed to identify that the landing distance required to safely stop the aircraft exceeded the runway length," AMC stated in a press release outlining the accident investigation board’s findings June 11.
As a result, the airlifter overran the FOB’s airstrip and impacted a berm, causing significant damage to the landing gear, undercarriage, cargo bay floor, underbelly mounted antennas, and main structural components, AMC added.
Investigators concluded that the failure of ground personnel at Shank to properly assess the runway’s condition and suitability for landings also contributed to the crash.
Although there were no significant injuries or damage to other equipment, AMC tallied the cost of the repairs to the aircraft alone at $69.4 million.
Spartans Go Home
Air National Guard C-27J Spartans ceased supporting Army operations in Afghanistan in June, and Air Force leaders don’t plan to deploy the aircraft again, service officials recently said.
In a small June ceremony at Kandahar, the Air Force inactivated the 702nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron that had operated two C-27Js from that base since August 2011.
The small airlifters provided direct support to Army units in southern Afghanistan, earning high marks from the operators and the soldiers whom they supported.
In less than a year, the two aircraft flew 3,200 sorties, ferrying 1,400 tons of cargo and 25,000 passengers, and executing 71 airdrops, according to Kandahar officials.
"We feel like we’ve made a difference for the young troops on the tip of the spear," said Lt. Col. Michael Lunt, 702nd EAS commander at the inactivation ceremony June 18.
Though the Air Force is seeking to eliminate the C-27J fleet in its Fiscal 2013 budget, service leaders decided to pull the Spartans out of Afghanistan even before the end of the year to avoid paying some $20 million in contractor support costs, a spokeswoman said. In their place, USAF is now operating the larger C-130 to directly support Army units in the field.
Lawmakers have resisted the Air Force’s request to retire the airplane. Both the Ohio ANG’s 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield and the Maryland ANG’s 175th Wing in Baltimore continue to train with the aircraft Stateside.
Drill Sergeant Misconduct Prompts Probe
The Air Force is launching a comprehensive review of its basic military training system in response to repeated problems with its instructor corps. The Air Force appointed Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward, acting planning director on the Air Staff, to oversee the probe into basic military training misconduct, which included allegations of basic trainees being sexually assaulted by their instructors.
Woodward will look into "sexual and other abuse-of-power misconduct" at BMT and all other Air Education and Training Command initial and technical training units, service officials announced.
AETC Commander Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr. said he didn’t "presume that there are command-climate issues," but he’s not ruling out the possibility. The review "will be comprehensive and will look at every aspect of BMT to include the command structure," reported the Beaumont Enterprise of Beaumont, Tex., June 12.
The service removed 35 BMT instructors from their jobs for a variety of reasons, including illicit sexual conduct as well as medical and academic issues, repeated tardiness, and failing to meet uniform standards, according to the newspaper.
The Air Force did not disclose how many of the cases dealt with sexual misconduct, but Col. Polly Kenny, 2nd Air Force staff judge advocate in Biloxi, Miss., told the newspaper the "majority" did not.
The Air Force will buy contractor logistics support for several legacy platforms to shift maintainers to the F-35 program, but that could work against the service in the long run, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Friday.
To fill the ranks of F-35 maintainers, the Air Force
will draw 1,100 airmen from the A-10, F-16, and C-130 fleets, the
service said Friday.
The Air Force intends—once again—to divest itself of
the MQ-1 Predator and transition to an all-MQ-9 Reaper fleet of
medium-altitude remotely piloted aircraft, Lt. Gen. Mike Holmes said Friday.
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