Those three words, uttered by L. Paul Bremer III, the coalition administrator, summed up the situation in Iraq after US military forces captured former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Ground forces on Dec. 13 found Saddam hiding in a hole on a farm outside his hometown of Tikrit. He surrendered without a fight.
According to Bremer, Saddam was “cooperative and talkative.”
The Pentagon on Nov. 24 announced that four airmen and one soldier were killed when an Air Force MH-53M Pave Low transport helicopter crashed near Bagram, Afghanistan, on the previous day. Another seven soldiers were injured in the crash, which is still under investigation.
The helicopter was transporting troops engaged in Operation Mountain Resolve, the hunt for anticoalition insurgents in eastern Afghanistan that began Nov. 7.
The airmen killed were: TSgt. William J. Kerwood, 37, of Houston, Mo.; Maj. Steven Plumhoff, 33, of Neshanic Station, N.J.; SSgt. Thomas A. Walkup Jr., 25, of Millville, N.J.; and TSgt. Howard A. Walters, 33, of Port Huron, Mich. All three NCOs were assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla. Plumhoff was with the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland AFB, N.M.
Following the firing of two Boeing officials connected with the Air Force’s proposed tanker lease/buy arrangement with Boeing, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld called for a new review of the entire process.
At issue for Rumsfeld is whether the alleged ethical improprieties by those two individuals, one of whom was a top Air Force acquisition official during most of the tanker negotiations, may signify problems with DOD’s acquisition practices in general or the USAF tanker deal in particular.
The Bush Administration reached an agreement with Congress in early November on the tanker deal and USAF was poised to sign a contract with Boeing. (See “Aerospace World: Tanker Compromise Reached,” December 2003, p. 12.)
That action was placed on hold in early December.
On Nov. 24, Boeing fired its chief financial officer, Michael M. Sears, and Darleen A. Druyun, vice president and general manager of missile defense systems, after a company investigation concluded that Sears had improperly contacted Druyun about employment at a time when Druyun was still overseeing Boeing contracts for the Air Force.
The Boeing review further determined that Sears and Druyun “attempted to conceal their misconduct,” according to a company statement.
Druyun had served as the Air Force’s No. 2 acquisition official until she took a position at Boeing.
On Dec. 1, Boeing Chief Executive Officer Philip M. Condit announced his resignation. Replacing him is former Boeing chief operating officer, Harry C. Stonecipher, who was CEO for McDonnell Douglas before it was acquired by Boeing.
The Air Force in November notified DOD that the F/A-22 Raptor had met all requirements set by the Defense Acquisition Board before USAF could award Lot 4 production contracts.
At its last review of the program, the DAB lauded the F/A-22’s progress toward meeting its developmental goals, such as software reliability rates, but the board requested that certain criteria, including software improvements, be met before the next round of contracts could be awarded to contractor Lockheed Martin.
Air Force testers in November confirmed that the Raptor had met all the DAB requirements, clearing the way for Lot 4 procurement and Lot 5 advance procurement contracts.
The F/A-22 began its initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) program on Oct. 31. The Pentagon’s IOT&E program will be used to verify that the next generation stealth fighter, the Air Force’s top modernization priority, is capable of meeting its mission requirements.
The second of USAF’s two longer-duration air and space expeditionary forces (AEFs) began its rotation to cover operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. AEF Silver members started replacing AEF Blue members in early November.
To recover from the strains of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Air Force temporarily shelved the schedule of using 10 rotating AEFs on 90-day cycles, instead creating two new AEFs—Blue and Silver—for 120-day deployment cycles. The two transitional AEFs primarily included airmen who had not deployed with the regular AEF system for the Iraq war.
Some AEF Blue members in high-demand fields were told they will be kept deployed longer. AEF Silver is to remain in place until March, at which time regular AEF rotations are expected to resume for most airmen.
After participating in three wars, the Air Force’s fleet of 21 stealth bombers finally reached full operational capability last fall, service officials announced in November. The culminating factor was completion of the Block 30 upgrade for all 21 B-2 bombers.
Block 30 added software and structural improvements to the aircraft. These changes could not be carried out prior to delivery of the aircraft to their home base at Whiteman AFB, Mo., according to a USAF release.
When the first of the B-2s arrived at Whiteman some 10 years ago, said Lt. Col. Casey Hughson, deputy commander of the base’s 509th Maintenance Group, the bombers were “flyable but not fully combat ready.”
The Air Force and contractor Northrop Grumman developed the Post Delivery Change Incorporation Program, which began in 1998, to retrofit the bombers to a single Block 30 configuration. As the bombers were being upgraded, the 509th still had to meet its operational and training requirements.
USAF plans to continue with other B-2 upgrades, such as satellite communications improvements.
The first C-5 Galaxy to be retired from the Air Force active inventory arrived Nov. 11 at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center—known as the boneyard—at Davis–Monthan AFB, Ariz. The service plans to retire another 12 of the giant airlifters over the next few years. (See “Saving the Galaxy,” p. 30.)
This year, four C-5s from Travis AFB, Calif., will join the first, which came from Lackland AFB, Tex.
“Retiring the older C-5s is paving the way for the modernization of the C-5 fleet and the beddown of the C-17 at Travis Air Force Base by 2007,” said Col. Steven Miller, commander of the 60th Operations Group at Travis.
An independent review of the Air Force Museum, located at Wright–Patterson AFB, Ohio, determined that the museum needs stronger oversight to meet recognized professional standards.
Air Force Secretary James G. Roche ordered the review last fall after reports emerged that large numbers of museum artifacts were lost or missing. (See: “Aerospace World: USAF Reviews Museum Policies,” November 2003, p. 14).
The review group, which was led by retired Lt. Gen. Charles J. Cunningham Jr., recommended primarily that USAF:
- Clarify the museum’s chain of command.
- Create a board of directors to replace the board of advisors.
- Provide additional manpower for a growing workload.
- Improve security.
Security improvements, the panel emphasized, should begin with a comprehensive security review. The panel also suggested that the service should consider elevating the level of the museum’s director to senior executive status.
Air Force historian Dick Anderegg, who fielded questions along with Cunningham during a press conference announcing the panel’s findings, noted that if collections are not properly preserved at the Air Force Museum, “they likely will never be preserved.”
Britain’s Royal Air Force will cut its planned purchase of Eurofighter Typhoons by a third—from 232 aircraft to 143—London’s Sunday Telegraph reported. The fighter program has suffered long delays and is well over budget.
UK defense officials now say the Eurofighter, conceived in the 1970s, is already out of date. It was originally to enter service in the early 1990s and now is not slated to come on line for at least another two years.
The savings from cutting the number of Typhoons will go toward development of future combat systems, such as unmanned aircraft and smart weapons.
According to the Telegraph, officials may also scale back the UK Joint Strike Fighter program, among other defense cuts. Britain has committed to purchase 150 F-35s for the RAF and Royal Navy.
Acting Pentagon acquisition chief Michael W. Wynne told lawmakers in November that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is “going very well.”
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing for the top acquisition job, Wynne said, however, that there are “some concerns with weight,” in the single-engine fighter at this stage in its design.
The greatest weight problem rests with the Marine Corps’ short takeoff, vertical landing variant, he said, adding, “I think, though, that they have a pathway forward.”
Of the overall F-35 design, Wynne said, “It appears that the products all work and they fly very well. … It’s an extraordinary airplane.”
Officials on Oct. 27 opened a new, state-of-the-art mortuary at Dover AFB, Del., replacing a 48-year-old facility.
The Dover facility, the Defense Department’s only Stateside mortuary, is used to prepare the remains of deceased service members and government officials who died in Europe and Southwest Asia. Dover is a major Air Force airlift hub.
The 70,000-square-foot facility was built in just more than a year. It is named the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, in honor of Dover’s mortuary director for 26 years.
A Central Intelligence Agency assessment determined that North Korea “has produced one or two simple fission-type nuclear weapons” without having conducted nuclear tests, according to an unclassified response to query from the CIA to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
First reported by the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News electronic newsletter, the assessment adds that recent actions by North Korea “suggest the Kim Jong-Il regime is prepared to further escalate tensions and heighten regional fears in a bid to press Washington to negotiate with Pyongyang on its terms.”
An overt nuclear test “would be one option” for escalating these tensions, the CIA reported.
The CIA was responding to questions for the record raised in February 2003 during the annual hearing to discuss worldwide threats. Typically, the responses are made months after the original hearing and made public even later.
In its responses, the CIA further noted that North Korea has “publicly claimed that the Iraq war shows only tremendous deterrent force can avert war.”
The CIA responses to Senate queries also called attention to persistent problems with the security of Russian nuclear materials. “Since 1992, there have been 16 seizures of weapons-usable [nuclear] material—six in Russia and 10 in Europe,” the CIA informed the Senate intelligence committee.
While none of these seizures were connected to terrorists, and no buyers were in place, the CIA believes that “other undetected smuggling has occurred.” The CIA does not know “the extent or magnitude of undetected thefts.”
The intelligence agency said it remains “concerned about the total amount of material that could have been diverted in the last decade,” even while security at Russian nuclear sites has improved in recent years.
The Air Force has instituted a new steering group of lieutenant generals to help review and guide the F/A-22 Raptor program toward its operational rollout at Langley AFB, Va., next year.
The group is made up of the vice commanders of Air Combat Command, Air Education and Training Command, Pacific Air Forces, US Air Forces in Europe, and Air Force Materiel Command.
The Raptor has embarked on its first official operational tests and is scheduled for initial operational capability at the end of 2005. The three-star group was established to ensure a smooth transition from test to operations for the service’s highest priority acquisition program.
Retired Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, the Pentagon’s director of force transformation, announced that the Defense Department will be entering the mini-satellite business next year.
A new tactical satellite program—TacSat-1—is the first element in the Operationally Responsive Space Experiment that has as its goal to orbit the satellite within a year and for less than $15 million, including launch costs.
The Pentagon expects to launch TacSat-1 in early 2004.
“What we want to be able to do is craft a payload, integrate it into a rocket, launch it, and have it orbiting, all within the time lines for the planning of a major contingency,” Cebrowski explained in a white paper released last fall. “We are talking about space capabilities in weeks and months, not decades,” he added.
The satellite is slated for launch aboard a Falcon launch vehicle, a new two-stage, liquid-fueled booster provided by a new company called SpaceX, for Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
If successful, the TacSat-1 program will launch the US into the micro-satellite business, an area that’s been dominated by foreign entities.
The Defense Department last fall selected eight medical facilities to participate in joint demonstrations with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The demo projects were mandated by Congress in the Fiscal 2003 defense authorization bill.
The goal of the projects, which will run through 2007, is to help the facilities improve and eliminate duplication in three areas: budget and financial management; staffing and assignment; and medical information and information technology systems.
Hawaii and Alaska will be the sites for the budget and financial demonstrations. In Hawaii, Tripler Army Medical Center will work with the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System. In Alaska, the Air Force’s 3rd Medical Group, Elmendorf Air Force Base, will work with the Alaska VA Health Care System.
The staffing and assignment projects will be conducted in three areas: Madigan AMC, Wash., and Puget Sound VA HCS; Eisenhower AMC, Georgia, and Augusta VA HCS; and 1st Medical Group, Langley AFB, Va., and Hampton VA Medical Center.
For the medical information and IT systems demonstrations: Madigan and Puget Sound; William Beaumont AMC, Tex., and El Paso VA HCS; and Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland AFB, Tex., with Brooke AMC, Tex., and South Texas VA HCS.
The facilities had applied to participate in the projects, according to a DOD statement, and were selected by the DOD/VA Health Executive Council.
President Bush on Nov. 12 awarded the Medal of Freedom to George Robertson, the outgoing NATO secretary general. “The Presidential Medal of Freedom is our nation’s highest civil award, given to individuals of exceptional merit and integrity,” Bush said in the Roosevelt Room presentation.
The British subject has been a staunch proponent of NATO modernization and reform during his four years as the alliance’s top civilian official. He has repeatedly pressed the European NATO members to improve in areas such as interoperability, airlift capabilities, and precision weapons—while frequently blasting the inefficiencies in many of Europe’s standing armies.
Robertson said he is leaving an alliance that has been transformed with “new partners, new missions, and new capabilities—ready to stand firm against the new and deadly threats that we face in the 21st century.”
Several law schools are suing the Pentagon, challenging the constitutionality of a 1996 federal law that requires the schools to permit military recruiters on campus or risk losing federal funds.
Military officials, in the last couple of years, began invoking the law to force open the doors of some law schools that had barred military recruiters for years. (See “Aerospace World: Yale Opens Doors to Military Recruiters, Vowing to Challenge Pentagon,” November 2002, p. 27.)
Schools that have filed suit include Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Others participating in the suits have remained anonymous.
At issue for the schools is the Pentagon’s policy toward homosexuals, specifically the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that was implemented by the Clinton Administration.
The Air Force has retained Aviator Continuation Pay for 2004 but made some changes to the program.
USAF re-evaluates the ACP program each year and this year elected to drop the three-year and to-25 years options, said Lt. Col. Harrison Smith, chief of USAF’s rated force policy branch. Essentially, he said, the service dropped those options that didn’t work and kept ones that do.
The bonus “take rate” for 2003, said Harrison, doubled the rate for 2001. The number of pilots who took an ACP bonus rose from 30 percent to more than 60 percent.
USAF extended the ACP bonus program for the first time to navigators and air battle managers in 2003. Their 2003 take rate was 55.3 percent and 75.9 percent, respectively.
Air Force Reserve Command has established its third space squadron—the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron—at Schriever AFB, Colo.
AFRC’s 6th and 19th Space Operations Squadrons fly satellites, while the 26th SAS anticipates threats to those satellites.
The new unit’s members provide threat replication—demonstrating potential threats to space systems and helping develop the means to defend against an enemy attempting to deny space capability to US forces.
t ensure our defense of these systems is as robust as our ability to operationally support the warfighter,” said Lt. Col. Guy Morley, 26th SAS commander. “We’re here to mitigate the threat before it manifests itself on the battlefield,” he noted.
The reserve unit has 35 positions—eight full-time Active Guard Reserve and 27 traditional reserve slots. They work directly with their active duty counterparts in the 527th SAS at Schriever in a “completely synergistic” operation, said Lt. Col. Anthony J. Russo, commander of the 527th. Russo said his biggest problem had been manpower, with many of the personnel in his “elite but extremely small squadron” on deployments.
“Activation of the 26th gives me more flexibility to meet the geometric increase in demand for aggressor support,” said Russo. He added, “The working relationship can only be described as seamless.”
|Balancing Force May Take Two More Years
The Air Force’s ongoing effort to balance its force to better meet post-9/11 manpower demands may be only halfway to resolution.
“Two years is probably about half the time we need to get that job done,” Gen. John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff, cautioned in a November interview with Air Force Magazine.
The 2001 terrorist attacks and subsequent combat operations worldwide revealed numerous imbalances in the Air Force’s staffing levels. For example, the sudden, unanticipated surge in demand for security personnel to guard bases worldwide and in the US forced USAF to turn to the Army to provide some 8,000 security personnel.
For the past two years, the Air Force has been trying to reconfigure its force to best meet the new demands, but USAF is also working within the constraints of a force structure that many feel is too small for the requirements placed upon it. However, service leaders agreed with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that before asking for additional end strength, they should explore all avenues to balance their personnel books in-house.
Unfortunately, balancing the force is a complicated task made more difficult by ongoing operational demands that are limiting training opportunities. Jumper noted that a veteran sergeant from the transport realm cannot instantly be made into an engine mechanic—there are training and experience requirements that must be met.
With large numbers of deployments for both instructors and prospective students, it has been difficult to staff the schoolhouses. The Air Force, therefore, is “on that journey just as quick as we can get there,” Jumper said.
“I would not be alarmed that two years hasn’t fixed the [force imbalance] problem,” he said, pointing out that “if you want a good seven-level jet mechanic, it takes seven years to get one.”
|V-22 Gears Up for Revised Production Plan
V-22 tilt-rotor program officials are working with the Air Force and the Navy to determine how best to meet new program guidance that calls for interoperability improvements and a new production plan, said Col. Craig Olson, V-22 program director. Unfortunately, some of that guidance is ambiguous.
The last Defense Acquisition Board that reviewed the V-22 program issued guidance that, in Olson’s view, was clear in some areas but generic in others. The guidance has left the V-22 office and its service “customers” to thrash out specific program details before the next DAB meeting in April.
Specific guidance from the DAB included the need to build 11 aircraft in Fiscal 2005, 17 in 2006, and 152 tilt-rotors by 2009. Other, less clear program guidance simply will not be resolved by the time the Administration releases the Fiscal 2005 budget request, Olson told Air Force Magazine.
There is no decision, for example, on exactly how many CV-22s per year will be built for Air Force Special Operations Command use or how many MV-22s will go toward Marine Corps troop transport. Neither has a determination been made on exactly what connectivity improvements, such as the addition of data links, will be added to which version of the tilt-rotor aircraft.
Olson noted that the DAB’s guidance calls for slowing the initial ramp rate and adding features—all while buying more aircraft by 2009 than were planned under the budget plan. This type of reorganization “takes money,” he said.
Acting Pentagon acquisition chief Michael W. Wynne expressed confidence in the program, which was redesigned after two fatal crashes in 2000. In testimony, Wynne said the V-22 is “coming back strong.”
Wynne cautioned, however, that the program is not out of the woods yet because of its past high-profile failures.
Those problems would influence how the aircraft is viewed—even if a crash is caused by lightning. The headline would read, said Wynne, “ ‘The Troubled V-22 Crashes,’ and on page 50 it’s going to say, ‘The cause was allegedly lightning.’ ”
|The Latest From Iraq|
|US Launches Major Counterattack
Coalition forces in Iraq on Nov. 12 began the largest combat operation since April, seeking to eliminate persistent enemy counterattacks on US and allied forces.
Dubbed Operation Iron Hammer, a series of air strikes involving AC-130 gunships, F-16 fighters, and other Air Force assets helped destroy a warehouse being used as an enemy staging area, while precision weapons were used to target a munitions store used by insurgents.
Iron Hammer was a marked change from US combat tactics in recent months and was undertaken to help squash a rising level of armed resistance by Saddam Hussein supporters that has continued to threaten coalition forces almost daily.
Suspects Nabbed in Rocket Attack
US troops nabbed 12 suspects believed to be involved in the Oct. 26 rocket attack on Baghdad’s Rasheed Hotel, a primary meeting point of US forces in Iraq. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz was staying at the hotel, during his visit to Iraq, at the time of the attack. Wolfowitz was not injured.
According to wire reports, Army Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, said an overnight raid in western Baghdad on Nov. 8 ended with the capture of 12 of the 18 individuals suspected of involvement in the attack.
Bombing at Italian Post in Nasiriyah Kills 29
A suicide bombing on Nov. 12 against Italy’s military police headquarters in Nasiriyah, Iraq, killed at least 18 Italians and 11 Iraqis. The attack was the deadliest against a coalition partner in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
It was also noteworthy because it occurred about 185 miles south of Baghdad, in an area that had previously been peaceful.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said his nation remained committed to the effort in Iraq and that Italy would not withdraw its 2,300 troops because of the bombing, the Washington Post reported.
The deaths of 32 soldiers killed in three helicopter crashes sharply elevated the US casualty statistics for November, compared to previous months.
The Defense Department reported that through Nov. 21, a total of 424 US troops had been killed in Iraq since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This included 62 deaths in the first three weeks of November, 42 in October, and 33 in September.
Of the total fatalities, 294 Americans were killed in combat incidents, while 130 died in noncombat events such as accidents.
DOD figures also revealed that the number of Americans killed after May 1—the end of major combat operations—reached 115 by Oct. 29. That surpassed the 114 that were killed during the major combat phase of OIF.
|Congress Authorizes $401 Billion for Defense
Lawmakers in November authorized $401.3 billion for Fiscal 2004 for the Defense Department and for national security programs within the Energy Department.
Authorizers approved $74.2 billion for procurement; $63.4 billion for research and development; and $114.4 billion for operations and maintenance expenses.
Expenses to be handled through other accounts include the continuing costs of combat operations worldwide and possibly an additional amount for the Air Force to begin leasing and purchasing 100 new KC-767 refueling tankers. The conference report authorized the Air Force to lease 20 new KC-767s and purchase another 80 through 2014.
The bill was signed by President Bush on Nov. 24.
Highlights of the authorization package include:
The F-35 Moves Ahead
Congress authorized $4.4 billion for continued development of the triservice F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Funding is split evenly between the Air Force and Navy.
The approval came as contractors in November for the first time began bending metal for the initial developmental F-35s. The strike fighters will be flown by the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy and will eventually replace a wide range of aircraft, including the F-16 and A-10.
The authorizers also added $56 million to DOD’s F-35 funding requests to fully fund the alternate engine development program.
Civil Service Overhaul Approved
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld largely got his wish for an overhaul of DOD’s Civil Service regulations. The 2004 authorization bill includes provisions that will make it easier for the department to hire, promote, and fire civilian employees.
Managers will also have greater leeway to pay employees based on their individual performance. In a concession to DOD’s unions, civilians will have access to an independent review before being disciplined.
Pay for DOD’s Senior Executive Service employees is also being revamped. Maximum pay for the department’s senior civilians is being increased from $134,000 to $142,000—but could actually top out at more than $154,000 for certain individuals.
B-1Bs Coming Back
The House and Senate authorizers approved a provision that will require the Air Force to reconstitute 23 B-1Bs out of the 32 B-1B bombers USAF has retired. (See “Washington Watch,” p. 8.)
Lawmakers authorized $97 million—some $5.4 million more than the Administration’s request—for B-1B modifications. Part of the funds would be used to begin the regeneration process for the 23 B-1Bs.
Goodbye “Buy America”
Conferees removed most of the controversial “Buy America” legislation that had been proposed as part of the 2004 defense authorization. Critics had decried the effort as being protectionist and harmful to multinational programs such as the F-35.
Left in place was “a balanced set of provisions that will support the US industrial base in a manner that will maintain and expand defense cooperation with our allies, while removing several unnecessary barriers to defense trade in current law,” according to the Senate Armed Services Committee’s summary of the legislation.
Lawmakers retained a provision calling for the defense and service Secretaries to assess the US industrial base’s ability to produce systems, components, and materials needed to win the war on terrorism.
|Worldwide Basing Changes Are Coming
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in November that the Pentagon plans to make major changes in its worldwide basing posture to make the US presence overseas more flexible and less static. The process will take years, he said.
Rumsfeld offered the situation on the Korean peninsula as a rare example of how the reforms might be accomplished.
After meeting with the South Korean defense minister, Rumsfeld said, “We discussed ways to realign and consolidate US forces based in Korea into two major hubs in two phases.”
The Defense Department seeks to pull back US troops from the demilitarized zone into more defensible positions farther south. With a total US force of 37,000 troops in South Korea, Administration officials see no reason to continue to have some troops serve as “trip wires” in 19 camps along the North Korean border.
“Any changes to [the] US military posture in Northeast Asia will be the product of the closest consultation,” Rumsfeld said, while visiting South Korea as part of a tour of Pacific bases. These changes “will result in increased US capabilities in the region,” he added.
The Pentagon plans to modernize its capabilities on the Korean peninsula, and Rumsfeld said, “Whatever adjustments we make will reflect the new technologies that are available, … and they will strengthen our ability to deter and, if necessary, defeat any aggressions against allies such as South Korea.”
Earlier in his trip, while visiting Guam, Rumsfeld said it could take eight years to implement all the basing changes that DOD envisions. He added that the first details probably will be announced by early 2004.
By Tamar A. Mehuron, Associate Editor
- USAF’s 12th and 19th Fighter Squadrons, part of the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, on Nov. 13 became the first units to receive the new AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. The units fly F-15 Eagle fighters. USAF procurement plans call for more than 5,000 of the new missiles over an 18-year production schedule.
- Lockheed Martin plans $200 million in upgrades to the SLC-3E launch site at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., to enable it to serve as a launch facility for the heavier Atlas 400 and Atlas 500 series rockets, reported the Los Angeles Times. The first Atlas V West Coast launch is slated for mid-2005.
- Ambassador Richard Jones, during an Oct. 21 press conference, announced the departure of the last US military aircraft from Al Jaber AB, Kuwait. The base had been used by US forces since Gulf War I in 1991.
- The Air Force translator arrested July 23 and charged with espionage was slated to face a court-martial Jan. 13, Air Force officials said in early December. SrA. Ahmad I. Halabi, assigned to Travis AFB, Calif., served as a translator at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (See “Aerospace World: Airman Arrested for Espionage,” November 2003, p. 16.)
- China and the European Union have joined forces to develop a satellite navigation system to rival the US Global Positioning System. China signed an agreement last fall to contribute research for Europe’s Galileo space program, reported the London Times. Galileo, which is expected to be completed in 2008, is intended for civil use but could have military application.
- USAF plans to deal with a 10 percent shortfall in filling first sergeant slots by selecting 400 individuals to undergo the necessary training. According to SMSgt. Chris Anthony, the process mirrors the ones in place to fill commander or command chief slots when the service doesn’t have enough volunteers. There has been a drop in first sergeant manning—it’s down from 96 percent to 89 percent. Out of the 400 selected, Anthony said about 120 will become first sergeants.
- USAF promoted more than 500 senior master sergeants to chief master sergeant. The promotion board considered 2,649 senior master sergeants and selected 19.86 percent, which is down slightly from last year’s selection rate of 19.93 percent.
- A mobile bird-detection radar system recently installed at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, may eventually help air traffic controllers alert pilots to bird activity in their flight area. The goal is to gather enough information on migration patterns to predict trends and thus reduce damaging bird strikes.
- USAF awarded Boeing a $10 million contract for depot maintenance and aircraft modifications to E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft. The contract calls for work to be completed by December.
- Two separate accidents at Pratt & Whitney’s missile propellant mixing facility in San Jose, Calif., prompted Missile Defense Agency officials to switch from a Lockheed Martin booster using the propellant to an alternate boost vehicle built by Orbital Sciences for up to 10 ground-based interceptors at Ft. Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg AFB, Calif., officials said in November. Both Lockheed and Orbital are subcontractors to Boeing on the booster rocket for the ground-based midcourse defense element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System.
- DOD plans to conduct another review of USAF’s Space Based Infrared System-High program in response to a critical General Accounting Office report released in the fall. GAO found that SBIRS-High remains at risk for cost and schedule overruns because of long-term problems, such as the rush to proceed with development without first establishing a solid base of critical knowledge. SBIRS-High is designed to replace the decades-old Defense Support Program missile-detection satellites.
- An F-16 crash June 10, 2003, at Luke AFB, Ariz., was caused by a manufacturing defect in a turbine blade, Air Force investigators determined. During a low-altitude bombing training run, the pilot, Capt. David O’Malley, felt the aircraft vibrate beneath him and heard a loud bang, followed by a grinding noise from the engine. He increased altitude and tried twice to restart the engine. He ejected safely after his wingman said fire appeared out the aircraft’s aft end.
- The copilot and an aircraft mechanic share blame for $2.1 million in damage to a KC-135 tanker on the ground on April 1, 2003. According to investigation board results released Nov. 6, each failed to follow their checklists, thereby causing the aircraft’s two inboard engine nacelles to come in contact with the ground. The accident occurred on deployment to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The aircraft was assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, UK.
- The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will gain a visitors center by 2006, according to legislation signed by President Bush Nov. 17. No federal funds will be used in its construction, which will take about three years and cost about $13 million.