OSI Agents Killed In Iraq
Two airmen and one civilian assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations were killed in Iraq on Nov. 1. They died near Balad Air Base from wounds caused by an improvised explosive device.
MSgt. Thomas A. Crowell, 36, of Neosho, Mo.; SSgt. David A. Wieger, 28, of North Huntingdon, Pa.; and Nathan J. Schuldheiss, 27, of Newport, R.I., were special agents for OSI. Crowell was assigned to Det. 301, Scott AFB, Ill., Wieger was assigned to Det. 303, Travis AFB, Calif., and Schuldheiss was assigned to Det. 204 at Offutt AFB, Neb.
All three were engaged in a counterintelligence mission near Balad when they were killed, Air Force officials said.
Aviano Crash Claims Four Airmen
Four airmen were killed Nov. 8 when the Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in which they were flying crashed southwest of Aviano AB, Italy.
Capt. Cartize B. Durham, SSgt. Robert D. Rogers, SSgt. Mark A. Spence, and SrA. Kenneth P. Hauprich Jr. were killed in the accident, the cause of which was still under investigation in late November.
All four were assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano. Two soldiers were also killed in the crash, and three other airmen were injured.
The flight was a training mission designed to give the airmen a feel for what Army crew members did on a typical flight.
The aircraft was attached to the 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment.
Airman Killed in Kuwait Accident
Air Force SSgt. Alejandro Ayala, 26, of Riverside, Calif., died Nov. 18 as a result of a vehicle accident in Kuwait. He was assigned to the 90th Logistics Readiness Squadron at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. Further details were not immediately available, and the accident was under investigation in late November.
More ILOs Demanded
The number of airmen performing “in lieu of” assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008 will rise 20 percent from 2007 levels, according to US Central Command Air Forces officials. Such airmen either spell Army or Marine Corps troops sent home for rest or offer a needed specialty not found in the other services.
In late 2007, there were 5,500 Air Force ILOs in theater, but in 2008, requirements handed down from the Pentagon’s Joint Staff will summon 6,600 Air Force troops for ground assignments. Such jobs range from convoy drivers, prisoner guards and logisticians to nation-building activities and explosive ordnance disposal.
The number of ILOs has risen steadily since USAF was first asked to provide replacements for ground billets in 2004, when less than 2,000 airmen were requested. As recently as last summer, the 2008 request was expected to be only 6,000 ILOs.
As of late November, there were about 3,700 ILOs in Iraq, 1,250 in Afghanistan, 450 in Kuwait, and 150 others throughout the CENTAF area of responsibility. Most ILO billets are filled by volunteers, who serve a year.
The CSAR-X Reloaded
The Air Force rebooted the combat search and rescue helicopter program on Nov. 15 by releasing the fifth—and last anticipated—amendment to its request for proposals. The program has been in acquisition limbo for more than a year following a series of legal protests of the original award, which went to Boeing in late 2006.
The CSAR-X offerors—Boeing, a Lockheed Martin-led team, and Sikorsky—have until the middle of this month to respond to the amended RFP. The amendment allows the competitors to update any or all of their proposals, but USAF’s performance requirements haven’t changed, service acquisition officials said.
A draft RFP amendment was released in October to the contractors to facilitate “face to face meetings” between the competitors and the Air Force to make sure that there were no misunderstandings about the new language.
The Air Force has brought Army, Navy, and DOD representatives into its source selection process in order to add more rotorcraft experience and expertise to the evaluation of the proposals. The proposals were due in early January.
Total Force C-130 Changes
The Air Force is revamping how it performs some functions related to the C-130 aircraft, affecting Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, and active duty units in Arkansas, Georgia, New York, and Tennessee, the service announced in October. The changes are meant to take advantage of the strengths of each component.
In Tennessee, the Air National Guard’s 118th Airlift Wing at Nashville Airport will become a formal training unit, with a peacetime mission of training airmen from partner nations to fly and employ the C-130. The 118th loses its current C-130H aircraft—as decreed under the 2005 BRAC round—but gains WC-130Hs for the new training mission.
Airmen in the New York ANG’s 10th Air Refueling Wing will form an associate relationship with the Air Force Reserve’s 914th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls ARS, N.Y., as directed by BRAC. The Reserve-Air National Guard association will be only the second such associate model established. The 914th will continue to have primary responsibility for its C-130H airlifters, but will partner with the 107th, which is losing its KC-135s.
In Georgia, the 94th Airlift Wing at Dobbins ARB, Ga., will convert from a domestic C-130 training unit to a combat-coded unit, and its aircrews will become part of the Air and Space Expeditionary Force rotation. The conversion provides additional airlift capability in theater while reducing the frequency at which other Hercules units deploy.
The Tactical Airlift Center of Excellence at Little Rock AFB, Ark., will absorb the domestic training mission from the 94th AW as well as expand its C-130J training activities to include international partners. The center is slated to gain more aircraft and personnel over the next four years.
Creech Gets New UAV Unit
A new unmanned aerial vehicle detachment has been established at Creech AFB, Nev., the Air Force announced in November.
The new unit—Det. 4 of the 53rd Test Management Group based at Eglin AFB, Fla.—provides operational expertise for development and testing of new sensors, weapons, software, and hardware for the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper. The detachment will manage the development of operational procedures and training for aircrews and maintainers.
The new detachment evolved from the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group Det. 4, which currently operates the MQ-1 Predator at Creech. Program managers, flight test analysts, and engineers make up the new detachment with pilots and sensor operators.
Cost of C-5 RERP Up 54 Percent
The cost of the program to upgrade and re-engine the C-5 Galaxy fleet will be 54 percent higher than budgeted, compelling the Air Force to reconsider whether it will proceed with the project.
The cost of the C-5 Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program, or RERP, went from a baseline cost of $11.4 billion to $17.5 billion, according to the Pentagon’s quarterly Selected Acquisition Reports released in November. The SARs note changes in the scope or cost of acquisition programs.
Any time a program exceeds cost estimates by more than 25 percent, it incurs what is called a Nunn-McCurdy breach, named for the law that requires the services to either explain whether there are alternatives to poor-performing programs, or certify that they are critical.
Air Force leaders predicted the overrun at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in September. Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne said he believed the program was going to incur a Nunn-McCurdy breach, but couldn’t notify Congress then since he didn’t know exactly how much the overrun would be.
The cost jump is related to revised program estimates from prime contractor Lockheed Martin, the Air Force said.
Air Force acquisition chief Sue C. Payton said in November that the Air Force will decide this month whether the RERP is “critical” and must be continued. Service leaders have touted the C-17 as an alternative, but Payton said going to a sole source for strategic airlift would eliminate competition and cause prices to rise.
Intelligence Budget Disclosed
The national intelligence budget, long a tightly held secret in Washington, was revealed in October, in compliance with a new law. The overall amount spent in Fiscal 2007 was $43.5 billion—but no details accompanied the numbers.
Director of National Intelligence John M. McConnell disclosed the budget figure in October, but said it would harm national security to provide further information.
The new law, one of many enacted in the wake of 9/11 Commission recommendations, also requires release of the 2008 national intelligence budget figure, but after that, the President is permitted to waive the reporting requirement if he deems that it reveals too much about US intelligence activities.
The budget covers the intelligence functions of 16 agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, those under the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and others.
The last time the CIA voluntarily disclosed intelligence spending was in 1997 and 1998, in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Federation of American Scientists. In 1997, the US spent $26.6 billion on intel, followed by $26.7 billion in 1998.
Had the intelligence budget simply risen with inflation since the earlier disclosures, it would now be about $34 billion, but the Global War on Terrorism has demanded a much heftier annual increase.
About 80 percent of the intelligence budget is consumed by military intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office.
Wurster Goes to AFSOC
Lt. Gen. Donald C. Wurster took charge of Air Force Special Operations Command, headquartered at Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Nov. 27.
Wurster relieved Lt. Gen. Michael W. Wooley, who retired Jan. 1 after 35 years of service. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Duncan J. McNabb presided over the change of command ceremony.
Wooley received the Distinguished Service Medal during the change of command ceremony.
JEFX Morphs, Pushes Automation
One of the Air Force’s premier exercises—the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment—has been reduced in size and increased in frequency in order to more rapidly try out and field useful concepts.
The JEFX used to take place every two years. It runs experiments in command and control to reduce the steps and time required to prosecute targets.
The first of the rescoped JEFX experiments was run in November at Langley AFB, Va. It tried out 11 initiatives involving 640 participants at 17 locations.
Among the new ideas was a Web-based system that allows multiple users to request aerial refueling using machine-to-machine links. In the field, such requests must now be made by voice. US Strategic Command and Air Mobility Command are unable to exchange data machine-to-machine during the planning and execution phases of a mission.
Another experiment made it possible for mission planners in an air operations center to directly change the target of weapons—such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition—that an aircraft has already released. The current method requires radio calls and hand-entered-coordinate changes on the launch aircraft. The experimental system involves software that quickens the target update, giving commanders more chances to pursue time-sensitive or fleeting targets.
The JEFX is run at the Global Cyberspace Integration Center at Langley. It uses the center’s mock-up AOC, known as the “Hot Bench,” in realistic scenarios.
Brady Nominated for USAFE
President Bush has nominated Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady to receive a fourth star and take over command of US Air Forces in Europe from Gen. William T. Hobbins, who is retiring.
Brady has been deputy chief of staff for personnel since June 2004.
Hobbins has been commander of USAFE since 2005. He was to relinquish command Dec. 10 and retire Feb. 1 after 38 years of service.
Reservists Feel the Bite
The Air Force has long said that the Reserve Component would share the pain as the service sheds some 40,000 full-time equivalent personnel. Air Force Reserve Command is about to take such a hit, losing 7,400 billets in 2008.
Under the 2008 Defense Appropriations Act signed by President Bush, AFRC is funded for an end strength of 67,500 Reservists, down from 74,900 authorized for 2007.
The bill also approves 9,999 full-time air reserve technicians and 2,721 full-time active guard reserve billets.
While the Reserve is taking its first round of cuts, the Air National Guard has not been affected yet.
Army and Marine Corps plans for expansion have also cast some doubt on the drawdown, and top USAF leaders have speculated that they may not reduce to an end strength of 316,000, but hold at 330,000. A larger ground force requires additional airmen who embed with them for missions such as combat air controllers.
Last “Black Jet” Air Show
The F-117 Nighthawk made its last appearance at an air show in November, at the Dubai aerospace exposition in the United Arab Emirates. It was on static display and also performed aerial demonstrations. No more public appearances are scheduled until retirement ceremonies, expected in April.
The Air Force has retired about half its F-117s; they are being phased out in favor of the F-22, which is absorbing the mission of the “Black Jet.”
The F-117 was designed in the late 1970s, and made its first flight in 1981. The program, which created the first combat-capable true stealth aircraft, was highly classified until its existence was revealed in 1987. It was not until 1988 that an F-117 was made available for public display. The type flew combat missions in Panama in 1989, Gulf War I in 1991, Serbia in 1999, and Iraq in 2003. Only one was ever lost in combat, although several have crashed in accidents, one at an air show in Maryland.
Keen Sword in Japan
Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force pilots took part in broad air-to-air exercises over Japan in November as part of the two-week-long Keen Sword.
The wargames simulated the defense of Japan by exercising more than 60 military units at 24 locations across the country. In the initial phases, F-16 pilots from Misawa AB, Japan, practiced basic intercepts to advanced multiship maneuvers. Participating aircraft included F-16s, KC-135s, and E-3 AWACS from Kadena AB, Japan.
The exercise concluded with a combined, large-force exercise of ground and air units.
AFRICOM’s Air Component
The Air Force began organizing its element of the new US Africa Command in December. AFRICOM is to be fully operational by October 2008, according to US Air Forces in Europe planners.
The new component, 17th Air Force, will comprise about 300 airmen under the command of a major general, Col. Blake Linder—USAFE’s deputy director for plans, programs, and analysis—told Inside the Pentagon. About half of those airmen will be part of the 17th Air Force staff, while the other half will be at a customized air operations center.
A location for command headquarters and an air operations center hasn’t been identified yet, he added, and the new center will not be a full-up AOC since the primary mission of AFRICOM is security cooperation with regional allies.
US-Australia SATCOM Deal
The US and Australia signed an agreement in November to cooperate on the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS). The constellation will be expanded from five to six satellites as a result of the deal.
Once the system becomes operational, the WGS will provide a large improvement in communications bandwidth for US and Australian military forces that must keep up with intensive demand for bandwidth stemming from data transfer and remote unmanned aircraft operations. The system will work in the X and Ka-band frequency range.
The first satellite is scheduled to achieve initial operational capability in early 2008, and full capability is expected in 2013, after launch of the last satellite.
As part of an ongoing effort to make military life more amenable to families, the Pentagon and Labor Department have teamed up on a trial program to provide military spouses with assistance for training in “portable” careers.
Spouses of junior officers and junior enlisted personnel at participating locations can tap funds in self-managed “career advancement accounts” of $3,000 per year to offset expenses for post-secondary education and training. Books, fees, equipment, and credentialing can all be paid for with the account funds.
The two-year demonstration is now being offered at 18 military installations in eight states and is intended to help spouses develop skills needed to enter and advance in portable careers such as education, health care, information technology, and financial services.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that spouses are often called on to pack up and relocate their families, often at the cost of their own careers. This makes it difficult to navigate licensing and certification requirements in many professions.
Spouses may apply at participating installations’ education centers or family support centers. Air Force facilities participating in the program include McChord AFB, Wash., Pope AFB, N.C., Hickam AFB, Hawaii, Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field, Fla.,and Peterson AFB, Colo.
AFSOC Wing Reorganized
Air Force Reserve Command’s 919th Special Operations Wing, which flies variants of the MC-130 aerial refueling aircraft, is set to reorganize, swap missions, and move stations over the next few years, Air Force Special Operations Command announced in November.
Unit personnel assigned to the MC-130 will be assigned to new Reserve associate units where they will fly and maintain new aircraft with active duty AFSOC airmen. Over the next five years, the 919th SOW at Duke Field, Fla., will integrate with the 1st SOW at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
The 919th’s 5th Special Operations Squadron flies the MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft, while the 711th SOS flies the MC-130E Combat Talon I. The wing will be shedding the Combat Shadow mission in the next two years and will retire the Combat Talon I by 2012.
In the interim, Reservists will share flight training duties by augmenting training units in a variety of missions—including the single-engine U-28 Pilatus light transport aircraft, the AC-130U gunship, and training and assisting foreign aviation forces.
AFSOC said that another emerging mission for the 919th SOW is an associate unit to augment the 3rd SOS at Nellis AFB, Nev., which flies the MQ-1 Predator.
CSAR Wing Gives Wildfire Support
Air National Guardsmen with the 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Field, Calif., were asked in late October to help with search and rescue support for massive firefighting operations across Southern California.
A pair of HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters transported 16 Air Guardsmen—including pararescuemen, air crews, and maintainers from Moffett near San Jose to Los Alamitos Army Airfield in Southern California. The crews were put on search and rescue alert, with civilian recovery and official transport as potential missions.
An MC-130P Combat Shadow tanker and crew at Moffett were also put on standby to support firefighting operations. Several large wildfires burned in late October across Southern California—eventually consuming about 500,000 acres from Santa Barbara to the US-Mexico border.
|C-17 Packs a Pachyderm
The C-17 has hauled a remarkable range of things, from helicopters and tanks to disaster relief supplies. In November, it added a new type of cargo to its repertoire: a live elephant.
Maggie, a 25-year-old African elephant, was flown from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, to Travis AFB, Calif., in a specially made 10,000-pound crate stowed in the C-17’s cargo bay. The four-ton elephant was being moved from the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage to a retirement home in California run by the Performing Animals Welfare Society. Maggie’s quarters in Anchorage were deemed inadequate.
Due to her age and size, the animal could not easily make the trip other than by air, and no commercial lift could handle the unusual load. After months of negotiations, the Air Force agreed to fly Maggie to Travis. The PAWS organization was to reimburse USAF between $215,000 to $300,000 for expenses. The flight crew received unique training in moving sensitive cargo.
The C-17 aircraft used was operated by the 517th Airlift Squadron, which received its first C-17 last June.
|F-15 and F-16 Crash Reports Released
An F-15D crashed in May because a jammed cable wouldn’t allow the pilot to recover his tumbling fighter, according to an Air Combat Command accident report released in October.
The pilot of the F-15, assigned to the Missouri ANG’s 131st Fighter Wing at Lambert-St. Louis Arpt., Mo., reported that the aircraft’s controls became unresponsive about 20 minutes into the mission. Given the altitude and attitude of the aircraft, it was unrecoverable, ACC said. The pilot ejected, receiving minor injuries. The aircraft crashed in an unpopulated area of Indiana near the Illinois border. (A second Missouri ANG crash on November 2 led to fleetwide grounding. Results of that investigation had not been released by press time.)
The aileron rudder crossover cable was the culprit, investigators said, but they noted it was properly installed, inspected, and maintained. Neither USAF nor F-15 contractor Boeing could determine why the cable malfunctioned.
In a separate report, an ACC investigation board attributed the January 2007 crash of an Air National Guard F-16C to fuel starvation caused by a loose fuel line. The F-16C belonged to the 144th FW of the California Air National Guard, Fresno-Yosemite Arpt., Calif. According to the report, the pilot experienced a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff on a training mission.
After several unsuccessful attempts to restart the engine, the pilot ejected over a dry lake bed about 85 miles east of Fresno. Investigators determined that bolts connecting the fuel line to the main fuel control unit were not properly torqued during routine maintenance.
|Vietnam-Era Airmen Identified
Two airmen listed as missing from the Vietnam War were identified, the Pentagon’s Missing Personnel Office announced in November. Their remains were returned to their families.
Maj. John L. Carroll, of Decatur, Ga.,was buried on Nov. 13 at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., with full honors.
Carroll was lost on Nov. 7, 1972, while flying a forward air control mission over Laos in an O-1G Bird Dog. He was hit by enemy ground fire and forced to land. Rescue aircraft could not recover Carroll due to intense ground fire and the proximity of enemy forces.
Between 1996 and 2007 a joint US-Laotian team with assistance from Vietnam interviewed witnesses about the incident, eventually discovering Carroll’s burial site.
Capt. Stephen A. Rusch of Lambertville, N.J., was buried Nov. 30 at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., with full honors.
Rusch, a weapons systems officer, was lost March 7, 1972, while flying a mission in an F-4E Phantom over Laos. Rusch’s flight leader lost sight of his aircraft but observed enemy ground fire closely followed by an explosion. Radio contact with Rusch couldn’t be established, and subsequent searches of the area were unsuccessful.
Between 1995 and 2003, US and Laotian officials investigated the incident and interviewed several citizens around the crash site. After two excavations, teams recovered human remains that were analyzed and identified by DOD scientists.
|The War on Terrorism|
|Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By Dec. 13, a total of 3,888 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 3,880 troops and eight Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,167 were killed in action with the enemy while 721 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 28,661 troops wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This number includes 15,832 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 12,829 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Iraqis Regain Kirkuk Airspace Control
US Central Command Air Forces officials transferred the Baghdad Air Control Center to Iraqi control in November. Iraqis now control the Kirkuk airspace area over 29,000 feet.
The handover was part of a transition process authored by CENTAF in 2007. The Baghdad ACC was the first in a series of stages to stand up on Aug. 30. Following the completion of the Kirkuk transfer, southern Iraqi airspace around Ali Air Base, Iraq, was expected to transfer late in 2007.
When the process is complete, the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority will be responsible for control of all airspace over Iraq at 29,000 feet and above. The combined force air component commander will retain authority to take back sections of airspace in order to accomplish a military mission, however.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By Dec. 8, a total of 465 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 464 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of these deaths, 274 were killed in action with the enemy while 191 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 1,821 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 716 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 1,105 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
F-15Es to the Rescue
US, coalition, and Afghan security forces engaged with and killed a large number of Taliban insurgents near the Deh Rawod district of Oruzgan Province on Nov. 13, covered by USAF F-15Es.
The combined ground force was on patrol when a large group of insurgents attacked it with small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire. The insurgents then tried to fall back to a nearby compound—causing civilians in the area to flee.
After identifying the insurgents’ position, four separate precision air strikes were called in as the Taliban fighters attempted to reinforce their position. F-15Es attacked with a GBU-12, GBU-31, and GBU-38s bombs and strafed with their 20 mm cannon. A joint terminal attack controller with the group deemed the strikes successful.
Afterward, ground forces assaulted the position. Another F-15E performed a “show of force”—a loud, low pass—to deter further resistance.
Largest Deployed Shelter Built at Bagram
A nine-person team from the 49th Material Maintenance Group at Holloman AFB, N.M., finished building the Air Force’s largest deployable aircraft shelter Bagram AB, Afghanistan, in November.
The team began building the 225-by-70-foot hangar on Oct. 22 and completed it on Nov. 5. The new hangar houses three of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing’s HH-60 Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopters. A standard deployed shelter is 150 feet by 70 feet.
Normally a shelter is designed to hold one aircraft, but the Holloman airmen managed to splice two-and-a-half shelters together. The 49th had already completed several large projects across the theater of operations, including the erection of three 6,000-square-foot shelters and one 4,000-square-foot shelter.