Airman Dies in Iraq
SSgt. Brian P. Hause, 29, of Stoystown, Pa., died Oct. 23 of noncombat-related medical causes while deployed to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, from the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron at Shaw AFB, S.C. He was serving as assistant noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Balad’s 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Phase Dock.
The Department of Defense did not release additional details of his death at the time since the incident was under investigation.
Medal of Honor for Etchberger
CMSgt. Richard L. Etchberger, who originally received an Air Force Cross posthumously for his heroic actions at Lima Site 85 in Laos during the Vietnam War, is now authorized to receive the Medal of Honor for that action, based on language included in the Fiscal 2009 defense authorization act.
The act, Public Law 110-417, that went into effect in October, waives the time limitations normally entailed with such awards. Etchberger kept North Vietnamese troops at bay with an M-16 as they overran a secret Air Force radar site atop one of the highest Laotian mountains on March 11, 1968. His actions enabled rescue for seven of the 19 Americans at the site, but he was mortally wounded as he boarded the rescue helicopter.
At the time, the White House declined to award Etchberger the MOH, believing the action would spotlight the presence of the clandestine facility in a supposedly neutral country. Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) worked to secure the authorization for Etchberger, a native of Bismarck, N.D.
CV-22s Deploy Overseas
Four Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., took part in Operation Flintlock in November in Africa, marking the CV-22’s first overseas deployment.
About 100 airmen from the 1st SOW and about 100 airmen from the 352nd Special Operations Group at RAF Mildenhall, Britain, accompanied the Ospreys to the US Africa Command-sponsored multinational counterterror exercise that ran Nov. 3-20 in Africa’s Trans-Saharan region, AFSOC representatives said. The CV-22s departed Hurlburt Oct. 17.
Mali hosted the exercise, which included events such as joint medical and veterinary visits to rural communities. Activities also took place in other nations, including Senegal, according to AFRICOM. Don Arias, an AFSOC spokesman, said Flintlock would allow AFSOC to demonstrate the speed, range, and unique capabilities of the CV-22.
McKinley Becomes Guard Chief
Gen. Craig R. McKinley received his fourth star during a ceremony at the Pentagon on Nov. 17 and took command of the National Guard Bureau from Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, who has been named to be the first Guard deputy commander of US Northern Command. McKinley became the first four-star general to head the NGB in its 372-year history and the first Air Force officer to lead the bureau since 2002.
“This elevation of the chief of the National Guard Bureau to four stars underscores the critical importance of the Guard to America’s overall national defense,” said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at the ceremony.
On the following day, the Bush Administration nominated Maj. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III (Oklahoma adjutant general) to receive a third star and take over the Air National Guard, the post that McKinley held since 2006. The Senate confirmed Wyatt’s nomination Dec. 9.
Pilot Receives DFC
The Air Force has awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross to Maj. Daniel Clayton, an A-10 pilot with the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan AB, South Korea. Clayton received the award in October for his actions during a nighttime combat search and rescue operation in Afghanistan on May 30, 2007, when he served as airborne rescue mission commander.
He and his wingman, Capt. Ryan Hill, went to the aid of a downed Army CH-47 helicopter, coordinating the efforts of multiple assets, including several other aircraft and more than a hundred troops. “Under our control, this combined force continuously engaged Taliban insurgents attempting to reach the crash site and attack friendly forces,” explained Clayton, who is chief of standardization and evaluation with Osan’s 51st Operations Group.
Tragically, there were no survivors, but Clayton continued to lead the mission as the ground forces moved in to recover the fallen comrades.
Missile Warning Leaps Ahead
Air Force space officials in November cleared HEO-1, the first of the two Space Based Infrared System sensor payloads on orbit, and its ground element for operational service after an extensive period of operational evaluations.
This milestone “represents many years of hard work by space operators, acquirers, and testers alike,” said Col. Roger Teague, commander of the Space Based Infrared Systems Wing at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., Nov. 12.
HEO-1 resides in highly elliptical orbit on a classified intelligence satellite. It provides “an unprecedented infrared view of the battlefield” compared to the existing constellation of Defense Support Program early warning satellites, including “real-time data on missiles, aircraft, and other events,” according to Air Force Space Command. US Strategic Command was expected to certify the operational readiness of HEO-1 before the end of 2008. AFSPC expects HEO-2 to begin operations early this year.
F-16 Pilots Receive Mackay Trophy
Four F-16 pilots from the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa AB, Japan, received the 2007 Mackay Trophy for the Air Force’s “most meritorious flight of the year.”
These pilots—Col. Charles L. Moore, Lt. Col. Stephen C. Williams, Capt. Lawrence T. Sullivan, and Capt. Kristopher W. Struve—were recognized in a Nov. 3 ceremony by the Air Force and National Aeronautic Association for their expert airmanship in executing an 11-hour mission from Joint Base Balad, Iraq. They attacked high-value Taliban positions in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in August 2007.
Flying under the call sign Panther 11, their four-ship F-16CJ formation marked the first time that fighter aircraft stationed in Iraq were used for combat operations in Afghanistan. The prestigious Mackay Trophy dates back to 1912.
F-35 Goes Supersonic
AA-1, the first F-35A Lightning II test aircraft, achieved supersonic speed for the first time during a Nov. 13 flight over northern Texas, flying from Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth. The aircraft reached Mach 1.05—about 680 mph—at 30,000 feet in altitude while carrying the weight of a full mock internal weapons load.
“The F-35 transitioned from subsonic to supersonic just as our engineers and our computer modeling had predicted” and maintained its “precise handling qualities” at that high speed, said Jon Beesley, Lockheed Martin’s chief F-35 test pilot.
Prior to that, AA-1 completed three weeks of flight testing at Edwards AFB, Calif., in October to validate the aircraft’s ability to shut down and restart its engine in flight. This was AA-1’s first visit to the California test site.
Satellite Programs Shift
The Office of the Secretary of Defense decided to delay the planned multibillion-dollar contract award for the Air Force’s Transformational Satellite Communications System from December 2008 to an undetermined date, which could be late 2010, the Associated Press reported Oct. 24.
The Pentagon is intent on devising a less costly program to provide dismounted soldiers secure access to the US military’s information-sharing networks. The news service said the plan may not survive the next Administration. Boeing and Lockheed Martin are competing for the satellite contract.
Meanwhile, AP reported Oct. 21 that Congressional intelligence appropriators killed the Broad Area Space-based Imagery Collection satellite system, or BASIC, by gutting about $1 billion earmarked for it in Fiscal 2009. Under BASIC, the Pentagon and Intelligence Community planned to procure and operate two commercial-based imagery satellites to fill a potential coverage gap early next decade.
Missile Wing Fails Inspection
The 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., did not pass a combined nuclear surety inspection and operational readiness inspection held Oct. 26 to Nov. 10. Some 90 inspectors from Air Force Space Command and US Strategic Command found deficiencies in several areas. A repeat inspection was planned for within 90 days, and AFSPC officials said they were confident the wing would pass.
The discrepancies were limited and did not signal a major problem that would have necessitated a leadership change or mission stand-down, the officials said. Further, the inspections were much tougher than they have been in the past 15 years, since the Air Force is upping its standards as it reinvigorates its nuclear enterprise, they noted.
“You just witnessed [that] you can have hundreds of tasks performed perfectly; have thousands of people performing their jobs without any flaws; and yet one single event … can affect the overall team score,” Gen. Roger W. Burg, 20th Air Force commander, told the Malmstrom missileers.
First “Southern Partner” Held
Air Forces Southern conducted the inaugural Operation Southern Partner, a series of focused subject-matter exchanges and partnership-building exercises with air forces in Latin America, from Oct. 26 to Nov. 7.
More than 70 US airmen flew aboard a C-17 transport down to South America to work alongside members of the air forces of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Activities included discussions on base security with Chilean airmen, on aircraft maintenance with Argentinean airmen, and on medical disaster response with Argentinean and Uruguayan military medics. There were also air-drop exercises with Chilean search and rescue airmen and Uruguayan military personnel and more than 10 outreach and community relations projects.
AFSOUTH plans to hold Southern Partner periodically, with the next iteration planned for the spring.
New Radar for F-15E
The Air Force awarded Boeing a $238 million contract on Oct. 30 for the system development and demonstration phase of the F-15E radar modernization program. Under it, the Air Force will replace the APG-70 radars on all 223 of its F-15E Strike Eagle multirole fighters with a sophisticated new active electronically scanned array system supplied by Raytheon.
The new AESA radar, for which the Air Force had not yet announced a nomenclature, will improve the aircraft’s ability to detect and track air and ground targets, including small-size ones, and offer an order-of-magnitude jump in reliability and reduced maintenance, according to both companies.
During SDD, Raytheon will build developmental and flight-test units, and Boeing will integrate the radar onto the F-15E. A production decision is expected in 2011, leading to the first AESA-equipped F-15E unit being declared ready for operations in Fiscal 2014, the companies said.
Expanded BMT Begins
The Air Force started its first expanded basic military training course Nov. 4 at Lackland AFB, Tex. The recruits in this course are the first to undergo 8.5 weeks of instruction as opposed to the 6.5-week training regimen that had been in place since the 1960s.
The decision to expand BMT was made in 2006. The extra two weeks will be used to enhance and reinforce expeditionary war skills training and incorporate additional instruction such as combat CPR so that the recruits are better prepared to meet the challenges they will face as part of the Air Force, service officials have said.
The Air Force anticipates that a total of 39,000 recruits will pass through BMT at Lackland in Fiscal 2009.
Fire Hits Minuteman Site
The Air Force divulged in late October that a fire broke out in a Minuteman III ICBM launch facility May 23, 2008, near F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo., causing about $1 million in damage. But the flames did not enter the launch tube or reach the missile, and at no time was there the risk of an unauthorized release of nuclear material, Air Force Space Command officials said.
The incident was not publicly disclosed until the release of the accident investigation board findings on Oct. 30. The fire occurred just two weeks before the Air Force’s previous leadership was fired over shortcomings in nuclear stewardship after two highly publicized missteps involving nuclear and nuclear-related materials.
AFSPC said accident investigators found that a buildup of flammable hydrogen gas caused by a malfunctioning battery charger resulted in the fire in the unmanned facility, which is designated LF Alpha 06.
USAF Develops Cyber Roadmap
Air Force Space Command and Air Force Cyber Command (Provisional) announced Oct. 24 that they were creating a roadmap to establish the cyberspace mission within a new numbered air force, 24th AF, under AFSPC.
Earlier that month, the Air Force leadership announced the plan to stand up the new NAF, thereby nixing previous plans to form a cyber operations major command. “There won’t be a huge difference in what was being presented originally—cyber being its own command—with what will be done under AFSPC’s umbrella,” said Gen. C. Robert Kehler, AFPSC commander, in a release.
Maj. Gen. William T. Lord, commander of AFCYBER (P), told the Shreveport Times Nov. 7 that 24th AF would comprise about 400 people, roughly the same number that had been planned for the AFCYBER major command headquarters. The location of 24th AF and any subordinate units had not been finalized as of mid-November, but work was already under way to establish the career fields, training, doctrine, and policy for cyber.
GAO Calls for UAV Lead
In a Nov. 14 report, the Government Accountability Office recommended that the Department of Defense establish a “single entity accountable for integrating efforts” with unmanned aerial systems.
“DOD has not defined the roles, responsibilities, and relationships among the various UAS-related organizations,” GAO analysts wrote after examining the activities of DOD’s task force for unmanned aerial vehicles that was established in 2007 after the Office of the Secretary of Defense stopped the Air Force push to become executive agent for higher-flying UAVs.
The Congressional watchdog agency acknowledged the “several steps” that DOD has taken toward management and operational improvements. However, it asserted that the Defense Department’s “approach lacks key elements of an overarching organizational framework needed to fully integrate efforts, sustain progress, and resolve long-standing challenges in acquiring and operating UAS in a joint environment.”
Bronze Star Medals Awarded
Lt. Col. Lynden Skinner, deputy commander of the 341st Security Forces Group at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., received a Bronze Star Medal Oct. 24 for his activities while deployed to Iraq as the Joint Defense Operations Center Air Force liaison officer to an Army artillery task force at Logistics Support Area Anaconda.
The Air Force also awarded Bronze Star Medals to: Capt. Carl Close at Fairchild AFB, Wash., for his work as an embedded training team senior fuels mentor to the Afghan National Army while deployed to Kandahar Air Base; MSgt. Krisah Herron at Incirlik AB, Turkey, who served as an explosive ordnance disposal team leader while deployed to Baghdad, Iraq; MSgt. Andrea Vigliotti (now a senior master sergeant at Air Force Personnel Center), for her actions in Baghdad as deputy of acquisition policy and evaluations at Joint Contracting Command-Iraq/Afghanistan; TSgt. James Thompson at Izmir AB, Turkey, who served as an anti-terrorism force protection specialist at Joint Base Balad, Iraq; TSgt. Robert Weston at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, an explosive ordnance disposal specialist; and SSgt. Karen Wagner at Ramstein AB, Germany, for her work as a weapons intelligence team investigator supporting the Army.
Predators Will Stay
The Air Force said in early November it currently has “no plans” to shift its fleet of MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to another service when the larger, more capable MQ-9 Reaper UAVs enter operations in greater numbers, as was claimed in press reports in October.
In fact, service officials said such claims “were inaccurate” and subsequently “retracted by the source.” Instead, the Air Force said the Joint Staff and US Strategic Command are conducting a study to determine the overhead full-motion-video needs of combatant commanders. Results are expected early this year and will help shape the Air Force’s future UAV force mix.
The Air Force’s current plans are to operate MQ-1s through 2015. The service expected to have enough Predators in place to provide 31 simultaneous combat air patrols in Southwest Asia by the end of 2008, and is working toward the goal of 50 CAPs filled by Predators and Reapers early next decade.
Aircraft Losses Near 70
The tally of Air Force aircraft lost to date supporting the Global War on Terror is 67, counting from Sept. 11, 2001 to mid-November 2008. This includes 24 manned platforms and 43 unmanned aerial vehicles, according to data provided by the Air Force.
Cumulatively, these destroyed platforms are known as contingency losses. The manned loss breakdown is: one A-10A, two B-1Bs, one B-2A, one C-5B, one C-130H, one F-15E, five F-16s, two HH-60Gs, two MC-130Hs, one MC-130P, six MH-53s, and one U-2. The unmanned losses are: 40 MQ/RQ-1 Predators, one MQ-9A Reaper, and two RQ-4A Global Hawks.
Seven of these airframes (one A-10A, one F-16, one MH-53, two MQ-1s, and two RQ-1s) were destroyed while in direct contact with the enemy (e.g., shot down, crashed while attacking). They are considered combat losses.
Reprieve for Housing Projects
HP Communities, a limited liability company owned by Hunt Development Group of El Paso, Tex., and Pinnacle AMS Development of Seattle, took over the beleaguered American Eagle military housing privatization projects at four Air Force bases through a sale announced Nov. 4.
The Air Force said the deal, culminating almost two years’ effort, consolidates the housing privatization projects for more than 2,600 housing units collectively at Hanscom AFB, Mass., Little Rock AFB, Ark., Moody AFB, Ga., and Patrick AFB, Fla., under a single umbrella and allows construction to restart at all locations. Management of these activities had attracted much Congressional criticism after work stoppages and cost spikes.
“Getting these projects back on track has been of utmost importance to the Air Force and will improve the quality of life for our airmen at these four installations,” said Kathleen I. Ferguson, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations. Hunt has built more military family housing in the US than any other company.
Pentagon IG Admits Error
The Pentagon inspector general office in October rescinded a March 2008 report that had cited the possible compromise of classified information on the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter at BAE Systems facilities or through the company’s computer systems.
“After report issuance, we determined that we did not have sufficient appropriate evidence to support the report conclusion,” wrote Paul Granetto, principal assistant inspector general for auditing, in an Oct. 23 release.
The IG had criticized the Defense Security Service back in March for “incomplete” oversight of BAE Systems, a principal industry partner to Lockheed Martin on the $300 billion F-35 program, which could have led to the company’s intentional or unintentional release of sensitive data on the aircraft. BAE had steadfastly contested the findings.
World War II Ace Dies
Retired Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Francis R. Gerard, 84, who shot down eight German fighters during World War II and went on to command the New Jersey National Guard in the 1980s, died Nov. 1.
According to New Jersey’s The Leader newspaper, Gerard joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 after graduating from high school the previous year. He flew the P-51 Mustang with the 503rd Fighter Squadron during World War II, destroying four of his eight credited German fighters in one 12-minute battle over Leipzig, Germany, Sept. 11, 1944.
After the war, Gerard left active duty, became an attorney, and joined the New Jersey Air National Guard. He served during the Berlin Airlift and Korean War, rising to major general in 1977. During his career, he commanded the 108th Tactical Fighter Wing, headed the New Jersey ANG, and served as the New Jersey adjutant general from 1982 until his retirement in 1989.
WWII Airman’s Remains Identified
The remains of Army Air Forces SSgt. Martin F. Troy of Norwalk, Conn., missing since 1944, have been identified, the Department of Defense announced Nov. 3
Troy was part of the 10-member crew of a B-24H Liberator bomber that was shot down on June 30, 1944 and crashed into a swampy area near Nemesvita, Hungary, beside Lake Balaton, while on a mission to strike an oil refinery in Blechammer, Germany.
Human remains turned over by Hungarian citizens and additional evidence from crash site surveys and excavations in 2003, 2005, and 2007 led to his identification. Troy was the last of the three airmen who perished in the crash to be recovered and identified.
USAF Seeks Energy Jointness
Michael A. Aimone, USAF’s acting deputy chief of staff for logistics, installations, and mission support, said Oct. 30 that the Air Force is adopting a new policy to make its ambitious efforts to conserve energy and leverage renewable and environmentally friendly power sources more “cooperative and joint” with the other services and Office of the Secretary of Defense.
For example, the service now seeks to partner with the Army and Navy on a large solar photovoltaic project in California that the Air Force had originally planned for Edwards Air Force Base, Aimone said. A site other than Edwards may be chosen to host the solar farm.
The Air Force is also now incorporating the Army in its activities to establish small nuclear power reactors at some USAF installations, Aimone said, noting the Army’s history going back to the 1950s of using nuclear power at its facilities.
Duluth to Keep F-16s Longer
The Duluth News Tribune reported Nov. 12 that the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing will retain the F-16 flying mission through 2018, and possibly 2020, instead of the earlier announced phaseout date in 2013.
According to the newspaper, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) that the wing would receive F-16 Block 40 aircraft to replace its current Block 25s and keep the mission at the base longer. This puts the 148th FW in better position to await the new F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter, but England made no promises that the wing would get the F-35.
The Duluth-based Air Guard unit is on the list of potential F-35 beddown locations.
AFRL Awards Engine Contracts
General Electric, Lockheed Martin, and Pratt & Whitney received contracts cumulatively worth hundreds of millions of dollars from the Air Force Research Laboratory in late October and early November to continue their work on radically improving the performance of turbine engines.
The companies were chosen to proceed into Phase II and Phase III of AFRL’s Versatile Affordable Advanced Turbine Engines program, which hopes to achieve results by around 2017 that yield a 10-fold performance increase, compared to a state-of-the-art turbine powerplant in 2000.
VAATE-derived engines are envisioned to power future strike aircraft and missiles as well as sensor platforms and reusable space-access vehicles.
Donley Says Keep Nuclear Deterrent Credible
No matter how the new Administration may mold the size of the nation’s nuclear deterrent, the political and military leadership must remain vigilant in ensuring that the nuclear mission is not neglected going forward, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said in November.
“This mission is too important for the country that we should somehow allow it to degrade or decay through lack of attention,” Donley stated Nov. 12 during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on the Air Force’s efforts to reinvigorate its nuclear enterprise.
As operators of the nation’s nuclear-capable bombers and Minuteman III land-based ICBMs, Donley said the Air Force needs to focus “on being a good steward” of them regardless of their size and composition. But, should any changes occur, the Air Force would also need strong policy and programming guidance from the leadership to ensure the nuclear deterrent “remains credible,” he said. And to be credible, he noted, the deterrent “must be operationally effective and flexible, safe and secure, and reliable.”
Donley’s speech came just two weeks after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned that the long-term prognosis for the nuclear deterrent is “bleak,” due to the lack of an approved new warhead design and an aging and diminishing nuclear workforce.
“Let me first say very clearly that our weapons are safe, reliable, and secure,” Gates said in an Oct. 28 speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.
But looking ahead, there are serious challenges since the US is currently the only declared nuclear power that is neither modernizing its nuclear arsenal nor cultivating the capability to produce a new nuclear warhead, he said.
“To be blunt,” Gates said, “there is absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without either resorting to testing our stockpile or pursuing a modernization program.”
The US stopped nuclear weapons testing in 1992.
Air Force Prepares for New Administration
The Air Force began conducting an internal review of its acquisition processes late last year and brought on the Center for Naval Analyses to examine them with a fresh set of outside eyes to help support a smooth transition to President-elect Barack Obama’s Administration, which assumes power Jan. 20.
Speaking Nov. 12 to an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said the two reviews were meant to provide “actionable recommendations” by the end of 2008 on improving the service’s acquisition functions, which have been under scrutiny of late, due to a string of successful industry protests that have stymied the progress of the KC-X aerial tanker and CSAR-X rescue helicopter recapitalization initiatives as well as the KC-135 depot maintenance program.
The goal, he said, was “to set the table” for the new Administration, providing it with “a menu of options [with] pros and cons understood” on how to move forward with these issues and others.
Donley noted that, several weeks before his speech, Air Force acquisition officials and he had “a good sit-down, face-to-face discussion” with Government Accountability Office legal representatives who review Air Force files when contract awards are protested.
“Without speaking for GAO, one of their senior folks sort of said, ‘Your system is not broken,’ ” he noted. Donley also made the point that “the vast majority” of the Air Force’s acquisition decisions “remains untainted” by protests.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense instituted a new policy at the end of September requiring a service to subject a major weapons acquisition program worth more than $1 billion to peer review.
The new process is meant to increase the level of confidence in the decisions that each service renders and thereby make it harder for losing bidders to win protests and derail these programs.
Among the first programs expected to face this peer scrutiny are KC-X and CSAR-X.
Pentagon Weapons Czar Displeased With CSAR-X Progress
John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said Oct. 30 that he was dissatisfied with the Air Force’s handling of the Combat Search and Rescue Replacement Vehicle, or CSAR-X, program.
“I’m actually, to be honest with you, somewhat disappointed in that. I can tell you my leadership is approaching unhappy with that,” he told reporters during a Pentagon briefing.
Young said he had been prepared to give his stamp of approval so that the Air Force could have awarded the contract for the $15 billion helicopter recapitalization program in November, but had to cancel those plans after the Air Force determined that it had not properly informed the industry bidders of a factor that it had added to its evaluation criteria.
As a result, the Air Force issued a notice Oct. 22, stating that it would be releasing an amendment to the CSAR-X solicitation to clarify the change, thereby underscoring its “commitment to a fair and transparent competition.” USAF said there would be a “minor delay” in announcing the winning helicopter associated with the amendment, which was issued on Dec. 5.
Some press reports said the delay could extend into the spring or summer of 2009.
The Air Force chose Boeing’s HH-47 in November 2006 to replace its HH-60G rescue helicopters, but the program has been in limbo since. After two successful rounds of legal protests by Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, the Air Force reopened the contest to revised bids.
Even with the delay, the Air Force said it had “full confidence” in its process to determine the winning helicopter. Further, it said the amendment and corresponding delay were “not associated” with the Pentagon inspector general’s audit of the CSAR-X requirements development process that was expected to be complete before the end of 2008.
OSD Releases Minimum Funding for More F-22s
After some delay that raised Congressional concern, the Office of the Secretary of Defense on Nov. 12 freed up some—but not all—of the funding that lawmakers provided in Fiscal 2009 to keep the F-22 production line flowing uninterruptedly until President-elect Barack Obama’s Administration decides within the next few months whether to keep building the stealthy fighter aircraft or shutter the line.
John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, authorized the Air Force “to take steps to spend up to $50 million for advanced procurement associated with four F-22 aircraft” beyond the 183 aircraft already under contract, according to a news release by his office on that day. These four F-22s correspond to the four Raptors that OSD said it intended to request in the next war supplemental to replace F-16s lost since 9/11 in the War on Terror.
Young wrote, “In January, the next Administration can decide to obligate additional advanced procurement funds, up to the Congressional $140 million ceiling, to support up to 20 F-22 aircraft.” Based on industry input, Young said it was his understanding that advance procurement of four aircraft in November, coupled with additional advance procurement in January, “will bridge the F-22 line with little or no additional cost.”
OSD did not request funds to buy more Raptors beyond 183 in the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2009 budget request. However, the Fiscal 2009 defense authorization act includes $523 million added by Congress to procure materials and long-lead-time parts for an additional lot of 20 F-22s beyond 183. Or, those funds would be applied to closing the F-22 production line, if the new Administration opts to build no more.
The lawmakers stipulated that only $140 million of that amount could be used for advance procurement until the new Administration made the production decision. This amount would keep the line flowing without interruption until March and avoid potentially substantial restart costs if there was a production break.
The War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By Dec. 10, a total of 4,211 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 4,200 troops and 11 Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,397 were killed in action with the enemy while 814 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 30,871 troops wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This number includes 17,270 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 13,601 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Iraqi Pilots Graduate
The fledgling Iraqi Air Force celebrated a milestone Oct. 13 with the graduation of the first three pilots from its sole fixed-wing flight training school at Kirkuk Regional Air Base.
“These new pilots are the first the Iraqi Air Force has produced since the fall of Saddam Hussein,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Brauner, commander of the 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron. This US unit is helping to train the Iraqis as part of US-led Coalition Air Force Transition Team efforts to re-establish the Iraqi air component.
The three Iraqis underwent four months of language instruction, followed by six months of officer training at Taji Base, and then 12 months at Kirkuk, flying Cessna 172S Skyhawk and Cessna 208B Caravan aircraft.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By Dec. 10, a total of 624 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 623 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of these deaths, 409 were killed in action with the enemy while 215 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 2,605 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 922 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 1,683 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
US Ramps Up UAV Fight
The US military has established some new bases closer to the presumed action in Afghanistan specifically to get unmanned aerial vehicles on the scene more quickly.
Dyke D. Weatherington, the Department of Defense’s deputy director for unmanned warfare, told USA Today in a Nov. 10 report that the Pentagon had identified areas where it would need a “sustained presence” and added, “Recently we set up a couple of additional bases closer to the Pakistan border that cut down those transit times.”
And, in Afghanistan, military spokesman Col. Greg Julian told USA Today that additional bases were being established for drones and more troops. The Air Force operates both the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs in Afghanistan; the larger Reaper hunter-killer entered the arena in September 2007.
Although the UAV missions generally are flown via satellite communication links by pilots and sensor operators at Creech AFB, Nev., the Air Force must have pilots and sensor operators on hand in theater to handle launch and recovery and some of the spontaneous troops-in-contact action. The service also has UAV crew chiefs forward deployed to assist with launch and recovery and handle any maintenance issues.
Gen. Bruce Carlson relinquished command of Air Force Materiel Command on Nov. 21 and planned to formally retire on Jan. 1, ending his 37-year career. He led AFMC since August 2005. Gen. Donald J. Hoffman replaced Carlson as head of AFMC.
The Air Staff’s new Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Office (A10) stood up on Nov. 1. It will provide a singular focus on nuclear matters in the Air Force headquarters. Maj. Gen. C. Donald Alston was appointed Oct. 31 to lead the office.
The Air Force awarded pilot wings posthumously to 2nd Lt. Alec F. Littler during the Nov. 7 graduation ceremony of his training class at Sheppard AFB, Tex. Littler and his instructor pilot were killed last May in the crash of their T-38C trainer, an accident that USAF blamed on the IP.
Quick action by SSgt. Akeilee Murchison, SrA. Heather Libiszewski, A1C Mayra Colon-Santiago, and Amn. Martin Renzi saved about $52 million worth of aircraft parts from being lost in a Sept. 22 electrical fire at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, the Air Force said.
The Air Force Research Laboratory expects to launch Tactical Satellite-3 this month after announcing a delay in late October to fix an issue with the spacecraft’s star tracker so that it will be able to position itself correctly once on orbit.
The first four Air Force pilots picked to fly the F-22 without previous fighter experience took a big step forward Nov. 1 by graduating from the inaugural F-22 basic course at Tyndall AFB, Fla.
The Air Force on Oct. 31 transferred the 314-acre Davis Global Communications Site, an annex of the former McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, Calif., to Yolo County for use as parkland. McClellan closed in 2001 as a result of BRAC 1995.
Air Force technicians at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia have succeeded in figuring out the best way to remove and replace longeron support beams in several grounded F-15Cs, even though these beams were never intended to be removed when the aircraft were built, the Air Force announced Nov. 14.
Air Force and state of Florida representatives held a ceremony Oct. 22 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to mark the transfer of Space Launch Complex 36 to the state for commercial satellite launches under a license agreement.
The Air Force began the first-of-its-kind unmanned aircraft systems fundamentals course Nov. 21 at Randolph AFB, Tex. The course will teach 10 newly winged graduates of undergraduate pilot training how to operate unmanned aerial vehicles without first sending them to fly manned operational aircraft.
After 30 years of service, the Air Force’s one and only Convair C-131 Total In-Flight Simulator made its final flight Nov. 7—a trip to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, to be put on permanent display at the National Museum of the US Air Force.
The new 300-foot-wide, 15,000-foot-long main runway at Edwards AFB, Calif., home to the Air Force Flight Test Center, began operations Oct. 31.