The Air Force’s evolution into an Expeditionary Aerospace Force passed a major milestone on Dec. 1 with the beginning of Aerospace Expeditionary Force Cycle 2.
Officials said the start of a second round indicates that the concept is maturing and taking hold in the force.
During the cycle, each of the 10 AEFs will stand ready for immediate deployment during a three-month window. In addition, two standing Aerospace Expeditionary Wings (assigned to Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., and Mountain Home AFB, Idaho) will rotate on-call status every 120 days. If needed, the on-call unit will respond quickly to a pop-up contingency anywhere in the world.
Finally, the Air Force’s five lead mobility wings will be ready to help out in humanitarian crises.
“Since the first AEF cycle began Oct. 1, 1999, we have greatly improved deployment predictability and stability for our Air Force members,” said Brig. Gen. Dennis Larsen, commander of the Aerospace Expeditionary Force Center at Langley AFB, Va.
The second lethal crash of a V-22 Osprey in 2000 has led to a pause in flying for all models of the tilt rotor aircraft and raised questions about the future of the V-22 program.
The Marine Corps suspended all MV-22 operations one day after the Dec. 11 accident, in which an aircraft returning to its North Carolina base following a night training mission inexplicably plummeted to the ground only minutes from the airfield.
The crash killed four persons, including the pilot, Lt. Col. Keith M. Sweaney, the service’s most experienced tilt rotor pilot and the program’s test director.
Sweaney managed a Mayday call before the crash, but gave no word as to why he was in trouble.
Flight tests of the CV-22 Air Force version of the tilt rotor were also suspended following the accident. The Air Force plans to purchase 50 of the tilt rotors to replace its aging fleet of MH-35J Pave Low helicopters. The Marines plan to buy 360 MV-22s by 2013 and have so far received 10 production models. The Navy plans to buy 48.
“We have never had anything happen to this aircraft that was not [caused by] human factors in the past,” said Lt. Gen. Fred McCorkle, Marine Corps deputy commandant for aviation. “We don’t know yet what caused this one.”
McCorkle, at a meeting with reporters Dec. 12, conceded that the V-22 program could be said to be in trouble.
But he added that “if there was something wrong with it to cause this accident, we plan on finding out what it was and fixing it.”
Significant delays in the V-22’s acquisition cycle now appear inevitable.
The Pentagon had been prepared to decide whether to proceed with full-rate production of the aircraft in late December. That decision has now been pushed forward to March or April at Marine Corps request.
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen named an independent blue-ribbon panel to study the airplane’s performance and safety. The members are retired Marine Corps Gen. John R. Dailey, retired USAF Gen. James B. Davis, Norman R. Augustine, and Eugene E. Covert.
Throughout its development the V-22 has attracted both committed proponents and fierce critics. Vice President Dick Cheney, for one, tried to kill off the program when he was Secretary of Defense.
An April Osprey crash near Tucson, Ariz., which killed 19 Marines was caused by a chain of human errors that led to a too-speedy descent, according to the results of an accident investigation board. In 1992, an engine fire caused a test aircraft to crash, killing seven.
A devastating fire Nov. 30 raced through and destroyed an Air Force Missile Alert Facility near Minot AFB, N.D. No one was injured during the incident, which was the first major fire at an MAF.
“All weapons systems are safe and secure,” said Col. Kim McKenzie, 91st Space Wing commander at Minot, on Dec. 1.
Throughout the fire, the two-member missile crew working in the underground Launch Control Center continued to carry out its normal duties of monitoring 10 Minuteman ICBMs. By closing the blast doors, they protected themselves from the flames some 65 feet over their heads.
Missileers have enough food, water, and air to maintain sealed underground operations for several days. Control of their ICBMs can be transferred to another LCC if necessary.
Crews train constantly for just such a situation, said base officials. A normal crew change took place after the fire was extinguished.
Authorities had not determined the cause of the fire, which was discovered around 5 a.m. when some of the 13 inhabitants of MAF Golf-01 smelled smoke. Above-ground personnel were quickly evacuated and fire crews from the base and surrounding towns responded within minutes. Still, the blaze spread rapidly at the 1960s-era MAF, valued at around $2.5 million.
The Missiles Division of the Space and Special Systems Management Directorate, at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia, recently celebrated the completion of a major program upgrade with the building of the last updated AIM-9M-9 Sidewinder missile.
The Sidewinder short-range air-to-air heat-seeking missile is one of the US Air Force’s most trusted weapons and is used by most USAF fighter aircraft. The upgrade was intended to improve counter-countermeasure capability.
“Enemy aircraft throw out flares to confuse the missile and we corrected that problem,” said Paul Wellborn, deputy chief of the Missiles Division. “It gives the warfighter’s missiles a higher probability of a kill.”
The program shipped 6,600 modified weapons to Air Force field units. Some 179 deliveries were made to 84 locations in the US and around the world.
The Pentagon on Dec. 5 agreed to pay Iridium Satellite LLC $72 million for two years of satellite communications services. The contract gives 20,000 government users unlimited Iridium satellite network.
The system provides mobile, cryptographically secure telephone services to small handsets anywhere on the globe, 24 hours per day, according to DoD. Since the Navy alone needs more than twice DoD’s current capability, Pentagon officials say they need the Iridium capacity.
Special forces units, search-and-rescue crews, and polar operation groups are among the military customers DoD believes will be heavy users of Iridium service. Early this year, per the Pentagon, Iridium will offer a classified capability.
The $5 billion Iridium system was designed, built, and operated by Motorola initially. Its purpose was to provide secure, wireless communications to customers anywhere in the world. The Motorola-owned Iridium LLC was charging some of its 60,000 customers $5 per minute when it went bankrupt in 1999, less than a year after start-up.
A new company, Iridium Satellite LLC, purchased the assets of Iridium LLC last November. The new Iridium has contracted with Boeing to operate and maintain the satellite system. Company officials believe they need only find 40,000 additional private subscribers at 80 cents per minute to break even.
DoD on Nov. 30 announced it will further reduce the scope of its anthrax vaccination effort. The reason: a dwindling vaccine stockpile.
Service personnel now in or preparing to enter the Korean theater of operations will no longer receive vaccinations, said DoD spokesman Ken Bacon. That will conserve approximately 12,500 doses monthly.
Only personnel headed to Southwest Asia will now get the shots. About 5,000 doses monthly are administered to those headed to the Gulf region.
“We want to conserve our supplies and still protect people going to the highest threat areas,” said Bacon. “We know the Iraqis produced anthrax. We know they weaponized anthrax.”
At the revised pace of usage, current stocks of anthrax vaccine are predicted to last until November. The Pentagon expects the sole current manufacturer of anthrax vaccine, BioPort Corp. of Michigan, to resume full-scale production in October.
A new Rand study says the US cannot rule out exposure to low levels of Iraqi nerve gas as a factor in what has come to be known as Gulf War syndrome.
The Rand work called for more study into the long-term effects of exposures to small doses of chemical warfare agents–such as those that may have affected some 100,000 US troops near Khamisiyah, an Iraqi ammo dump blown up after the war.
It was only after Khamisiyah’s destruction that US intelligence determined the site had contained a number of warheads filled with nerve agents.
“It is not possible to eliminate nerve agents categorically from playing a role in some cases of illnesses of Gulf War veterans,” said the Rand report.
Even so, the report found no existing scientific evidence that nerve gas-related symptoms would appear years after exposure in a war. Of Gulf War vets who have reported health problems, approximately half did so a year or more after the end of the conflict.
DoD has revised its best estimate as to which US personnel were in the Khamisiyah danger zone at the time of the weapons storage area’s destruction.
“Khamisiyah is the benchmark incident for all our investigations,” said Bernard D. Rostker, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness and special assistant for Gulf War illnesses. “Today, after three more years of investigation and more precise computer simulations, we can present a better picture of the events than was possible before.”
New CIA estimates about the volume of chemical weapons at the site, plus a more detailed DoD study of what units were where at the time of explosions, have led Pentagon experts to conclude that 101,000 people possibly were exposed to low levels of toxins at Khamisiyah. Previous estimates had put the total at 99,000.
Furthermore, DoD now believes that 32,000 of the original 99,000 number were never in a hazard area at all, while 34,000 personnel originally thought clear of the exposure footprint are now inside the boundary of the area of concern.
Officials said they were notifying all affected servicemen and -women of the change.
Several studies, including some partly funded by the Air Force, are seeking to determine whether former and current workers at Kelly AFB, Tex., are at unusually high risk for acquiring a rare disease.
A San Antonio chapter of the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association fears the workers face disproportionately high risk for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The San Antonio Express-News first reported a suspected link.
At least 39 Kelly workers have been diagnosed with ALS, according to local association officials. They say that number is worrisome, since the rate in the general US population is one to two new cases of ALS per year for every 100,000 people.
But epidemiologists from Brooks AFB, Tex., say they are not so sure. Considering the number of people who have passed through the base, anywhere from 15 to 43 ALS cases over the past 20 years might not be out of the ordinary.
Kelly, picked for closure during the last round of base realignment and closure actions, will finish conversion this year into KellyUSA, a commercial air cargo and logistics site with a projected 21,000 workers.
Under a newly authorized Retired Aviator Recall Program, USAF seeks up to 208 eligible retired pilots, navigators, and air battle managers who want to fill headquarters rated staff positions.
Those eligible must have separated from the service at the rank of lieutenant colonel and below and have been retired no more than five years.
“This ensures they have current rated experience,” says Col. Kathleen Pivarsky, chief of the military policy division at the Air Staff. “The officers will fill key rated staff positions above the wing level for up to nearly three years.”
The program will continue through Sept. 30, 2002. Participants must be released from active duty by Sept. 30, 2003.
This recall effort is just one part of the overall plan to ease a headquarters personnel crunch caused by the Air Force goal of 100 percent rated manning at the wing level. Combat units are fully filled, but higher staff are feeling the pinch, said officials.
“This program will allow them to recapture valuable rated expertise,” said Pivarsky.
The program was contained in the Fiscal 2001 Department of Defense authorization bill. Volunteers can apply for a specific location or opt for worldwide availability.
The Air Force is sweetening the pot of its Aviator Continuation Pay program as it continues to try and lure pilots away from civilian employment opportunities.
The highlights of the new 2001 ACP program include a higher cap on lump-sum payments, USAF officials announced Nov. 29. The cap on up-front cash for first-time eligibles has been raised from $100,000 to $150,000, not to exceed 50 percent of the total agreement value.
“While this does not increase the total contract amount, it enhances the attractiveness of our longer-term agreements,” said Lt. Gen. Donald L. Peterson, deputy chief of staff for personnel.
The Air Force is also offering more options to tailor these up-front payments to individual needs, said Peterson.
Other program features include:
- Agreement options of three or five years in length, as well as agreements to 20 or 25 years of aviation service.
- Contract values at $15,000 per year for agreements three years or less in length, and $25,000 annually for agreements longer than three years.
- Flexibility to allow pilots holding agreements struck in Fiscal 1999 or earlier to convert or amend their pacts to fit the new structure.
- Pilots should not view ACP as an entitlement program that will be available throughout their careers, said officials. Pilot bonuses, like selective re-enlistment bonuses for the enlisted force, are tactical force-shaping tools.
- “As conditions change there may be no need to offer similar agreement lengths and payment amounts in the future,” said Peterson.
Secretary of Defense William Cohen said the NATO allies must invest in new technologies outlined in the Defense Capabilities Initiative. Otherwise, said the Pentagon chief, the alliance will become a “relic” of the past.
Cohen delivered his views to attendees at a NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels, Belgium, on Dec. 5.
Operation Allied Force revealed huge disparities in the military capabilities of NATO members and showed that significant allocations of money are necessary to improve the alliance’s ability to fight in a unified manner.
Capabilities outlined in the DCI include more sealift, more airlift, and more precision guided munitions, as well as a better command-and-control system.
“I indicated NATO could become a relic if a number of factors were to present themselves and if a number of caveats were not at least adhered to,” Cohen told reporters.
Cohen also said the US supports the European Union’s drive to create its own European Rapid Reaction Force-but that planning for such a force should be done within the existing NATO infrastructure.
Otherwise the two organizations risk creating duplicative planning teams.
“To establish such duplications would in fact result in a weakening of NATO capabilities and result in a situation in which we would have the United States of America, Canada, and European allies responding to threats and crises on an ad hoc and fragmented and inefficient fashion,” said Cohen. “That is not desirable for the Europeans or for the United States.”
Tricare is moving to simplify its schedule of co-payments for prescription drugs, per a Congressional mandate from the Fiscal 2000 defense authorization act.
The new co-pay schedule will be the same for all beneficiaries and will be based on whether users choose generic or brand-name medication.
If approved, it will take effect on April 1, 2001.
“We’re trying to improve the Tricare pharmacy benefit, to make it simpler to understand and more uniform, consistent, and equitable for everyone,” said Army Lt. Col. William G. Davies, director of DoD Pharmacy Programs.
Under the new schedule, Tricare-affiliated retail drug stores would charge beneficiaries $3 for up to a 30-day supply of generic prescription drugs and $9 for brand names.
Rates would be the same at the National Mail Order Pharmacy program for up to a 90-day supply-a better value.
Tricare Prime enrollees would still pay a 50 percent point-of-service penalty after meeting their deductible if they opt to use non-Tricare affiliated retail outlets. Other Tricare participants would pay whatever is greater: a 20 percent co-pay or a $9-per-prescription charge.
Prescriptions filled at military hospital and clinic pharmacies would still have no co-pay charge. “There are cost savings available to the majority of the beneficiary population,” said Davies.
USAF’s largest current effort to privatize its on-base housing–involving 1,890 old homes at Kirtland AFB, N.M.–has developers lined up, waiting to bid for the work.
During the fall, an industry forum for potential bidders, sponsored by the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence at Brooks AFB, Tex., attracted 23 developers from 10 states, as well as eight prime contractors, 17 subcontractors, six suppliers, and eight architectural/engineering firms, reported the Albuquerque Tribune.
Specifically, the project will entail the destruction of 1,573 houses built in the 1940s and 1950s, construction of 953 new ones to start, plus a long-term management contract. The winning bidder will own the homes themselves, while leasing the land from the government under 50-year terms.
This is one of the projects under a 10-base pilot program the Air Force began in 1996. Three privatization contracts have been awarded so far. The first was at Lackland AFB, Tex., for 420 homes, second at Robins AFB, Ga., for 670 units, and third, Dyess AFB, Tex., 402.
These housing initiatives are part of a DoD-wide push to replace or refurbish roughly 200,000 substandard units that DoD has today.
Secretary of Defense William Cohen on Nov. 28 instructed DoD’s Inspector General to study problems concerning military absentee ballots.
He took the move following widespread reports during the post-election furor in Florida about such ballots being discarded because they lacked postmarks.
“The Secretary’s goal and his instruction to the IG is to make sure we have a system that makes every vote count,” said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon.
DoD regulations require postmarks on all mail, including such postage-free mail as absentee ballots. The IG will examine current procedures for handling ballots, cancellation, and postmarking, and how those procedures are actually implemented.
The Pentagon on Dec. 21 announced the Fiscal 2001 Basic Allowance for Housing rates, due to give service members one of the largest increases ever.
The new rates are part of the DoD initiative to eliminate service members’ out-of-pocket expenses by 2005 and incorporate a number of major changes to the BAH program. In total, the planned increase in housing allowance funds for Fiscal 2001 above the Fiscal 2000 amount is more than $700 million.
Average increases in the BAH are to range from 12 to 17 percent by grade, with the typical increase in the range of 14.5 percent. A typical married E-5’s BAH will increase $100 per month. A typical married E-8’s pay will increase $125.
Out-of-pocket expense, the portion of the typical member’s housing cost that the member is not compensated for, has been reduced from 18.8 percent in 1999 to no more than 15 percent in 2000. Out-of-pocket expense is to be reduced to 11.3 percent in 2001.
The US-Russian Joint Commission on POWs and MIAs in November renewed its commitment to continue cooperative efforts in search of information about the fate of missing servicemen.
The commission acted during a two-day session in Moscow.
The commission was established in 1992 by the US and Russian Presidents. It is a group of senior American and Russian officials that meets periodically to assess and to coordinate policy, research, and investigative efforts on clarifying the fate of missing American and Russian servicemen.
The group reported that, in August, a team went to Kamchatka in the Russian Far East and positively identified a US PV-1 patrol bomber missing in action since March 25, 1944. Plans for a full-scale excavation of the site this summer were launched.
Denis Clift, the US co-chairman of the Cold War Working Group, reported that the group has developed new information related to incidents of US aircraft lost near the borders of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Similar reviews have developed information on MIAs from the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Airmen of the 58th Special Operations Wing, Kirtland AFB, N.M., used a TH-53A Pave Low training helicopter to locate and then rescue two skiers missing in the Santa Fe National Forest.
The Dec. 19 rescue effort took less than three hours. The skiers had been missing overnight and had been exposed to below-zero temperatures.
The rescue was carried out by an aircrew from the 551st Special Operations Squadron and Pararescue Jumpers from Det. 1, 342nd Training Squadron. They assisted local search-and-rescue officials.
The crew located the skiers at about 11,000 feet altitude. Because the aircrew could not land in the area, one PJ was lowered to help the skiers put on harnesses, with which they were hoisted into the aircraft.
The commander of USAF’s 314th Airlift Wing dismissed court-martial charges against the pilot whose C-130 crashed at Ahmed Al Jaber AB, Kuwait, in December 1999, killing three and seriously injuring seven.
Instead, Brig. Gen. Paul J. Fletcher, the special court-martial convening authority, recommended Capt. Darron A. Haughn be punished under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Haughn had faced trial on charges of dereliction of duty and negligent homicide.
Fletcher forwarded his recommendation to Maj. Gen. George N. Williams, 21st Air Force commander. Williams is the ultimate judge of disciplinary action against Haughn.
Under Article 15, Haughn could be formally reprimanded, arrested in quarters for 30 days, restricted to the base for 60 days, forced to forfeit half a month’s pay per month for two months, or a combination of these punishments.
An MH-53 Pave Low crew of the 20th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Dec. 13 rescued a downed F-16 pilot who had ejected into the Gulf of Mexico six miles from land.
The fighter, assigned to the 27th Fighter Wing at Cannon AFB, N.M., had been on a training mission while on temporary duty at Tyndall AFB, Fla., when the mishap occurred.
The crew of a Coast Guard HU-25 twin-engine jet from Mobile, Ala., located the pilot-Lt. Col. John Harrison-after a 20-minute search and dropped a smoke marker so the rescue helicopter could find him. Visibility was only about one to three miles with 300- to 400-foot ceilings.
The helicopter crew immediately spotted the pilot, who was obviously cold and tired but still conscious in the water, said Capt. Joe Decaro, the helicopter commander. The helicopter hovered low over the water so the downed pilot could grab onto a hoist. Two 20th SOS flight engineers on board, TSgt. T.J. Carmichael and SSgt. Gary Mishye, pulled him safely inside the helicopter.
National Security Heavyweights Join the Bush Team
When it comes to national security, George W. Bush will be guided by the voice of experience. Several voices, in fact.
The President, himself a novice in world affairs, takes office with support of a highly experienced vice president, Dick Cheney, who served as Secretary of Defense under President George H. Bush in 1989-93 and played a major role in the planning and execution of the Gulf War.
Early signs were that Cheney would exert significant influence on US policy formulation.
In the weeks preceding his Jan. 20 inauguration, Bush also pulled together a veteran group of Republican defense and foreign policy all-stars to fill key appointive posts.
Secretary of Defense: Donald H. Rumsfeld, a prominent Republican who served as President Ford’s Pentagon chief in the period 1975-77, has been deeply involved in missile defense and military space issues in recent years. The President-elect tapped Rumsfeld for the job on Dec. 28, declaring, “He’s going to be a great Secretary of Defense-again.”
Secretary of State: Retired Army Gen. Colin Powell, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1989-93, is another key Gulf War figure selected for high office. Powell is perhaps best known for his advocacy of the use of “decisive” force in any overseas US engagement. He also warns that Washington should be more selective when committing forces abroad.
National Security Advisor: Condoleeza Rice, Bush’s principal security advisor during the Presidential campaign, has intimate knowledge of Russian affairs and arms control. She served on the National Security Council staff from 1989 to 1991 as director and then senior director of Soviet and East European affairs, and then as special assistant to the national security affairs advisor.
USAF, Boeing Commercial C-17
In an effort to boost the number of big airlifters available in a crisis, the Air Force will help Boeing create a commercial market for the C-17, service officials said in December.
Under the arrangement, the Air Force would work to ease restrictions on the sale of the C-17 to commercial operators and pay a fee to them that would guarantee the service’s access to the aircraft-dubbed BC-17X-in a crisis. It would mark the first time that aircraft in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet would offer oversize/outsize cargo capability.
USAF would also obtain the cost benefits of maintaining the rate of production on the C-17 at 15 aircraft a year, which is considered the most efficient rate. The Air Force’s 80-aircraft multiyear buy of the C-17 is beginning to wind down, and in the absence of more orders, the production rate will decrease and the service will pay more for each aircraft beyond the previously planned fleet of 120 aircraft. The production rate dips to eight in Fiscal 2003, with long-lead funding for only five more now in the budget pipeline.
The Air Force is expected to need as many as 50 more C-17s to meet airlift obligations identified under the latest Mobility Requirements Study.
Darleen Druyun, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition and management, said if the freight industry were to buy 10 C-17s, USAF would obtain a substantial wartime airlift capability at a fraction of the cost of buying the aircraft for organic service use. There would be an acquisition cost savings of $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion, plus a further savings of $6.8 billion to $7.3 billion in operating costs over 20 years of service. Of course, the commercial aircraft would not be in the day-to-day operating fleet but would be a significant way “to reduce risk” in meeting wartime surge requirements, she said.
A private study done for the Air Force identified a potential market for 10 C-17s in the current decade and possibly many more as further commercial applications are developed for the airlifter. The figure of 10 is “highly conservative,” Druyun said. Sufficient work could be found for as many as 18 to 26 of the aircraft, without cutting into the oversize/outsize market being served by a handful of Ukrainian An-124 Condor transports. USAF and its consultants predict an annual growth of 6 to 17 percent in the need for commercial oversize/outsize cargo aircraft.
Besides commercial work, the aircraft could also be hired to support US government humanitarian relief operations, to carry out missions for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or other nonmilitary operations when Air Mobility Command doesn’t have an airlifter available.
“I know we will have to buy more aircraft,” Druyun said, and “innovative” ways of meeting airlift requirements within expected budgets have to be explored.
Freight-carrying companies were invited to a symposium in January to assess the industry’s interest in buying the airplanes.
Druyun said USAF was willing to consider buy-back clauses in the sales to get banks to approve financing of such ventures and that USAF could buy insurance against having to make such buy-backs.
Commercial operators of the C-17 would likely be guaranteed a certain percentage of CRAF contracts, about 20 percent, according to Col. Greg Lockhart, the Air Force’s deputy director of global reach programs.
Bugs still need to be worked out of the concept, Druyun acknowledged. The C-17 is still on the State Department’s list of restricted armaments. “We would work to get it off,” she said. Likewise, the State Department might have veto power over where the commercially owned aircraft could fly overseas and might have to issue export licenses to send a part if a C-17 broke down on a foreign airfield.
However, Druyun said the problems can be worked out and anticipated that the market for C-17s could “support itself” without any US government work by 2010.
The concept would, however, require that the Air Force itself buy at least 50 more C-17s, Druyun admitted. Without that production base, it would not be economically feasible to build commercial C-17s. The additional BC-17Xs would also make the military C-17 cost-efficient enough to keep it attractive to other allied militaries to consider for their own air forces. Britain will lease four of the airplanes for its military use.
While it’s likely the C-17s sold to commercial users would be slightly modified to remove some sensitive equipment-such as self-defense anti-missile countermeasures-Druyun said she’s hoping for a very high degree of commonality on the production line.
“Two production lines defeat the purpose” of the arrangement, she said.
To sweeten the deal, USAF would likely not charge end users the typical fees to defray research and development costs.
“I’m buying a readiness option,” Druyun explained. “I won’t charge myself … to get it. That wouldn’t meet the commonsense test.” However, operators would negotiate pricing with Boeing, not the Air Force.
Maintaining the production line has become an acutely important issue because deliveries of C-17s are now running an average of 132 days ahead of schedule.
Boeing never succeeded in getting the State Department to relax its rules on selling or exporting a commercial version of the C-17, called the MD-17. However, Druyun said she feels the State Department can approve the BC-17X because the technology involved is simply “a cargo airplane” and not a weapon system as such. Early on, it made sense to be “conservative” in withholding the C-17, but the same technologies can now be found on the 747-5400 freighter, which is liberally sold overseas, she noted.
The concept would not complicate the depots issue, she said, because it would only bring more airplanes into the depot pipeline.
“There will be more work for the depots … not less,” she said.
Druyun said the concept should be “very attractive” to commercial interests because it represents a chance to get in on the ground floor of a new market with guaranteed work while sharing the risk and cost with the government.
US Transportation Command is enthusiastic about the concept, Druyun said. The board of directors exploring the concept includes Druyun, USTRANSCOM Commander in Chief Gen. Charles T. Robertson Jr., and Boeing chief Harry Stonecipher.
-John A. Tirpak
Military Vote Bill Dies in Senate
A bill that would have allowed, but not required, polling places on military bases died when the Senate adjourned for 2000 without taking it up for consideration.
Republicans said some Democratic Senators objected to the bill, which had passed the House on Oct. 12. The Clinton Administration was opposed to it, as well. The Republicans said that, rather than try to force it through in the session’s waning days, they would fold their hands and try again in 2001.
A Civil War era-statute prohibits the establishment of voting places at active duty military establishments, although some isolated bases, such as Edwards AFB, Calif., have obtained waivers from the policy on an ad hoc basis.
Backers of the bill believe the repeal of this law would lower a barrier that now stands in the way of military men and women exercising their democratic franchise.
In the House, the bill was chiefly sponsored by Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), whose district includes Edwards.
The ballot mess in Florida simply demonstrated why a more rational approach to military voting is needed, said backers.
The Administration objected that the bill could politicize bases by allowing partisan activity on military grounds. It would help relatively few personnel, since many in the military vote absentee.
Lockheed Martin Naval JSF Takes Flight
The X-35C, Lockheed Martin’s concept demonstrator for its proposed Joint Strike Fighter naval variant, flew for the first time Dec. 16, in a 27-minute flight that kicked off a planned short but intense period of testing and evaluation.
Lockheed Martin pilot Joe Sweeney flew the X-35C from the company’s Palmdale, Calif., facility to Edwards AFB, Calif. Along the way he raised the landing gear, performed rolls, sideslips, and aircraft checks, and reached 10,000 feet altitude and a speed of nearly 300 mph. Sweeney reported the flight was “very smooth.”
About two months of flight testing are anticipated with the X-35C, to explore low-speed handling qualities, approaches and takeoffs at varying speeds, and simulated carrier landings.
The JSF program, in which Boeing is the other competitor, aims to develop a highly common family of aircraft for three of the armed services. The Air Force requires an inexpensive yet stealthy replacement for its large fleet of F-16s; the Navy needs a stealthy, longer-ranged attack airplane/fighter, and the Marine Corps wants a stealthy Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing fighter for close air support of its troops.
The X-35C approximates the naval version of Lockheed Martin’s airplane. It has larger wings than its Air Force version, as well as stronger landing gear to deal with hard carrier landings. The X-35A, which characterizes the USAF version, completed its month-long flight test program on Nov. 22, when it went back to the factory to be refitted into a demonstrator for the Marine STOVL model. It will be rechristened the X-35B and begin flight tests in the spring.
The concept demonstrator aircraft-Boeing’s versions are the X-32A, B, and C-are intended to generate data to verify claims made by both companies about the performance and durability of their designs. They are not intended to be prototypes, and in fact, Boeing’s concept demonstrator aircraft varies significantly in appearance from what is called its Preferred Weapon System Concept.
However, Lockheed Martin aimed to produce demonstrators very close to its proposed final design.
“Our X-35C is highly representative of the aircraft we’ve planned for production, so its in-flight behavior will be an extremely accurate predictor of the production airplane’s flight characteristics,” asserted Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and JSF program general manager. He added that the Lockheed Martin naval JSF is a “very low observable” design, meaning its stealth characteristics are on a par with-or better than-the F-117 stealth attack airplane in USAF service.
Such a degree of stealth will give the Navy “first look, first shot air supremacy” in the air-to-air role, Burbage said.
The JSF competitors are to submit their proposals this spring; a winner in the contest, which is valued at more than $300 billion over 20 years-including export as well as domestic orders-will be chosen in the fall. Plans call for the first JSFs to enter service around 2008.
-John A. Tirpak
Cohen Pays Tribute to His Hollywood Heroes
On Nov. 30 Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen threw a black-tie bash at a Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel in an effort to foster goodwill between the military and moviemaking professionals.
Cohen presented Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, with the first Citizen Patriot award for his efforts on behalf of those who wear America’s uniform. Valenti, a top lobbyist and former aide to President Lyndon Johnson, is also a decorated ex-Army Air Corps pilot with 51 combat missions over Italy to his credit.
USO icon Bob Hope received a Spirit of Hope award for his decades of involvement with military entertainment. The honor was accepted by Hope’s son, Tony.
Cost of the bash? About $295,000. That includes the price of flying 94 military performers to Los Angeles and a $218-per-person dinner for the likes of Steven Spielberg and “JAG” star Catherine Bell.
The price tag was worth it, insisted defense officials. A prime-time recruiting ad costs $300,000 a minute. Furthermore, the dinner fits in with Cohen’s long-standing goal of reconnecting the US military with key segments of American society.
“I think it will have benefits for years to come,” said department spokesman Ken Bacon.
More Cold War Cat and Mouse
Russian military aircraft buzzed the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk on two occasions this fall, the Department of Defense confirmed.
Both incidents occurred while the carrier was on maneuvers in the Sea of Japan. The Cold War-style incidents contributed to a heightened alert status of the Kitty Hawk group.
“They have changed their procedures to deal with flyovers like this,” said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. He declined to provide details other than to say the alert posture had been enhanced.
The first incident took place Oct. 17. Two Russian jets–an Su-24 and an Su-27–came within a few hundred feet of the giant US warship.
Navy aircraft were delayed getting into the air to chase the interlopers because the carrier was refueling and the commander saw no need to break off refueling operations, according to Bacon.
“These planes were acquired by the battle group’s radar at some distance off,” said Bacon. “They were followed.”
Then on Nov. 9 two Russian aircraft overflew Kitty Hawk at 1,000 to 2,000 feet.
The Russians, inexplicably, e-mailed to Kitty Hawk some reconnaissance photos taken by the airplanes.
US officials said the overflights were nothing more than a curiosity. They have similarly downplayed the significance of Russian Tu-95 bombers being moved to Siberian air bases close to US Alaskan airspace.
“We regard the Cold War as being over,” Bacon sniffed.
Boost DoD Budget 20 Percent, Say Brown and Schlesinger
The following is excerpted from a Dec. 20 Washington Post article by James Schlesinger and Harold Brown. Schlesinger was Secretary of Defense (1973-75) under President Ford, while Brown was the Pentagon head (1977-81) under President Carter.
“Over the next decade, the nation will need to spend significantly more-certainly hundreds of billions of dollars-on defense and foreign assistance if we are to maintain a military force capable of doing the things that both candidates seemed to feel it would have to do.
“The US military that President-elect Bush inherits, while far superior to any other, is not what it needs to be. … This is a problem that cannot be solved without more money. The alternative, a substantial reduction in force structure, must be resisted. Recent events in the Middle East should underscore that we are living in unpredictable and even dangerous times. A strong military is a bulwark against threats to US vital interests and to our homeland.
“While the additional sums required to restore our military are large in absolute terms, it must be remembered that the United States today spends slightly less than 3 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, the lowest level since before Pearl Harbor.
“Even with all the efficiencies and management improvements that are politically feasible, to make up the current shortfall will require a phased increase in defense spending to a level about 20 percent higher than the present one. An additional one-half percent out of the national economic dollar to be allocated to national security is well within the capability of the US economy.”
China Tested New Missile as Shelton Visited
The Pentagon on Dec. 12 confirmed that China carried out a successful test of its newest long-range nuclear missile during a November visit by Gen. Henry H. Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The DF-31 ICBM is road-mobile, carries a single warhead, and has an estimated 5,000-mile range. The Nov. 4 test inside Chinese territory did not reach maximum range, said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon.
“This is a program that’s been ongoing-the DF-31 program-since the late 1980s, and the test was pretty much as expected in terms of timing and in terms of results,” said Bacon.
Some analysts saw the timing of the test as a shot across the bow to the United States as a new Administration prepared to come to power in Washington. Shelton’s Nov. 3-5 visit took place on the eve of US national elections.
Bacon downplayed the political significance of the test. “China has been working on modernizing its long-range missile program … for some time,” said Bacon.
British Cast Jaundiced Eye on the ERRF
A Gallup survey finds that British subjects don’t exactly relish the idea of participating in the new European Union defense force.
A special Gallup survey for The Telegraph of London found serious doubts about the benefits of joining the EU’s so-called European Rapid Reaction Force.
Half of Gallup’s respondents see the force as signaling the ultimate creation of a European Union army. Of those who believe that the force will lead to such an army, 61 percent say they are opposed to the idea.
Legislation Forges Closer Ties Between USAF, CAP
New legislation promises to bring a new era of cooperation between USAF and the Civil Air Patrol, claim USAF officials.
CAP provisions within the Fiscal 2001 National Defense Authorization Act set clear lines of authority and establish the level and type of support CAP will receive as an auxiliary of the Air Force.
It sets policy for equipment, personnel, and financial support. The legislation also establishes a Board of Governors having Air Force, CAP, and private sector members.
The new law significantly broadens the ability of the Air Force to support the Civil Air Patrol at every level. It is called the most significant legislation affecting the organization in nearly 50 years.
“The legislation will foster a closer relationship between the Air Force and the Civil Air Patrol,” said Brig. Gen. Robert D. Bishop Jr., USAF’s deputy director of operations and training and chairman of the CAP Management Improvement Team.
“The Air Force will ensure the CAP is properly supported and not overextended,” he said.
Clinton Offers Deep Regret Over No Gun Ri
President Clinton on Jan. 11 expressed “regret” that Korean civilians were killed by retreating US troops near the village of No Gun Ri at the start of the Korean War.
Even so, Clinton stopped short of saying that the killings were committed under orders. Nor did he apologize for the US actions, as many South Koreans had demanded.
“On behalf of the United States of America, I deeply regret that Korean civilians lost their lives at No Gun Ri,” Clinton said in a written statement.
A US official on Dec. 8 said that US and South Korean negotiators in Seoul reached a mutual understanding that American soldiers did, in fact, kill South Korean civilian refugees in the chaotic early days of the Korean War.
The agreement marked the first US acknowledgement that US forces, fearful of North Korean infiltrators, fired into refugees huddled under a railroad trestle near No Gun Ri in July 1950.
Was it deliberate, however? Were the troops ordered to shoot the civilians? No, said Secretary of the Army Louis A. Caldera at a Dec. 14 session with reporters. American investigators have found no documentary evidence of such orders, instead concluding that the killings were caused by panic among green troops.
- Pilot error was the cause of the crash of an Air Force Reserve Command F-16C near Tulia, Tex., on Aug. 28, according to Air Force investigators. Maj. Stephen W. Simons, who was killed, was performing unauthorized aerobatic maneuvers over the property of his in-laws when the accident occurred.
- Engine failure was the cause of an Air National Guard F-16C crash into the ocean off Atlantic City, N.J., on Aug. 31, according to an accident report. A turbine blade separated and damaged the oil system and other power plant parts. The pilot safely ejected and sustained minor injuries.
- The Air Force won the 2000 Armed Forces Basketball Tournament, held Nov. 15-17 at Charleston AFB, S.C. The margin of victory over the Marines, the defending champions, was 71-59.
- On Nov. 24 the “Rocket Site” at Edwards AFB, Calif., was designated one of the nation’s historic aerospace sites by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Officially named the Air Force Research Laboratory Edwards Research Site, it is a 65-mile-square patch on the corner of the base that contains two-thirds of the nation’s high-thrust static rocket test stands as well as unique space altitude and propulsion research facilities.
- On May 1 the US Postal Service will issue a new first-class stamp to honor those who have served in the nation’s armed forces. The stamp will feature a photograph of the flag and the phrases “Honoring Veterans” and “Continuing to Serve.”
- USAF successfully launched an Atlas IIAS rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., on Dec. 5. Payload was a National Reconnaissance Office satellite.
- A pilot’s inadvertent killing of his engine caused the crash of an Air Force T-6A Texan II trainer near San Antonio on Aug. 31, according to Air Force investigators. The pilot, who was on an “instructor enrichment training” flight, turned off the engine when attempting to move the wing flaps lever. The pilot and the instructor pilot attempted to restart the engine with no success. They ejected safely, receiving only minor injuries.
- The 357th Fighter Squadron, 355th Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., finished on top when Gila Bomb 00-2 wound up Nov. 17. Gila Bomb is a competition sponsored by 12th Air Force. Top Wrench for best maintenance team went to the maintainers of the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, Hill AFB, Utah.
- MSgt. Kenneth Taylor, 19th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., has been named the inaugural winner of the Air Force Modeling and Simulation Achievement Award. Taylor won for his development of the Visual Threat Recognition and Avoidance Trainer, an interactive computer video system that provides realistic training for threat avoidance during hostile anti-aircraft engagements.
- Capt. Roger Klaffka and SMSgt. Darryl Cooper, 352nd Maintenance Squadron, RAF Mildenhall, UK, have been named winners of the 2000 Gen. Lew Allen Jr. Trophy. The award is sponsored by the Air Force Chief of Staff and is presented to a base-level officer and NCO in recognition of outstanding performance in aircraft sortie generation.
- The Air Force has awarded a $53.6 million contract to GSD&M of Austin, Tex., to provide national, regional, and local ads and marketing support for service recruitment, retention, and public awareness. The contract includes post-advertising research and tracking as well as recruiter training and special event marketing.
- The Pentagon’s Joint Configuration Control Board recently made the Theater Battle Management Core System the system of record for air battle command and control. The TBMCS, developed by Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, Mass., combines a contingency theater air planning system, a combat intelligence system, and a wing command-and-control system into one integrated command-and-control system.
- On Dec. 5 Secretary of Defense William Cohen held an awards ceremony in Brussels, Belgium, to honor the contributions of two Americans to NATO’s continued development. Robert B. Hall, Secretary of Defense representative for Europe and defense advisor to the US ambassador to NATO, received the DoD Medal for Distinguished Public Service. Clarence H. Juhl, deputy defense advisor, received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Meritorious Civilian Service.
- Six former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met Dec. 4 at the Pentagon with the current occupant of the office, Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton. Shelton was seeking the advice and perspective of retired Army Gens. Colin Powell, John Shalikashvili, and John Vessey, retired Navy Adms. William Crowe Jr. and Thomas Moorer, and retired USAF Gen. David Jones.