Despite Pentagon resistance, lawmakers are beginning to clamor for the first true increase in military force structure since the Cold War drawdown of the early 1990s.
One bill, introduced Dec. 8 by Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.), called for temporarily boosting the end strength of each of the armed services by about eight percent. This would result in nearly 30,000 additional personnel for the Air Force.
The bill, cosponsored by 25 other Democrats, would carry out the boosts through 2008. According to the bill’s sponsors, the estimated five-year cost would be $1 billion.
Meanwhile, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) called for adding 40,000 troops overall to help carry out expanded US missions worldwide. Kerry, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for President, said that a Kerry Administration would work to enlarge the military during its first 100 days in office.
In contrast to the lawmakers noted above, the military service Chiefs are not pushing for end strength increases—at this time.
Three of the four service Chiefs of Staff stated at a December forum, sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, that they did not need additional end strength to support ongoing operations.
Gen. John P. Jumper, Air Force Chief of Staff, although not present at that event, previously had said that he supports Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s effort to find efficiencies in-house before seeking additional uniformed personnel.
At the forum, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark said that he is “working hard” to make the Navy less manpower-intensive and that technological advances will allow future ships to have smaller crews. “I am actively pursuing less end strength,” the CNO asserted.
Army Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said, “There is no commander in Iraq or Afghanistan who is asking for more people.” He added that he would not rule out seeking more soldiers in the future, but, for the time being, the Army is “making quite a bit of headway” in recasting its force to meet future demands.
The problem with increased force structure is that the services become stuck with it for better or worse, Schoomaker said, adding, “The big challenge, resource wise, is paying for more people.”
Marine Corps Gen. Michael W. Hagee said that if current requirements are a “spike” and not a permanent change in worldwide demands, then “no, we do not need an increase in end strength.”
In the past two months, surface-to-air missiles apparently hit two USAF aircraft—a C-17 on Dec. 10 and a C-5 on Jan. 8—as they took off from Baghdad Airport in Iraq. Both aircraft made emergency landings and no one on board was injured.
Sixteen persons, including five crew members, were aboard the C-17, and 63 persons, including 11 aircrew, were on the C-5.
The C-17’s No. 2 engine was hit and exploded shortly after takeoff. An Air Mobility Command investigation team has not concluded its probe, but it’s possible that the transport was hit by a SAM. The aircraft commander, Capt. Paul Sonstein, with the 62nd Airlift Wing, McChord AFB, Wash., said he knew they were hit by something big.
“The impact just shuddered the plane,” he said. “I thought we were hit by something; I didn’t know what, but I knew something got us.”
The experience was much the same for the C-5 crew. The huge airlifter had barely left the runway when its No. 4 engine exploded. The C-5 belongs to the 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis AFB, Calif.
Air Force officials said that initial reports on the C-5 emergency definitely pointed to “hostile action from the ground.”
The Air Force’s most recent comprehensive study of airlift and mobility needs—Mobility Requirements Study 2005, which was completed in January 2001—has long been obsolete, according to Gen. John W. Handy, commander of US Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command.
Handy told reporters at the Defense Logistics Conference in December that MRS-05 “was a good study for its time” but that it predated the 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Defense Department’s next mobility study, Handy said, should be more “scenario driven,” and it is almost a given that the next study will call for more airlift capability.
MRS-05 called for a force of at least 222 C-17s, and, since then, “the world has changed, and [the real requirement] is probably something well above that, but I don’t know what it is,” Handy said. At present, the Air Force has approval to buy only 180 C-17s.
The Air Force is studying whether the F-117 stealth fighter is suitable for daylight operations. The service has repainted one of its all-black F-117 Nighthawks in the flat gray paint scheme, common to other fighters, to conduct tests that will determine whether the F-117 can be part of a “24-hour stealth presence over future battlefields,” said Lt. Col. Buck Rogers.
Rogers said the project is an initiative of Gen. John P. Jumper, the Air Force Chief of Staff. Rogers is the operations officer of the Holloman AFB, N.M., detachment conducting the test—Det. 1 of the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group.
The gray F-117 will fly with the service’s new stealthy fighter—the F/A-22—in several tests at Holloman and other locations, officials said.
The Air Force on Dec. 5 reactivated the 48th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock AFB, Ark., as the service’s first active duty C-130J squadron. The unit’s first C-130J is in final production and will be delivered in early 2004.
An initial cadre of 14 pilots and 10 loadmasters worked with the Air Force Reserve Command C-130J team at Keesler AFB, Miss., to prepare for the new squadron’s establishment.
The entire initial group of 24 C-130J personnel became qualified on Dec. 4.
A 16th Special Operations Squadron AC-130H Spectre crew, Hurlburt Field, Fla., has been awarded the Mackay Trophy for the Air Force’s most meritorious flight of the year for 2002.
The gunship’s 14 airmen helped save the lives of 82 soldiers and the crews of two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters on March 2, 2002, during the second day of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan.
During Anaconda, enemy forces surrounded US Army soldiers and opened a fierce battle. The “Grim 31” AC-130H crew was tapped to provide close air support as two USAF helicopters began medical evacuations. Working with an Air Force enlisted tactical air controller on the ground, the gunship blasted enemy forces to clear the way for the helicopters.
The Spectre’s 40 mm gun malfunctioned three times, but the lead gunner said that the crew switched over to the 105 mm “like clockwork.” He added, “We just bounced back and forth between the two guns as our [controller] needed them.”
The Administration would like to see long-standing arrangements for US military use of Incirlik AB, Turkey, continue, now that Operation Northern Watch has ended, a senior State Department official said in December.
“What we’d like to see, in the future, is for those arrangements to continue,” said Marc Grossman, undersecretary of state for political affairs. “We think those arrangements are good for Turkey and are good for the United States.” Grossman was in Ankara to discuss proposed changes in the US global force posture.
Incirlik was critical for Northern Watch operations patrolling the northern no-fly zone over Iraq, but Ankara refused to permit the US to use the base for combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
According to news reports in mid-January, Turkey approved use of Incirlik for the rotation of US troops in and out of Iraq.
The Air Force officially established on Dec. 1, 2003, the newest wing for 8th Air Force when it activated the 480th Intelligence Wing at Langley AFB, Va.
The 480th’s mission incorporates many different intelligence missions, according to its commander, Col. Larry Grundhauser. The units now subordinate to the wing played a major role during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Among other functions, the new wing oversees a DOD Intelligence Information System Center and maintains an intelligence imagery library and an image base production entity that collects commercial satellite or airborne imagery. Additionally, the wing produces target materials for mission planning for some USAF weapons systems and produces threat recognition products.
“Whether it’s creating target materials and geospatial information for global strike missions … or critical exploitation and dissemination architecture, the 480th Intelligence Wing wields a potent mix for warfighters,” said Grundhauser.
The new intel wing comprises some 2,000 airmen in three groups, which oversee eight active duty squadrons and four Air National Guard squadrons. These subordinate units are based at various locations around the country. The 480th also has one squadron—the 27th Intelligence Support Squadron—that reports directly to the wing.
The Air Force recently extended from 300 to 400 flight hours the interval between routine “phase” maintenance periods for newer F-16 fighters, contractor Lockheed Martin announced in December. The change affects about 600 of USAF’s F-16s.
According to the company, the change is expected “to cut the inspection workload nearly 20 percent [and] increases the number of aircraft available on the flight line for operational training or combat missions.”
A company news release further noted that the change could result in a five percent drop in total base-level F-16 maintenance hours.
Lawmakers have given the Pentagon slightly more leeway to protect precious military training ranges from encroachment, and Eglin AFB, Fla., is one of the first installations to benefit.
In an unusual partnership, Eglin, the state of Florida, and the Nature Conservancy produced the Northwest Florida Greenway agreement. It reserves the first 7,600 acres of a planned 750,000-acre corridor that would maintain existing open space in the state’s panhandle. The corridor, which will stretch from Eglin’s eastern border to the Apalachicola National Forest, is considered an environmental hot spot because of its large number of rare species.
Brig. Gen. Chris T. Anzalone, Eglin’s Air Armament Center vice commander, called it a “win-win strategy,” in that urbanization had threatened both the military training mission and the environment.
The Air Force said the greenway corridor is strategically important to five USAF and Navy installations and is one of the larger open-air military training areas in the country.
The Missile Defense Agency successfully tested its Aegis cruiser-based ballistic missile defense system (BMDS) over the Pacific Ocean in mid-December.
The test team launched an Aries short-range missile from Hawaii, and, about four minutes later, a Standard Missile-3, launched from USS Lake Erie, struck the Aries, destroying it with only the force of the collision.
Flight mission-6 (FM-6) produced the fourth successful intercept for the Aegis BMD and SM-3 system. FM-6 was part of a test series, dubbed Block 2004, that includes increasingly complex and operationally realistic tests, said officials. Last June, the FM-5 test failed to intercept its Aries target missile. There are three more tests slated for Block 2004.
President Bush ordered the Pentagon to field an initial missile defense capability by Oct. 1. (See “Year of the Missile Shield,” January, p. 24.) Up to 20 sea-based interceptors—based on board three Aegis cruisers—will be part of the system beginning in 2005.
The V-22 Osprey program late last year reached 1,000 mishap-free flying hours since the program returned to flight in May 2002. Before that, the program had been grounded for more than a year after two fatal crashes forced many V-22 specifications to be redesigned.
Osprey No. 24 hit the 1,000-hour mark during a flight over Nova Scotia, where icing tests are being conducted.
The Osprey is being developed primarily as a Marine Corps transport. The Air Force is pursuing the CV-22 configuration as an insertion vehicle for Air Force Special Operations Command commandos. The Air Force intends to buy 50 CV-22s.
The Missile Defense Agency on Dec. 3 awarded Northrop Grumman a major contract to develop and test a concept for the Kinetic Energy Interceptor. The goal of the KEI program is to produce a system to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles in their boost phase.
According to DOD, the contract is worth approximately $4.5 billion over eight years. It is MDA’s “first capability-based development and test contract” featuring a design that is “no longer constrained by the Antiballistic Missile Treaty.”
In a separate contract on Dec. 9, MDA selected Lockheed Martin to develop targets and countermeasures that represent the capabilities of ballistic missiles that might be used in an attack on the US. The initial contract is worth $210 million but could, over 10 years, go up to $4.6 billion. MDA will use the targets to test the performance of all elements of the ballistic missile defense system.
South Korea plans to search for Korean War dead along the Demilitarized Zone border with North Korea, a move that could uncover the remains of US troops, Pacific Stars and Stripes reported in December. South Korean Lt. Col. Song Bong-jun, who works in that nation’s remains recovery office, said it is possible that the bodies of deceased Americans will be found.
The remains of 89 Americans are believed to be located within the 2.5-mile wide DMZ that separates democratic South Korea from the communist North, according to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Office.
|USAF Identifies Operational Capability Shortfalls
A two-year review of Air Force capabilities and requirements has led to a prioritized list of 50 “critical operational shortfalls,” USAF announced Dec. 17.
The list is the result of one of the service’s capability review and risk assessments, which are designed to weigh warfighting requirements based on desired effects. Service officials said the list will help guide Air Force spending and modernization plans.
The corporate list of 50 “prioritized capability areas” represents the “most significant and immediate Air Force-wide capability objectives,” said Brig. Gen. Stephen M. Goldfein, USAF director of operational capability requirements.
The Air Force released a list of six of the CRRA-identified shortfalls. They are:
In implementing the CRRA process, USAF leaders departed from the previous system of quarterly acquisition program reviews. Those quarterly reviews frequently looked at weapons systems in isolation, while the new process, said Goldfein, is a “change from a threat-based, system-by-system requirements process toward an analysis methodology focusing on capability.”
|F/A-22 Steering Group Tackling Long-Range Issues
The panel of Air Force lieutenant generals charged with overseeing the F/A-22’s transition to an operational system is working in virtually new territory. It has been more than 20 years since the service introduced a new fighter—the F-117 in 1983. USAF expects to achieve initial operational capability with the Raptor by the end of 2005.
“We haven’t done this in a while,” said Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, the head of the steering group, in an interview. Wright is also vice commander of Air Combat Command.
Wright said that a primary objective of the General Officer Steering Group is to ensure the F/A-22 remains on its current path—to deliver operationally credible and relevant combat capability. “There are lots of opinions on how this airplane will be used,” he said.
The group will refine schedules and milestones to “meet the Chief’s expectations” about IOC, Wright said. To ensure the fighter meets its IOC date, the commands involved must coordinate training, maintenance, and the availability of the aircraft—all elements must work to the schedule. Consequently, one of the group’s first tasks was to bring together the development, maintenance, and operational communities.
According to the panel’s charter, multicommand issues “become even more important” as the Raptor fleet expands in size and begins operations at more locations. Test and training F/A-22s are currently flying at Edwards AFB, Calif., Nellis AFB, Nev., and Tyndall AFB, Fla.
Another key priority is to ensure the long-term viability of the fighter by predicting what the system will need in terms of maintenance planning, support personnel, and future upgrades.
One such long-term sustainment issue is the development of technical orders. “This is the kind of thing that people forget,” explained Wright, “but it takes a staff [across] major commands to get the tech orders right—so that we have the right guidance out there on the flight line.”
Besides Wright, the steering group comprises the vice commanders of Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Materiel Command, Pacific Air Forces, and US Air Forces in Europe. It also includes the vice commander of AFMC’s Aeronautical Systems Center. (See “Aerospace World: F/A-22 Gets Three-Star Oversight,” January, p. 15.)
Recent GOSG discussions also have led to “a better picture about the threat environment that the F/A-22 is going to operate in, the double-digit SAM environment,” said Wright.
Findings such as the updated threats are passed to a second group that, according to the GOSG’s charter, is to focus on “the short-term success and day-to-day operations of the F/A-22 program.” This second group includes the program executive officer for the F/A-22 and members of USAF’s test community that are responsible for the Raptor’s nascent operational testing program.
|Saddam Capture Unfolded Swiftly
When an Iraqi tipster came into US custody Dec. 12, he set off a chain of events that led to the capture of Saddam Hussein the next day and three other former generals just a few days later.
On Dec. 13, Saddam was found hiding on a farm near Tikrit. The tipster had long been sought because of his close ties to the deposed dictator, officials said in December.
Documents found with Saddam enabled US forces to identify insurgent cells carrying out attacks on coalition forces and the financial network that supported them.
“What the capture of Saddam Hussein revealed is the structure that existed above the local cellular structure,” said Army Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of 1st Armored Division and leader of all US forces in Baghdad. He called it a “network.”
Coalition troops moved quickly against six of the 14 cells believed to be operating within Baghdad, Dempsey told reporters at a mid-December press conference. By Dec. 16, three days after Saddam’s capture, he said a series of raids had “chipped away at that network above [the cells] to the 60th percentile.”
|ACC Seeks To Close the Requirements/Funding Gap
Air Combat Command officials want to reconcile a proposed “objective” Air Force for 20 years hence with likely budgets.
ACC is developing a Future Force Structure Flight Plan that will help it determine how best to bring in new forces—for example, the F/A-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—while it continues to use so-called legacy systems.
“How do we fight, win, and pay for the next war?” asked Col. Gary L. Crowder, in an interview. He is chief of strategy, concepts, and doctrine for ACC’s planning directorate.
ACC has developed a “vision force” to show what a fully capable Air and Space Expeditionary Force might look like in 2025. It is now trying to find the ways to get the Air Force as close as possible to that “marker on the wall,” Crowder said.
Crowder noted that USAF could conceivably trade force structure for new systems. However, force structure studies frequently become political lighting rods.
Crowder saw this dynamic in action twice in the last year.
First, a study of A-10 upgrade programs was misinterpreted as a call for retiring the Warthog. (See “Washington Watch: Close Air Support Criticisms,” August 2003, p. 7.) Second, a look at whether Total Force units could wring greater efficiency out of the F/A-22 and F-35 was mistakenly portrayed as an Air Force move to buy fewer of the aircraft. (See “Aerospace World: USAF Studies F/A-22, JSF Associate Units,” December 2003, p. 19.)
Crowder said that the studies are designed to produce efficient planning, not force structure cuts; therefore it is important “not to take the takes” before the benefits of doing so are actually realized. He said that capability improvements can come from two directions—either by maximizing the benefits of new systems or cutting less efficient old ones. The latter move, of course, presupposes that any funds saved are actually reinvested in higher-payoff programs. That is not always the case.
He said that the first major results will probably be seen in the Air Force’s 2006 budget request due out in about one year.
|The Latest in Iraq
Massive Troop Rotation Planned
The Pentagon begins a large-scale swap out of the forces in Iraq early this year, a move that would send more than 100,000 fresh troops to relieve the 130,000 that are there now.
The rotation is expected to occur roughly through May. The scale of the effort worries some planners who are concerned that the transit of large numbers of soldiers through unfamiliar terrain may make them vulnerable to attack until they are settled in at more secure locations.
Pentagon officials have said they want to make this wholesale exchange of troops to keep units intact and not engage in piecemeal replacements of individuals, as happened in Vietnam. The rotation is designed to let the services bring home entire units that have spent a year deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in December acknowledged that “turbulence is always undesirable.” However, he said that the new units will be “better designed” for operations in Iraq, and it is “appropriate to be worried” about the changeover.
ETAC Coordinates Air Strike
An Air Force enlisted terminal attack controller (ETAC) working with Army ground forces on Dec. 27 directed USAF F-16s, as they dropped Joint Direct Attack Munitions on a house frequently used by Iraqi insurgents to launch strikes against coalition forces.
According to US Central Command, the house had been used at least six times to attack the coalition. There were “improvised explosive device-making materials in the house that were destroyed” in the air strike, said CENTCOM officials.
The F-16s and crews are deployed to Southwest Asia from the 510th Fighter Squadron, Aviano AB, Italy. The ETAC’s name and unit were withheld.
A total of 23 US service members were killed in Iraq during the first three weeks of December, according to Defense Department figures.
All told, 463 US troops died in Iraq between the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 20, 2003, and Dec. 22. Among these fatalities, 317 Americans were killed in combat incidents, while 146 died in noncombat events, such as accidents.
Of the 463 deaths, 325 Americans died after May 1—the end of major combat operations. These included 202 combat deaths and 123 noncombat fatalities.
By Tamar A. Mehuron, Associate Editor
- Space operators at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., on Dec. 2 launched the final Atlas IIAS rocket, boosting a National Reconnaissance Office payload into orbit.
- The headquarters for 8th Air Force, located at Barksdale AFB, La., reopened in December, nearly two years after the building was gutted by a lightning-based fire. Officials began moving back into offices in the renovated building Dec. 8. An official opening for the new accommodations is scheduled for this spring.
- The Air Force in late November received the 100th F119 engine manufactured by Pratt & Whitney at its Middletown, Conn., facility for the service’s new F/A-22 fighter. A company news release noted that the new engines “containing features never before seen in a fighter engine, are demonstrating unmatched reliability and durability—more in keeping with an engine that has been in production for decades.”
- The National Imagery and Mapping Agency on Nov. 24 officially became the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). Officials said that the new name emphasizes the agency’s primary purpose of providing both imagery and geospatial intelligence for combat support and policy-makers.
- US Joint Forces Command in mid-January conducted its first large-scale “horizontal” joint training exercise under its new Joint National Training Capability initiative. Called Western Range Complex JNTC Horizontal Training Event 04-1, the exercise was slated to aid joint operations by helping US forces of all services “train as they fight,” said officials. It’s the first in a series of four exercises that will lead to the initial operational capability of the JNTC by October.
- NATO’s chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense battalion became operational Dec. 1, according to NATO officials. The unit, with up to 700 personnel, will conduct CBRN reconnaissance operations, identify CBRN substances, detect and monitor biological operations, provide assessments and advice to NATO commanders, and conduct decontamination procedures.
- Australia will participate in the US missile defense system, the Australian foreign minister announced Dec. 4. Such involvement might involve cooperation on missile detection, acquisition of ground and sea-based sensors, and assistance on research and development.
- Japan’s Defense Ministry wants to produce jointly with the US crucial elements of next generation interceptor missiles that would form part of an eventual US missile defense system. Such production would require a review and possible revision of Japan’s law prohibiting export of weapons or parts. Following the North Korean ballistic missile launch over Japan in 1998, Japan has engaged in joint research with the US on a missile defense system.
- The Air Force’s new metallic name tag on Jan. 1 began appearing on service dress uniforms and pullover sweaters around the world, as the service implemented its mandatory wear date for the new accoutrement.
- An Air Force investigation report, released on Dec. 4, concluded that equipment malfunction, combined with pilot error, led to the June 12, 2003, crash of an F-16 in Iraq. The pilot had been flying a close air support mission for five hours when the fighter’s single engine failed from fuel starvation because the pilot did not follow checklist procedures. The pilot, assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah, failed to notice that the fuel was not flowing from the external tanks—the product of one of three possible mechanical failures. He ejected safely, but the aircraft was a total loss.
- The Air Force and Navy agreed late last year to merge two separate programs to acquire radio systems. They will now work on development of the Joint Tactical Radio System, a single family of radios designed to improve compatibility across all the services.
- In a reorganization in December, the Air Mobility Warfare Center at Ft. Dix, N.J., created two new centers of excellence and two new Air Force schools. The two new centers of excellence are Agile-Combat Support and Air Mobility. The two schools are the USAF Mobility Operations School and USAF Expeditionary Operations School. Officials said that growth in the center’s mission drove the expansion.