Three Airmen Die in Iraq
Three airmen assigned to the 447th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron’s explosive ordnance division were killed on Jan. 7 by the explosion of a vehicle-borne improvised exposive device.
TSgt. Timothy R. Weiner of Tamarac, Fla., SrA. Elizabeth A. Loncki of New Castle, Del., and SrA. Daniel B. Miller Jr. of Galesburg, Ill., were attempting to defuse the car bomb when the device went off, killing all the three airmen and wounding another.
DOD Identifies Air Force Casualty
The Department of Defense announced the death of an airman in Iraq.
Capt. Kermit O. Evans, 31, of Hollandale, Miss., died when the Marine Corps CH-46 helicopter he was a passenger in made an emergency water landing in the western portion of Iraq’s Al Anbar Province on Dec. 3.
Evans was assigned to the 27th Civil Engineer Squadron at Cannon AFB, N.M., and was deployed with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad AB, Iraq. The crash is under investigation.
Airman Dies in Training
Maj. Douglas K. Rothenhofer, an Air Force F-16 pilot, died Dec. 1 while participating in a physical fitness training exercise at Moody AFB, Ga.
Rothenhofer was an instructor pilot with the 39th Flying Training Squadron. He died of injuries from a fall while he was performing a drill on an obstacle course, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel reported.
Rothenhofer was rushed to a local hospital, where he died soon after he arrived.
Officials with the 23rd Wing at Moody said that a safety board is now investigating the incident.
F-35A Makes First Flight
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II made its first flight on Dec. 15, launching a flight-test program expected to last six years and entail flights by 15 airplanes.
Company test pilot Jon S. Beesley took the F-35 up on a 40-minute flight around Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Tex., plant. He reported that the aircraft performed with greater power than was predicted in the flight simulator. The climb-out was faster and steeper than anticipated, he said. The Pratt & Whitney F135 engine performed “as well, or better” than predicted.
Of all the new aircraft he has test-flown, said Beesley, “this airplane was the most ‘ready to fly.'”
He told a news conference afterward that the fighter flew “like a smaller, quicker version” of the twin-engine F-22 Raptor, although the F-35 is a single-engine aircraft.
Beesley took the F-35 up to 15,000 feet for handling checks. He did not raise the landing gear due to a warning light.
This first-to-fly F-35 was a conventional takeoff and landing version, or F-35A, which will be built for the Air Force. An F-35B, capable of short takeoff and vertical landing, is expected to fly before the end of this year. That model will equip the Marine Corps. A Navy version for use on aircraft carriers, the F-35C, is due to fly next year. (See “Struggling for Altitude,” September 2006, p. 38.)
Bradley Talks Reserve Cuts …
The Air Force’s plan to impose a 40,000-troop cut over the next five years will have a huge effect on the Reserve, said Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley, head of Air Force Reserve Command.
Speaking on Capitol Hill in December, he said that USAF wants to cut 40,000 full-time equivalent positions—which means the actual number of affected persons will be greater, since most Reserve personnel are part-time.
He said the real figure will be “about 57,000,” taking into account the Reserve positions.
Bradley added that his command plans to cut 7,744 people, generating an annual savings of about $172 million. While not specifying where the cuts will be taken, he said the command will have to close down a flying wing and some geographically separated units.
… and Airlift, Mobilization Needs
Bradley also raised concerns about the state of strategic airlift across the force, suggesting that the current number of C-5s and C-17s may not be enough to support future needs, in light of the usage rates in Southwest Asia.
“I worry a lot about our strategic airlift capability in the United States,” he said.
He noted the planned number of C-17s—191 at present—is smaller than that of the recently retired C-141 Starlifter fleet at its height. The C-17 has replaced the C-141; the C-5 Galaxy will be retained in service through upgrades.
While calling the C-17 “a very capable airplane,” the fleet of 281 Starlifters provided a “lot of tails” to fly missions, he said, adding, “I worry about not having as many tails when we go to war.”
The Air Force is consuming flight hours on the C-17 at an accelerated rate, causing the fleet to age prematurely. Having more would be useful, Bradley asserted.
Bradley said he doesn’t plan to mobilize any personnel for lift missions because volunteerism has so far met the need. Neither he nor Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley have had to resort to mobilization, which kicks in after 15 days of call-up, Bradley said. Reservists and Guardsmen have stepped up for numerous 40-day tours and a few 120-day stints.
Tanker Program Delayed Again …
The Air Force once again postponed the release of its final request for proposals on its new KC-X tanker transport aircraft program, saying it was giving everyone involved more time to review the final draft version. The KC-X is the Air Force’s top procurement priority.
A revamped draft request for proposals was issued Dec. 15, and the final version was slated to be released in late January, about a month later than originally scheduled. It calls for USAF to buy 179 tanker aircraft from a single source.
Sue C. Payton, the Air Force’s senior acquisition executive, said the updated draft is an attempt to continue an “open and transparent” acquisition process and to allow Congress, the Department of Defense, and industry to continue looking at what the Air Force wants.
Payton added that the goal remains to complete the source selection process by the end of the current fiscal year.
… Due to Tariff Squabbles
The tanker RFP delay entailed more than just keeping everybody informed, however. A brewing trade war played a big role.
The US and Europe told the World Trade Organization that each other’s airline industries have received unfair governmental subsidies.
Should the feud erupt into a trade war, the US might slap penalty tariffs on Airbus products. In its draft tanker RFP, the Air Force said it has added a clause “that makes certain costs associated with the WTO litigation unallowable expenses under the contract.” That, in turn, would hurt an Airbus offering.
However, the RFP also said that a WTO ruling against Airbus wouldn’t preclude EADS, and its US partner, Northrop Grumman, from offering an Airbus airplane in the tanker contest.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to delay the RFP because the WTO provisions could interfere with free and open competition. He said he wasn’t sure that the Pentagon’s own rules were being applied in the contest.
The Joint Requirements Oversight Council ruled in November that the tanker should also be able to carry cargo, but the draft request for proposal did not ask competitors to say how much cargo they could carry, only whether they could carry any. The Airbus A330 is considered capable of carrying a larger payload of cargo than the Boeing KC-767.
USAF Seeks More F-22s
The Air Force plans to ask the Defense Department to let it buy more than the 183 F-22s authorized in last year’s Quadrennial Defense Review, according to a service official.
Kenneth E. Miller, a special assistant to Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne, told a Washington, D.C., aerospace symposium in December that the Air Force is thinking about how it would seek an additional 20 F-22s in Fiscal 2010, after the conclusion of the current Raptor program.
A senior service official told Air Force Magazine that the comment was “something of a trial balloon,” to see what reaction there might be. There were no nasty comments from Congress or pledges to oppose the move within the Defense Department.
An Air Force spokesman said the comment was about planning and did not reflect an actual request, as of mid-December.
A Lockheed Martin spokesman said the company had not been informed of any plans to buy more than the 183 F-22s now on order. However, the F-22 line will begin to shut down in 2008 if no further orders are booked.
The service has long maintained that it requires 381 F-22s to fill out its 10 Air and Space Expeditionary Forces with one squadron of F-22s each. With just 183 aircraft, it can only equip seven AEFs with a reduced squadron size of 18 aircraft each.
New Personnel System in Store
The Army and Air Force will unveil a new system in 2008 that will integrate pay and personnel functions into one Web-based system, DOD officials announced in December.
Known as the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, the new solution will be a one-stop shop for service members with pay and personnel issues, said Army Maj. Gen. Carlos D. Pair, of the DOD’s business transformation outfit. The system will be accessible through a common card; service members will be able to view their entire record and make certain changes themselves.
Army and Air Force commanders will have access to the system to resolve issues brought about in an increasingly joint environment, where the services often fight alongside each other in deployed locations far from any personnel or finance support hubs.
Army officials said they plan to launch DIMHRS in March 2008, with the Air Force set to launch later on that summer.
ANG Opens Predator Operations
The Air National Guard formally stood up the first of its planned MQ-1 Predator units at March ARB, Calif., on Nov. 28. Air Guard chief Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley hailed the base as the “centerpiece” for the Guard’s transition from some legacy missions to flying unmanned aerial vehicles.
At the ceremony, the California ANG’s 163rd Air Refueling Wing became the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing. The unit’s last KC-135 tanker left this past April, and it has been training Predator operators since August by using active duty units’ Predators supporting operations in Southwest Asia. The 163rd will eventually receive 12 Predators, but does not expect delivery until FY 2009. Guardsmen will continue to train at the base, as well as at Nellis AFB, Nev.
The ANG plans to have March become a training facility for Air Guard units from Texas, Arizona, North Dakota, and New York—all of which are scheduled to get Predators of their own in the next five years, McKinley said at the ceremony.
Romania Hosts New USAF Base
A Romanian air base located near the Black Sea will host a permanent US presence, according to US State Department officials. The move comes a year after Romania and the US signed a deal creating guidelines on American bases in that country. (See “Aerospace World: Basing Deal Signed With Romania,” February 2006, p. 26.)
The US will spend $34 million to upgrade the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base to include upgraded barracks, recreation areas, offices, and a clinic, Col. John Ingham, head of the US Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation, told the Associated Press. Ingham and members of the Alabama National Guard visited health facilities in the nearby port city of Constanta, where they made a donation to the local orphanage.
Officials said that mainly Army and Air Force personnel stationed in Germany will be deployed to the base for training at Romanian ranges in the area, and that up to 18 aircraft will be stationed at the base.
F-15 Demo Team Stands Down
After 27 years of wowing air show visitors, the F-15 Eagle East Coast Demonstration Team, based at Langley AFB, Va., stood down on Dec. 1. It will be replaced by an F-22 team.
The demo team, one of seven single-ship demonstration teams assigned to Air Combat Command, has averaged more than 30 air shows a year, performing for more than four million people.
The stand-down is prompted by the fact that Langley is now mostly an F-22 base, and the Raptor represents the future of the service. Because there is only one F-15 squadron left at Langley, it would be difficult to give up two F-15s each weekend to continue flying demonstrations, said Maj. Jason Costello, the last Eagle demo pilot at Langley.
The F-22 has been on static display at some air shows but will do short pass programs at some exhibitions in 2007. A full-up demo routine is now being readied for the 2008 season.
In a ceremonial farewell pass, Costello’s F-15 ceded flight lead of the demo team to an F-22 flown by Maj. Paul Moga, the new F-22 demo team pilot.
There will continue to be F-15 demo pilots in Europe and the Pacific until those teams are replaced by established Raptor squadrons. The F-15 demo team was established in 1979.
First Boss Hogs Reach Arizona
The new and improved A-10C Warthog was rolled out at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., on Nov. 29. The aircraft has new capabilities under the Precision Engagement program.
At the rollout ceremony, Col. Kent Laughbaum, commander of the 355th Wing, recalled the history of the aircraft, originally designed to defeat Soviet armor on the plains of Europe. “We’re going to see at least another generation of the A-10” at Davis-Monthan, he said. The 355th trains A-10 pilots and provides close air support and forward air control to US forces around the world.
The A-10 fleet is slated to receive a host of enhancements, including the full integration of sensors and data links that will allow it to identify and strike targets from higher altitudes and greater distances. An unrelated rewinging program is also being developed. The fighter is projected to remain operational into the late 2020s.
F-35 Partners Sign Up
In December, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia all formally signed on to participate in the next phase of the Joint Strike Fighter program, agreeing to share in the production, sustainment, and follow-on development of the fighter.
Denmark, Italy, Norway, and Turkey were all scheduled to add their signatures to the deal as well. It expands cooperation among the nine JSF partner nations beyond the ongoing system development and demonstration, or SDD, phase.
The UK was the first JSF partner and has committed more than $2 billion to the development of the program, although the partnership was strained over disagreements involving technology sharing and development of the F136 alternative engine program.
ANG Gets Rapid Air Base Group
The Kentucky Air National Guard announced the creation of a contingency response group in Louisville Nov. 28. It marked the first such rapid air base construction unit to be formed within the ANG. Active duty CRGs have been one of the Air Force’s in-demand units, performing a range of operations from disaster relief to evacuation assistance. (See “Eagle Flag,” January, p. 68.)
The 123rd CRG will provide the capability to open a runway, load and unload aircraft, provide security, and create conditions where follow-on forces can operate a successful airfield.
Col. Mark Kraus, 123rd Airlift Wing commander, said the transition for the unit should be smooth, since the unit has the only ANG special tactics squadron containing combat control and pararescue airmen. Other Air Guardsmen are also experienced in expeditionary command and control as well as medical operations, critical skills for CRGs.
More than 130 airmen will be transferred into the new 123rd CRG and will use current facilities and equipment at the Kentucky Guard base. The unit’s associate partner will be the 615th Contingency Response Wing at Travis AFB, Calif.
DOD Joins NATO C-17 Deal
The Department of Defense agreed to fund $589 million in spare parts and support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s planned fleet of C-17 transport aircraft.
The deal, announced in December, includes parts for up to four of the airlifters, depending on the number of aircraft the alliance decides to purchase. NATO is acquiring its own strategic airlift capability, rather than depending on US cargo aircraft to transport forces to contingencies, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announcement.
Boeing leads the list of contractors in the support deal, which includes Pratt & Whitney and Northrop Grumman’s systems group. Included in the deal are up to two F117-PW-100 spare engines, up to four large aircraft infrared countermeasures systems, up to 15 AN/AVS-9 night vision goggles, software, life support equipment, flares, as well as training and support gear.
New Bill Authorizes Three C-130Js
Lockheed Martin will provide three C-130J tactical airlifters for the Air Force and one KC-130J aerial tanker for the Marine Corps with funds provided in the most recent war supplemental spending bill approved by Congress.
As part of the Fiscal 2006 Global War on Terror supplemental authorization, Lockheed Martin received an initial $128 million on Dec. 11, toward a $256 million overall deal for the airplanes, which are to be delivered in 2010.
The deal brings the total number of C-130Js ordered to date to 186. C-130s have been heavily used in supporting units across Southwest Asia, and the services are buying new ones to replace aircraft whose service lives are being used up by the pace of operations. Hercules transports are helping take truck convoys off roads by flying cargo to forward locations.
Work Begins on Pakistan F-16s
Also in December, Lockheed Martin got an Air Force contract for $78 million to start working on F-16s headed for service with Pakistan’s air force.
The award was part of a $144 million contract for long-lead work related to the production of 18 new Block 52 F-16s destined for Pakistan. The deal, which was stuck in diplomatic limbo for some time, was given the green light earlier this year. (See “Aerospace World: US and Pakistan Hammer Out New F-16 Deal,” December 2006, p. 12.)
Under the agreement covering the sale, Pakistan has an option for 18 more of the fighters.
USAF Squeezes More From C-5
The Air Force will squeeze an extra 2.5 days of availability out of each C-5 Galaxy every year by consolidating the number of places where it does nose-to-tail inspections of the giant aircraft.
Air Mobility Command announced on Dec. 8 that Dover AFB, Del., will be the first of three sites nationwide that will perform what are called “isochronal inspections” of the big airlifters.
The other two sites will be Westover ARB, Mass., and Eastern West Virginia Airport in Martinsburg, W.Va.
The Air Force has been doing the inspections at eight bases. Consolidating to three will allow central management of the system, better standardization of the process, and streamlining. The efficiencies will put the C-5s back in action faster and generate about 300 extra sorties per year. That equates to about 10,000 pallets.
Test Wing Stays at Eglin
A planned move of 3,400 jobs from Eglin AFB, Fla., to Edwards AFB, Calif., is off the table—for now.
Gen. T. Michael Moseley, USAF Chief of Staff, announced in late November that a decision to transfer the 46th Test Wing to Edwards was tabled after an energetic campaign by Florida officials to keep the billets at Eglin.
The decision is also coupled with the restoration of approximately $343 million to the Air Force’s weapons testing and evaluation budget. A study of the wing’s capabilities and options for its future is being undertaken by RAND and is expected by the end of March.
Oil Filter Nails Predator
An MQ-1 Predator that crashed at Creech AFB, Nev., in June 2006 was felled by an oil leak, the Air Force said in November. The finding could affect the Predator fleet.
Air Combat Command’s accident report said the crash, which caused no injuries, was caused by a rapid oil leak due to a loose oil filter, which the investigation determined was most likely improperly installed. After five minutes of flight, the Predator lost its engine oil and the engine failed.
The accident board found substantial evidence that a poorly designed oil filter was a contributing factor in the mishap. The filter is not designed to lock in place and has no markings to ensure correct installation. Fixing the design could help prevent future Predator incidents.
3rd AF Reactivates at Ramstein
Third Air Force was reactivated Dec. 1 at Ramstein AB, Germany. Lt. Gen. Robert D. Bishop Jr. assumed command of the organization, which numbers more than 1,400 people.
Bishop, who had been vice commander of US Air Forces in Europe, will now lead the planning of combat and humanitarian operations in USAFE’s area of responsibility. Third Air Force will conduct day-to-day operations for US European Command to organize, train, and equip airmen for missions.
The reactivated organization is comprised of the 603rd Air and Space Operations Center, the 603rd Support Group, the 4th Air Support Operations Group, and elements of 16th Air Force, which inactivated the same day.
While 16th AF stood down, it was redesignated the 16th Air Expeditionary Task Force at Izmir AB, Turkey.
Third Air Force headquarters first inactivated in November 2005 as the US was shifting forces in the theater. Numbered air forces began transforming across the world, Bishop said, with the change helping to enhance the expeditionary air force concept.
USAF Lawyer Gets Heave-Ho
An Air Force lawyer who had served as the general counsel for the White House Military Office was discovered in November to have been practicing law for 23 years without a license.
Col. Michael D. Murphy was commander of the Air Force Legal Services Agency at Bolling AFB, D.C., when his past came to light. Murphy was relieved of his command at Bolling on Nov. 30 after the Air Force discovered that he had been disbarred for professional misconduct in Texas in 1984 but failed to inform his superiors. His status was reportedly discovered in the process of an unrelated review.
Murphy was the general counsel for the WHMO from December 2001 to January 2003 and again from August 2003 to January 2005, the Washington Post reported. Murphy also served as a legal advisor for reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
USAF Blames Kyrgyz Controller
Air Mobility Command has decided that a September accident in Kyrgyzstan that damaged a KC-135R and a civilian airliner was mainly the fault of the civilian Kyrgyz air traffic controller.
The AMC report, released in December, said the accident at Manas Airport in Bishkek occurred because the Kyrgyz air traffic controller cleared the civilian Tu-154 for takeoff without confirming that the USAF tanker had left the runway. The accident created a minor diplomatic incident, when Kyrgyz officials blamed the tanker crew after a preliminary investigation. (See “Aerospace World: USAF Hit With Kyrgyz Claim,” January, p. 16.)
Although the accident investigation board found the air traffic controller primarily at fault, the tanker crew and tower liaison shared responsibility. The board said that the tower liaison—employed by the Air Force to facilitate communications between the Kyrgyz air controllers and USAF crews—did not clarify a discrepancy on runway use, and that the crew misunderstood instructions to vacate the runway.
No serious injuries resulted from the incident.
Raytheon Sheds Aircraft Unit
Raytheon, which makes the Air Force T-6A Texan II Joint Primary Aircraft Training System, has completed a deal to sell off its aircraft manufacturing unit to a Canadian firm and the Goldman Sachs Group for approximately $3.3 billion.
The deal allows Raytheon to focus on its core defense businesses—such as missiles—while letting Goldman Sachs and Canadian buyout firm Onex Corp. attempt to make the aviation unit more competitive with other small aircraft makers.
In addition to the JPATS, which is the Air Force’s main pilot trainer, Raytheon Aircraft, based in Wichita, Kan., produces Hawker corporate aircraft and Beechcraft general aviation airplanes. The company announced plans to sell the unit last July.
C-17 Makes First South Pole Drop
The first drop of supplies to US facilities in Antarctica by a C-17 took place Dec. 20. A crew from McChord AFB, Wash., delivered about 70,000 pounds of food and supplies for National Science Foundation researchers at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.
Airmen with the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings manned the C-17 on its first Operation Deep Freeze flight, testing to see how the aircraft’s avionics, cargo ramp, and parachute system would work in Antarctica’s climate. The crew of active duty and Reserve airmen braved temperatures of minus 29 degrees Fahrenheit when they opened the cargo doors to drop their payload. The drop took place with an altimeter reading of more than 10,000 feet; parachutes needed 1,000 feet in which to inflate above the South Pole’s 9,300-foot elevation.
B-52 Flies on Synthetic Fuel Blend
A B-52 took off from Edwards AFB, Calif., on Dec. 15 using a blend of synthetic fuel and JP-8 in all eight engines—the first time a bomber has flown using a synthetic fuel blend as the only fuel on board.
The test at Edwards is a continuation of tests begun in September, where a B-52 used synthetic fuel in two engines. (See “Aerospace World: B-52 To Burn Synthetic Gas,” September 2006, p. 24.) The test was to be followed by cold-weather testing to see how well the synthetic fuel blend performs in extreme weather (see photo, p. 26).
James Tyler, 1919-2006
Retired Lt. Col. James O. Tyler, a decorated World War II fighter ace and a charter member of the Air Force Association, died Dec. 9 at the age of 87.
Tyler entered the Army Air Forces in January 1942 and was commissioned that July, according to his obituary in the Petersburg, Va., Progress-Index. In October of the same year, he was deployed to the Mediterranean, where he flew 234 missions in both British Spitfires and later in the P-51 Mustang.
During World War II service, Tyler scored eight confirmed aerial victories. Among other decorations, he was awarded the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Purple Heart, and an Air Medal with 16 oak leaf clusters.
After his combat tour, he returned to the US in October 1944 and served at Bartow Field, Fla. Subsequent assignments included command of the 2nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron at McGuire AFB, N.J., three years on the faculty of Air University, and a tour of Okinawa. His last assignment was as the commander of Air Force Station, Ft. Lee, Va. He retired in 1969.
|Bush Seeks to Expand Army, Marine Corps
=””> President Bush has decided that an increase in the number of US military personnel is needed—at least in the Army and Marine Corps.
n a December interview with the Washington Post, Bush said that the US should expand the size of its armed forces, citing the strain from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the need to prosecute the wider war on terror.
“I’m inclined to believe it’s important and necessary to do,” Bush said. He said his decision reflected the fact that the nation is in an “ideological war” that could last many years and will need a military sized to sustain a long-term effort.
He added that an increase in end strength would likely focus on the Army and the Marine Corps rather than the Navy or Air Force.
A force structure increase represents a reversal for Bush, who argued in his 2004 re-election campaign that more troops are not needed.
Bush said that suggestions from advisors outside the government have helped persuade him that “increasing our forces structure makes sense, and I will work with Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates to do so.”
|Military Undergoes Huge Test of Homeland Defense
A joint exercise in December demonstrated that the US can deal with multiple military crises at home and get agencies to work together to deal with a wide variety of contingencies and a wide geographic area.
Vigilant Shield 07 was a joint effort of North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command. It offered a chance to see how the organizations would fare in the face of threatened nuclear attack and an accidental nuclear explosion, among many other what-if challenges.
Adm. Timothy J. Keating, head of NORAD and NORTHCOM, said the exercise demonstrated that members of the US military, cooperating with civilian agencies, have improved their ability to respond jointly to catastrophic events.
The simulation emphasized NORTHCOM’s ability to command and control forces from headquarters during a variety of scenarios, including a limited ballistic missile attack from a fictional country in Northeast Asia, a maritime threat, civilian protests, terrorist incursions, and the simulated crash of a C-17 carrying four nuclear devices.
Army Col. Hugh Bell, chief of ballistic missile defense, said NORTHCOM tracked two incoming ballistic missiles and engaged them with the Ground Based Midcourse Defense system. One ICBM failed in flight, but the other was intercepted by units at Ft. Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
A one-kiloton nuclear explosion was also simulated at the Pentagon, where DOD personnel worked with local response task forces and the Department of Homeland Security to evacuate the area and provide for continuity of command.
More than 6,000 personnel from the military, federal, and state governments as well as local responders were involved in the exercise.
|Airmen Awarded for Heroism
Two explosive ordnance disposal technicians with the 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron at Fairchild AFB, Wash., were awarded decorations for heroism in a Dec. 7 ceremony at the base.
TSgt. Jesus Hernandez was awarded a Bronze Star and SrA. Amos Smith was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with a “V” device—which indicates the valorous act was performed while in direct contact with the enemy.
The two airmen were deployed to Sather AB, Iraq, from January to June 2006. Hernandez was deployed to one of the busiest areas of operation in the country, covering an estimated 500 square miles and including Baghdad’s airport. Hernandez and his team safely resolved 437 EOD emergency response missions, with Hernandez personally leading 93 missions, often while coming under direct attack.
Smith, on his second deployment as an EOD technician, spent most of his time in Baghdad in support of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division doing off-base missions to detonate improvised explosive devices and weapons caches.
On one mission, his team was investigating a weapons cache buried on a farm, when one of their Humvees flipped over into a canal. Smith left his vehicle and, with other troops, jumped into the water and pulled the Humvee’s occupants to safety.
|The War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By Jan. 22, a total of 3,029 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 3,022 troops and seven Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 2,444 were killed in action with the enemy while 585 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 22,951 troops wounded in action during OIF. This number includes 12,733 who returned to duty within 72 hours and 10,218 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Terrorists Killed in Air Strike
Coalition air forces killed 20 terrorists while targeting al Qaeda elements in the Thar Thar area of Iraq, according to a December news release from the Multinational Force-Iraq.
Ground forces were searching buildings at the targeted location when they began receiving heavy machine gun fire from a building. They returned fire, killing two armed terrorists, but continued to come under heavy attack and requested close air support.
A coalition aircraft performed a strike, resulting in 18 armed terrorists being killed.
During a search of the area, ground forces uncovered multiple weapons caches with AK-47s, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-personnel mines, explosives, blasting caps, and suicide vests. The cache was destroyed on site.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By Jan. 22, a total of 353 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 352 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of these deaths, 195 were killed in action with the enemy while 158 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 1,096 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 445 who returned to duty within 72 hours and 651 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Bagram’s New $68 Million Runway Opens
A small ceremony with Air Force and Army service members, civilian contractors, and Afghan officials on Dec. 20 marked the opening of a new $68 million runway at Bagram AB, Afghanistan.
The project, overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Air Force with an Afghan workforce, began in 2004 when the older Soviet occupation-era runway was not able to support the high operations tempo in and out of the base, with a takeoff and landing occurring once every four minutes on average. The runway could have served for several more years, but daily runway repairs were adding up, said Brig. Gen. Christopher D. Miller, commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.
With a workforce of more than 400 Afghans working every day, the new runway was built to handle most aircraft in the US inventory and is 2,000 feet longer and 11 inches thicker than the older runway. With a longer airstrip and thicker pavement, the runway can now handle large aircraft if needed—such as a C-5 or a Boeing 747.
The runway is designed mainly to accept medium load aircraft, said Lt. Col. Eric Mulkey, a US Central Command Air Forces construction officer. While the facility can now accommodate larger aircraft, the runway will wear out faster if heavy aircraft are used on a regular basis.
By Marc V. Shanz , Associate Editor
- Six locations across the US will host an “Air Force Week” in 2007. The events focus on telling the Air Force story through displays, flight demonstrations, and community visits by USAF officials. The locations are Phoenix, March 19-25; Sacramento, Calif., June 4-10; St. Louis, July 2-8; a New England location, Aug. 18-26; Hawaii, Sept. 10-16; and Atlanta, from Oct. 8-14.
- Air and Space Expeditionary Forces 7 and 8 will be the first to deploy with the new Airman Battle Uniform, which replaces the old battle dress uniform adapted from the Army. The new ABU features a tiger-stripe pattern reminiscent of camouflage worn in the Vietnam War. The new uniform offers 236 different size options and has a permanent press finish; airmen will be able to pull it out of the dryer and wear it without further treatment. In October, the Air Force will begin issuing the ABU to airmen in basic military training and by June 2008, the uniform will be available for purchase by the rest of the Air Force in base exchanges. It will cost about $81.
- A new feature on Humvees, designed to offer a roof gunner more protection, has been named after A1C LeeBernard E. Chavis, who died in a Humvee on Oct. 14, 2006. (See “Aerospace World: Airman Killed in Iraq Patrol,” December 2006, p. 12.) Chavis’ death inspired vehicle maintenance airmen at Sather AB, Iraq, to design and build a new, better-protected gunner station. The custom-made “Chavis turret” is serving as a new standard in field modifications to the Humvee.
- After prolonged rain in the Dadaab region of Kenya, airmen with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa began airlifting supplies to aid villagers as part of Operation Unity Knight. Much of the housing in two of three refugee camps that house Somalis who fled their country years ago was damaged and food was scarce. A team of 20 airmen with specialties including aerial port operations, aircraft maintenance, and security, and a Navy medic began working Dec. 8 and made their first two airdrops on Dec. 9—delivering more than 35,000 pounds of supplies in a matter of seconds. Over the course of five days, the team dropped about 240,000 pounds of relief supplies to the region.
- Airmen from Lackland AFB, Tex., participated in a pandemic flu exercise Dec. 11-13 in Boerne, Tex. Teams linked a variety of crises in South Texas to the appropriate response agencies and Air Force medical personnel. The Regional Pandemic Flu Conference involved the 59th Medical Wing with airmen from Wilford Hall Medical Center and emergency responders helping to plan for potential outbreaks.
- A new version of the High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile has been successfully tested. It adds inertial navigation system and Global Positioning System satellite guidance to the HARM’s radar-homing capabilities. Raytheon demonstrated the variant in November at China Lake, Calif. The upgraded version, called HDAM, for HARM Destruction of enemy air defense Attack Module, can attack the last known position of an emitter even if the target radar has turned off. Tests last June also showed that the new weapon correctly selected the right target from two radar sources. Raytheon has produced more than 22,800 HARMs since 1985.
- The first on-orbit checkout of the Space Based Infrared System was a success, Air Force Space Command reported in November. SBIRS is one of the Air Force’s leading space programs, designed to provide a new generation of space-based missile warning, technical intelligence, and battlespace awareness. The system will be operated by the 460th Space Wing at Buckley AFB, Colo. The checkout focused on calibration of the infrared sensors and line of sight testing. The payload will be fully operational next year.
- In an October exercise with the Minnesota National Guard, a Lockheed Martin SkySpirit unmanned aerial vehicle demonstrated near-real-time transmission of high-resolution, miniaturized synthetic aperture radar imagery from a UAV. The vehicle flew at 3,000 feet and delivered four-inch-resolution SAR imagery to ground troops via laptops.
- Boeing will provide UAV systems communications and network expertise to the Air Force under a five-year, $14 million deal announced Dec. 7. The contract includes worldwide platform basing, development of crew training, coordinating communications architecture, and establishing national and international airspace access policies. Boeing will also work with the Air Force to develop current and future UAV operations plans for allied missions. The company supports day-to-day operations for the Global Hawk at Air Combat Command headquarters at Langley AFB, Va.
- A new E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System maintenance, overhaul, and repair center was dedicated in Oklahoma City in November. The Boeing facility now comprises three hangars for the installation of new AWACS capabilities, but is expected to grow to 17 hangars and more than a million square feet of related industrial space and training facilities. The first upgrades to be performed at the site, which is near Tinker Air Force Base, include navigation and communications systems. A future upgrade includes new mission computing hardware and software as well as new operational console displays and upgraded radar equipment. Boeing and Tinker personnel will install the upgrades in 2009.
- Dutch F-16 pilots will start training at the Springfield, Ohio, Air National Guard base this year, Guard officials announced in December. Royal Netherlands Air Force Guard pilots will train at the site through September 2010. Springfield inherited the mission after Base Realignment and Closure decisions transferred its previous training mission elsewhere. The base can train up to 16 pilots in three different courses a year, and the mission is expected to create 100 new positions at the facility, the Dayton Business Journal reports.
- Northrop Grumman has received a pair of contracts from the Air Force for $254 million in work on the E-8C Joint STARS fleet and system support program. One contract is worth $140 million in support work, while the second is worth $114 million and covers an extended test support program for Joint STARS.
- The Gremlins: a Royal Air Force Story, the children’s book by famed author Roald Dahl and beloved by children of the World War II era, is back in print. The book, in which Dahl attributes aircraft mechanical problems to little creatures called Gremlins, has been brought back to the shelves due to the efforts of Air Force historian Andrew Stephens of the 11th Wing, Bolling AFB, D.C. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is selling a limited run of the book as part of its celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Air Force. The book’s original illustrations were by Walt Disney Studios, which planned to make a film from the story. Disney’s “Fifinella” character, one of the female Gremlins, became the mascot/logo of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP.