Bolling Is Interim Nuke HQ
The Air Force leadership announced Dec. 12 that Bolling AFB, D.C., would be the temporary headquarters site for Air Force Global Strike Command, the new nuclear-focused major command that is expected to assume initial operations in September. AFGSC will oversee the service’s Minuteman III ICBMs and B-2A and B-52H nuclear bombers.
Six days later, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley named Brig. Gen. James M. Kowalski to be its provisional commander. Kowalski, the Joint Staff’s deputy director for global operations, will oversee the standup of the permanent command, including work toward identification of the final headquarters location—which officials said would not be Bolling—and manpower requirements.
The interim HQ stood up on Jan. 12 at Bolling. A three-star general officer will lead AFGSC once the permanent command is formed. For more on AFGSC, see “The Nuclear Force Revival,” p. 24.
TSAT Program Revamped
John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics under the Bush Administration, on Dec. 3 instructed the Air Force to “act immediately” to execute a restructure of the Transformational Satellite Communications System program that will achieve the first launch of a TSAT satellite no later than Sept. 30, 2019.
Under the “phased approach” that Young approved, the initial TSAT spacecraft will not feature previously planned laser cross-links to move the vast amounts of secure communications data that these satellites will process around the constellation. Instead, the first satellites will rely on radio-frequency links, like those used in current Milstar communications satellites, to move data through space and to troops on the move.
Before the restructure, the Air Force had been aiming to choose the satellite provider by around the end of 2008. Boeing and Lockheed Martin have been competing to build the satellites. As of mid-December, no date had been set for the release of the solicitation requesting bids.
ANG Tankers Gain Active Airmen
The Air Force announced Dec. 10 that three Air National Guard KC-135 wings will become active associate units beginning this summer, and are expected to assume full operations under the new construct by September 2011.
Under this Total Force initiative, active duty airmen will be assigned to the 117th Air Refueling Wing in Birmingham, Ala., the 126th ARW at Scott AFB, Ill., and the 157th ARW at Pease ANGB, N.H. These airmen will start reporting in July. The Guard units will act as the host organization.
The active duty aircrews and maintenance and support personnel will work side by side with their Guard counterparts in operating the ANG tankers at home and on overseas deployments. The Air Force says the associate unit construct provides greater day-to-day mission capability by increasing full-time manning, while reducing duplication of effort.
Renuart Wants New Arctic Policy
Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of NORAD and US Northern Command, said Dec. 17 he favors a “good relook” at US Arctic policy since he thinks the current strategy in the region is “dated” and does not reflect the developments and interests that are converging there today.
There’s been an increase in traffic in the region, as shelf ice melts and opens up long inaccessible corridors to exploration and territorial disputes for reputed oil and gas deposits, said Renuart while speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C. “Any time nations converge on an area to either compete for or to collectively mine natural resources, there is a possibility … that their interests will not coincide,” he said.
NORAD has been active in trying to build a dialogue with the Russian military, he said, as Russia has ramped up its power projection and training activities in the Arctic. Even commercial cruise vessels are now a more frequent sight; because of this, there is the need for a search and rescue capability to serve the newly accessible areas.
Missile Wing Muffs Inspection
The 90th Missile Wing at F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo., came up short in its most recent nuclear surety inspection in December due to “deficiencies in several areas,” Air Force Space Command said Dec. 17. The wing remained certified to perform its strategic mission, but would have to be retested within 90 days, AFSPC said.
The 90th MW joined the 341st MW at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, N.D., that failed their respective NSIs last November and May, respectively, for minor infractions. As of mid-December, the 341st MW still faced a retest, while the 5th BW had already passed a week-long reinspection. At the same time, the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, La., apparently did well in November in its first no-notice NSI in more than 15 years.
Recent NSIs and related inspections have become much more stringent than those run in recent years, with Air Force and Defense Threat Reduction Agency inspectors leaving no margin for error. These changes are meant to help overcome the nuclear enterprise problems that led to the ouster last summer of the Air Force’s previous top leadership.
ILO Taskings Get New Moniker
The Air Force announced Dec. 17 that airmen serving “in-lieu-of” roles in place of ground forces in the War on Terror would now be serving in a “joint expeditionary tasking,” or JET.
The terminology swap, said Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, “reinforces our commitment to the joint fight as an equal member of the joint team.” He added, “The amazing contributions airmen make around the world every day are not in lieu of anything.”
DOD Moves On Reserve Matters
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates issued a memorandum on Nov. 24 instructing the Department of Defense to pursue 64 additional recommendations—18 were already in the works—out of the 95 put forth by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves in its final report issued in January 2008. Implementation plans were expected for each by the end of 2008.
Gates noted that “some of the corrective actions” he was proposing differed from those of the commission. Among them, DOD was working out how to reduce the number of different duty status codes for the reserve components from the current 29. The commission members favored going down just to two—on (active) duty and off (active) duty. This idea created a firestorm on Capitol Hill because it implied cutting reserve pay, something the commission said was not its aim.
Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said in late November the likely outcome is a reduction down perhaps to eight codes, with no impact on reserve pay or benefits. Hall said moving out on the majority of the commission’s recommendations means that the “transition from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve [is a] mission almost complete.”
New CSAR-X Amendment Issued
The Air Force released the newest update to its Combat Search and Rescue Replacement Vehicle solicitation, amendment 7, on Dec. 5. The service said the amendment contains “minor changes” meant “to further clarify” how it would choose the winning rescue helicopter design to replace its aging HH-60G Pave Hawks. No target date was given for when the decision will be made this year.
Before two rounds of successful legal protests by Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky nullified the Air Force’s original choice of Boeing’s HH-47 in November 2006, the service had planned to field the first unit before the end of Fiscal 2012.
Eglin F-35 Decision Postponed
The Air Force announced Nov. 21 that it was postponing until sometime this year the release of the record of decision on the use of Eglin AFB, Fla., as the initial joint training site for the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter. At the same time, it did sign the ROD to begin the beddown of the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin.
Both Eglin actions are part of the same environmental review process, but the F-35 issue was deferred due to the concerns of officials and residents in nearby Valparaiso over the higher noise levels of the F-35, compared to the F-15s that currently fly from Eglin. The Air Force is exploring alternatives to offset the noise increase and may not actually render a decision until sometime in 2010, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported on Nov. 21.
Meanwhile, Eglin’s 33rd Fighter Wing deactivated its 60th Fighter Squadron of F-15s after the unit’s final sortie on Dec. 4 as the wing continued its drawdown as part of the base’s transformation into the F-35 schoolhouse.
Medical Center Expansion Starts
Air Force and Army officials, including the surgeons general of both services, broke ground Dec. 8 in San Antonio, on the new $724 million construction and renovation project to unify the Air Force’s Wilford Hall Medical Center and the Brooke Army Medical Center.
This expansion is set for completion in September 2011. It is occurring as a result of BRAC 2005, which called for the consolidation of Wilford Hall and Brooke into one jointly operated medical center, to be called the San Antonio Military Medical Center, with two integrated campuses. Wilford Hall is now known as SAMMC-South, while Brooke is now called SAMMC-North.
Among the changes under the project, SAMMC-North will add a new hospital tower, and about 186,000 square feet of SAMMC-South will be renovated. SAMMC-North will become the complex’s inpatient tertiary care center, while SAMMC-South will serve as the ambulatory care center.
KC-X Philosophies Emerge
James F. Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, said Dec. 17 the Air Force’s KC-X tanker recapitalization program, set to restart this year, likely would be “more susceptible” to a new legal challenge if the service sets additional requirements to presage a best-value solution.
Speaking at a defense conference in Washington, D.C., Albaugh said he hoped that the Air Force would “take a very pragmatic view” by limiting requirements and choosing the lowest cost solution. Conversely, Ronald D. Sugar, chairman and CEO of Northrop Grumman, Boeing’s rival in the tanker competition, said Dec. 15 at the same conference that a “low-ball” solution would not serve the US military well. Instead, he called for the competition to be run on a “best-value” basis “very much as the F-22 and the F-35 were conducted.”
Northrop won the original KC-X competition in February 2008, but Boeing successfully protested, thereby reopening the contest.
DSP Satellite in Trouble
The last Defense Support Program missile warning satellite to join the highly classified DSP constellation is malfunctioning and potentially could pose a problem for other spacecraft, MSNBC.com reported Dec. 3.
A Russian optical tracking network discovered last year that the DSP spacecraft, launched in November 2007, had ceased making station-keeping maneuvers and appeared to be drifting out of its orbit, according to MSNBC. But an earlier Reuters news service report on Nov. 24 noted that the six to 10 DSP satellites still functioning are “about double the number needed to watch the entire Earth at once,” so there is little concern about an immediate gap in missile warning until Space Based Infrared System satellites replace them.
US Strategic Command certified the first of two SBIRS highly elliptical orbit payloads, already in space, for operations, lead contractor Lockheed Martin announced Dec. 15. Air Force space officials had approved HEO-1 for operational use in November.
ABL Succeeds in Full-up Test
The Boeing-led Airborne Laser industry team said it successfully fired the fully integrated directed-energy laser system aboard the YAL-1 prototype aircraft for the first time at high energy levels in ground tests on Nov. 24 and 25 at Edwards AFB, Calif.
Boeing’s ABL Program Director Michael Rinn told reporters Dec. 1 that technicians gathered valuable data on the ABL sensors and the laser’s bore sight alignment during the laser shots, which were two one-second firings. Ground tests featuring “a longer series of engagements” were planned through January.
The ABL team expects to resume flight testing this spring, when the YAL-1 will demonstrate the entire system in flight against instrumented test missiles before progressing to the attempted shootdown of a “foreign missile asset” later in the year, Rinn said.
It’s About More Than UAVs
The Department of Defense’s push to send more and more unmanned aerial vehicles to satisfy ever-growing battlefield demands for intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance capability is exacerbating a shortage of communication satellite resources, according to a joint Defense Science Board-Intelligence Science Board report issued in December.
As directed, the Air Force has been rapidly increasing its UAV capability. However, the report said, instead of just throwing more UAVs into the mix, the Pentagon must expand its satellite communications resources (i.e., deploy the Transformational Satellite Communications System “as soon as possible”) and invest in more ground terminals. According to the report, supporting the greater number of UAVs “cannot be sustained without deployment of additional communications satellite resources.”
The report also emphasized that DOD and the intelligence community must “accelerate the transition” to a shared and easily accessed data storage and retrieval capability, and that DOD must speed its drive—begun around 2003—to implement meta-data tagging of sensor-collected data to make it easier to access relevant information.
Expert Doubts Rivet Joint Safety
George Sarris, a senior civilian aircraft mechanic at Offutt AFB, Neb., warned in late November that there are continuing maintenance issues creating safety-of-flight concerns for the base’s RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic eavesdropping aircraft.
The Kansas City Star reported Nov. 29 that Sarris and several other current and former Offutt mechanics who work on the Rivet Joints took their concerns to the newspaper when they felt stymied by the Air Force. Offutt officials told the newspaper that the problems with the elderly RC-135 aircraft identified by these mechanics have been and are being fixed. The RC-135s have an “outstanding flying safety record,” Brig. Gen. James J. Jones, commander of Offutt’s 55th Wing, told the newspaper.
But the issue isn’t going away that easily as Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) has asked the Department of Defense inspector general to investigate and also ensure that Sarris was not a victim of reprisals for coming forward.
Nellis Battles Encroachment
Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada has already altered flight patterns to accommodate area development and, despite a newly enacted state law, is confronting renewed encroachment threats, the Las Vegas Sun reported Dec. 8.
The Las Vegas area is one of the five fastest growing metro areas in the US since 2000. According to the Sun, the Air Force’s efforts to accommodate growth in the area have reduced the available flight patterns to those on the north side of the base. That is the area North Las Vegas developers are eyeballing now for some 50 high-density projects.
Col. Howard D. Belote, commander of Nellis’ 99th Air Base Wing, said that without that area for combat aircraft training, “the reason for Nellis to exist is almost gone.”
Missing Airmen Identified
The Department of Defense announced Dec. 15 that the remains of four airmen who served during the Vietnam War had been identified. They are: Maj. Bernard L. Bucher, of Eureka, Ill.; Maj. John L. McElroy, of Eminence, Ky.; 1st Lt. Stephen C. Moreland, of Los Angeles; and SSgt. Frank M. Hepler, of Glensdale, Pa.
They were flying a C-130 evacuating Vietnamese citizens from Kham Duc Special Forces Camp near Da Nang, South Vietnam, on May 12, 1968, when their aircraft reportedly exploded in midair after taking ground fire as they took off.
Excavations of a crash site in 1993 and 1994 produced remains that analysts recently identified as those of the four airmen.
Airmen Earn Bronze Star Medals
The Air Force awarded three airmen Bronze Star Medals in November. CMSgt. David R. Nordel, a medical service noncommissioned officer from Fairchild AFB, Wash., received his award for overseeing more than 200 medics engaged in direct-combat casualty care while superintendent of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
CMSgt. Thomas Perry, currently assigned to the 53rd Combat Communications Squadron at Robins AFB, Ga., earned his medal for his work while deployed to the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Southwest Asia. And, TSgt. Michael Allen of Andersen AFB, Guam, was recognized for his actions as a contingency contracting officer for the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq Support Division in aiding efforts to rebuild the Iraqi military infrastructure.
Also receiving a Bronze Star Medal—awarded in July, but not announced until December—was SMSgt. Randal Williams, superintendent of the 437th Force Support Squadron Military Personnel Flight at Charleston AFB, S.C. He was honored for his actions in establishing the Iraqi Training School while serving as superintendent and senior enlisted advisor for the Coalition Air Force Training Team, Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq.
Thunderbirds Finish F-16 Swap
The Air Force’s Thunderbirds air demonstration squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev., took delivery of its final two F-16 Block 52 aircraft on Nov. 17, completing its new set of 10 upgraded F-16s to replace its previous Block 32 airplanes in time for the start of its 2009 flying season that begins in March.
The swap, which began in mid-2006, actually concluded one year ahead of schedule. The unit’s “new” F-16s have advanced avionics and a more powerful Pratt & Whitney engine, improvements that are expected not only to expand the performance capability, but also provide improved reliability and maintainability.
The 10 Block 32 aircraft are being reconverted to a combat-coded configuration and will remain at Nellis to serve as part of the Air Force Warfare Center’s aggressor force.
WWII Pilot Presented With DFC
Edward Ireland, a former Army Air Forces pilot, in early December took hold, for the first time, of the Distinguished Flying Cross that he received for his heroic service in the skies over Europe during World War II.
Fox News 4 of Kansas City reported Dec. 6 that Ireland was formally presented with the DFC during a ceremony that same day at Whiteman AFB, Mo. According to the news report, Ireland flew 30 missions during the war.
Retired Maj. Gen. David M. Jones, one of the famed World War II Doolittle Raiders, died Nov. 25. Jones, 94, passed away in Tucson, Ariz., reported the Arizona Daily Star. Jones served as a pilot on the initial evaluation flights in Florida for the Doolittle Project, precursor to the April 18, 1942 raid on the Japanese homeland by Army Air Forces B-25 bombers that launched from USS Hornet. He piloted the bomber of Crew 5 and was among those who bailed out over China. He then served in North Africa, was shot down in December 1942, and spent more than two years as a POW. He held various staff and command assignments after the war, led B-58 test force efforts, and served in other research and development positions, ending his career as commander of the Eastern Test Range in Florida.
Retired Brig. Gen. Maurice A. Cristadoro Jr., a ballistic missile pioneer, died Nov. 22 at age 88. Cristadoro began his Air Force career in 1941 as an aviation cadet, receiving his wings in November of that year and serving in the European Theater in 1944-45 as a flight leader and squadron commander of a P-51 unit. Following the war, he served as chief of the special weapons branch at Wright Air Development Center in Ohio and then on the Air Staff in advanced systems planning. He took over acquisition of the Atlas ballistic missile and later directed ballistic missile programs at Air Force Systems Command. He last served as AFSC’s assistant deputy chief of staff for development plans. In 2006, Air Force Space Command inducted Cristadoro into the Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame.
Retired MSgt. Edward W. Horton Jr., who flew on the famous Doolittle bombing raid against Japan in April 1942, died Nov. 26. Horton, 92, died in Okaloosa County, Fla., where he had lived since 1947, reported Panama City’s News Herald. Horton, who joined the Army in 1935, served as gunner on Raider Crew 10. After the war, he served at the Climatic Lab at Eglin Field in Florida. After retiring, he spent another 20 years as a civilian employee at the lab.
|Proceed Cautiously on Strategic Airlift
With questions still surrounding the future of the C-5 Galaxy transport fleet, the Department of Defense should apply “careful planning” to ensure that C-17 Globemaster III production is not ended prematurely and then restarted at a substantial cost, stated the Government Accountability Office in a Nov. 21 report on strategic airlift.
The Air Force plans to upgrade the cockpits and communications and navigation gear on all 111 of its C-5s under the C-5 Avionics Modernization Program. And it is installing new engines on 52 of them under the Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program. These 52 will be known as C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft.
GAO stated that the Air Force’s $9.1 billion budget for both C-5 modernization efforts “may be understated” due to DOD’s lack of proper risk and uncertainty analysis. Moreover, the Congressional watchdog agency said the RERP is “underfunded by almost $300 million” and may be unachievable if the engine production schedule is not met.
The Air Force’s current plan is to acquire 205 C-17s to operate along with the C-5s. But this mix may change, GAO noted, based on the results of a new mobility capability and requirements study, the findings of which are expected around May.
The current C-17 production schedule calls for line termination in September 2010. “Both the manufacturer and Air Force agree that shutting down and restarting production would not be feasible or cost effective due to the costs to reinstate a capable workforce, reinstall tooling, and re-establish the supplier base,” GAO wrote.
Less than three weeks after GAO’s report, Lockheed Martin on Dec. 9 delivered the first C-5M to the Air Force at Robins AFB, Ga. Three C-5s have been modified to the M-model configuration to date. The other two are scheduled for delivery at Dover AFB, Del., this month.
These three C-5Ms completed developmental testing in August 2008; the Air Force anticipates beginning operational tests with them later this year.
|Verne Orr, 1916-2008
Verne Orr, 14th Secretary of the Air Force, who served under Ronald Reagan, died Nov. 27, 2008 at the age of 92.
Appointed as Secretary at the outset of the Reagan Administration, Orr served from February 1981 to November 1985. He implemented Reagan’s campaign promise to resurrect the B-1 bomber program, while also pursuing development of the B-2 stealth bomber. He also bought the KC-10 aerial tanker, restarted production of the C-5 transport to bolster airlift, and made good on Reagan’s push to expand the fighter force by building hundreds of F-15s and F-16s.
The F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft program was launched during his tenure, as was the Peacekeeper missile program, known then as the MX. Orr also saw to it that the first stealth combat aircraft, the then-secret F-117, was produced.
Orr insisted on competition in weapons acquisition, a stance most famously manifested in the so-called “Great Engine War,” which pitted Pratt & Whitney against General Electric to build comparable fighter engines. The successful initiative drove down cost while increasing quality.
Orr also supervised the growth of the Air Force by more than 30,000 personnel during his watch.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, as George Vernon Orr Jr., he moved with his family to California as a young teen. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pomona College and a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University.
During World War II, Orr served as a Navy supply officer. He remained in the Reserve until 1951, leaving as a lieutenant commander. He then joined his father’s used car business and later the family’s investment business. In 1963, he became president of a bank in Pasadena.
Three years later, Reagan, then governor of California, tapped Orr to head the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. He held several senior positions in California state government, lastly serving as director of finance from 1970 to 1975.
Orr taught government finance at the University of Southern California from 1975 to 1980 and was made a regent in 1977.
In 1980, Orr worked on Reagan’s Presidential campaign and became deputy of Reagan’s transition office after the election. Reagan appointed Orr as Air Force Secretary shortly thereafter.
After leaving his Air Force post, Orr returned to Pasadena where he formed a management consulting firm. From 1999 to 2002, he was dean of the University of La Verne’s School of Business and Global Studies. The Air Force Association annually presents an award named after Orr for best utilization of human resources in USAF.
In 2004, at the age of 88, Orr completed a doctoral dissertation on the development of the B-1 bomber.
—John A. Tirpak
|Air Forces Africa Takes Flight
Less than two months after beginning initial operations on Oct. 1, 17th Air Force (US Air Forces Africa) had yet to secure its full staff, but was already increasing its operations tempo with a dedicated airlift squadron, said Maj. Gen. Ronald R. Ladnier, commander of 17th Air Force and AFAfrica.
The numbered air force still had a lot of work before it to meet the goal of being fully operational by October 2009, said Ladnier during a Nov. 16 interview at 17th Air Force headquarters at Ramstein AB, Germany. “We’re trying to bring in the right folks,” he said, noting that 17th Air Force is adding a range of personnel from communications and intelligence specialists, logisticians, and refuelers, to operators of airlift and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance platforms.
With the standup of the 404th Air Expeditionary Group and its subordinate, the 42nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, AFAfrica’s first operational flying squadron, the new NAF is ramping up operations fast. As of November 2008, two C-130s from the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock AFB, Ark., with aircrew and support personnel, were deployed to Ramstein to fly for the 42nd EAS.
These missions frequently run over three to four days down and back, said Maj. Jason W. Havel, 42nd EAS commander. They include cargo and supply runs, delivery of small arms, and the rotation of forces for activities such as medical missions and security training with African partners.
The aircrews must frequently apply improvisation and patience on their missions, as aircraft cargo loading machines are often not available at some African fields, and many areas still lack basic infrastructure such as air traffic control, said Havel.
On any given day, 17th Air Force has small teams of airmen conducting six to eight security cooperation activities across the vast continent. Ladnier said AFAfrica also has heavy-demand ISR capability to monitor refugees and natural disasters and keep tabs on terrorists and hostile forces.
|F-22 Numbers Under Review, Again
The Pentagon plans to conduct new reviews to determine the appropriate number of F-22 fighters for the Air Force, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, said Dec. 2.
Gates, though appointed by President Bush, is staying on in the Obama Administration.
“I think that the key here is to do the analysis, examine the Air Force’s requirements, talk to the senior leadership of the Air Force, talk to the new appointees who will come into the department, and then make a decision how to go forward,” he said during a Pentagon press briefing.
The Air Force has long held that it requires 381 F-22s, and even independent studies said the service would need at least 275 or more. Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz has said he thinks 381 is too high a number, while the 183 F-22s provided under the current program of record—a cap imposed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense—are too few.
As of mid-December, the Air Force had yet to release any new figures publicly, saying it was still mulling a new inventory goal to present to the new Administration. But Adm. Michael G. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, divulged during a Pentagon press briefing Dec. 10 that Schwartz has spoken of “60 or so more” F-22s.
Mullen expressed concern that the F-22 is “such an expensive system,” but he appeared to be open to the idea of more of them. It’s “very important,” he said, to have a capability to bridge the gap to the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter since “new systems usually struggle … meeting exact deadlines.”
Congress has mandated that the new Administration inform it by March 1 whether it intends to keep Lockheed Martin’s F-22 production line going beyond the 183 aircraft already ordered.
The War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By Jan. 21, a total of 4,229 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 4,218 troops and 11 Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,404 were killed in action with the enemy while 825 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 30,960 troops wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This number includes 17,325 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 13,635 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Combined Reaper Maintenance Unit Deploys to Balad
A joint Air Force-Royal Air Force aircraft maintenance unit from 432nd Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Creech AFB, Nev., deployed late last year to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, to help sustain operations of the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles assigned to the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance and Attack Squadron.
The deployment marked the first time that the joint Reaper AMU was sent either to Iraq or Afghanistan since the introduction of the MQ-9 in combat in Southwest Asia. The Reaper joined operations in Afghanistan in September 2007 and Iraq in July 2008. Previously, contractors employed by MQ-9 manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems maintained the Reapers in theater.
The AMU combines aircraft maintenance expertise with satellite communications technical capabilities, said USAF Capt. Antonio Camacho, the Reaper AMU officer in charge. Members of the unit are responsible for the Reapers as well as their satellite uplinks, local ground control stations, and the remote GCS at Creech.
Maj. Tim Bolen, commander of the 46th ERAS, said during an interview at Balad in November that the MQ-9 is in high demand in theater. It has a sensor ball system similar to that on the MQ-1 Predator UAV, but offers ground commanders more robust weapons options for attacking targets.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By Jan. 21, a total of 635 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 634 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of these deaths, 417 were killed in action with the enemy while 218 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 2,648 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 933 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 1,715 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Air Strikes Deter Convoy Attackers
Afghan National Security Forces and coalition troops conducted operations in several areas of southern Afghanistan Dec. 11-12, killing five militants and destroying improvised explosive devices and caches of bomb-making materials, according to US officials.
On Dec. 11, combined forces were conducting a patrol in Nahr Surkh District, Helmand Province, when they were ambushed by militants who attacked with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades from embankments along a heavily traveled road.
The combined forces returned fire with small-arms fire and heavy weapons, killing four militants and discovering six IEDs, which were destroyed.
In the vicinity of Nangalam, Air Force A-10s dropped a GBU-38 and fired rockets and cannon rounds against anti-Afghan forces that were launching RPGs at a coalition convoy. An on-the-scene joint terminal attack controller confirmed that the strikes were successful.
On Dec. 12, combined forces approached a known IED storage and manufacturing facility when they were fired on by militants with small-arms fire and RPGs. Combined Afghan and coalition forces responded with small-arms fire and heavy weapons, killing one militant and later destroying the contents of the facility.
The Air Force announced Nov. 26 that the 353rd Special Operations Group at Kadena AB, Japan, has earned the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor for its “exceptionally meritorious service” from Oct. 1, 2006 to Sept. 30, 2008.