New START Ratified
The Senate ratified the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia on Dec. 22, by a margin of 71 to 26.
“This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia,” President Obama said during a White House press briefing following the vote.
New START limits both the United States and Russia to a strategic arsenal of 1,550 deployed warheads, 700 deployed launchers, and 800 launchers overall. President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty on April 8, 2010.
Despite objections by many Republican senators, 13 of them ultimately voted in favor of the deal, which then passed to Russia’s Parliament for an expected approval.
The Duma, Russia’s lower legislative body, approved the treaty in a first reading by a vote of 350 to 58 on Dec. 24, with final approval expected early this year. The upper house, Russia’s Federation Council, also had to certify the agreement.
Nuclear inspections can recommence within 60 days of Russia’s Parliament ratifying the New START. Data sharing on the status and deployment of each country’s strategic nuclear forces would begin 15 days before that.
President Obama said the next step with Russia after New START will be to work toward reducing tactical nuclear weapons. Russia has far more such weapons than the US, a repeated point of contention during the Senate debate on New START.
Welsh Takes Command at USAFE
Gen. Mark A. Welsh III assumed command of US Air Forces in Europe during a December ceremony at Ramstein AB, Germany. He succeeds Gen. Roger A. Brady, who had commanded USAFE since January 2008, and retired effective Feb. 1, after 41 years of service.
“This command is in great shape,” said Welsh at the change-of-command ceremony. “My goal is just to make things even better,” he added. Welsh took over USAFE after more than two years as associate director for military affairs with the CIA.
This is Welsh’s third tour in Europe during his 34-year career. The first was a flying assignment, and the second, from 2001 to 2003, was as USAFE’s director of plans and programs.
Global Strike Leadership Changes
Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski took command of Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale AFB, La., succeeding Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, who is retiring. Kowalski accepted the command flag from Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz during a change-of-command ceremony Jan. 6.
Kowalski is now responsible for organizing, training, and equipping the Air Force’s Minuteman III ICBM and nuclear-capable bomber forces. Prior to the change of command, Kowalski received his third star.
AFGSC is the Air Force’s newest major command, standing up in August 2009, reaching full operational status in September 2010. Klotz had led Global Strike Command since its activation. His retirement, effective March 1, ends more than 37 years of uniformed service.
Everyone Is Accountable
The Air Force took administrative action against five generals in December, following a lengthy Pentagon investigation that concluded they had a role in going $87 million over budget for permanent-change-of-station moves in 2005.
Based on the Defense Department comptroller’s investigation, letters of admonishment were issued to Gen. Roger A. Brady, Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz, Lt. Gen. Glenn F. Spears, Maj. Gen. Anthony F. Przybyslawski, and retired Brig. Gen. Sandra A. Gregory.
In 2005, Brady oversaw personnel issues on the Air Staff, and Lorenz managed the Air Force’s budget. The others held senior budget and personnel positions within the Air Force.
“Everyone is accountable for their actions, and we expect the highest standards of conduct from everyone in the Air Force—regardless of rank—and senior leaders have a special responsibility to those who follow them,” said Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley in a statement.
KC-135 Bows Out of Grand Forks
Fifty years of tanker operations at Grand Forks AFB, N.D., ended Dec. 31, with the departure of the 319th Air Refueling Wing’s last KC-135 Stratotanker.
The base’s 905th Air Refueling Squadron, 319th Maintenance Group, and 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron all inactivated at the end of 2010. Air Mobility Command Vice Commander Lt. Gen. Vern M. Findley II flew the wing’s final KC-135 to McConnell AFB, Kan., Dec. 4, completing the tanker drawdown as part of BRAC 2005.
Findley said Grand Forks will “continue to play a critical role” in national defense as the base takes on the new role of operating RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft, the first of which is due to arrive this summer.
Key Field Picked for C-27J Training
Key Field’s Air National Guard base in Meridian, Miss., is the Air Force’s preferred location to bed down two C-27J transports that will serve as training assets in the 38-aircraft C-27 Spartan fleet, service officials announced Dec 8. Key Field beat out Mansfield Lahm Airport in Ohio to host conversion training.
“This base is the right location for these two C-27J training aircraft,” said Kathleen I. Ferguson, USAF’s deputy assistant secretary for installations. Pending environmental impact analysis, the two aircraft would arrive in the second half of Fiscal 2014.
Key Field was already selected to host four operational C-27s. Operational C-27s also are slated thus far for Mansfield; Baltimore; Battle Creek, Mich.; East Granby, Conn.; Fargo, N.D.; and Great Falls, Mont.
X-37B Is Under the Microscope
Engineers have been scrutinizing the Air Force’s X-37B orbital test vehicle (OTV-1) since its return to Earth in December, looking for lessons learned as the second ship is prepared for launch this spring. The spacecraft spent more than 220 days in orbit.
The checks are meant to discover anything that would affect the launch or operation of OTV-2, which is almost identical in configuration to the first vehicle.
The inspection of OTV-1 has revealed several areas of damage by space debris. One of the vehicle’s tires also ruptured during its landing at Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
Boeing builds the X-37, and in late December was readying OTV-2 for shipment to Cape Canaveral, Fla., for launch. Like OTV-1’s time on orbit, OTV-2’s flight will focus on evaluating the vehicle itself rather than any payload it may carry.
Barksdale Realigns Reserve
As of Jan. 1, Air Force Reserve Command’s B-52 bomber operations at Barksdale AFB, La., are now managed by the newly activated 307th Bomb Wing.
The unit replaces the just-inactivated 917th Wing as the overseer of the Reservists’ activities, which include running USAF’s sole B-52 schoolhouse and operational and maintenance cooperation with Barksdale’s combat-ready, nuclear-capable B-52s, assigned to the active duty 2nd Bomb Wing.
Along with the change, the 307th BW cedes control of the AFRC A-10s based at Barksdale, passing oversight to the 442nd Fighter Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo.
Reserve officials at Barksdale stated that reorganization permits full attention to be focused on the primary bomber mission.
Air Force Reserve chief Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr. marked the official change in a ceremony Jan. 8.
Pilot Error Felled C-17
Pacific Air Forces’ investigation into the crash last July of a C-17 near JB Elmendorf, Alaska, found clear and compelling evidence that pilot error caused the mishap, which killed the four airmen aboard, according to an accident report.
“The pilot violated regulatory provisions and multiple flight manual procedures, placing the aircraft outside established flight parameters at an attitude and altitude where recovery was not possible,” concluded PACAF’s investigation, the report of which was released Dec. 10.
The Sitka 43 crew, assigned to Elmendorf’s 3rd Wing, was practicing for an upcoming air show when the aircraft stalled at low altitude and crashed. Killed were Maj. Michael H. Freyholtz, Maj. Aaron W. Malone, Capt. Jeffrey A. Hill, and MSgt. Thomas E. Cicardo.
The destroyed C-17 was valued at an estimated $184 million and also caused damage to a segment of the Alaska Railroad. Video of the mishap flight, with the impact deleted out of respect for the families, was released by PACAF along with its report.
Last A-10A Leaves Osan
The 25th Fighter Squadron at Osan AB, South Korea, completed transition to the A-10C ground-attack aircraft with the official departure of the unit’s last A-10As on Dec. 4. Osan’s A-10Cs began arriving last March.
The C model Warthog’s improved features include digital cockpit upgrades and the ability to deliver satellite guided munitions.
These changes “provide attack pilots with a truly integrated suite of sensors, aircraft, and weapons that build situational awareness and facilitate the rapid destruction of targets,” said Maj. Andrew Taylor of Osan’s 51st Operations Group. “In short,” he added, “the A-10C perfects what was already the world’s most respected CAS [close air support] platform.”
The A-10C reached initial operational capability in September 2007. Osan began A-10 operations in 1982, and its A models have joined the Air National Guard.
Talons Headed for Langley
Seven T-38 Talons will be stationed at JB Langley, Va., for use as companion trainers for the 1st Fighter Wing, which operates the F-22. The Talons will provide F-22 pilots with additional flight hours, simultaneously serving as dissimilar adversaries for air-to-air combat training.
Capt. Shannon Collins, Air Combat Command spokeswoman, said the T-38s are scheduled to arrive between March and September.
Dual-qualified F-22/T-38 pilots, as well as those awaiting F-22 training, will fly the T-38s, meaning no additional pilots will be assigned to Langley.
The Langley-bound aircraft are reconditioned ex-South Korean T-38Bs, and not Air Education and Training Command T-38Cs, industry officials reported.
M1 Support Services of Denton, Tex., will maintain the type. USAF may add a T-38 contingent at Tyndall AFB, Fla., which also operates the Raptor, for similar purposes.
C-130s Respond to Israeli Fires
C-130Js of the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein AB, Germany, delivered tons of airborne fire retardant to Israel in December, helping to battle deadly wildfires. The fires broke out in northern Israel’s Carmel Mountains, ravaging the region surrounding Haifa.
Additionally, Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson AFB, Colo., deployed two of its C-130s equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS), directly aiding the firefighting effort. The aircraft and some 50 Reservists responded within 24 hours of the call, marking the fastest international response time in the 38-year history of MAFFS operations.
Thanks to multinational assistance, Israeli officials declared the fires under control on Dec. 5. They were the worst wildfires in Israel’s history, displacing more than 17,000 people and killing more than 40.
912th Is Back in Action
The Air Force activated—again—the 912th Air Refueling Squadron in December, after inactivating the unit in March 2009 as part of the BRAC action to end the KC-135 air refueling mission at Grand Forks AFB, N.D. The newly revived 912th ARS now will operate at March ARB, Calif., under the Air Force Reserve Command’s 452nd Air Mobility Wing as an active associate unit, one of several Air Mobility Command recently has formed with AFRC.
Some 200 active duty airmen, including more than 30 aircrew and 130 aircraft maintainers, are set to begin work with March Reservists. Lt. Col. Brice Middleton, 912th ARS commander, explained, “Reserve airmen aren’t always necessarily available, but the jets are.” Now, active duty personnel will fill the gaps, flying missions Guardsmen and Reservists can’t.
The active duty squadron will remain under administrative control of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild AFB, Wash.
AESA Radar Flies on an F-16
Raytheon announced completion of a series of flight trials of its Advanced Combat Radar—which Raytheon calls RACR—on an Air Force F-16 at Edwards AFB, Calif., in December.
The active electronically scanned array radar system executed a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground modes, according to the company.
“Successfully flying RACR on an F-16 is another critical step in demonstrating how we’ve optimized our AESA technology for F-16 customers,” said Jim Hvizd, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems’ vice president for international business development.
RACR is a company-funded project that Raytheon said it developed in 24 months.
“Raytheon’s AESA technology brings unparalleled capability and reliability to the F-16 at an acquisition cost comparable to the old mechanically scanned radars,” said Brian MacDonald, RACR program manager.
Northrop Grumman is also offering an AESA system for the F-16 called the Scalable Agile Beam Radar.
C-17 Reaches Two Million Hours
The Air Force’s C-17 transport fleet has passed two million total flying hours less than 18 years after the Globemaster III entered operational service.
A C-17 operating from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, reached the flight-hour milestone for the fleet on Dec. 10, during an airdrop mission over Afghanistan, according to US Air Forces Central.
USAF has been operating the Boeing-built C-17 since June 1993.
According to AFCENT, C-17s surpassed one million flying hours in 2006, after 14 years of service. It took just four more years to double that figure.
Misaligned Missile Killed Airman
Misaligned equipment caused the death of SrA. Richard A. Gallelli Jr. during a cruise missile loading drill in April of last year, at Minot AFB, N.D., Air Force investigators determined. Gallelli, 22, was a member of Minot’s 17th Munitions Squadron.
According to an Air Force Materiel Command report released in December, Gallelli was part of a team training to fit Air Launched Cruise Missiles to the B-52’s wing pylon weapons station. Although the airmen were following the proper procedures and the equipment in question was functioning properly, they were not aware that the equipment was misaligned, allowing the missile to roll off, killing Gallelli.
AFMC has since implemented “a short-term engineering solution” to the problem and is developing a permanent fix so this mishap cannot be repeated, according to an AFMC news release.
Midcourse Misses Again
The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system failed for the second time to shoot down a ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean, according to the Missile Defense Agency.
On Dec. 15, a target missile launched from the Kwajalein Atoll in the western Pacific and the ground-based interceptor missile fired successfully from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., deploying its kill vehicle for the hoped-for collision with the target missile in space.
Though last January’s GMD test failed due to a glitch with a sea-based radar, MDA said that all sensors, including the sea-based X-band radar system, performed as planned on the second test.
MDA is investigating the cause of the failure; a date for the GMD’s next test will be determined after the problem is identified.
VIP Upgrade Arrives
The 76th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein AB, Germany, received its first C-37A, boosting US Air Forces in Europe’s distinguished visitor support fleet. A military version of the Gulfstream V ultra-long-range business aircraft, the C-37A arrived from Gulfstream’s facility in Savannah, Ga., Dec. 7.
With a service ceiling of 51,000 feet, maximum speed of Mach 0.885, and range of 6,000 miles, the Gulfstream offers an improved communications system, keeping dignitaries connected throughout the flight.
“We currently cannot meet the demand with our aircraft inventory, and this new addition will be a great help,” said Lt. Col. Tom Dowdle, 76th AS standards and evaluations chief. With the new aircraft, he added, “our government and military’s senior leaders can fly nonstop from Ramstein to San Francisco, Stuttgart to Johannesburg, or Frankfurt to Beijing.”
The C-37A joins the squadron’s varied fleet, serving alongside C-21A, C-20H, and C-40B aircraft.
SCA Carts Phantom Ray
On Dec. 13, Boeing flew the company’s Phantom Ray unmanned aircraft test bed atop a Boeing 747 modified for NASA as a space shuttle carrier. The piggyback test flight around Lambert-St. Louis Airport was the first time the 747 carried an aircraft other than the space shuttles.
Having verified that both aircraft were aerodynamically and structurally safe, on Dec. 14, the SCA ferried the Phantom Ray 1,800 miles to Edwards AFB, Calif., for flight testing.
The Phantom Ray was completed from parts generated during USAF’s aborted X-45 program.
Successfully rigging Phantom Ray for tandem flight was “a real feat of engineering,” according to Phantom Ray Program Manager Craig Brown, requiring fabrication of a custom attachment rig.
The experimental air vehicle completed ground taxi tests at Lambert in November.
Corrosion Never Sleeps
The Air Force expects to pay $228 million to address corrosion issues with the F-22 fighter by 2016, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report. Areas such as the F-22’s paint, gap-filling material, and small drainage holes have contributed to corrosion problems.
The Defense Department is doing a good job of ensuring that the same problems don’t plague the F-35 strike fighter, GAO said.
The F-35 features different gap-filling materials, a design with fewer seams, and more, adequately sized drain holes. However, the F-35 uses a nonchromate primer, although this treatment ultimately proved ineffective in preventing corrosion on the F-22.
GAO auditors called for DOD’s acquisition office to establish a process for monitoring and assessing corrective actions taken by the F-22 and F-35 program offices. Pentagon officials concurred with most of the recommendations.
Classic Associate at Kirtland OK’d
Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff, approved a new classic associate unit at Kirtland AFB, N.M., for the HC/MC-130P, HH-60, and UH-1 flight training mission.
The change aligns elements of the New Mexico Air National Guard’s 150th Wing with the active duty 58th Special Operations Wing.
Under the partnership, the 58th SOW will serve as the host and have primary aircraft responsibility, with the Air Guard sharing in operations and maintenance of assets.
Guardsmen with the 150th Wing have already begun training for this mission and are preparing for secondary roles in rapid, deployable engineering, power production, and intelligence targeting.
“This new association maintains a cadre of qualified flight instructors with long-term continuity and preserves New Mexico Air National Guard manpower to support state emergencies,” according to a DOD press release.
C-130 Shuttles Manatee
Members of the active duty 6th Air Mobility Wing and Puerto Rico Air National Guard’s 156th Airlift Wing came together Dec. 9 to airlift an injured West Indian manatee from MacDill AFB, Fla., to its new home in Puerto Rico.
The Fish and Wildlife Service asked for assistance in moving the 840-pound male sea mammal, which was nicknamed “UPC” because injuries it sustained from a boat propeller resembled a bar code.
Airmen with MacDill’s 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron helped load UPC onto a C-130H at MacDill for the ride to San Juan.
Biologists and veterinarians accompanied UPC. In Puerto Rico, UPC will serve as a surrogate parent to orphaned manatees in rehabilitation, eventually taking up a new life at the Puerto Rico Zoo.
Mountain Home for Saudi Eagles
Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, is the Air Force’s preferred location to host Royal Saudi Air Force F-15SA training.
Saudi Arabia is building a large force of F-15SAs under a newly approved US foreign military sale. As part of the deal, the Saudis have requested potential standup of a 12-aircraft training contingent in the US.
Air Force officials identified Mountain Home as the preferred site, primarily due to the presence of USAF F-15E units there, as well as suitable weather conditions, nearby desert environment, and the availability of airspace and infrastructure for training.
Notional plans call for a five-year Saudi presence to start in 2014. The contingent of 12 F-15SA aircraft would arrive sometime that year.
Mountain Home hosts Singapore’s F-15SG fighter training, but beddown of the Saudi detachment is contingent upon the results of an environmental impact analysis.
AWACS Upgrade Tested
The Air Force has tested a new identification, friend or foe, or IFF, system for E-3 AWACS aircraft. The system could dramatically improve the Sentry’s ability to identify targets, decreasing the risk of friendly fire in the air, according to Electronic Systems Center officials at Hanscom AFB, Mass.
“The next generation IFF Mode 5 will allow for earlier detection of friendly targets” and maneuvering targets, according to Tricia Hill, who heads this initiative.
Testing recently took place at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., with an E-3 Block 30-35 aircraft, supported by F-15s.
Initial test results were positive, paving the way for a production decision this spring, pending full review of the test data. The system is also under evaluation by French and NATO allies to equip their respective AWACS fleets.
MC-12 Unit Completes 5,000 Sorties
The 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at JB Balad, Iraq, flew its 5,000th sortie in Iraq Dec. 30.
The MC-12W unit conducted its first mission in June 2009, taking just 18 months to reach the 5,000 mission mark.
MC-12s carry a crew of four, along with imagery sensors and electronic eavesdropping equipment, to provide ground commanders at the tactical level with near-real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information.
The 362nd ERS was the first MC-12 operational unit. Two additional squadrons, the 4th ERS at Bagram Airfield and the 361st ERS at Kandahar Airfield, are now deployed in Afghanistan.
Retired Maj. Gen. J. Stanley Holtoner, a key figure in establishing Edwards AFB, Calif., as a leading test center for military aircraft, died Dec. 17 in Goldsboro, N.C., at age 99.
Holtoner was the ninth pilot to fly at 1,000 mph. Commissioned in the Army in 1932, he entered pilot training the following year. During World War II, he flew fighter aircraft, including a stint as commander of the 82nd Fighter Group in Italy.
In January 1952, Holtoner, then a colonel, took command of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards, expanding it and flying in every test aircraft assigned there over the next five years, including the Bell X-1.
Holtoner won the Thompson Trophy Race in September 1953, setting a world speed record flying the F-86D Sabre. He retired from the Air Force in February 1967.
A native of New York City, Holtoner is to be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Air Force Special Operations Command’s enlisted force bestowed its highest honor, the Order of the Sword, on AFSOC chief Lt. Gen. Donald C. Wurster Nov. 19. Wurster led the command through one of its most demanding operational periods.
Retired Lt. Gen. John L. Hudson became the new director of the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, taking the reins from retired Maj. Gen. Charles D. Metcalf Dec. 16. Before retiring, Metcalf led the museum since 1996. The undergraduate cyberspace training course graduated its first class of 15 officers Dec. 8, after six months of rigorous training in cyber operations. The 333rd Training Squadron began the training mission in June at Keesler AFB, Miss. The Royal Australian Air Force retired the last F-111 fighter-bombers in service anywhere in the world Dec. 3. Retirement of USAF’s last EF-111s in 1998 left Australia as the type’s sole operator, flying a total 43 Aardvarks since entry into RAAF service in 1973.
Reserve SSgt. Andrew Dunn and ANG A1C Brian Alfano became the first graduates of the Air Force’s newly abbreviated survival, evasion, resistance, and escape course (SERE) in December. The course aims to qualify Reserve and Guard airmen as instructors while minimizing disruption to their civilian commitments.
AF-3, the third Air Force F-35A test aircraft, arrived at Edwards AFB, Calif., for flight testing Dec. 14. “AF-3 will focus on testing advanced technologies and mission systems,” while at Edwards, according to a Lockheed Martin release. Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 training became fully operational with the ANG’s 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson, Ariz., in January. For three years, the training had been done with the Ohio ANG. RNLAF pilots previously trained in Tucson for 18 years. Twenty-fourth Air Force, USAF’s cyber operations arm at Lackland AFB, Tex., added “Air Forces Cyber” to its title Dec. 7. The organization is now 24th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber), with the addition better reflecting the numbered air force’s USAF role and significance. Pratt & Whitney announced Jan. 3 that it delivered the first F135 short takeoff and vertical landing production engine, receiving initial service release certification. The clearance certifies the engine’s production configuration, clearing the way for operational installation on the F-35B variant to be used by the Marine Corps. Lockheed Martin’s fifth STOVL demonstrator, BF-5, undertook the certification. AFRC Lt. Col. Richard L. Lowe, a flight instructor at Randolph AFB, Tex., was awarded the Airman’s Medal Dec. 10 for rescuing passengers and crew from a burning commercial airliner at Denver Airport in 2008. He was a passenger on the airplane. The medal recognizes noncombat heroism.