Clarke Takes Over Air Guard
The Senate confirmed Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III as the new director of the Air National Guard, to succeed Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III early this year.
Clarke has commanded Continental US NORAD Region and 1st Air Force at Tyndall AFB, Fla., since August 2011 and previously served as deputy director of the Air Guard from May 2007 to June 2008. He has logged more than 4,000 flight hours in fighters, trainers, and intelligence aircraft.
Wyatt began his Air Force career in 1972 and led the Air National Guard since February 2009. He planned to retire from the Air Force in February, ending a 40-year military career.
President Obama tapped Clarke for the post in December and Senators voted in favor of Clarke’s nomination Jan 1.
Finally, a 2013 Defense Bill
President Obama signed the $633.3 billion Fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill into law on Jan. 2, the White House announced. Lawmakers concluded work on the legislation in December, two months after Fiscal 2013 actually began.
Obama approved the legislation despite reservations on several points because, he said in a statement, “it authorizes essential support for service members and their families, renews vital national security programs, and helps ensure that the United States will continue to have the strongest military in the world.”
The President said he was concerned the bill’s restrictions on the Defense Department’s “ability to retire unneeded ships and aircraft will divert scarce resources needed for readiness and result in future unfunded liabilities.” By failing to agree to “prudent cost-sharing reforms” in Pentagon health care programs, “Congress may force reductions in the overall size of our military forces,” he said.
At the same time, Obama also signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. It delays budget sequestration by several months, among other provisions.
Bogdan Takes Over F-35
Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan took charge of the F-35 strike fighter program in a Dec. 6 Pentagon ceremony, putting an Air Force general officer in charge of the Defense Department’s largest acquisition effort.
Bogdan became the F-35 deputy program executive officer in July 2012 and succeeds Vice Adm. David J. Venlet, who led the joint program office from May 2010 until his retirement.
“The work by Admiral Venlet and the team over the past two-plus years on the most complex program in history is incredible,” said Bogdan, who received a third star for this assignment. “We are now very well-positioned for the future.”
Bogdan led the Air Force’s KC-46 tanker project before shifting to the F-35 program, which aims to develop and deliver some 2,443 stealthy strike fighters to the US military, including 1,763 for the Air Force. Hundreds more will be built for international partners.
“I’m committed to delivering these aircraft to our warfighters,” said Bogdan.
North Korea in Orbit
North Korea launched a multistage Unha-3 rocket Dec. 11 and claimed to have successfully placed a small satellite dubbed Kwangmyongsong-3 into orbit.
NORAD officials said US missile warning systems detected and tracked the missile, starting at 7:49 p.m., flying along a southerly azimuth. “Initial indications are that the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea. The second stage was assessed to fall into the Philippine Sea. Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit,” NORAD stated in a news release the same day. “At no time was the missile or the resultant debris a threat to North America.”
The missile passed over western Okinawa, Japan, according to Stars and Stripes. The White House summarily condemned the launch. This action is “yet another example of North Korea’s pattern of irresponsible behavior,” said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.
North Korea insisted it launched the satellite for peaceful scientific purposes, while US, Japanese, and South Korean officials asserted the launch actually validated long-range ballistic missile technology that could eventually threaten the continental US.
Eglin Begins F-35 Training
Air Education and Training Command cleared the 33rd Fighter Wing to begin full-up F-35A pilot training at Eglin AFB, Fla., in January, following completion of its operational utility evaluation last fall.
AETC Commander Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr. made the decision following his review of the independent OUE results gauging the wing’s ability to execute the training mission.
“The OUE showed the men and women at Eglin are ready” and “can conduct safe and effective flying operations in addition to academic training,” said Rice. “I’m very proud of both those in uniform and the contracted support who put in years of hard work” to achieve the milestone.
During the OUE that concluded in November, four primary and two backup student pilots completed six flights along with the requisite classroom and simulator training to transition from the A-10 and F-16 to the F-35A.
At full capacity, Eglin’s training operations are expected to support 100 student pilots a year, along with 2,100 maintenance students. Some 36 Air Force pilots are expected to go through the training program in 2013, according to Eglin’s release Dec. 17.
SpaceX Wins DOD Mission
SpaceX won its first Air Force contract to boost national security payloads into orbit on two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class missions, the company announced Dec. 5.
USAF currently uses United Launch Alliance Delta IV and Atlas V rockets. The contract is among the first marking the service’s effort to allow new launch providers to break into the military launch market.
“SpaceX deeply appreciates and is honored by the vote of confidence shown by the Air Force in our Falcon launch vehicles,” said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
The Air Force plans to use a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to launch the Deep Space Climate Observatory vehicle in late 2014. It will ascend from the company’s new pad at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla.
This year, SpaceX plans the first test of the Falcon Heavy rocket configuration which is slated to carry the Air Force’s Space Test Program-2 mission in mid-2015.
X-37 Begins Third Spaceflight
One of the Air Force’s two experimental X-37B orbital test vehicles launched on the unmanned type’s third space mission atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., Dec. 11.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the strides we’ve made in this program,” said Richard W. McKinney, the Air Force’s deputy undersecretary for space programs, in a news release the same day. “However, it is important to keep in mind that this is an experimental vehicle, and a third mission is still relatively young for a test program.”
After undergoing refurbishment following the first X-37 flight in April 2010, the first X-37 vehicle was reused for the December launch. On its first mission, the vehicle spent 224 days on orbit, while the second vehicle, which returned in June, spent 469 days in space.
“We are excited to see how this vehicle performs on a second flight,” said Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre, X-37B program manager. He said the length of the vehicle’s stay on orbit will depend on the execution of its assigned test objectives and its overall performance.
The Pentagon notified Congress of the possible $1.2 billion foreign military sale of four RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft and associated equipment and logistical support to South Korea.
The East Asian ally “needs this intelligence and surveillance capability to assume primary responsibility for intelligence gathering from the US-led Combined Forces Command in 2015,” stated the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s press release Dec. 24.
The agency noted the proposed sale would “maintain adequate intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities and will ensure the alliance is able to monitor and deter regional threats in 2015 and beyond.”
South Korean Global Hawks would carry a Raytheon-supplied electro-optical/infrared camera suite, a radar for synthetic aperture radar imaging and ground moving target indication, DSCA said.
Last Tactical Mile
Lawmakers ordered the Air Force to maintain 40 tactical airlifters to meet the Army’s time-sensitive direct support delivery needs, according to the conference report included with this year’s defense authorization bill.
The Air Force must ensure the direct support employment concept is “wholly incorporated” into Air Force’s doctrine, strategy, and tactics by June 2013, stated the report, released Dec. 18.
Service leaders already earmarked eight C-130s for the task and the remaining 32 airlifters—either C-130s or C-27Js—will come from the pool of airframes the Air Force slated for retirement in its previous force structure proposal.
USAF’s revised force structure proposal, published last November, was less ambitious than its original plan, which Congress rejected. Legislators gave the Air Force discretion to choose the exact mix, and USAF set up an Intratheater Airlift Working Group to recommend how best to comply with the measure by the end of January.
Now, Nine-Week Wonders
Starting in January, the Air Force Officer Training School’s basic officer course at Maxwell AFB, Ala., was shortened to nine weeks, clipping three weeks from the previous course length.
School officials did this to streamline the curriculum and scheduling, OTS Commandant Col. Thomas C. Coglitore stated in a press release Dec. 4.
“Our staff was able to adapt its operations and curriculum in several innovative ways to save money and airmen’s time while still producing fully qualified and capable second lieutenants,” he said.
The pared-down syllabus now fulfills the minimum federal commissioning standards, and “I am comfortable that we are not lowering standards but becoming more efficient with how we schedule and conduct the training,” said Coglitore.
In Fiscal 2012, 642 second lieutenants graduated from the course; 1,055 new officers are expected to graduate in this fiscal year from across the Air Force’s Active Duty and reserve components, according to officials at Maxwell.
Return From Guam
An expeditionary squadron of F-22s returned to JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, in December, after nearly three months deployed on a theater security rotation to Andersen AFB, Guam.
The F-22 deployment “was a typical movement testing the squadron’s capability to rapidly respond and deploy to any environment with minimal notice and full combat capability,” said Elmendorf spokeswoman Capt. Ashley Conner Dec. 7.
While in the Pacific, the F-22 pilots—from the Active Duty 90th Fighter Squadron and Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd FS—flew just shy of 500 sorties totaling some 800 flight hours. F-22s also participated in exercise Valiant Shield with the USS George Washington carrier strike group.
More than 250 personnel and 12 jets deployed from Elmendorf in September. The 525th FS—Elmendorf’s second F-22 squadron—left for weapons training at Tyndall AFB, Fla., as the expeditionary squadron returned from Andersen.
The Air Force plans to award contracts to study performance necessary for the service’s next generation nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.
USAF aims to issue fixed-price contracts to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon for trade studies to support the Long-Range Standoff Missile’s (LRSO) technology development phase, according to a notice posted online Dec. 5.
LRSO is envisioned as the successor to the Air Launched Cruise Missile that B-52s carry as an element of the US strategic nuclear deterrent.
Service officials told Congress last year that the LRSO program would begin two years later than originally planned, in Fiscal 2015, due to servicewide budgetary constraints.
The LRSO analysis of alternatives was scheduled for completion early this fiscal year. However, the Air Force doesn’t expect a capability gap between retirement of the current ALCM—which it says is viable out to 2030 or beyond—and initial service of the LRSO.
Future Gunship’s First Flight
The first MC-130J special mission aircraft slated for conversion to the Air Force’s new AC-130J gunship configuration made its maiden flight in early December from Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Marietta, Ga.
After modifications, the airframe will feature a scaled iteration of the modular Precision Strike Package of weapons and sensor suite already carried on Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130Ws.
The first AC-130J is scheduled to fly for the first time as a gunship in early 2014, the company stated.
The Air Force intends to acquire 16 new-build AC-130Js under a $1.6 billion recapitalization project meant to replace its legacy AC-130Hs and provide additional gunship capacity.
The Air Force has a requirement for 37 AC-130Js. The first is slated for initial operational capability in 2015, Lockheed Martin said.
Contract for AEHF 5 and 6
The Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.9 billion fixed-price contract for production of the fifth and sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications satellites, the company announced in January.
“This production contract affirms the government’s confidence in Lockheed Martin’s ability to deliver these spacecraft affordably and efficiently to meet the burgeoning demand from strategic and tactical users worldwide,” said Mark Calassa, space systems communications vice president, in a Jan. 2 release.
The first two AEHF satellites are already on orbit and the third is expected to be launched into space in September, while assembly of AEHF-4 is progressing on schedule.
AEHF satellites complement and will eventually replace Milstar spacecraft, offering higher communications capacity. The new contract reflects evolution of the AEHF program to a fixed-price structure as part of a larger cost savings plan, company officials said.
Aloha and Mahalo, Montana
Montana Air National Guard F-15s handed over responsibility for protecting the airspace around the 50th state back to the ANG’s 190th Fighter Wing at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, at the beginning of December.
F-15s from the 120th Fighter Wing deployed to Hickam from Great Falls in August 2010 to cover Hawaii’s aerospace control alert mission while the Hawaii Air Guard transitioned from the F-15 to the F-22.
Because the Air Force grounded the Raptor fleet for five months in 2011, the Hawaii ANG’s 199th Fighter Squadron—together with its Active Duty associate unit, the 19th FS—was delayed in launching Raptor operations.
As a result, Montana’s F-15 deployment stretched from 14 months to more than two years. A detachment of some 40 Montana Guardsmen was deployed to Hickam at any one time, and all but a dozen rotated back and forth, according to Montana’s Great Falls Tribune Dec. 7.
On their return, the 120th FW airmen were slated to exchange their F-15s for C-130s, a move Montana lawmakers continue to oppose.
Raptor Runway Rash
An F-22 assigned to the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron sustained $1.8 million in damage in a landing accident at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Dec. 7, according to press reports.
The mishap occurred as the Raptor was returning to base after participating in a multi-F-22 ceremonial flyover during a commemoration of the 71st anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, CBS News reported.
The F-22 scraped its tail and damaged its horizontal stabilizers on landing at Hickam, stated the report. The pilot suffered no injuries and Air Force investigators are looking into the incident.
Detachment Dry Run
F-16s from the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB, Ariz., recently deployed to test the ability of Holloman AFB, N.M., to support the F-16 formal training unit that is relocating there from Luke in the near future.
“The F-16s will eventually be based here, training both pilots and maintainers,” explained Col. Rodney J. Petithomme, commander of the 56th FW’s Operation Location-Alpha detachment.
“This training gives us the opportunity to find problems now and gives us time to fix them before they arrive permanently,” he said in Holloman’s Dec. 13 release.
Luke’s 309th Fighter Squadron sent 18 F-16s and 190 personnel to Holloman for the evaluation. The F-16s flew an average of 24 sorties each day—both instructor upgrade and weapons qualification flights—during their one-week stay, beginning Dec. 7.
The Air Force is shifting two F-16 training squadrons from Luke to offset Holloman’s forthcoming loss of the F-22 flying mission.
Texas environmental authorities recently signed off on the Air Force’s successful removal of uranium and lead contaminants from the site of a Cold War-era B-47 bomber crash near Dyess AFB, Tex.
“The site cleanup was a proactive, precautionary measure taken to provide for any potential future use of the land,” said Judy Overbey, restoration program manager for Dyess’ 7th Civil Engineering Squadron, in a base news release Dec. 12.
“The amount of contaminants found in the soil at the site was extremely low in most places,” she said.
Atomic Energy Commission and base responders removed the majority of contaminants after the B-47 caught fire on takeoff and crashed into a privately owned field on Nov. 4, 1958.
Though the nuclear weapon the bomber was carrying did not detonate, the conventional explosives within the device did, scattering lead and uranium elements, some of which were left until final restoration efforts began in 2010.
According to Dyess, Texas’ environmental agency issued a closure letter on Nov. 1, certifying the site’s suitability for full agriculture and residential use.
F-16 Overshoots at Kunsan
An F-16 overran the runway in a landing accident at Kunsan AB, South Korea, Dec. 3, base officials reported.
The pilot sustained no injuries, said the base’s 8th Fighter Wing press release. The Air Force will investigate the incident.
Another F-16 assigned to nearby Osan Air Base experienced engine failure and crashed just northeast of Kunsan in a separate incident last March. The pilot escaped injury.
An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft assigned to the 57th Wing at Nellis AFB, Nev., crashed at the Nevada Test and Training Range during a combat training mission Dec. 5.
The mishap occurred in a remote location west of Hiko, and no one was injured in the incident, Nellis officials stated.
The training mission was part of the Air Force Weapons School’s mission employment phase, which serves as a capstone graduation exercise. Air Force investigators are looking into the cause of the crash.
Turboprop T56 engines modified by Rolls Royce yielded even better fuel economy and reliability than predicted with a legacy C-130H in recent trials at Edwards AFB, Calif., the company said.
The Air Force flight-test team “confirmed that by inserting new technology, we can bring dramatic improvements in fuel consumption and engine reliability to C-130 operators,” said Tom Hartmann, Rolls Royce’s senior vice president, in a company release Dec. 10.
Using a C-130H fitted with both standard and modified T56 engines, testers at Edwards found that Roll Royce’s Series 3.5 upgrades reduced fuel burn by nearly 10 percent and increased reliability by 22 percent, the company claimed.
Series 3.5 modifications include fitting new turbine blades and compressor vanes, which the company says maintainers could perform during regular depot maintenance.
The Air Force estimates modifying its legacy C-130Hs with the new kit could save as much as $2 billion across the fleet out to 2040, Rolls Royce stated.
Space Launch Contracts Let
The Air Force let a $900 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for space launch services under the Rocket Systems Launch Program, the Pentagon announced late last year.
Under this contract, Lockheed Martin, Orbital Sciences, and Space Exploration Technologies will provide launch vehicles through November 2017, states the contract description, included in the Defense Department’s Dec. 3 major contract list.
RSLP uses commercial launch systems as well as deactivated Minuteman and Peacekeeper ICBM motors to place small spacecraft into a variety of orbits for DOD and other government agencies.
Bread Box Weathersat
Boeing announced that it delivered two tiny experimental weather satellites to the Air Force to help assess the value of small satellites in military space operations.
The Space Environmental Nanosat Experiment (SENSE) satellites weigh less than nine pounds and are no larger in volume than an average loaf of bread, the company stated Dec. 18.
Both satellites are scheduled to launch with the upcoming ORS-3 mission this summer. Once on orbit, they will collect and transmit weather data to aid weather prediction and assessment.
“We anticipate these nanosatellites will play a significant role as affordable and resilient assets in future Air Force space architectures,” said Col. Scott Beidleman, director for development and planning at the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles, AFB, Calif.
“The SENSE nanosats offer customers an affordable, operationally robust option to conduct military missions,” said Bruce Chesley, Boeing’s director of advanced space and intelligence systems.
USAF’s uniformed contingent at Lajes Field, Azores, is being cut from a full wing down to a group to meet Pentagon cost-cutting demands, base officials said late last year.
“Lajes Field’s strategic mission is important and valuable, and will not change, but the footprint with which we accomplish our mission will,” said Col. Chris Bargery, commander of Lajes’ 65th Air Base Wing, in a news release Dec. 13.
“The US force posture is being adjusted to meet fiscal challenges, while maintaining a strong, capable relationship with our Portuguese allies,” he added.
More than 400 uniformed personnel and 500 dependents will depart the installation by the end of Fiscal 2014.The Air Force expects this will save $35 million in annual operating costs.
The Air Force plans to close the Defense Department school there and reduce services to support one-year unaccompanied tours to the Azores after 2014.
Babylon’s Big Birds
Lockheed Martin delivered the Iraqi Air Force’s first three C-130Js in December, company officials said in a release.
Iraqi Air Force commander Staff Lt. Gen. Anwer Hamad Amen accepted one of the first C-130Js in a handover ceremony at Lockheed Martin’s assembly plant at Marietta, Ga., Dec. 12.
The two other airframes departed for Iraq the previous day, completing half of the country’s order for six C-130Js to reconstitute its intratheater airlift capability.
Iraq’s initial cadre of C-130 pilots and maintainers trained with the Rhode Island Air National Guard’s 143rd Airlift Wing at Quonset State Arpt., R.I. The final three airframes are slated for delivery this year, the company said.
The National Nuclear Security Administration dismantled more nuclear weapons than it planned in Fiscal 2102.
The weapons taken apart have been declared excess by the Administration, NNSA officials said.
NNSA achieved 112 percent of its target for Fiscal 2012, dismantling an undisclosed number of B61 and B83-0/1 bombs and W76-0, W80-0, W84, and W78 warheads, stated an agency press release Dec. 3.
“NNSA delivered on President Obama’s commitment to reduce the numbers of US nuclear weapons declared excess to the stockpile and awaiting dismantlement,” said Don Cook, NNSA deputy administrator for defense programs. “Our stockpile today is smaller, but the deterrent remains just as safe, secure, and effective as it was.”
Fissionable material recycled from the process is used to refurbish other warheads, fuel the Navy’s nuclear-powered ships, and is even “downblended” to power civilian nuclear power plants, according to NNSA.
Now that F-22 production is complete, Lockheed Martin is consolidating its fighter business by shifting F-22 sustainment and engineering work from Marietta, Ga., to its facility in Fort Worth, Tex.
“Operating from a centralized location will improve our overall affordability, streamline operations, foster an environment of greater collaboration, and ultimately enhance the level of support we provide our customers,” stated Jeff Babione, Integrated Fighter Group vice president, quoted by the Marietta Daily Journal Dec. 5.
The company has offered some 560 salaried employees—mostly engineers—the chance to move to Fort Worth along with the F-22 work. Approximately 40 unionized employees, who currently refurbish Raptor canopies and apply low observable tail surface coatings, will remain in Marietta, stated the newspaper.
Lockheed Martin expects to save $250 million over five years through this relocation.
Final Qatari C-17 Delivered
Boeing delivered the fourth and final C-17 transport for the Qatari Emiri Air Force during a ceremony at the company’s production facility in Long Beach, Calif., Dec. 10.
Qatar took possession of its third Globemaster III earlier last year. Handover of the fourth airframe completes the Middle East nation’s order for two more C-17s in addition to the pair received in 2009.
“The C-17’s reliability, along with its unique strategic and tactical capabilities, has expanded our reach and ability to support missions worldwide on a moment’s notice,” said Brig. Gen. Ahmed al Maliki, head of Qatar’s airlift committee, in Boeing’s news release. “Doubling our fleet strengthens our ability to support humanitarian, disaster relief, and peacekeeping missions.”
Qatar’s C-17s have supported NATO operations in Libya and delivered relief for drought victims in Kenya and earthquake victims in Haiti.
With this delivery, Boeing has now supplied 249 C-17s worldwide, including 218 to the US Air Force.
Pilot Cleared in Accident
A court-martial cleared C-17 pilot Capt. Jared Foley of all charges in the case of a West Virginia National Guard soldier killed during a parachute drop over Montana in 2011, reported The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash.
Foley, assigned to the 62nd Airlift Wing at JB Lewis-McChord, Wash., stood accused of reckless endangerment and dereliction of duty for continuing a drop mission on July 10, 2011, after a paratrooper on a previous jump drifted outside the designated landing zone, according to the newspaper.
During the trial, the Army’s drop zone safety officer testified that he had cleared Foley to continue the mission and that despite the drift, the ground conditions at the time appeared to be safe. On Foley’s pass, Sgt. Francis Campion drifted off course, struck a building, and died when his parachute dragged him off the roof and he hit the pavement. Lt. Col. Eric Carney, the former commander of Foley’s 7th Airlift Squadron, testified that Foley was a competent pilot and excellent officer. The 10-officer court-martial panel rendered its verdict Dec. 14.
Gen. Robert Bazley, 1925-2012
Retired Gen. Robert W. Bazley, who led Pacific Air Forces from November 1984 to December 1986, died Dec. 16 at his home in Chapel Hill, N.C., at age 87.
Bazley’s military career spanned three wars and 35 assignments at home and abroad. In later years, he was vice commander-in-chief of US Air Forces in Europe and then Air Force inspector general before becoming PACAF’s commander-in-chief.
Born in Pittsburgh on Dec. 5, 1925, Bazley enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1943, receiving his navigator wings and commission in March 1945. He was recalled to Active Duty during the Korean War and flew as an RB-26 navigator before retraining as a fighter pilot.
He flew 257 combat missions in the F-100 as a squadron commander during the Vietnam War, was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and Defense Superior Service Medal, and logged more than 4,500 flying hours before his retirement in 1987.
|BUFF It Out
The Air Force is slowly reducing the number of out-of-service B-52Gs held at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. The bombers count as nuclear delivery platforms under the New START agreement until their airframes are cut up.
There were 30 B-52Gs in the Air Force’s aircraft “Boneyard” in the Arizona desert still considered as “deployed heavy bombers” under New START counting rules, according to a State Department’s fact sheet reflecting the arsenal as of Sept. 1, issued at the end of November.
The total was down by six airframes compared to the data in the previous fact sheet published last June, detailing the arsenal’s composition through March 1, 2012.
To eliminate the aircraft from the nuclear capable inventory under treaty stipulations, the tail of each B-52G is severed from its fuselage to render the aircraft demonstrably unusable.
USAF maintains a force of more than 140 B-2A, B-52G (all retired), and B-52H nuclear capable bombers, according to the most recent fact sheet.
It plans to draw down the total nuclear capable bomber force to no more than 60 deployable bombers—20 B-2As and 40 B-52Hs—by February 2018 as part of the United States’ overall reductions to meet treaty warhead and delivery system ceilings.
Instead of disposing of currently flyable airframes, the Air Force plans to convert several B-52Hs to conventional-only specs as part of its compliance plan.
|Back to Black Hawk
Several helicopter manufacturers announced they will not bid to replace the Air Force’s aging Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, leaving a variant of the same basic helicopter the leading—if not the sole—option.
After viewing the Air Force’s request for proposal, Boeing, EADS North America, and Northrop Grumman (teamed with AgustaWestland) all confirmed they will not compete in the service’s Combat Rescue Helicopter contest to supply the 112-airframe fleet, according to press reports.
All three vendors viewed the RFP as favoring an aircraft like the Black Hawk without rewarding extra capabilities their respective platforms could offer, Reuters reported Dec. 12.
Sikorsky, builder of the Black Hawk and Pave Hawk variant, confirmed, however, that it plans to submit an offer.
The Air Force press release on the CRH solicitation issued last October called for an “affordable” solution that leveraged “in-production air vehicles and training systems” integrated with “existing technologies.”
Pentagon acquisition regulations prevent Air Force officials from openly discussing the state of the competition, but “the Air Force is committed to a fair, open, and transparent process,” said a service spokesman. “To ensure this occurs, we are prohibited from releasing information while in the request for proposal and selection processes.”
Bids for the new helo were due Jan. 3, and the Air Force plans to award a contract by September, with notional initial operational capability slated for Fiscal 2018.
The Pentagon’s acquisition executive waived requirements for competitive prototyping. By law, major defense acquisition programs are now required to have that, barring extenuating circumstances.
|Global Hawk Block 30 Reprieved
Congress nixed the Air Force’s plan to retire the Global Hawk Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft fleet in the Fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill’s conference report.
The proposed cut was one of the Air Force’s most prominent cost reducing force structure changes. The report, however, stated that the Air Force Secretary couldn’t obligate funds “to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage” any of the Block 30 aircraft this fiscal year.
Citing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance requirements from combatant commanders, the conference report states that the Air Force Secretary “shall maintain the operational capability” of each Block 30 airplane out to Dec. 31, 2014.
This includes airframes already in the fleet as well as several that will enter the inventory over the intervening time, in total some 18 aircraft, Air Force officials stated.
The Senate version of the bill acceded to the Air Force’s request to phase the fleet out, but lawmakers ultimately allocated $155 million to keep these Global Hawks flying in Fiscal 2013, including $133 million for operation and maintenance and $22 million for personnel expenditures.
|Canada Reconsiders F-35
The Canadian government recently retreated from its commitment to procure the F-35 strike fighter, announcing that it is relaunching the search to replace its aged CF-18 Hornet fleet.
The Royal Canadian Air Force requirements “that led to the selection of the F-35 will be set aside and not used as part of this new evaluation of options,” stated Rona Ambrose, Canada’s minister of public works and government services, in a Dec. 12 release.
The Canadian government has taken this fighter procurement away from Canada’s defense department and handed it to the public works agency after an unfavorable audit of the F-35’s projected life cycle costs last April. Though Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen J. Harper has repeatedly underscored his government’s commitment to the F-35, the fighter has long been a political target of his Liberal Party opposition.
“Last April, we set out a Seven-Point Plan to hit the reset button on the process to replace the CF-18 aircraft,” said Ambrose. Release of the plan’s criteria back in December permits “a full consideration of the options available,” she added.
Canada was an original partner in the F-35’s development and planned to buy 65 strike fighters. The agency hasn’t ruled out the F-35 entirely, but will consider options such as Boeing’s F-18E/F Super Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon, or extending the service life of the legacy Hornets, reported Bloomberg Dec. 13.
|Accounting for Failure
In a letter to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, the Senate Armed Services Committee leadership took the Air Force to task for scrapping the Expeditionary Combat Support System and asked for answers on how this acquisition effort failed so spectacularly.
“We believe that the public and the taxpayers deserve a clear explanation of how the Air Force came to spend more than a billion dollars without receiving any significant military capability,” SASC Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and SASC Ranking Member Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wrote Dec. 5.
The Air Force notified Congress in November that it was abandoning the ECSS supply chain management tool meant to transform the Air Force’s logistics enterprise.
“From what we know to date, this case appears to be one of the most egregious examples of mismanagement in recent memory,” Levin and McCain added.
The lawmakers called on Panetta to provide answers as to why the flawed procurement was allowed to continue for so long, why restructuring efforts failed, who would be held accountable, and what steps the Defense Department is taking to ensure something like this would not happen again.
|The War on Terrorism
Operation Enduring Freedom
By Jan. 14, a total of 2,166 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 2,163 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,716 were killed in action with the enemy while 448 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 18,188 troops wounded in action during OEF.
The Air Force is looking to modify Afghan Air Force Cessna C-208 light airlifters with specialized equipment for cargo airdrop, according to a solicitation to industry published late last year.
Under the Afghanistan C-208 Airdrop Program, the contractor would initially ferry two Afghan C-208s from Shindand AB, Afghanistan, for testing of the air-drop modifications in the United States, Air Force Materiel Command stated in its Dec. 3 request for information.
Modifications would include fitting the aircraft with midair-operable cargo doors, pallet floor rollers, parachute static lines, slipstream fairings, air-drop signal lights, and a cockpit operator’s panel.
On successful completion of flight testing at Eglin AFB, Fla., and Peterson AFB, Colo., the contractor would retrofit the AAF’s Caravan fleet with the air-drop kits.
Dunford Confirmed as ISAF Chief
The Senate on Dec. 3 approved the nomination of Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. to lead US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Dunford replaces Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, who has helmed the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force since July 2011. Dunford has served as Marine Corps assistant commandant since October 2010.
Obama tapped Dunford for the post in October, saying he would “lead our forces through key milestones in our effort that will allow us to bring the war to a close responsibly” by the end of 2014.
Obama has nominated Allen to the dual-hatted post of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and head of US European Command.
Air National Guard RC-26B Condors have provided overhead surveillance support in US Central Command’s area of operations during more than five years of continuous deployment to the region, according to Air Guard officials.
Since its stand-up in 2007, the 45th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron—comprising Guardsmen from 11 states—has amassed 42,000 combat hours in some 9,400 sorties, providing coverage over Iraq and Afghanistan for 64 straight months, stated the New York Air Guard’s 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse.
The all-volunteer force originally deployed for a year in response to an urgent CENTCOM request.
Guardsmen adapted the counternarcotics aircraft to battlefield intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, paving the way for what would become the Air Force’s MC-12 Liberty platform.
These Air Guardsmen also developed tactics for the MC-12 and formed the Liberty’s initial training cadre, according to the unit.
|Senior Staff Changes
NOMINATIONS: To be Lieutenant General: Gregory A. Biscone, Lori J. Robinson.
CHANGES: Lt. Gen. (sel.) Gregory A. Biscone, from Dir., Global Ops., STRATCOM, Offutt AFB, Neb., to Chief, Office of the Defense Representative-Pakistan, CENTCOM, US Embassy, Islamabad, Pakistan … Brig. Gen. Thomas F. Gould, from Vice Cmdr., 14th AF, AFSPC, Vandenberg, Calif., to Dep. Chief, Spt., Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, Dep. of State, Baghdad, Iraq … Lt. Gen. (sel.) Lori J. Robinson, from Dep. Cmdr., AFCENT, CENTCOM, Southwest Asia, to Vice Cmdr., ACC, JB Langley-Eustis, Va. … Brig. Gen. Jay B. Silveria, from Dep. Chief, Spt., Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, Dept. of State, Baghdad, Iraq to Vice Cmdr., 14th AF, AFSPC, Vandenberg AFB, Calif. … Maj. Gen. (sel.) Kenneth S. Wilsbach, from Dep. Dir., Ops., PACOM, Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii, to Cmdr., 9th Air & Space Exped. Task Force-Afghanistan, ACC, Kabul, Afghanistan.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE CHANGES: Rafael A. Garcia, to Dir., Propulsion, AF Life Cycle Mgmt. Center, AFMC, Tinker AFB, Okla. … Stephen R. Herrera, to Assoc. Dep. Asst. Secy., Financial Ops., Office of the Asst. SECAF, Financial Mgmt. & Comptroller, Pentagon … Bobby W. Smart, to Assoc. Dep. Asst. Secy., Acq. Integration, Office of the Asst. SECAF, Acq., Pentagon.
COMMAND CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT CHANGE: CMSgt. Gerardo Tapia Jr., to Command Chief Master Sergeant, AETC, JB San Antonio-Randolph, Tex.