1,100 Officers Face Cuts Soon
This month the Air Force will convene a board to consider for separation nearly 1,800 officers from year groups 2003 and 2004 to help it in its force shaping efforts. March 31 also marks the start of the service’s consideration of another 3,000 officers for a June reduction in force board targeting year groups 1995, 1996, 2000, and 2001.
The FSB will select roughly 379 officers—112 from 2003 and 267 from 2004—for separation by Sept. 29, 2007.
The same separation date will apply to some 722 officers to be selected by the RIF board set for June. As of Feb. 8, the RIF would target 95 officers from 1995, 67 from 1996, 173 from 2000, and 387 from 2001.
The Air Force has identified specific career fields in which it has overages in each of the affected year groups. They range from navigators and air battle managers to engineers and scientists and personnel managers.
All of the affected officers had the opportunity to accept voluntary separation program incentives, and as of the end of the 2006, the Air Force had approved more than 1,800 applications. The officers meeting the RIF board have until the end of this month to apply for VSPs.
Keys Wants Lightnings
The Air Force shouldn’t deliberately hold back on the F-35 Lightning II fighter program merely in hope of acquiring more F-22 Raptors, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Ronald E. Keys told reporters in January.
Last year’s Quadrennial Defense Review decided to keep the F-22 line going as a hedge against problems with production of the F-35. However, Keys observed, such a dire situation doesn’t seem to be playing out, so far.
“I’m not inclined to buy F-22s over JSFs if the JSF is (a) working and (b) it’s coming … online,” Keys said. He needs “more new airplanes,” and the Air Force can afford to build a larger quantity of the less-expensive F-35.
The QDR capped the F-22 program at 183 aircraft, and Keys said he’ll live with that if “the country can only afford 183.”
However, he went on, “my position has always been I need 381 of them.” With just 183 aircraft, Keys said he’ll have 126 available for combat, divided into seven squadrons—three in the Pacific Theater and four in the continental United States.
F-22 Decision 18 Months Away
Gen. Ronald Keys said he has not heard whether Congress would be receptive to an independent purchase of more F-22s—that is regardless of the state of the F-35 program.
The ACC commander said he was aware of Air Force plans calling for a supplemental purchase of 20 F-22s in the Fiscal 2010 budget—beyond the current multiyear contract for the last 60 airplanes.
Keys said he’s hopeful. “The further you go into the [F-22] buy,” he said, “the cheaper they are.”
The critical decision point is about 18 months away.
“You have to have long-lead money if you’re going to do it,” Keys said. Long-lead items are those that take years to fabricate and test before they can be installed on an aircraft.
“That’s the point [at which] we have got to make a decision. If you don’t make a decision, … that’s a decision.”
Gates Seeks More “Boots”
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates in January unveiled plans to boost the size of both the Army and the Marine Corps in the next several years.
Gates announced Jan. 11 that he had recommended a permanent end strength increase of 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 marines. The expansion would take place over five years.
In most of those years, the Army and Marine Corps would add 7,000 new soldiers and 5,000 new marines, respectively. The rest of the increase would come by making permanent the temporary increase of 25,000 soldiers and 5,000 marines Congress enacted last year.
When all the new troops have been brought on duty, the Army’s permanent end strength will go from 482,000 to 547,000, and the Marine Corps’ will go from 175,000 to 202,000.
Meanwhile, the Air Force will continue to shrink from 334,200 today to 311,100 in 2013, under plans announced last year. USAF also would cut reservists and civilians.
During a news conference, Gates said it will take some time before the new troops are available for deployment.The Army’s deputy chief of staff G-8, Lt. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes, told reporters in Washington that the increase in Army soldiers alone would cost $70 billion from 2009 to 2013, including their pay, health care, and equipment. DOD put the total cost at $112.4 billion.
SECDEF Caps Reserve Call-Ups …
Gates also announced changes to the way the Pentagon will manage forces in both the active duty and reserve components, setting a cap on the length of involuntary mobilizations and moving to keep reserve component units together.
As of Jan. 11, Gates said, reserve component personnel can only be involuntarily mobilized for up to one year at a time, compared to the current limit of 16 to 24 months. After the year’s activation, Guardsmen and Reservists are not to be called up again for five years.
However, Gates left the door open for more frequent mobilizations. “Today’s global demands will require a number of selected Guard and Reserve units to be remobilized sooner than this standard,” he said, adding that such exceptions would be “temporary.”
Reserve ground forces will be deployed by unit, rather than on an individual basis, Gates continued. This will allow the military to achieve “greater unit cohesion and predictability in how reserve units train and deploy,” he asserted.
Gates said there would be a rise in compensation for active duty and reserve troops who deploy early or serve on extended tours.
… And Moves To End Stop-Loss
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has ordered the service Chiefs to scale back the use of Stop-Loss policy, a controversial directive that keeps service members deployed beyond the end of their commitments.
In a memo sent to the service Chiefs, Joint Staff Chairman, and undersecretaries of defense, Gates requested plans that would minimize the use of Stop-Loss for active duty and reserve components by the end of February, The Hill newspaper reported in January.
Several Congressmen had expressed their displeasure with the use of the practice for National Guard and Reserve personnel.
A Stop-Loss order for Guard and Reserve units, in effect since November 2002, allows DOD to keep members whose enlistment is set to expire, if it needed to maintain unit strength and integrity.
Several lawsuits have been filed against DOD, but the Pentagon has argued successfully that Stop-Loss is essential to the US national security interest.
ANG Flies in Blizzard Relief
Air and Army National Guardsmen from eight states worked to help citizens and communities pummeled by the powerful ice storms and blizzards of late 2006.
The year-end weather turbulence devastated the nation’s midsection and claimed at least 13 lives.
In response, Guardsmen in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Washington spent the winter holidays finding and rescuing motorists, transporting medical supplies, feeding stranded livestock, and restarting electrical power systems.
In New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado, Guard aircraft dropped hay to starving sheep, cattle, and horses. A Wyoming ANG C-130, flying out of Pueblo, Colo., dropped one-ton hay bales on each trip. In numerous states, Guardsmen made house-to-house checks on the safety and health of snowbound residents.
Guardsmen transported food to travelers stranded at Denver Airport and performed search and rescue operations on regional highways, rescuing more than 130 people.
C-130Js Roll On
Production of the C-130J, which was to end in 2009, will go on well after that year, says the Pentagon.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England reversed a decision by former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to cancel Lockheed Martin’s tactical transport aircraft after its current run ends.
The Air Force told Rumsfeld that it needed more-modern transports to replace old C-130s that cost huge amounts to repair and replenish. (See “Air Mobility in the Doldrums,” August 2005, p. 32.)
England made his decision in a Dec. 13 program decision memorandum sent to the service Secretaries and Chiefs of Staff. It detailed spending through 2013.
England added to the future years defense program some $1.77 billion to purchase 20 C-130Js, at the rate of four per year, for Air Force Special Operations Command, along with $863 million more to help buy KC-130J tankers for the Marine Corps.
About 186 C-130Js have been sold to US armed services and foreign militaries.
England Scotches Supplementals
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England told the House Budget Committee in January that the Pentagon has sworn off using emergency supplemental budget requests to fund war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These proposals were controversial, given that they usually contained little supporting detail.
England said the 2008 budget would be accompanied by an estimate for the year’s war costs and that the final supplemental for Fiscal 2007 would be the last one submitted.
Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized the use of supplementals to fund the war, specifically castigating DOD for including in them items such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The Air Force planned to request some F-35s in the supplemental because emergency bills are meant to replace assets lost or used up in combat. The F-35s will replace F-16 fighters lost in combat operations since 1991.
Skelton Forecasts Increase …
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said at a January symposium that the nation can’t afford to choose between funding war operations or modernizing its forces.
It must do both, said the hawkish Democrat.
“I don’t think it’s a choice between boots on the ground and high technology,” Skelton said, although he also asserted that better training of personnel may be more important than numbers. He added that professional military education programs—a topic he has pushed frequently in Congress—should be expanded.
Skelton spoke at an event sponsored by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, along with Rep. William Thornberry (R-Tex.), Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.), and Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.).
… And Closer DOD Scrutiny
Rep. Ike Skelton, in remarks to the CSIS symposium, said the Bush Administration’s defense budgets will receive closer scrutiny during his tenure.
He specifically noted that the House Armed Services subcommittee on investigation and oversight will be revived after laying dormant since 1995.
In the past, Skelton has left it to other HASC members to choose the programs that get the most attention. He said the panel will need to ask tough questions about Administration priorities and its decisions.
500+ Forced To Retrain
More than 500 USAF noncommissioned officers will be involuntarily retrained into undermanned career fields in 2007, the Air Force Personnel Center confirmed in January.
About 560 applications were approved for the voluntary part of the Fiscal 2007 NCO Retraining Program, according to AFPC officials, but that only came to 52 percent of the 1,073 enlisted airmen the Air Force was looking for. Local military personnel management units were sent a list of eligible NCOs on Jan. 4. Those NCOs were to sign a statement acknowledging they may be eligible for involuntary retraining, although such statements did not constitute an order to retrain.
Air Force officials said they were notifying three times as many NCOs as needed to meet the goal. Completed applications were due to the AFPC by Feb. 28—afterward, those who declined to accept the possibility of retraining will be barred from re-enlistment or promotion.
The overmanned career fields included crypto-linguists in seven language groups, F-15 and helicopter avionics technicians, bomber maintainers, and base support fields. The second phase of the program began Jan. 3 and will end when retraining quotas are met—no later than March 31, said an AFPC spokesman.
Eglin Gets Reserve Associate
Air Force Reserve Command announced in January that it will establish an associate unit with Air Combat Command at Eglin AFB, Fla., in Fiscal 2008.
The new unit would support the 53rd Wing’s test and evaluation mission; the relationship could expand to include other organizations at the base. Under the classic associate structure, Reservists operate and maintain equipment with active duty counterparts. The program has been so successful that the Air Force is now forming active associate units in partnership with unit-equipped Reserve organizations. By sharing equipment, they use it more efficiently and train more people, said Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley, AFRC chief.
Development of Air Combat Command-gained Reserve associate units began in 1996. In 1997, the Fighter Reserve Associate Test Program began, with a dozen Reservists working with the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB, S.C. (See “Future Total Force,” July 1999, p. 28.)
England Rejects F-35 Cutbacks
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England has rejected plans submitted by the Air Force and Navy to scale back the number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters each service would purchase in the Fiscal 2008 budget, according to Bloomberg News.
In a budget memo signed Dec. 13, England ordered the services to add $1.8 billion in their 2008 budgets so that the Air Force and Navy could each buy six of the fighters, preserving the pace of the program at a critical stage. The F-35 is in early flight test. The Air Force had planned on buying four, while the Navy hadn’t budgeted any in 2008, Bloomberg reported.
The Air Force plans to purchase 1,763 F-35s over about 20 years, while the Navy plans to buy 680 along with the Marine Corps.
F-117s Sent to South Korea
The Air Force in January dispatched a half-dozen F-117 stealth attack aircraft and more than 200 support personnel from the 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman AFB, N.M., to Kunsan AB, South Korea, marking what could well be the aircraft’s last overseas deployment.
The detachment of stealth aircraft was sent to beef up the 8th Fighter Wing in fulfilling its security responsibilities in the Western Pacific. The F-117s were expected to fly missions with Kunsan’s F-16s and also participate in a combat readiness exercise.
Air Force officials said the move bolstered the deterrent value of US forces on the peninsula, at a time when tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests remains high.
The F-117 is expected to phase out of the inventory in 2008. (See “Fade to Black,” October 2006, p. 66.) The Korean deployment marks the fourth time the stealth aircraft have deployed to South Korea.
Project Marti Begins
The Air Force and Boeing announced in January that they have demonstrated for the first time how a near-space vehicle can be used as a theaterwide information point that sends out real-time tactical information to ground forces.
The technology was recently demonstrated in the first of a series of experiments to be conducted under the name Project Marti, intended to prove the concept of using a near-space vehicle to provide persistent coverage over a wide area, collecting and distributing information from several low-altitude assets, including unmanned aerial vehicles.
High-altitude platforms could be cheaper than low-orbit satellites, which are expensive to build and launch and don’t persist over the target area.
Researchers from Boeing’s Phantom Works and from the Air Force Research Laboratory conducted an initial demonstration in which various sources passed information through a balloon-based communications node. The balloon stood in for a high-altitude vehicle; ground stations mimicked low-altitude UAVs and users.
China Brandishes New Fighter
China in January officially acknowledged one of its open secrets: It has a hot new indigenous fighter—the F-10.
The fighter got the feature treatment on Chinese state television, dominating air time during a detailed five-minute broadcast.
Geng Ruguang, deputy general manager of the China Aviation Industry Corp., said China is now the fourth country in the world to develop and field advanced fighters, engines, and missiles.
He claimed that the F-10 is in many respects superior to the F-16 and French Mirage 2000.
Although China touts the F-10 as its first home-grown fighter—that is, not a Russian design—it strongly resembles the defunct Israeli Lavi, which itself was based on the US F-16.
China is known to have received Israeli assistance in developing the F-10.
Still images of the F-10 have long circulated on the Internet. First flight was in 1998.
The video shows 25 Chinese pilots marching in front of about at least 15 F-10s lined up at an air base.
Northrop Continues E-10 Work
Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, Mass., awarded $256 million to Northrop Grumman to perform design and analysis work on E-10 radar and wide-area air- and ground-surveillance systems, according to a January announcement.
In a cost-cutting move, USAF demoted the E-10 sensor aircraft to a technology demonstration program in the Fiscal 2007 budget. However, Northrop Grumman continued to work on the new aircraft’s radar.
The E-10 was slated to be the replacement for the current fleet of air- and-ground-control sensor aircraft such as the E-3 AWACS and E-8 Joint STARS, but was reduced to just one airframe to test new technology.
Detachment Stands Up at Yokota
Pacific Air Forces in January activated a new detachment of 13th Air Force at Yokota AB, Japan.
The detachment assumed responsibility for planning and executing air operations around Japan. Air Force officials said that Det. 1 of 13th Air Force will enhance command and control operations and make the force more interoperable with US and Japanese air, naval, and ground forces.
The new unit reports to 13th Air Force at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, instead of Yokota’s 5th Air Force. The move is part of a reorganization of Air Force assets in Japan and is driven by the new security environment and capabilities faced by PACAF, according to 13th Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Loyd S. Utterback.
He noted that missile defense and cyberspace efforts require theaterwide perspective and coordination. The detachment will bridge the capabilities of 13th Air Force to better support 5th Air Force and its work with the Japanese Air Self-Defense force, Utterback said.
The detachment, numbering about 50 personnel, will work with the 613th Air and Space Operations Center and 5th Air Force staff in Japan.
Huge C-17 Group Takes Flight
The largest-yet formation of C-17s flying from a single base took off from Charleston AFB, S.C., on Dec. 21, 2006.
Twenty C-17s from the 437th and 315th Airlift Wings lifted into the air at 30-second intervals, flew over a nearby bridge, and flew back over the base.
The formation continued to North Auxiliary Field near Orangeburg, S.C., where it completed an airdrop. The formation was designed to help airmen complete needed training, with more than 500 training events taking place during the flight and seven aircrews certified as formation airdrop leads.
Nine of the C-17s practiced aerial refueling as part of the training as well.
F-16s in Commando Sling
Six F-16C/Ds from the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson AFB, Alaska, deployed to Singapore in January to participate in Commando Sling, which ran Jan. 8 to Jan. 26.
Commando Sling, an exercise that began in 1990 to provide air combat training for USAF and Republic of Singapore Air Force fighter units, helps airmen sharpen air combat skills and improve tactics and procedures for sustained operations at deployed locations and non-US installations.
Air Force F-15C/D Eagles from the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, participated in Commando Sling 07-01 in October 2006. F-16s from Kunsan’s 8th FW are scheduled for a third exercise in May.
India, Russia in Fighter Effort
India and Russia are discussing ways to cooperate on a fifth generation fighter comparable to the F-35 and possibly the F-22, Times of India reported in December.
Both MiG and Sukhoi design firms last November pitched to the Indian government their ideas for a new fighter to be built in cooperation with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
Hindustan, in turn, handed its own concepts to Russian defense officials when they visited India in January as part of a state visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Both governments seem to favor the joint fighter project. Hindustan produces a variant of the Su-27 Flanker under license to Sukhoi.
F-22 Team Wins Collier Trophy
The National Aeronautic Association has chosen the F-22 Raptor industry team to receive the Collier Trophy for 2006. The prize is considered the most prestigious award given for achievements in air and space.
The trophy will be presented at a June dinner in Washington, D.C., to the Lockheed Martin-led industry team, which includes Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and BAE Systems.
Although the stealthy and highly maneuverable F-22 has been in development for about 20 years and has already demonstrated many “firsts” in fighter capabilities, the NAA said it was recognizing the airplane this year because of its operational status and impressive performance in last year’s Northern Edge exercises in Alaska. In those joint-force wargames, F-22-led forces trounced a highly capable, numerically superior force of fighters 241-2, struck 100 percent of their assigned ground targets, and flew 97 percent of their assigned missions, demonstrating unprecedented readiness for such a new weapon system (See “The Raptor in the Real World,” February, p. 32.)
David Ivey, chief executive officer of the NAA, said the award recognizes “the unquestionable superiority of the Raptor” over any existing fighter. The prize will also recognize the design, testing, and operation of the F-22.
Except for four years during World War I, the Collier Trophy has been awarded annually since 1911. Previous honorees include Chuck Yeager, Howard Hughes, the crew of Apollo 11, and Gen. H.H. “Hap” Arnold. (See “The Robert J. Collier Trophy,” May 2006, p.142.)
|Iran Announces It Now Possesses New Russian SAMs
Iran announced in January that it has received a shipment of new Russian-made air defense missile systems and will deploy them to defend the country’s major nuclear sites.
The announcement that Tor-M1 mobile systems—known in NATO parlance as the SA-15 Gauntlet—had arrived came at the start of three days of Iranian military exercises, the first such drills since the United Nations Security Council approved sanctions against Iran on Dec. 23, 2006.
Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar told the state news agency that the Iranians had “constructive” defense transactions with Russia, but did not say how many systems had been delivered. A report by Russia’s ITAR-Tass news agency claimed the weapons are expected to be used to protect installations such as the nuclear facilities at Isfahan, Bushehr, and Tehran.
The agency also quoted Sergei Chemezov, Russia’s head of foreign weapons sales, who said the Tor-M1 systems were delivered before the end of December—but was not clear on whether the sale was complete before the Security Council voted for sanctions.
The Tor-M1 is a low-to-medium-altitude SAM system capable of engaging aircraft and helicopters as well as precision guided weapons and various missiles. Although it is an autonomous system, the missile launcher will fit into a network.
|Service Members Eat and Drink More, Smoke Less
More military personnel are overweight, and while they smoke cigarettes less than they used to, they use “smokeless” tobacco products and alcohol more, according to a new Pentagon study of health-related behaviors.
The results of the 2005 survey, released in January, show that even though they are exercising more, more US service members are overweight, according to William Winkenwerder Jr., the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. He noted an “elevated” use of alcohol among the troops. Although heavy drinking has declined from 20.8 percent in 1980—the first year of the survey—to 18.5 percent in 2005, it is on a new upswing after reaching a low of 15.4 percent in 1998. The survey shows the younger service members are most likely to drink too much. They are also more likely to substitute “smokeless” tobacco products for cigarettes.
About half those surveyed in 1980—51 percent—were cigarette smokers. That dropped to 29.9 percent in 1998, but had crept back up to 32.2 percent in 2005.
Not surprisingly, those who have deployed in the last three years showed greater levels of stress and poor health behaviors such as use of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. However, Winkenwerder said the force overall is “using positive coping mechanisms in dealing with the stresses of their current wartime environment.”
Despite the negative findings in some areas, Winkenwerder said he is “pleased, and even a little surprised, that despite the stresses of war and ongoing deployments, nearly all indicators of service members’ health and well-being continue to be quite good, compared with civilian populations.”
The survey is the ninth to be undertaken and included reports from 16,000 US military personnel at all ranks. The behaviors are self-reported, anonymously.
|USAF Gunship Strikes al Qaeda Targets in Somalia
An Air Force AC-130 gunship attacked a suspected al Qaeda camp in southern Somalia on Jan. 8, hitting at terror leaders suspected of plotting the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Africa. However, it is believed the main targets escaped.
The AC-130 strike was the first acknowledged US military action inside Somalia since it withdrew troops in 1994, after 18 Army Rangers and Delta Force special operators were killed in a 1993 raid later portrayed in the book and film “Black Hawk Down.” (See “Heroes at Mogadishu,” June 1994, p. 28.)
Within two weeks of the January attack, another AC-130 struck in the same region, but results were inconclusive.
The gunship in the first strike was going after Abu Talha al-Sudani, a Sudanese resident of Somalia since 1993—described by the Pentagon as an explosives expert close to Osama bin Laden—as well as Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, the two men believed responsible for embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
Sudani was believed to be the financier for the embassy bombing operation. He was involved in the 2002 bombing of a Kenyan hotel and was fingered by US intelligence as an associate of Gouled Hassan Dourad, a man who led a Somalia-based network that supported al Qaeda’s efforts in the country.
However, Michael E. Ranneberger, US ambassador to Kenya, told the BBC after the attack was made public that Mohammed had not been among those captured or killed and that the two others were believed to be still at large in Somalia.
Mohammed and Nabhan were believed by US intelligence to be sheltered by Somali Islamic fundamentalists who controlled Mogadishu until December, when they fled attacks by Ethiopian troops.
The Pentagon provided no official information about the second AC-130 strike’s target, other than an acknowledgment that it took place.
|Hanscom Is as Hanscom Does
The Air Force’s Electronics Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, Mass., is “heavily involved” in cyberspace operations and is helping to modernize the force’s combined air and space operations centers to operate in the cyber arena, the center’s commander said in January.
Lt. Gen. Charles L. Johnson II said the field of cyberspace is nothing new to ESC, yet it poses a range of new challenges to confront, such as offensive operations and disabling enemy networks—capabilities “we are working on,” he said. Speaking at the National Press Club in January, Johnson said some of the cyber activities will remain classified for the time being.
The Air Force is integrating new capabilities into older air and space battle management practices in the force’s operations centers around the world, he explained.
“Falconer” air and space operations centers at headquarters for US Central Command, US Southern Command, US Forces Korea, Pacific Air Forces, and US Air Forces in Europe will be the core of the Air Force’s command and control capabilities for years to come, Johnson said. However, smaller air operations center locations that rely on Air National Guard and Reserve personnel to support deployed operations and provide reachback capability may see some consolidation, he said.
The Air Force is looking at whether the number of such smaller support elements—particularly warfighting support centers—should be “trimmed” to save money, Johnson said. New management processes will allow USAF to centralize command, control, communications, computers and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance efforts, Johnson said.
|The War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By Feb. 13, a total of 3,122 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. This total includes 3,115 troops and seven Defense Department civilians. Of those fatalities, 2,509 were killed in action by enemy attack, and 613 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 25,530 troops wounded in action during OIF. This includes 13,081 who returned to duty within 72 hours and 10,449 who were unable to quickly return to action.
F-15s and B-1 Strike Insurgent Stronghold
US Central Command Air Forces on Jan. 8 supported a coalition attack on a known insurgent stronghold south of Balad Ruz, Iraq.
Combat aircraft, including F-16C and F-15E fighters and a B-1B bomber, pounded insurgent targets.
In total, more than 25 targets were hit, including enemy buildings, equipment, vehicles, weapons caches and personnel, CENTAF officials said.
Coalition aircraft also provided an array of support for ground forces in the area of the operation, which began on Dec. 26.
US Launches Air Assault East of Baghdad
Bombers, fighter jets, and attack helicopters pounded a web of irrigation canals east of Baghdad as US and Iraqi ground troops closed in on the suspected gathering spot for Sunni Arab insurgents. The early January action targeted a haven and a training ground for al Qaeda in Iraq and other militant groups.
About 1,000 US and Iraqi troops participated in the assault.
One weapons stash uncovered contained 1,169 Katyusha rockets, small arms, and ammunition, officials said.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By Feb. 10, a total of 354 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom, primarily in and around Afghanistan. This total includes 353 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of those fatalities, 195 were killed in action by enemy attack and 159 died in nonhostile incidents such as accidents.
A total of 1,116 troops have been wounded in Enduring Freedom. They include 449 who were able to return to duty within three days and 667 who were not.
Senior Taliban Commander Killed in Air Strike
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, a senior official in the Taliban leadership, was killed on Dec. 19 by a coalition air strike, Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan reported.
Fresh intelligence led coalition forces to Osmani’s location near the Pakistani border with Afghanistan in Helmand Province, CENTCOM officials reported. His vehicle was traveling in a deserted area and was destroyed by a coalition air strike, instantly killing him and two unidentified associates.
Osmani was in the “top ring” of Taliban leadership and was also a close associate of Osama bin Laden and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar—an Afghan warlord long on the US most-wanted list. Osmani was the Taliban’s chief of military operations in Uruzgan, Nimroz, Kandahar, Farah, Herat, and Helmand Provinces. He played a key role in facilitating terrorist operations involving the Taliban and al Qaeda that included suicide attacks, kidnappings, attacks against civilians, and attacks on coalition, NATO, and Afghan forces.
150 Taliban Killed in Border Air Strike
Aircraft from Central Command supported NATO and Afghan ground forces in Paktika Province Jan. 10 during an attack on infiltrating insurgents that killed as many as 150 of the enemy, coalition officials reported.
CENTAF supported International Security Assistance Force and Afghan National Army forces with intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance, air refueling, and strike aircraft during the operation.
Numerous precision munitions, missiles, and cannon rounds were expended on a significant number of insurgents in the Bermel district of Paktika that had been observed infiltrating from Pakistan. The groups were tracked and engaged in Afghanistan through a series of ground and air attacks along the sparsely populated border region.
By Marc V. Shanz , Associate Editor
- Air Mobility Command delivered 1.4 million passengers and 500,000 short tons of cargo in 2006, according to end-of-year statistics released in January. Those figures include everything transported by AMC aircraft, as well as by commercial charters working for USAF. The C-17 alone carried about a third of the passengers—470,000—and half the cargo. Of the fleet’s two airlifter-tankers, the KC-135s airlifted more people (moving 6,003 versus the KC-10s 1,794) but less cargo (313 short tons versus 1,909 via the KC-10 fleet).
- The remains of service members killed in combat will travel by military aircraft whenever possible, according to the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act, which took effect Jan. 1. The law states that military or military-contracted aircraft will be the primary mode of transportation for such remains, rather than commercial service. While each service member who dies in a theater of combat is transported by military aircraft to Dover AFB, Del., the law changes how the remains are moved from Dover to their place of burial. The new law also specifies that an honor guard accompany the remains to their final resting place. The next of kin may waive military transportation and the honor guard.
- An Air Force T-38C training aircraft based at Columbus AFB, Miss., crashed 40 miles south of Memphis, Tenn., Jan. 18. The two pilots ejected safely. The flight was a routine low-level navigation training exercise. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
- Responding to protests from veterans’ groups, New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) announced in January he would veto a new state law under which schools could stop teaching about the significance of Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day. Corzine said it is important for New Jersey schoolchildren to “understand the sacrifices people have made” for the nation. The law was part of a larger bill involving property taxes, passed by the state legislature in December 2006, which relieved schools from an obligation to teach units about various holidays. The measure was intended as a way to reduce costs.
- Gen. William T. Hobbins, chief of US Air Forces in Europe, presented Air Medals in January to 35 Danish F-16 pilots who flew during Operation Enduring Freedom from October 2002 to October 2003. At the time, the pilots were attached to the 376th Air Expeditionary Operations Group at Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan. Hobbins saluted the Danes for their service and support for coalition efforts in Afghanistan. To qualify for the decoration, the Danish pilots had to fly at least 15 hours of aerial operations in a hostile combat zone, which they surpassed by flying nearly 900 mission hours over Afghanistan during their tour.
- The first revamped Minuteman III carrying the Mk 21 re-entry vehicle was deployed in October 2006, the Air Force announced. The hardware and electronics upgrade was completed under the Safety Enhanced Re-entry Vehicle program. The first SERV missiles were deployed and are on alert at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. As of December, 2.4 percent of the planned modifications were complete.
- The “Happy Hooligans” of the North Dakota Air National Guard have begun receiving C-21 executive transports as replacements for F-16s given up in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. The first of eight C-21s bound for the 119th Fighter Wing, Hector Arpt., N.D., arrived in Fargo Jan. 10. Personnel have been training for the last several years to prepare for the new mission. The C-21 is a bridge mission until about 2010, when the unit is expected to take on the Joint Cargo Aircraft. The 119th will also be receiving Predator unmanned aerial vehicles as their fighters go to other units or are retired.
- Congressional leaders from the Philadelphia area were briefed in January on the Air Force Reserve’s plan to deactivate the 913th Airlift Wing at nearby Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove. Willow Grove will close due to BRAC decisions made in 2005, but the wing’s status was not resolved in that decision. Air Force Reserve Command’s C-130s at Willow Grove will move to a new airlift wing at Pope Army Airfield, N.C.
- The 815th Airlift Squadron at Keesler AFB, Miss., completed its transition to the C-130J-30 in January, when it received the last of its alloted eight aircraft of the type. The C-130J-30 is a “stretched” new version of the Hercules, able to carry a greater payload. The Reserve wing also operates 10 WC-130J hurricane hunters. The unit has been instrumental in introducing the J model of the C-130 into USAF service, having begun testing the aircraft in 1998.
- Lockheed Martin and Michelin Aircraft Tire Co. won a contract Jan. 3 worth an estimated $700 million over 10 years that will provide logistics and warehousing for all tires used on Air Force and Army aircraft throughout the world. Lockheed is the subcontractor on the deal and will provide demand forecasting, inventory management, warehousing, and transportation. The two companies have provided similar services to the US Navy for its aircraft tires since 2001.
- In another BRAC-related move, the Air Force’s flight standards division has begun moving from Andrews AFB, Md., to the FAA’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City. The Air Force Flight Standards Agency move will help both organizations reduce expenses. USAF will spend $5 million to renovate its space in the center, with an expected completion in 2008.
- US troops and airmen from US European Command’s Medical Civilian Assistance Program traveled to Rwanda and Botswana in December, providing medical services to nearly 1,500 patients. The team conducted medical exchange seminars at the Kanombe military hospital in Kigali, Rwanda, at a returnee camp at the Tanzanian border, and at a barracks in Gaborone, Botswana. The goal of the exercise was to familiarize the Rwanda and Botswana militaries with the programs, procedures, and concepts the US military uses for preventive medicine and deployed medical operations.
- The Air Mobility Warfare Center at Ft. Dix, N.J., has engineered a way to make loading passengers easier on flight lines. The new Halvorsen Air Stairs Kit connects passenger stairs to the cargo loader at the existing walk deck. In the stairs mode, the steps remain level regardless of height adjustments by the loader, while in the cargo mode with the stairs stowed, the steps close flat and function as a walk deck. At any time the stair can be removed and the original walk deck can be refitted. The idea is to have one piece of equipment handle both cargo and passenger loading at forward bases.