CSAR-X Bids Are In Again …
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Sikorsky on Jan. 7 turned in their updated proposals for the CSAR-X combat search and rescue helicopter, giving the Air Force the chance yet again to decide on a winner by July.
The Air Force is eager to move forward on this recapitalization effort—its second highest procurement priority—as progress has already been stalled since November 2006 as a result of legal action by Lockheed and Sikorsky.
Boeing’s HH-47, a Chinook derivative, won out in November 2006 over Lockheed Martin’s US101 and Sikorsky’s HH-92. However, two successful rounds of protests by the losing teams over the Air Force’s evaluation methods caused USAF late last year to allow the companies to fully revise their bids as a means of resolving the impasse.
The eventual CSAR-X winner will build 141 new rescue helicopters by around the end of next decade to replace 104 HH-60Gs, work worth between an estimated $10 billion and $15 billion to the winning contractor.
… Amid New Cost and Delays
The impact of the CSAR-X delay already is being felt where it hurts—in the Air Force’s budget.
In a move completely unanticipated by the service, USAF is having to pump many millions of dollars into the current HH-60G Pave Hawk CSAR helicopters to keep them flying until the new CSAR-X platforms arrive to replace them.
“The practical consequence of what is happening right now with the [CSAR-X] protests … is the CSAR-X has now been delayed 18 months to two years,” a senior Air Force official told Air Force Magazine.
He added that it is “the right of the companies to protest,” and that the Air Force does not begrudge them the right. USAF anticipated having the first squadron of CSAR-X helicopters available in September 2012, but that fielding date may now slip into mid-2014.
Airman’s Death Remains Mystery
The noncombat death of SrA. Nicholas D. Eischen on Dec. 24 at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, remained a mystery as of mid-January, but an investigation was ongoing. Eischen, 24, of Sanger, Calif., apparently died in his sleep. He had deployed from the 60th Medical Operations Squadron at Travis AFB, Calif.
Eischen was survived by his wife and a two-year-old son.
Commando Sling Shelved
Pacific Air Forces canceled Exercise Commando Sling 08-2, the second iteration of the joint annual air combat exercise with the Marine Corps and the Republic of Singapore Air Force, due to the limited availability of its F-15s for the exercise. Although Air Combat Command cleared F-15 A-D model fighters for flight on Jan. 9 after their fleetwide stand-down following the crash of an F-15C last November in Missouri, PACAF still had about 35 percent of its F-15s undergoing engineering analysis of inspection results. They were thus unavailable, 13th Air Force officials said.
PACAF participated in the first stage of Commando Sling 08 in October 2007, utilizing F-16s from the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan AB, South Korea.
The command said the third and fourth iterations of the exercise might proceed as scheduled beginning in May and June.
USAF Loses KC-135 Award Protest
The Government Accountability Office ruled on Dec. 27 that the Air Force did not properly assess risk in Boeing’s proposal in USAF’s $1 billion KC-135 depot maintenance competition.
The ruling sustained in part the protest of Pemco Aviation Group (now Alabama Aircraft Industries) over the Air Force’s selection of Boeing in September in the contest.
“The record does not reflect any Air Force analysis as to the realism of certain changes Boeing introduced in its final proposals, or the potential risk associated with those changes; the solicitation required such analysis,” Michael R. Golden, GAO’s managing associate general counsel for procurement law, wrote in announcing the agency’s decision. As a result, the GAO recommended that the Air Force go back and perform a more realistic cost-price assessment.
In mid-January, the Air Force asked the GAO to reconsider its decision. GAO has until mid-April to rule, but may do so sooner.
F-16 Crashes off Florida
An Air Force Reserve Command pilot safely ejected as his F-16 crashed into the Gulf of Mexico on Jan. 15 near Key West, Fla.
A Navy helicopter crew picked up the pilot, who was flying a training mission from Homestead ARB, Fla., as part of the 482nd Fighter Wing.
The Air Force launched an investigation into the cause of the mishap.
CENTAF Awaits New Capabilities
US Central Command Air Forces this spring anticipates the introduction of the Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition in the Middle East-Near East Theater, according to Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, USAF’s top general in the region.
With it, US aircraft will have the means “to strike with precision something that is moving extremely fast,” he said Jan. 15 during a speech on Capitol Hill.
North said he also expects to have B-1B bomber aircraft equipped with targeting pods in theater in May or June that will be able to stream live video down to air operations centers and ground-attack controllers.
New GPS Satellite Is Operational
The Global Positioning System satellite launched into orbit Dec. 20 became fully operational Jan. 2, according to prime contractor Lockheed Martin. Working with Air Force Space Command’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron, Schriever AFB, Colo., Lockheed technicians put the modernized GPS Block IIR satellite, designated IIR-18M, through on-orbit checkout in a record-setting three days to clear it for use, the company said.
IIR-18M is the fifth Block IIR-M satellite that is now on orbit as part of the 30-spacecraft GPS constellation. There are three yet to be launched before the Air Force moves to the Boeing Block IIF variant.
In related news, the 1st SOS at Schriever shut down operations of its legacy satellite control system called the Command and Control Segment on Dec. 28, eight days after it assisted in the launch of IIR-18M. The squadron is preparing to use new control systems.
USAF Seeks To Expand C-130 AMP
The Air Force would like to reinsert 166 special-mission and older combat-delivery C-130 aircraft in its C-130 Avionics Modernization Program to give them new digital cockpits.
USAF spokeswoman Lt. Col. Jennifer Cassidy told Air Force Magazine that “the funding requirements to modernize these 166 aircraft” would be considered as the Air Force prepares its Fiscal 2010 budget.
Originally these 166 aircraft were a part of the C-130 AMP, but were removed in 2007 as USAF restructured the program to reduce risk and cost after significant cost growth breached Congressional Nunn-McCurdy monitoring thresholds.
About three-quarters of these 166 aircraft are Air Force Special Operations Command gunships and Combat Talon covert insertion-extraction airplanes that are considered comparatively complex to upgrade because they are in unique configurations and carry specialized electronics.
The current C-130 AMP encompasses 222 combat-delivery C-130H2, C-130H2.5, and C-130H3 models.
USAF Shows Off New B-2 Powers
Thanks to communications gear, a B-2 bomber was able to receive updated orders electronically in flight for the first time ever and divert to attack a different target during a 20-hour “global power” training sortie from Guam late last year, the Air Force announced.
During the Dec. 18 mission, the diverted B-2, which left Guam as part of a two-ship package, hit a target in Hawaii, while its B-2 mate struck a site in Alaska. Another B-2 first came that same day when weapons specialists at Whiteman AFB, Mo., the B-2’s home, successfully fit a mock-up of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000-pound munition to take out reinforced bunkers and underground facilities, in a mock-up of the aircraft’s internal weapons bay.
The B-2 will be able to carry one MOP in each of its two bays. Northrop Grumman began integrating the Boeing-built Massive Ordnance Penetrator with the bomber last July.
PACAF Seeks C-17 Training at Kona
The Air Force has completed an environmental impact assessment covering the potential use of Kona Airport on the island of Hawaii for C-17 assault-landing training, Gen. Carrol H. Chandler, commander of Pacific Air Forces, said.
PACAF is interested in gaining use of the airport to have a practice “short austere airfield” so that its C-17s can train closer to home rather than having to fly to the US mainland, he said during a Jan. 3 speech at the 2008 Hawaii Military Partnership Conference in Honolulu.
There are two eight-ship squadrons of C-17s within PACAF: one at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, and one at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.
First PC-12 Arrives at Cannon
The 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon AFB, N.M., has taken delivery of the first of its PC-12 Pilatus light intratheater transport aircraft.
The wing’s new 318th Special Operations Squadron will fly the single-engine airplane, which special operators call the nonstandard aircraft.
Cannon tentatively expects to receive a total of 10 PC-12s within the next four years, with two more airplanes scheduled to arrive this year.
The PC-12s at Cannon will not have the classified modifications employed on Air Force Special Operations Command’s U-28, a version of the PC-12.
AFSOC also plans to create an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle unit at Cannon. (See “Special Operators Head West,” p. 30.)
Raptor Training Moves Higher
The first four Air Force pilots picked to fly the F-22 without previous fighter experience entered the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB, Ariz., on Jan. 14 to start the five-week Raptor lead-in course. During it, they will fly in two-seat F-16s with an instructor pilot to familiarize themselves with flying a high-performance, high-G aircraft.
On completion of the course, the pilots will head to Tyndall AFB, Fla., and join the 43rd Fighter Squadron for hands-on training with actual F-22s.
The four pilots were selected from a pool of eight candidates who had undergone undergraduate pilot training and taken the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals course.
USAF also has announced that the Air Force Weapons School at Nellis, AFB, Nev., received the first of its F-22s. The school is scheduled to have its allotment of five Raptors in place in June for use in training Ph.D.-level instructor pilots.
F-16s Rotate to South Korea
The Air Force in January deployed 24 F-16s of the 79th Fighter Squadron, Shaw AFB, S.C., to Kunsan AB, South Korea, as part of a normal rotation of combat forces into the theater.
USAF said the unit’s move was an “Air and Space Expeditionary Force deployment” meant “to maintain a credible deterrent posture and presence in the Pacific region.”
During its time on the peninsula, the squadron will be integrated into all aspects of Kunsan’s host 8th Fighter Wing, including training with the Republic of Korea Air Force, the Air Force said.
Acquisition Center Goes Online
The first of USAF’s new regional acquisition centers has gone online, according to Air Combat Command.
The San Antonio-based center will handle contracting actions for the southwest region, one of five regional centers the Air Force intends to establish.
These changes will reduce the size of individual contracting squadrons at bases by half or more, said ACC contracting chief Col. David Glowacki.
Those wing-level contracting forces that remain will “provide business advisory support for the installation and help them develop requirements and get those requirements into that [regional] system,” he said.
BATMAV Production Ramps Up
The Air Force has approved the Battlefield Air Targeting Micro Air Vehicle for full-rate production, according to AeroVironment, maker of the mini-unmanned platform.
USAF selected AeroVironment’s Wasp III aircraft, which weighs only one pound and has a wingspan of just 29 inches, to be the BATMAV in December 2006. It plans to acquire at least 221 BATMAV systems to equip its battlefield airmen, such as those who call in close air support.
The hand-launchable BATMAV carries infrared and color cameras, giving the battlefield airmen the means to observe from overhead activities that are within their line-of-sight, or beyond, in real time, using a monitor that they carry.
Karzai Asks for Modern Fighters
Afghan President Hamid Karzai would like the United States to include modern fighter airplanes in the package of aircraft that it is supplying to help rebuild the fledgling Afghan Air Force.
Of the “120 planes and helicopters of different kinds” that the US has pledged, Karzai says he hopes it will “hand over the best ones, including [the] F-16 and F-18,” the Chinese news service Xinhua reported Jan. 17, citing comments the Afghan leader made on that day during a ceremony inaugurating a new aircraft hangar at Kabul Air Base.
Dodging Chinese Debris
Two US satellites had to be maneuvered last year to avoid colliding with debris left in space after China’s anti-satellite test on Jan. 11, 2007, according to The Washington Times.
Ground controllers repositioned the Orbcomm FM 36 commercial communication satellite in April 2007 so that it would not pass “within about 123 feet” of the debris field, the newspaper reported on Jan. 11, the one-year anniversary of the Chinese test. The newspaper cited information provided by the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
Similarly, the NASA Earth observation satellite Terra was moved in June 2007 “to avoid coming within about 90 feet of the debris,” the newspaper said.
A New Way To Recharge UAVs
The Air Force Research Laboratory is investigating how to utilize power lines as a source of energy to extend the amount of time that micro-unmanned aerial vehicles can stay aloft during a mission, New Scientist reported in its January issue.
Tiny sensor aircraft in need of a recharge would attach themselves to a power line to restore their batteries and then fly away to continue their mission, the magazine said.
Challenges abound, such as enabling the nimble aircraft to couple with the line without damage to itself or the line and creating a morphing airframe that can hang on the lines inconspicuously without arousing suspicion.
AFRL anticipates testing latching mechanisms this year, the magazine said.
Special Ops Tanker Researched
The Air Force is advancing plans to field a new combat rescue tanker next decade to refuel special mission aircraft such as Air Force Special Operations Command’s CV-22 Osprey. The Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, announced that it would issue a request for proposals early this year for one component of this aircraft—a variable speed-variable drag drogue.
The drogue system would allow next generation AFSOC tankers “to support simultaneous helicopter and single CV-22 refueling capability on the same mission without landing to reconfigure.” ASC wants the drogue capable of operating at speeds of 120 mph to 247 mph.
Overall, USAF wants up to 115 new tankers to replace its current HC-130 combat rescue and MC-130 special operations refueling aircraft.
Canada Buys C-130J
The government of Canada has signed a $1.4 billion contract with Lockheed Martin for the purchase of 17 C-130J transport aircraft. They will replace aged C-130Es and C-130Hs used today by Canadian Forces.
Delivery of the first airplane is scheduled for early 2010. The parties expect to add a 20-year maintenance contract in 2009.
The Canadian government announced its intent to purchase the C-130Js in 2006, but the decision became mired in controversy as critics argued that rival Airbus’ A400M military transport aircraft had not been fairly considered.
However, the A400M is not expected to make its maiden flight until this summer and it reportedly faces additional schedule slips beyond the six-month delay previously announced by Airbus, according to the Wall Street Journal.
JASSM Flight Test Goes Well
The Air Force said the second of three product upgrade verification flight tests of a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile cruise missile at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., “appears to be an unqualified success.”
The service said in January that the Dec. 20, 2007 mission was used to validate improvements to the stealthy missile after a series of problems last year led to concerns that the service might terminate the program. Subsequent hardware and software changes were meant to overcome the loss of the Global Positioning System navigation signal in flight, an anomaly that plagued the missile in the three flight tests in April 2007.
“Missile separation, control surface deployment, transition to stable flight, and engine start occurred nominally,” USAF acquisition officials said in mid-January. “GPS acquisition occurred on the expected timelines, overall navigation performance appeared nominal, and no GPS dropouts were noted.”
Further, they said, “Accuracy against the target appears to have been spot on, and the impact resulted in a high order detonation.”
The missile must pass additional flight tests this spring before the service presents the data to Pentagon acquisition chief John J. Young for certification to continue.
Aussies Seek Raptors
Australia intends to press US lawmakers for the right to acquire the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, reports that country’s Herald Sun, citing comments by Defense Minister Joel A. Fitzgibbon. “I intend to pursue American politicians for access to the Raptor,” said Fitzgibbon, who is planning to review the nation’s air combat capability.
US law currently bars export of the Lockheed Martin-built F-22. But Fitzgibbon said: “We are well-placed to talk to Democrats on the Hill about it, and I want it to be part of the mix.” He is part of the new Labor Party-led government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that unseated John Howard’s Liberal Party-headed coalition in the country’s national election last November.
The aforementioned review will re-examine the Howard government’s plans to replace the Royal Australian Air Force’s aging F-111s and F/A-18s with 24 new Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets and about 100 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
In 2006, House appropriators had approved foreign sales, but conferees stripped the provision from the 2007 defense appropriations bill. There was interest at the time in potential sales to Pacific region ally Japan, which a Congressional Research Service report noted would benefit the US aerospace industry. CRS acknowledged that Japan traditionally has safeguarded imported technology, but that the potential exists for an “inadvertent leak.” Selling to Japan, said CRS, might also prompt other allies to expect the same consideration.
|USAF Outlines Modernization Plan For Latin Nations
The Air Force has unveiled a plan to help Central American air forces acquire modern aircraft to replace their dilapidated Vietnam War-era airplanes, according to USAF’s top general in the region.
The Regional Aircraft Modernization Program, or RAMP, would allow El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua to acquire new transport aircraft, utility helicopters, and air sovereignty platforms in phases, Lt. Gen. Norman R. Seip, commander of 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern, told reporters Jan. 16 during a meeting in the Pentagon.
US funding support would cover the lion’s share of the costs. However, the plan would also require the commitment of the four participants to establish regional hubs for training, logistics, and maintenance to defray infrastructure and support costs that each nation could not shoulder on its own, he said.
“There is no disagreement by anyone that the Central American air forces need help,” Seip said. By not helping these nations with recapitalization, he said, USAF runs the risk of “becoming their surrogate air force and doing their business, which is something we probably don’t want to do.”
Phase 1 of RAMP, pegged at up to $56 million, entails each nation acquiring up to four new medium airlift platforms, according to AFSOUTH. These aircraft notionally would be capable of short takeoff and landing and of carrying light weapons.
Seip said the C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft is not considered an option here. Instead, less sophisticated and costly options are under review.
Phase 2 would cost about $96 million, according to AFSOUTH. During it, each of the four nations would acquire up to four medium-lift utility helicopters. Under RAMP’s $128 million final phase, the nations would each acquire up to four medium interceptor platforms for air sovereignty, AFSOUTH said.
Five years of contractor logistics support would accompany each phase to give each nation the opportunity to train its airmen to maintain the fleets thereafter, Seip said.
AFSOUTH tentatively plans to conduct infrastructure site visits in the participating nations in April. The goal is to have memoranda of understanding signed with each nation in June to define and clarify “all aspects of regionalization.”
|USAF Lays Out Basing Plan
The Air Force has released a new weapon system roadmap identifying the bases that may host future aircraft such as the C-27, F-35, KC-X, Next-Generation Bomber, and CSAR-X helicopter in coming decades.
The list of bases, crafted with input from all adjutants general, includes locations across the continental US, Alaska, Hawaii, and US territories that could become home to the new aircraft. Most of these sites already play host to airplanes such as the F-16 and KC-135 that the Air Force intends to start retiring as the new systems enter service.
The roadmap is based on the capabilities “required to fight and win America’s wars,” Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Chief of Staff, wrote in introducing the document.
Included are seven potential bases for the C-27, four for the new bomber, 27 for the KC-X and 41 for the F-35, although eight of the latter may end up hosting F-22s. But nothing is certain at this point since USAF, by law, must complete a thorough assessment for each site that measures the environmental impact of basing the new weapon system there. The F-35, for example, is noisier than the F-16 that it will replace, so it is not a given that it will go everywhere the F-16 is now.
Further, the Air Force actually has to acquire the equipment. For example, the roadmap includes basing sites for 381 potential F-22s. Yet USAF is authorized today to procure only 183 of them.
Although senior Air Force leaders are not saying it publicly, the beddown plan is also a map of constituencies and effectively puts members of Congress on notice that if they want a continuing Air Force mission in their district, they better support the new systems.
|Moseley White Paper Articulates USAF Vision
Dominance in air, space, and cyberspace remains vital for defending the United States and its interests, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Chief of Staff, states in “The Nation’s Guardians: America’s 21st Century Air Force,” a new CSAF white paper.
“No modern war has been won without air superiority. No future war will be won without air, space, and cyberspace superiority,” he writes in the document, which charts Air Force strategy for the next two decades and defines USAF’s “indispensable role in promoting and defending the national interest.”
Moseley says the Air Force’s ability to fulfill its missions “is already being tested” since it operates with the oldest inventory in its history and has been “battered by 17 years of continuous combat.” Meanwhile, ascendant powers, “flush with new wealth and hungry for resources and status,” are posturing to contest US superiority with capabilities such as sophisticated “generation 4-plus” fighter aircraft, modern integrated air defenses, offensive counterspace systems, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Potential adversaries view cyberspace in particular as “a relatively inexpensive venue to offset our traditional advantages in air and space,” he writes. To counter this, “we must position the Air Force to secure America’s superiority in all domains,” he continues. This includes “appropriate mixes of stand-off capabilities; penetrating manned aircraft; enhanced cyber capabilities; advanced unmanned combat systems; operationally responsive space; and breakthroughs in fields such as electromagnetic spectrum physics, directed energy, nanotechnology, bioengineering, super-stealth, and hypersonics—all wedded to innovative concepts and superior training.”
The character, tempo, and velocity of modern warfare “already severely test our ability to adapt,” Moseley states. “Therefore, redefining the Air Force for the 21st century is an urgent national security requirement—not a luxury we can defer.”
|With KC-X Bids In, Eyes on Air Force
Boeing and Northrop Grumman on Jan. 3 submitted their final proposals in the Air Force’s KC-X tanker-recapitalization contest, leaving it in USAF’s hands to choose the winner in the multibillion-dollar program.
February was the expected contract award month. But senior Air Force officials said throughout the course of the competition that they would not rush a decision, since they intended to complete the extensive source-selection process properly, given the enormous stakes. Indeed KC-X is USAF’s top procurement priority.
The Air Force intends to acquire up to 179 KC-X aircraft to replace the oldest of its Eisenhower-era KC-135s. The new tankers will be designated KC-45s.
The total value of this work is estimated at $40 billion over the next 15 years. Since the Air Force intends eventually to replace its entire 500-aircraft-plus KC-135 fleet, the winning contractor could have the inside track on providing hundreds of new aircraft in decades to come under work reaching $100 billion in total value.
Boeing’s KC-767 is pitted against the Northrop Grumman-EADS KC-30, a militarized tanker version of the Airbus A330 commercial airliner.
“We believe the KC-767 Advanced Tanker will be evaluated as the most capable, technologically advanced, and affordable tanker for America,” James F. Albaugh, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, said on Jan. 3.
Conversely, Ronald D. Sugar, Northrop Grumman chairman and CEO, said on the same day that the KC-30 “not only offers greater capabilities and versatility than any tanker available today, it offers the lowest entry risk” and “meets all of the Air Force’s key requirements.”
The two rivals continued to wage publicity campaigns even after the final bids were in. EADS North America announced on Jan. 14 that it would build Airbus A330 civilian freighter aircraft in Mobile, Ala., in addition to the KC-30, if its team prevailed. The company thus held out the added incentive of additional high-skilled jobs and long-term economic growth for the state and the American South.
Not to be outdone, Boeing, on the same day, released a company-funded study showing that a fleet of 179 KC-767s would burn 24 percent less fuel than a fleet of 179 KC-30s, thereby saving the Air Force $14.6 billion in fuel costs over the projected 40-year service life of the KC-X fleet.
|“Mick 2’s Airplane Just Broke in Half”
It could have happened to any pilot in any of hundreds of F-15s. Fate, however, picked Maj. Stephen W. Stilwell, and the seeming randomness of the Nov. 2, 2007 accident was one thing that made it so dramatic.
Without warning, Stilwell’s Missouri Air National Guard F-15C—#80-0034—broke in half while in flight. In January, the Air Force released details of the fighter’s last moments.
At 9:50 a.m. that November day, Stilwell took off from the Lambert-St. Louis Airport in Missouri for a standard air-to-air training mission. The mishap aircraft was an average F-15C flown by a typical pilot for basic fighter maneuver training.
Stilwell was joined by three other pilots flying F-15s. About 90 miles from St. Louis, the four pilots prepared for some head-to-head air combat. On this day, the flight lead was Mick 1 and Stilwell was Mick 2. The other two pilots, Mick 3 and Mick 4, split off to train separately.
The flight lead and Stilwell performed a pair of four- to five-G warm-up turns to prepare for their upcoming dogfight. Their first engagement was uneventful. The second engagement would be the opposite.
At 18,000 feet altitude and with the fighters nearly two miles apart, Stilwell radioed to Mick 1, “Fight’s on.” The flight lead made an eight G turn to the right, with Stilwell in pursuit.
The first sign of trouble occurred as Stilwell’s F-15 approached 7.8 Gs in a turn. He heard a strange “whoosh” sound, as if his Eagle had suffered a rapid decompression, and the aircraft began shaking violently side to side. Stilwell quickly radioed, “Knock it off!”—signaling the engagement needed to immediately end.
He returned to level flight, and the aircraft’s G-load dropped to 1.5 Gs. Two seconds after the knock-it-off call, however, his flight lead saw Stilwell’s F-15 split into two large pieces.
With obvious distress, the flight lead radioed to Mick 2: “Eject! Eject!” A pause. “Two, eject!”
Stilwell was “in the forward fuselage, separated from the rest of the aircraft,” said Col. William Wignall, who led the accident investigation. He never heard that radio call.
As the Eagle snapped apart, its canopy broke off and smashed into Stilwell’s left arm, breaking it and dislocating his shoulder. The event was so sudden and violent, said Stilwell, that he at first thought his canopy had flipped back and hit one of the Eagle’s stabilizers.
He was able to pull his ejection seat handle with his right hand and punched out nearly inverted.
Once he saw a parachute, Mick 1’s training kicked in and he called the other pilots. “Three and Four, safe it up, climb high,” Mick 1 said, his voice now noticeably calmer. “Mick 2’s airplane just broke in half.”
Wignall said it was “probably the most chilling call that I’d ever heard.”
Stilwell took 11 minutes to descend. He knew he was injured, but not how badly, so he stayed put until a Life Flight helicopter arrived and transported him to a local hospital for treatment.
The accident investigation found that the fighter had suffered a broken longeron, which had accumulated 25 years of stress and strain. Once the longeron snapped, other structural components were unable to hold the F-15 together.
This problem appeared out of the blue; Stilwell reported that the F-15 was flying flawlessly until seconds before it broke apart.
—By Adam J. Hebert
|Airmen Are Awarded Silver, Bronze Stars
TSgt. Scott Innis, a combat controller of the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron, has received the Silver Star, the Air Force’s third highest award for valor.
The award recognizes Innis for his actions during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2006. The 22nd STS is an Air Force Special Operations Command unit, based at McChord AFB, Wash.
Innis, who served with an Army Special Forces unit, spent 24 hours lying atop an observation tower at a forward operating base under heavy attack, calling in close air support and medical evacuation flights. He repeatedly braved enemy fire as he sat up to check coordinates and gauge CAS effectiveness.
Innis also received a Bronze Star with Valor for action in a 2007 deployment.
Fellow 22nd STS combat controller TSgt. Jason Dryer, received a Bronze Star with Valor for directing CAS strikes by an AC-130 gunship to within 77 yards of his Special Forces teammates during a firefight in Afghanistan.
TSgt. Jose C. Valentin, a joint terminal attack controller, received a Bronze Star with Valor for his actions during a 2006 insurgent attack in Afghanistan. When his combat reconnaissance patrol came under attack by a larger enemy force, Valentin ran through a barrage of fire to locate the enemy position and call in CAS, and he helped return fire as medical evacuation helicopters lifted off with the wounded. Valentin directed additional CAS from the back of a truck when attacks continued as the patrol traveled back to a coalition post.
Among airmen recently receiving Bronze Stars for meritorious service are: Col. Brian Neal, Maryland Air National Guard; Lt. Col. Paul Scholl, Schriever AFB, Colo.; 2nd Lt. Jack D. McGonegal, McConnell AFB, Kan.; SMSgt. Ken Pettibone, Spangdahlem AB, Germany; and TSgt. Lorenzo Zapata, Ramstein AB, Germany.
|The War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By Feb. 14, a total of 3,958 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 3,950 troops and eight Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,224 were killed in action with the enemy while 734 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 29,133 troops wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This number includes 16,120 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 13,013 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Massive Air Strikes Hit Arab Jabour
In a coordinated operation with coalition ground forces, two Air Force B-1B bombers and four F-16s carried out precision air strikes on more than 40 targets on Jan. 10 in the Arab Jabour area of Iraq near Baghdad. They dropped 38 bombs within the first 10 minutes of the strike. The tonnage of munitions released in those initial minutes was a pulverizing 40,000 pounds.
The strike supported Operation Phantom Phoenix, an overarching action that included Operation Marne Thunderbolt—an effort aimed at flushing out remaining al Qaeda extremists operating in the southern Arab Jabour area.
Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, 9th Air Force and US Central Command Air Forces commander, told a seminar in Washington shortly afterward not to confuse the operation for an indiscriminate carpet-bombing run. “Tonnage is not the answer, folks,” North said. “We surgically hit the exact targets the division commanders needed.” He added that GPS-INS munitions laid waste to three separate target zones and that, after the initial 10 minutes, the operation continued, hitting 107 desired “mean points of impact” very surgically.
Air strikes supporting Phantom Phoenix continued, with USAF B-1Bs and Navy and Marine Corps F-18s on Jan. 20 delivering another round of 34,500 bombs against 40 targets in the defensive belt al Qaeda had rigged around Arab Jabour.
Soldiers with the Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, joined Iraqi security forces and local civilian militias to follow up on the strikes to improve security in the area.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By Feb. 9, a total of 479 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 478 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of these deaths, 286 were killed in action with the enemy while 193 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 1,864 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 735 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 1,129 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Key Taliban Commander Targeted in Strike
Coalition aircraft assisted International Security Assistance Force troops in Kapisa Province on Jan. 12 by carrying out a strike with precision guided munitions on a top Taliban commander. He was a key facilitator for getting improvised explosive devices to insurgent forces operating in the area and organized attacks against ISAF and coalition forces.
The attack, on a compound in the Pasha Qari village, was the site of a large Taliban meeting, at which intelligence placed the commander with other Taliban elements. ISAF troops ensured the site was clear of civilians before calling in the strike.
Afghan National Army units and ISAF troops conducted an assessment of the site after the strike.
C-12 Pilots Support SOF Deployment
A group of C-12J transports assigned to the 459th Airlift Squadron, Yokota AB, Japan, completed a deployment for Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines, transporting cargo and personnel for the special operations mission aiding the Philippine military’s anti-terror efforts.
The aircraft and crews frequently operated from rural runways, many no more than 4,000 feet long and lacking navigational aids and control towers. During the course of the four-month deployment, the team from Yokota flew nearly 265 hours, transporting 552 passengers and more than 57,000 pounds of cargo.
The deployment was the first for Yokota’s prop-driven C-12s, which had arrived in July 2007 to replace the unit’s C-21s.
- Gen. Roger A. Brady formally took command of US Air Forces in Europe on Jan. 9. He received his fourth star on that same day. Brady took over for Gen. William T. Hobbins, who retired. Brady had been USAF’s deputy chief of staff for personnel.
- President Bush in January named USAF Lt. Gen. William M. Fraser III to oversee compliance with the US-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace “roadmap.” Fraser is assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
- Recipients of the 2007 Lance P. Sijan Air Force Leadership Award are: Lt. Col. Laura A. Soule, Lackland AFB, Tex.; Capt. Stewart J. Parker, Pope AFB, N.C.; MSgt. William F. Facio, Nellis AFB, Nev.; and TSgt. Joshua D. King, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.
- MSgt. Anthony Roy, an instructor flight engineer with the 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron, an EC-130H Compass Call unit at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., flew his 200th combat sortie in late 2007 during a deployment to Southwest Asia.
- Lt. Gen. William L. Shelton, commander of 14th Air Force and US Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command for Space, received his third star on Jan. 8. He has led 14th Air Force since May 2005; his duties expanded when he took charge of the JFCC-S.
- Maj. Paul Moga, the Air Force’s sole F-22 aerial demonstration pilot, so wowed the air show circuit last year that AirShowBuzz.com in January named him its Person of the Year for 2007.
- The 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard AFB, Tex., received the first two of its T-6 Texan II trainers in January, marking the start of its conversion from the T-37 Tweet. The wing’s full complement of Texans is expected by December 2009.
- An Air Force laptop computer containing Social Security numbers and other sensitive personal information on some 10,000 current or former airmen went missing at Bolling AFB, D.C., late last year. As of late January, it had not been found.
- The Air Force inactivated the 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron on Jan. 11. USAF formed the unit in December 2005 to support the Army in handling detainees in Southwest Asia.
- Boeing has opened an F-15E Mission Training Center at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. It joins an existing F-15E MTC at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. USAF plans five F-15E centers—two each at Seymour Johnson and Mountain Home, and one at RAF Lakenheath, Britain.