Air Force World

March 1, 2012

Three Airmen Killed in Afghanistan

Three airmen died when an improvised explosive device struck their vehicle near Shir ghazi in Afghanistan’s Helmand province Jan. 5, DOD announced.

The deceased were: TSgt. Matthew S. Schwartz, 34, of Traverse City, Mich.; SrA. Bryan R. Bell, 23, of Erie, Pa.; and A1C Matthew R. Seidler, 24, of Westminster, Md.

Schwartz was from the 90th Civil Engineer Squadron at F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo.

Bell was a member of the 2nd CES at Barksdale AFB, La.

Seidler’s home unit was the 21st CES at Peterson AFB, Colo.

First Female USAF Four-Star

President Obama nominated Lt. Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger to become a four-star general as head of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, the Pentagon announced Feb. 6.

If the Senate approves her nomination, she will become the Air Force’s first female four-star. She will replace Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, who has led AFMC since November 2008.

Wolfenbarger currently serves as the military deputy in the Air Force Secretariat’s acquisition office at the Pentagon, where she began work last September.

No stranger to AFMC, she served as vice commander from December 2009 to September 2011 and had overseen the B-2 System Program Office and C-17 Systems Group and served in several roles in the F-22 program.

A 1980 graduate of the Air Force Academy, Wolfenbarger began her career as a technical analyst with the Air Armament Center at Eglin AFB, Fla.

Hoffman, Van Buren To Retire

Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, announced he will retire after 38 years of service.

Before taking charge of AFMC in November 2008, Hoffman served as military deputy in the Secretariat’s acquisition office and as Air Combat Command requirements director.

Since graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1974, Hoffman has commanded two fighter wings; been assistant chief of staff for operations for Allied Air Forces Northwestern Europe, NATO; and logged more than 3,400 flight hours in various aircraft types.

David M. Van Buren, the Air Force’s acquisition executive since April 2009, also announced his imminent retirement in February, effective the end of March. At press time, the President had not yet named a nominee to replace Van Buren.

The President has nominated Lt. Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger for a fourth star, with assignment as AMC head.

Over and Out in Afghanistan

US and NATO forces in Afghanistan will transition from combat operations to a purely training and advisory role beginning in 2013, said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

Troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2014 as planned, Panetta said Feb. 1, briefing the press aboard a military flight en route to a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels.

“Hopefully by mid- to the latter part of 2013, we’ll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advise, and assist role,” he said. However, this “doesn’t mean we’re not going to be combat-ready,” noted Panetta, rather that NATO forces won’t be in “the formal combat role that we are [in] now.”

F-35 Commuted Sentence

The F-35B’s two-year “probation” has been lifted by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta after only one year because of improvements in the pace of testing and developing the short takeoff and vertical landing fighter variant intended for the Marine Corps.

“As of today, I am lifting the STOVL probation,” Panetta said in a town hall-style meeting at NAS Patuxent River, Md., in January, congratulating developers for achieving “real progress” in correcting the F-35B’s deficiencies.

In January 2011, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates placed the F-35B on probation, frustrated with the aircraft’s cost, schedule, design, and engine issues. He promised to cancel the STOVL version if the joint industry-government team didn’t resolve its problems within two years.

“We now believe that because of your work the STOVL variant is demonstrating the kind of performance and maturity that is in line with the other two variants of the [F-35],” Panetta said.

No Nuke Cuts Until 2014

Nuclear bomber and ICBM cuts to meet Air Force obligations under the New START agreement with Russia will begin in Fiscal 2014—not before, said USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz.

“There are still decisions pending on how to go about reaching those New START central targets,” Schwartz told the press in a Pentagon briefing Jan. 27. “I would expect that that would unfold in the [Fiscal 2014] program.”

Under the terms of the treaty, the United States must reduce its strategic nuclear arsenal to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 800 total launchers (i.e., long-range ballistic missiles and bombers) by February 2018.

A total of 700 of the launchers may be in deployed status at any given time.

Schwartz reiterated the Air Force’s consistent message that maintaining the triad of nuclear-capable bombers, ICBMs, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles will become increasingly important as the strategic force diminishes in size.

“The diversity, the variety, the attributes associated with each leg of the triad actually reinforce each other to a greater degree,” said Schwartz.

Tanker Realism

The KC-46A tanker test program “is not executable” as outlined by the Air Force, warned J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation.

Citing deficiencies in the KC-46 Test and Evaluation Master Plan in his office’s Fiscal 2011 annual report, Gilmore highlighted that the proposed monthly flight hours per aircraft “exceed the historical averages” of previous large military aircraft programs.

He further emphasized that operational testing could require twice as long as the four months allotted.

Gilmore challenged the service to “provide a TEMP that contains a realistic schedule using historical military flight-test parameters.”

An Air Force spokeswoman said the service respectfully “does not agree” with DOT&E’s assessment, asserting the KC-46 test plan “is comparable to other commercial-derivative test programs, such as the KC-10, and in line with [Federal Aviation Administration] testing efficiencies.”

Since the Air Force selected Boeing as the winner of the KC-X tanker competition in February 2011, this is the first time the KC-46 has come under the scrutiny of DOT&E’s annual review.

Industry in Peril, Group Warns

The next decade’s flat defense budget “will stifle the ability of the defense industry to deliver innovation and urgent wartime capabilities,” warned analysts with the Defense Industrial Base Task Force.

Possible reductions approaching the $1 trillion sequestration level outlined in the 2011 Budget Control Act “would severely damage the defense industrial base as a commercially viable enterprise, as a reliable and responsive provider of urgent wartime needs, and as a national strategic asset that is indispensable to the defense of the United States,” according to a report released Jan. 6.

Based on a survey of several dozen companies, “this report paints an alarming picture for the future of the aerospace and defense industry,” said Aerospace Industries Association President Marion Blakey.

The task force comprised AIA, the National Defense Industrial Association, and Professional Services Council.

Tougher Scrutiny for EELV Program

Congress is requiring the Pentagon to keep a close eye on the Air Force’s proposed block-buy plan for space boosters to ensure the service’s promised cost savings are realized.

The Government Accountability Office warned last fall the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle block-buy strategy could actually lock in higher prices under the current plans, negating its value.

Language in the Fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill now requires DOD to report—along with the Fiscal 2013 budget request—how the Air Force is incorporating GAO’s cost-saving recommendations.

Congress also mandated that the EELV program revert from a sustainment program to an acquisition program. This means the Air Force will be under more stringent reporting requirements for EELV cost, schedule, and performance.

RPA Pipeline Pilots Fly RQ-4

The 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale AFB, Calif., welcomed the first two RQ-4 Global Hawk operators specifically trained as remotely piloted aircraft pilots under the service’s new 18X specialty code.

“It’s a privilege to be the first in this platform at this capacity … and pave the way for the rest of the pipeline students,” said one of the pilots, a second lieutenant.

The two immediately began flying operational missions in support of combatant commanders worldwide, according to Beale officials.

“With these pilots not coming from traditional training and not being experienced aviators, this is untested territory,” said the unit’s commander during the Jan. 13 wing-pinning ceremony.

However, “based on the performance of these two airmen, I have high hopes for the future of the program and the 18X pilots,” he said.

The new classification 18X is for RPA pilots who are newly commissioned officers or those transitioning from nonrated career fields.

STOVL Trainers for Eglin

The first two production-model F-35B fighters destined to train Marine Corps pilots and maintainers arrived at the Lightning II schoolhouse at Eglin AFB, Fla., in January. They were flown directly from the production line at Lockheed Martin’s plant in Fort Worth, Tex.

Aircraft BF-6 and BF-8 touched down separately at Eglin, joining the 33rd Fighter Wing, which oversees joint-service F-35 training.

The two fighters added to Eglin’s growing complement of F-35s, which already numbers six Air Force F-35As.

The schoolhouse’s first regular F-35 pilot training course was originally scheduled to begin in January, but as of midmonth, the Air Force was not yet sure when courses would begin. For the time being, the F-35s at Eglin will be flown by test-qualified pilots in familiarization missions around the region, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz said at a Feb. 3 Pentagon press conference.

P&W Gets F-35 Engine Contract

Pratt & Whitney received a contract worth at least $1.1 billion to power 30 F-35 low rate initial production strike fighters. The contract covers the F135 engines for LRIP Lot 5.

“We anticipate contract negotiations with the F-35 Joint Program Office that will reflect the great progress being made on F135 affordability,” said Bennett Croswell, president of Pratt’s Military Engines business unit.

Under the contract, the company will supply engines for 21 Air Force F-35As, three Marine Corps F-35Bs, and six Navy F-35Cs, beginning in late 2012.

The contract includes spare parts, management and engineering services, sustainment, and field support, as well as the power plants themselves.

Pratt & Whitney received $138 million for long-lead engine materials for the aircraft last year, and Lockheed Martin cinched the $4 billion Lot 5 LRIP deal just last December.

10K for F-15E

An F-15E operating from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, topped 10,000 accumulated flight hours, becoming the first F-15 of any model to reach the mark, according to Bagram officials.

Assigned to the 335th Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., the Strike Eagle has been flying for more than 21 years, including combat sorties as far back as Operation Desert Storm.

“It has taken more than 21 years of qualified maintenance technicians performing more than one million hours of inspections and repairs in all types of environments … to ensure aircraft #89-0487 was available,” said CMSgt. John Parrott, superintendent of Bagram’s 335th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit.

He also credited all the other airmen, such as weapons loaders, involved in keeping the aircraft operating.

A crew from Seymour Johnson flew the aircraft to the historic milestone on a sortie over Afghanistan, Jan. 13.

Turkish F-35 Deal Moves Ahead

Turkey’s defense procurement ministry expects to formalize a purchase deal for F-35 strike fighters after clearing a key government hurdle early this year, reported Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.

Purchase negotiations with Turkey have resumed after stalling last March —allegedly over US refusal to share sensitive software coding.

“Lockheed Martin is pleased that the [Turkish] Defense Industry Executive Committee has authorized the procurement of the F-35,” company F-35 program spokesman Michael Rein said Jan. 6.

“Turkey is an essential partner in F-35 production, development, and sustainment activities, and we remain ready to support its future fighter aircraft requirements,” he added.

One of the nine F-35 development partners, Turkey plans to purchase some 100 F-35s, with delivery expected to begin in 2015.

WGS-4 Comsat On Orbit

WGS-4, the fourth Wideband Global Satellite communications spacecraft, blasted into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., Jan. 19.

“The 45th Space Wing is proud to work this important Air Force launch of WGS-4 with Space and Missile Systems Center, United Launch Alliance, and Boeing,” said the wing vice commander, Col. Rory D. Welch, who was also the launch director.

WGS-4 transmitted its first on-orbit signals indicating that it “is healthy and ready to begin orbital maneuvers and operational testing,” reported Boeing.

WGS-4 joins three WGS Block 1 satellites already operating on orbit. It is the first spacecraft in the series in the Block 2 configuration incorporating ultrahigh bandwidth and data rates to support airborne intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance assets.

A Worldwide Global Satellite

In mid-January, the United States sealed a long-term Wideband Global Satellite communications partnership with Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.

The arrangement secured the funds to purchase the ninth WGS military communications bird, WGS-9, which the Air Force ordered the following day, Jan. 18.

The five partner nations agreed to contribute a combined $620 million toward WGS-9’s $1 billion price tag. The ninth satellite is slated to launch sometime around 2018.

“International participation in WGS is a win-win,” said Craig R. Cooning, Boeing space program vice president. “The partners bring additional funding to expand the constellation and make it more resilient, and for a relatively modest investment … receive immediate access to worldwide services,” he added.

B-1 Tests Bomb “Lite”

A B-1 Lancer successfully dropped a BLU-129 low-collateral-damage bomb, proving the aircraft’s compatibility with the weapon, in tests over the Utah Test and Training Range.

The BLU-129 is a 500-pound guided munition featuring a composite warhead in place of more typical metal versions. It is designed to destroy targets while causing minimal collateral damage.

“The goal of this test was to verify if a B-1’s software would be compatible with the weapon,” said Maj. Thomas Bryant of the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron, at Dyess AFB, Tex., which conducted the trial Jan. 27.

Bookending Combat Shadow

Two MC-130P Combat Shadows from the 9th Special Operations Squadron closed the unit’s start-to-finish support of Iraq operations, returning to Eglin AFB, Fla., on Jan 6.

“Since February 2003, our people and assets have steadily deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn,” said Col. James C. Slife, commander of the squadron’s parent unit, the 1st Special Operations Wing, at Hurlburt Field. Fla.

The 9th SOS alone flew some 8,221 sorties, accumulating more than 12,000 flight hours in the Iraq theater, according to wing officials.

Ski-borne Salvation

A ski-equipped LC-130 departed the snowpack at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, battling bad weather to evacuate seven critically injured fishermen to Christchurch, New Zealand.

The sailors were part of a crew pulled from the deck of a burning Korean fishing vessel in the Ross Sea off Antarctica, Jan. 11. A US research vessel took them to McMurdo.

The badly burned fishermen were scheduled for further evacuation by an Air Force C-17 from Christchurch. However, due to fog and persistent poor weather, officials delayed and ultimately scrubbed the C-17 mission, Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Instead, the New York Air National Guard LC-130 crew—members of the 109th Airlift Wing who were already at McMurdo—elected to make the roughly eight-hour haul to Christchurch. They touched down with the injured men late in the evening Jan. 13.

The Gift of Airspace

New Mexico has granted 11,000 acres of state land to USAF to allow Air Force Special Operations Command more space for live-fire ranges and desert and urban warfare training on the Melrose Air Force Range, adjacent to Cannon Air Force Base.

“Ranges and airspace are the lifeblood of our ability to train and be ready to fight those conflicts the nation asks of us,” said Terry A. Yonkers, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for installations, environment, and logistics.

“It’s an honor for me to be here today to accept this very gracious gift,” he added, accepting the land transfer on behalf of the Air Force from New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R), in Sante Fe, Jan. 18.

Valued at approximately $3.2 million, the gift is the result of a June 2008 memorandum of understanding between the Air Force and New Mexico.

Engine Seizure

A dual engine failure caused the crash of an A-10C on a functional check flight, following its overhaul last September, according to an Air Combat Command inquest.

ACC’s accident investigators determined the pilot, assigned to Moody AFB, Ga., inadvertently stalled the aircraft at 34,000 feet, causing the engines to seize at high altitude. The mishap took place Sept. 26, 2011.

Unable to recover the aircraft, the pilot located a controlled bailout area and safely ejected from the crippled aircraft. He sustained no serious injuries, but the Warthog was destroyed.

The A-10’s stall warning system malfunctioned earlier in the flight, at 15,000 feet, but without any evidence of further problems, the pilot elected to continue the check flight. Both the pilot’s inexperience and lack of adequate training were cited as factors—though not the cause—of the accident.

The A-10 was valued at about $14.7 million. The cost of cleaning up the crash site, roughly 20 miles northwest of Moody, is estimated at an additional $150,000.

First In, Still on Watch

The 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron—the first air control unit on station in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and the last one out late last year—now monitors air traffic in the Persian Gulf.

Deployed from the 606th ACS at Spangdahlem AB, Germany, the airmen now work with E-3 AWACS and Army air defense controllers to guide and deconflict military aircraft movement through the Gulf.

The 727th began its new tasking Dec. 30.

Nine Rocket Deal

United Launch Alliance received a $1.5 billion Air Force contract for nine Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles to support upcoming national security space missions.

Five of the rockets will be of the Atlas V type, for the launch of the Air Force’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program-19 weather satellite, the Navy’s Mobile User Objective System-3 communications satellite, and three National Reconnaissance Office payloads.

The remaining four will be Delta IV boosters for the launch of DMSP-20, two Global Positioning System Block IIF satellites, and a mission designated Air Force Space Command-4, according to the Defense Department.

Raptor Center Open

The Ogden Air Logistics Center’s new F-22 heavy maintenance facility is now open for business at Hill AFB, Utah.

The 96,000-square-foot building accommodates seven F-22s at a time, in addition to a specialized shop dedicated to the Raptor’s unique composite structures, reported Utah’s Standard-Examiner.

“This facility greatly expands our capability,” said Ogden commander Maj. Gen. Andrew E. Busch.

The new addition is the second phase of a $45 million project establishing Raptor depot maintenance at Hill.

Work on the first phase, a 70,000-square-foot facility, was completed in mid-2010. In addition to the work at Hill, F-22 prime contractor Lockheed Martin performs Raptor overhaul work at its facility in Palmdale, Calif.

Rep. Robert Bishop (R) cut the ribbon, opening the new facility Jan. 12.

GPS III Satellites Ordered

The Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $238 million contract for production of Global Positioning System III satellites No. 3 and 4.

“The acquisition of the next two GPS III satellites at one time will allow the Lockheed Martin-led team to maximize efficiencies in satellite manufacturing,” stated the company in a January news release.

With the first GPS III satellite scheduled for launch in 2014, the new satellites will begin transmitting more accurate and jam-resistant signals than the GPS satellites currently on orbit, according to the company.

USAF awarded the contract for satellites one and two in May 2008. Air Force Space Command boss Gen. William L. Shelton highlighted GPS III as a “model” of project cost and schedule discipline.

Minuteman Terminals Get a Boost

Minuteman ICBM launch control center strategic satellite communications terminals will be modernized under a $9.4 million contract awarded to Raytheon.

A critical component of strategic command and control, the terminals handle the emergency action messages that authorize nuclear weapon launch.

The modernized systems will be able to communicate with the new Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites, according to John Gould, program manager for the Minuteman Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network Program Upgrade.

Raytheon will modify the 46 existing terminals linking operational Minuteman facilities and test sites.

Initial fielding of the terminals is scheduled for 2013, with completion of the entire terminal upgrade expected by the spring of 2015.

Okinawa Shuffle

Pacific Air Forces wants to keep Kadena AB, Japan, separate from a Marine Corps air station, said PACAF commander Gen. Gary L. North.

“I’m very comfortable with the lay down that we have at Kadena right now,” said North, when asked about relocating Marines from Futenma to nearby Kadena, reported Japan’s Kyodo News agency.

Led by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a group of senators recommended last year that the Defense Department consider moving Marine Corps assets to Kadena, relocating a portion of the USAF assets on the base to Guam.

However, the US agreed to a deal with Japan in 2006 to construct a new Marine Corps air facility adjoining the existing USMC base at Camp Schwab, also on the island.

The Senators contended that moving Marine Corps aircraft to Kadena could be significantly cheaper than the cost of constructing a new air station at Camp Schwab.

North remains convinced that the original plan is a “very solid proposal, adding that the United States and Japan should “continue to do the work that they have agreed upon.”

Tanker Brotherhood

The French air base that hosted Air Force KC-135s from RAF Mildenhall, Britain, last year during operations over Libya recently sent a French KC-135 tanker on a reciprocal visit. Deployed as the 351st Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, airmen of Mildenhall’s 100th Air Refueling Wing operated alongside French KC-135FR tankers at Istres during the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector.

“In the long term, the goal is for us to be ready for any future conflicts and for us to operate together even more seamlessly than we have in the past,” said Lt. Col. Robert Ricks, 100th ARW staff director and former 351st EARS commander.

“Hopefully we can keep this relationship going,” he added. French personnel toured Mildenhall operations and “flew” the unit’s new KC-135 Block 40 simulator during the visit Jan. 4-5.

Pullout in Style

Army civil engineers completed final construction of the strategic airlift apron, freight loading dock, and new passenger terminal at Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan.

The $18 million expansion project “will play an important role as the coalition begins to move equipment and personnel out of theater,” said Col. John Hokaj, Shindand commander.

The 67,000 square yards of apron and taxiways, completed in January, allows USAF to keep the runway in operation as it loads and unloads large strategic-lift aircraft, added Hokaj.

Before construction of the passenger terminal, Shindand officials processed transient personnel in a makeshift tent.

The civil engineers turned the apron over to the Air Force Jan. 11.

Fairchild Vies for First KC-46 Unit

Washington State officials are pressing to host the Air Force’s first operational KC-46A tanker unit at Fairchild Air Force Base, near Spokane, following Boeing’s recently announced shift of KC-46A work to its facility in Everett, north of Seattle.

“The first place for the first planes off the assembly line is only a short flight away,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D).

Fairchild recently completed a $43.6 million runway renovation and upgrades to its landing approach system and currently hosts KC-135 operations, making it an ideal site for the new tankers, said Murray and Sen. Maria E. Cantwell (D) at the kickoff of the “Fairchild First” campaign, reported Spokane’s Spokesman-Review.

As the KC-46 begins rolling off the assembly line around 2017, gradually replacing the KC-135, “the end of one mission is the beginning of the next,” said Murray, meeting with local leaders Jan. 9. “The assets this region provides are the best.”

Aerostat Accident Explained

A tethered aerostat radar system was destroyed in a thunderstorm at Lajas, Puerto Rico, last August, because airmen on the ground delayed their response, Air Combat Command accident investigators concluded.

Caught in gusting winds, the tethered aerostat radar system dragged its securing winch truck into an embankment—partly due to the ground crew’s additional failure to properly chock the vehicle.

Grounded against the embankment, the blimp’s tether was drawn taut against a safety cable. The resulting kinetic friction severed the blimp’s mooring, allowing it to rise above 7,000 feet, where it ruptured, according to the Dec. 15 accident report.

The rig caused no injury on the ground, but the total loss of equipment is estimated at $8.1 million, excluding cleanup.

Last Wright-Patt Galaxy

The last C-5A Galaxy assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, with Air Force Reserve Command’s 445th Airlift Wing, has been retired to the “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.

“I’m glad it has found its final resting place,” said Lt. Col. Philip A. Pierce Jr., 89th Airlift Squadron, the pilot for the Jan. 31 mission.

Tail #70-0457 was the last of the wing’s 10 C-5s to depart, making room for nine C-17s that the 445th will now operate.

The wing flew its final formal C-5 mission, a training sortie, in September and hosted the farewell ceremony for its C-5s in October.

The Air Force is now proposing the retirement of the last 27 C-5As in the fleet, describing them as excess to USAF needs. They would leave between Fiscal 2013 and Fiscal 2017.

Laughlin T-38s Moved to Randolph

Twenty T-38C trainers from Laughlin AFB, Tex., arrived at nearby Randolph Air Force Base, completing USAF’s consolidation of Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals training.

Laughlin’s 434th Fighter Training Squadron relinquished the aircraft to Randolph’s 435th FTS, which now gains 11 active duty instructor pilots and more than 30 support positions. The 435th FTS will train 80 additional students annually, according to service officials.

The Air Force announced the end of IFF training at Laughlin and Vance AFB, Okla., last May, leaving IFF training to Randolph, Columbus AFB, Miss., and Sheppard AFB, Tex.

The final T-38C arrived at Randolph—a part of Joint Base San Antonio—on Jan. 18.

Nine Lives Critical Care

The first all-Air Force Critical Care Air Transport and Aeromedical Evacuation team is now operating with HC-130P King aircraft assigned to the 76th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron in Helmand province, Afghanistan. The team completed its first mission earlier this year, according to squadron officials.

Lt. Col. Peter Dominicis, 76th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander, explained that his unit first flew with only Air Force pararescue teams, but “as we flew more, we started seeing patients that were more critical and needed more attention,” requiring CCAT’s specialized skills.

For instance, on Jan. 18, CCAT medical personnel joined with AE personnel on a 76th EQRS HC-130P, evacuating a marine with burns over 80 percent of his body to treatment at Kandahar.

“I don’t think he would’ve survived if it hadn’t been for the [CCAT and AE teams],” Dominicis said. The CCAT members complement their AE counterparts by attending to those wounded who are in an unstable condition.

Jammin’ GPS

There’s no way to operate a proposed commercial wireless broadband network alongside DOD’s Global Positioning System without significant interference, a joint governmental committee has ruled.

Civilian telecommunications company LightSquared’s plan “would cause harmful interference to many [Global Positioning System] receivers,” and “there appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations” to allow the systems to operate side by side, asserted Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Deputy Secretary of Transportation John D. Porcari. They are the co-chairmen of the National Space-based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee.

The unanimous conclusion was reached after “substantial federal resources” were expended in analyzing the company’s original plan and subsequent modifications, Carter stated in a letter to the Commerce Department’s communications chief Jan. 13.

Analysis by the FAA added further clout to the findings. The agency noted that LightSquared’s proposals “are not compatible with several GPS-dependent aircraft safety-of-flight systems,” according to the committee co-chairs.

Senior USAF space officials warned early on that the LightSquared network would likely cause significant jamming of and interference to GPS signals.

Despite this specific case, Carter and Porcari said, “the Excom agencies continue to strongly support” the President’s aim to make spectrum available for civilian broadband use.

Carter and Porcari proposed drafting “new GPS spectrum-interference standards that will help inform future proposals for nonspace, commercial uses in the bands adjacent to the GPS signals.”

No Relief for DMSP

Congress terminated the Defense Weather Satellite System in the newly enacted 2012 defense appropriations bill, compelling the Air Force to devise a new strategy for future space-based weather monitoring.

DWSS, which was intended to succeed the current Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft on orbit, was born out of yet another canceled program, the tri-agency NPOESS constellation of satellites.

Lawmakers warned last year that scrapping the program, refining requirements, and holding a new competition might be preferable to continuing with DWSS, which suffered protracted cost and schedule problems.

Lawmakers stripped all but $43 million of the service’s $445 million request for DWSS development, stipulating the Air Force use the remaining money to cover termination penalties.

Congress then designated $125 million in separate funding for “weather satellite follow-on activities.” Though an Air Force Space Command spokesman said AFSPC is “still determining the appropriate future path given these reductions,” it will extend the operating life of the current DMSP spacecraft.

The Air Force halted work on the DWSS in January, preparing instead to launch the two remaining legacy satellites—DMSP-19 and DMSP-20—while a new system is devised.

Air Force officials stress that DMSP is able to continue providing the US military with “high-quality and timely weather data” into the 2020s.

Stability Conversation

It’s a good time to talk and a bad time to negotiate with Russia on the next round of bilateral nuclear reductions following the New START agreement, said Ellen O. Tauscher, then undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

Instead, the United States and Russia are laying the foundation for future negotiations the Obama Administration is keen to pursue, through a series of “strategic stability talks” over the next six to eight months.

“We would like to get back to talks on what we call deployed and nondeployed and strategic and nonstrategic [assets]. But I think we are sanguine about that fact that they are not ready to do it,” Tauscher said speaking in Washington, D.C., Jan. 12. (In February, Tauscher became the State Department’s special envoy for missile defense.)

In the meantime, the Administration hopes to foster “a much more mutually assured and stable relationship,” she said.

With Russia preoccupied with presidential elections this month, the Administration facing its own election cycle in November, and NATO still conducting its defense and deterrence posture review, Tauscher said further nuclear reduction talks will have to wait.

Instead, the two nations have identified a “baker’s dozen” of topics to discuss, including conventional weapons in Europe, cyber issues, missile defense, and piracy, maintaining open lines of communications for when opportunity does arise.

The War on Terrorism

Operation Enduring Freedom


By Feb. 17, a total of 1,884 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 1,881 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,492 were killed in action with the enemy while 392 died in noncombat incidents.

There have been 15,343 troops wounded in action during OEF.

Cover Me

F-16s and A-10s flew close air support covering the Dec. 30 rescue of an Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter crew that crashed in northern Afghanistan.

A second Apache relayed his wingman’s distress call to an E-3 AWACS via a KC-135 tanker orbiting nearby. The E-3 broke off to assist in coordinating the recovery, calling in tactical support on the downed aircrew’s position.

“We knew the guys on the ground were going to need armed overwatch, so we called in the F-16s,” said Maj. Paul Lankes, AWACS mission crew boss during the mission.

Low on fuel, the Vipers rendezvoused with the KC-135, then resumed guarding the aircrew from overhead until relieved on station by a pair of A-10s that remained until a rescue convoy arrived to extract the two-man Apache crew.

“That kind of orchestration is what we do,” said Capt. Joel Doss, AWACS electronic combat officer.

Lone Gunman

The Air Force has concluded that the Afghan Air Force officer who shot to death eight USAF air advisors and a US contractor in Kabul last April acted alone.

The investigators “did not determine a conclusive motive,” but Col. Ahmed Gul’s attack “appeared to be premeditated,” according to an Air Force news release discussing Air Force Office of Special Investigations findings on the April 27, 2011, incident.

The release divulged that multiple witness statements “indicated Gul may have had personal issues that were possibly compounded by alleged financial problems.” Available evidence did not support early press rumors that Gul had argued with US service members earlier on the day of the shooting.

Gul died of wounds inflicted during the incident.

Rescuing the Rescuers

Braving minus 15-degree Fahrenheit temperatures and hazardous mountainous terrain, US and Afghan airmen rescued 31 Afghans from an avalanche in northern Afghanistan.

They also helped the crew of an Afghan Mi-17 helicopter that had crashed attempting to save the survivors. The joint US-Afghan team set out in two additional Afghan Mi-17s for an area near the city of Fayzabad.

The helicopters climbed 9,000 feet to the rescue site, which was tucked into the difficult-to-traverse Hindu Kush mountain range.

“The landing zone was much smaller than we anticipated. Not too many teams could’ve pulled this off,” noted Lt. Col. John Conmy, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron commander and an Mi-17 pilot who participated in the Jan. 24 rescue.

“The crews of all the aircraft worked together as a team to make this [rescue] happen,” said Afghan Air Force Maj. Farid Samin.

Senior Staff Changes

RETIREMENTS: Lt. Gen. Daniel J. Darnell, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Remington, Maj. Gen. Harold L. Mitchell.

CHANGES: Maj. Gen. Mark A. Barrett, from DCS, Strat. Plans & Policy, NATO, Allied Command Transformation, Norfolk, Va., to C/S, EUCOM, Stuttgart, Germany … Brig. Gen. Casey D. Blake, from Dep. Cmdr., Jt. Theater Support Contracting Command, CENTCOM, Kabul, Afghanistan, to Vice Cmdr., Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Dallas … Maj. Gen. Michael R. Boera, from Dir., Rqmts., ACC, JB Langley-Eustis, Va., to Dir., Prgms., DCS, Strat. Plans & Prgms., USAF, Pentagon … Maj. Gen. (sel.) Steven L. Kwast, from Dep. Dir., Politico-Mil. Affairs, Europe, Jt. Staff, Pentagon, to Dir., Rqmts., ACC, JB Langley-Eustis, Va. … Brig. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, from Dep. Dir., Global Ops., STRATCOM, Offutt AFB, Neb., to Dir., Space & Cyber Ops., DCS, Ops., Plans, & Rqmts., USAF, Washington, D.C. … Brig. Gen. Robert D. Thomas, from Cmdr., 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force, AMC, Travis AFB, Calif., to Cmdr., Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions & Citizen Dev., AU, AETC, Maxwell AFB, Ala. … Brig. Gen. David D. Thompson, from Dir., Air, Space, & Cyberspace Ops., AFSPC, Peterson AFB, Colo., to Dep. Dir., Global Ops., STRATCOM, Offutt AFB, Neb. … Brig. Gen. Roger H. Watkins, from Cmdr., Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions & Citizen Dev., AU, AETC, Maxwell AFB, Ala., to Cmdr., 379th AEW, ACC, Southwest Asia … Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, from Dir., Prgms., DCS, Strat. Plans & Prgms., USAF, Pentagon, to Dir., Air, Space, & Cyberspace Ops., AFSPC, Peterson AFB, Colo.


SES CHANGES: Audrey Y. Davis, to Principal Dep. Dir., Defense Finance & Accounting Service, Arlington, Va. … Richard Philip Deavel, to Dir., AF Review Boards Agency, OSAF, Manpower & Reserve Affairs, Washington, D.C. … Sharon K. Puschmann, to Asst. Auditor General, Field Offices Directorate, OSAF, Pentagon … Gordon O. Tanner, to Principal Dep. General Counsel, Office of the AF General Counsel, Pentagon. n