The Air Force on Dec. 28 awarded $668 million in contracts as payment for the first two production F-22 fighters, six engines, and F-22 program support for 1999.
The move is important because it marks the official transition out of research and development for the Air Force’s premier next-generation fighter “and gets us into the next phase of the program,” said Thomas Burbage, F-22 program manager at prime contractor Lockheed Martin.
The award came after the F-22 program completed a Congressionally mandated flight-hour requirement four days before Thanksgiving.
The two existing flight-test aircraft soared past the 183-flight-hour mark more than a month ahead of schedule, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen certified to lawmakers. Furthermore, they have performed well during this effort, which represents 4 percent of the planned test program, reported Cohen.
The full contract for the next set of six Raptors is due to be awarded in about a year. While DoD can still cancel the F-22 program if officials feel major problems have developed, such a drastic action would cost several hundred million dollars in cancellation fees.
The F-22 is scheduled to enter service in 2004. It will replace the aging F-15 as America’s frontline air superiority fighter.
On Jan. 12, Russia rolled out its newest fighter, the MFI. Also known as Project 1.42, the MiG-designed aircraft has been in development since 1984. It is meant to be the Russian equivalent to the stealthy USAF F-22.
The MFI heralds “a revolution in the Russian air force,” said Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, according to the ItarTass news agency. First flight is expected sometime in the first quarter of 1999, added Sergeyev.
However, the fighter on the runway was not the fighter in question. That fighter does not exist. The Russian designers substituted a more ordinary jet fighter, which has never flown and was built for testing 1.42 engines. It had no stealthy features, according to Russian aerospace experts.
Whether Moscow can afford such a new aircraft, with its estimated $70 million per copy price tag, is open to question. The program has long had money problems. Only taxi tests have been held so far.
Russian media described the aircraft as a single-seat fighter with mid-fuselage delta wings, all-moving canards, and twin vertical tails in a V configuration. It has some radar-avoidance features, and its engine is purported to be capable of supersonic cruise without afterburner, a key F-22 attribute.
On Dec. 12, a U-2 from the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, Beale AFB, Calif., shattered a 19-year-old payload-to-altitude world record. The aircraft, flown by instructor pilot Maj. Alan Zwick, carried a weight of 4,400 pounds to just over 66,800 feet-more than 12 miles above the Earth’s surface.
The previous record of 28,513 feet was set Feb. 24, 1979, by a Czech pilot flying a Yakovlev 40. Zwick surpassed that mark just 12 minutes into his 1 hour, 55 minute flight.
Verification by a National Aeronautic Association inspector made the record official. Yet for the U-2, reaching such heights is not exactly unheard-of. Zwick said U-2s fly at such altitude several times a day almost every day of the week.
The unit went for a record now because “we just wanted to make it official, … let the world know we can,” said Maj. Doug Dillard, a 1st RS U-2 instructor pilot.
Life at Prince Sultan AB in Saudi Arabia took a big step forward recently when commanders officially accepted the new Friendly Forces Housing Complex. The first forces to live in the new 4,257-bed facility-the 363d Air Expeditionary Wing-will move in during the first quarter of 1999.
The housing facility has been in the works since 1996, when a bomb destroyed the Khobar Towers living quarters at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and US and Allied troops living in Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Southern Watch were moved to Prince Sultan AB for their own protection.
Until now, housing at the base has meant tents, with airmen living up to eight in a tent. Showers, meals, and toilets were all at least a stroll away. In the new facility, personnel will live one or two to a room, depending on rank, and share full bathrooms.
The facility is similar to a college dormitory, with shared television and living areas in each apartment. There are three dining halls, a gym, recreation center, library, and pool.
Saudi Arabia paid for the $112 million construction cost. The buildings will remain Saudi property but will be primarily run, guarded, and maintained by US forces.
The top priority for the Air Force in 1999 will be moving the Expeditionary Aerospace Force concept into a reality, said acting Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters during a New Year’s trip to Southwest Asia and southern Europe.
“I think this is going to be an exciting year where we can make huge progress and really make the Air Force what all of us would like it to be,” he said during a Jan. 2 stop at Lajes Field in the Azores, Portugal. “In 1999, basically the priority is to get into EAF, to get the schedule out, to get the units allocated, and to begin the training cycle.”
The EAF will be made up of 10 Air Expeditionary Forces. These AEF aircraft packages will respond to missions whenever needed. The plan calls for two to be on alert or deployed for a 90-day cycle, while two others are getting ready to deploy, and six are training and otherwise remaining prepared.
According to Peters, the Air Force is already recruiting EAF trainers with teams to be established in early 1999. To prepare for the beginning of EAF operations at the turn of the year 2000, 5,500 positions have been moved from career fields that don’t deploy, to career fields that do.
“We came up with 5,500 because that’s roughly what it will take to permanently man all the temporary bases we have all over the world,” said Peters. “Our view is if we have those 5,500 people somewhere, then we will cut the amount of work back home.”
Expansion of Vet Benefits Proposed
A commission set up by Congress to study the state of veterans benefits proposed a number of new-and expensive-ways of aiding those who have worn the nation’s uniform.
Most notable among the ideas of the Congressional Commission on Service Members and Veterans Transition Assistance is a recommendation that the government pay the full cost of sending a vet to any US college that he or she wishes.
The panel also urged that the US pay health care costs for those who have recently separated from the military, and their families, for up to 18 months.
Such proposals are a starting point for making good on old promises to military personnel, said commission members.
“The system is broken and the commission took a ‘no holds barred’ approach to fixing it,” said Anthony J. Principi, panel chairman and a deputy secretary of veterans affairs in the Bush Administration.
Current Montgomery GI bill benefits cover a maximum $528 a month in education costs. This relatively small stipend is one reason only 38 percent of eligible veterans use the benefit, according to panel members.
Their proposal would allow the military to cover the cost of tuition, books, and supplies at any college, plus a $400 monthly stipend. It would eliminate the $1,200 member’s contribution to the Montgomery GI bill program and allow veterans’ educational benefits to be transferred to a spouse or child.
The recommendations of the 12-member commission would cost some $400 million in their first year alone and likely escalate rapidly as the number of eligible veterans increased.
Most, but not all, of the panel’s ideas are likely to be welcomed by veterans groups. The commission would also limit veterans home loan guarantees to one residence, for instance. It would end wartime benefit eligibility for personnel assigned to the Persian Gulf region.
Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the bombs of Operation Desert Fox apparently deprived Saddam Hussein of some of his top talent.
US intelligence indicates the December air raids on Iraq killed key government officials and have left Saddam increasingly desperate, claimed Shelton.
The Chairman told reporters that the losses of key advisors, deaths of as many as 1,600 elite Republican Guard troops and others, and widespread military damage had shaken Saddam.
“When you look at some of the [intelligence] reporting that has come in, [there are] several key individuals [who] were right in the upper structure [who] are no longer available to him, to advise or to lead,” Shelton told the Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C. He declined to elaborate.
Pentagon officials insist that the Pentagon’s mandatory anthrax vaccine has proved to be safe. Some Air Force members, however, aren’t all that sure.
One airman at Travis AFB, Calif., faces a summary court-martial for refusing orders to receive his anthrax vaccinations, the Air Force said Jan. 22. In addition, eight pilots from Connecticut’s Air National Guard 103d Fighter Wing, Bradley IAP, Conn., planned to resign rather than take the six-shot series. The unit, which flies A-10s, was scheduled to deploy to the Persian Gulf.
“It’s safe and reliable,” Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said. “It works and has no side effects.” Reporters queried Bacon about the vaccine at a Jan. 21 Pentagon briefing. The anthrax vaccine is mandatory for all service members, active duty, Guard, and Reserve.
The reluctant Travis member, A1C Jeff Bettendorf, of the 815th Air Mobility Squadron, faced a maximum of a reduction in rank to the lowest enlisted rank, forfeiture of two-thirds pay for one month, and 30 days of confinement.
Bacon reported that during exit interviews, six of the eight Connecticut pilots said anthrax was only one of many factors that entered into their decision to resign.
As of Jan. 12, Bacon said, 166,233 service members have received 463,226 shots. This includes the Defense Department’s top civilian and military leaders, he added. “All of these people are fine,” Bacon said.
An Air National Guard KC-135E tanker assigned to the 141st Air Refueling Wing, Fairchild AFB, Wash., crashed while landing at Geilenkirchen AB, Germany, Jan. 13. All four crew members on board were killed.
“This is a tragic loss,” said Col. James R. Wynne, 141st commander. “The Guard is such a close-knit extended family that this will certainly send a wave of grief throughout the unit. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families.”
The airplane was on a routine refueling mission as part of a NATO exercise when it crashed. Reports from the scene indicated that the aircraft touched down, then took off again immediately.
The airplane apparently tipped toward the right before hitting the ground, one-quarter mile north of the runway and several hundred feet from the nearest house. No one on the ground was injured, although it took more than 100 Dutch and German firefighters three hours to extinguish the burning airplane.
Air Mobility Command has appointed a safety investigation board to look into the cause of the crash.
They provided valuable support as recently as the relief efforts in Honduras and other Central American nations in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, but the C-27s have left Howard AFB, Panama, nonetheless. The final seven Spartans of Howard’s 310th Airlift Squadron have flown their last mission-to the boneyard.
The Spartans look like small, twin-engine C-130s. They have provided the USAF with a unique short-takeoff-and-landing capability that has provided access to numerous dirt and grass fields in the South and Central American regions. They have helped in humanitarian, peacekeeping, and counterdrug missions.
But with the impending closure of Howard-all US installations in Panama will be turned back to the host nation by the turn of the century-they have become excess. A small ceremony on the Howard flight line preceded the departure of the last three C-27s Jan. 12 for the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at DavisMonthan AFB, Ariz.
“I’ll always remember landing in the jungles of South America and serving on flights carrying special forces personnel into remote areas, where no other aircraft could go,” said TSgt. Larry Manning, a C-27 loadmaster assigned to the 310th. “Serving on, and serving with, the C-27 Spartan has been the highlight of my career.”
The last Block 20 B-2 recently left Whiteman AFB, Mo., for its upgrade to Block 30 status at Northrop Grumman’s modification line in Palmdale, Calif.
The bomber-Spirit of Oklahoma-was the first Block 20 B-2 delivered.
Block 30 stealth bombers have improved avionics, almost twice the number of radar modes, superior terrain-following ability, and increased survivability. They are also certified for new weapons, such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition, and are more easily deployed.
According to Capt. David Miller, 325th Bomb Squadron maintenance officer, Whiteman’s B-2 wing will see increased combat capability because Block 30 airplanes use an improved self-diagnostic system.
“Our flying mission lives and dies by our ability to quickly and accurately troubleshoot faults,” said Miller.
The number of low observable write-ups has been reduced by a factor of five in Block 30 models, added Maj. Michael Andress, 509th Maintenance Squadron maintenance supervisor. Other improvements include fine-tuning the aft deck and rudders. The leading edges of the wings were entirely re-engineered.
An F-16 equipped with electric brakes took to the skies at Edwards AFB, Calif., recently. The flight was the first for an airplane equipped with an “e-brake” system.
The 416th Flight Test Squadron is testing the B.F. Goodrichdesigned equipment to gather more information on the feasibility of building future airplanes with e-brakes.
Why replace the tried-and-true hydraulic brakes approach
“There is a general tendency toward all-electric airplanes,” said Project Manager Alan Dykhoff of the 416th. “The e-brake project is just one element.”
E-brakes replace hydraulic piston actuators with electric motors and gearing to squeeze brake pads. They are potentially easier to maintain, since ground crews can check them via diagnostic computers, as opposed to the physical disassembly needed by hydraulic parts. Aircraft systems can constantly monitor e-brakes while in the air, meaning a pilot can learn immediately of any brake faults.
Ground tests have already verified e-brake performance during such situations as stopping on a wet runway. Future flights in the test program, which is a cooperative effort between the Air Force Research Lab and B.F. Goodrich, will compare the performance of hydraulic pistons vs. electric motors.
On Jan. 11, Air Combat Command released the accident investigation report on the October crash of a 391st Fighter Squadron F-15E near McDermitt State Airport, Ore., that killed pilot Lt. Col. William E. Morel III and instructor weapons system officer Capt. Jeffrey K. Fahnlander.
At the time of the crash, Morel and Fahnlander were part of a formation flying a night training mission for surface attack tactics. The exercise involved low altitude night reactions to simulator enemy threats.
According to the accident board, the crew became spatially disoriented. During a simulated surface-to-air missile attack, Morel and Fahnlander unknowingly flew their airplane to a nose low position, outside the limits of their terrain-following radar.
The position of the airplane prevented the TFR from arming and providing automatic fly-up protection. Visual cockpit warnings may have been missed by the crew. When the “low altitude” voice warning sounded, it was too late to recover from the steep dive.
AFPC Studies Home Basing
The Air Force Personnel Center wants feedback from service personnel about the possibility of making home basing part of the Expeditionary Aerospace Force concept.
As defined by the AFPC team undertaking the study, “home basing” means that Air Force members with four to six years on active duty would be able to elect a permanent home-base location. While there might be short stays elsewhere for school assignments or other needs, the home base could stay applicable all the way up to retirement.
“During the assignments away from his home base, a member could elect to either take the family along or leave the family in place at the home base,” said Maj. James Taylor, head of the AFPC team. “All this makes it much easier for families to build equity in homes, children to stay in the same schools, and spouses to maintain their own jobs and careers.”
The survey is now available on AFPC’s World Wide Web home page. Participation is voluntary. Results will be used to help determine if home basing would affect force stability.
Personnel with questions can reach Taylor at DSN 487-3127.
On Jan. 14, the Department of Defense announced the selection of eight sites for a Congressionally mandated test of using the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to provide medial care for up to 66,000 retired members of the armed forces and their families.
The sites are: Dover AFB, Del.; Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; Ft. Knox, Ky.; Greensboro/WinstonSalem/High Point, N.C.; Dallas, Texas; Humboldt County, Calif.; Naval Hospital, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; and New Orleans, La.
“The military health system stands firm in our commitment to providing quality health care to all our beneficiaries,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Sue Bailey. “This demonstration project, along with several other test programs, such as the Tricare Senior Prime demonstration … will provide the department with valuable information about the cost and feasibility of several alternative approaches to providing increased health care access for our over-65 population.”
Under the new test, retired military personnel can join the FEHBP during the fall 1999 open season. Those eligible include over-65 retirees who are Medicare eligible and their dependents; unremarried former spouses of military members; and dependents of deceased members or former members. Coverage will start in January 2000 and end in December 2002.
Test participants must pay any applicable premiums. During the test, they may not use military treatment facilities for any services.
Congress will receive progress reports on the effort in May 2001 and December 2002.
The federal government is ready to issue certificates to honor up to 22 million former and current service men and women of the Cold War era for their roles in winning that struggle.
The Army-the executive agent for the program-will start taking applications April 5.
Applicants must use fax or mail to submit supporting documents. The Army has printed 1 million certificates, but no one knows how many will actually be claimed.
Persons are eligible for the recognition certificate if they have military or civilian service with the War, Navy, or Defense Departments between Sept. 2, 1945-the official end of World War II-and Dec. 26, 1991-the date the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
The Air Force discharged 414 people in 1998 for being homosexual, the service reported Jan. 22. This marked a one-third increase over 1997 and was the highest one-year total since the start of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 1993.
Air Force officials said most of those discharged had voluntarily acknowledged they are gay and most were new recruits undergoing basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas.
Of the 414 gay discharges last year, 271 were of trainees at Lackland, according to an Air Force spokesperson. Others were cases in which an investigation was triggered by witness reports of alleged homosexual acts, and in one case two female members were discharged for announced plans of same-sex marriage.
The 414 discharges for homosexuality compare with 309 in 1997. In response to a newspaper report, the Air Force released figures showing that of the 414 discharges in the fiscal year that ended last September, 391 were cases in which service members made statements that the Air Force calls “voluntary admissions” of being homosexual, bisexual, or engaged in homosexual activity.
The Clinton Administration’s boost in the Pentagon budget will go some way toward solving immediate readiness and procurement problems, said the nation’s top military officers in Congressional testimony Jan. 5. However, the increase-a claimed $110 billion over six years-won’t fulfill all the armed services’ needs, according to the Joint Chiefs.
“We continue to grapple with the competing requirements of current readiness, modernization to ensure future readiness, and providing adequate compensation and quality of life for our people,” Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The chiefs said they were grateful for the new cash. “I expect the FY  budget will take significant steps in meeting our most critical needs,” said Adm. Jay L. Johnson, chief of naval operations.
However, they reiterated that their long-term need is for about $150 billion in extra funds over the next six years-that is, about $40 billion more than Clinton is offering. Anything less, and there will be continued strain in keeping airplanes in the air, ships at sea, and troops in the field. Furthermore, without more money the next generation in weapons, such as the F-22 Raptor, may be unaffordable.
Few were confident that money supposedly allocated in the “out years” would actually materialize.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan, for his part, told senators that the readiness condition of his force has declined 15 percent since 1986 and now “is very fragile.” Aircraft mission capable rates have declined 10 percent over the last nine years, he said.
“Our cannibalization rate has gone exceedingly high–78 percent higher than it was in 1995–and much of that has occurred very recently,” said Ryan.
Furthermore, the service is running into its most sustained personnel problems in years. The Air Force missed its retention goals in 1998, admitted Ryan. That is the first time that has happened since 1981, he said, and it means that meeting next year’s goals will be that much harder-the 2000 recruiting quota has been raised 8 percent to induct 33,800 recruits.
The Air Force still estimates that it will be 2,000 pilots short in 2002.
“All our people are looking forward to the actions that we take to provide fair pay and retirement systems,” said Ryan.
Senators indicated that the Administration’s budget proposal will represent a floor for Pentagon spending, not a ceiling. New panel chairman Sen. John Warner (R) of Virginia said the committee would likely add billions to Clinton’s proposed $12 billion hike for Fiscal 2000.
The majority leader, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), has indicated that he would support an increase as large as $20 billion in 2000.
Warner also said he was worried that the Administration’s proposed increase in the defense budget, in the end, will not turn out to be quite as advertised. Much of the “increase,” he said, appears to be not new money, but assumed budget savings that will be reapplied to other priorities.
“If the President chooses such a path to address the services’ unfunded requirements, calling it risky would be an understatement,” said the new panel chief.
An F-16 from Luke AFB, Ariz., crashed Jan. 7 shortly after takeoff for a training mission. Both pilots ejected safely, but a motorist suffered minor injuries when one of the airplane’s fuel tanks nearly hit his truck.
On Jan. 12 Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen announced the selection of Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees to the position of vice chief, National Guard Bureau.
The Air Force stopped paying rent on uninhabitable leased housing at Ellsworth AFB, S.D., Jan. 1. The government will use the withheld money to pay for housing repairs.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II crashed near Ft. Drum, N.Y., Jan. 20 during a night training mission, the Air Force said. The pilot, Capt. Ronald J. Halley, ejected safely and was rescued by an Army Black Hawk helicopter crew. The aircraft belonged to the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, Barnes MAP, Mass. An investigation is under way.
Raytheon has received a $134 million contract from the US Naval Air Systems Command for full rate production of the Joint Standoff Weapon AGM-154A and low rate initial production for the AGM-154B.
Northrop Grumman has delivered the first of 20 upgraded EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft to the US Navy. The updated Prowlers, which are flown by Navy, Air Force, and Marine aircrews, and are receiving a new wing center section and standard depot-level maintenance, are expected to bring the EA-6B fleet to its mandated strength by mid-2000.
TSgt. Todd Edeker of the 48th Fighter Wing, RAF Lakenheath, UK, was selected to receive a Personal Commendation from RAF Strike Command for his service to the local community, which included serving as a primary school governor and restoring a local windmill. It was thought to be the first time an American would receive such an award.
The Aerospace Command and Control Agency got a new name and new missions Jan. 1. It is now the Aerospace Command and Control and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Center and is responsible for integrating ISR functions for the Air Force.
The new military clothing catalogs from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service are now available worldwide on the Internet at www.aafes.com.
MSgt. Robert Wood, Kadena AB, Japan, and Maj. Joni Lee, from Cannon AFB, N.M., have received the Gen. Lew Allen Jr. award for 1998. Named for the former Chief of Staff, the award honors outstanding contributions to Air Force aircraft sortie generation.
The Air Force has a new ribbon that recognizes training instructors. The Military Training Instructor Ribbon is awarded upon graduation from MTI technical school. Wear is permanent after a 12-month tour of duty.
Two F-15Es from the 335th and 336th Fighter Squadrons at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., fired two upgraded AGM-130s during the weapon’s first launches by operational aircrews here recently. “The missiles performed flawlessly,” said Frank Robbins, director of the Precision Strike Systems Program Office at Eglin AFB, Fla.
A Kessler AFB, Miss., six-year-old recently won a $50,000 college scholarship in a national contest. Kristy Hannah, daughter of SSgt. Monica Collins, was a winner in the Magic School Bus sweepstakes, a joint venture of Howard Johnson International and Scholastic Entertainment.
On Jan. 9, the Department of Defense’s Miniature Air-Launched Decoy successfully flew for the first time at Edwards AFB, Calif. The MALD program is an attempt to provide the Air Force with a small, inexpensive air-launched decoy system for suppression of enemy air defenses. MALD stimulates, dilutes, and confuses enemy systems by transmitting radio frequency energy.
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Stump (RAriz.) has introduced legislation which would make sure that only qualified veterans could be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. It would also allow burial of close family members in an eligible veteran’s plot. The question of Arlington eligibility has been an issue in recent years, following reports of waivers that have allowed former ambassadors and other officials who would not otherwise meet the military requirements to be interred at the site.
Air Education and Training Command has completed the first step to get the Air Force T-3A Firefly back into the air. The command recently received a supplemental type certification for the aircraft from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Southwest Region Airplane Certification Office. The T-3A has been suspended from flying since July 1997 due to engine stalls on the ground and in the air.
Members of the 819th Rapid Engineer Deployable, Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers from Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and the 820th RED HORSE from Nellis AFB, Nev., joined to build a 75-foot cement causeway across the Tazulath River in El Salvador during a recent deployment. The construction replaces an old footbridge that was washed away last October in Hurricane Mitch.
Twelve Air Force bases will serve as test sites as the service prepares to add muscular fitness and flexibility tests to its annual physical fitness assessment. The bases are: Grand Forks AFB, N.D.; Bolling AFB, D.C.; Randolph AFB, Texas; DavisMonthan AFB, Ariz.; Shaw AFB, S.C.; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; Incirlik AB, Turkey; Tinker AFB, Okla.; US Air Force Academy, Colo.; Des Moines IAP, Iowa; and Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter avionics team successfully demonstrated its Integrated In-Flight Planner in a full-mission simulation during the third Virtual Strike Warfare Environment exercise. The IIFP reads ground-based threats and plots the aircraft’s course through enemy defenses.
The US launched an investigation into the Jan. 21 crash of a USAF F-16 fighter in northern Japan. The F-16 crashed in a wooded area of Kamaishi, a city about 88 miles south of Misawa, while on a routine training mission. The pilot ejected and survived.