Airmen Killed at Frankfurt Airport
A gunman killed two airmen and wounded two more in a shooting at Frankfurt Arpt., Germany, March 2.
A1C Zachary R. Cuddeback, a vehicle operator assigned to the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron stationed at Ramstein Air Base, and SrA. Nicholas J. Alden assigned to the 48th Security Forces Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, England, were slain.
The shooting occurred on a bus waiting to transport a 15-member security forces team from the airport to Ramstein, en route to Afghanistan for deployment. German authorities arrested the shooter and are investigating a possible terrorist motive and connection to radical Islamic groups.
Following the attack, a third airman remained in critical condition in a hospital in Frankfurt, with a fourth in serious condition, according to US Air Forces in Europe officials on March 4.
Airman Dies in Iraq
A1C Corey C. Owens, 26, of San Antonio, died in a noncombat-related incident on Feb. 17 at Al Asad AB, Iraq, the Defense Department announced.
Owens was an installation patrolman assigned to the 47th Security Forces Squadron, Laughlin AFB, Tex.
Deployed in Iraq, Owens served with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing. He joined the Air Force in 2008, and was serving his second deployment. At press time, the cause of Owens’ death was not available.
Airmen Press On With Relief Efforts
Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz told lawmakers in March they continue to monitor the roughly 30,000 airmen and their families based in Japan “very closely” to ensure they are not at risk following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that rocked the island nation earlier that month.
“There is a continuous reading of the health situation on an ongoing basis at both Misawa and Yokota,” Donley told the Senate Armed Services Committee. However, “airmen and their families are not … at risk,” Schwartz added.
USAF aircraft have delivered 107.4 tons of relief supplies and emergency equipment to the island nation since the disaster struck. Tankers have offloaded more than 29,900 gallons of fuel to keep the aerial lifeline going, according to The Wall Street Journal, and Global Hawks have conducted intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance missions to help the Japanese government determine the full extent of the damage.
Special tactics airmen succeeded in clearing the runway at Japan’s Sendai Airport, near the tsunami’s epicenter, for use as a staging area. HH-60 crews flying from Yokota Air Base near Tokyo aided in establishing a forward refueling area at Yamagata Airport near the disaster zone to facilitate the quick turnaround of US and Japanese search and rescue helicopters.
Cutting the Bone
The B-1B bomber fleet will be reduced from 66 to 60 aircraft to help pay for upgrades to the remaining aircraft in the fleet, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley told the House Armed Services Committee. Testifying on the Fiscal 2012 budget request, Donley said savings would be “harvested” from the proposal.
According to the service’s 2011 posture statement, proposed upgrades include the bomber’s central integrated test system, fully integrated data link, and vertical situation display unit.
Donley said the Air Force’s assessment is that the six-aircraft reduction won’t create “an unreasonable burden on operational risk” for the remaining B-1 fleet.
The economy is bad, retention and recruiting are way up, and the Air Force has more people than it’s authorized. To get down where it belongs by the end of Fiscal 2012, USAF has announced some involuntary force management initiatives that will go into effect this year. The efforts build on voluntary measures announced last year.
Fixes include force-shaping boards for junior officers beginning in May, followed by a reduction-in-force board in September for midgrade officers.
Despite a multiyear effort to try to entice excess officers to leave the service, the Air Force ended Fiscal 2010 some 2,300 officers over strength. Retention is the highest in 16 years.
“Without additional measures, we could grow to 7,000 over our authorized end strength by the end of Fiscal Year 2012,” said Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz.
Next, Tactical Nukes
The ink was barely dry on New START, the treaty governing strategic nuclear weapons, when President Obama said he now wants to reduce tactical nuclear stockpiles as well.
Obama issued a statement about his intentions Feb. 2, when the US and Russia exchanged the instruments of ratification of the agreement. Russia’s tactical nuclear stockpile far exceeds that of the US. New START went into force Feb. 5.
After consulting with NATO allies, Obama said, the US will seek to begin discussions about the tactical nukes “not later than one year after the entry into force of the New START treaty.” The discussions would address the “disparity” in the two stockpiles and seek to “secure and reduce tactical nuclear weapons in a verifiable manner.”
In remarks given to a security conference in Washington, D.C., in January, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance Rose Gottemoeller said, “Work is under way, and is intensifying, to prepare for dialogue with Russia on nonstrategic nuclear weapons.”
Global Hawk Buy Cut Short
The Air Force will only buy 11 of 22 planned Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 remotely piloted aircraft, according to service budget director Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers.
Explaining the Fiscal 2012 budget request, Flowers said USAF will use the savings generated by foregoing the additional aircraft to upgrade the existing Global Hawk Block 30 fleet’s electro-optical and infrared sensors.
Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, in a press conference, said the move will put the eventual RQ-4 inventory at 66 aircraft, which he deems adequate for USAF needs.
The Block 40 is configured to carry the Northrop-Raytheon MP-RTIP radar for ground surveillance. Marilyn Thomas, USAF’s budget deputy, said the smaller Block 40 inventory will provide two combat air patrols (24/7 coverage) deemed “sufficient” when combined with the E-8C JSTARS aircraft’s ground moving target indicator capability. Cost and performance issues factored in the decision, she said.
No Sole-Source Helicopter Buy
Despite reports that the Air Force might be close to inking a deal to procure Army Black Hawk helicopters to replace the Vietnam-era UH-1N Hueys currently protecting the nation’s ICBM fields, senior service leaders told House lawmakers “that’s not the correct strategy.”
Lt. Gen. Mark D. Shackelford, military deputy to USAF’s acquisition executive, told the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land forces panel March 15, that there are three to four companies capable of providing the type of helicopter under consideration for the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform.
“We have a range of options and one extreme is going to a sole-source contract, but that’s not the option we are leaning toward,” Shackelford testified. He added, “We expect that to be a competitive acquisition strategy so we can get the best arrangement we can for the Air Force and the taxpayer.”
The Air Force’s Fiscal 2012 spending plan contains no money for service life extension program kits for the service’s F-16 fighters. However, there is $25 million to study a “potential SLEP” and “defining” precisely what it would entail, USAF budget director Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers said in a Pentagon briefing in February.
Flowers also said that if USAF must operate under a continuing resolution for all of Fiscal 2011, it has no authority to start equipping F-15s with an advanced radar.
“We are worried” about that, Flowers said, because without the new radars, “we are at risk of having to ground some aircraft in the future,” suggesting the F-15’s existing radars are nearing the end of their serviceability.
Out of Joint
The Pentagon will complete disestablishment of US Joint Forces Command by the end of August and conclude all associated personnel shifts by March 2012, announced JFCOM commander Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno.
“We will retain the most critical functions … in an organization flattened for agility and efficiency,” said Odierno Feb. 9, stressing that an entirely “different organization” will carry out the mission.
The new organization will remain in Norfolk, Va., with a two-star general at the helm. Its workforce will comprise about 2,425 personnel, representing a 48 percent reduction from JFCOM’s current employee roll of 4,700.
DOD will cut mostly civilian contract workers and the Joint Staff will assume most of JFCOM’s role to ensure there’s no loss in “the momentum and gains in jointness” within US and NATO forces, Odierno said.
With the Greatest of EASE
Hoping to save at least 10 percent on the multibillion-dollar price of new satellites, Air Force leaders have announced the Evolutionary Acquisition for Space Efficiency strategy, or EASE.
The new approach to space acquisition for satellites and rocket boosters debuted in the Fiscal 2012 budget request and emphasizes block buys of both. It seeks to combine the space requirements of the military services, National Reconnaissance Office, NASA, and other spacefaring agencies.
Satellite costs have been steadily rising to $2 billion apiece, requiring USAF to rob funds from other space priorities to pay for them. The EASE concept also emphasizes fixed-price contracting, and a steady stream of work to preserve the space industrial base.
The new strategy would require congressional support since it uses a new funding stream that would smooth out spikes and valleys of space funding.
First SBIRS Go for Launch
GEO-1, the Air Force’s first Space Based Infrared System early warning satellite, passed final exams and is cleared for launch aboard an Atlas V rocket this spring, prime contractor Lockheed Martin announced Feb. 16.
Confidence testing at Lockheed’s plant in Sunnydale, Calif., was the last milestone following installation of the satellite’s final subassemblies.
Lockheed delivered the satellite in March to Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., for placement in orbit.
“GEO-1 will usher in a new era of critical missile warning capabilities vital to our national security,” said Col. Roger W. Teague, USAF’s infrared space systems director.
GEO-1 will join two SBIRS payloads already hosted in orbit aboard classified NRO intelligence satellites.
Tougher Mission for X-37B
The Air Force and its industry partners launched the second Boeing-built X-37B orbital test vehicle, OTV-2, into space on its inaugural mission March 5.
The reusable space vehicle lifted off from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V, aiming for low Earth orbit.
“We have just started what is a very systematic checkout of the system,” said Richard W. McKinney, USAF’s deputy undersecretary for space programs, following the launch.
McKinney said OTV-2’s flight will expand upon the secretive orbital tests conducted with OTV-1 during its maiden mission last year.
Air Force officials said OTV-2 likely will remain on orbit for about 270 days, perhaps longer. Program officials want to test OTV-2’s ability to land in stronger wind conditions than OTV-1 faced when it returned to Earth.
Air Force Takes Over MDA Satellite
The Air Force took over operational control of a Missile Defense Agency satellite on Jan. 31. The change gives USAF another tool for monitoring objects in space, and broadens its capabilities in space situational awareness.
The 1st Space Operatiºons Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., took over MDA’s Space Tracking and Surveillance System Advanced Technology Risk Reduction satellite.
The satellite STSS ATRR reached orbit in May 2009 for use in missile tracking experiments. After 20 months of testing that showed the satellite had operational utility, MDA last November announced plans to transfer the satellite to the Air Force.
The 1st SOPS was expected to assume operational control of the Air Force’s Space Based Space Surveillance satellite in February.
No Home on the Range
Some members of the Colorado State House want to make it tougher for USAF to conduct low-level training with C-130s, CV-22s, and other aircraft in the Centennial State and nearby areas of New Mexico.
Colorado State Rep. Wes McKinley (D) and Rep. Edward Vigil (D) introduced a bill, HB 11-1066, seeking to define airspace below 500 feet above-ground-level as private property. The move would block the Colorado part of USAF’s proposed low-altitude tactical navigation range, or LATN, through mountainous parts of the two states.
The draft bill, initiated in January, expands the “property owner’s right to procedural due process” in eminent domain cases to include airspace, barring military aircraft from uncompensated use. Residents near the Telluride ski and climbing resort worry that aircraft may disturb “visitors and residents who come here to enjoy our tranquil mountain environment,” reported the Telluride Daily Planet.
Under USAF flight regulations, aircraft are already required to avoid protected wilderness areas, population centers, and civil air traffic during low-altitude training.
Flight Medicine School Migrates
The Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio is relocating to a new facility on the grounds of Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, courtesy of BRAC 2005.
The flight-nurse training program had been at Brooks since the early 1960s. In January, more than 300 guests attended the ceremony recognizing the last class of aeromedical evacuation crew members to graduate from flight-nurse training.
“As we go up north, we look forward to this new start as an opportunity to improve on what we already do well,” said Capt. Shane House, an instructor at the school.
Crew member training will resume at Wright-Patterson in May.
Biofuel Cocktails for C-17
The Air Force has certified the C-17 to operate unconstrained on fuel blends containing biofuels known as hydrotreated renewable jet fuels, or HRJs.
“This certification marks the Air Force’s first platform to be fully certified using an HRJ blend,” said Kevin T. Geiss, USAF’s deputy assistant secretary for energy.
C-17s may now operate using blends of up to 50 percent HRJ, cut with 50 percent traditional JP-8 aviation fuel or a 25-50-25 mix of HRJ, JP-8, and synthetic paraffinic kerosene, a third type of fuel proved for use in the C-17.
Officials expect to conclude HRJ flight testing on other platforms “within the next 12 months, supporting fleetwide HRJ certification within the next 22 months,” confirmed Jeff Braun, head of USAF’s alternative fuel certification office.
Actual Mileage May Vary
Air Mobility Command testers have completed an operational evaluation of a new fuel savings concept called Mission Index Flying, or MIF. By calculating optimal altitude and airspeed based on flight conditions, C-17 aircrews minimize flight time and fuel burn using mission software loaded into a laptop computer on the flight deck.
Beginning in mid-January, AMC test directors accompanied 6th Airlift Squadron crews from JB McGuire, N.J., on 15 sorties between the US and Europe.
Pilots assessed the system’s effect on flight responsibilities. With data in hand, AMC officials are assessing whether MIF software is effective and suitable for incorporation into the C-17, estimating that the program could reduce fuel burn across the fleet by one to two percent annually.
Don’t Wear Out Your PJs
The Air Force urgently needs more pararescue jumpers, but too many people have been washing out of training, so the service is revamping the course, said Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., head of Air Education and Training Command.
Course improvements include: better preparing candidates before they arrive, standardizing the physical ability stamina test, and testing candidates’ psychological state to make sure they have the mental toughness to graduate.
“We tried putting more in the front end, [but] that’s not the answer, … so we’ve broken down the pipeline … [to] ensure that those who raise their hand and say, ‘I want to do this,’ really know what they are getting into and really want to do it,” Rice told attendees of AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 18.
The command also is insisting that every candidate stay with the program for at least five days or risk getting kicked out of the Air Force altogether.
Please Use Other B-52 Base
The Air Force has dropped plans to re-establish a nuclear weapons storage area at Barksdale AFB, La., Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz said, citing higher funding priorities.
Reopening a nuclear WSA at Barksdale was one component of USAF’s nuclear enterprise revitalization announced in 2008.
“We had other more pressing matters … that required investment that out-prioritized the WSA,” Schwartz told the House Armed Services Committee during Fiscal 2012 budget testimony.
Crews and nuclear-capable B-52s from Barksdale will continue regular training at Minot AFB, N.D., he said.
Like Barksdale, Minot is home to a combat-ready B-52 wing, and operates a nuclear WSA. “I don’t deny that the optimal solution would be to have two WSAs,” admitted Schwartz, adding, “The bottom line is that we think … the current solution is workable.”
A Stealthy New Nuke
The AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile is nearly out of service life and “clearly, now’s the time to begin that effort to do the follow-on missile,” said Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski, Air Force Global Strike Command chief.
A future standoff cruise missile is planned “in the long-range strike family of systems,” Kowalski told reporters at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., in February. He underscored that any new design must equally account for the unique demands of the nuclear as well as conventional missions.
Air Force officials need to “make sure it’s matched with the right warhead … [and] has command and control surety we need,” he said. Though much will depend on the nature of the future aircraft that will carry the weapon, what is certain today is that it must be stealthy.
“We’ll need to look at the anti-access, area-denial capabilities,” he explained, adding the missile “needs to do some penetration, obviously.”
Satellite Training Center Debut
Air Force Space Command’s new satellite operator training facility is up and running at Schriever AFB, Colo.
The Standard Space Trainer Integrated Training Center, or SST, features large, high-definition monitors on the walls and multiple computer workstations dedicated to training airmen to operate USAF’s satellites.
Col. Michael Mason, vice commander of Schriever’s 50th Space Wing, said the center is a big improvement over the previous facility. It offers a common training architecture, versus the previous mix of different hardware, operating systems, and proprietary software.
“The flexibility and versatility of this system is absolutely amazing,” said Mason. Instructors are already training Defense Satellite Communications System operators.
Next year commences Wideband Global Satellite Communications system training, followed by instruction on an ever-expanding roster of satellites over the next five years.
Work on the training center began in 2006, culminating in the ribbon-cutting Feb. 4.
Embraer Jumps Into the Fray
Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer has teamed with Sierra Nevada in the competition to supply the Air Force’s Light Air Support platform.
Embraer’s Super Tucano is pitted against the team of Hawker Beechcraft and Lockheed Martin on Hawker’s AT-6. The Air Force wants an airframe with which to build a cadre of USAF instructors to train pilots of partner air forces in light attack and counterinsurgency.
The LAS contract award is expected in June; the Air Force will oversee the additional acquisition of 20 LAS airframes for the Afghan Air Force.
Flightglobal reported US-based Sierra Nevada would function as prime contractor, building Embraer’s Super Tucano aircraft in Jacksonville, Fla., should the Air Force select the aircraft.
Hawker AT-6 Tests
The Air Force started flight testing a Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 light attack aircraft in late March to certify the type to carry precision guided ordnance, according to the company. Weapons trials are the second stage of a congressionally funded, $15.4 million evaluation led by the Air National Guard, according to Derek Hess, Hawker’s director of light attack programs.
At the Gila Bend range in Arizona, testers assessed the aircraft’s ability to employ laser- and GPS-guidance-aided munitions, using an onboard mission system provided by Hawker’s industry partner and primary integrator, Lockheed Martin. The gear was adapted from the company’s A-10C suite.
Stage 1 evaluated the AT-6’s combat sensors and communications, said Hess. He emphasized that the tests are separate from USAF’s Light Attack Armed Reconnaissance competition.
The Environmental Protection Agency recognized the Air Force in its Top 25 list of 2010 green power partners.
USAF purchased or produced a total of 243.9 million kilowatt-hours of so-called “green power” or renewable energy last year, according to the list, issued in February. That placed the Air Force at the top in the Defense Department, and No. 2 in the federal government, for buying renewable energy.
Among EPA’s 1,300 green power partners, the Air Force ranked 15th for its use of renewable energy, with more than six percent of all energy that Air Force facilities consume coming from “green power.” The percentage is expected to spike to 10 percent by 2015.
“This year we expect to begin construction on at least a dozen more renewable energy projects, including two new solar arrays in Arizona,” said Ken Gray, Air Force Facility Energy Center rates and renewable energy branch chief at Tyndall AFB, Fla.
Desert Way Point in Ethiopia
The Air Force is upgrading an Ethiopian airport such that it can accommodate USAF airlifters.
After signing an agreement with the Ethiopian government last November, the Air Force is helping to modernize Arba Minch Airport in the country’s southwest, according to the Addis Fortune newspaper.
Workers are extending the airport’s 9,170-foot, hard-surface runway, and making facility and service improvements, according to the report. The airport is located about 300 miles south of the country’s capital, Addis Ababa.
DFC for WWII Airman
A World War II B-24 bomber pilot narrowly missed receiving a long-delayed decoration in person in February.
William Wrenn posthumously received the Distinguished Flying Cross for a reconnaissance mission over the Philippines, prior to the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944.
Wrenn and his crew braved anti-aircraft fire to provide intelligence on the location of Japanese warships. The mission was until recently classified, long delaying Wrenn’s rightful recognition.
Before Air Force officials from Offutt AFB, Neb., could present him the DFC, however, Wrenn died Feb. 7 in Columbus, Neb., reported the Columbus Telegram. Wrenn’s wife, Evelyn, accepted the medal on her husband’s behalf.
WWII Airmen Remains Recovered
The Defense Department announced that forensic specialists identified the remains of 11 airmen missing in action since 1943, returning the remains to family for burial with full military honors.
Members of a B-24D bomber crew were lost on a mission Nov. 20, 1943, from Jackson Airfield, Port Moresby, New Guinea. DOD recovered remains from the crash in Papua New Guinea’s Morobe province between 1984 and 2004. They were recently ID’d.
Airmen identified are:
1st Lt. Richard T. Heuss, 23, Berkley, Mich.
2nd Lt. Edward R. French, 23, Erie, Pa.
2nd Lt. Robert A. Miller, 22, Memphis, Tenn.
2nd Lt. Robert R. Streckenbach Jr., 21, Green Bay, Wis.
TSgt. Charles A. Bode, 23, Baltimore
TSgt. Lucian I. Oliver Jr., 23, Memphis, Tenn.
SSgt. Ivan O. Kirkpatrick, 36, Whittier, Calif.
SSgt. James B. Moore, 21, Woburn, Mass.
SSgt. James T. Moran, 21, Sloatsburg, N.Y.
SSgt. William K. Musgrave, 24, Hutsonville, Ill.
SSgt. Roy Surabian, 24, Medford, Mass.
Bode was buried Feb. 11 at Arlington National Cemetery. A group burial was planned for March 24 for the crew.
• Boeing delivered the 60th C-17 to JB Charleston, S.C. Assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing there, the aircraft flew from Boeing’s C-17 assembly plant in Long Beach, Calif., Feb. 3, piloted by Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Gary L. North.
• Air Force senior leaders directed the US Air Force Academy to reduce its cadet population from 4,400 to 4,000 by October 2012, as part of personnel cuts to meet mandated force levels. For prospective cadets, the change will mean even tougher admissions criteria.
• F-16s and a KC-135 of the Iowa Air National Guard 132nd Fighter Wing and 185th Air Refueling Wing joined the Royal Australian Air Force at Williamtown in New South Wales for three weeks of air combat exercises. ANG units arrived in Australia for Sentry Down Under Feb. 13.
• The National Museum of the US Air Force received a $5 million donation from Boeing, allowing groundbreaking for a new 200,000-square-foot hangar this spring. The hangar will house the museum’s Presidential, aerial refueling, and cargo aircraft and space gallery, opening in 2014.
• Australia’s Defense Ministry sent a letter March 1 to the US government, expressing interest in a fifth C-17 for the Royal Australian Air Force under a potential foreign military sale. Australia is considering the aircraft to fulfill a shortfall in combat and humanitarian airlift capacity.
• The Air Force is repaving the 10,870-foot runway, taxiways, and associated overruns at Lajes Field in the Azores. USAF is funding the majority of the $7 million project, with Portugal contributing $1.26 million toward the effort. Flight operations are slated to continue unimpeded.
• AF-6, the first F-35A production aircraft, made its inaugural flight from Lockheed Martin’s assembly plant in Fort Worth, Tex., Feb. 25. The one-hour flight evaluating basic flight maneuverability and engine performance was “rock solid,” according to the company’s test pilot.
• Three Air Force Academy graduates led space shuttle Discovery on its final scheduled mission, STS-133, lifting off from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., Feb. 24. Flying the International Space Station support mission were pilot Col. Eric A. Boe, mission commander Col. Steven W. Lindsey, and mission specialist Col. Alvin Drew, along with three other crew members.
• First Lt. Candice Killian became the first qualified female CV-22 pilot in the Air Force in February. A graduate of the Air Force Academy and the 97th CV-22 pilot overall, Killian was to be assigned to Hurlburt Field, Fla.
• Northrop Grumman’s X-47B naval unmanned combat demonstrator aircraft flew for the first time, at Edwards AFB, Calif., Feb. 4. The Navy will commence carrier trials with the aircraft in 2013, testing if shipboard operations with a tailless fighter-sized aircraft are feasible.
• General Atomics Aeronautical Systems announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding in February to sell its export version Predator XP remotely piloted aircraft to the United Arab Emirates. The US government approved export licensing of the RPA last year.