Hagel Becomes Defense Secretary
Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) was sworn in as the 24th Defense Secretary on Feb. 27, ending a nearly two-month, contentious approval process during which most Senate Republicans opposed him as President Obama’s pick to succeed Leon E. Panetta.
“I will be counting on Chuck’s judgment and counsel as we end the war in Afghanistan, bring our troops home, stay ready to meet the threats of our time, and keep our military the finest fighting force in the world,” said Obama.
The Senate approved Hagel’s nomination by a vote of 58 to 41. Joining the chamber’s Democrats and Independents in favor of the nomination were just four Republicans: Sen. W. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Sen. Mike Johanns (Neb.), Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.). Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) did not vote.
The confirmation vote came several hours after a cloture motion passed by a margin of 71 to 27, ending debate on the nomination and clearing the way for the final vote.
Dunford Takes Command
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. assumed command of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan during a ceremony in Kabul on Feb. 10.
Dunford is expected to oversee the phased completion of NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. He succeeded Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, who had led the International Security Assistance Force and US Forces-Afghanistan since July 2011.
“Today is not about change, it’s about continuity,” said Dunford in addressing the audience during the change-of-command ceremony. He added, “I’ll endeavor to continue the momentum of the campaign and support the people of Afghanistan.”
Dunford previously served as the Marine Corps’ assistant commandant. President Obama tapped Dunford for the leadership post last October; the Senate confirmed him in December.
Allen was the longest-serving ISAF commander in NATO’s 11-year-plus campaign in Afghanistan, stated the ISAF news release.
Breedlove Eyed for SACEUR
Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) commander, is emerging as the leading candidate to be President Obama’s new nominee to lead NATO and US forces in Europe, according to officials speaking on background.
A senior Air Force official confirmed to Air Force Magazine on Feb. 21 that Breedlove is definitely in the running. “I think he’s going to be it,” said this official, when asked whether Breedlove would be the nominee.
Breedlove, who received his commission in 1977, has been USAFE-AFAFRICA’s commander since July 2012. Before that, he was the Air Force’s vice chief of staff for a year-and-a-half. If the President does indeed nominate him, Breedlove would be the first Air Force general chosen to lead US and NATO forces in Europe since Gen. Joseph W. Ralston held that position from May 2000 to January 2003. The Senate would have to approve the nomination.
Breedlove would succeed Adm. James G. Stavridis, who has been NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and commander of US European Command since summer 2009.
New Medal Under Review
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has tasked Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to review the military’s newly established Distinguished Warfare Medal to re-examine its order of precedence relative to other US military awards and commendations, Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters on March 12.
The decision came about two weeks after Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), a former marine; Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.), an Army veteran; and Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), a Navy Reservist, introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would prohibit the Defense Department from rating the new Distinguished Warfare Medal as equal to, or higher than, the Purple Heart. HR 833 had more than 100 co-sponsors as of March 22, according to the Library of Congress’ bill-tracking website.
The DWM recognizes a service member’s extraordinary achievements directly impacting combat operations, even when the individual is physically separated from the battlefield. It is meant to honor service members such as remotely piloted aircraft operators whose actions have a significant impact on combat operations even though they may physically be located thousands of miles away.
“Combat valor awards have a deep and significant meaning to those who serve in America’s military,” said Hunter in a Feb. 26 news release issued the same day the legislation was introduced in the House. He said while there’s nothing wrong with a medal “that recognizes commendable actions” off the battlefield, “it’s absolutely necessary to ensure that combat valor awards are not diminished in any way.”
Dempsey was given 30 days to report back to Hagel with his assessment. In the mean time, “production of the medal has stopped,” said Little during the March 12 briefing. No service member had yet been nominated for it, he added.
The F-35 joint program office lifted the cautionary flight suspension of the F-35 fleet on Feb. 28 after engineers completed analysis of a cracked F135 turbine blade.
“Prolonged exposure to high levels of heat and other operational stressors on this specific engine were determined to be the cause of the crack,” stated the office’s March 1 news release. Inspections found “no additional cracks” in the remaining F135 inventory.
The JPO instituted the fleetwide standdown on Feb. 21 after finding the 0.6-inch crack on a third stage turbine blade during a routine inspection of an F-35A test aircraft at Edwards AFB, Calif.
Less than two weeks prior, F-35 spokesman Joe DellaVedova had announced that the JPO restored flight clearance for the F-35B strike fighter variant on Feb. 12. That return-to-flight order rescinded a cautionary suspension instituted on Jan. 18 after the failure of a fueldraulic hose on an F-35B jet during a training sortie on Jan. 16 at Eglin AFB, Fla.
Commando Training and Beyond
Air Force officials stood up the Air Force Special Operations Air Warfare Center in a mid-February ceremony at Duke Field, Fla.
The center consolidates Air Force Special Operations Command’s training and doctrine development under one flag, with Active Duty and Air Force Reserve Command airmen working side by side.
“The center is here to train and educate air commandos,” said Col. Jonathan Duncan, AFSOAWC deputy commander, who will serve alongside Brig. Gen. Jon A. Weeks, who took command of the center during the ceremony. Duncan noted, however, that the center will not be a “training-only organization” but rather “a training and operations organization,” with the units assigned to it playing operational roles as well.
AFSOAWC is headquartered at Hurlburt Field, Fla., with satellite locations at Duke and Robins AFB, Ga. It is modeled after the Special Air Warfare Center, which the Air Force activated in 1962 and stood down after the Vietnam War, according to a press release.
With the new center in place, AFSOC on Feb. 11 inactivated the Air Force Special Operations Training Center.
Iran Boasts of “Stealth”
Iran unveiled the single-seat Qaher F-313 combat aircraft, claiming that the domestically built platform is sophisticated and stealthy.
Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said the aircraft has a “very low radar cross section” and is capable of flying at low altitudes, reported the International Business Times (via The Diplomat), citing Iranian state-run television.
Vahidi also said the aircraft is capable of carrying advanced weapons and can take off and land on short runways.
The F-313 is designed and built by Iran’s Aviation Industries Organization—part of its Defense Ministry, reported Flight Global. “All its parts, from A to Z, have been manufactured domestically,” Hassan Parvaneh, Qaher project manager, told Iranian state television. Parvaneh also said that the F-313 is “the first Iranian jet using a front control wing.”
Land and Sea Exchange
The US and Russia have agreed to exchange telemetric information this year on the launch of an ICBM or submarine-launched ballistic missile that each nation conducted in 2012, announced the State Department on Feb. 19.
This exchange falls under the verification and confidence-building measures called for in the New START agreement that entered into force in February 2011.
Under New START, the US and Russia are reducing their respective strategic nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads, 700 deployed launchers, and 800 deployed/nondeployed launchers by February 2018.
US and Russian delegations decided on the telemetric exchange during a meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Commission in Geneva, according to a State Department news release. The BCC is the forum where the two parties discuss treaty implementation issues.
Hawaii Raptors Complete Red Flag
A contingent of eight F-22s and some 150 airmen and contractors returned home to JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, from a two-week deployment to Nellis AFB, Nev., for Exercise Red Flag 13-2 in February.
This was the first overwater deployment for the Hawaiian Raptors and their first participation in a Red Flag aerial combat training exercise, according to a Feb. 6 JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam news release.
“The Hawaiian Raptors made a strong showing at Red Flag,” said Maj. Andrew Fessenden, director for weapons for the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron. The unit operates and maintains 20 F-22s at Hickam together with the Active Duty 19th FS under an association.
The 101 Air Guardsmen, 40 Active Duty airmen, and 11 contractors returned to Hawaii on Feb. 2.
With the Red Flag under their belt, the two squadrons are now preparing to deploy “in the not-so-distant future” to an area of responsibility as part of a normal rotation of US combat forces, stated the release. Hawaii’s F-22s are the Air Force’s newest Raptor force, reaching combat readiness after units in Virginia, Alaska, and New Mexico.
KC-46A Usage Rates Revised
The Air Force informed Congress in February that it has increased the planned life cycle flying hours for its future fleet of 179 KC-46A tankers and added about 60 additional aircrews in order to utilize the aircraft more closely to their full potential, according to a service press release.
As a result of the projected increased usage of the new tankers over their 40-year lifetime, the service has revised its estimate of the money needed to operate and support these jets, now predicting $103 billion in total costs, an increase of 11.2 percent, stated the Feb. 5 release. The original estimate was $92.7 billion.
The projected cost increase is because the Air Force will use the KC-46 “more often and more effectively” than today’s KC-135 and does not reflect increased costs to operate the KC-46, said service officials.
“We’re just flying it more,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Thompson, the Air Force’s tanker program executive officer and KC-46 program director.
Phantom Eye Flies Again
Boeing’s liquid hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye remotely piloted aircraft demonstrator completed its second flight, announced company officials.
The Phantom Eye climbed above an altitude of 8,000 feet during the Feb. 25 mission at Edwards AFB, Calif., and remained aloft for 66 minutes at a cruising speed of 62 knots (71 mph) before landing, according to the company’s Feb. 26 news release.
The airplane “exceeded what it achieved” last June during its maiden flight when it flew at an altitude of 4,080 feet and remained aloft for 28 minutes, stated the release. And unlike last year’s flight when the Phantom Eye’s landing gear was damaged during landing, the aircraft made “a picture-perfect landing” this time around, said Boeing officials.
“This flight, in a more demanding high-altitude flight envelope, successfully demonstrated Phantom Eye’s maneuverability, endurance, and landing capabilities,” said Drew Mallow, Phantom Eye program manager.
Boeing is self-funding development of the high-flying Phantom Eye, envisioned for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance roles.
Reaper Gets Decoy
Raytheon is working with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems to adapt the MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft to carry its Miniature Air Launched Decoy, announced Raytheon on Feb.13.
“This new offering provides unprecedented electronic warfare capability, enabling remote, unmanned suppression of enemy air defenses,” explained Harry Schulte, Raytheon’s air warfare systems vice president.
The two companies finished ground tests with a MALD-equipped Reaper at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ flight facility in Palmdale, Calif., in November; they expect to complete the integration later this year, stated the Raytheon press release.
“Integrating MALD weaponry on remotely piloted aircraft systems is integral to maintaining air superiority in today’s and tomorrow’s conflicts,” said Schulte.
MALD is designed to confuse enemy air defenses by mimicking the profiles of strike aircraft in flight. The Air Force has already cleared the decoy for combat use on the B-52 and F-16.
RPA Base Now in Niger
A team of 100 US military personnel, mostly airmen, is operating unarmed remotely piloted aircraft out of Niamey, Niger, in support of intelligence-gathering efforts in the region, announced Defense Department officials.
President Obama on Feb. 22 notified Congress that the last of these personnel had deployed to Niger, stated the Pentagon’s news release on that same day.
“This deployment will provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with their partners in the region,” stated the President in his letter to lawmakers.
US Africa Command recommended placing RPAs in Niger, and the host nation consented, signing an agreement in January with the US on the status of American forces in Niger, stated the DOD release.
Mali Support Milestones
As of mid-February, Air Force transports had airlifted more than two million pounds of cargo from Istres, France, to Bamako, Mali, and other places since Jan. 21 in support of French military operations in northern Mali, announced service officials.
Meanwhile, Air Force KC-135 tankers, staging from southern Europe since Jan. 27, have offloaded more than one million pounds of fuel to French fighters conducting operations over Mali, they said.
The airlift milestone came on Feb. 12 during the 43rd mission from Istres, while the tankers hit their mark four days later, according to news releases on Feb. 15 and Feb. 16.
“This operation has been extremely rewarding, supporting our French partner’s efforts to promote stability in Mali,” said Lt. Col. Shawn Underwood, 621st Contingency Response Element commander, who’s been supporting the C-17s operating at Istres.
“This is a massive refueling effort from a small group of dedicated airmen,” said Lt. Col. Heather Baldwin, commander of the 351st Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, the forward-deployed tanker unit from RAF Mildenhall, UK, supporting the French.
Hercs of the Negev
Airmen from the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein AB, Germany, and members of the Israeli Air Force’s 103rd Squadron practiced combat airlift together Jan. 27 to Feb. 8.
Their C-130s operated in the Negev Desert on a recent training deployment to Nevatim AB, Israel. The two-week gathering was the first time in five years that Ramstein’s airmen have trained with the Israeli unit, according to a Feb. 8 Ramstein news release.
“The purpose of this training was to hone our tactical expertise while building partnerships and maximizing bilateral training,” said Capt. Raymond Bevivino, a 37th Airlift Squadron pilot from Ramstein who served as deployment mission commander.
This training deployment also was the first time that the two units practiced together since Ramstein transitioned from legacy C-130s to new C-130Js, something for which the Israelis are preparing as well, stated the release.
Spang’s A-10s Last Exercise
Airmen and A-10s of the 81st Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem AB, Germany, departed the base for Monte Real, Portugal, on their final deployed exercise ahead of the unit’s planned disbandment later this year, announced unit officials.
These Warthogs were making their training debut in Exercise Real Thaw, the Portuguese military’s cooperative training gathering, according to a Feb. 8 base news release.
The A-10s, which left for Portugal on that same day, were expected to fly close air support, forward air control, and search and rescue missions, augmenting allied forces during the scenarios. Aircrews also were to execute additional roles, including anti-shipping and air-to-air missions, as well as special operations support.
The 81st FS is standing down as part of the Air Force’s Fiscal 2013 force structure adjustments.
Engine Anomaly Downed F-16
An F-16C flying from Misawa AB, Japan, on July 22, 2012, crashed into the Pacific Ocean after its engine’s main fuel shutoff valve closed with no command to do so, announced Pacific Air Forces officials on Feb. 19.
PACAF was citing the findings of a recent accident investigation board.
The aircraft, assigned to Misawa’s 14th Fighter Squadron, was part of a four-ship formation of F-16s en route from Misawa to Eielson AFB, Alaska, to participate in a Red Flag training exercise, according to the AIB report’s executive summary. The F-16 experienced a loss of engine thrust from which the pilot was unable to recover. The pilot safely ejected from the aircraft and was recovered without injury.
The F-16, tail No. 92-003886, crashed in waters about 750 miles northeast of Misawa and was destroyed, an estimated loss of $32.6 million, according to the document.
The board could not determine why the valve closure occurred because certain pieces of aircraft equipment were lost in the ocean.
F-16 Accident Addendum
Air Combat Command investigators released an addendum to the May 2012 report on the crash of an F-16C from Hill AFB, Utah, at the Utah Test and Training Range.
In its report issued last September, ACC’s accident investigation board determined that a manufacturing flaw in a blade in the first stage fan of the aircraft’s engine caused the crash and loss of the fighter during ground support training.
The AIB president reopened the investigation to re-examine whether maintenance crews should have identified the manufacturing inconsistency at the base of the blade, according to ACC’s Feb. 7 news release.
The report addendum indicates that the blade’s surface inconsistency could have been detected during installation at Tinker AFB, Okla., in April 2004, stated the release. However, the ability to detect the defect was limited due to the lubrication applied during machining work and the transfer of the part, it said.
Procedures also did not require an inspection and were not typically completed at Tinker for new blades arriving from the manufacturer, noted ACC.
U-2 Tweaks Avert Bends
Technicians at Beale AFB, Calif., are modifying U-2 reconnaissance aircraft to nearly double the airplanes’ cockpit pressure, thereby lessening Dragon Lady pilots’ risk of decompression sickness, according to base officials.
“What we’re doing is beefing up the structure and pressure equipment,” including cockpit bulkheads, explained Lockheed Martin field representative James Barnes in Beale’s Feb. 15 news release.
The Cockpit Altitude Reduction Effort, or CARE, retrofits will boost ambient pressure from 3.88 pounds per square inch to 7.65 psi, stated the release.
Even wearing a pressure suit at 70,000 feet altitude, U-2 pilots experience the physiological effects of nearly 29,000 feet altitude—equivalent to standing on Mount Everest, according to the release. The modifications will halve the perceived altitude to a more manageable 15,000 feet, said base officials.
Members of the 9th Maintenance Squadron undertake the CARE tear-down, and Lockheed Martin technicians complete the mods during phase maintenance at Beale, they said. The mods take roughly 23 days per airframe.
Schwartz Receives Enlisted Honor
Air Force Special Operations Command’s enlisted force inducted retired Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, into the command’s Order of the Sword—the highest honor enlisted airmen can bestow on a senior officer or civilian.
“Sir, this is the very least we could do for you, after all you’ve done for us,” said AFSOC Command CMSgt. William W. Turner during the Feb. 1 induction ceremony in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., east of Hurlburt Field, AFSOC’s headquarters. “You are a leader among leaders, an airman’s airman, and most surely worthy of the greatest honor the enlisted force can bestow,” added Turner.
Recalling the failed 1980 Tehran hostage rescue, Schwartz accepted the honor on behalf of the airmen who ensured AFSOC never experienced the “crushing disappointment” of failing at a “mission of singular national importance” again, according to Hurlburt’s Feb. 4 account of the ceremony. He saluted the “generation of leadership that propelled special operations from the searing experience in Desert One to the exhilaration of Abbottabad” in taking down Osama bin Laden.
Veteran Awarded Bronze Star Medal
Retired TSgt. Placido Salazar received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor device in February for his heroic actions when his air base came under attack in South Vietnam in 1965.
Retired Col. Colin Chauret, a former commander of Salazar, pinned the Bronze Star on him during the Feb. 15 ceremony at JBSA-Randolph, Tex., according to a Randolph press release. Salazar also received a Purple Heart at the ceremony.
On Aug. 21, 1965, Salazar, who decrypted classified messages as a member of the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., was deployed to Bien Hoa AB, South Vietnam. The base came under attack. Salazar secured an encrypted message he was holding and then brought his previously injured commander from a nearby building to the underground command post bunker. Salazar then helped two other senior officers to safety in the face of enemy fire.
At one point during the firefight, Salazar was knocked unconscious after slipping. Upon waking, he secured more officers and then guarded the command post until relieved. Salazar retired from the Air Force in 1976 after 20 years of service, according to the release.
Ten Million and Turning
Pratt & Whitney F117 engines recently surpassed their 10 millionth flight hour on the C-17 transport, announced the company.
“This milestone is a testament to the reliability of the F117 engine,” said Beverly Deachin, the company’s vice president for military programs and customer support. “The exceptional performance of our engines—in some of the harshest conditions—has helped the C-17 Globemaster III save countless lives in military, humanitarian, and disaster relief missions,” she said in the company’s Feb. 21 statement.
Each C-17 carries four F117 turbofans. Constant upgrades increased the F117’s average “on-wing” time between overhauls to eight years, stated the release.
The F117 first entered service in 1993. So far, there are some 250 C-17s in worldwide service, including 218 in the Air Force’s fleet.
P&W said it has delivered more than 1,100 F117 engines thus far.
First KC-135R Retired
The Air Force retired its first operational KC-135R tanker from service after more than 50 years of flying it, announced officials at Altus AFB, Okla. This KC-135, tail No. 61-0312, first flew on Aug. 14, 1962, received new engines in 1985, and accumulated some 22,500 flying hours over the years, stated the Feb. 22 news release from Altus’ 97th Air Mobility Wing, which trains KC-135 aircrews.
The aircraft departed Altus for good on Feb. 21, en route to the Air Force’s aircraft “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. It is one of the KC-135s that the Fiscal 2013 defense authorization act allows the Air Force to retire.
Doolittle Raider Thomas Griffin Dies
Retired Maj. Thomas C. Griffin, one of the Doolittle Raiders who, along with 79 other airmen, carried out a daring bombing attack on Tokyo on April 18, 1942, died in his sleep in a veterans’ hospital in Cincinnati on Feb. 26, reported Cincinnati.com. He was 96.
Griffin, a native of Green Bay, Wis., served as navigator on aircraft No. 9, one of the 16 B-25 bombers under the command of then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle that took off from the deck of the carrier USS Hornet in the Pacific Ocean to bomb Tokyo on that spring day in 1942, just four months after Japan’s strike on Pearl Harbor.
Griffin, then a lieutenant, bailed out with his crewmates over China after the raid and made his way back to allied lines.
Eventually returning to combat, he later spent 22 months as a prisoner of war in Germany after his airplane was shot down in July 1943.
Griffin’s death leaves four surviving Doolittle Raiders: retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, copilot on aircraft No. 1; retired Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, copilot on aircraft No. 16; retired Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, engineer on aircraft No. 15; and then-Cpl. David J. Thatcher, engineer-gunner on aircraft No. 7.
Those four are scheduled to gather in mid-April in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., for the Doolittle Raiders’ 71st reunion.
|F-35 in Post-Sequester Era
Gen. G. Michael Hostage III, commander of Air Combat Command, said the Air Force will have a “serious breach of capability” if the powers that be decide to cancel the F-35 strike fighter program in an effort to fix the nation’s budget crisis.
It’s an option Hostage clearly doesn’t want, but that doesn’t mean Air Force officials haven’t started thinking about how they would defend the country if the F-35 does fall victim to the budget ax.
“I would have to refurbish the [F-15] and [F-16 fleets] and the legacy hardware I have today. I also have a very small fleet of tremendously capable airplanes in the F-22s. I would push to buy more of those,” said Hostage in a Feb. 21 interview with Air Force Magazine in Orlando, Fla.
Specifically, Hostage said, the Air Force would need an additional 225 F-22s to ensure that it could execute a successful war plan and still remain ready to deal with a second contingency, if necessary. That would bring the Raptor fleet back in line with the numbers that the Air Force anticipated purchasing before then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in 2009 capped F-22 production at 187 airframes.
Hostage acknowledged that restarting the F-22 production line would not be cheap and could eat up any potential savings gained by canceling the F-35 program. However, this step would be necessary in order to maintain the fifth generation capability needed to ensure the US military’s legacy aircraft fleets survive future threats, he said.
Hostage maintained that the Air Force must have the 1,763 F-35As in its program of record to remain viable in the future.
“Numbers count. It’s not just the high capability of our force. You need a quantity of that force in order to be capable,” he said.
|DOD IG Finds Fault in F-22 Accident Probe
The Air Force’s investigation of the crash of an F-22 in Alaska two years ago failed to prove that pilot error and disorientation caused the fatal accident, according to the Pentagon’s inspector general.
Pacific Air Forces’ accident investigation board originally determined that pilot Capt. Jeffrey A. Haney’s failure to recognize vertigo symptoms, on top of his mental fixation and visual inattention, primarily caused the Nov. 16, 2010, crash.
After reviewing the investigation, the Defense Department’s IG found that the accident investigation board’s conclusions were “not supported by the facts” in the AIB report, according to the summary of the IG’s findings, dated Feb. 6.
Furthermore, the conclusions were not consistent with the “clear and convincing standard of proof” set forth in Air Force regulations, stated the summary.
Air Force officials rejected the IG’s assertion that its conclusions were flawed, but admitted there were flaws in the report, according to the service’s comments included in the IG summary. Air Force officials said they planned to address some of the IG’s concerns, but drew additional fire from the IG for failing to detail what measures they would take.
The IG asked the Air Force to provide by the end of February a detailed description of the remedial action to be taken. As of March, the IG had received an initial response from the Air Force. According to DOD IG spokeswoman Bridget Ann Serchak, the F-22 AIB has reconvened, and the Air Force has requested more time to provide details on the remedial actions to be completed.
In January 2012, at the time when the IG announced its “self-initiated evaluation” of the F-22 accident probe, then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz called the IG’s inquest “routine” oversight.
|North Korea Conducts Nuclear Test
North Korea confirmed through its official news agency Korean Central News Agency that it conducted an underground nuclear test on Feb. 12. The test employed “a miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force” than previously tested and “did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment,” reported Reuters, citing KCNA.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called the test “a highly provocative act” that “undermines regional stability,” among the detrimental effects. This is North Korea’s third nuclear test, following underground events in 2006 and 2009. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter condemned the nuclear test and said the US is working to “get the rest of the international community to condemn” it.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 12 to discuss budget matters, Carter called the situation after the test “extremely dangerous.”
The Director of National Intelligence’s office issued a statement saying the North Koreans “probably conducted an underground nuclear explosion in the vicinity of P’unggye” on Feb. 12. The explosion yield was “approximately several kilotons.”
|The War on Terrorism
Operation Enduring Freedom
As of March 20, 2013, a total of 2,181 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 2,178 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,722 were killed in action with the enemy, while 458 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 18,348 troops wounded in action during OEF.
Obama: More Troops Coming Home
Over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will return home as part of the phased drawdown of US combat forces from Afghanistan, announced President Obama in his State of the Union address on Feb. 12.
“Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women,” he said, noting that the US troop drawdown will continue through the end of 2014 when “our war in Afghanistan will be over,” and the US will shift to training and equipping Afghan forces.
AAF Conducts First C-208 Casevac
n Afghan Air Force Cessna 208 in mid-February successfully transported a seriously injured soldier and three minor casualties from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to Kabul Airport, marking the first time an AAF C-208 transported a litter patient, according to US air advisors.
“This is adding a capability that will increase the morale, not only in the Afghan Air Force, but in the entire Afghan National Security Forces,” said Col. Michael Paston, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Wing surgeon general, in a Feb. 17 wing news release. “It provides Afghans with a sense of security to know that if hurt on the battlefield, they will be taken care of quickly.”
Maj. Gen. Abdul Wahab Wardak, AAF commander, said the move validated the casualty evacuation concept of operations plan that the Afghans concluded with the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan. That plan calls for the AAF to independently conduct Casevac operations by 2017, stated the release.
|Senior Staff Changes
Cyberspace Ops., AFSPC, Peterson AFB, Colo., to Vice Cmdr., AFGSC, Barksdale AFB, La. … Maj. Gen. (sel.) Burke E. Wilson, from Dep. Cmdr., Air Forces Cyber, AFSPC, Fort Meade, Md., to Dir., Space Ops., DCS, Ops., Plans, & Rqmts., USAF, Pentagon … Maj. Gen. Timothy M. Zadalis, from Dir., Intel., Ops., & Nuclear Integration, AETC, JBSA-Randolph, Tex., to Cmdr., 618th Air & Space Ops. Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center), AMC, Scott AFB, Ill.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE CHANGES: Douglas L. Loverro, to Dep. Asst. SECDEF, Space Policy, Office of the USD, Policy, Pentagon … David W. Madden, to Exec. Dir., SMC, AFSPC, Los Angeles AFB, Calif. … Michael R. Shoults, to Dep. Asst. C/S, Strat. Deterrence & Nuclear Integration, USAF, Pentagon … Kathy L. Watern, to Dep. Asst. Secy., Cost & Economics, Office of the Asst. SECAF, Financial Mgmt. & Comptroller, Pentagon.
COMMAND CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT CHANGE: CMSgt. Douglas L. McIntyre, to Command Chief Master Sergeant, AFSPC, Peterson AFB, Colo.