MC Rates at Six-Year High
Air Force aircraft in 2003 posted an aggregate mission capable rate of 75.9 percent—USAF’s highest readiness rate since 1997. This was the third consecutive year that the MC rate had increased after declining throughout the 1990s.
Testifying before lawmakers in March, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, USAF vice chief of staff, said that, in Fiscal 2003, MC rates had improved for 14 of 20 major weapon systems. He noted that the higher rates came “at a time when all of our systems were flying more hours.”
MC rates, which measure the percentage of aircraft capable of performing their missions at a given time, bottomed out at 72.7 percent in Fiscal 2000. The 1997 rate was 76.6 percent.
Roche Cites AOC as Top Weapon
Air Force Secretary James G. Roche had a surprising answer when asked to name which Air Force system has been most helpful in post-9/11 operations. His choice was the air operations center (AOC).
At a March 17 meeting with defense reporters, Roche said that the AOC permits “fusion of information that has really made a huge difference.” He said it was “most helpful” to have the ability to acquire satellite information and merge it with intelligence from Joint STARS aircraft, Predator unmanned aerial vehicles, and Global Hawk UAVs and then “fuse it and … cue different parts.”
The Air Force currently has five “Falconer” AOCs, which serve as USAF’s comprehensive air warfare command centers. “It is that fusion—that integration—that I think has been the most dramatic,” Roche said.
AEFs Not Fully Ready
It will take the Air Force a year longer than expected to get its rotational Air and Space Expeditionary Force system completely back on track, Gen. T. Michael Moseley told Senators on March 9.
Last year, officials had predicted that USAF would return to its normal 90-day AEF rotation cycle by March 2004. Now, Moseley said, the target date is March 2005.
After Gulf War II ended last year, officials established two interim AEFs—composed primarily of personnel who had not already deployed in 2003. These new AEFs—called AEF Blue and AEF Silver—were to stand duty for two sequential periods of 120 days while the rest of the force recovered from the demands of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then, regular rotations were to resume.
Most career fields went back to the standard 90-day rotation cycle in March. However, Moseley said, “The AEF continues to be operating in higher than normal sustained pace … in some stressed career fields.”
The Air Force vice chief of staff added that “continued surge operations … are creating new challenges for reconstitution efforts.”
USAF Cancels KC-10 Upgrade
The Air Force in March canceled the KC-10 Global Air Traffic Management upgrade, although it had already spent $127 million on the program.
In a written response to questions from Air Force Magazine, USAF said that service leaders “concluded the current program did not fulfill requirements nor did it provide an adequate growth path to justify continuing the effort.” The Air Force cited continued delays and cost growth in the Boeing program plus a change in requirements as key factors in the decision.
Initially, the KC-10 GATM’s development was expected to cost $121 million and production, $347 million.
The Air Force issued a stop-work order and will not resume the program. The service currently is reassessing KC-10 avionics modernization plans.
If the KC-10 is to use preferred international air routes, it must meet, by the end of the decade, new international standards for avionics, navigation, and communication equipment. The same holds true for other US mobility aircraft.
USAF Hires Civilians for Security
The Air Force plans to hire between July and October 495 new civilians for security force jobs. The influx of civilians will allow the service to shift some uniformed personnel to other duties to help reduce the strain on its security forces.
On April 5, a security forces staffing team at Randolph AFB, Tex., began taking applications for the positions, which are all at the squadron level.
The Air Force expects to fill many of the new positions with military security forces personnel who are separating or retiring.
Survey Finds Stress Factors
The Defense Department on March 8 released the results of its most recent health survey. It showed that, although health habits were improving overall, there was an increase in smoking and heavy drinking for the first time in 20 years. The Pentagon’s top health official believes the results are “not entirely surprising.”
The 2002 Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Military Personnel found a rise in the percentage of personnel saying they had smoked in the previous month. The proportion climbed from 29.9 percent in 1998 to 33.8 percent in 2002. For heavy drinking—defined as five or more drinks per occasion at least once a week—the level rose from 15.4 percent to 18.1 percent.
The 2002 numbers are lower than the percentages recorded in a 1980 survey, when the smoking percentage hit 51 percent and heavy drinking hit 20.8 percent.
William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said the overall results of the new survey were “encouraging.” However, he conceded that officials are “concerned” about the increases in smoking and alcohol use.
He said that these findings, along with other mental health factors from the survey, are “indicators of stress” arising from the “military’s role in worldwide events throughout the past two years.”
A-10 Pilot Dies in Crash
Capt. Jonathan Scheer, 31, died Feb. 25 when his A-10 aircraft crashed at 8:30 p.m. shortly after takeoff from Eielson AFB, Alaska. He was on a routine night training mission as lead pilot in a four-ship formation.
Scheer was a member of the 354th Operations Support Squadron at Eielson. He was a 1995 graduate of the Air Force Academy.
The cause of the crash was not immediately announced, but the Air Force said a board of officers would investigate the mishap.
ANG Crosses Lines for UAV Unit
The Air Force announced March 3 that it would integrate, for the first time, Air National Guard personnel from two different states within a single unit. California and Nevada Guardsmen will be working with the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons located at Indian Springs AFAF, Nev.
The ANG personnel will join their active duty and Air Force Reserve Command counterparts in the 11th and 15th Reconnaissance Squadrons.
This organizational transformation, said Maj. Gen. Ronald J. Bath, USAF director of strategic planning, will “increase combat capability.”
USAF has expanded the Predator mission envelope from surveillance only to surveillance and strike. The Air National Guard expects to be able to use the UAV in its reconnaissance role for homeland defense, disaster relief, and forest fires.
RIF Would Be Last Resort
Air Force success in retaining personnel during the war on terror may have the unintended effect of forcing the service to resort to involuntary reductions in force. Air Force Secretary James G. Roche said that is something service leaders “fear,” but it might be needed if USAF is to meet its authorized end strength.
Roche told defense reporters in March that the Air Force does not want to resort to a RIF and has taken several steps to avoid one. However, the service currently exceeds its authorized end strength by 16,000 airmen. (See “The New Drawdown,” March, p. 50.)
USAF expected a certain number of troops to leave the service when it lifted Stop-Loss restrictions imposed before Operation Iraqi Freedom. That didn’t happen.
Roche said the Air Force goal is to reach its authorized end strength by the end of 2005. If the service doesn’t make that goal, but the number is close, he said, USAF will try to get an extension.
Cunningham Honored at Bagram
The Air Force on March 4 renamed the Air Force village at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, in honor of pararescueman SrA. Jason D. Cunningham, who was killed in action in Afghanistan.
The pararescue jumper, or PJ, was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron, Moody AFB, Ga. He was killed March 4, 2002, during Operation Anaconda. He was credited with saving the lives of 10 US troops before succumbing to enemy fire.
Cunningham was awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions during Anaconda. (See “Aerospace World: Air Force Posthumously Honors Pararescueman,” October 2002, p. 11.)
Five Die in Nevada Crash
An Air Force civilian pilot and four USAF contractors died March 16 when their Beechcraft KA 1900 crashed about 125 miles northwest of Nellis AFB, Nev.
Killed were pilot David D. Palay and JT3 Corp. technicians Derrick L. Butler, Michael A. Izold, Daniel M. Smalley, and Roy A. Van Voorhis. Butler, Palay, Smalley, and Voorhis were Air Force veterans.
The contractors worked on test-range equipment throughout the Nevada Test and Training Range, said the Air Force. The aircraft was on its way to the Tonopah Test Range when it went down about 5 a.m.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
DOD Wants Civilian Experts
The Defense Department on March 1 unveiled a new policy for a competitive-hire compensation package. DOD can hire as many as 2,500 civilian employees for five years under a provision approved by Congress in the Fiscal 2004 defense budget.
Defense leaders hope the policy will enable them to attract civilians with the “expertise and corporate knowledge to fill critical positions,” stated a Pentagon news release.
There are several restrictions on this new provision. For instance, the new employees cannot fill continuing functions or fill-in during staff shortages. And DOD cannot use the provision to try to bypass established pay ceilings.
Although the department did not release any specifics on pay or work for potential employees, it did say they must be individuals “possessing uncommon, special knowledges or skills in a particular occupational field beyond the usual range of expertise.” An individual must also be regarded by others “as an authority or practitioner of unusual competence and skill.”
USAF Tests Network Defenses
The Air Force in March ran a major cyber-defense exercise to test network security capabilities and procedures. Exercise Black Demon was the largest-ever event of its kind and the first of this type in two years. Participating were more than 500 personnel from every USAF major command.
Many details of the exercise are classified. Col. Larry Thompson, commander of the Air Force Information Warfare Center at Lackland, AFB, Tex., said the emphasis was on making sure that network operators had the capability to work through disruptions.
“You can’t just throw the big red switch to off” every time a possible attack takes place, he explained. For example, USAF personnel try to keep e-mail and Web servers available during such network “events,” he said.
During Black Demon, operators were tested on their ability to evaluate possible attacks on Air Force networks and analyze their possible impact, Thompson said. Other objectives included improving network operator responses to multiple threats and determining how best to employ network defenses.
According to an AFIWC statement, a 2002 exercise “led directly to positive changes in daily operational procedures at all echelons of Air Force network defense.”
The exercise was run by the 23rd Information Operations Squadron at Lackland. By mid-April, many of the lessons from the 2004 Black Demon were still under evaluation.
Massive Exercise Held in Pacific
US and South Korean forces launched their largest annual exercise on March 21. Some 5,500 US troops deployed to South Korea to join 3,000 US troops permanently stationed there who were participating in the Foal Eagle and Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration exercise.
The two-week exercise allows the combined forces defending South Korea to realistically train to defend against a possible invasion from Communist North Korea. Foal Eagle and RSOI were conducted separately until 2002.
Earthquake Relief Via Hercules
USAF active duty and Air National Guard forces on March 28 provided aid to Morocco in the aftermath of a major earthquake.
A C-130 Hercules assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing’s 37th Airlift Squadron, Ramstein AB, Germany, delivered four pallets of emergency relief supplies and a US European Command humanitarian response team. Within hours, a Utah ANG KC-135 from Salt Lake City arrived with another load of supplies, including first-aid and hygiene kits and blankets.
The 6.4-magnitude earthquake reportedly killed nearly 600 Moroccans. The deliveries were part of an international relief effort.
The Utah National Guard is partnered with Morocco through a program called the State Partnership for Peace, a Guard endeavor to foster cultural exchanges.
Airmen Deliver Aid to Chad
On March 13, 86th Airlift Wing units, from Ramstein, delivered urgently needed blankets, food, and medical supplies to the African nation of Chad. The assistance was requested by Chad’s government, which was engaged in a battle with terrorists.
According to Capt. Jeff Menasco, mission commander, 19 tons of supplies were airborne by C-130 less than an hour after the unit was notified of the mission. This type mission usually takes two days to plan, he said.
Accompanying the C-130 crew were troops from the 86th Contingency Response Group to provide security and four flying crew chiefs from the 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in case the aircraft encountered maintenance problems.
New Deal for Retired Civilians
DOD on March 22 announced that civil service retirees needed for critical positions could return to work in the department without suffering an offset to their retired pay.
The new program is retroactive to Nov. 24, 2003. It is only open to retirees who have unique skills for hard-to-fill jobs. Additionally, before a retiree can be hired, the position must be opened to qualified employees who were cut under personnel reductions.
Retired Navy Capt. Arthur R. Hawkins, a World War II fighter ace with 14 aerial victory credits, died March 21 following a stroke. He was 81.
Hawkins was awarded three Navy Crosses among other medals. One of his postwar assignments was with the Navy’s Blue Angels aerial demonstration team. After retiring from the Navy in 1973, he worked with the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation for more than 20 years. An F-6 Hellcat showing his combat victories is on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at NAS Pensacola, Fla.
|F-35 Program Delayed One Year
The Pentagon, in March, delayed the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter development schedule by roughly one year to buy time to drive down the weight of the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) version.
The delay affects the timing of two planned events—first flight and critical design review.
Officials said in March that the Air Force’s conventional takeoff variant and the Navy’s carrier variant were both about 1,400 pounds over their target weights but were able to meet key performance parameters.
However, the STOVL variant developed primarily for the Marine Corps exceeds its target weight by more than 3,000 pounds. As recently as January, STOVL excess weight was projected to be 2,200 pounds. The Air Force in February announced it planned to purchase some STOVL aircraft.
“STOVL cannot be bought at its current weight, and we have to take the time” to fix the problem, Navy acquisition executive John Young told a Senate panel March 24.
The triservice F-35 production program already had been reconfigured to accommodate the additional design work needed to solve the weight problems. (See “The F-35 Gets Real,” March, p. 44.)
More than $5 billion had been shifted from production to development accounts, but the plan in February was to hold to the existing development schedule, with a critical design review in April 2004 and first flight in late 2005. Both dates have now been pushed forward, and new schedules will be set later.
|USAF Names $2.4 Billion in Unfunded Priorities
The Air Force identified 27 programs in an unfunded priority list put together in response to a Congressional request made earlier this year. The programs would require $2.4 billion over and above the Administration’s 2005 budget request.
In his cover letter, Air Force Secretary James G. Roche said that the 2005 request reflects the “most compelling needs.”
Last year’s list contained 66 items totaling $4 billion.
The Air Force’s top five unfunded 2005 priorities are:
1. Precision Air-to-Ground and Radar Modernization. A total of $57.3 million would fund research and development efforts needed for an F-15C/D air-to-ground capability and two “significant” radar upgrades.
2. Advanced Targeting Pod. The Air Force wants $65 million to purchase 46 Sniper advanced targeting pods from Lockheed Martin using an existing contract. The pods would update some older USAF aircraft.
3. Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures. The LAIRCM program could be accelerated, with $137 million giving 59 additional C-17s a LAIRCM “Lite” capability three years sooner than now scheduled. Lite provides less protection than the full system but offers “significantly improved performance” over current flare defenses.
4. C-5 Missile Warning. Some $7.7 million would be used to upgrade 51 C-5 airlifters with missile warning system defenses. Without the upgrades, “failing sensors combined with obsolete parts result in decreased capability and limited asset protection.”
5. Completing EC-130H Upgrade. The final two (of 14) EC-130H Compass Call electronic warfare aircraft require $60 million for upgrades to a common Block 35 configuration. The EC-130H is DOD’s only airborne combat platform that jams specific communications targets.
|Roche: Tanker Lease Advantage Is Perishable
Delay in the leasing of new KC-767 refueling tankers diminishes the value of such an arrangement, Secretary of the Air Force James G. Roche said on March 17.
USAF had long planned to begin a traditional tanker procurement program in Fiscal 2006. The service’s leasing arrangement, first proposed in 2002, was meant to deliver new aircraft sooner because the need had become more urgent. The current tanker fleet experienced much higher usage rates as a result of the war on terrorism.
“Each year, … the advantage of the lease is less than it was the year before,” said Roche.
Roche noted the Air Force has always acknowledged that leasing tankers would be more expensive, overall, than an outright purchase, but he said the proposal was justified because of the increased need.
The latest Air Force plan to lease 20 and buy 80 KC-767s was put on hold while the Defense Department investigates whether there were contracting violations related to Boeing’s hiring of former Air Force procurement official Darleen A. Druyun. (See “Tanker Twilight Zone,” February, p. 46.)
Roche maintained that the need for new tankers has not changed. The Air Force’s KC-135Es are 43 years old, and a third of the fleet is in depot for maintenance at any given time. The fact that so many are in depot, said Roche, artificially inflates the tanker readiness rate.
The depot KC-135s are “off line,” he said. “When you see mission capability rates [for them], it has to do with the remaining two-thirds—not the whole fleet.”
|The Battle Over Medals
The House Armed Services Committee approved and sent to the floor a bill to authorize separate campaign medals for Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration had opted for one to cover both.
The Administration argued that any US armed forces participant in Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom should receive the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) Expeditionary Medal.
Opponents of the single-award concept said it doesn’t sufficiently recognize those members ordered to serve in both theaters.
Under the House bill, troops deployed to Afghanistan or to Iraq would receive both the GWOT and a campaign medal for the specific theater. Service members who have been assigned both to Iraq and to Afghanistan would qualify for all three medals.
The Senate, last year, had supported the Administration’s call for a single award—by one vote.
Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), who introduced the bill (H.R. 3104), said, “As a Vietnam veteran and former Marine, one of the first things I look for on a soldier’s uniform is the campaign ribbon that notes where the soldier served. There is just a camaraderie that comes about by recognizing that campaign ribbon on a uniform.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Armed Services Committee chairman, said the bill has wide support.
— Tom Philpott
|USAF Outlines F/A-22 Block Upgrade Plan
The Air Force has a multiyear plan to upgrade its new F/A-22 fighter through a series of block improvements, and the service still plans to attain initial operational capability (IOC) at the end of 2005, according to a USAF briefing document.
The first major upgrade will come in late 2006 when Block 20 capability takes the F/A-22 to a “Global Strike Basic” configuration. This will improve air-to-ground capability and deployability, add an improved envelope for Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and enhance electronic protection. Block 20 aircraft also will incorporate the “final” avionics processor, according to USAF modernization plans.
Next will come Block 30 Raptors with capabilities added through 2009. Spiral 3A of Block 30 will add an air-to-ground radar, enhanced attack capabilities against integrated air defense systems, Link 16 data link, and “basic” Small Diameter Bomb capabilities.
Block 30’s Spiral 3B will add updated air traffic identification systems and the ability to record high fidelity signals from aircraft sensors. This will permit intelligence assets to use the Raptor’s sensor suite as an extension of other dedicated intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance assets.
These upgrades take the F/A-22 to the “Global Strike Enhanced” configuration. The work up to this point is included in the Air Force’s out-year budget at a cost of $3.5 billion.
Also under consideration, officials said in March, are additional upgrades that would further improve attack, networking, and ISR capabilities. Air Force acquisition chief Marvin R. Sambur said that, if all the upgrades under consideration were funded, the cost could total $11.7 billion. He said there are “a lot of wish-list types of items, … everything under the sun.”
These out-year efforts are not currently funded, and the Air Force is “not thinking of going anywhere near that,” Sambur told a Senate panel March 24.
|USAF Initiates Servicewide Review of Rapes
A recent Pacific Air Forces review found at least 92 rape accusations by personnel in PACAF between 2001 and 2003. Those findings, coupled with the problems identified last year at the Air Force Academy, prompted Air Force leaders to initiate a wider review across the entire service. (For more on the USAFA situation, see “Upheaval at the Academy,” January, p. 56.)
In the PACAF cases, a total of 106 airmen were accused of rape. Seven were convicted and sentenced to an average of eight years in prison, while many more received lesser administrative penalties, such as demotions.
Air Force Secretary James G. Roche told a March 17 Defense Writers Group session that some victims assistance programs were run so that aid to alleged victims stopped if charges were not brought against the alleged rapists. “That’s just dumb,” he said. He added that there were other such “systemic problems.”
Roche said that, during a visit to PACAF bases late last year, he talked with Gen. William J. Begert, PACAF commander, about the academy situation and the question of “how good is the Air Force” as a whole on this issue. Begert launched a review “quietly,” said Roche.
Roche and Gen. John P. Jumper, Air Force Chief of Staff, reviewed the PACAF findings. They took the issue up at the February Corona, a meeting of USAF’s senior military and civilian leaders, and decided to direct a servicewide review. Within days of the Corona meeting, news reports began to surface about alleged sexual assault problems at Sheppard AFB, Tex., a major technical training facility.
In early March, Air Force sexual assault assessment teams began fanning out to Air Force installations worldwide to collect data on the scale of the problem.
Recent allegations of sexual assaults and mishandling of victims assistance has touched each of the military branches. News reports over the past few months have highlighted problems being encountered by US female military personnel serving in Southwest Asia.
These reports prompted the Pentagon to establish a Task Force on Care for Victims of Sexual Assaults. Heading the group is Ellen P. Embrey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force health protection and readiness.
The DOD task force was formally created Feb. 13 and was to report its findings by April 30.
The Air Force planned to discuss the findings of its own review at its Corona meeting this month.
|Air Armament Summit IDs Key Weapons Trends
The Air Force’s most recent air armament summit, held in March at Eglin AFB, Fla., identified several key focus areas. They include networked weapons, plug-and-play integration capabilities, improved combat support, modernized test and training ranges, and integrated capability evaluations.
The top-secret summit feeds into USAF’
Col. Pamela Arias, director of the Air Armament Center Enterprise Program Office, told Air Force Magazine that networking weapons—via two-way data links—is essential because this capability will give planners real-time intelligence on threat areas and information on whether a target was actually killed in an attack. Currently, only the AGM-130 is equipped with a two-way data link, but the Air Force would like to add this capability to as many weapons as possible.
As for plug-and-play capability, Arias noted that it is excessively difficult to add new weapons to existing platforms. Simplifying integration would save time and money, she said, while increasing the number of attack options available. Currently, it can take up to three years to integrate new weapons, but there are proposed systems that could shave that time by two-thirds.
Becoming more agile is critical for an expeditionary Air Force, Arias said. Because of its central role supporting munitions, Eglin deploys more personnel than any other Air Force Materiel Command base.
Discussion at the summit also raised concerns about the Pentagon’s test and training ranges. Continuing problems with urban encroachment are threatening a new generation of long-range weapons that need large amounts of airspace for proper testing.
William Dyess, Arias’s deputy at Eglin, noted that there are virtually no land-based ranges outside of Australia with enough space to accommodate today’s long-range weapons. He added that operating over water is not necessarily the right solution because of the need to position proper instrumentation along flight paths.
|Latest GPS Launch Honors Getting
The March 20 launch of a Global Positioning System navigational satellite from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., honored the late Ivan A. Getting, who is considered the father of GPS. Getting died Oct. 11, 2003, at his home in California.
To honor his life and work, the 50th GPS satellite launched carried an inscription noting his name, birth and death dates, and words he had used to describe the navigation satellite: “Lighthouses in the sky, serving all mankind.”
Getting was born in New York City in 1912 and earned a degree in physics in 1933 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Two years later, as a graduate Rhodes scholar, he received a doctorate in astrophysics at Oxford University in Britain.
He devoted his career to US defense efforts and was recognized as a leading military scientist. His career began at Harvard University, where he did research on cosmic rays and nuclear physics. In 1940, he moved to MIT, where a group he led developed the first automatic microwave tracking fire-control radar. The radar was credited with helping London survive the Nazi V-1 “buzz bombs” during World War II.
During the Korean War, Getting served as the Air Force’s assistant for development and planning. From 1951 to 1960, he was vice president of research and engineering at Raytheon. In 1960, when the Aerospace Corp. was created, at Air Force instigation, Getting was elected its first president.
Many consider his work on GPS to be his most important and lasting contribution not only to US defense but to the world.
|The Iraq Story Continues
One Year in Iraq
The US government marked the one-year anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom March 19 by highlighting what the campaign has accomplished in Iraq.
An Air Force news release stated that more than 230,000 Iraqis have been trained to provide security for their country’s 25 million citizens, and the international community has pledged more than $32 billion to help restore the nation’s infrastructure.
The State Department noted that Iraq’s interim constitution guarantees freedom of religion and expression, the right to assemble and protest, and the right to vote.
And while 46 of the 55 most wanted Iraqis had been killed or captured by the anniversary date, defense officials said that operations needed to continue in the country.
Air Force statistics showed that US forces have been carrying out more than 1,600 patrols daily and conducting an average of 180 military raids a week.
In a March 17 speech, Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the nature of the threat to US and coalition forces in Iraq continues to morph. Most recent attacks have come not from Iraqis loyal to the former regime but from foreign “Jihadists,” Myers said. He gave a rough estimate that there may be 1,000 Jihadists in Iraq but cautioned that exact numbers are difficult to determine because these terrorists “don’t show up for the census.”
Because of the lingering security concerns, Myers noted that Iraq won’t be able to assume all required security functions by June 30, when sovereignty over the nation is transferred from the US governing authority to the new Iraqi government.
By March 19, a total of 570 US troops had died supporting OIF. Of these casualties, 387 were killed by hostile action, while another 183 died in noncombat incidents.
President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 2003. Since that time, 432 troops have died in Iraq: 272 in combat and 160 in nonhostile incidents.
F-16s Deploy to Kirkuk
A detachment of 10 F-16s and 200 personnel from Selfridge ANGB, Mich., deployed to Kirkuk air base in northern Iraq on March 1. The ANG personnel, providing the only operational squadron of F-16s in Iraq, are on a standard 90-day deployment.
They relieved A-10s of the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. Falcons from Selfridge’s 107th Fighter Squadron were also deployed in support of Iraqi Freedom last year, when they were sent to Kuwait.
“Iron Promise” Counters Attacks on Civilians
US Central Command on March 17 launched a major campaign against insurgents in Baghdad after a series of attacks on civilians. Dubbed “Iron Promise,” the operation went after suspected terrorists and their weapons and hideouts.
The operation came after two attacks earlier that week killed two European and four American civilians working on separate water projects.
Officials were looking specifically for people moving weapons and improvised explosive devices.
By Tamar A. Mehuron, Associate Editor
- USAF activated the 505th Command and Control Wing March 12 at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The wing will manage the operational air and space command and control center and develop air and space C2 capabilities for US and coalition warfighters.
- The sole Predator unit in Iraq moved to Balad Air Base from Tallil Air Base in early March, according to Air Force officials. USAF Predators have flown in support of Operations Allied Force in Kosovo, Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.
- Air Force Special Operations Command combat controllers will have lighter targeting gear by year’s end, according to the Air Force Research Lab’s Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland AFB, N.M. The 10-pound piece of equipment features a day and night laser targeting ability and a geolocation system. The new gear replaces eight different systems weighing a total of 60 pounds.
- The Air Force Personnel Center received 2,418 applications for early separation or retirement by its March 12 closeout date for phase 1 of USAF’s effort to reduce its end strength by some 16,000 airmen. (See “RIF Would Be Last Resort,” p. 19.) As of April 16, the Air Force had approved applications from 156 officers and 2,071 enlisted members.
- Malfunctions and rough terrain caused the Nov. 23, 2003, crash of an MH-53 helicopter east of Bagram AB, Afghanistan, concluded an accident report released March 10. The crash killed four of six crew members and one Army passenger. (See “Aerospace World: Helo Crash Claims Five,” January, p. 12.) Combined stresses of high altitude and high gross weight triggered the failure of an engine. Auxiliary fuel tanks also failed to release. Flying in support of Operation Mountain Resolve when the crash occurred, the Pave Low helicopter was assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
- Boeing in late February received a $460 million contract for C-17 sustainment work for USAF and British C-17s. The British portion is about three percent of the total, according to DOD. Work is to be completed by September 2004.
- Singapore’s ministry of defense on March 16 said the country had signed on for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program as a security cooperation participant. As a participant, Singapore can request early purchase of the JSF for delivery after 2012. Eight countries had signed on as partners at varying levels. They are: Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, and Turkey.
- The Dec. 11, 2003, crash of a remotely piloted Predator UAV in Southwest Asia was due to operator error, concluded an Air Combat Command accident report released March 17. The pilot overcorrected when the UAV “abruptly pitched upward because of a software program anomaly,” said the report. The pilot and UAV, which was destroyed in the crash, were assigned to the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron at Indian Springs AFAF, Nev.
- ACC’s 116th Air Control Wing, Robins AFB, Ga., took delivery of USAF’s 16th Joint STARS aircraft in late February from Electronic Systems Center, Hanscom AFB, Mass.
- The 12 additional Civil Support Teams Congress funded in the Fiscal 2004 defense bill will stand up this year, according to a March 9 DOD news release. The teams, each composed of 22 Army and Air National Guard members, will be located in Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. Congress has directed DOD to establish 11 more new teams. DOD has certified 32 teams so far.
- US and European officials agreed in February on terms regarding the development and use of the European navigation satellite system, Galileo, that avoid interfering with the Pentagon’s GPS system. (See “Aerospace World: US, EU Set for NavSat Deal,” March, p. 15.) The agreement settled a four-year dispute.
- The Air Force in early March said it had made it easier for its military and civilian personnel to access personnel information via the Web by creating the Air Force Portal—a one-stop entryway that provides access to several online services with just one user ID and password. Click on www.my.af.mil to access the site.
- NASA officials earlier this year selected MacDill AFB, Fla., as an alternate landing site for the space shuttle. Landing the shuttle at MacDill rather than the other alternate—Edwards AFB, Calif.—would save processing time for the next mission and the expense of returning the shuttle to its Cape Canaveral, Fla., home station.
- After nearly 60 years, Kenneth Kinsinger, a World War II Army Air Corps B-24 bomber pilot, was honored in February with formal presentation of the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism during a July 1944 bombing mission—one of six he made over the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. Flying through a wall of intense flak, Kinsinger, as lead pilot, kept his group of 100 bombers on track and on target. Kinsinger also received the Air Medal for finishing 50 missions with the 449th Bomb Group in Italy from April to August 1944.
- Another Army Air Corps veteran, Lynn Tipton, was awarded a Purple Heart in March at Edwards AFB, Calif., for combat wounds he received on Sept. 12, 1944, on a B-24 mission over Magdenburg, Germany. When his bomber came under attack from German fighters, he was hit by ammunition rounds. The crew had to bail out and were interned in a POW camp for about 10 months.
- Two Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) contracts, on March 1, went to Boeing. The total value of the contracts is $857 million. Under one contract, Boeing is to produce 32,000 JDAMs to replenish Air Force and Navy stocks after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The second calls for future integration of JDAM on foreign military sales aircraft.
- USAF awarded Raytheon a $52.6 million contract for Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile and AIM-120 work for foreign military sales to Greece and Sweden. Work will be completed by August 2005.
- Rockwell Collins received a $36.8 million USAF contract for full rate production work on the Global Air Traffic Management Program for KC-135s. Work is to be finished by February 2005.
- Israel Aircraft Industries officials signed a $1.1 billion contract with Indian defense ministry officials in March for IAI to deliver three airborne early warning aircraft for the Indian Air Force.
- Two airmen assigned to the US Air Force Academy took weight-class honors at the 2004 Armed Forces Wrestling Championships in March in New Orleans. SSgt. Steven Woods won the 163-pound weight class for Greco-Roman wrestling, and 2nd Lt. Kevin Hoy won the 264.5-pound weight class in freestyle wrestling. Both are with USAFA’s 10th Services Squadron.