Two Airmen Killed in Honduras
Two airmen were killed and one injured in a car crash outside of La Ceiba, Honduras, on March 15. The injured airman was taken to a Honduran hospital and treated for serious injuries.
The deceased, Capt. Heidi K. Palmer, an Air Force Reservist assigned to the 940th Civil Engineer Squadron, Beale AFB, Calif., and SSgt. Matthew L. Walrod, a medical technician with the 92nd Medical Group, Fairchild AFB, Wash., and the injured airman, Capt. Melvin K. Smith, were deployed in support of New Horizons 2006, a joint military exercise between the US and Honduras. They were assigned to Joint Task Force Asegurar el Futuro, or “Securing the Future.”
The accident is under investigation.
Airman Dies in Training Accident
Maj. Bryan Adrian, a student with the 342nd Training Squadron, died Feb. 15 at Lackland AFB, Tex., the Air Force said. Adrian, 41, was permanently assigned to the 176th Wing of the Alaska National Guard.
He was taking part in water confidence training as part of a combat rescue officers course when he died. The accident is under investigation.
Air Missions Up in SWA
Airpower is playing a bigger role in Afghanistan and Iraq, both to attack insurgents and move equipment and personnel, according to US Central Command.
There were 86 air strikes flown against enemy targets in Afghanistan in 2004, according to CENTCOM. However, in 2005, the figure leaped to 157. Over the same period, air strikes flown in Iraq increased seven percent, from 285 to 306.
At the same time, airlift missions were also increasing in the two theaters, with C-130 sorties increasing from 48,100 in 2004 to 52,000 in 2005. The number of passengers transported jumped from 699,000 in 2004 to 953,000 in 2005.
The US has been using transport aircraft to move personnel and equipment in order to avoid the hazard posed by roadside bombs, which claim the majority of casualties in the two conflicts.
ANG Joins B-2 Mission
The Air National Guard has been given a role in the mission of the B-2 stealth bomber.
Missouri Congressmen announced in March that the Air Force had decided to pair ANG’s 131st Fighter Wing, currently based at Lambert Airport in St. Louis, with the active duty B-2 bomber force at Whiteman AFB, Mo.
The 131st will be giving up its F-15 fighter mission as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure process, and the USAF move allows the unit to remain active, as an associate to the 509th Bomb Wing. Guardsmen will both fly and maintain the stealth bomber. The 131st’s F-15 Eagles are to be reassigned or retired; they will not move to Whiteman. The Guard unit is to give up its Eagles sometime before 2011.
Weldon Backs Second F-35 Engine
Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee, has joined the fight to keep the Pentagon from terminating the F-35 alternative engine program.
Weldon told a group of top military officials during a subcommittee hearing on March 16 that it is a “mistake” to cancel the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 engine, saying that while the move might save money up front, it will cost more in the long run.
DOD has requested roughly $1.1 billion since 1997 for the second engine program and Congress added $157 million through FY06. The overall cost of the second engine program is estimated at $2.4 billion.
“If we want industry to give us affordable equipment, industry needs stability in programs,” Weldon insisted. “We cannot continue to have on again, off again programming as has been the recent record.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) held two separate Senate hearings on the program in March after being lobbied in February to save the engine program by Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio). (See “Aerospace World: Congress Hits JSF Engine Cut, April, p. 17.) Warner held the hearings to evaluate the risk of having only one engine for the international Joint Strike Fighter program, which is expected to produce as many as 5,000 aircraft.
Stevens Pushes UAV Program
The Pentagon’s myriad of unmanned aircraft programs is confusing and wasteful and should be consolidated, according to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate appropriations defense subcommittee.
Stevens lambasted Pentagon leaders at a March 15 hearing, saying the many programs are redundant and should be combined under a single office.
“Why don’t we just have a national program instead of all these separate offices that cost money?” Stevens asked Navy and Marine Corps leaders at the hearing.
Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter later countered that unmanned aerial vehicles are an evolving technology and that he supports having many efforts because they promote the “competition of ideas.” They cannot be managed as if they were mature programs, Winter said.
Does JCS Need a Guard Chief
Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus, said in March they are drafting legislation that would put a four-star National Guard officer on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The officer would be the Chief of the Guard Bureau. Bond and Leahy want a four-star on the Joint Chiefs to recognize the Guard’s growing importance in regular operations and give the Guard more clout in decision-making on matters of personnel, readiness, and budget. The Senators outlined their ideas at a hearing of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves in March.
Bond and Leahy have other changes in mind, as well. They want to make it a rule that the deputy commander of US Northern Command is a member of the Guard and give the Guard a procurement budget that is separate from the accounts of the other services.
The National Guard has represented nearly 50 percent of the combat force in Iraq and 40 percent of the Total Force.
AFSOC Gets First Combat Osprey
The first combat-configured CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft was handed over to Air Force Special Operations Command in March. The aircraft will be used to transport special operations forces into and out of hostile territory at greater speed and farther range than existing helicopters can.
The aircraft turned over on March 1 will be used by the 71st Special Operations Squadron for aircrew training at Kirtland AFB, N.M. It differs from the Marine Corps “standard” V-22 with additional weapons and self-defense devices, among other improvements.
The Air Force plans to buy 50 CV-22s and field them by 2009. The aircraft replaces the MH-53 Pave Low.
At a ceremony marking the handover, Maj. Gen. Donald C. Wurster, AFSOC vice commander, said the CV-22 is the “single most significant” development in Air Force special operations since the introduction of the helicopter.
Keesler Up To Speed
Training at Keesler AFB, Miss., is back up to speed months ahead of expectations, the Air Force reported in March.
Keesler took $950 million worth of damage from Hurricane Katrina last August, but the base’s training output is expected to be higher than 2004’s levels, according to Maj. Gen. William T. Lord.
Lord is director of information services and integration for the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer at the Pentagon. Until November 2005, he was commander of the 81st Training Wing at Keesler. Brig. Gen. Paul F. Capasso now serves as commander of the 81st.
Speaking with reporters at the Pentagon in March, Lord said Keesler’s training facilities survived the hurricane intact, but training was stopped because some key instructors and many students had been evacuated.
Training resumed just three weeks after the hurricane, rather than the six months projected, when the extent of the damage was more fully understood and repairs could be tackled with full force.
About 95 percent of the base suffered structural damage ranging from uprooted trees to complete destruction of buildings.
The base was quickly repaired with help from the 832rd RED HORSE, the 5th Combat Communications Group, the 97th Air Expeditionary Group, the 615th Contingency Response Wing, Combat Camera, and 83rd Communications Squadron mobile satellite communications teams called Hammer ACE.
“All of the industrial area has now been, at least temporarily, fixed, so that it’s useful,” noted Lord.
The primary problem Keesler now faces is a shortage of on-base housing, because all the housing projects that were in the works before the storm were delayed, Lord said. Many of the new base houses were flooded with nine feet of water, completely destroying them. Under a new housing plan at Keesler, 1,200 military homes will be constructed and 800 privatized within 10 years.
Other plans for Keesler’s full reconstruction include building a seawall behind the hospital and waterproofing its basement, which was flooded during Katrina, causing millions of dollars in damage.
Lord said he is using the disaster response skills he learned at Keesler to teach wing commanders crisis preparation. He teaches a two-hour course on “preparation and leadership during a crisis” at every wing commander seminar held at Maxwell AFB, Ala. Lord was invited to teach the course by Air University.
Lt. Gen. John F. Regni, superintendent of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., also has asked Lord to teach a similar course for the cadets to prepare them for their future leadership roles.
China Boosts Arms Budget
China will boost its defense spending 14.7 percent this year, to an equivalent of more than $35 billion, according to plans announced at the National People’s Congress in early March.
The additional funds will be used to increase troop pay and enhance other aspects of the Chinese military, according to China’s official news agency. However, a Chinese spokesman also acknowledged the increase will help defray the rising cost of petroleum products needed by the People’s Liberation Army.
China claims the budgeted amount will account for 1.4 percent of China’s gross domestic product, although the Pentagon estimates that China’s defense spending is actually up to three times the amount it publicly states. (See “Aerospace World: Rumsfeld Goes to China,” January, p. 14, and “The Chart Page: America’s Defense Burden,” March, p. 8.)
The Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, released in February, noted that since 1996, China has increased its defense spending by more than 10 percent every year except 2003. Last year, China’s defense spending increased by just under 13 percent.
The QDR also said that China has “the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies.”
USAF Departs Iceland
The US military will end its mission of providing air defense for Iceland in September, when four F-15 Eagles and a rescue helicopter squadron are withdrawn from NAS Keflavik. The US has provided military protection for Iceland since 1951.
Pentagon officials decided the aircraft are no longer needed at Keflavik and will be moved to address evolving threats in other parts of the world.
More than 1,200 US military personnel and 100 Defense Department civilian employees also will leave, and more than 600 Icelandic employees could lose their jobs.
NATO asked the US to provide defense for Iceland 55 years ago. Iceland was considered a key location from which to monitor North Atlantic sea-lanes and to serve as a bridge to Europe. It has hosted fighter and patrol aircraft over the years, but the numbers of US aircraft deployed there have been reduced since the end of the Cold War.
The US spends $260 million per year to defend Iceland. After the US leaves, Iceland will have no military defenses. Officials say the US will continue to honor its defense agreement with Iceland, which is protected by NATO’s “Article 5” mutual defense policy.
House Passes War Supplemental
The House of Representatives on March 16 passed a $68 billion supplemental spending bill to cover the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a $92 billion package that also pays for hurricane relief and foreign aid.
About $4.9 billion would be used to train and equip Iraqi and Afghan security forces. Another $2 billion would be spent to counter improvised explosive devices, a leading cause of US casualties since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Congress has already passed a $50 billion war supplemental this fiscal year. If the $68 billion package is approved by the Senate and President Bush, it would bring the total cost of war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to nearly $400 billion.
The Senate was to take up its version of the supplemental in April.
The additional funds in the supplemental were for hurricane relief in the Gulf Coast region ($19 billion), as well as democracy programs in Iraq and foreign aid to African countries ($4.1 billion).
Australia Selects C-17s
Australia has decided to buy up to four Boeing C-17 Globemaster IIIs to provide strategic mobility for its armed forces. The move was prompted in part by the US Air Force’s plans to close the C-17 production line. (See “Aerospace World: C-17 Halt Brings Penalties,” April, p. 14.)
Australia decided to order three aircraft with an option for a fourth, depending on the final price, Defense Minister Brendan Nelson announced March 3.
The Royal Australian Air Force needs an aircraft larger than its C-130 Hercules transport and that can carry its new M1A1 Abrams main battle tank. Australia also wants the C-17s in part to fulfill its contributions to international humanitarian missions.
“This is the only aircraft currently in production which has a proven capability to meet ADF [Australian Defense Force] operational commitments, in Australia, the region, and globally,” Nelson said.
The aircraft could be delivered by mid-2008, a fact that helped the C-17 win out over the EADS A400M propeller-driven transport, which will not be available until 2009 at the earliest.
According to Boeing, the first C-17, with standard US configuration, could be delivered to Australia by December 2006, with the other three coming within 15 months.
The Australian buy would mark the second foreign operator of the C-17. The British Royal Air Force flies four of the aircraft under a long-term lease that is expected to end with a purchase.
ROTC Cadets Get Cyber Training
Twenty-five ROTC cadets have been picked for a 10-week cyber-security “boot camp” sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory and Syracuse University.
The program is officially called the Advanced Course in Engineering, or ACE, program. The cadets—20 Air Force, three Army, and two Navy, as well as eight National Science Foundation fellows and three other civilians—will attend the course in Rome, N.Y., this summer.
The course will include lectures on analyzing malicious code and wireless security, as well as network defense and attack, legal and policy issues, and cryptography. It concludes with a two-day cyber security exercise that course leaders dub “hackfest.”
The 36 students selected for the course have grade point averages of 3.5 or higher in computer science or engineering, electrical engineering, or related disciplines. Four additional participants are graduate students who have taken the course previously.
The program was launched in 2002 and is part of AFRL’s efforts to cultivate experts in cyber-warfare. Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne has recently elevated cyberspace to a status on par with air and space as a domain where USAF must excel and prevail. (See “Aerospace World: Wynne Elevates Cyber-war,” February, p. 21.)
The course will be taught by educators from Syracuse University, the US Military Academy at West Point, and Norwich University, as well as experts from AFRL and industry.
F-16 Mods Take Flight
The Air Force expects to finish its Block 50/52 F-16 Common Configuration Implementation Program upgrade this month and is on track to complete the program on all its F-16s by 2010, the service said.
The CCIP is the largest F-16 upgrade ever, comprising a $2 billion-plus avionics and mission capabilities improvement for about 650 Block 40, 42, 50, and 52 Air Force and Air National Guard F-16 fighter aircraft. The program began in 2001.
The CCIP extends the “utility, capability, and supportability of the F-16 with increased/improved avionics and software,” according to the Aeronautical Systems Center.
Upgrades include a new avionics suite, a new mission computer, color displays, Link 16 capability, and dual carriage of the High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile targeting system and Advanced Targeting Pod.
Block 50/52 F-16 aircraft also received an air-to-air interrogator that will allow beyond line of sight use of the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. The final leg of the modernization program will be for the Block 40/42 F-16 aircraft, and they are scheduled to be upgraded by 2010.
All the upgrades are being performed at Hill AFB, Utah. Falcons already upgraded are supporting US European Command and Operation Noble Eagle in the US.
Is It “Son of J-UCAS”
The Air Force hasn’t completely given up on the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS), even though the USAF portion of the program has been scrapped.
At a Capitol Hill seminar in March, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said his service “is completing its work on refueling unmanned vehicles,” which is the J-UCAS technology of the most immediate interest to USAF.
The Navy is continuing the program, according to direction given by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Wynne said he believes there will be a competition between the Boeing X- 45 and the Northrop Grumman X-47 concepts. Once a winner is selected, “the Air Force could show back up on [the Navy’s] doorstep” and buy some of the aircraft, remarked Wynne.
|Those 50 Fewer Minuteman Missiles
Although the Pentagon has said it is cutting 50 Minuteman III missiles from the nuclear weapons inventory because they are “excess to need,” it turns out they are needed: for testing and warhead inventory. The Defense Department is “running out” of the Minuteman for test flights, according to a senior defense official, and test flying is a necessary element of ensuring the fleet is credible and operating properly. The 50 missiles being taken out of the operational inventory are “badly needed” for this function, he said.
The US policy goal is to deploy the Minuteman III with just one warhead per missile, the official said, but that policy may change in the future. If it does, the warheads being taken out of operational service now will be available to put on the remaining 450 missiles later, in a multiwarhead configuration. The Minuteman fleet today is mixed: Some have a single warhead, others have up to three.
|Caspar W. Weinberger, 1917-2006
Caspar W. Weinberger, one of the longest-serving Secretaries of Defense and architect of the Reagan Administration’s military buildup of the 1980s, died March 28. He was 88.
Weinberger oversaw the reconstitution of the US military after the so-called “hollow force” era following the Vietnam War, presiding over the spending of more than $2 trillion to upgrade American conventional and nuclear forces.
The program is credited by many with helping bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
Weinberger maintained that the US needed to increase its military power to negotiate from a position of strength, and he was deeply wary of the arms agreements that President Reagan struck with the Soviets.
Weinberger invested heavily in the US strategic deterrent, producing the B-1 and B-2 bombers, modernizing the submarine-based ballistic missile force, and fielding the Peacekeeper ICBM.
Regarding conventional forces, he increased the Army by two divisions and the Navy by 90 ships, and set a goal—never fully achieved—of expanding the Air Force fighter fleet to 40 wings. USAF topped out at 37.5 wings.
He was also a supporter of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, which spent many billions in pursuit of a defense against ballistic missiles.
He also developed a series of tests, dubbed by many as “The Weinberger Doctrine,” to determine whether and how the US should commit its military forces to combat. His doctrine called for the US to fight only when its most vital interests were threatened, when chances of success were good, and when military action had the support of the people and the Congress.
Weinberger was drawn into the infamous Iran-Contra endeavor—the secret trading of weapons to Iran in exchange for influence with terrorists and cash that was funneled to anticommunist forces in Nicaragua. Weinberger was indicted for this by a special counsel, but he was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush for his role in the affair.
Weinberger was a Harvard-educated lawyer who served in the Army during World War II on the intelligence staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Under President Nixon, as director of the Office of Management and Budget, Weinberger earned the nickname “Cap the Knife” for his aggressive trimming of federal spending, particularly on social programs. Under President Ford, Weinberger was Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
After a stint as an executive with Bechtel Group, Weinberger returned to government service in 1981, when Reagan appointed him the 15th Secretary of Defense. During his tenure, he supervised the 1983 invasion of Grenada and the 1986 raid on Libya—Operation El Dorado Canyon—in retaliation for terrorist attacks on Americans in Germany. He also supported the operation to reflag and escort Kuwaiti tankers that were under threat in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war.
After leaving government, he claimed to have resisted sending marines to Lebanon in 1982 as part of an international peacekeeping force, saying that their mission was untenable and their position vulnerable. In 1983, 241 American troops were killed in Lebanon by a suicide bomber, and the US withdrew from the country soon afterward.
Reagan presented Weinberger with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian decoration, in 1987.
On leaving the Pentagon, Weinberger wrote a number of books, including In the Arena, about his government work, and a well-received fiction thriller, Chain of Command, with Peter Schweizer. He also signed on as publisher and later chairman of Forbes Magazine, which carried his columns and commentaries.
|Jack B. Gross, AFA Leader, 1911-2006
Jack B. Gross, a charter member of the Air Force Association and one of its most influential early leaders and benefactors, died March 23 in Harrisburg, Pa. He was 94.
Gross was born in Gratz, Pa., in 1911. He graduated from Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., and began a business career. Upon the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Army Air Forces and was in uniform for exactly four years. During the war, he served in both the European and North African Theaters, where he was the executive officer of a fighter group.
At the end of the war, Gross returned home to Pennsylvania, where he made his mark in civic affairs. He was a highly successful businessman, with profitable ventures in real estate, drilling operations, and auto dealerships. Through it all, he was generous with his time, money, and advice, supporting local, state, and national causes. Chief among these was AFA.
After returning home, Gross had quickly become one of the first veterans to join the Air Force Association, an organization created in 1946 to promote airpower and support the concept of an independent air arm—a goal which came to fruition in 1947.
That was the start of a 60-year relationship.
Gross played a major leadership role in the early years of AFA. He served 21 years as AFA’s national treasurer, managing the association’s complicated finances and guiding it through various down cycles, putting AFA on a solid foundation with a large and expanding asset base. He was a founder of AFA’s affiliate, the Aerospace Education Foundation.
Moreover, he was in 1963 elected to a two-year term as AFA’s Chairman of the Board. In 1958, AFA selected Gross as its “Man of the Year” for his outstanding work on behalf of the association, from the chapter level all the way up to the national level.
In 1981, AFA formally recognized Gross’ deep imprint on the organization by dedicating its annual National Convention to him personally.
In the 1990s, Gross’ engagement with AFA turned in a new direction. He launched and sponsored a number of financial awards aimed at giving recognition to AFA staff excellence. He provided funds for other benefit and loan programs for AFA staffers. He also sponsored the Jack Gross Membership Award, providing grants to AFA chapters as incentives to expand membership.
All in all, Gross was one of AFA’s most generous benefactors over many years.
Gross’ military service totaled 30 years in USAF’s active and reserve components. He retired from uniformed life in 1971 as a Reserve colonel. At his retirement, then-Secretary of the Air Force Robert C. Seamans Jr.—flanked by Gen. John D. Ryan, the Chief of Staff—decorated Gross with the Legion of Merit for outstanding service with Headquarters Command.
Gross is survived by a niece. He was buried in Mount Mariah Cemetery in Colonial Park, Pa.
|Poll Shows Americans Support Space Exploration
A solid majority of Americans support a new plan for space exploration, according to a 2005 Gallup poll.
Gallup found that 77 percent of Americans support a new space plan that would return the space shuttle to flight, complete assembly of the International Space Station, go back to the moon, and then travel to Mars and beyond.
Pollsters also found that space exploration enjoys bipartisan support, with 77 percent of Democrats and 84 percent of Republicans supporting the plan described above.
Support for space exploration continues to grow: Only 68 percent of those polled supported the space program in 2004.
Americans also want NASA adequately funded, with 73 percent saying the space agency’s budget should either stay the same (36 percent) or increase (37 percent).
Eight in 10 adults say they “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” that the space program gives America the scientific and technological edge it needs to compete with other nations.
The Gallup survey results were based on a nationally representative sample of 1,001 telephone interviews with a general population sample of adults age 18 and over. The margin of error is estimated to be plus or minus three percentage points.
The survey was sponsored by the Coalition for Space Exploration, a group of companies, nonprofits, and trade associations dedicated to supporting space exploration.
|Pentagon Describes Conventional Trident Plan
The Pentagon plans to convert 24 Trident D-5 missiles into conventional weapons, with two aboard each of 12 Trident submarines, a defense official reported, offering new details on a plan first unveiled in the Fiscal 2007 defense budget and the Quadrennial Defense Review.
The concept is viewed by US Strategic Command as offering the best option (other than nuclear weapons) for destroying hardened and deeply buried targets. Although originally planned to be kept secret, it was decided that the idea should be made public to obtain its value as a deterrent.
The Navy Trident was selected over the Minuteman III missile for the mission because the D-5 is a newer design offering better accuracy. The D-5 also is still in production, whereas the last Minuteman missiles were produced nearly 30 years ago.
Moreover, a launch of the land-based Minuteman would cause boosters to fall on Canadian soil. It also would likely require overflight of Russian territory to reach a meaningful target, raising concerns that such a launch could be misinterpreted as a nuclear attack on that nation.
As mobile launch platforms, submarines can get closer to their intended targets. Basing conventional ICBMs at the US coast would not overcome their other disadvantages, the official said.
The missiles would have an accuracy of within 33 feet after a flight of 6,000 miles. They also would be able to strike anywhere in the world within an hour of the order to launch.
Two types of warheads—neither involving an explosive—are being considered for the conventional Tridents. One would use a concrete weight, called a “slug” or “slump,” of a type similar to that lofted in tests of the missile. The other would involve a steel rod, also called a flechette. The speed of the warhead at impact would be such that its kinetic energy would make an explosive unnecessary.
|The Iraq Story Continues
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
As of April 7, a total of 2,350 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. This total includes 2,343 troops and seven Defense Department civilians. Of those fatalities, 1,846 were killed in action by enemy attack, and 504 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 17,469 troops wounded in action during OIF. This includes 9,454 who returned to duty within 72 hours and 8,015 who were unable to quickly return to action.
Troops in Iraq: Fewer, Longer Stays
Iraqi forces will outnumber US troops in that country by the end of this year, President Bush said in March. It was his first suggestion that large numbers of US troops could be withdrawn from Iraq.
In a speech March 13 to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Bush said that as more Iraqi troops “come on line” and take over patrols and other constabulary functions, US forces can be spared for “hunting down high-value targets” such as terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and not as many will be needed in Iraq overall. Bush counted police among the Iraqi forces.
However, at a White House press conference March 21, Bush said that the ultimate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq would be “decided by future Presidents and future governments of Iraq,” meaning he anticipates that full withdrawal will come no earlier than January of 2009, when his term expires.
Bush maintained that appropriate troop levels for now will be decided by Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force-Iraq, and Casey’s subordinates.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
As of April 7, a total of 280 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom, primarily in and around Afghanistan. The total includes 142 troops and one Defense Department civilian killed in action and 137 who died in nonhostile incidents such as accidents.
A total of 711 troops have been wounded in Enduring Freedom. They include 289 who were able to return to duty in three days and 422 who were not.
C-17 Airdrop Record in Afghanistan
A C-17 broke an airdrop record March 23 when it air-dropped 32,400 pounds of humanitarian aid in just 40 minutes to four locations around central and eastern Afghanistan.
The historic airdrop marked the most cargo air-dropped to multiple drop-zones in the shortest amount of time from a single aircraft, according to Lt. Col. Charles Ciuzio, chief of the Air Mobility Division at the combined air operations center in Afghanistan.
The C-17 delivered 24 bundles of supplies, including winter survival gear, tools, school supplies, food, and blankets.
More than 2.2 million pounds of aid has been delivered to Afghans since October 2004, according to CENTCOM.
Six million people in Afghanistan and 1.5 million Afghan refugees depend on international relief programs for survival, according to the White House.
By Breanne Wagner, Associate Editor
- The Army and Air Force have agreed to call their new light transport the Joint Cargo Aircraft, USAF Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley said in March. Confirmation of the agreement between the services to join the Air Force’s Light Cargo Aircraft program with the Army’s Future Cargo Aircraft came in March. The JCA is slated to replace the Army’s aging fleet of Sherpa small transports and fill an empty niche in the USAF inventory, and service leaders are expected to approve a formal agreement by May.
- More air training space is needed in Korea, Army Gen. Burwell B. Bell III, US Forces Korea commander, told a House Armed Services Committee in March. He shut down the Koon-Ni Range in August due to complaints and lawsuits from local residents. South Korean officials have met stiff resistance from residents at other possible range sites, but Bell maintained that he is “trying to resolve this” with South Korea.
- Australia will be the first foreign customer for the Lockheed Martin Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. The Royal Australian Air Force plans to integrate JASSM on its F/A-18 aircraft, giving it long-range land and maritime strike capabilities. Lockheed Martin will deliver the weapon to RAAF starting in 2009.
- Wounded troops have a much better chance of surviving, thanks to the C-17, USAF Secretary Michael Wynne said in March. Troops hurt in Iraq today have a 91 percent survival rate, versus 75 percent during the Vietnam War, because the C-17 can operate much closer to the battle zone than could its predecessor the C-141. Speaking at a Capitol Hill seminar, Wynne said the survival rate increases to 93.5 percent if the troops make it to Balad AB, Iraq.
- Lockheed Martin began delivering new Digital Stores Management Software in March that will expand the precision attack capabilities of the A-10. The software ties smart munitions to either the Litening or Sniper pod to enhance close air support capabilities. It automates targeting functions previously performed by the pilot. The DSMS is part of a broader upgrade of the Warthog fleet to A-10C configuration, now in flight test. Deployments of upgraded aircraft will begin next year.
- Cope Taufan 06, an exercise staged in March by US forces from Kadena AB, Japan, and the Royal Malaysian Air Force, pitted American F-15 Eagles against Malaysian MiG-29 Fulcrums, Hawk 208s, and F/A-18 Hornets. The exercises were aimed at sharpening air combat skills and fostering cooperation between the US and Malaysia. The exercise is held every other year in Butterworth, Malaysia, home of the Royal Malaysian Air Force.
- The Pentagon has announced the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration programs for Fiscal 2006. The ACTDs are meant to rapidly move new technologies from the laboratory to the battlefield. More than 100 proposals were received and 10 selected. Among them are Extended Space Sensors Architecture to address gaps in space situational awareness; Multiservice Advanced Sensors to Counter Obscured Targets which will allow troops to identify camouflaged and concealed threats; and Small UAVs which will introduce new technology, tactics, and techniques for all small unmanned aircraft across the military services.
- USAF awarded Boeing a $240 million contract on March 6 for 10,000 Joint Direct Attack Munition tail kits to equip 500-, 1,000-, and 2,000-pound bombs for both the Air Force and the Navy. The kits are to be delivered by February 2008. Boeing has produced more than 140,000 JDAM kits for the services since 1998.
- Airmen from Kadena AB, Japan, rescued a US marine and an Okinawan citizen who were stranded on rocks in rough seas in March. The two had been scuba diving. Four aircrew and two pararescuers aboard an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter worked with Japanese rescuers on the ground to locate the divers, scaling wet cliffs in rain and 15-foot waves to bring the divers to safety. Both divers were taken to a local hospital and released that day.
- USAF awarded Boeing a $148 million engineering contract for the Wideband Gap-filler System program satellite Vehicle 4. The contract covers redesigns to address system obsolescence. Work is scheduled to be completed by July 2007.
- Air Force medical specialists, doctors, and dentists deployed on a medical humanitarian mission to Cambodia in March, screening 13,000 patients, treating about 3,500, and educating all about sanitation, dental hygiene, and infectious diseases. Working in concert with the US embassy, the US Agency for International Development, and the Cambodian Ministry of Health, the airmen also handed out donated clothing, toys, school supplies, and hygiene kits.
- Boeing was awarded a $96 million contract for the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System for USAF F-15s and F-16s and also in support of foreign military sales to Turkey (F-16C), the Netherlands (F-16), Poland (F-16), Australia (F/A-18), Switzerland (F/A-18), and Canada (F/A-18). Work is scheduled to be completed by December 2008.
- In Oklahoma, Altus Air Force Base and local firefighters battled a brushfire that consumed 100 acres around the installation March 12, singeing the ground at the base perimeter. Altus officials evacuated 300 dorm and base housing residents, and no injuries were reported.