F-16 Crash Claims Pilot
Second Lt. David J. Mitchell, 26, of Amherst, Ohio, died March 14 when the F-16 he was piloting crashed during a training mission in a remote area three miles south of Alamo Lake, Ariz. His body was found in a ravine near the aircraft wreckage.
Mitchell, from the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing in Toledo, was assigned to the 62nd Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB, Ariz., since November 2007 as a student pilot. He had a total of 237 flying hours, with about 26 in the F-16. A safety and accident investigation was ongoing as of late March.
Airman Killed in Helicopter Crash
SSgt. Christopher S. Frost, 24, of Waukesha, Wis., was killed March 3 in the crash of an Iraqi Army Mi-17 helicopter near Bayji, Iraq, during a dust storm. The crash also claimed the lives of seven members of the Iraqi Air Force who were onboard.
Frost, a six-year Air Force veteran, was a public affairs specialist who had deployed in September 2007 to the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq from the 377th Air Base Wing at Kirtland AFB, N.M.
Debris To Fall Soon
The US military believes that all debris created in space from February’s successful destruction of a nonfunctioning, deorbiting intelligence satellite will re-enter the atmosphere and burn up by around early June, Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of US Strategic Command, said March 4.
Chilton said this assessment was “more optimistic” than earlier predictions that indicated that it might take “six months to a year” for all remnants of the school bus-sized satellite to come down to Earth.
US defense officials stated that the pulverizing collision Feb. 20 between the doomed satellite and a modified ship-launched anti-missile missile outside of the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean left debris in the lower echelons of space no larger than the size of a football.
Nuclear Rotation Eyed for B-52s
Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff, said March 12 he expects Air Combat Command to soon begin rotating B-52 squadrons between their nuclear and conventional roles.
Testifying before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, Moseley said one squadron would rotate for six months or a year at a time into the nuclear mission, while two other B-52 squadrons would perform in the conventional role, since the Air Force still needs the ability to deploy to the Pacific or the Middle East quickly.
The move is one of many that USAF has instituted or plans to do to improve safety and oversight of the nation’s nuclear weapons after the errant transfer of six nuclear warheads on a B-52 flight from North Dakota to Louisiana in August 2007. Moseley acknowledged that the new plan could require that USAF maintain a total aircraft inventory of 76 B-52s vice the 56 that are currently budgeted. ACC and the Air Staff hadn’t yet determined the final number, he said.
B-1B Flies With Synthetic Fuel Mix
An Air Force B-1B bomber from the 9th Bomb Squadron at Dyess AFB, Tex., on March 19 became the first aircraft to fly at supersonic speeds burning the synthetic fuel blend that USAF wants its entire inventory cleared to use by early 2011.
The B-1B conducted the four-and-a-half hour flight over White Sands Missile Range, N.M., with all four of its General Electric F101-GE-102 turbofan engines burning the fuel mix of 50 percent traditional JP-8 aviation fuel and 50 percent synthetic kerosene derived from natural gas under a method called the Fischer-Tropsch process.
The bomber aircrew performed a full complement of operational maneuvers, including both low speed and supersonic flight, USAF said. Initial postflight comments from the crew indicated they observed no anomalies and encountered no problems.
Fallen Airman Honored at Eggers
The US military March 2 dedicated a building at Camp Eggers in Afghanistan to Air Force MSgt. Randy Gillespie, who died July 9, 2007 in Herat, Afghanistan, from small-arms-fire inflicted wounds. Gillespie House, as it is now known, will serve as joint service living quarters.
Gillespie, 44 at the time of his death, was deployed from Luke AFB, Ariz., to help mentor soldiers of the Afghan National Army. Earlier, two roads, one at Luke and one at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, were dedicated in his name.
CSAF Favors GDP Standard
Tying the annual defense budget to four percent of the nation’s gross domestic product makes sense and it appears to be an opportune time to take up the issue at a national level, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff, said Feb. 28.
Doing so would ease the services’ existing shortfalls—USAF says, for example, it is running $20 billion short each year—and allow each military branch to plan more efficiently and effectively over the long term, he told defense reporters. This is more difficult to do under the current system of using emergency supplemental wartime appropriations to address pressing shortfalls.
“What some of us have been saying is why don’t we look at something that is about four percent as a floor and try to get the supplemental business into the baseline budget,” Moseley said. In rough numbers, increasing the defense budget to four percent of GDP would bring in an extra $80 billion to $100 billion annually over current levels, he said.
Modernize or Suffer, General Warns
The Air Force is at a critical point in maintaining air, space, and cyberspace dominance and must field new aircraft or risk being outclassed in a future conflict and becoming irrelevant, said Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, Feb. 27.
“Soon we could be flying against aircraft and air defense systems that our older aircraft were not intended to fly against,” Carlson said during a visit to Air University at Maxwell AFB, Ala. “And if we don’t have the freedom to operate in hostile territories, we risk fighting the next conflict on our home territory.”
Carlson said the almost constant state of war for more than 17 years has taken its toll on the Air Force. For example, required maintenance on the F-15 has skyrocketed from 600 hours to 700 hours more than official estimates, he said. “We’re getting into unknown territory because we’ve been flying airframes longer than expected,” he said. “We didn’t build these aircraft to last this long.”
Senators Seek Empowered Guard
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.), co-chairmen of the National Guard Caucus, announced new legislation in mid-March to “empower the Guard for its modern-day missions.” Together with Rep. Thomas Davis (R-Va.) and Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), they introduced S 2760 and HR 5603, two identical follow-on National Guard Empowerment bills that, according to Leahy’s statement, would “obligate the Department of Defense to pay greater attention to the mission of homeland defense and to further empower the National Guard to carry out its missions in support of civil authorities at home.”
Their initiative builds on the earlier Guard Empowerment bill. That effort led to language in the Fiscal 2008 defense authorization act that elevated the head of the National Guard Bureau to four-star status. Now they also want to try again to secure a seat for the NGB chief on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Schwartz Stands By C-17 Ceiling
A fleet of 205 C-17s and 111 modernized C-5s appears to be the right mix of strategic airlift, even with the growth of the Army and Marine Corps and factoring in recent changes to the Pentagon’s upgrade plans for the C-5, Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, commander of US Transportation Command, told a Senate oversight panel March 12.
The Pentagon leadership, in February, restructured C-5 modernization by opting to upgrade the engines on only 52 of USAF’s 111 C-5s, vice all of them, although they will all still receive new avionics. Despite this, Schwartz said he stands by the recommendation he made in November 2007 that called for the 205-111 mix and keeping the C-17 production line open for the time being as a hedge in case the C-5 upgrade work should falter.
Another reason Schwartz said he cautions against more than 205 C-17s is the need to maintain a healthy balance between the nation’s organic airlift and the ancillary capabilities provided by the Civil Reserve Air Fleet. “I caution about overbuilding the organic fleet,” he said.
GPS Satellite Launched
The Air Force and its industry partners successfully launched a modernized Global Positioning System Block IIR satellite into space March 15 from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. The satellite, designated GPS IIR-19M, is the sixth of eight modernized GPS IIR spacecraft that Lockheed Martin built and subsequently upgraded to provide increased signal power, accuracy, and resistance to jamming.
The mission was the third consecutive successful launch of a GPS IIR-M satellite since October 2007. The remaining two Block IIR-M satellites are scheduled to go into orbit in 2008.
Two days prior, the Air Force launched a classified National Reconnaissance Office intelligence satellite into orbit from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., aboard a ULA Atlas V booster. The mission was the first Atlas V launch from Vandenberg.
B-1B Accident on Guam
A B-1B bomber was damaged March 7 during a ground mishap at Andersen AFB, Guam, but there were no injuries, according to Air Combat Command. The B-1B had stopped on the island while transiting home to Ellsworth AFB, S.D., from the Singapore Air Show.
The bomber had taken off from Andersen for home, but soon returned after the aircrew declared an in-flight emergency. Upon landing, the aircraft taxied to the designated spot off the runway to be met by emergency response vehicles. The aircraft stopped there, but then unexpectedly rolled into two emergency vehicles, causing the damage. An investigation was ongoing as of late March.
The incident was the second involving a bomber at Guam in a two-week period. On Feb. 23, a B-2A stealth bomber crashed after takeoff from Andersen.
Services Reaffirm C-27 Commitment
Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff, signed a letter Feb. 27 with Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. that reiterates both services’ commitment to the C-27 transport aircraft program “on the current fielding timeline and in accordance with the current beddown plan.”
The existing plan has been to buy 78 C-27s, including 24 for the Air Force. But speaking to defense reporters the next day, Moseley said he anticipates that the joint number will grow to “about 125 airplanes.” Air National Guard and even active duty units may fly USAF’s inventory of them, he said. Air Force Special Operations Command is also exploring a gunship variant.
First Air Force Reserve Space Wing
The Air Force activated the 310th Space Wing, the first Air Force Reserve space wing, March 7 at Schriever AFB, Colo. At the time of the standup, the unit, previously known as the 310th Space Group, had about 600 reservists in 16 subordinate units at Schriever, Buckley, and Peterson AFBs, Colo., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif., supporting Air Force Space Command, Air Combat Command, Air Force Cyber Command, and the Department of Commerce. The wing is expected to grow to more than 800 personnel.
New Protest Filed Over KC-135
Alabama Aircraft Industries Inc. filed a new legal protest against the Air Force March 12 concerning a $1.1 billion maintenance contract for the KC-135 tanker. AAII lodged the complaint—its second since September 2007 in the ongoing dispute—based on the belief that USAF failed to comply with an earlier Government Accountability Office ruling in the company’s favor.
AAII (formerly Pemco Aviation) lost out to Boeing last September in the original competition, but won a protest with GAO last December over how the Air Force evaluated the risk in Boeing’s proposal. USAF agreed to go back and re-evaluate, but after doing so, it concluded in early March that Boeing deserved the contract. GAO had 100 days to rule after receipt of the complaint.
Renuart Says ONE Is Essential
Modernizing the sensor systems that monitor the national airspace remains the No. 1 unfunded requirement of US Northern Command, Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., who heads the command as well as NORAD, told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 6. Until that occurs, Operation Noble Eagle remains essential for the foreseeable future, he said.
“The systems that we use to identify traffic in our national aerospace are aging,” Renuart told the panel. “We are working on some advanced technologies to allow us to perform that via broader means.” But in the meanwhile, “the ability to put eyes and, if you will, radars on an air threat is critical to us,” he said of the fighters and airborne surveillance platforms that patrol US skies as part of ONE.
He also said ONE aircraft have “a key role to play” in monitoring for “low observable and cruise missiles.” So for the future, he said, “I see that role continuing. I see it to be vital to our national defense. And I would continue to recommend to the Secretary that we keep that force available to us.”
B-52s Flex Muscles in Pacific
Four B-52 bombers made history March 6 when they simultaneously hit mock targets at four separate training ranges spread out across an 11,200-square-mile perimeter during an exercise from Andersen AFB, Guam. Called Quad Lightning, the mission was the first-ever of its kind in the Pacific since USAF has maintained a continuous bomber presence on the island to dissuade aggression in the region.
“Flying four sorties to different regions of the area of responsibility with simultaneous times over target demonstrates our capability to strike anytime and anywhere, with overwhelming firepower,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Matthews, commander of the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron. The B-52s arrived in late February at Andersen, replacing B-2As that had been there since late October 2007.
World War II Airman Identified
The Department of Defense announced March 10 that it had identified the remains of Aviation Cadet Ernest G. Munn, an airman missing since the crash of an AT-7 trainer aircraft during a Nov. 18, 1942 navigator training flight out of Mather Field, Calif. Munn, of St. Clairsville, Ohio, was one of four men aboard the AT-7.
Hikers found wreckage of the AT-7 in 1947 on Darwin Glacier in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, but it was not until 2005 that frozen human remains were found that were subsequently identified by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command as Cadet Leo M. Mustonen of the ill-fated flight. Hikers in 2007 found more remains near the 2005 site that JPAC researchers identified as belonging to Munn.
First UAV Unit Ready to Test
The Air Force stood up the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, its first operational test squadron for unmanned aircraft systems, during a ceremony March 5 at Creech AFB, Nev., its home. The new unit will support UAV operations worldwide, through force development evaluations, the development of training, tactics, and procedures, systems expertise, and fulfilling urgent need requests from commanders in theater.
As of mid-March, the 556th TES already had three new MQ-1 Predator UAVs in its inventory and anticipated receiving a fourth by the end of the year. It is scheduled to receive four MQ-9 Reaper UAVs, larger cousins to the Predator, in 2010.
Guard Needs Modern Aircraft, Too
Air National Guard boss Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley told a House oversight panel Feb. 28 that the Air Guard’s “biggest problem” is recapitalizing the fleet, just as it is for the active force. However, McKinley declared that apart from the need just to build new airplanes, “we’ve got to look at how to do that in proportion so that active, Guard, and Reserve get those airplanes.”
When asked by Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.) how many new airplanes the Air Guard would get out of the Air Force’s Fiscal 2009 budget request, McKinley replied, “We won’t get any new aircraft.” But the ANG is receiving some new MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles in Fiscal 2008, he noted.
SOCOM Eyes Minigunship
US Special Operations Command is interested in a minigunship based on the C-27 airframe, Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, head of the command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 4.
SOCOM has notional plans to replace Air Force Special Operations Command’s current AC-130 gunships, but since a successor platform isn’t anticipated until before the middle of next decade, it wants to pursue the “prototype development” of a “Gunship Light” concept built around the smaller C-27 airframe, Olson said.
The Air Force’s unfunded requirements list for Fiscal 2009 includes a $74.8 million request for two C-27s for this purpose. The AC-27 would carry a 30 mm gun, USAF officials have said.
New Bomber in 2018 Can Be Done
Skeptics of the Air Force’s assertion that it can field an impressive new long-range bomber in 2018 are misinformed, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Chief of Staff, said Feb. 28.
“The ability to field a system by 2018, if you integrate existing technologies, is doable,” Moseley said during a meeting with defense writers in Washington, D.C. “Those that say the technologies don’t exist likely don’t understand flying machines and building flying machines.”
Moseley said the Air Force has been clear with industry that it wants them to utilize existing engines, sensors, weapons, weapons bays, etc., and integrate them into a platform that provides the range, payload, and persistence that USAF wants.
Study Finds Military Pay Competitive
The Pentagon’s commission reviewing military compensation believes that current military pay is competitive with the civilian sector, agreeing with a Congressional Budget Office report issued in the summer of 2007.
Like CBO, the February 2008 10th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation report recommends that comparisons should include more than the standard Regular Military Compensation (basic pay, housing and subsistence allowances, and federal tax breaks).
The Pentagon commission recommends including RMC, health care, retirement, and state and local tax advantages, or what’s called Military Annual Compensation, as the basis for future comparisons. Without it, says the QRMC report, the result is “an incomplete analysis that substantially understates the value” of the military compensation package.
With it, says QRMC, the military can show that it provides a “more generous” package relative to civilian compensation. According to the report, using MAC, the average enlisted member earned about $10,600 more in 2006 than a civilian counterpart; a typical officer received $17,800 more.
CV-22s May Deploy to Combat This Year
The Air Force said in March it is considering sending the CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft on its first combat deployment later this year. The “potential first deployment” is possible “in the fall of 2008” after the conclusion of the flying phase of initial operational test and evaluation in June, Lt. Gen. Daniel J. Darnell, deputy chief of staff for air, space, and information operations, plans and requirements, told a House oversight panel March 11.
Air Force Special Operations Command is buying 50 CV-22s to replace the command’s aged MH-53 Pave Low helicopters, all of which will be retired by October. While USAF expects to reach initial operational capability with the CV-22 in Fiscal 2009, deploying them to combat before IOC would avoid a capability gap between the formal combat-ready date and the MH-53 phaseout, service officials have said.
AFSOC had nine CV-22s in its possession as of March, including four primary mission aircraft, one test asset, and four being used for training pilots. Deploying the CV-22s before formal IOC “presents challenges,” Marine Corps Col. Matt Mulhern, Osprey program director with Naval Air Systems Command, said March 18. “We have very limited numbers of CVs out there, so we are sharing them between test and training,” he said.
Mulhern said CV-22s that would deploy are expected to possess the interim forward-firing gun system that his office is pursuing for the Osprey fleet until a more refined follow-on system is introduced. The interim gun features a GAU-17/A that fires a 7.62 mm round, he said.
The Air Force expects to have all 50 of AFSOC’s CV-22s in the fleet by 2017, but AFSOC and US Special Operations Command would like to get them earlier. “There are opportunities in the production line to accelerate that, and so we are seeking some funding in order to do that,” Adm. Eric T. Olson, SOCOM commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 4. The current delivery rate is “too slow,” he said.
Boeing Protests KC-X Award, Northrop Calls it “Fair”
Boeing lodged a formal protest March 11 to the Government Accountability Office over the Air Force’s Feb. 29 award to Northrop Grumman of the multibillion-dollar KC-X tanker contract. The Chicago-based company alleged that USAF’s evaluation process—which judged the Northrop Grumman KC-30 to be clearly superior to Boeing’s KC-767—was “seriously flawed and resulted in the selection of the wrong airplane.”
Meanwhile Northrop Grumman Chairman and CEO Ronald Sugar said March 13 the Air Force’s evaluation was fair and called on lawmakers to let the GAO process play out and then allow the KC-45A program to move forward. “To do anything different,” he cautioned, “frankly, would undermine the integrity of the overall procurement process.” The GAO had 100 days from the receipt of the protest to rule. The Air Force issued a stop-work order to Northrop Grumman after the protest.
Boeing said March 11 that while the Air Force did start out trying to run a “fair, open, and transparent competition,” the process developed what Mark McGraw, Boeing vice president for tankers, called “irregularities.” The competition was close, and the many accommodations made to keep Northrop Grumman’s larger KC-30 from being disqualified added up to a narrow win for it, he said.
The KC-30, which USAF now designates KC-45A, is based on European Airbus’ A330 commercial aircraft. Some lawmakers also questioned the decision since, at first glance, they said it appeared to represent a setback for American manufacturing to the benefit of European Airbus and its parent company EADS.
“This is not a done deal,” Rep. John P. Murtha (D.-Pa.), chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, told reporters March 5 after holding a hearing on the tanker award. Instead he said his committee would scrutinize the award to ensure it best promotes national security. “All this committee has to do is stop the money and this program’s not going to go forward,” he said during the hearing.
Sue C. Payton, USAF’s acquisition executive, refuted any alleged unfairness and lack of transparency in the evaluation process. “To put it very succinctly, we did an awful lot more in this particular source selection than in any other source selection to be open, transparent, and fair to the offerors,” she told a Senate oversight panel March 12.
Chilton Reaffirms Need for RRW
Although world dynamics have shifted abruptly since the end of the Cold War, the need for nuclear weapons remains indefinitely, Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of US Strategic Command, said March 4.
“I believe we are going to need a nuclear deterrent in this country for the remainder of this century,” he told defense reporters in Washington, D.C. Indeed, as long as there are nations with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the United States, “we will have to deter those types of countries,” he said.
Because of this, it is all the more critical to develop and field a new nuclear warhead design called the Reliable Replacement Warhead, along with a flexible support infrastructure for production and maintenance of the weapons, Chilton said.
The US is committed with Russia to reducing its operational nuclear forces to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads in 2012. There is talk of going beyond that in a new round of arms reduction talks.
With RRW and the new infrastructure, there is “an opportunity not only perhaps to lower the deployed warheads, but certainly to lower the number of warheads that we have on the shelf,” the general said. This would be possible since there would be more confidence in the reliability and maintainability of the RRW compared to existing designs, especially in the absence of detonation tests, he said. Further, the responsive infrastructure would hedge against strategic uncertainty, Chilton said.
The modern RRW design would also have safety and security features to thwart terrorists from being able to use it if they somehow acquired one, he said.
Congress has been wary of the Administration’s plans with RRW and has allowed development to proceed only at a deliberately slow pace. Chilton said the time is now to act on this issue one way or the other. “This is not something we can continue either not to talk about or push down the road to future generations,” he said.
Cyber Command Details Emerge, but Hq. Date Slips
Air Force Cyber Command will have a numbered air force designated 24th Air Force, four wings, and more than 65 squadrons collectively, including units from the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command, USAF announced March 14.
Two of the wings will be new: the 450th Electronic Warfare Wing and the 689th Cyberspace Wing. They will be located on an interim basis at Lackland AFB, Tex., and Scott AFB, Ill., respectively. They will join the 688th Information Operations Wing (formerly the Air Force Information Operations Center) and the 67th Network Warfare Wing, both at Lackland.
USAF says it remains on track to declare the command ready for initial operations on Oct. 1, despite the fact that no permanent headquarters location will be assigned by then. The announcement of AFCYBER headquarters was expected prior to initial operational capability, but the final decision is no longer expected before late 2009.
The Air Force isn’t saying specifically which sites it is considering. Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Virginia have expressed interest in hosting AFCYBER headquarters or some associated unit in their states.
The War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By April 18, a total of 4,039 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 4,028 troops and 11 Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,295 were killed in action with the enemy while 744 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 29,780 troops wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This number includes 16,483 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 13,297 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
B-1 Destroys Torture Compound
A B-1B Lancer bomber destroyed an al Qaeda torture compound and prison in Zenbaraniyah, Iraq, on March 10. It dropped six GBU-38s in a coordinated strike with Multinational Force-Iraq and Iraqi forces.
The town, south of Baghdad, had been an al Qaeda hotbed until local militias began combating the terrorist influence. The B-1B strike removed the last remnants of al Qaeda from the area, said MNF-I officials.
Iraqi Air Force Building More Capability
The Iraqi Air Force is making significant progress in its goal to support Iraq’s armed forces in a counterinsurgency fight, and will be fielding new offensive capabilities in the next few years to fill the roles currently performed by coalition aircraft.
Maj. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, commander of the Coalition Air Force Transition Team, told reporters March 17 that the 360 airmen under his command have been working with Iraqis to expand and build up the country’s meager air assets.
In March 2007, when Allardice arrived in Iraq, the IAF featured only about 700 personnel and 28 aircraft ready to fly. By the end of 2007, with the help of the CAFTT, the IAF flew about 300 sorties a week and boasted a force of 1,350 personnel with an additional 450 students in training, he said.
As the IAF grows, the force is taking on more missions that coalition air assets have been performing, including combat support in countering terrorists. Training capacity for Iraqi pilots and maintainers is expanding.
The aircraft inventory is also growing, with the IAF expected to have about 100 operational aircraft by the end of 2008, Allardice said. About half that force will be helicopters, such as UH-1 Hueys and Mi-17 utility helicopters.
Most of the IAF’s offensive capabilities are built around their rotary aircraft, using forward-firing rocket pods. But its three C-130s are also in high demand for battlefield mobility, as are its smaller Cessna 208 Caravans for missions such as surveillance and reconnaissance.
IAF helicopters are already performing medical evacuation missions on the battlefield. In 2009, the Iraqis plan to procure a dedicated counterinsurgency aircraft that will directly support Iraqi troops in the field.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By April 12, a total of 488 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 487 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of these deaths, 293 were killed in action with the enemy while 195 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 1,928 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 751 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 1,177 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
C-130 Crews Set New Airdrop Record
The aircrews of the 774th Air Expeditionary Squadron at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, set a new airdrop record in February when the unit delivered about one million pounds of cargo, including humanitarian aid to villages and supplies to forward bases in the country.
The mark was a 40 percent increase from January operations and broke the previous airlift record set in September 2007. Supporting the 774th AES were the Army’s 11th Quartermaster Rigger Detachment and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force riggers.
The Air Force said in early March it delivered the 2,000th mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle to the US Central Command area of responsibility, exceeding the Pentagon’s delivery goals. The MRAPs are flown to the theater via C-5s, C-17s, or Russian-built An-124s from Charleston AFB, S.C.
SrA. Shane Reid received the Airman’s Medal on March 18 at his deployed location with the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia. Reid helped rescue an elderly couple trapped in a burning vehicle in late 2006 in Orlando, Fla.
The Senate in March confirmed the promotion of Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz to the grade of general to take command of Air Education and Training Command at Randolph AFB, Tex. He succeeds Gen. William R. Looney III, who has led AETC since June 2005 and is retiring after 36 years of service.
An RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic surveillance aircraft surpassed 50,000 flight hours during a mission March 12 in Southwest Asia for Operation Enduring Freedom. The aircraft, in service since 1962, is the first Rivet Joint and the first C-135 airframe, in general, to reach this milestone, USAF said.
The first F-35 test aircraft, AA-1, successfully completed its first airborne refueling tests March 12, said prime contractor Lockheed Martin. The airplane completed multiple tanker engagements with a specially instrumented KC-135 tanker near the company’s assembly plant in Fort Worth, Tex.
A 22-pound BDU-33 nonexplosive dummy bomb inadvertently fell March 13 from an F-16 fighter from the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s 138th Fighter Wing, hitting an apartment complex in Tulsa, but injuring no one. The F-16 was en route to a range in Kansas to practice bombing runs.
The Air Force Academy celebrated the 50th anniversary of its astronautics department, the world’s oldest, on March 7. Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne said the department has “launched the careers of countless space pioneers and helped establish America’s asymmetric space dominance.”
The Department of Defense presented the 2007 Modeling and Simulation Award March 11 to the Air Force’s Distributed Mission Operations Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M. The center won for Virtual Flag, the distributed, joint virtual training exercises that it runs four times a year