CV-22 Crash Kills Two Airmen
Maj. Randell D. Voas, 43, of Lakeville, Minn., and SMSgt. James B. Lackey, 45, of Green Clove Springs, Fla., perished in the April 9 crash of an Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft during a mission in southern Afghanistan.
Both were members of the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., which had deployed to Afghanistan in March. Voas was a CV-22 evaluator pilot and a former MH-53 Pave Low helicopter pilot. Lackey was a CV-22 evaluator flight engineer and 14-year veteran MH-53 flight engineer.
The CV-22 went down about seven miles west of Qalat City in Zabul province. The crash’s cause was still under investigation in late April. Cpl. Michael D. Jankiewicz, 23, an Army Ranger assigned to Ft. Benning, Ga., also died in the mishap as did an unidentified civilian employee. Others aboard were injured.
Dyess Gets First C-130J
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz on April 16 flew Pride of Abilene, the first new C-130J Super Hercules transport assigned to the 317th Airlift Group at Dyess AFB, Tex., to the air mobility base.
By 2013, Dyess will receive a total of 28 C-130Js, and the 317th AG will constitute the largest Super Hercules force in the world, according to Dyess officials. The C-130Js are replacing the base’s C-130H aircraft.
At the arrival ceremony, Schwartz said, “Our people who permit us to use these machines to best effect are our No. 1 asset.” The group’s airmen have been continuously deployed for more than 2,200 days, in support of operations worldwide.
Volcano Disrupts Military Air Traffic
Ash spewing from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano in mid-April disrupted civilian and military air traffic over northern Europe, impacting flight operations for a time at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall in Britain and at Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases in Germany.
Because of the danger that the volcanic ash poses to aircraft engines—when absorbed, it can cause an engine to flame out—flights were temporarily suspended at places such as Mildenhall. Aircraft, aircrews, and maintenance personnel were shifted to locations farther south such as Rota, Spain, so that they could continue to operate.
Other military flights normally traversing the northern European air routes were diverted south, and aeromedical flights normally taking wounded personnel from Afghanistan to Ramstein were rerouted to JB Balad, Iraq.
First AESA Radar for ANG F-15C
Officials on April 12 celebrated in Jacksonville, Fla., the rollout of the first Raytheon-built APG-63(V)3 active electronically scanned array radar system destined for an Air National Guard F-15C fighter.
The Florida Air Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing at Jacksonville is the first unit to receive the new radar, which Air Force and industry officials say “will greatly improve” F-15 pilots’ situational awareness, beyond-visual-range targeting, weapon accuracy, and ability to find and track small targets at low altitude.
The AESA is considered 50 times more reliable than the mechanically scanned antenna it replaces. The Air Force intends to install AESA radars on the 176 F-15C/Ds that it plans to maintain until at least 2025. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles are getting AESA radars under a separate initiative.
F-15E Aircrew Honored
Capt. Aaron Dove and Capt. Mike Polidor, F-15E Strike Eagle weapon systems officer and pilot, respectively, on April 9 received Distinguished Flying Crosses for their actions in Afghanistan on Oct. 2, 2009.
On that day, they responded to an urgent call for close air support at Combat Observation Post Keating, where about 250 Taliban fighters had surrounded and pinned down some 80 coalition troops, destroying most of the post. Polidor and Dove were on station for about seven hours, as Dove coordinated the CAS strikes.
They were not the first strike aircraft on scene, but they took tactical airborne control, “something [F-15E crews] don’t often train for, but they executed it perfectly,” commented Capt. Gordon Olde, another WSO engaged in Keating action.
More Details on F-35 Given
The Air Force’s “best estimate” is that it will have its first squadron of F-35A strike fighters combat-ready in the first quarter of 2016, Maj. Gen. Johnny A. Weida, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, plans, and requirements, told Senate lawmakers April 13 during an oversight hearing.
He said this operational unit would have between 12 and 24 F-35s equipped with Block 3 software and would be able to penetrate defended airspace, go after enemy fighters, and attack enemy air defenses. However, it is ultimately Air Combat Command’s call when these aircraft will be cleared to conduct real-world operations, he noted.
The Marine Corps expects to have its first operational unit of 10 F-35Bs ready in December 2012, but won’t deploy them until 2014. The Navy’s first combat-ready squadron of 10 F-35Cs is slated for summer 2016, said officials from those services at the hearing.
WGS Breaches Cost Limits
Costs of the Air Force’s Wideband Global SATCOM program have increased by 27.2 percent, thereby breaching Congressional cost-reporting thresholds and necessitating a review and certification that the project warrants continuation, the Department of Defense announced April 1.
Pentagon officials attributed the discrepancy to “a significant downturn” in the commercial satellite market that wiped out some commercial components meant to keep the price down and the fact there was a three-year production break between the first group of satellites already on orbit and the next bunch of three on order.
The Air Force has lauded the Boeing-built WGS satellites and is procuring at least two more of them. The Air Force in early March took control of the third WGS spacecraft from Boeing after its December 2009 launch. The program certification is due by June 1.
Possible MC-12W Bases Revealed
Air Force officials on April 23 released the list of six candidate basing locations for the MC-12W Liberty Project Aircraft. The prospective beddown locations are Altus AFB, Okla.; Beale AFB, Calif.; Key Field, Miss.; JB Langley, Va.; Robins AFB, Ga.; and Whiteman AFB, Mo.
The Air Force is building a fleet of 37 MC-12s. These twin turboprop intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft have been operating in Iraq since June 2009 and in Afghanistan since last December, but there are no Stateside bases for them, other than at Key Field, which has been a temporary site for MC-12 mission qualification training.
The Air Force’s next step is to analyze the environmental impact of basing the aircraft at each proposed location. Once that is complete, the service expects to announce the list of preferred locations in the late summer, followed by the final basing determination around the spring of 2011.
New Bomber OK in New START
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia will not affect the design of the Air Force’s next generation long-range strike platform since the treaty is expected to expire before the new aircraft would enter the inventory, Maj. Gen. Johnny A. Weida, the assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, plans, and requirements, said April 13.
“The treaty is only a 10-year treaty with a five-year extension,” Weida told Senate lawmakers during an oversight hearing. “And so,” he continued, “the new bomber will be outside that treaty, so [it] will probably be covered by a different set of circumstances.”
Air Force officials have said they don’t expect the bomber to join the inventory until at least the mid-2020s. Upon its entry into force, New START, signed on April 8, would limit the US and Russia each to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads and 700 deployed launchers (i.e., bombers, ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles).
Manas Lease Extended
The interim Kyrgyzstan government agreed to extend for one year the US lease of the Transit Center at Manas, a key logistical hub for US and allied operations in Afghanistan, according to press reports in mid-April. The lease was set to expire this summer.
This news came in the aftermath of the political turmoil and violence that engulfed the Central Asian nation earlier that month, leading to the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
This instability had temporarily affected Manas operations. While Manas-based tankers were able to continue aerial refueling operations, the transit of US troops was halted for several days. But by April 12, the US Embassy in Kyrgyzstan’s capital city Bishkek announced that Manas had “resumed normal operations,” including troop transits.
B-2 Radar Development Done
Northrop Grumman announced April 13 that its industry team has completed the system development and demonstration phase of the program to modernize the AN/APQ-181 radar on the Air Force’s fleet of 20 B-2A stealth bombers.
The SDD phase included installing the new Raytheon-supplied radar gear, which includes active electronically scanned array antennas and new radar avionics, on the B-2 test aircraft and first group of operational B-2s, as well as delivering the spare parts for them. The program is now in its full-rate production phase.
Air Force acquisition officials told House lawmakers March 24 that the new radar equipment is expected to be fully operational on all 20 B-2s in Fiscal 2013.
Hypersonic Glide Vehicle Launched
An Air Force-industry team on April 22 launched the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 aboard a Minotaur IV Lite suborbital rocket from Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
DARPA is testing the Lockheed Martin-built HTV-2 under the Falcon program to demonstrate hypersonic technologies applicable to future prompt global strike systems. The HTV-2 was to glide in the upper atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean at about 13,000 mph for approximately 30 minutes and crash-land near the Kwajalein Atoll.
DARPA said April 23 its preliminary review of technical data indicated that the Minotaur successfully released the test vehicle.
Approximately nine minutes into the mission, however, telemetry assets lost the signal from the HTV-2—indicating a flight anomaly. This mission was the first launch of the Minotaur IV.
C-17 Basing List Released
Air Force officials on April 23 released the list of three Air National Guard locations under consideration to host some of the remaining C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft that will enter the inventory over the next several years to bring the C-17 fleet size to 223.
They are Eastern West Virginia Airport in Martinsburg, W.Va.; Memphis Arpt., Tenn.; and Stewart ANGB, N.Y. Each is currently home to C-5A Galaxy transports. After environmental studies are done, plans call for announcing the preferred locations in November, with final basing decisions made in June 2011.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz said in March USAF would like to retire 17 C-5As in Fiscal 2011. Under the plan, one ANG base and one Air Force Reserve Command site would shed their C-5As for C-17s. The 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, has already been identified as the AFRC unit to get C-17s.
Combat Spear Deliveries Complete
Air Force Special Operations Command on March 30 took delivery of the 12th and final C-130H2 aircraft that technicians at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center on the grounds of Robins AFB, Ga., converted to the new MC-130W Combat Spear configuration for use as covert infiltration and helicopter refueling platforms.
The ALC delivered the first MC-130W in June 2006, completing the entire modification initiative under budget and ahead of schedule, according to Air Force and industry officials.
The MC-130Ws are meant to replace combat losses of AFSOC MC-130 Combat Talon special-mission aircraft. Some of the MC-130Ws have been fitted with weapons to give them a gunship-like attack capability to quickly bolster AFSOC’s in-high-demand AC-130 Gunship fleet.
B61 Schedule Deemed Crucial
Maintaining the schedule of the Pentagon’s life extension program for the B61 nuclear bomb is just as important for the B-2A stealth bomber and future strategic deterrence as it is for giving the F-35 strike fighter a nuclear capability for tactical roles, Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, US Strategic Command commander, said April 14.
The Pentagon’s current timetable calls for churning out the first modified B61s in 2017. “A lot of folks are linking 2017 to F-35,” Chilton told the House Armed Services Committee. He continued, “We need the B61 in first production in 2017 regardless of the F-35 because the B61 also is a weapon that is used by the B-2, by our strategic deterrent.”
Chilton also said the B61 LEP is important for the nation because it represents the first opportunity “for adding increased security and safety and reliability” to the nuclear stockpile. The Obama Administration’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review calls for “a full-scope” B61 LEP to enable F-35 integration and increased confidence in the bomb.
First HC-130J Rolled Out
Lockheed Martin on April 19 rolled out the Air Force’s first HC-130J combat rescue tanker during a ceremony at the company’s assembly facility in Marietta, Ga. Congress has authorized the Air Force to procure 11 HC-130Js so far to start replacing Air Combat Command’s aging HC-130s that began flying in the 1960s.
“The HC-130J will enable us to meet the expanding operational tasks that we face today,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas K. Andersen, ACC’s director of requirements, at the ceremony. He added, “We are grateful to those [employees] of Lockheed Martin assembled here that have given us a world-class aircraft.”
The HC-130J is a modified version of the Marine Corps KC-130J tanker model. The new rescue tanker fleet is expected to commence operations in mid-2012. The Air Force is also buying new MC-130J special-mission transports for Air Force Special Operations Command.
Ogden Finishes F-16 Upgrade
Air Force and Lockheed Martin officials on March 26 completed the installation of new avionics gear on the 306th and final F-16 Block 40/42 fighter aircraft to be upgraded at Ogden Air Logistics Center, Utah, under the Common Configuration Implementation Program.
With this, the depot finished its portion of the CCIP work, having modernized 560 F-16s since 2001, including 254 F-16 Block 50/52s, said Troy Mogck, a Lockheed Martin systems engineer for CCIP. Overall, the Air Force is upgrading 651 F-16 Block 40/42s and Block 50/52s under CCIP, the largest F-16 modernization initiative to date.
The new avionics increase aircraft lethality and harmonize the configuration of the two blocks to one standard. Work in Korea to upgrade Pacific Air Forces F-16s is expected to conclude in June, thereby completing all CCIP installations, said Mogck.
JET Taskings Will Go On
The increase in Army and Marine Corps end strength “won’t substantially reduce” the number of airmen performing joint expeditionary taskings right away, an Air Force spokesman said.
The growth of land forces, he said, is focused on combat units, while most JET assignments—comprising work not traditionally done by airmen—fall into such areas as training, combat support, or combat service support. The number of JETs will decrease as US forces withdraw from Iraq, but since support units will facilitate the drawdown, JETs “will lag behind the withdrawal of combat units,” he said.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz told Congress in February he hoped that the use of JETs wouldn’t become a “habit,” since USAF has its own critical needs that these airmen could fill. So far in Fiscal 2010, JET requirements have remained steady. Any reductions in Iraq have been offset by increases in Afghanistan.
Global Hawk Traverses Canada
The Air Force on April 8 conducted the first operational mission of an RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft through Canadian airspace, paving the way for a new northern route that will enable the more rapid ferrying of RQ-4s in and out of Beale AFB, Calif., and forward operating locations worldwide.
Previously Global Hawks have flown over Canada only during training sorties. Pilots and sensor operators from the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale controlled the RQ-4 during this flight.
This northern route follows the curvature of the Earth, thereby significantly reducing the amount of time it takes to get from the US West Coast to East Coast and beyond. Capt. Kyle Blaikie of the 12th RS said the worldwide ferrying process has now been streamlined “into a single 26-hour flight.”
New F-22 Reserve Unit Activated
Air Force Reserve Command’s 44th Fighter Group was activated April 9 during a ceremony at Holloman AFB, N.M. This group is Holloman’s first Reserve unit and AFRC’s second sharing in the operations of the F-22 fighter, following the 477th FG at JB Elmendorf, Alaska.
The 44th FG, which includes the 301st Fighter Squadron and the 44th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, will work with Holloman’s active duty 49th Fighter Wing, which is standing up two F-22 active duty squadrons. However, the ultimate number of F-22s based at Holloman will depend on USAF’s beddown decisions on the F-35 strike fighter.
The 44th FG traces its lineage to the 44th Bomb Group that flew B-24s during World War II. The 301st FS formerly operated F-16s at Luke AFB, Ariz.
USAF, Army Agree on C-27J
The Air Force and Army have reached an agreement on employment and disposition of the new C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, USAF Chief of Staff, told House lawmakers in mid-March.
The two services “are completely in agreement with the way forward” for delivery of materiel and personnel to the last tactical mile, he said, adding that Air Force aircrews are “prepared and trained to do direct support whenever the Army requires it.”
The Air Force is expected to release by June the list of candidate Air National Guard beddown locations for the last 14 C-27Js procured under the current 38-aircraft program of record. Schwartz said three locations would each get four airplanes; the remaining two aircraft would be used for training.
ANG Wing To Fix A-10 Engines
Members of the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing at Bradley Airport in East Granby on March 6 broke ground at the site where the unit’s new centralized intermediate repair facility will be erected under an $8.3 million construction project.
This work will add 17,000 square feet of work space—giving the wing roughly 30,000 square feet of room overall—to repair and overhaul TF34 engines used on the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft.
The CIRF will employ about 80 technicians who will be responsible for the T34s on 78 Air Guard A-10s and additional engines for A-10s in active duty units. The CIRF will be the last remaining part of the wing’s A-10 legacy. Under BRAC 2005, the unit relinquished its A-10s and took on C-21 VIP transport operations.
Laser Demo Eyed for B-1B
The Air Force, together with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is working to demonstrate a high-energy laser weapon system for aircraft self-protection, Steven H. Walker, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology and engineering, told House lawmakers March 23.
Under the Electric Laser on a Large Aircraft, or ELLA, initiative, the service aims to integrate a laser system module into the forward bomb bay of the B-1B bomber “to demonstrate the aircraft self-defense capabilities of a high-energy electric laser in a practical platform,” he said.
ELLA will be based on DARPA’s High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System laser device. Upon completion of HELLADS development, the Air Force will couple the device to a beam control system for a series of ground demonstrations followed by integration on the aircraft, said Walker.
Housing Project Completed
Officials at Edwards AFB, Calif., held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 26 to celebrate the completion of a five-year, $100 million construction project that brought 291 new energy-saving homes to the desert base.
“The houses we deliver today will, for decades and decades, support the families who deliver excellence for our nation,” said Col. Jerry Gandy, commander of Edwards’ 95th Air Base Wing, at the ceremony.
The ribbon cutting came about one week after Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff, told House lawmakers that the service has roughly 13,000 inadequate single family homes out of a total of 53,000 houses. USAF expects to reduce the inadequate inventory to zero by 2016, he said.
World War II Airman Identified
The Department of Defense announced April 22 that the remains of TSgt. Walter A. McClellan, a 19-year-old B-17 gunner missing in action since his bomber was lost over Germany in April 1945, had been identified and returned to his family. On the next day, he was buried with full military honors at Barrancas National Cemetery at Pensacola NAS, Fla.
McClellan’s B-17 was struck by enemy fighters during an April 17, 1945 mission to bomb a rail depot in Dresden. After the war, US search teams could no longer search the Soviet-controlled area, so the US deemed the B-17 crew remains nonrecoverable.
Reports from German citizens in 1956 and 2007 led to the 2008 exhumation of a grave in Burkhardswalde, where a recovery team found human remains and artifacts determined to be those of McClellan. Church records revealed he had parachuted over Biensdorf, but German SS forces captured and killed him near Burkhardswalde.
Herman S. Wolk, author and historian of airpower and the Air Force, died May 6 at the age of 78. Wolk researched and wrote more than a dozen books on the history of the Air Force and numerous articles for Air Force Magazine, often working from personal interviews with the principals of his stories. He was recognized as an authority on the founding of the Air Force as a separate and independent service and the events leading up to its creation in 1947.
From 1959 to 1966, Wolk served as headquarters historian for Strategic Air Command, and then served in the Office of Air Force History from 1966 until his retirement in 2005. In his final position there, he was senior historian.
Wolk’s crtically acclaimed last book, Cataclysm: Hap Arnold and the Defeat of Japan, was published just weeks before his death. John T. Correll, former editor-in-chief at Air Force Magazine, said, “Herm inspired, coached, motivated, assisted and supported a whole generation of historians.”
Retired Maj. Gen. Fred J. Ascani, who flew the F-86E to a new world airspeed record in 1951, died March 28 at age 92. He suffered from lung cancer, reported the Washington Post. Ascani graduated from the US Military Academy in 1941 and flying training in 1942. He flew 52 combat missions as commander of the 816th Bomb Squadron during World War II. Thereafter, he served in flight-test assignments, first at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and then at Edwards AFB, Calif. He flew some 50 different research aircraft, including the X-1 and XF-92. In 1951, he became vice commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards. He then served in various senior command and staff assignments. He retired from the Air Force in 1973.
Retired Lt. Col. David G. Simons, a physician and researcher who reached nearly 102,000 feet during 1957 balloon flight on Project Manhigh II to study the effects of high-altitude flight on human physiology, died April 5 at age 87. His work helped pave the way for manned spaceflight. Simons sat in a small capsule attached to a balloon for more than 32 hours during the record 101,516 feet flight on Aug. 19-20, 1957, for which he was featured on the cover of Life magazine. Simons received his medical degree in 1946. Shortly after entering the Air Force in 1947, he served as project officer for animal studies on V-2 rocket flights. He retired from the Air Force in June 1965. He was inducted into the New Mexico International Space Hall of Fame in 1987.
|New Force Management Initiatives Announced
The Air Force leadership on March 25 instituted a new wave of force-management measures—some voluntary, some not—to thin the ranks of active duty officer and enlisted members by several thousand between now and the end of Fiscal 2011.
The goal is to meet USAF’s authorized and funded end strength threshold of 332,800 airmen in Fiscal 2012. As of Feb. 28, there were 335,500 active duty airmen.
The Air Force projects that it will be about 4,800 airmen over the Fiscal 2010 end strength ceiling of 331,800 airmen come October. If nothing more were done, it would not meet the Fiscal 2012 level, Brig. Gen. Sharon K. G. Dunbar, director of force management policy on the Air Staff, told reporters on the eve of the announcement.
Exacerbating the situation is a sluggish economy that has contributed to USAF’s retention rates being at a 15-year high despite an incredibly robust operations tempo, she said. An initial wave of mostly voluntary force-management initiatives taken in November 2009 has not resulted in the hoped-for drawdown.
“It is imperative for us to take action now,” said Dunbar.
These steps are projected to affect two percent of the service’s officers (1,373) and 1.6 percent of the enlisted corps (4,376) through Fiscal 2011. Additionally, they will reduce officer accessions by 737 and enlisted accessions by 2,681 over that period, said Dunbar.
These measure also aim to correct overages in certain career areas and shortages in currently stressed fields and emerging sectors by reshaping the force within that ceiling, she said.
The voluntary separation measures allow personnel to leave the service immediately, while the nonvoluntary ones will commence this summer with departures targeted for no later than April 2011, according to service officials.
Dunlap said most of the officer reductions would come in Fiscal 2011.
The emphasis of the new measures is on minimizing the impact on airmen currently serving and to help those who are separating with their transition, she said.
|Wyatt Says Mobility Study Off on Tactical Airlift Needs
Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, Air National Guard director, said April 14 the Pentagon’s new Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2016 has already been essentially overtaken by events when it comes to tactical airlift.
“There’s probably a greater need for tactical airlift than the MCRS has identified,” he told House defense appropriators during an oversight hearing.
The reason, said Wyatt, is that the MCRS did not consider the Air Force’s newly acquired mission for direct support of Army troops when it concluded that the Air Force only needs about 335 of its total 401 C-130 transports.
Further, he noted, there is still a requirement for 78 C-27J transports, but plans on the books to purchase only 38, with the gap to be filled by C-130s.
However, the Air Force leadership, using MCRS findings as an underlying driver, has proposed restructuring the C-130 fleet as part of the service’s Fiscal 2011 budget proposal, with the goal of reducing its size.
This originally included the permanent shift of ANG and Air Force Reserve Command C-130Hs to the active duty formal training unit at Little Rock AFB, Ark.
When this proposed transfer came to light in late March, it unleashed a fury of bipartisan Congressional resistance, with complaints that the Air Force leadership had not properly consulted with the Air Guard and Reserve management.
The Air Force, ANG, and AFRC leadership then reached a compromise deal announced May 11 as part of the service’s proposed force structure realignments for Fiscal 2011.
Under it, the service would temporarily transfer a total of 18 C-130Hs from ANG and AFRC units across the nation to Little Rock to establish an Air Reserve Component association for C-130 training there by 2012.
As new C-130Js continue to enter the fleet and legacy C-130 training requirements ebb, those C-130Hs would return to their home states.
“I’m glad this partnership will better assist the Air Force in training qualified Total Force C-130 crews,” said Wyatt.
|Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By May 13, a total of 1,056 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 1,054 troops and two Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 772 were killed in action with the enemy while 284 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 5,831 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 2,590 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 3,241 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
MC-12 Begins Operations at Kandahar
The first intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance MC-12W Liberty Project aircraft to operate from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, as part of the new 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron flew a combat sortie April 1 after arriving at the base three days earlier.
The twin turboprop MC-12 provides live streaming video imagery and signals intelligence to ground troops—capabilities that Lt. Col. Darren Halford, 361st ERS commander, described as “unparalleled”—to give ground forces vital information on the enemy.
“The MC-12 will protect US and coalition lives and will be a vital tool helping Afghanistan defeat the insurgency,” he said.
The squadron, part of Kandahar’s 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, is the second MC-12 expeditionary unit in Afghanistan, joining the 4th ERS at Bagram Airfield that began operations in December 2009.
Overall, the Air Force intends to operate a total of 24 MC-12s in Afghanistan by the end of 2010. It already operates six MC-12s under the 362nd ERS at JB Balad, Iraq.
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By May 13, a total of 4,401 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 4,388 troops and 13 Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,484 were killed in action with the enemy while 917 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 31,810 troops wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This number includes 17,865 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 13,945 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Balad Becomes Temporary Medical Hub
Air Forces Central in mid-April temporarily named JB Balad, Iraq, the new hub for aeromedical evacuations of wounded troops from Afghanistan after ash spewing from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano disrupted the normal air routes to Ramstein AB, Germany.
The 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at the Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad received its first four medical evacuation patients on April 17.
Normally, medically ill and wounded US military personnel requiring urgent care are routed through Ramstein to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
Air Force officials said the rerouting to Balad would not result in any degradation of care.
The Air Force announced March 24 its two Air Force Week celebrations in 2010: New York City from Aug. 25 to 29 and Cocoa Beach, Fla., from Oct. 27 to 31. The Thunderbirds aerial demonstration squadron will perform during these festivities.
The 19th Fighter Squadron at JB Elmendorf, Alaska, was announced April 2 as Raytheon Trophy winner for 2009 as USAF’s best air-to-air fighter squadron. The F-15 unit will be decommissioned later this year under the Air Force’s fighter drawdown.
Air Force Reserve Command on March 30 announced the standup of the 414th Fighter Group at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., to work with the active duty 4th Fighter Wing in operating the wing’s F-15E fighters.
Cadet Col. Ryan W. Castonia, an Air Force ROTC cadet wing commander at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on April 5 received the 2009 Air Force Cadet of the Year Award. He graduates in June and intends to become a combat rescue officer.
The National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, held the 68th Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Reunion April 16-18. Four of the eight remaining Raiders participated in the events, which included a fly-in of 17 replica B-25s.
Robert L. Giles, a B-17 navigator who saved a crewmate’s life as their shot-up B-17 was going down over Germany in April 1944, received the Air Medal for his actions—at long last—on April 6. Administrative errors were to blame for the 66-year oversight.
Raytheon announced March 31 that it had delivered “an operationally significant quantity” of ADM-160B Miniature Air Launched Decoys to the Air Force, an important milestone as this weapon system nears its in-service date.
Members of the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Field in early April helped rescue an injured man aboard a sailboat 1,400 miles out to sea from the southern California coast.
The Air Force on March 26 activated the 422nd Joint Tactics Squadron under the Air Force Expeditionary Center at JB McGuire, N.J, to serve as a central repository for expeditionary combat support lessons learned and tactics, techniques, and procedures.
The Air Force on March 31 began to implement a phased plan to open access on the Air Force network to Internet-based social-networking sites, based on revised policy. Five Pacific Air Forces bases were granted access on a test basis during the initial stage.