Aerospace World

July 16, 2008

F-22 Production Decision Delayed

The Pentagon on April 15 announced it expects to delay approval for production of F-22 fighters by one year because of concern that the new air superiority fighter has not yet undergone enough testing.

Two production models due to be built this year will become preproduction vehicles. The go-ahead decision on the full line of 339 F-22s now will likely not come until December 1999.

“We’re not delaying the program; we’re delaying the [management] decision point” to begin low-level production, said Jacques S. Gansler, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology. “There are no problems with this program.”

Earlier this year the General Accounting Office reported that the Pentagon intended to make a production decision on the F-22 with only 4 percent of scheduled tests completed. Such a decision was unwarranted in light of engineering problems that delayed production of test models, said the GAO.

Members of Congress were annoyed, and some, such as Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), considered a legislative delay in the program. Such a delay might have broken the Air Force’s tight cost-cap contracts with manufacturer Lockheed Martin and could have added billions to the program’s fixed $62 billion cost.

The decision to switch this year’s F-22 production to test models, instead of full-up models, could still increase the airplane’s nearly $190 million unit cost, said officials.

Ryan Sees “Strong” Support for F-22

Gen. Michael E. Ryan, Air Force Chief of Staff, maintains that Congress will fully fund the F-22 fighter program in this year’s defense spending bill, despite appearances that support is softening among lawmakers.

In Washington, Ryan told the Defense Writers Group on April 21, “I think we have very strong support for the F-22 on Capitol Hill with the members. Some are saying that we are going to have a fight. I have not gotten that from the leadership in Congress. I get from the leadership in Congress that they are behind the F-22.”

He added: “We [the Air Force] don’t see any major problems with the program.”

The F-22 program got a show of support a few days later from seven former secretaries of defense, who signed a joint letter urging Congress and the White House to fully fund the Air Force’s fighter program.

“Serious threats to American air superiority may arise sooner [than anticipated], and the nation’s security cannot tolerate a loss of command of the air,” the former officials wrote in an April 27 letter. “Congress and the Administration must focus on this fundamental reality and fully fund the nation’s only truly stealthy air superiority fighter.”

The seven signatories and the administrations in which they served are: James R. Schlesinger (Nixon and Ford); Donald H. Rumsfeld (Ford); Harold Brown (Carter); Caspar Weinberger (Reagan); Frank Carlucci (Reagan); Dick Cheney (Bush); and William Perry (Clinton).

DoD Selects Firms to Modernize Military Health Care Systems

To update the aging information technology systems at military health care facilities worldwide, the Defense Department has awarded contracts with a potential total value of $2.5 billion to seven firms.

Contract recipients will perform work at hundreds of military hospitals, clinics, and other treatment facilities around the world.

The modernization is to occur over the five-year life of the contracts and address numerous technical deficiencies–everything from outmoded medical logistical systems to inefficient tools for military doctors to share patient information.

The firms are BDM International, Computer Sciences Corp., Litton/PRC, Science Applications International Corp., Electronic Data Systems Inc., International Business Machines Corp., and American Management Systems Inc.

Peters Promotes “Superbases”

The Air Force needs to shutter unnecessary installations and concentrate resources on superbases to help ease its high operations tempo problem, according to acting Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters.

When a squadron deploys for the Persian Gulf or Bosnia, the people left at home have to pick up the slack in what has suddenly become an inadequate base structure.

“We have people at home working 12-hour days, and it’s not only security forces. There are the medical crews, the computer folks, … a whole range of specialties across the base,” Peters told Air Force News Service in mid-April.

A round of closures would put more personnel on bases from which forces deploy, cutting workload for key personnel and easing support for air expeditionary forces.

“That’s absolutely critical to us for improved retention and quality of life,” Peters said.

The servicewide objective is for airmen to spend no more than 120 days per year away from home on deployments. Peters said that the Air Force had made good progress toward that goal until recent large deployments to Southwest Asia.

Tricare Problems Cited

Tricare health services are important to keeping today’s personnel satisfied with their careers, and DoD has been making progress in that area after a slow start, according to the Air Force’s top civilian official.

F. Whitten Peters said that implementation of the new managed care program has been uneven to date. His sense is that the program has been most successful on the West Coast, where health maintenance organizations are well-established. It has similarly been working “fairly well” in the Southeast and central Mideast, he said.

In Montana, South Dakota, and swaths of Texas, however, Tricare has had trouble finding enough health care providers in the civilian community. “That service has been slow and difficult,” he said.

Slow payment from the government to providers has been another Tricare problem. “That pace has picked up dramatically,” Peters said. “About 80 percent of payments are now made within 21 days.”

Underfunding and “Ugly Animals”

The chairman and leading members of the House National Security Committee called for reopening negotiations on last year’s balanced budget agreement so defense spending can be increased.

In an earlier statement, the committee chairman, Rep. Floyd D. Spence (R-S.C.), said that all the services have “substantial underfunded requirements” totaling more than $58 billion over the next five years.

However, Senate leaders said the idea was not politically realistic.

“I’d like more money for defense,” said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), “but I think we should stick with the balanced budget agreement, because if we open that gate all kinds of ugly animals will come through.”

Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Defend Merger

Stung by the Department of Justice’s move to block their merger on antitrust grounds, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman insist the combination still has merit. They will fight the government in court, firm officials say.

“We stand by our conviction that this merger is in the best interests of taxpayers, customers, suppliers, … and the armed forces of the United States,” said Lockheed Martin CEO and then-Vice Chairman Vance D. Coffman and Northrop Grumman CEO Kent Kresa in a joint statement March 23.

Pentagon and DoJ officials worry that the proposed Lockheed/Northrop marriage would discourage competition by producing a firm that would take up 25 percent of the Pentagon’s purchasing budget. They are particularly concerned about maintaining price combat in key subareas of military technology, including radar and aircraft defensive electronics.

The government has rejected Lockheed Martin’s previous offer to divest up to $1 billion in assets from the new firm, saying the move would be insufficient.

But in an 80-page response to the Justice Department’s filed lawsuit, the companies hold that rather than limiting competition the real effect of the merger would be to enable them to compete with the two other defense industry giants, Boeing and Raytheon, on a level playing field.

Boeing, for instance, is currently seven times larger than Lockheed Martin in aircraft and twice as large in military aircraft, pointed out the firms’ response. Raytheon is twice as large in defense electronics.

If allowed to carry through its divestiture plan, Lockheed/Northrop would account for less than 25 percent of defense electronics purchased by the government, pointed out the two suitors. And firm officials said that their merger should have little impact on the airframe market, as Northrop Grumman has already dropped behind in that race.

“The last prime military production aircraft contract awarded to Northrop Grumman was for the B-2 bomber in the early 1980s, and the last production aircraft has been delivered,” pointed out Kresa. “So, even if new programs were to emerge early in the next century, Northrop Grumman will not be in a position to compete with Lockheed Martin or Boeing as a prime contractor.”

Still, testimony from the Secretary of Defense that the merger might harm national security would be a powerful weapon for the government in court, say analysts. The trial is currently set to begin Sept. 8, though that date could be moved up.

B-2 Fares Well in Weather

During the recent 12-day deployment of two Block 30­model B-2 bombers to Andersen AFB, Guam, at least one of the Spirit bombers sat in the open at all times.

Because of weather damage to Guam hangars, the stealth bomber sat outside, baking in the sun and soaking in Pacific rainstorms. Additionally, Air Force officials reported that most aircraft maintenance, including work on low observable coatings, was performed outdoors.

Crews from the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB, Mo., tested every aspect of B-2 operation and maintenance during the new bomber’s first sustained operation from a forward location. USAF rated the operation a success.

The B-2s accumulated 90 hours’ flying time, while keeping up a 100 percent sortie success rate. Missions included the first operational drop of a full load of 80 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. The weapons pounded a tiny 500 foot-by-2,400 foot islet located north of Guam.

Newer Block 30s have proved to have fewer maintenance problems than older Block 20 B-2s, officials said. Block 30s average between 10 and 15 “write-ups” per mission, as opposed to 40 for Block 20s.

Pilot Shortage Looms

If current departure trends continue, the Air Force will be more than 800 pilots short by the Oct. 1 start of Fiscal 1999, USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan told Congress in March.

At the beginning of Fiscal 1998 the service had 14,165 pilots. But as the exodus to airline jobs continues, Air Staff projections now put the 1999 number at 13,288.

“In pilots we have a very, very difficult prospect ahead of us,” said Ryan.

Air Force planners are already putting together a notional strategy for handling the shortage. Combat units would get top priority. Training slots would remain fully filled.

But the Air Staff and other management desk units might feel the pinch. Nonrated personnel may fill some jobs that previously would have gone to those with flying experience.

Eventually a flow of new pilots should cut the shortage. While the Air Force trained 654 new pilots in Fiscal 1997, the projected figure for 1998 is 900, and for 1999 it is 1,025.

AWACS Land in Japan

Completing a journey begun six years ago, two gray Boeing 767s emblazoned with the Japanese rising sun, and topped with the distinctive dome of the AWACS radar system, landed at Hamamatsu AB, Japan, March 24.

The E-767 AWACS are a new air defense platform created solely for the Japan Air Self Defense Force. President George Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa paved the way for the purchase of the two airplanes, with two more to follow, in a historic 1992 agreement.

The airplanes will give Japan the ability to better monitor the many sea-lanes surrounding the island nation.

“Our existing radars do not give us the ability to monitor low-flying aircraft, either over land or sea, so we had to provide long range coverage that would fill in this gap,” said Col. Kunio Orita, JASDF AWACS program manager.

Aircraft testing will continue for several months. The new aircraft are expected to be operational in late 1999.

Lockheed Martin Wins JASSM Battle

The Air Force named Lockheed Martin the winner of the competition to design and eventually produce the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile on April 9.

Lockheed will now receive some $36 million to continue program definition and risk reduction on its JASSM design. Engineering and manufacturing development funds will follow.

Current plans call for the Air Force to buy 2,400 of the stealthy, standoff weapons. The recent Long Range Airpower study recommended an increase in that number. If plans for JASSM production do increase, the program could eventually be worth more than $3 billion.

At no more than $400,000, Lockheed Martin’s price-per-missile on its bid was well below the government’s $700,000 target, said Air Force officials. They also felt the Lockheed design, which uses folding wings and an infrared seeker derived from the Army Javelin missile, was superior to the one offered by competitor Boeing.

While a Boeing protest may slow the program somewhat, the Air Force is eager to field the weapon, as it will fill a gaping hole in the service’s smart-weapon arsenal.

The JASSM design is deadly enough that it can destroy 90 percent of its target set in less than 10 days, said Air Force officials. Current missiles would take twice as long to destroy only half the target allocation.

Hamre Says Defense Reform on Track

Five months after its inception the Defense Department’s new business reform plan is on track and saving money, said Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre March 17.

For instance, about 800 of the 1,000 employees slated to be cut from the Office of the Secretary of Defense under the Defense Reform Initiative have been identified, said Hamre. The promised 1,000-person reduction represents a one-third cut in OSD manpower.

Efforts to switch all Defense Department purchases under $2,500 from paper-intense contracts to credit cards are also moving forward. Such micropurchases represent 70 percent of all DoD procurement actions, Hamre noted.

“We set a goal of trying to get 90 percent of all of our micropurchases done with credit cards by the year 2000. We’re going to make that by this year–two years ahead of schedule,” said Hamre.

The defense initiative calls for increased competition in contracting out jobs. Plans call for opening 120,000 functions to competition over the next four years.

“This year we will hold 30,000 competitions,” said Hamre. “That’s about 10 times as many as we had last year.”

The Pentagon has also made inroads in its effort to get rid of excess infrastructure. The 1999 budget request contains money for knocking down some 8,000 obsolete buildings. If carried out, the demolitions will save big money on maintenance, heating, and cooling costs.

Progress is less evident in the effort to get Congress to agree to further rounds of money-saving base closings. “I’m still hopeful we will get permission, but it’s an uphill fight. That’s certainly going to be the hardest battle,” said Hamre.

Blackbirds Fly Into Sunset

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen approved the permanent retirement of USAF’s legendary SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft. He took the step March 6.

The service owns six of the extremely fast, high-flying airplanes. Two are operational models returned to service in 1995 at the direction of Congress. Two, including a trainer model, are on loan to NASA for its high-altitude testing program. The other two aircraft remain in storage.

Though the SR-71 was developed in the 1960s, it still holds major aerospace records, including these three:

  • Speed over straight course: 2,193 mph, July 28, 1976.
  • Speed over closed circuit: 2,092 mph, July 27, 1976.
  • Altitude in horizontal flight: 85,069 feet, July 28, 1976.

SR-71 reconnaissance systems that are still usable will be transferred to other Air Force programs or to NASA. All unneeded airframes will be sent to Air Force bases for display or to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis­Monthan AFB, Ariz.

Ryan Links Modernization, Readiness

Today’s modernization spending will pay off in tomorrow’s readiness, Gen. Michael E. Ryan, Air Force Chief of Staff, said during an April visit to Ramstein AB, Germany.

“In one more year, the average age of a United States Air Force aircraft is going to be 20 years old,” said Ryan. “That’s getting up there.”

Service planners must not only modernize the force, said Ryan, but also make sure they can upgrade weapons systems so that they will be around for a long time. Outsourcing and privatization should yield some of the dollars needed, said the Chief.

“We looked out into the future and realized we weren’t prepared to sacrifice readiness or decrease the effort we were putting into quality of life,” he said. “Our alternative was to become more efficient with our resources.”

F-16 Pilot Killed in Crash

The pilot of an F-16C was killed April 22 when his fighter crashed at a bombing range 15 miles west of Carrizozo, N.M.

The pilot, 1st Lt. Patrick Potter, 150th Fighter Wing (ANG), Kirtland AFB, N.M., was taking part in a mission qualification bombing training flight at the time.

The cause of the crash was not announced. The Air Force has launched an investigation.

Cohen Decides to Open Tomb of Unknowns

In an unprecedented step, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen on May 7 ordered exhumation of the Vietnam veteran in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery based on circumstantial evidence that the remains are those of a missing USAF pilot.

A Pentagon panel’s four-month probe confirmed evidence that indicates the unknown warrior may well be 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie, an Air Force pilot who was shot down over South Vietnam on May 11, 1972. It is also possible, though less likely, that the remains are those of Army helicopter pilot Capt. Rodney L. Strobridge, who was shot down on the same day.

Blassie’s family had appealed to the Pentagon to remove the remains and subject them to mitochondrial DNA tests.

The opening was to begin May 14. A DoD spokesman said, “If we can identify the remains now, we have an obligation to try.”

Joint STARS Line May Be Near End

Unless the Pentagon decides to buy more than 13 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft, the Air Force will soon begin shutting down the airplane’s assembly line, according to Air Force Chief Ryan.

No. 13 JSTARS will roll onto the line this year. Like its predecessors, it will be a used Boeing 707 that will be remanufactured and outfitted with powerful ground-scanning search radars.

But unless more money is forthcoming for long-lead purchases, the Air Force will have to begin the process of ending its JSTARS support. Continuing to pay overhead costs, without orders on the books, would be folly in today’s budget environment.

The original JSTARS buy of 19 was reduced to 13 last year. At the time, it appeared that NATO might order up to six of the aircraft. But the order was not forthcoming, and now DoD is weighing its options as it plans its future arsenal of battle management surveillance aircraft. More JSTARS purchases are an option–as are increased purchases of unmanned aerial vehicles or business–jet sized airframes outfitted with radar equipment.

Obituary

Alfred U. McKenzie, a former bomber pilot with the all-black Tuskegee Airmen who took part in a pathbreaking protest against racial segregation in the military during World War II, died in Clinton, Md., on March 30. He was 80.

In April 1945, McKenzie and fellow members of the 477th Bombardment Group were at Freeman Field, near Seymour, Ind., preparing for deployment to the Pacific. A controversy arose over denial of the use of the Freeman Field officers’ club to black officers-so the base commander ordered all personnel to sign a directive which in essence would have guaranteed the club remained segregated.

McKenzie and 103 other black officers refused to sign. They were considered to have conspired to revolt and were shipped to Godman Field, Ky., for courts-martial.

The Army Air Forces eventually dropped the case, as military regulations of the time called for such clubs to be open to all races. Reprimands were placed in the officers’ files, however.

The Air Force began removing the reprimands from the files in 1995. McKenzie, who later in life fought against discrimination in Government Printing Office employment, was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

Board Partly Clears Airman in F-15 Crash

An Air Force review board has partly cleared the name of an F-15 mechanic who committed suicide in 1996 rather than face a court-martial for a fatal repair error.

Evidence showed that TSgt. Thomas P. Mueller did not perform the botched control rod maintenance at issue, although he did check the work and found nothing wrong.

In addition, several previous incidents in which other mechanics made the same mistakes should have alerted the Air Force to a potential problem, according to the board.

“We did not think Mueller was totally free of all responsibility,” said Lee Baseman, chairman of the correction board. “But it was our view that he was unduly carrying the burden for a series of missteps that went back at least 10 years.”

In May 1995, Mueller and TSgt. William T. Campbell were carrying out maintenance on an F-15C based at Spangdahlem AB, Germany, when Campbell accidentally crossed flight control rods while reinstalling them. Mueller did not catch the miscue, which made the airplane impossible to control in the air. It subsequently crashed, killing Maj. Donald G. Lowry Jr.

Air Force authorities charged Mueller and Campbell with dereliction of duty and negligent homicide. Mueller shot himself in October 1996 during a break in court proceedings. Commanding officers then accepted Campbell’s request for administrative separation, on grounds that the interests of the service would be best served by bringing the tragic case to a swift conclusion.

Similar crossed-rod cases occurred at least twice before the Spangdahlem crash, noted the review board-once in 1986 and again in 1991. But in both instances the problem was caught before takeoff.

In its conclusions, the board stated, “After the Black Hawk shootdown [in 1994], the demand for accountability for this accident may have been pursued with such zeal as to leave fairness and equity behind. The fatal crash was a tragedy waiting to happen, yet the decedent was singled out to pay for an accident that could have been prevented anywhere along the ‘chain of events’ had any of the numerous individuals involved made different decisions.

“Most disturbing was the way the Air Force leadership allowed this case to be handled. The Air Force’s representatives resisted the inclusion of potentially exculpatory evidence from the review and report and managed to have a good deal of it excluded from consideration in the pending trial.”

Following the death of Lowry, the Air Force took steps to prevent such a mix-up from happening again. The control rods are now color-coded to ensure proper installation, and the maintenance technical manual warns against the mistake. All flight control systems must now be checked any time the control rods undergo maintenance.

Rumor About Loss of Vet Benefits Is Just That–Rumor

The rumor spread with explosive speed through veterans groups this spring: Any vet who does not register with a Veterans Affairs hospital by Oct. 1 will lose all VA medical benefits for life.

The sign-up was necessitated by a bill signed by President Clinton, so the rumor went. It added that the new law barred the VA from notifying veterans about the change and that vets needed to get the word out fast, via word of mouth, letter, or the Internet.

The rumor was not true. But the press of calls from ex­service members worried about their health care besieged the VA, which has had to add a section to its Web site called “Setting the Record Straight” to help untangle the mess.

Here’s the real story. There are big changes under way in how the VA interacts with its beneficiaries, mandated by the 1996 Health Care Eligibility Reform Act. The act sets up a seven-level priority system to help manage veterans’ health care resources. There is an Oct. 1 deadline for vets to get in touch with their VA offices and enroll in the new system.

However, a vet who has not registered by the deadline does not lose eligibility. Vets can enroll at any time they need health care. In addition, the VA will automatically enroll anyone who has received care at a VA medical site since October 1996.

VA officials have no idea where the rumor got started. One theory goes that it began with an e-mail from an ex-Marine named John sent to American Legion members around the country. Another traces it to a former Navy man from Minneapolis.

But one thing is clear: The ability of the Internet to quickly disseminate information, even false information, means that the VA will probably be fielding angry questions about the October changes for months to come. Already the VA has received “thousands of calls, to every facility in the country,” according to spokesman Gary Caruso.

Senate Says Yes to NATO Expansion

The Senate on April 30 voted 80­19 to let the United States go along with a plan to add Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to the rolls of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The 80 yea votes were 14 more than the two-thirds majority needed for ratification of NATO’s first expansion into former Warsaw Pact territory. Moreover, the door has been left open for other former Soviet satellites to join.

President Clinton, in a statement from the White House, said, “The message this vote sends is clear: American support for NATO is firm, our leadership for security on both sides of the Atlantic is strong, and there is a solid, bipartisan foundation for an active US role in the world.”

Critics warn the expansion will bring huge costs to US taxpayers, aggravate tensions with Russia, and increase risks of US involvement in a major confrontation. By voting to expand NATO, the Senate has made a solemn pledge that the US will treat an attack on any of those countries as an attack against the United States

News Notes

  • TRW and Boeing announced March 17 that they will team up to compete against Lockheed Martin for development of the Space-Based Laser Readiness Demonstrator. TRW will be the prime contractor, with Boeing the sub on “Team SBL.” In the past, TRW did subcontract work for the Lockheed Martin effort.
  • While returning from a California airlift mission March 6, a C-130 crew from the 61st Airlift Squadron, Little Rock AFB, Ark., found two men stranded in the snow-covered mountains of northern Nevada. Responding to a radio call from air traffic controllers, the C-130 searched for and located a single-engine Cessna that had crashed about 120 miles north of Las Vegas. The pilot and his passenger were eventually rescued unharmed despite the accident and severe local weather.
  • Wright­Patterson AFB, Ohio, will host the second annual US Air Force Marathon on Sept. 19. The 26.2-mile race will feature four types of competition: wheelchair, relay, team, and individual.
  • The winners of the 42d annual Hennessy Trophy awards for excellence in Air Force food service programs are Hurlburt Field, Fla., in the multiple dining facility category, and Andersen AFB, Guam, in the single dining facility category. The awards, sponsored by the National Restaurant Association, Society for Foodservice Management, and the International Food Service Executives Association, recognize the whole scope of food preparation programs, from excellence in kitchen work and service to sanitation and facility repair.
  • Sheppard AFB, Texas, celebrated the completion of the Air Force’s first and only AC-130 gunship trainer March 24. Previously, a much-needed AC-130 had to be taken out of operation for 282 days per year to serve as a training tool for students on the ground. The new semitrailer-mounted ground trainer–designed and built by 82d Logistics Group technicians at a cost of $1.2 million–will free up actual aircraft for missions around the world.
  • A New York Air National Guard ski-equipped LC-130 unit inherited a historic mission March 26 when it assumed program responsibility from the Navy for US airlift support for science in Antarctica. The 109th AW has operated in polar environments since 1975. Its new role calls for it to move people and cargo to research sites throughout the Antarctic continent, including the US Amundsen­Scott South Pole Station.
  • The nation’s newest airborne nuclear command post, the Navy’s E-6B TACAMO, or “Take Charge and Move Out,” aircraft, made its first operation flight April 3. By October, a fleet of 16 Navy E-6Bs will assume the workhorse nuclear command-and-control mission from Air Force Looking Glass EC-135 aircraft, which fulfilled the purpose for nearly 40 years.
  • The Air Force Association has named seven communications-electronics systems noncommissioned officers and airmen as the 1998 Team of the Year. The team members are TSgt. Keith A. Wright, 218th Engineering Installation Squadron, Missouri Air National Guard; TSgt. Scott D. Senick, 38th Engineering Installation Group, Tinker AFB, Okla.; SSgt. Michael D. Fleming, 938th EIS, McClellan AFB, Calif.; SSgt. Dean H. Aspinwall, 838th EIS, Kelly AFB, Texas; SSgt. Scott J. Oatley, 668th Logistics Squadron, Kelly AFB; SrA. Michelle D. Romak, 738th EIS, Keesler, AFB, Miss.; and SrA. Corey M. Eckrich, 211th EIS, Pennsylvania ANG.
  • As of April 1, the Tricare National Mail Order Pharmacy program was fully operational in all areas where the Tricare managed care program is itself up and running. When the final Tricare regions stand up in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states, the mail order program will extend to those regions, too, said Tricare officials April 7.
  • Streets on Wiesbaden AB, Germany, were recently marked with new signs bearing the names of 30 US service members and one American civilian who died during the Berlin Airlift. The signs were relocated from nearby Lindsey AS, which closed in 1993.
  • Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen announced the winners of the 1998 Commander in Chief’s Award for Installation Excellence on April 14. They are Ft. Carson, Colo., Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, Spangdahlem AB, Germany, and Defense Contract Management Command Long Island, N.Y.
  • Air Force officials named the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, a partnership between 11th Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard, as the top blue-suit rescue coordination center in the nation on April 15. Among its actions last year, the center directed the first rescue mission into Russia, to save the life of a Russian villager in Inchoun, and it coordinated the medical evacuation of 14 people following a mountaineering accident on Ptarmigan Peak near Anchorage.
  • Logisticians from the 437th and 315th Logistics groups, based at Charleston AFB, S.C., have won the Air Force’s Daedalian Award for the service’s top maintenance units of the year. The achievement marks the first time an Air Mobility Command unit has earned the honor.
  • Lockheed Martin has established a new line of its venerable Atlas launch vehicles powered by Russian RD-180 rocket engines. The new Atlas III models will be available by the end of the year, pending the outcome of static tests, said the company.
  • The nation’s newest B-2 bomber is set to be named Spirit of Mississippi in a ceremony at the Air National Guard base at Jackson IAP, Miss., on May 23. The bomber, which will be based at Whiteman AFB, Mo., is the 19th B-2 to be named.
  • Gen. Walter Kross, commander in chief of US Transportation Command and commander of Air Mobility Command, will retire Sept. 1. He assumed his present posts in July 1996. DoD announced May 12 that Lt. Gen. Charles T. “Tony” Robertson Jr., AMC’s 15th Air Force commander, had been nominated to replace Kross.
  • The Pentagon on April 24 announced that President Clinton has nominated Vice Adm. Richard W. Mies to become commander in chief, US Strategic Command, succeeding USAF Gen. Eugene E. Habiger, who has said he will retire Aug. 1. Mies is currently serving as commander, Submarine Force, US Atlantic Fleet, and commander, Submarine Allied Command, Atlantic.