Bush Taps Wynne to be SECAF
President Bush on August 17 announced plans to nominate Michael W. Wynne to become the new Secretary of the Air Force. Wynne, a West Point graduate, has served as the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics.
Bush did not say when he would officially forward Wynne’s nomination to Congress. If confirmed, he would succeed James Roche, who left the post earlier this year. Bush earlier had appointed Preston M. Geren to serve as Acting SECAF (see p. 28), and he will continue in that post until Wynne is installed in office.
USAF Hits Strength Target
The Air Force announced July 12 that it had finally succeeded in drawing down troop numbers to meet a Congressionally mandated end strength goal.
For months, the Air Force employed several force-shaping measures to get to 359,700 airmen by the end of Fiscal 2005. The service had been allowed to stay above authorized strength to cope with the pressures of fighting the war on terror.
As of June 30, USAF was some 2,000 airmen below that authorized active duty end strength ceiling, spokeswoman Jennifer Stephens said. She noted that the service projected it would remain “slightly below the ceiling” for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
While the overall goal was met, USAF still has too many officers. The service must continue “shaping” the officer force—“particularly in the junior grades,” said Brig. Gen. Glenn F. Spears, force management policy director on the Air Staff, in a press release.
Recruiting, Retention Are Strong
Air Force recruiting and retention efforts remain on track, USAF officials reported in July.
The recruiting target was set at 18,900 airmen this year, a figure lower than normal.This was done to allow the service to shed enlisted personnel and meet its end strength goal.
By July, USAF had brought in 11,446 recruits. Recruiters have made their quotas every month this year, said an Air Force Recruiting Service spokesman.
“If this trend continues,” he said, “we’ll easily make our target” for the fiscal year.
On the retention front, the Air Force is meeting its goal in two of the three re-enlistment categories, which are first-term, second-term, and career.
In a July 20 statement, officials noted that USAF had secured a re-enlistment rate of 58 percent of first-termers (against a goal of 55 percent) and 95 percent of career airmen (against a goal of 95 percent).
When it comes to second-termers, however, USAF is falling short. Though its goal was 75 percent, re-enlistments are running at about 57 percent, which USAF attributed to “force-shaping” activities.
Hurricane Forces Evacuations
Hurricane Dennis plowed into the Florida panhandle, forcing the Air Force to evacuate many personnel and aircraft from its Gulf Coast bases.
When Dennis came ashore July 10 as a Category 4 hurricane, USAF had already cleared out Florida’s MacDill, Tyndall, and Eglin Air Force Bases, as well as Hurlburt Field.
Aircraft from these facilities were dispersed around the nation. MacDill’s KC-135s went to McConnell AFB, Kan.; Tyndall’s F-15s and F/A-22s deployed to Tinker AFB, Okla., and Nellis AFB, Nev., respectively; and Eglin’s F-15s went to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
USAF’s 6th Space Operations Squadron, a reserve unit under the 310th Space Group at Schriever AFB, Colo., helped the Air Force prepare timely evacuation plans.
The 6th SOPS collects Defense Meteorological Satellite Program weather data. The unit kept a close watch on Dennis as it approached the coast with winds that peaked at 120 miles per hour.
DMSP data gave forecasters and authorities advance notice [for] resource protection activities and evacuation directives, said Lt. Col. Mark D. Hustedt, 6th SOPS commander. “There is no doubt this vital information saved lives.”
McNabb Heads to AMC
President Bush nominated Gen. (sel.) Duncan J. McNabb to be the new four-star head of Air Mobility Command at Scott AFB, Ill.
If confirmed by the Senate, McNabb would become the first commander of AMC who did not also command the joint-service US Transportation Command. That is because the President previously nominated Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz for promotion to head TRANSCOM, also headquartered at Scott. Schwartz was confirmed on July 29.
McNabb has been Joint Staff logistics director for the past year. Before that, he was USAF deputy chief of staff, plans and programs.
McNabb began his career as a navigator and became an airlift pilot as a captain. He has served in mobility positions throughout his career. McNabb led the 41st Military Airlift Squadron at Charleston AFB, S.C., during Gulf War I and served as commander of AMC’s Tanker Airlift Control Center from 1997 to 1999.
Dividing the job between two general officers will permit TRANSCOM’s commander to focus on worldwide mobility operations and the AMC commander to focus on Title 10 “organize-train-equip” responsibilities.
TRANSCOM is busy orchestrating lift and refueling operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hot spots around the world. AMC, meanwhile, has devoted much of its time dealing with modernization and the problems of aging aircraft.
Laser Gets Tagged
Recent contractor assessments of the Airborne Laser (ABL) program have probably been overly optimistic, Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III declared.
Obering, director of the joint-service Missile Defense Agency, told the Defense Writers Group on July 21 that the laser program wasn’t out of the woods developmentally.
Obering said that he did not want to paint a “rosy picture” about ABL’s progress only to come back next year and say, “We didn’t accomplish what we thought we were going to get accomplished.”
The Pentagon is eager to acquire the ABL’s boost-phase defense capability. It would be able to “fly in” to a target area worldwide. The chemical-oxygen-iodine laser (COIL) would target ballistic missiles while they were still taking off, helping to prevent collateral damage over friendly territory.
Obering emphasized that he does not think the program has been a failure; he said great progress has been made. The general was striving for realistic understanding of how difficult this development is.
“I did not mean to be downbeat on ABL,” he said, noting that all the key technical components have been tested.
However, he went on, the parts of the complex system still must come together in a “more operationally realistic context,” which is never as easy as it sounds.
“Too often you hear people say, ‘We’ve done this [and] we’ve done that—all we’ve got to do is integrate it.’?”
With the laser system demonstrated in atmospheric conditions, MDA must now tear it down, load it aboard a converted Boeing 747 freighter, reassemble it, integrate the components, and fly it in the next couple of years.
“I think we have a long way to go,” he said.
MDA still eyes 2008 as a “good target” date to demonstrate the ability to actually shoot down a ballistic missile during its boost phase.
The ABL program achieved its last major milestone Nov. 10, 2004. That represented the first time that ABL’s six COIL modules were successfully linked and fired together. (See “Aerospace World: ABL Achieves ‘First Light,’?” January, p. 19.)
Bombers Reach Milestones
Two of the Air Force’s heavy bombers recently celebrated prominent anniversaries. In June, the B-52 reached 50 years of active service, and the B-1B marked 20 years at its first operational base.
The first B-52 arrived at a combat unit on June 29, 1955, when then-Brig. Gen. William E. Eubank Jr., commander of the 93rd Bomb Wing, delivered the first operational “BUFF” to Castle AFB, Calif.
According to a recent Air Force press release, Eubank recalled thinking the B-52 looked a lot like the B-47 it was to replace but that it drove “more like a truck.”
The Air Force had 744 B-52s built. Many of the 102 H-models built between May 1961 and October 1962 remain in service at Minot AFB, N.D., and Barksdale AFB, La. They are expected to be key parts of the US bomber force for another two decades.
Highly reliable and continuously upgraded, the B-52s recently won praise for providing close air support by dropping satellite guided bombs.
Thirty years to the day after the B-52 went operational, the first B-1B arrived at Dyess AFB, Tex. The “Bone” was originally conceived as a B-52 replacement that would fly at high speed and low level to deliver nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union.
One hundred four B-1Bs were built. When the Cold War ended, however, the service undertook a number of programs that adapted the new aircraft to conventional missions.
The B-1B first saw combat in 1998 during Operation Desert Fox over Iraq. Since then, it has become a key weapon system for combat commanders because of its large payload, versatility of weapon load, and ability to loiter for long periods.
John Alison Honored
Retired Maj. Gen. John R. Alison on July 16 was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. Alison, 92, was on hand as one of four aviation greats enshrined at the ceremony.
Alison was commissioned in the Army Air Corps in 1937. Five years later, he was flying P-40s with Claire L. Chennault in China—where he would shoot down two Japanese aircraft (a third was unconfirmed) in his first aerial combat. All told, Alison was credited with six aerial victories. He was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries when he was shot down over China.
Alison and a friend, Lt. Col. Philip G. Cochran, later organized the first air commando unit and personally led it into combat. He is considered by some to be “the father of Air Force special operations.”
Alison “was instrumental in the development of numerous innovative weapons and tactics, including rockets, gliders, and helicopters,” said the Hall of Fame’s statement.
After World War II, Alison joined the Air Force Reserve, where he continued to serve until his retirement as a major general in 1971. He returned to the service during the Korean War.
Alison was national president, then chairman of the board, of the Air Force Association and retired from Northrop Corporation as a senior vice president.
Eurofighter Gets a No; F-16, a Yes
Greece has decided to purchase at least 30 new F-16 fighters to help modernize its air force, abandoning an earlier plan to buy 60 Eurofighter Typhoons.
The new purchase plan, announced by Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos at a meeting with reporters, is estimated to be worth $1.32 billion.
Greece wants Lockheed Martin to deliver the fighters in 2008 and 2009 and may later decide to purchase as many as 10 more F-16s, Spiliotopoulos said.
The country has already purchased more than 140 F-16s in three different orders.
Larger Global Hawk Is In the Works
The Air Force in July gave Northrop Grumman a $273 million contract for four RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles.
The RQ-4B variant is larger than the earlier models of the high-altitude, long-endurance UAV that has proved to be a highly valuable intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance platform for the war on terror.
According to the contractor, the Global Hawk B variant will have a 130-foot wingspan (15 feet more than that of the RQ-4A) and will be able to “carry multiple payloads including systems for collecting signals and electronics intelligence.”
The Global Hawk has demonstrated the ability to remain on station for more than 30 hours, offering nonstop reconnaissance coverage for that period.
The contract runs through July 2008 and also provides for one launch-recovery element, support equipment, and spares.
Tallil, Meet Ali
The term “Tallil” is an error, the US said in a surprise announcement. From now on, call it “Ali.”
The major aviation facility in Iraq came to be known as Tallil Air Base only because of what best can be described as a clerical mistake more than a decade ago. US Central Command Air Forces has now directed that the base be referred to by its proper name—Ali Air Base.
How this situation came to be is “a bit of a mystery,” said Lt. Gen. Walter E. Buchanan III, CENTAF commander, in a July 6 press release.
“It appears that, some time after Operation Desert Storm [in 1991], Ali base was incorrectly labeled Tallil on Department of Defense maps,” Buchanan said.
The mistake stuck—among coalition forces at least.
Iraqis have always referred to this installation as Ali Base, noted Col. Dennis Diggett, former 407th Air Expeditionary Group commander at what was then Tallil and is now Ali.
The mistake came to light in January at a joint US-Iraqi ceremony marking the creation of the Iraq Air Force’s 23rd Squadron at the base. “We learned then that the base had always been Ali,” Buchanan said in the release. He subsequently ordered troops to refer to the base by its correct name.
Ali Air Base is located roughly halfway between Al Jaber AB, Kuwait, and Baghdad. It is the primary military airfield in southern Iraq.
Violators Keep NORAD Busy
North American Aerospace Defense Command has been kept busy this year defending the airspace over the national capital.
In the latest incident this summer, NORAD scrambled two alert fighters from Andrews AFB, Md., on June 29 when a Beech King Air 350 turboprop aircraft violated Washington, D.C.’s, restricted Air Defense Identification Zone.
The F-16s “intercepted the aircraft within the restricted airspace,” a NORAD release stated, and escorted it to a regional airport in Winchester, Va.
The incident came less than two months after a Cessna aircraft came within minutes of being shot down over the capital on May 11. That aircraft’s pilot did not respond to repeated demands to divert. (See “Aerospace World: F-16s Intercept Wayward Cessna,” July, p. 17.)
In the interim, a new system was activated, designed to reduce accidental flights into restricted airspace. On May 21, NORAD’s Visual Warning System became operational. It uses low-intensity laser beams to warn pilots that they are in restricted airspace.
Alternating red and green lights are “designed to prompt immediate action by the pilot to contact air traffic control and exit the restricted airspace,” stated NORAD.
Despite fielding the Visual Warning System, NORAD still needed to scramble air defense fighters for the June incursion. The command “takes every reported incident seriously,” the release noted.
Geren Up for USAF Leadership
The White House on July 29 announced it had chosen Preston M. “Pete” Geren as Acting Secretary of the Air Force. Geren would fill the post vacant since Roche’s departure, and which was subsequently filled temporarily by former Undersecretary Peter B. Teets and Assistant Secretary Michael L. Dominguez.
Since September 2001, Geren has served as special assistant to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Geren’s post with Rumsfeld was Senate-confirmed, meaning no Senate action was needed to shift him, temporarily, to be the Acting Secretary of the Air Force. The appointment complied with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, USAF officials said, and took effect immediately.
Geren’s duties for Rumsfeld have included special projects, legislative affairs, and ineragency liaison work.
A former Congressman, Geren represented the 12th district in Texas from 1989 to 1997, serving on the Armed Forces and Science and Technology Committees, among others. He holds a law degree from the University of Texas.
Sega Confirmed as Undersecretary
Ronald M. Sega was confirmed as the new undersecretary of the Air Force in late July. The former director of defense research and engineering for the Pentagon, Sega is also a major general in the Air Force Reserve. In that capacity, he is the Reserve assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Sega also becomes the chief acquisition executive for the Air Force, as well as the Defense Department’s executive agent for space. In the latter post, Sega will oversee programs and funding for Pentagon space programs across the armed forces.
Sega is a former astronaut, having flown as a mission specialist on two space shuttle flights.
Supersonic F/A-22 Drops JDAM
An F/A-22 Raptor successfully released a 1,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition during a July 14 test over the Mojave Desert, the Air Force reported. The test is a significant milestone, establishing that the first version of the fighter to enter operational service will be able to perform high-speed ground-attack, as well as air supremacy missions.
The F/A-22 design was modified in the early 1990s to accommodate four of the 1,000-pound, satellite guided JDAMs in its internal weapons bay. Since then, concepts of operations for the aircraft have it performing high-speed, stealthy attacks against heavily defended targets, a supersonic version of the mission now performed by the F-117A stealth attack aircraft.
The JDAM is considered a “near-precision” weapon, able to score hits within 10 feet of the intended target and through any kind of weather. Release at supersonic speeds also will give the JDAM greater glide range, expanding the distance at which the F/A-22 can engage a ground target.
The first F/A-22 squadron is expected to be declared operational at Langley AFB, Va., in December. Throughout the summer, the Air Force was conducting follow-on operational test and evaluation, or FOT&E, with the Raptor, evaluating it in a number of roles and under a variety of conditions.
US Out of Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan has decided to eject the US from its bases, costing the US some basing access in Central Asia, but neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, after threatening similar evictions, have both pledged that the US can continue to operate from their soil.
On July 29, Uzbekistan notified the US that it must remove its aircraft and personnel from bases in that country within 180 days. The chief US operating station in Uzbekistan, Karshi-Khanabad Air Base—referred to by US personnel as K2—is located north of central Afghanistan and is used to stage resupply operations around both countries. At the time of the notification, more than 800 troops were stationed at the facility.
Uzbekistan was the first central Asian nation to grant the US basing rights after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. However, in early July, a regional security body including China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and two other Central Asian nations declared that the situation in Afghanistan has “stabilized” and that the US should set a date for its withdrawal from their territories.
Newly elected Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanek Bakiyev said in early July that the time had come to “begin discussing the necessity of [the] US military forces’ presence” in his country. Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan is the Air Force’s primary strategic airlift hub for support of operations in and around Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan’s intention to invite the US to leave became known soon after a July 5 meeting of Asian nations.
However, on July 26, Kyrgyzstan Defense Minister Ismail Isakov, at a news conference with visiting US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said, “The air base at Manas will stay as long as the situation in Afghanistan requires.”
On a tour of the region, Rumsfeld also met with Tajikistan’s President, Emomali Rahmonov, and foreign minister, Talbak Nazarov, who pledged their continued support to provide overflight privileges and ground facility access.
“We intend to continue our active cooperation with the United States and other anti-terrorist coalitions,” Nazarov said.
Rumsfeld, in remarks during the trip, said the bases in Central Asia are vital not only to continued operations in Afghanistan but also to combat terrorist organizations like al Qaeda and to stem the narcotics trade from Afghan poppy production. Published reports suggested that Rumsfeld carried with him promises of greater financial aid to countries allowing US operating privileges.
3,000 NCOs Face Retraining
The Air Force announced in August that more than 3,000 staff, technical, and master sergeants were notified that they were “vulnerable” for involuntary retraining. Notification was announced through the 2006 Noncommissioned Officer Retraining Program.
The service needs noncommissioned officers in oversupplied career fields to volunteer for retraining into Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs) that are short of personnel. These airmen are being asked to select AFSCs they are interested in moving to by Oct. 14, or a new career field may be picked for them.
Ted E. Lines, an Army Air Forces pilot who became a double ace over Europe during World War II, died June 13 in Gilbert, Ariz. During the war, he was assigned to the 335th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, part of Eighth Air Force.
Lines was a P-51D Mustang pilot. In 1944, he accumulated 10 confirmed kills of Nazi aircraft over France and Germany.
|Pilots Praise New F-15E Targeting Pods
New targeting pods aboard F-15E Strike Eagles proved invaluable in Iraq, pilots with the 494th Fighter Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, Britain, recently declared.
Lt. Col. Daniel Debree, 494th FS commander just back from a tour in Iraq, told a Pentagon media roundtable that flying over Iraq these days is very different from what pilots are used to.
“We are more like cops on the beat” than anything else, Debree said, adding that during the entire deployment from January to May, the 494th dropped just eight bombs on targets in Iraq. The new F-15E sensor array, featuring optical and infrared sensor arrays with the Sniper targeting pod, was key, however, in finding deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Capt. Joseph Siberski, F-15E weapons system officer, cited an example from April. Near Mosul, Siberski said, came reports of a possible IED site. After a fly-over, the Strike Eagle found a hole nearby. The hole “was a square,” which was highly suspicious, said Siberski.
An Army Stryker team was dispatched and approached a group of approximately 20 men who had congregated near the site. After detaining many of the men, a search near the hole uncovered three weapons caches, cell phones, and high-grade C4 explosive and shaped-charged weapons. There was enough materiel to build nearly 150 IEDs.
“It was an unqualified success,” Debree said, crediting the Sniper pod for being able to locate the site.
Lockheed Martin, the pod’s manufacturer, is evaluating the 494th’s pods after their deployment, Debree said. With more than 5,500 hours of combat data on the pods, the company wants to fine-tune the sensors before employing them more widely on other strike aircraft.
|New Civilian Personnel System Delayed
Defense Department officials have postponed implementing the National Security Personnel System (NSPS), the DOD pay and evaluation system that will replace the old GS (General Schedule) pay scale for defense employees.
Officials announced this summer that the draft NSPS regulations will be revised again. This made it impossible for DOD to meet its initial goal of beginning the program implementation in July.
Defense officials have said for more than a year, however, that NSPS implementation will be “event driven” and not guided by an arbitrary schedule. (See “Aerospace World: New Personnel System Approved,” June 2004, p. 19.)
The NSPS regulations will be modified based on public comments and input from meetings with union representatives, said Mary Lacey, program executive officer, in a June DOD press release. “Revisions will be published in the Federal Register later this summer, and implementation of NSPS could begin 30 days after,” the release stated. The implementation date is “flexible, because we are not going to implement it until we are ready,” said Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
It will take up to three years for all 700,000 eligible defense employees to join NSPS, officials said. According to the Washington Post, plans now call for DOD employees to receive their traditional raises in January 2006, with the first NSPS-based pay raises perhaps coming in January 2007.
The new system will scrap the General Schedule pay scales—which compensate longevity above all else and make it difficult to reward top employees or fire poor ones. Under NSPS, defense workers will find their pay tied to performance, as is the case in most private-sector jobs.
|Technology and the Spy Threat
A recent Defense Department study says technological advances are increasing the threat from espionage. Classified and sensitive information is now easier than ever to access, store, and transmit, according to a report by the Defense Personnel Security Research Center, part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
The information revolution and “other changes in the domestic and international environment have converged to create unusually fertile ground for insider espionage,” cautions the report. Advances in information storage and retrieval capabilities are “dramatically improving insiders’ ability to access and steal classified and proprietary information,” it adds.
Another problem is that there are literally millions of Americans with security clearances, and information is not always restricted to those with a need to know.
Database searches and “cut and paste” techniques are not a theoretical threat—the report notes that this is exactly how classified information has been stolen in the past.
Technology also has made it easier to distribute stolen information. The report notes that “there is virtually no limit to the amount of information that can be transferred … by a technically competent insider with access to digitized proprietary files and the Internet.”
It is “too frequently assumed that information contained within large databases and computer networks is secure,” because users have security clearances—but 2.4 million people currently have access to classified information, the report notes.
Preventing damage to national security requires “the orchestrated efforts of personnel security, information security, and counterintelligence professionals,” the report concludes.
|Seymour Johnson Graduates First Korean F-15K Crews
F-15E pilots and weapons systems officers at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., recently trained the initial cadre of South Korean F-15K pilots. After six months of language training at Randolph AFB, Tex., eight South Korean pilots and WSOs spent seven months at Seymour Johnson, graduating July 23.
While at the base, the South Korean officers learned the intricacies of the F-15E, which the new F-15K is derived from. The airmen then proceeded to contractor training with Boeing, to learn F-15K specifics. All told, the South Korean crews will spend 16 months in the United States before heading home to serve as F-15K instructor pilots.
The eight officers are experienced aircrew members, equivalent to US captains and majors. They were selected through a highly competitive process and represent the “future leaders” of the South Korean Air Force, according to Seymour Johnson’s Maj. Joel Meyers, one of the primary training pilots.
The new F-15K pilots will transition to the fighter from South Korea’s F-4 and F-16 fleets, noted Capt. David Abrahamson, one of the primary instructor WSOs.
South Korea is purchasing 40 advanced F-15Ks at a cost of $4.3 billion as a follow-on to its retiring F-4 fleet. Deliveries begin this year and will last through 2008. (See “Aerospace World: Boeing Unveils F-15K,” May, p. 22.)
|Raptor Crews Train With an Eye Toward Operations
F/A-22 training at Langley AFB, Va., is taking on an increasingly operational tone as the 1st Fighter Wing prepares to reach initial operational capability at the end of the year. The cadre of pilots and maintainers with the 27th Fighter Squadron, the first operational squadron, is small but busy—and growing fast.
The squadron is training its pilots to deploy as needed with a brand-new weapons system that is “very visible,” noted Col. Jay T. Denney, 1st FW vice commander. “The last time we went through something like this was with the B-2,” the Air Force’s then-revolutionary stealth bomber.
As it schools pilots in the tactics they will need in wartime, the wing also realizes the Air Force “can’t afford to lose any [F/A-22s]” because of their relatively small numbers, Denney said.
In the past, as the Air Force brought on “F-100s, F-15s, and F-16s, they were [crashing] them—not because they could afford to lose them, but it was a different mentality,” Denney noted. Raptor pilots are expected to be exceptionally mature and steady individuals.
Every two months, four to six pilots arrive from Tyndall AFB, Fla., fresh from F/A-22 training and qualification, said Lt. Col. James Hecker, commander of the 27th FS. Some come from Langley’s F-15C wing, but many do not.
The requirement is that pilots have experience flying F-15C, F-15E, or F-16 fighters—high-performance fighters with advanced radars, Hecker told Air Force Magazine. This creates a mix of air superiority and ground-attack expertise, Denney added.
The first Langley F/A-22 with a ground-attack capability is the 47th Raptor, the first with upgraded avionics. Plans called for it to arrive in the early fall.
The pilots are handpicked, Hecker said, and are “younger guys who could go on to [Air Force] Weapons School”—meaning they are viewed as among the top five percent of USAF pilots.
The Air Force’s long-standing goal has been to have the F/A-22 operational by the end of 2005. There is no hard and fast rule about what IOC means, however—it does not represent a specific number of aircraft, pilots, or flight hours.
The Raptor reaches IOC when Gen. Ronald E. Keys, Air Combat Command chief, says so, Hecker said. IOC means ACC is “confident” that six to eight aircraft are ready to deploy and go to war if called to do so.
On the maintenance side, Langley is well-prepared. The base has a good supply of F/A-22 maintainers who are largely learning on the job. Spare parts inventories—initially a sore spot—have grown.
CMSgt. Larry Martin, maintenance superintendent for the 27th, said maintenance teams measured their performance by making sure the Raptors were available to meet the daily training schedule.
Langley also has an “LO Barn,” explained Martin, where all standard low-observable maintenance can be performed.
Martin added, however, that he was “kind of worried” about the supply of avionics experts he would have on hand as the number of F/A-22s continues to increase throughout the year.
For the immediate future, the wing expects the F/A-22 will be handled like the B-2 and F-117 for deployments, Denney said. The aircraft and their crews will not belong to a particular Air and Space Expeditionary Force, but instead will deploy where and when they are needed.
Once multimission Raptors are available (existing aircraft are being retrofitted with the ground-attack software), most training sorties will develop both air-to-air and air-to-ground skills. This includes escort missions and close air support. To further prepare for IOC, the squadron plans to deploy in October to Hill AFB, Utah.
Airmen will have to get the fighters ready and deploy to Hill, a “non-Raptor base,” on short notice. They will be gone for two weeks, and Hill was chosen so that “nobody can cheat,” Hecker said. “They can’t walk across the street to … grab the tool they forgot.”
The Raptor teams will conduct “sustained operations,” which will “probably generate a bunch of taskers,” he said.
The aircraft deploying to Hill are the ones “that go to war, so we want to be sure they’re good and ready,” Hecker said.
The War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By Aug. 5, a total of 1,823 Americans had died supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 1,818 troops and five Defense Department civilians. Of those fatalities, 1,411 were killed in action by enemy attack, and 412 died in noncombat incidents such as accidents.
There have been 13,769 troops wounded in action during OIF. This includes 7,118 who returned to duty within 72 hours and 6,651 who were unable to quickly return to action.
Airmen Reach Three Million Convoy Miles
Air Force airmen driving combat convoys reached a major milestone on July 7—the three million mile mark.
USAF’s expeditionary combat airmen took on the combat convoy mission in March 2004. Since then, airmen have led more than 3,500 convoys on the dangerous roads of Iraq.
Convoys are run by the 732nd Expeditionary Readiness Squadron, which was “established when combat in Iraq shifted from a force-on-force battlefield to counterinsurgency operations,” stated a Central Command Air Forces press release. The 732nd “consists of two light and medium gun truck detachments” and a fuels detachment.
“These detachments forged on despite facing attacks from small-arms fire, improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades, and car bombs,” said Brig. Gen. Allen G. Peck, deputy air component commander, in the release.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By Aug. 5, a total of 216 troops and one DOD civilian had died supporting Operation Enduring Freedom worldwide, primarily in Afghanistan. The total includes 102 Americans killed in action and 115 who died in nonhostile incidents.
A total of 525 troops have been wounded in Enduring Freedom. They include 190 who were able to return to duty within three days and 335 who were not.
19 Die in Firefight, MH-47 Crash
Nineteen US troops died in Afghanistan on June 28.
A four-member special operations forces team came under fire, said a US Central Command spokesman quoted in wire reports, and then “requested additional forces to be inserted.”
The support mission led to a greater loss of life. A 16-man SOF team aboard an MH-47 was killed when the helicopter went down near Asadabad in eastern Afghanistan.
Among the rescuers who perished were eight Army and eight Navy SOF members. Three of the initial SOF troops were killed. The fourth was rescued alive.
In mid-July, defense officials had not announced whether the MH-47 was shot down, but did say in a statement that the crash “may have been caused by hostile fire.”
Bagram Adds Arresting System
Bagram Air Base recently added a mobile aircraft arresting system specifically designed to stop tailhook-equipped aircraft in emergency situations.
Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan announced in June that the system was needed for Marine Corps EA-6B Prowlers operating out of Bagram for Operation Enduring Freedom.
“To conduct safe flying operations in bad weather or emergencies,” the CFC-A release explained, the Prowler has “specific requirements that are not normally found at Air Force airfields, such as a mobile airfield arresting system.”
The system is “basically a hydraulically activated set of two modified B-52 brakes,” explained Air Force TSgt. Jens P. Walle of the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. A 175-foot-long steel cable, more than an inch thick, runs between the B-52 brakes. In an emergency, an EA-6B would drop a tailhook and snare the cable.
By Tamar A. Mehuron, Associate Editor
- The Air Force District of Washington, Bolling AFB, D.C., on July 7 became fully operational as a direct reporting unit. It will be the Air Force warfighting component of the Joint Force Headquarters- National Capital Region, established in 2004 by US Northern Command officials. AFDW had been a DRU from 1985 to 1994, when it was deactivated.
- The Pentagon said on July 5 that President Bush had nominated Army Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander as the new director of the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Md. He succeeds USAF Gen. Michael V. Hayden as head of the supersecret code-breaking and code-making agency.
- Boeing received a $175 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in July to continue its work on the X-45C segment of the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System demonstration program. The funding enables Boeing to further develop and demonstrate a new autonomous aerial refueling technology. An in-flight X-45C refueling by a KC-135 tanker is planned for 2010.
- Misawa AB, Japan, took top honors as the Air Force winner of the 2005 Commander in Chief’s Award for Installation Excellence. The award recognizes superlative efforts by people in the services who operate and maintain US military installations worldwide.
- Ten firms on June 29 won a $1.9 billion contract for Air Force Materiel Command weapons engineering and technical services support. They are: Aerospace Engineering Spectrum, Utah; Arinc Engineering Services, Maryland; Battelle Columbus Operations, Ohio; Dynamics Research Corp., Oklahoma; Sverdrup Technology, Florida; Karta Technologies, Texas; Manufacturing Technology, Florida; Northrop Grumman, Virginia; Southwest Research Institute, Texas; and Support Systems Associates, Florida.
- Boeing in July began installing advanced satellite communications gear in the first of 32 USAF E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft. The upgrades will enable AWACS aircrews to communicate with other AWACS and USAF aircraft and ground stations. Completion of the first AWACS upgrade is scheduled for January 2006. The rest of the fleet will be upgraded by the end of 2010.
- Servicemen and -women must now specify who shall dispose of their remains in the event of their death, according to a DOD announcement July 8. DOD’s Record of Emergency Data Form (DD Form 93) was changed to make this previously voluntary information a requirement. The change resulted from two cases in which divorced parents disputed the disposition of the unmarried serviceman’s remains.
- Sturdier, longer-lasting carbon brakes are replacing the steel brakes on KC-135s at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, Okla. The new brakes are good for approximately 1,000 landings and could remain viable for 10 years. By contrast, the steel brakes have a threshold of 100 landings and last only a year.
- Rockwell Collins received a contract June 23 to upgrade communications for Extremely High Frequency and Advanced EHF satellite systems and improve nuclear command, control, and communications capabilities for aircrew alert messaging. The contract is valued at $352 million over six years. Work is scheduled to be completed by May 2011.
- An Air National Guard F-16 pilot on June 28 ejected safely after he lost directional control of his aircraft and skidded off the runway while attempting an emergency landing at Lamar Airfield, near Buckley AFB, Colo. He was reacting to a fire in the aircraft’s tail section. The pilot suffered minor injuries. The aircraft was assigned to the Colorado ANG’s 140th Wing. USAF officials are investigating the accident.
- An MQ-1 Predator UAV armed with Hellfire missiles crashed June 29 in eastern Afghanistan’s Gardez region, close to the Pakistan border. There was no sign that hostile fire contributed to the crash. The accident is being investigated by USAF officials.
- Air Force investigators concluded that a Jan. 14 Predator crash in Southwest Asia stemmed from a loss of aircraft control. In a report released July 6, Air Force officials said that the pilot and sensor operator used incorrect rebooting procedures after their computer control systems malfunctioned and thus cut the communications link. The Predator, from the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev., was destroyed on impact.
- The Jan. 18 midair collision of a T-37 trainer and a civilian crop duster in Oklahoma had two causes, according to an accident investigation report. First, the trainer’s two-man aircrew and the crop duster’s pilot did not see each other and had no time to avoid a collision. Second, the civilian pilot, Carl Dierk Nash, was at an altitude designated for instrument flying rules when he should have been flying under visual flying rules. Nash died in the collision. The T-37 crew ejected safely.
- Pilots and maintainers with the 60th Fighter Squadron, Eglin AFB, Fla., were honored with the Raytheon Hughes Achievement Award for outstanding air superiority. This marks the second time since 1996 that the unit, flying F-15Cs, has won the prestigious trophy.
- Martin-Baker Aircraft Co., Britain, received a $200 million contract to update the escape system for USAF’s T-38C fleet. The work is scheduled to be completed by June 2014.
- DOD awarded Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, a $100,000 grant to collect and preserve information about the role of scientists and engineers at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, in developing Cold War technology. The university libraries’ special collections and archives will hire an archivist/historian to carry out an oral history project as the foundation of a Cold War technology-history archive.
- SMSgt. Robert Altenbernd, Andersen AFB, Guam, was honored by USAF with the 2005 Air Force First Sergeant of the Year Award.