Airman Killed in Afghanistan
The Pentagon announced July 11 that Air Force MSgt. Randy J. Gillespie, 44, of Coaldale, Colo., died in action in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Gillespie, of the 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Luke AFB, Ariz., was killed July 9 by small-arms fire outside of Camp Stone—near Herat, Afghanistan.
Gillespie, a 24-year USAF veteran, was on his second tour to Afghanistan. Family members said that Gillespie had gone to Ft. Riley, Kan., earlier this year to learn how to train Afghan National Army soldiers and had been in Afghanistan since April.
OIF Airman Dies in Germany
TSgt. Joey D. Link, 29, of Portland, Tenn., died of unknown but noncombat-related causes at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, on Aug. 5. Link was assigned to the 39th Airlift Squadron at Dyess AFB, Tex., where he was a C-130 flight engineer.
Link was deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom at the time of his death.
Link joined the Air Force in 1996, first serving as a B-52 flying crew chief, a B-1B crew chief at Dyess’ 7th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and an Air Force recruiter before retraining as a flight engineer.
Mishap Claims ANG Pilot
The Coast Guard recovered the body of Maj. Gregory D. Young, 34, of St. Helens, Ore., on June 27. Young was an F-15 pilot with the Air National Guard’s 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland.
Young and his F-15 were lost the previous day, while in a practice engagement with other F-15s and Marine Corps Reserve F/A-18s from Fort Worth, Tex.
The Air Force has convened a safety board to investigate the incident.
UAV Struggle Intensifies
The Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council recommended in July that the Air Force become the lead for medium- to high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles, but the issue apparently still isn’t settled.
Although the JROC did indeed approve executive agency, a senior Air Force official said, there were lingering problems that could scotch the decision. When the issue came before the service Chiefs in a subsequent Pentagon “tank” session, “it blew up,” the official added.
In late July, the services were awaiting personal attention to the issue from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his deputy, Gordon England.
The Air Force has been campaigning to become executive agent for high-flying UAVs, arguing that putting the service in charge of acquisition and operational allocation of the drones will save money, make UAV sensor data more widely available, and make airspace management easier and safer.
However, the Army has stridently opposed the Air Force’s efforts, arguing that its ground commanders need their own, on-demand UAV assets without having to request them through a centralized, joint-service system. The Navy, too, has resisted EA status for the Air Force, arguing that its unique sensor and network needs might be ignored in setting UAV requirements.
USAF Reduces Force Cut
The Air Force plans to cut a smaller number of personnel from its roster in FY 2008 than it originally planned, Air Staff officials told reporters at a July Pentagon briefing.
The Fiscal 2008 reduction is expected to be about 2,200 airmen, versus the 2007 cut, which targeted about 8,000 officers and 3,000 enlisted airmen.
Noting that the big cuts came in 2007, USAF may be able to avoid convening a selective early retirement board for 2008, but are keeping their options open to reach service manpower goals.
USAF personnel chief Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady told reporters that the Air Force is still developing its 2008 force cut plans, but so far has no intention of diverting from its goal of getting down to 316,000 airmen by the end of Fiscal 2009. He acknowledged that the expansion of the Army and Marine Corps may require USAF to retain more people.
Chilton Tapped for STRATCOM …
President Bush has nominated Air Force Space Command’s Gen. Kevin P. Chilton to succeed Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright as head of US Strategic Command. Cartwright has been nominated to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Chilton has been head of USAF Space Command since June of 2006, after a tour as head of 8th Air Force, which controls USAF’s nuclear bombers. He has also commanded the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB, Calif. He was an Air Force test pilot and a NASA astronaut, having flown three space shuttle missions.
… Kehler for AF Space Command
Lt. Gen. C. Robert Kehler, a career missile and space officer, was confirmed in August to four-star rank and slated to succeed Gen. Kevin P. Chilton at Air Force Space Command. Kehler serves as the deputy commander at STRATCOM, which is headquartered at Offutt AFB, Neb.
Hooligans Start Flying UAVs
The North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Wing flew its first MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle mission from a facility in Fargo, N.D., on July 2—marking a significant transition for the “Happy Hooligans,” who previously flew F-16s.
The North Dakota wing has flown fighters for 60 years. Since the transition was announced as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure process, wing personnel have been training for their new jobs working with the Predator mission.
In January, the wing converted from the F-16 to two new missions: Predator and the C-21A Lear Jet, an interim aircraft that will go away with the arrival of the Joint Cargo Aircraft in 2011.
CSAR-X Bid Rejected
The Air Force rejected a revised Lockheed Martin bid for the $15 billion CSAR-X program in July, saying the proposal included too much new information. USAF only accepted revisions of certain sections of the original bids, which will be re-evaluated by the Government Accountability Office.
The combat search and rescue helicopter contract originally was awarded to Boeing, but both Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin have protested.
The GAO upheld one aspect of the protests, finding that the Air Force didn’t properly evaluate the competitors’ support costs. All three companies have since submitted new proposals with new data on support costs.
Lockheed Martin said it presented an entirely new proposal for the program that included new performance and production data on its US101 helicopter, but USAF returned the package. Company officials said the new proposal showed how it could meet the originally planned in-service date of September 2012, despite the delays of multiple protests.
Because it can’t spend all the money planned for the program in Fiscal 2007, the Air Force has asked to spend $123 million in CSAR-X money on other priorities, according to an omnibus reprogramming request sent to Capitol Hill in late June.
Warthog Gets New Wings
Boeing received a June contract worth up to $2 billion to build 242 sets of new wings for the Air Force’s fleet of A-10 attack aircraft. The contract is to be completed by 2018.
Cracks were discovered in a large number of A-10 wings almost two years ago; the Air Force determined they could not be economically repaired.
In conjunction with a “precision engagement” package of cockpit and weapons changes already being made on the A-10, the type will be able to remain in service through 2028. The first A-10s rolled off the assembly line at the now-defunct Fairchild Republic company in 1975.
USAF Programs Lose Priority
About a dozen DOD programs were dropped from the Pentagon’s list of highest-priority programs in June, under an order signed by Kenneth J. Krieg, at the time the Pentagon’s chief of acquisition, technology, and logistics.
The Pentagon’s so-called “DX” list identifies those programs that get first dibs on specialty metals and other raw materials that may be in short supply. Krieg said he shortened the list to ensure that only programs of “the highest national defense urgency” were on it.
The new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected ground vehicle, which is more survivable against roadside bombs and mines than Humvees, tops the new list.
The Air Force had more programs dropped from the DX list than any other single service. The B-1B and B-2 bombers, ICBMs, nuclear cruise missiles, and the C-17 transport were all deleted. Of those dropped from priority, only the C-17 is still in production.
Also dropped, but counted as “Joint Service” programs were the Airborne Laser and the Milstar communications satellite system.
The Air Force’s Space Based Infrared System, an early warning satellite, stayed on the DX list.
ROVER Goes Miniature
One of the biggest hardware successes of the Iraq war has been the Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver, or ROVER, a laptop-like device on which ground troops can watch surveillance video piped down from aircraft overhead. The gadget has been a boon in helping USAF pilots provide accurate close air support.
Now the Air Force is working with industry to shrink the system to a handheld device.
In a July Pentagon briefing, USAF officials said they want a new, lightweight version of ROVER in the field by the end of next year. It would be far lighter than the current unit, which weighs 13 pounds. The Air Force is in a constant struggle to reduce the weight of the gear its battlefield airmen must carry, which today can exceed 100 pounds.
The new unit will be self-contained, eliminating the peripheral antennas, receiver and other gear required by the current device. It will have a video display and a small keyboard, but can hook up to a larger display if needed.
As of July, more than 1,800 ROVER units had been delivered to US forces and coalition partners, with more than 560 on order.
Air Guard Recruiting Falls
Air National Guard recruiting tumbled in June, reaching only 75 percent of its goal. Just 779 of the required 1,036 Guardsmen were brought into the component.
June marked the fifth month in a row that the Air Guard has failed to meet its recruiting goals. However, the Guard continued to chalk up good retention, hanging on to 98 percent of its 8,430 people in June.
By contrast, the Army has reversed its two-month slip in National Guard recruiting, and overmatched its goal of 5,338 new Guardsmen.
GI Bill Repayments Change
Some members of the Air Force Reserve who can’t continue to serve because their base or mission was eliminated under the Base Realignment and Closure process, or due to Pentagon budget decisions, won’t have to repay all their Montgomery GI Bill benefits, the Air Force said in June.
The decision affects those in their initial six-year enlistment who can’t find a position in another Reserve or Air National Guard unit to finish their obligation. The loans will be waived if the affected member, through no fault of his own, doesn’t live within 100 miles of a “valid offer” assignment.
The affected members will finish their obligation in the Individual Ready Reserve.
In similar situations in the past, personnel who transitioned to the IRR as a result of base closings and DOD actions were covered under a program called the Reserve Transition Assistance Program. However, it was not authorized in time for the current round of BRAC actions.
Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne issued a memo in April allowing USAF to waive repayment of GI Bill benefits for affected members.
Army’s Ward To Head AFRICOM
President Bush nominated Army Gen. William E. Ward in July to be the first head of the newly created US Africa Command. Ward has been serving as the deputy chief of US European Command.
The new command, which will initially be a subordinate organization to EUCOM, is to be a separate, unified command by Sept. 30, 2008. It will encompass nations previously under the purview of three other regional commands. US Pacific Command has responsibility for Madagascar, the Seychelles, and other parts of Africa bordering the Indian Ocean. US Central Command has overseas dealings with areas in the Horn of Africa, west to Egypt, and south to Kenya, while EUCOM has responsibility for the rest of the nations in Africa. With the exception of Egypt, which will remain with CENTCOM, the new command consolidates US military relations with African nations under a single organization.
The new command is a recognition of Africa’s rising importance economically and strategically. In addition to its growing role as an oil supplier, Africa is seeing greater inroads made by terrorists seeking new bases of operations.
Ward has previously served in several staff positions, as commander of the Stabilization Force in Operation Joint Forge, and as commander of the 25th Infantry Division. He once served as the director of US military assistance to Egypt.
Ramstein Fraud Claims Probed
Air Force and German law enforcement are investigating allegations of fraud and corruption involving several construction projects at Ramstein Air Base.
According to Stars and Stripes, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations has confiscated computers and documents from US Air Forces in Europe’s installations and mission support office. An OSI spokesperson said that a joint investigation into the projects has been ongoing since February. Once completed, results will be handed over to the proper authorities for further action.
A team of German investigators is scrutinizing top officials in the construction and engineering firms that worked on the base’s $200 million mall and hotel project. Other projects being probed include work on the runway and passenger terminal. Much of the work completed was done poorly or using materials of a lesser grade than was paid for.
The German investigation has been in progress since 2005, when police confiscated documents and investigated 20 suspects, including two US civilian engineers.
Hill Reservists Lose F-16s
The last F-16s from Hill AFB, Utah’s, 419th Fighter Wing left the base June 28, ending the unit’s flying mission. The Reserve wing’s entire fleet is now assigned to other Reserve and Air National Guard units as part of Base Realignment and Closure decisions.
The wing’s pilots and maintainers will now team up with the active duty 388th FW to perform a joint mission—flying Block 40 F-16s. The 388th FW will get additional Block 40 aircraft from Cannon AFB, N.M., increasing its fleet to 85 aircraft.
TSAT Bidding Begins
Industry is considering the Air Force’s final request for proposals for the Transformational Satellite Communications System space segment. The Space and Missile Systems Center launched the bidding process for the $15 billion TSAT program in June.
The TSAT is to provide the next generation of secure strategic communications for a range of government users.
The winner of the contract will design, develop, and field up to five space vehicles and spares, plus ground-based command and control vehicles. The separate TSAT mission operations system contract was awarded in January 2006.
The first TSAT is scheduled for launch in the first quarter of Fiscal 2016.
C-130 Gear To Cut Costs
Modified landing gear will extend the life of C-130 Hercules aircraft and cut the costs of ownership, the Air Force said in June.
Engineers and specialists from Air Mobility Command headquarters, along with technicians from the 463rd Airlift Group at Hill AFB, Utah, spent three days in June working on the modifications and experimenting with the braking systems on C-130 aircraft.
The group came up with a new and improved landing gear system, carbon brakes, and anti-skid adjustments that the Air Force claims will save $250 million over the lifetime of the modifications—scheduled to begin in 2010 with the installation on about 600 C-130s.
The C-130’s old brakes can handle about 200 landings, but the upgrades will allow about 2,000 safe landings, a program official reported. Wheels will have longer life, and there will be fewer brake fires. Gear won’t have to be changed as often as in the past.
Space Pioneers Inducted
Former USAF Chief of Staff retired Gen. Lew Allen Jr. and X-15 pilot retired Maj. Gen. Joe H. Engle have been inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame for 2007, Air Force Space Command announced.
Allen, a West Point graduate, worked on a number of classified space projects in the 1960s, including the Corona reconnaissance satellite program. He later became director of the National Security Agency and was the 10th USAF Chief of Staff. Allen laid the groundwork for the establishment of Space Command, which became Air Force Space Command. After retiring from the Air Force in 1982, Allen became director of the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Engle was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Kansas. In June 1965, he flew the X-15 experimental aircraft to 280,600 feet, becoming the then-youngest person to earn an astronaut rating and one of only a few to qualify for astronaut wings by flying a traditional winged aircraft into space.
Engle was one of the test pilots on the space shuttle program and commanded the second space shuttle mission. He accumulated 224 hours in space and retired as an astronaut in 1986. He is the only person to have flown two different winged space vehicles—the X-15 and the space shuttle.
CV-22s Pass SEAL Tests
The Air Force CV-22 Osprey’s ability to deploy and recover Navy SEAL special operations teams was verified in a series of late June tests in Florala, Ala.
The three-part tests involved dropping a boat out of the back of the aircraft, deploying frogmen from the back of the aircraft, and recovering an injured person and a rescue swimmer using the on-board, high-speed hoist. The tilt-rotor aircraft deployed the boat while flying only 10 feet off the water.
A USAF official said the tests helped alleviate the SEALs’ concerns about operating from the CV-22, which has a different configuration from traditional helicopters.
The knowledge gained from the exercise will be used in developing new training for aircrews.
Pakistan Gets F-16s
The United States delivered two F-16s to the Pakistan Air Force in July, as part of an arms agreement reached in 2006. US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson and Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, head of US Central Command Air Forces, participated in the official handover at an air base in Sargodha.
The fighters will join the PAF’s current inventory of 34 F-16s. Delivery of 24 more F-16s considered excess to USAF requirements is planned for the future. The additional aircraft augment the 18 F-16s purchased by Pakistan in a September 2006 agreement. The aircraft were made available after US objections regarding technology transfer issues were satisfied.
Minuteman Shutdown Begins
Deactivation of 50 Minuteman III ICBMs officially began on June 29, as the 341st Space Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., began dismantling missiles and closing five alert facilities.
Components of the deactivated missiles will be sent to flight-test operations programs. The wing’s remaining three missile squadrons—containing 150 Minuteman IIIs—will continue to operate.
Lockheed Wins $1 Billion SOF Deal
Lockheed Martin received a $1.1 billion Air Force contract in July to provide training and rehearsal support for special operations aircrews.
The Aircrew Training and Rehearsal Support II contract extends the company’s role as the principal mission rehearsal trainer for Air Force Special Operations Command. The original contract was awarded in 1987.
The ATARS II allows SOF aircrews around the world to train together in a distributed, networked virtual environment.
The program covers training for the C-130-based Combat Talon, Spectre, and Combat Shadow, MH-53 Pave Low, MH-60 Pave Hawk, and the CV-22 Osprey. Training locations include Kirtland AFB, N.M.; Hurlburt Field, Fla.; Harrisburg Arpt., Pa.; and Ft. Rucker, Ala.
“Career” E-mail Unveiled
Air Force people will no longer have to get a new e-mail account every time they move to a new base. USAF personnel were notified in July about new “E-Mail for Life” accounts that will be used for the duration of an airman’s service.
Managers for the project said there’s no need to manage the account yet; all e-mails are forwarded to an individual’s current location-based e-mail address. Until the system is completely operational, bases will continue to manage how names, ranks, and units appear in the Air Force’s global address list.
The new e-mail address is the first step in consolidating and cutting costs of the existing 14-plus e-mail and active directory systems into one architecture. Air Mobility Command is the first to be consolidated under the program, to be followed by other Stateside major commands. Overseas commands will be the last to convert.
Taiwan Wants More F-16s
Taiwan has met requirements set out by the US for purchase of additional F-16 fighters, and is now lobbying to get the sale approved.
A top Taiwanese official visited the US in July to press for the sale of 66 F-16C/D fighters to the island nation, noting that its legislature has funded the aircraft in two successive budgets, a precondition set by the US in 2006.
The China Times reported that Huo Shou-yeh, the chief of the general staff, led a small delegation to the US to lobby for the transfer, toward boosting Taiwan’s air defense capabilities.
Arms sales to Taiwan present a thorny issue for the Bush Administration. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and has made threats of dark consequences if the US moves to arm the island. However, the US has pledged to defend Taiwan if needed.
If the US approves the deal, it will be the largest arms sale to Taiwan since 1992.
|Russia Gives Delayed “Nyet” to CFE Treaty
Russia suspended its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty in July, as a consequence of tensions over US efforts to deploy missile defenses in Eastern Europe. The treaty governs numbers of aircraft, armored vehicles, and troops that NATO and Russia can deploy.
President Vladimir V. Putin announced that Russia would withdraw from the treaty in December if its concerns about the missile system and NATO expansion are not addressed.
The Kremlin issued a statement arguing that NATO expansion into Eastern Europe has enhanced the alliance’s military strength, which violates the terms of the 1990 treaty. Russia also argued that NATO states Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia did not sign the treaty and still have NATO weaponry deployed within their boundaries.
Russia also claimed that NATO had committed to refrain from establishing bases in new member states, and noted that the US is building facilities in Romania and Bulgaria. NATO says these are training areas.
According to a statement released by its Foreign Ministry, Russia will halt inspections allowed under the agreement and reserves the right to deploy heavy weapons along its western and southern borders, but only in response to a potential NATO redeployment.
|SAIC Data Breach Exposes Military Data
Private medical information on an estimated 860,000 persons in 580,000 servicemember households may have been exposed to identity theft after a May security breach, the SAIC company said in July. The company was processing the data under nine separate Tricare contracts. SAIC provides technical services for a variety of government agencies.
SAIC is offering all affected persons a free year-long membership in an identity theft restoration service. Those affected are being contacted by mail.
The company said its own investigations have not discovered any illegal exploitation of the information, but in such cases, it is usually more than a year before identity data is illegally used, according to a June report from the Government Accountability Office.
Tricare assessed the risk of exploitation of the data as “low.”
The security lapse occurred when company employees in Shalimar, Fla., processed data on an unsecured server. The data included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and some health information. The data processors also may have transmitted some of the information in an unencrypted form over the Internet, which the company said was a violation of its policy. The unnamed employees have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
The breach was picked up during a routine sweep for suspect network traffic led by the Joint Task Force Global Network Operations Center. It alerted the Air Force Surgeon General’s office that medical data was being transmitted through an unprotected network, the Washington Post reported.
Tricare officials worked with SAIC to match information to individuals for notification letters.
|Air Force Toughens ILO Task Screening
The Air Force is scrutinizing the “in lieu of” requests for airmen made by ground forces, to ensure that the people being asked for are truly needed, according to Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady.
Brady, who is head of USAF’s manpower and personnel shop, said his staff is working to ensure that those airmen who go overseas to perform ground-assignment tasks in lieu of soldiers or Marine Corps personnel are performing meaningful functions. He said that in some cases, the true need has dried up, but that bureaucratic inertia keeps the requirement on the books.
He also said he wants to ensure that the airmen are given training appropriate “to the task they’re being asked to perform,” adding that “we don’t want them doing things that put them or the mission at risk.”
However, Brady noted that sometimes the training received is overkill. He noted that some airmen who are tapped to perform an ILO task for a second or third time go through Army-sponsored training for each deployment—sometimes less than a year from the original deployment. The training time keeps them away from their regular duties longer.
There’s no deadline attached to the ILO evaluation, but Brady said he’s under pressure to deal with the situation. The number of airmen tasked for ILO duties has risen each year for several years, and is now over 6,000 at any given time.
|NATO Readies Largest-Ever AWACS Upgrade
NATO’s E-3 AWACS fleet is about to become the most advanced in the world, as the first aircraft modified under the 10-year, $1.6 billion NATO Midterm (NMT) upgrade go operational, probably this month.
The upgrade includes a comprehensive renewal of sensors, navigation, and communication equipment, and is the largest in the program’s history.
By July, NATO had received seven aircraft in the new configuration. They are so different from the legacy version that two separate training regimes and two sets of crews are required for the two versions of the aircraft. By the end of next year, all NATO AWACS aircrews will have converted to the new standard.
The E-3A fleet at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen comprises 17 aircraft, crewed by personnel from 15 member countries. The new type will be declared operational once five aircraft and nine crews are certified ready for combat, reported USAF Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Schmidt, NATO E-3A component commander.
Having the new E-3As ready for this month is important, as the NATO Response Force requires the support of five AWACS aircraft, and a good chunk of the fleet is down for the modifications.
Delivery didn’t pose undue headaches, however. Officials at Geilenkirchen said the new aircraft were actually arriving faster than crews could be trained to operate them.
Two major events were scheduled to verify and demonstrate the aircraft’s new capabilities. One was an August demonstration in Norway, where NATO maintains an AWACS forward operating location. The other is this month’s Bold Quest exercise at Nellis AFB, Nev., which will allow the new system to flex its muscles in a realistic scenario.
As the NMT is fielded, a separate $200 million upgrade will begin this fall to add equipment that will protect the aircraft from heat-seeking, man-portable anti-aircraft missiles. The large aircraft infrared countermeasures, or LAIRCM, system is deemed necessary because the aircraft are vulnerable to man-portable missiles during takeoff and landing.
Longer term, a “glass cockpit” upgrade and new engines, possibly like those on Britain’s AWACS variant, the E-3D, are being considered. Without replacement, the TF33 engines that power the NATO fleet are expected to be useful until about 2035.
NATO’s E-3 concept of operations requires “unrestricted access” to worldwide airspace, governed by civil authorities. If old equipment such as engines, avionics, or safety systems make the E-3s noncompliant with airspace access rules, replacement of those systems might go to the front of the line for replacement.
No mere alliance showpiece, NATO AWACS aircraft and crews have deployed repeatedly for real-world action. They supported Operation Allied Force in the Balkans in 1999. They deployed to manage Operation Eagle Assist airspace defense of the US after the 9/11 terror attacks, and to Turkey in 2003 to guard against possible attack in the early stages of the Iraq war. Air defense over high profile events—such as diplomatic summit meetings—is a common mission.
—by Adam J. Hebert in Germany
|Stealthy JASSM Goes on Life Support
The Air Force won’t decide until next spring whether to pull the plug on the troubled Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, and has begun an aggressive get-well plan along with maker Lockheed Martin.
Test failures had caused JASSM to breach Nunn-McCurdy law requirements, which demand that if a program breaks certain cost limits, the Pentagon must either certify the system is critical to national defense or cancel it.
In July, Kenneth J. Krieg—at the time the Pentagon acquisition, technology, and logistics chief—approved a get-well plan for the system, but withheld certification pending the results.
Air Force officials said the service will roughly split the cost of correcting problems with Lockheed Martin. That’s because even with four recent test failures, the company is still meeting minimum test reliability criteria under the contract.
The decision to cooperate on the program fix represents a shift for USAF. Service acquisition executive Sue C. Payton had previously threatened to cancel the JASSM and consider buying an alternative weapon.
The stealthy JASSM, of which the Air Force plans to buy about 5,000 units, has suffered test problems, and service officials said they suspect quality of parts and assembly, rather than design, is at fault.
|The War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By Aug. 8, a total of 3,672 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 3,526 troops and seven Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,024 were killed in action with the enemy while 648 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 27,279 troops wounded in action during OIF. This number includes 15,012 who returned to duty within 72 hours and 12,267 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Airmen Lead Civilian Evacuation to Turkey
Airmen from the 506th Air Expeditionary Group at Kirkuk AB, Iraq, helped lead a multinational effort to aid and airlift 21 injured Iraqi civilians for treatment in Turkey July 8.
The civilians, ethnic Iraqi Turkmen, were victims of a July 7 market bombing in Tuz Khurmato, Iraq, which reportedly killed about 150 people.
The injured arrived on base via Iraqi ambulance and were transferred to Air Force ambulances for transport to the flight line. Airmen from the group aided medics and members of the Turkish flight in moving the patients onto waiting airplanes.
A pair of Turkish Casa-235 medical aircraft took the injured, which included three children and some family members, to a hospital in Ankara for further treatment. It took just one hour from the time the first patient was cleared through security until the aircraft were airborne.
B-1B Carries Out Strike in Northeast Baghdad
Helicopters and an Air Force B-1B Lancer performed an airstrike on an insurgent safe house in northeastern Baghdad on July 21, killing six militants and destroying munitions inside.
The strikes in the area known as Husseiniyah began after ground troops came under small-arms fire from a nearby building at night. Helicopters arrived and fired several missiles at the structure, prompting three gunmen to flee into an adjoining building.
The B-1B then dropped multiple GBU-38 JDAMs on the safe house, setting off at least seven secondary explosions that were believed to be explosives and ammunition stored inside, according to Multinational Force-Iraq officials. Iraqi police inspected the site later and reported six militants killed and five wounded in the strike.
Balad F-16s Attack Training Camp
Air Force F-16s with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad AB, Iraq, destroyed an al Qaeda training camp southwest of Baghdad on July 21, dropping GBU-38s and GBU-12s on a complex in the Karbala area.
Air Force joint terminal attack controllers cleared four F-16s to drop ordnance on a complex of buildings where enemy fighters had established safe houses and training areas.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By Aug. 4, a total of 419 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 418 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of these deaths, 238 were killed in action with the enemy while 181 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 1,472 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 576 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 896 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Predator Buildup Accelerates
In July, the Air Force pledged to equip US Central Command a year ahead of schedule with 21 MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle “orbits.”
The Air Force had originally planned to have 21 orbits—which is actually three aircraft performing round-the-clock surveillance—by December 2009.
At the request of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley, officials have coordinated deployment actions with the Joint Staff and CENTCOM to add three additional Predator UAV combat air patrols. The move would sharply enhance full-motion video and rapid strike capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. In July, there were 12 Predator CAPs in CENTCOM’s area of responsibility.
The Predators are flown by both active duty and Air National Guard personnel at bases in Nevada, California, and North Dakota.
The Air Force has deployed every Predator it can spare and is looking to sustain the combat capability as new aircraft, ground stations, and aircrews become available. To fully man the new levels, the Air Force will maintain 160 Predator crews, up from 120 last year.
By Marc V. Shanz , Associate Editor
- SSgt. Robert Payne was named the 2007 Pitsenbarger Award recipient in July. Payne, who is a recruiter, was recognized for saving the life of a civilian in a rural Pennsylvania car accident. While driving to an appointment on Aug. 11, 2006, Payne came upon a two-car crash. One of the vehicles exploded soon after he arrived. Despite intense heat and smoke, Payne rescued an unconscious man from the burning car. He applied first aid and called 911 to request a life-flight helicopter pickup. The Pitsenbarger Award is presented annually by the Air Force Sergeants Association and recognizes enlisted Air Force members who perform heroic acts—on or off duty—that result in saving a life or preventing serious injury.
- The Pentagon has announced a competition for a new “wearable” electric power system as a way to cut the weight of batteries that troops must carry to power their equipment. Prizes of $1 million for first place, $500,000 for second, and $250,000 for third place are being offered. The competition will take place in the fall of 2008. It will gather and test the best ideas toward developing a system that can provide 96 hours of power at less than half the current battery weight toted by those in the field. All components—including generator, electrical storage, control electronics, connectors and fuel must weigh 8.8 pounds or less. Details are posted on the Defense Research and Engineering Wearable Power Prize Web site, www.dod.mil/ddre/prize.
- New Air Force evaluation forms have been approved. The new, shorter form is meant to reduce evaluator workload, ensure fairness, and present an accurate portrayal of officer and enlisted performance. New sections have been added for physical fitness documentation, and long “narrative” sections have been scaled back sharply. Implementation dates for the new forms began in August and will wrap up in April 2008.
- A combat search and rescue exercise was conducted at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., in July. Exercise Angel Thunder tested a variety of CSAR mission planning and execution activities. Helicopters and C-130s participated in the event. A simulated deployed location, called “Desert Lightning City,” was the control center, but flight operations and training scenarios with pararescuemen, helicopter and transport crews, and other battlefield airmen took place at sites from the Barry M. Goldwater Range to Playas, N.M. The 563rd Rescue Group, 943rd Rescue Group, 355th Operations Group, and 55th Electronic Combat Group participated.
- People in a remote section of Senegal received medical treatment from USAF Reserve and other service medics in a US European Command humanitarian mission. Exercise Shared Accord ran from June 16 to 28 and was geared to improve relations with Senegal. Fourteen Air Force Reserve medics participated. In addition to first aid and preventive care, the team offered general medicine, optometry, and dentistry services. The medical airmen helped provide care to more than 4,400 Senegalese.
- An F-16 fighter crashed at Balad AB, Iraq, on July 15, but the pilot escaped without injury. The aircraft, which was assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, crashed during takeoff. The pilot ejected safely and was transported to the Air Force Theater Hospital for further evaluation. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
- A device that will help engineers design defenses against man-portable missiles was tested successfully at Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tenn., in June. The device, called a Towed Airborne Plume Simulator, is to be dragged behind a test aircraft and will simulate the visual and infrared signature of a pursuing missile. The device will help engineers test sensors and countermeasures that need to be able to spot, track, and foil incoming missiles with a high degree of realism.
- The Nebraska Air National Guard has established two additional units at Offutt AFB, Neb. The Headquarters 170th Group and 238th Combat Training Squadron were activated in July to support the active duty 55th Wing at the base. The 55th flies RC-135 aircraft and conducts intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance missions. The new units join Offutt’s 170th Operations Support Squadron (ANG), which was created in 2005.
- Feedback from deployed airmen is being used to improve the new Airman Battle Uniform and physical training outfits, according to Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady, the Air Force’s head of manpower and personnel. On a tour of forward areas, Brady gathered comments from those wearing the new uniforms. A common request was for more pocket space on the PT uniforms, he said. The reverse was true of the ABU. Wearers reported that its abundance of extra, interior pockets make the garment heavy, thick, and uncomfortable when worn in 115 degree heat.
- New construction is under way at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, as the base’s C-17s arrive—including a new corrosion control hangar that will be used to paint and wash aircraft and a new maintenance building. The Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment will complete a 63,945-square-foot corrosion control hangar by this December and install a 271-foot tow lane to provide access from the hangar to the airfield. The new facilities are part of a “C-17 campus” at Hickam that will eventually include flight simulators, a squadron operations building, and a consolidated maintenance complex.
- The 30th anniversary of the E-3 Sentry, commonly known as AWACS, was marked at Tinker AFB, Okla., in late June and early July. The 552nd Air Control Wing hosted senior Air Force leaders, as well as past and present commanders of the unit. The wing hosted tours and open houses and offered briefings about future upgrades planned for the E-3 fleet. There was also a memorial ceremony for airmen lost in the only crash of an American E-3 in the type’s three decades of service. The first E-3 arrived at Tinker on March 23, 1977.
- As a consequence of budget cuts and a reduction in force, 96 civilian employees at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, got pink slips in June. Of those, 33 received separation notices while the rest received reassignments or changes to a lower grade. The changes all take effect Oct. 1. Air Force Materiel Command officials said the command is committed to reducing the impact of the RIF actions to the extent possible. It noted that of the 279 positions identified to be eliminated, only 33 notices of separation were sent out.
- The Airborne Laser took a step forward in June by making a test shot of its systems with a low-power laser. The entire sequence of events needed to make a powered laser shot was exercised for the first time. A low-power laser stood in for the ABL’s main weapon, a Chemical-Oxygen-Iodine Laser, or COIL, but otherwise the system functioned just as it would in a real-world anti-missile shot. In subsequent tests in July, the ABL was to conduct a series of engagements using its tracking illuminator laser, its atmospheric compensator laser, and the simulated high-energy laser.
- Typhoon Man-Yi hit Kadena AB, Japan, in July, lashing the base for more than a day with winds of up to 105 miles an hour. Large aircraft such as the KC-135, RC-135, MC-130, P-3, and E-3 were evacuated to Guam for the duration of the storm. The base entered high typhoon condition on July 12. The typhoon hit shortly after midnight on July 13, creating many power and water outages and scattering trees and branches. About 40 percent of the base lost power at some point during the storm. Base civil engineers reported some damage to buildings, but no major repairs were needed.
- Airmen gathered at Kunsan AB, South Korea, to practice assembling bombs in the annual Combat Ammunition Production Exercise, from July 10 through 13. The 24-hour-operations scenario helps determine if munitions planning is adequate to support combat plans. More than 200 airmen from a variety of bases came to Kunsan to practice and implement the basics of munitions support to air combat operations, which include munitions breakout, production, and delivery.
- A combined air operations center exercise called Blue Flag 07-02 ran at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., in June. More than 900 US and coalition personnel participated in the exercise, designed to train a CAOC staff to run a war. Participants developed air tasking orders to protect coalition bases and expel enemy forces from the fictitious nation of “Califon.” Representatives from each branch of the armed forces, along with coalition participants and support staff, deployed to Davis-Monthan to augment the Air Forces Southern CAOC staff. Coalition participants included Great Britain, Canada, and Australia.
- More than 1,800 homes will be built or renovated at Holloman AFB, N.M., and Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. The company overseeing the construction—Actus Lend Lease—said the project will take about seven years to complete. Holloman is slated to have at least 380 new houses built and 420 renovated, while at Davis-Monthan at least 500 new homes will be built and about 159 will be renovated. The company expects that airmen will be able to occupy the new houses beginning in October 2008.