B-52 Squadron Activated
The Air Force on Sept. 3 activated the 69th Bomb Squadron at Minot AFB, N.D., its newest operational B-52H unit that will be part of Minot’s 5th Bomb Wing that already has the 23rd BS.
Initially, the new squadron will have four B-52s, with more aircraft arriving incrementally until the unit is at full strength in October 2010 with 11 primary aircraft and two backups, said spokeswoman Laurie Arellano.
The 69th BS is the Air Force’s fourth combat-coded B-52 squadron. (The 2nd BW at Barksdale AFB, La., has the 20th BS and 96th BS.) The Air Force announced in 2008 the plan to create the new unit in order to have enough B-52s to support combatant commanders with conventional capability while simultaneously dedicating aircraft to the nuclear mission.
COIN Aircraft Sought
The Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, issued requests for information to industry in late July seeking input on a fixed-wing Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) aircraft and a separate fixed-wing Light Mobility Aircraft (LiMA). The aircraft are sought for fielding early next decade in irregular warfare roles such as counterinsurgency.
The Air Force would like 100 LAAR platforms, with fielding beginning in Fiscal 2012 and approximately 60 LiMA airframes starting in Fiscal 2011. It wants LAAR to be able to operate from dirt fields at forward operating locations where the pilots will find jet fuel and not much else, and “capable of employing a variety of air-to-ground weapons and munitions.”
LiMA would have to accommodate at least six passengers plus aircrew and be able to operate on unimproved austere landing sites when carrying a minimum of 1,800 pounds of passengers and cargo. Its cargo door should allow for loading and unloading of patients’ litters.
Buzzing, Not Bombing
Lt. Gen. Gilmary M. Hostage III, the new Air Forces Central commander, said Aug. 13 that the new military approach being adopted in Afghanistan may mean that coalition strike aircraft end up buzzing enemy forces more often than bombing them.
Speaking to reporters at Shaw AFB, S.C., before heading out to Southwest Asia to take over the air campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, Hostage said, in some cases, it may be better to fly over enemy forces with noisy aircraft to scare them into dispersing. But if that doesn’t work, the aircraft could then come back and attack.
Flying ABL Fires HE Laser
Boeing’s industry team and the Missile Defense Agency successfully fired the Airborne Laser’s megawatt-class laser aboard the ABL aircraft in flight for the first time during an Aug. 18 test over the southern California desert.
For this test of the ABL, a modified Boeing 747-400F aircraft designed to zap boosting missiles out of the sky, the laser’s beam was fired into an onboard calorimeter and not through the aircraft’s beam control system and nose turret.
Still, the company said the test was an important incremental step in moving the ABL closer to its shootdown demonstration against an actual ballistic missile before the end of the year. On Aug. 10, the ABL completed its first in-flight test against an instrumented ballistic missile target, using a surrogate high-energy (HE) kill laser aboard the aircraft to strike the missile.
F-22 Crash Laid to Human Error
Lockheed Martin test pilot David P. Cooley’s inability to recover his test F-22 Raptor from a high-G maneuver due to his near loss of consciousness and lack of situational awareness ultimately led to the aircraft crashing and his death during a flight test on March 25 at Edwards AFB, Calif., the Air Force announced this summer.
According to Air Force Materiel Command’s accident investigation report, Cooley, 49, ejected from the aircraft, after his recovery attempt failed, but sustained fatal, blunt force trauma due to the speed of the aircraft and windblast. The F-22 was destroyed upon impact, resulting in $155 million in total property and equipment damage, including $140 million for the aircraft.
The F-22, which was assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards, was functioning normally and “there were no design or airworthiness issues that would impact the safe operation of the F-22 fleet,” AFMC stated.
SBIRS Payload Gets Ops OK
US Strategic Command has certified the second on-orbit Space Based Infrared System sensor payload, Highly Elliptical Orbit II (HEO-2), and its associated ground systems for operations, thereby adding significant new capability to the US missile-warning network, prime contractor Lockheed Martin announced Aug. 26.
“The HEO system is delivering revolutionary new surveillance capabilities to combatant commanders,” said Col. Roger W. Teague, commander of the Air Force’s SBIRS Wing at Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, in Lockheed’s release.
STRATCOM’s formal certification means that HEO-2 has been demonstrated to provide “timely, accurate, and unambiguous warning data,” the company said. HEO-2 joins HEO-1, the first on-orbit SBIRS payload, which STRATCOM cleared for operations last December.
New GPS Satellite Now Operational
The Air Force on Aug. 17 successfully placed the last of its eight modernized Global Positioning System IIR satellites into orbit. A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket fired from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., carried this satellite, designated GPS IIR-21(M), into space.
The Lockheed Martin-built satellite features increased signal power, two new military signals, a second civil signal, and enhanced encryption and anti-jamming capabilities. It was declared ready for operations on Aug. 27.
Regional Contract Centers Nixed
In a joint memo issued in July, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz announced that the Air Force will not proceed with the 2007 plan to create five regional installation contracting centers.
Instead, they said the service will stand up a new strategic sourcing organization under Air Force Materiel Command to focus on servicewide contracting needs. The new organization could begin operations by the end of the year. Meanwhile, major commands and their base contracting units will handle their unique requirements.
Donley and Schwartz said the new approach is “the most expeditious” for the Air Force “to mitigate the risks of operating within the constraints of reduced installation budgets.” They said “lessons learned from recent Air Force transformations” and key stakeholder concerns drove the decision to scrap the plan for the regional centers.
T-37 Tweet Retired
The Air Force formally retired the T-37 Tweet twin-engine trainer aircraft from service during a ceremony on July 31 at Sheppard AFB, Tex. As part of the ceremony, four of Sheppard’s remaining T-37s took off from the base one last time on a flight to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., for placement in storage.
The Tweet had served for more than 50 years in undergraduate pilot training roles, providing initial jet aircraft training for more than 78,000 Air Force and allied pilots.
Sheppard’s 80th Flying Training Wing, the last unit to operate the T-37, conducted its final T-37 training flight in June. The T-6 Texan II replaces the Tweet. The Air Force last year began using the T-6 in place of the Tweet for specialized undergraduate pilot training.
C-5 Upgrade Enters Production
Lockheed Martin announced Aug. 19 that the first of the Air Force’s C-5 transports slated to receive new engines and reliability improvements had been inducted into the company’s modification line in Marietta, Ga. This aircraft is a C-5B model from Dover AFB, Del.
All told, the Air Force plans to upgrade 52 of its 111 C-5s (one C-5A, 49 C-5Bs, and two C-5Cs) by 2016 under the Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program. Already the one C-5A and two C-5Bs were fitted with these improvements for use in testing.
The RERP changes, coupled with new digital cockpits installed under the separate Avionics Modernization Program, will improve the reliability of these 52 aircraft and allow them to climb higher and faster and carry more cargo over greater distances. Lockheed Martin said Aug. 25 that it had already finished installing the new avionics on all of the C-5Bs.
F-15 Certified for Synfuel
The Air Force’s F-15 fleet (F-15C/D and F-15E) has been cleared to run on the synthetic fuel blend that the service wants all of its aircraft able to operate on unconstrained in 2011. The certification came on June 16, but did not come to public light until August when Air Force Magazine queried the service.
The F-15 joins the B-1B, B-52H, and C-17 as the platforms now approved to use the fuel blend, which comprises 50 percent JP-8 jet fuel and 50 percent synthetic paraffinic kerosene. SPK is currently derived from natural gas, but it can also be made from the abundant supply of domestic coal. This fuel blend is seen as one means to bolster US energy independence.
F-15 synfuel flight testing began in August 2008. The Air Force says it remains on track to certify all of its aircraft types by early 2011. Already the C-5, C-130, F-22, KC-135, and T-38 have flown with SPK in tests.
Tennessee ANG Helps Nigeria
Seventeenth Air Force (Air Forces Africa), the air component of US Africa Command, staged its biggest military-to-military exchange of 2009 to date in mid-August when it sent 12 Tennessee Air National Guard aircraft maintainers to Nigeria for two weeks to show Nigerian Air Force mechanics how to repair one of their C-130 Hercules transports.
The Air Guardsmen from the 118th Airlift Wing at Nashville all volunteered for this mission.
The Nigerian airmen learned how to make engine and propeller changes that would make their C-130s airworthy for a trip to a European aircraft repair depot for more extensive repairs. Nigeria has eight C-130s, but only one was in service.
USAF Wants To Speed MOP
The Air Force asked Congress for permission in mid-July to reprogram some $70 million in Fiscal 2009 funds toward acceleration of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator program so that the first of these 30,000-pound bunker busters would be available for use next year, several years ahead of the previous schedule.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters Aug. 3 that the goal is to have the MOP available for use, if called upon, by July 2010. Air Force officials cited as justification for the acceleration the “urgent operational need” expressed by combatant commanders for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in “high-threat environments.”
Boeing has been developing the munition under Defense Threat Reduction Agency-USAF sponsorship. MOP has already been tested on the B-52H bomber and the Air Force intends to integrate it on the B-2A stealth bomber. On Aug. 18, the Air Force awarded Boeing a $12.5 million contract for three MOPs to be used in additional flight tests on the B-52.
Kaiserslautern Phase II Ready
US Air Forces in Europe officials at Ramstein AB, Germany, opened Phase II of the new Kaiserslautern Military Community Center on Aug. 15. Phase II includes the complex’s food court, four-plex movie theater, credit unions, and dozens of permanent and roving concessionaires.
In July, Phase I opened with the Ramstein Inn’s Visitor’s Quarters, a 350-room hotel; Romano’s Macaroni Grill; Sports Lounge; and other concessions.
The third and final phase of the 844,000-square-foot complex, whose opening was pending as of early September, will include the Army and Air Force Exchange Service base exchange, which will be “the largest AAFES facility in the world,” according to Stephanie Burns, KMCC AAFES manager.
Tinker Depot Annex Opens
Air Force officials on Aug. 17 celebrated the opening of Bldg. 9001 at Tinker AFB, Okla. The building is one of six industrial facilities on the new Tinker Aerospace Complex (TAC), a 407-acre former General Motors plant that the Air Force is leasing to support the depot work done at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center.
“This will be a magnificent addition to the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center,” said Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, Air Force Materiel Command boss, at the opening ceremony.
Bldg. 9001 alone has 2.5 million square feet of industrial floor space, about one-quarter of which is expected to be occupied by year’s end. Already the ALC’s TF33 engine maintenance work has relocated there.
C-27J Transition Under Way
The Air Force and Army are still working through the Office of the Secretary of Defense-directed mandate of transitioning the C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft program from a combined effort to an Air Force-only initiative, Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, Air National Guard director, told defense reporters July 29 in Washington, D.C.
Despite the standing JCA requirement for 78 airframes, the Pentagon’s current plans call for procuring only 38, but keeping 16 airplanes in theater at all times. This will require at least doubling the number of aircrews per aircraft from two to four, or perhaps five, and increasing the maintenance requirements since each aircraft will fly more hours, he said.
Each of the six original ANG beddown locations is scheduled to get four C-27Js, said Wyatt. ANG is still determining the sites for the remaining 14 aircraft in concert with the Army and state adjutants general, he said.
Vietnam War MIA Buried
The remains of CMSgt. John Quincy Adam of Bethel, Kan., whose C-130 went down May 22, 1968 on a mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam, were buried in his hometown of Kansas City, Kan., on July 27.
Adam’s remains were positively identified in March, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.
He was an airman first class at the time of the crash. The entire aircrew of the C-130, which had call sign Blind Bat 01, had been listed as missing in action since 1968.
Academy Graduates UAV/ISR Class
Members of the first class of the Air Force Academy’s unmanned aircraft system and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance education program received their UAS wings Aug. 11 during a ceremony at the institution in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The class included 25 cadets overall. The instruction included classroom time and flight training on two Viking 300 unmanned aerial vehicles at Camp Red Devil at Ft. Carson, Colo.
The program, expected to grow to include about 300 cadets, was integrated into the school’s curriculum because UAVs are “a priority” for the Air Force and their value is “evidenced on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Lt. Gen. Michael C. Gould, academy superintendent. “So it is only fitting that our cadets have a keen understanding” of them, he said.
US and Colombia Sign Accord
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez announced Aug. 18 in Washington, D.C., that the two nations had reached a provisional agreement that would allow the US access to seven Colombian military bases, including air force installations at Apiay, Malambo, and Palanquero.
With the loss earlier this year of the use of Eloy Alfaro Air Base in Manta, Ecuador, the US had been looking for access rights to facilities in a Latin America partner nation from which to mount counternarcotics and counterterrorist surveillance activities in the region. The US military had launched unarmed counternarcotics surveillance flights of the eastern Pacific from Eloy Alfaro since 1999, but Ecuador decided not to renew the 10-year US lease to the base.
Clinton said the agreement with Colombia does not signal or authorize an increase in the US military presence in Colombia. The seven facilities will remain under Colombian control.
|Petraeus’ Air Force “Joke” Bombs With Airmen
Speaking at the Marine Corps Association Foundation dinner July 30 in Arlington, Va., Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of US Central Command, made joking comments about the Air Force that, on the surface, belittled the daily contributions of airmen to the joint fight.
In his remarks praising the tough nature of marines, Petraeus recalled “an illustrative story” describing a marine trudging happily along in a downpour, laden with gear, while “30,000 feet above … an Air Force pilot flips aside his ponytail” as he flies over.
Petraeus continued the narrative, “‘Boy,’ he radios his wingman, ‘It must be tough down there.’”
Regardless of the intent, many Air Force members, past and present, perceived Petraeus’ comments as disparaging.
Petraeus’ handlers at CENTCOM—realizing the effect—excised that part of his remarks from the version of his speech posted on the CENTCOM Web site.
In all fairness, Petraeus did offer joint praise early in his remarks, saying, “The best examples of true importance are to be found in our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coastguardsmen deployed in harm’s way.”
And he later said, when queried, that he had apologized to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz for the “joke.”
“I did apologize to the CSAF,” Petraeus said, “right after it was clear that what was intended in jest was seen by some, understandably, as disparaging.
“I’ve spent more than six of the last eight years in joint operations with all services, and I think most folks who have worked around me will regard me as a serious team builder,” he explained.
|Supplemental Eglin F-35 Basing Study Discussed
The Air Force announced Aug. 24 that it is now working on the supplemental environmental impact statement that will address the unexpectedly controversial beddown of 59 F-35 fighters by 2014 at Eglin AFB, Fla.
As part of this process, the service has expanded the potential beddown locations from Eglin proper to Duke Field and Choctaw Field, area airfields within the broader Eglin reservation. Each of these alternatives has a bevy of suboptions, including constructing new runways, moving runways, and using Eglin’s main runway in combination with Duke and Choctaw.
Although the Air Force said it will consider “the consequences and potential mitigations” arising from increasing that number by up to another 48 aircraft to 107, it said the SEIS will not be used as a decision tool for placing those additional aircraft at Eglin.
That will come later, if at all, since USAF said it believes that establishing 59 F-35s at Eglin will satisfy requirements levied by BRAC 2005 to use Eglin as the F-35 initial joint training schoolhouse.
Even with only 59 aircraft, the Eglin basing plan still faces some stiff local resistance from the city of Valparaiso, Fla., whose elected officials fear the noise impact of the stealth fighters on the health of their citizens and the economic vitality of their town.
|Air Force Activates Global Strike Command
The Air Force leadership on Aug. 7 activated the service’s new nuclear-centric major command, Air Force Global Strike Command, during a ceremony at Barksdale AFB, La.
Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, who had been Air Force assistant vice chief of staff since August 2007, took command of the new organization. The work of the provisional Global Strike Command, which began operations in January at Bolling AFB, D.C., prepared for the standup.
“We expect Global Strike Command to carry forward a renewed commitment to the highest standards of professionalism, excellence, and nuclear expertise to guide the new generation of airmen overseeing our nation’s most critical military mission,” said Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley at the activation ceremony.
Global Strike Command will bring the Air Force’s Minuteman III ICBMs and nuclear-capable B-2A and B-52H bomber forces under a single umbrella and provide a single commander to oversee the organize, equip, and train functions associated with these assets. Klotz, as commander, will also be a leading advocate for nuclear matters across the service.
AFGSC will also oversee conventional global strike missions when called upon.
The standup of Global Strike Command is just one of the many Air Force activities to reinvigorate its nuclear enterprise and re-establish exemplary day-to-day stewardship.
“In the business of nuclear weapons, there is no room for error. And simply stated, this is a fundamentally true conviction. Warriors of the storied Strategic Air Command lived by it. … And now, the Air Force is reclaiming it,” said Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz at the ceremony.
Klotz did not immediately assume authority over the ICBMs and bombers. The Minuteman missiles are scheduled to transfer over from Air Force Space Command to AFGSC oversight in December, followed by the bomber force from Air Combat Command next February.
|New Cyber Organization Begins Operations
The Air Force on Aug. 18 activated 24th Air Force, the new numbered air force at Lackland AFB, Tex., that will oversee the service’s cyber operations.
The new organization, led by Maj. Gen. Richard E. Webber, is part of Air Force Space Command. It will provide combat-ready forces trained and equipped to conduct sustained cyber operations, fully integrated within air and space operations.
Also on Aug. 18 at Lackland, Webber presided over the redesignation of the Air Force Information Operations Center as the 688th Information Operations Wing and the realignment of the 67th Network Warfare Wing under 24th Air Force.
Lackland was chosen in May as the preferred location of 24th Air Force headquarters. This decision became final on Aug. 12 with completion of the environmental impact analysis required by law.
With the activation, Gen. C. Robert Kehler, AFSPC commander, said “a great deal of work” remained to integrate cyberspace operations with those in air and space. Toward that end, he said AFSPC had “an extensive blueprint” in place outlining the first 100 days for 24th Air Force.
Subsequent to the activation, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz penned a joint Letter to Airmen stating, “Significant progress” would only come through changing “the way we think about the cyberspace domain” with an accompanying “change [in] our culture.”
“Every airman must become a cyber defender,” they said.
|The War on Terrorism
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By Sept. 16, a total of 827 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 826 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of these deaths, 584 were killed in action with the enemy while 243 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 3,896 troops wounded in action during Operation Enduring Freedom. This number includes 1,506 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 2,390 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Another Air-drop Record
The Air Force airdropped a record 3.3 million pounds of supplies into Afghanistan in July, eclipsing June’s total of 3.2 million pounds as the highest monthly total since US military operations began in Afghanistan in late 2001.
Airmen Drop Artillery to Remote Afghan Base
A team of active duty, Air National Guard, and Reserve airmen operating at Bagram Air Base helped deliver a much-needed M198 howitzer to a remote Army post in eastern Afghanistan Aug. 8. It was the first air-drop mission of its kind since the US troop surge began in the landlocked Asian nation back in February.
This Total Force team loaded the 10-ton pallet assembly with five parachutes containing the 36-foot howitzer onto a Missouri ANG C-130 transport at Bagram for delivery to the Army unit in the volatile Paktika province so that it may fire high-explosive shells at insurgent elements there.
Due to the mountainous terrain of the country, such airlift is critical, said Lt. Col. Dave Koltermann, commander of Bagram’s 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By Sept. 16, a total of 4,347 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 4,334 troops and 13 Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,473 were killed in action with the enemy while 874 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 31,494 troops wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This number includes 17,633 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 13,861 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Airmen Help Certify Iraqi Weapons Loaders
Working with US Air Force advisors and trainers, three Iraqi airmen from Kirkuk Regional Air Base’s Squadron 3 in August became the first certified lead weapons crew for the country’s reconstituted air arm.
The three Iraqis are not only qualified to load weapons but can now train and evaluate their fellow service members, said TSgt. Shawn Mullins, weapons advisor with the 521st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. The 521st is a USAF unit helping Iraq prepare its fleet of AC-208B Caravans for close air support and counterinsurgency missions supporting the Iraqi military.
The USAF trainers spent several months instructing the Iraqis and helping them understand the procedures involved in loading and properly caring for the Caravan’s weapons, including the Hellfire ground-attack missile, its primary munition.
- The 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord AFB, Wash., a C-17 unit that is the nation’s primary nuclear airlift force, received a “satisfactory” rating, the highest possible grade, in a no-notice limited nuclear surety inspection carried out by Air Mobility Command Aug. 17-24.
- US News & World Report in August named the US Air Force Academy the best baccalaureate college in the western region of the US for the third year in a row in its “America’s Best Colleges” 2010 rankings.
- The 798th Munitions Maintenance Group stood up Aug. 18 at Minot AFB, N.D. It will oversee four new munitions units at F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo., Malmstrom AFB, Mont., Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and Minot that will maintain the service’s nuclear weapons.
- The Air Force and Missile Defense Agency in July successfully completed the trial period of the Upgraded Early Warning Radar at Thule AB, Greenland, thereby clearing the system for ballistic missile defense operations after a two-year upgrade.
- Air Force Special Operations Command on July 31 activated the 33rd Special Operations Squadron at Cannon AFB, N.M. The new unit will operate the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle.
- The Air Force’s 31st Munitions Squadron at Camp Darby, Italy, and the 6th/927th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at MacDill AFB, Fla., were among the winners of Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards for 2009 announced Aug. 17.
- The Air Force plans to erect a three-megawatt solar farm on the grounds of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and a one-megawatt solar power plant at Buckley Air Force Base in the state, according to press reports in August.
- Canadian government divers think they may have found the wreckage of a US Army Air Forces PBY-5A Catalina seaplane that went down in rough weather on Nov. 2, 1942 in the St. Lawrence River, the Associated Press reported Aug. 7. A joint salvage effort was planned.