Bush Endorses BRAC Moves
President Bush on Sept. 15 endorsed and sent to Congress the Base Realignment and Closure Commission’s recommendations to close 22 major military bases and realign 33 more.
The commission would shutter four Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve Command facilities. There were nine identified for closure on the Pentagon’s list.
The BRAC panel rejected the Pentagon’s call to close Ellsworth AFB, S.D. It also left open Cannon AFB, N.M., allowing the base to operate until at least 2009 and continue in operation after that if it can acquire a suitable mission.
BRAC legislation permits Bush to either accept or reject the plan that the BRAC panel presented to him. A rejection would have prompted the commission to revise their recommendations, but Bush had signaled that he would not hold up the process. After receiving the commission plan from the President, Congress had 45 days to enact a joint resolution of disapproval or the recommendations would become binding.
In all previous BRAC rounds, Congress had gone along.
The Pentagon’s recommendations called for closing 33 major installations and realigning 29 others, for a total annual savings of $5.4 billion. According to the panel, its proposals would yield $4.2 billion in annual savings.
USAF Gets First CV-22
The first production CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor was delivered to the Air Force at Bell Helicopter’s facility in Amarillo, Tex., the company reported. The CV-22 is the Air Force variant of the V-22. It will be used by Air Force Special Operations Command.
The CV-22 has changes over the standard V-22 used by the Marine Corps, including long-range fuel tanks, upgraded avionics, and electronic warfare systems. The aircraft also boasts a multimode radar that allows it to fly at low altitude in bad weather or at night. The aircraft has a retractable aerial refueling probe and flight engineer crew positions in the cockpit.
The Osprey will replace the MH-53J and some MH-60Gs in USAF service. Initial operational capability is slated to be declared in 2009, after the aircraft completes developmental testing, initial operational test and evaluation, and operational utility evaluation. A team of Bell and Boeing builds the aircraft, which can tilt its engines forward for high-speed flight and tilt them vertically for vertical takeoff and landing.
EADS, Northrop Team Up …
Northrop Grumman announced Sept. 7 that it had teamed with European Aeronautic Defense and Space for the anticipated tanker replacement competition.
The team would offer to the Air Force a version of the European A330 airliner that it has has dubbed the KC-30, which it would equip with a USAF-style refueling boom.
Northrop Grumman would head the new industrial team, which expects its KC-30 to square off against Boeing’s KC-767 to replace hundreds of 40-year-old Boeing-built KC-135s in Air Force service.
Team officials told reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air & Space Conference in Washington, D.C., that US content and labor would account for more than 50 percent of the aircraft’s production. They also noted that Boeing’s KC-767 contains significant foreign content.
… While Congress Remains Wary
Northrop-EADS plans call for the KC-30 to undergo final assembly in Mobile, Ala. The team believes that the tanker program could create at least 1,000 new jobs in Mobile.
EADS officials said the Mobile facility would also support “continuing engineering work” on commercial EADS aircraft, such as the A330, A340, and A350 airliners.
The teaming, however, did not immediately win friends in Congress, where “buy American” sentiment and rules have hung over defense budgets in recent years.
House members suggested barring EADS from receiving US defense contracts due to an unsettled trade dispute with Europe over commercial airplane subsidies.
Northrop Grumman officials said the firm had a powerful incentive to get into the tanker business. Worldwide, the company said, it sees a market of $25 billion to $100 billion in tankers in years immediately ahead.
New Runway Opens at Balad
An Army C-12 was the first aircraft to touch down at Iraq’s improved Balad Air Base, which opened a new runway on Aug. 15.
Balad supports 13,000 flights per month with more than 25 different aircraft, but constant use was beginning to cause its runway to deteriorate. The situation caused great concern that the presence of extensive foreign objects on the runway would hamper the base’s F-16 operations.
The runway was often closed part of the day so airmen could remove the foreign object debris and civil engineers could repair the damaged sections of the runway.
Having a second runway will allow missions at the base to continue without interruption, said officials.
DOD Defends Katrina Response
The Pentagon’s top leader has challenged the notion that American military forces were slow in reacting to the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which struck within three weeks of each other.
During a Sept. 27 press briefing, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld detailed what he declared was an effective response by the US military, saying that troops “went in very rapidly and peaked very fast.” He added, “You don’t tend to put forces into a state without being asked.” Rumsfeld went on, “The federal government relies on the state and local governments to be the first responders under the Constitution and under our current arrangements.”
He suggested that initial problems in New Orleans and Mississippi were the result of the storm’s overwhelming scope, which prevented first responders from acting as quickly as they might otherwise have.
Pilot Error Caused Deadly Crash
An Air Force investigation found that pilot error caused a May 11 HH-60G Pave Hawk crash near Angel Fire, N.M., the Air Force announced on Aug. 29. An Air Force flight engineer died in the crash. (See “Aerospace World: Airman Dies in HH-60 Crash,” July, p. 17.)
According to the report, bad weather and the flight crew’s complacency also contributed to the accident.
The three-man crew was assigned to the 58th Special Operations Wing, Kirtland AFB, N.M. In the instructor-proficiency training flight, Maj. Larry Ouellette, the pilot, turned the helicopter toward the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire so that TSgt. Scott Bobbitt, flight engineer, could see it. Ouellette, however, failed to keep the helicopter at a proper altitude, and he lost control of it.
The aircraft crashed on the memorial’s property. Bobbitt died from injuries suffered after he was ejected from the main cabin. The pilot and copilot, Capt. John De Sir, were treated for minor injuries.
The aircraft was destroyed in the crash and subsequent fire.
Rumsfeld: No Hurricane Penalty
The defense program won’t take drastic funding hits to help offset the costs to the federal government of Hurricane Katrina, said Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.
At a Sept. 20 press conference, Rumsfeld turned aside reports that the Pentagon could be tapped as a bill-payer for the relief and reconstruction operations on the Gulf Coast. The Pentagon chief said DOD had not received any White House orders to cut spending.
Rumsfeld asserted, “No decisions have been made and no guidance has been given.”
As of late September, Congress had already approved $62 billion for storm relief.
Fuel Run-Up Hits USAF Accounts
Even though the Pentagon may not be asked to bear the full financial burden of hurricane relief, the storms of late summer will certainly hit the services squarely in the pocketbook because of fuel prices.
“The Air Force budget is short $800 million due to gas cost,” according to Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz, USAF’s deputy assistant secretary for budget. After Katrina, oil prices soared above $60 per barrel, setting new, inflation-adjusted records.
“For every $10 increase in a barrel of gas, it’s a $600 million increase for the United States Air Force,” Lorenz reported at AFA’s Air & Space Conference. He said the service is asking the Office of Management and Budget to pick up the extra fuel expense, “instead of [the Air Force] having to eat [the cost].”
If that doesn’t happen, a USAF spokeswoman said, the service will “examine options for reallocating funds from lower-priority requirements to our highest priorities to maintain our readiness and warfighter support.”
USAF Officer Dies in Egypt
Air Force 1st Lt. Sarah Small on Sept. 19 died in a motor vehicle accident while supporting Exercise Bright Star in Egypt, the service said. The accident occurred in a desert area west of Alexandria.
Two noncommissioned officers were injured in the incident, according to Air Force officials. They were taken to a local hospital and declared to be in stable condition.
Small, 25, was a public affairs officer assigned to the Air and Space Expeditionary Force Center, Langley AFB, Va. She had been on active duty since 2002.
AMC Awards CRAF Contracts
Air Mobility Command awarded $2.2 billion in contracts on Sept. 13 for the Civil Reserve Air Fleet Program.
CRAF is comprised of air freight and passenger carriers that agree to let their aircraft and crews be “called up” in time of war to transport people and cargo in augmentation of Air Mobility Command’s airlifters. To encourage participation, the Defense Department gives preference to CRAF participants when it contracts for routine cargo and passenger travel.
AMC made the following awards: Alliance Contractor Team, $1.22 billion; Federal Express Team, $864 million; UPS Team, $121 million; Miami Air Team, $42 million; and Continental Airlines, $11 million.
Smaller contracts were given to Falcon Air Express, Grand Air Holdings, Lynden Air Cargo, MN Airlines, and Spirit Airlines in awards valued between $2,000 and $254,000.
DOD has called on CRAF twice during wartime, first for Operation Desert Storm and then for the Global War on Terrorism.
V-22 Effective, Tests Say
The Pentagon’s top testers have rated the V-22 effective and cleared the way for full-rate production to begin.
David W. Duma, acting director of the Pentagon’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation, said in a report sent to Congress Sept. 27 that the V-22 demonstrated “significant mission advantages when compared to the medium-lift helicopters that it will replace.”
Problems that led to several crashes earlier in the program have been resolved, according to the report. In particular, it noted that more than 5,000 hours flown with a redesigned hydraulic system “provide confidence” that the aircraft is “safe to operate.”
The findings cleared the way for full-rate production to begin on a planned 458 aircraft for the Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force. Plans call for production to rise from 16 this year to 48 per year by 2012.
B-52 Jammer Team Formed
Boeing and BAE Systems have teamed to pursue the Air Force’s proposed B-52 Standoff Jammer (SOJ) program.
The B-52 SOJ, considered the centerpiece of USAF’s future electronic attack portfolio, would work in concert with the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System, decoys, and the Navy’s EA-6B and EA-18 jammers.
Boeing and BAE Systems have previously developed electronic battle management and multivehicle command and control software that is being used for the E-10A and J-UCAS. The team also has helped develop electronic warfare programs for the B-52, EA-18G, Compass Call, F/A-22, and F-35.
The Air Force expects to award the predevelopment contract this fall. B-52 SOJ is slated to reach initial capability by 2012.
Support for Iraq War Declines
American support for the war in Iraq is slipping, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll taken in September.
Some 52 percent of those polled said they favor immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, even if that country has not yet been stabilized. Only 44 percent said the invasion was the right decision, the lowest percentage since the polling group began asking the same question two years ago.
Of the 1,167 adults polled between Sept. 9 and 13, most of those expressing an opinion—45 percent—said US casualties have been higher than they expected. Only 42 percent said they want the US to stay in Iraq as long as it takes to achieve stability there. Sixty percent of respondents said they disapprove of the way President Bush is handling the war.
Responses tended to break along political lines. Of the Democrats polled, 71 percent want the US to leave Iraq as soon as possible, while this was true of 52 percent of independents and only 31 percent of Republicans.
The vast majority, however—90 percent of all those polled—said they would not approve of cutting domestic programs to pay the financial burdens of occupation and nation-building in Iraq.
A variant of the RQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft system is being considered for Smokey Bear duty: watching for fires in national forests.
The Forest Service and NASA are conducting tests to see if unmanned aircraft can spot wayward campfires and lightning strikes and monitor the direction of fires already under way.
The vehicles have appeal because the Forest Service prohibits using manned aircraft for night functions, after a series of crashes in earlier fire seasons. National forests have few lights and ground references, making night flying extremely hazardous, especially in the presence of smoke. Cost is a factor. Some of the vehicles cost millions of dollars. Alternatively, NASA is eyeing the Altair, a UAS built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The Altair is an extended-wing version of the Predator B used by the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Other UAS models being considered are the APV-3 or the MLB Bat, which both cost less than $50,000 each.
Unmanned Force to Expand …
The Air Force plans a substantially bigger fleet of large unmanned aircraft in the near future, senior officers have said.
Lt. Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, told attendees at a Capitol Hill symposium in September that USAF plans to acquire 51 Global Hawks, more than 100 Predator A models, and a large number of Predator B models. The service now has only a pair of production-model Global Hawks and a handful of Predator systems. Hoffman said the Global Hawks gradually will take over some of the mission of the U-2.
The Global Hawk is a very high-flying aircraft that can surveil the ground with mapping radar and infrared sensors. The Predator is a lower-flying aircraft that can conduct video surveillance, designate targets for other aircraft, and carry light weapons.
The two types of unmanned aircraft have been highly successful in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hoffman said, and he expects “other US agencies to buy them for domestic issues such as disaster relief and border security.”
… Especially in the Pacific
The Pacific shapes up as a growth area for unmanned aerial systems. Gen. Paul V. Hester, commander of Pacific Air Forces, told a recent Capitol Hill symposium that such aircraft will be necessary in larger numbers in his theater of operations.
“As we develop the Global Hawk,” said Hester, “we are going to station them in Guam, and we are looking for a consortium of countries to help us out [with basing].” Among the potential helpers: Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.
The Global Hawk will increase PACAF’s reconnaissance capabilities. The drones can fly to the Sea of Japan or the East China Sea, and remain on station for 16 hours, or to the Strait of Malacca and loiter for 12 hours before returning to base, according to Hester.
The Air Force also would like to deploy Predator A and B aircraft to South Korea. According to Hester, Predator B is “capable of doing the full spectrum [of activities], from watching to shooting.”
USAF Leaves Rhein-Main
The United States Air Force on Sept. 30 closed up shop at Rhein-Main AB, Germany, wrapping up a long, colorful history of operations in World War II and the Cold War. The formal departure ceremony took place Oct. 10.
Located near Frankfurt, Rhein-Main was the main western operating base during the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift. Air transport provided the only means for resupplying Berliners in the city’s western sectors which had been cut off by the Soviet blockade.
The base was a major USAF European hub throughout the Cold War. It was also a major transit site for US military personnel and equipment headed to Iraq and Afghanistan in recent military operations in those countries.
Under a 1999 bilateral agreement, the base is to be returned to the German government. The official turnover is slated for December, but US Air Forces in Europe officials said the last military mission from Rhein-Main took place on Sept. 26 and the final commercial flight on Sept. 30.
Strategic US airlift capability has been relocated from Rhein-Main to Ramstein and Spangdahlem Air Bases in western Germany.
Minuteman Launches Bunch Up
In a flurry of test activities, space operators at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., launched three unarmed Minuteman IIIs in a period from late August through September.
An Aug. 26 flight tested the integration of a safer re-entry vehicle.
Two September launches—on Sept. 7 and Sept. 14—were used to test the Minuteman’s reliability and accuracy.
All of the flight hardware landed in a predetermined target area near Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean’s Marshall Islands.
Why the brisk pace of launches? Two of the tests had been planned for earlier months, but they had been scrubbed for routine reasons, noted spokesman Maj. Todd Fleming. The launch pace was “not unprecedented, but it is unusual,” he added.
USAFA Commandant Cleared …
USAF investigators cleared Brig. Gen. Johnny A. Weida, Air Force Academy commandant, of the last remaining charges that he improperly proselytized non-Christian cadets.
In June, the Air Force inspector general’s office dispensed with six of seven allegations. The IG dropped the seventh and final charge on Sept. 7, according to an Air Force spokeswoman.
Weida was accused of using his position to “publicly” endorse religious beliefs and that his actions, “taken overall,” “improperly established a religion within the USAFA environment,” wrote the IG. The last charge concerned a “communicative code that could have been used to facilitate the proselytization of non-Christian cadets.”
A task force set up earlier by the Air Force to investigate claims of religious intolerance throughout the academy found no religious discrimination. It did find what it called a lack of sensitivity and confusion about what is acceptable when it comes to sharing religious faith. (See “Washington Watch: No ‘Overt’ Religious Discrimination Found at USAFA,” August, p. 11.) The Air Force has issued new religious tolerance guidelines.
… And His Promotion Sought
The disposal of the charges against Weida immediately revived USAF’s effort to promote him.
In July, the Senate put on hold Weida’s planned promotion to major general, but Acting Air Force Secretary Pete Geren wrote a letter to the Armed Services Committee on Sept. 6 asking for full Senate approval of Weida’s promotion, according to wire reports.
Geren said that Weida had acknowledged that his actions “were inappropriate.”
Air Force officials announced in early October that Weida would leave the academy—after just a year on the job—to become the director of capability integration and transformation at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
|Help for Acquisition Woes?
The revival and strengthening of an old institution might solve chronic problems with the Pentagon’s acquisition system. So said retired Lt. Gen. Richard M. Scofield at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in Washington, D.C.
Scofield argued for restoring the Industrial Preparedness Program to full funding and importance. Created in 1947, the IPP was meant to “advance key Air Force manufacturing capabilities,” reducing acquisition cost, risk, and technology transition time. Working on everything from technology maturation to depot development, Scofield said the IPP led to the design of the B-52, made the specially fabricated wings of the B-2 possible, and saved enough money on the F-15 program to buy an additional squadron of that aircraft.
Decreased funding, as well as the merger of Air Force Systems Command and Air Force Logistics Command in 1992, reduced the IPP’s importance in the 1990s, Scofield said. This was part of a broader “atrophy” of defense industry infrastructure over the last 13 years, he asserted. However, the program never went away completely and is still yielding value.
The IPP helps map a way ahead, not only through design but development, manufacturing, and support, solving “pervasive manufacturing issues,” increasing affordability, and reducing depot cycle times and costs, Scofield said.
He argued for a transformed and integrated IPP that would influence the plans for new system development and, importantly, incorporate ultimate manufacturing issues in all phases of a program. Scofield wants funding for the program raised from about $35 million a year now to $135 million. It would support USAF advanced technology demonstrations of the kind that led to the Global Hawk and Predator UASes and put far greater attention on upgrading depots. He thinks there should be expanded manufacturing capability to support such technology excursions, and he thinks there should be new specialty centers, such as for stealth.
|Bright Star 2005 Unveils New Capabilities
After a three-year hiatus, Exercise Bright Star 05/06 in Egypt began on Sept. 10 and concluded on Oct. 3. The last such exercise—the largest noncombat allied training event conducted by the US with its Middle East coalition partners—was canceled due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Participating were units from the US Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as from Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, UK, and Saudi Arabia, according to a Pentagon spokesperson. Some 36 nations were invited to send observers.
US Transportation Command chose the event to unveil the new Joint Task Force-Port Opening (JTF-PO)—a theater distribution pipeline designed to get supplies and equipment quickly to troops on the ground.
During an exercise at Bright Star, JTF-PO opened an airfield, then moved in 1,075 tons of cargo and 2,797 passengers. It received 60 US and coalition aircraft.
“Joining forces between the Army and Air Force allows us to get the resources off the airfield sooner and smarter,” said Maj. Kenneth King. He said the techniques would be incorporated into future operations.
Tactical air and special operations forces also held field training exercises in the Egyptian desert. The five-phase program involved approximately 30,000 troops.
This year’s exercise focused on training for peacekeeping operations.
The biennial event co-hosted by Egypt and the US was intended to improve readiness and interoperability between US, Egyptian, and coalition forces. It also aimed at enhancing defense capabilities and military-to-military relationships. The first Bright Star was held in 1980.
|Weapons Sales Highest Since 2000
Military equipment sales worldwide have jumped to the highest level since 2000, reports the Congressional Research Service in a new study.
In 2004, they totaled $37 billion, up from $28.5 billion in 2003.
The US dominated the market, claiming 33.5 percent of global weapons contracts. However, total US arms sales dropped from 2003 to 2004.
Russia was second in global arms sales, claiming 16.5 percent of contracts worth $6.1 billion in 2004. Developing countries—among which the CRS included China and India—accounted for $5.9 billion of those sales. China and India were Russia’s biggest customers.
The US sold $6.9 billion worth of defense gear to developing countries in 2004.
The military market has shifted to developing countries and away from the traditional military and economic leaders, with more than half of all weapons transfers—$21.8 billion in 2004—going to developing countries.
China has been buying more weapons than any other developing country in the last four years, making $10.4 billion worth of arms purchases since 2001. But in 2004 alone, India claimed the lead in weapons purchases, followed by Saudi Arabia and then China.
|Could Scott Speicher Be Alive?
Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England approved a Navy inquiry board report that has found there is no credible evidence that Persian Gulf War pilot Capt. Michael Scott Speicher was killed in action. England has ruled that the Navy aviator should still be carried as “missing in action.”
Speicher’s fate has been in doubt since his F/A-18 Hornet was brought down by a surface-to-air missile over Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991.
The possibility that Speicher was an unacknowledged prisoner of war in Iraq figured among President Bush’s justifications for ousting Saddam Hussein’s government.
The Navy announced on Sept. 8 that Speicher’s status will remain “missing/captured” and will not be changed to “killed in action.”
After Saddam was deposed, the Iraqi Survey Group searching for weapons of mass destruction also conducted a search for any evidence of the pilot, but found none to suggest that Speicher might be alive.
The Navy board noted in its report that the government of Saddam Hussein revealed items from Speicher’s aircraft, as well as his flight suit, years after the crash. (See “Aerospace World: Navy Changes Status of Gulf War Casualty,” March 2001, p. 13.)
Saddam was questioned about Speicher in 2003, but denied knowing the pilot’s whereabouts, according to a US official.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking to US forces in Saudi Arabia in April 2003, said the Pentagon was pursuing an investigation into Speicher’s fate. A team sent to Iraq that month had found what could have been his initials carved into a prison wall.
A military probe of the initials did not find DNA or fingerprints belonging to Speicher. Handwriting analysis also was unable to identify the writing as his.
|China Buys Aerial Refueling, Lift Aircraft
Amidst rising concerns about its military buildup, China has inked a deal to buy 38 large aircraft from Russia, for aerial refueling and cargo missions. The purchase is worth about $1.5 billion. The move is seen as boosting China’s power-projection capabilities.
Thirty of the aircraft will be Il-76TD airlifters, roughly similar in size and capability to the C-141 cargo aircraft soon to be phased out of the USAF inventory. The other eight are Il-78M aerial tankers, which will give China a new capability to refuel its most advanced fighter and strike airplanes.
With aerial refueling from the new tankers, Chinese fighters can now reach Andersen AFB, Guam, according to the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
The order was signed on Sept. 9. The pace of delivery was not announced.
China has converted an Il-76 into an airborne warning and control platform similar to the US E-3 AWACS. After taking delivery of the new airlifters, it will have about 50 modern jet-powered transports.
Russia provided Il-78 tanking support to Chinese fighters during Peace Mission 2005, the joint exercises between Russia and China in August. (See “Aerospace World: China, Russia Stage Large Exercise, October, p. 20.) China also used its Il-76s to conduct large paratrooper drops during the exercise.
|The War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom Iraq
By Sept. 26, a total of 1,917 Americans had died in Iraqi Freedom. This total includes 1,773 troops and five DOD civilians. Of those fatalities, 1,494 were killed in action by enemy attack, and 423 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 14,641 troops wounded in action. This includes 7,686 who returned to duty within 72 hours and 6,955 who were unable to quickly return to action.
US Airpower Strikes Iraqi Terrorists
US forces launched an air strike in the western Iraqi city of Qaim on Aug. 30, after a conflict erupted between two opposing tribes in the area.
According to Reuters news service, the strikes killed several al Qaeda operatives.
Air strikes were conducted along the Euphrates River in two towns believed to be havens for insurgents. At least 56 people, most of whom were followers of Abu Musab Zarqawi, were killed in the bombings, according to Qaim hospital officials.
Three separate strikes were launched, using precision guided bombs. Abu Islam, a key al Qaeda operative, was killed in the second bombing on a house in Husayba, according to a statement released by the US military.
Another air strike was conducted in Husayba during a separate operation on Sept. 8, targeting Abu Mohammad, who is known to have worked directly for Abu Islam. Abu Mohammad has been involved in numerous car bomb and other explosive device attacks on coalition forces, according to intelligence sources.
Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan
By Sept. 26, a total of 234 Americans had died in Enduring Freedom, primarily in and around Afghanistan. The total includes 115 troops killed in action and 119 who died in noncombat incidents such as accidents.
A total of 601 troops have been wounded. They include 225 who were able to return to duty in three days and 376 who were not.
Airpower Supports Afghan Elections
Air Force A-10 Warthogs and EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, along with Navy EA-6B Prowlers, provided close air support to ground troops to ensure that voting and ballot counting went as smoothly as possible during Sept. 18 elections in Afghanistan.
“We’re in the skies providing an umbrella of protection by providing electronic jamming support to ground troops and voters,” said Cmdr. Jay Johnston, an electronic attack squadron commander.
The A-10s were sent from Pope AFB, N.C., and Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. EC-130Hs were deployed from Davis-Monthan and EA-6Bs from NAS Whidbey Island, Wash.
One US soldier and two Afghan soldiers were injured on voting day, when their patrol came under fire from suspected Taliban militants, according to TSgt. Marina Evans, a US military spokeswoman.
Afghan police and the US military patrolled at more than 6,100 polling places, ensuring the security of the elections.
The election was the first of its kind since 1969. Some 12.5 million Afghan voters registered and the election was considered a success.
By Tamar A. Mehuron, Associate Editor
- Correcting earlier guidance, Air Force Personnel Center officials at Randolph AFB, Tex., gave notice Sept. 2 that airmen with cumulative credit awarded for combined joint task force deployments may not combine those credits with present or future joint duty assignments. The earlier guidelines said that such credits could be combined.
- Predator MQ-1B unmanned aerial systems and their operators assigned to the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron, Nellis AFB, Nev., achieved record combat hours earlier this year. They flew a record 27,000 hours from June 2004 through June 2005.
- In late August, Pratt & Whitney engineers started assembling the first flight-test F135 engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The conventional takeoff and landing engine version is being assembled in Middletown, Conn.
- Air Force Reserve Command broke two records in its recruiting efforts this year, attaining its 2005 goal of 8,800 accessions on Aug. 11, well ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline. As of Aug. 22, the command had gained 9,048 recruits. Its mandated end strength is 76,100.
- Air Combat Command concluded that an engine fire caused the March 27 crash of an MQ-1 Predator UAS in Southwest Asia. The accident investigation report, released Aug. 26, determined that leaking fuel made contact with the turbocharger, alternator, or cylinder head. That sparked a fire. The Predator, assigned to the 15th RS, Nellis AFB, Nev., was destroyed on impact.
- USAF tapped 68 airmen out of 467 considered for Officer Training School, Air Force officials announced Sept. 2. That is a 14.6 percent selection rate.
- Northrop Grumman on Aug. 25 received a $60 million USAF contract for five Global Hawks with airborne signal intelligence processors. Four will have enhanced integrated sensor suites. The contract also includes one mission control element and one launch recovery element. Work is to be completed by May 2006.
- Air Force Reserve Command needs qualified officers and enlisted personnel to fill 1,900 positions in high demand but thinly populated fields such as security forces, combat rescue, and intelligence. Information about vacancies and applications can be found at the Web site, www.re.hq.af.mil/agr/agrhome2.html.
- A small, inexpensive spacecraft developed by Air Force Research Laboratory technicians has conducted repeated rendezvous maneuvers with the Orbital Science Minotaur that launched it into orbit, Space.com reported Sept. 12. The XSS-11 is demonstrating capabilities for in-space servicing and repair of other spacecraft and close-in inspection of objects in space—capabilities USAF deems essential for military space.
- All five Air Force Reserve Command combat logistics support squadrons were inactivated Oct. 1, as part of an effort to realign force structure. The units affected were: 419th CLSS, Hill AFB, Utah; 433rd CLSS, Lackland AFB, Tex.; 445th CLSS, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; 507th CLSS, Tinker AFB, Okla.; and 622nd CLSS, Robins AFB, Ga. They will go to other units.
- Four National Reconnaissance Office employees were named the NRO Pioneer Class of 2005, in recognition of their singular achievements in the field of national reconnaissance. They are: Robert E. Eisenhauer, Roger C. Marsh, Edward A. Miller, and Wayne L. Proffitt.
- Satellite operators at Schriever AFB, Colo., successfully moved four aging Cold War military communications satellites 200 miles away from their geosynchronous orbits to an area designated for space junk. The four Defense Satellite Communications System spacecraft, orbiting at 22,000 miles above the Earth, were relocated during a four-month period.
- Gen. Robert H. Foglesong, commander, US Air Forces in Europe, was honored Aug. 26 with induction into the Order of the Sword, the highest tribute given by the enlisted force.
- The American Association of Museums recently awarded national accreditation to the Museum of Aviation, located next to Robins AFB, Ga. The seal of excellence places the museum in a select group of only nine aviation museums in the US that attained the AAM measures of achievement.
- AT&T Government Solutions, Vienna, Va., received a $95 million contract to provide engineering and technical personnel to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center Directorate of Data Exploitation Division. Work will end in September 2010.