Forces Get Cash Infusion
The Pentagon will receive more money than expected in order to improve the US military’s readiness to go to war.
As an immediate first step, the Clinton Administration is asking Congress to provide an additional $1 billion, according to a letter from President Clinton to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, made public Sept. 23.
The cash infusion would fund spare parts, training, recruitment, and other readiness factors in Fiscal 1999, which began Oct. 1.
The request comes after a low-key but concerted campaign by military leaders to focus attention on declining readiness rates.
On Sept. 15, Cohen and the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with the President and key administration figures at the National Defense University at Ft. McNair, D.C., to express their readiness concerns. That meeting preceded by only a few days Senate hearings highlighting declines in American readiness.
The $1 billion will be tacked on to a $4 billion supplemental package, already before lawmakers, that is meant to finance the extended Bosnia mission, Year 2000 computer fixes, and other items.
New DoD Budget Plans Coming
At the NDU meeting Sept. 15, President Clinton told the Joint Chiefs of Staff to work up new budget plans for Fiscal 2000 and beyond, taking into account the need for extra cash for readiness.
“Although we have done much to support readiness, more needs to be done,” Clinton wrote Defense Secretary Cohen.
The President’s instruction did not suggest any specific budget figures for the out-years. However, the chiefs have in the past said they would need to increase their spending plans by $10 billion to $20 billion a year to ensure that readiness indicators such as aircraft Mission Capable Rates remain at high levels.
At the meeting with the President, the chiefs said that frontline units, such as those in Bosnia and Saudi Arabia, are poised and ready for any operation, but they noted that readiness strains are showing in follow-on forces based in the US.
“In the last year or so, readiness trends have nosed down,” Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon declared Sept. 15. “We want to pull up on the stick before there’s a nosedive.”
In his letter, the President said that another round of base closings could help save money and pay for more fuel, engines, and other readiness items. Given lawmakers’ reluctance to agree to another base closing commission, such savings are unlikely to occur in the short term.
Cohen, Shelton Say Readiness Is “Fraying”
American military readiness is “fraying” in second- and third-echelon units, and the US needs to “make sure [the fray] doesn’t turn into a tear.”
Such was the assessment of Defense Secretary Cohen and Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as expressed in recent press interviews.
Cohen and Shelton, in an Armed Forces Radio and Television Service interview, said they had cautioned President Clinton about the problem in recent meetings in Washington.
“We assured the Commander in Chief that we have a trained and ready military force—one that is ready to carry out the national military strategy of fighting two Major Theater Wars,” Shelton said. “We cautioned [President Clinton] that the risk of fighting the second one has been going up.”
Shelton said the message defense leadership sent the President was that balancing readiness, quality-of-life programs, and modernization “has become a challenge that is almost insurmountable within the current [DoD budget].”
ACC Opens Rear Operations Center
Command and control of expeditionary USAF forces deployed overseas may now be much easier, thanks to a new Rear Operations Support Center that Air Combat Command opened Sept. 1.
The ROSC at Langley AFB, Va., is a key factor in the way that the Air Force plans to do business in the future, officials said. It consolidates four existing 24-hour operations centers at Langley into a one-stop shop intended to provide rear support functions for deployed air commanders during contingency operations.
The center will serve as operations center for an Air Expeditionary Force until its own command-and-control node is up and running at its area of responsibility.
“The ROSC will allow us to do our mission in a lighter, leaner, and more lethal way than ever before,” said ACC Commander Gen. Richard E. Hawley. “We’ll be able to send fewer people forward with less operations support in the forward theater, while providing improved command and control.”
Making the computer-packed ROSC possible was modern communications technology. In the past, command and control for deployed forces entailed sending 2,000 people and 20 to 30 cargo airplanes of equipment to forward locations, said Hawley. The ROSC can be staffed with only 20 to 40 people in peacetime and perhaps 200 in a live combat operation.
Data networks will connect the ROSC with ACC commanders as well as such rear-echelon headquarters as Air Force Space Command at Peterson AFB, Colo., and Air Intelligence Agency at Kelly AFB, Texas.
“We’ll make better-informed decisions than ever before,” said Hawley.
Air Force Tests Expeditionary Muscles
At a few minutes past midnight on Sept. 15, a dozen Air Force C-141s from McGuire AFB, N.J., and McChord AFB, Wash., swept over Florida’s Duke Field and disgorged a force of nearly 1,200 Army paratroopers. The paratroopers drifted down on the installation, fanned out, and set up command posts to defend against their adversary—security forces from nearby Eglin AFB.
It was all part of Expeditionary Force Experiment ’98, a wide-ranging 11-day USAF command-and-control experiment. Some 80 aircraft—from airlifters to fighters and UAVs—took part in the exercise, which was meant to test the service’s newly adopted deployment model.
The EFX scenario entailed a US response to a rogue nation’s attack on an American ally. The effort tested about 38 new technologies and concepts.
The Air Force’s new Rear Operations Support Center at Langley AFB, Va., linked up with an on-site Joint Air Operations Center Forward to help run the show. The forward center, with fewer people and less equipment than a typical contingency AOC, was at the heart of what EFX was trying to accomplish, said Lt. Col. Val Laughlin, JAOC deputy director.
“With this experiment, we learn how to become a more lethal force,” he said.
Other EFX ’98 tests included demonstrations of Air Mobility Command’s new Mobile Microwave Landing System, all-weather precision approach hardware which can be airlifted into place by only one C-130. Existing Air Force air traffic control and landing systems can take up to seven C-130 loads and require two or three days and 33 people to set up.
A C-130 from Pope AFB, N.C., carried a medical evaluation team to EFX and, while doing so, tested AMC’s new Remote Location In-Transit Visibility System. This GPS–linked communications equipment is meant to give top commanders a view of where all deployed aircraft and cargoes are, at any given time.
Army participation in EFX was not limited to the 82d Airborne Division paratroopers. An Army Unmanned Aerial Vehicle team from Ft. Huachuca, Ariz., flew a small, boxy Hunter UAV as part of an information superiority experiment. Further tests will explore the integration of Army UAV technology into the Air Force’s command-and-control plan.
“It was a perfect match [for EFX], getting the UAV,” said Lt. Col. Mark Hamilton, information superiority experiment project director.
U-2 Imagery Declassified
The US on Sept. 17 declassified nearly 1.5 million highly sensitive photo images acquired by U-2 spy planes during the first 20 years of the aircraft’s operational lifetime.
The release, covering U-2 imagery taken from 1955 through 1974, opened a window on the early days of one of the nation’s most successful classified operations.
The images are now available to the public at the National Archives. They include everything from pictures of Soviet ICBM sites to a shot of an Iraqi presidential palace near downtown Baghdad taken by Francis Gary Powers in 1956.
Powers was shot down over Sverdlovsk, USSR, in 1960. Until that time, the American public was unaware of the very existence of the aircraft. By the time Powers was hit by a Soviet missile, the US already had flown some 24 U-2 incursions over the USSR.
The man who flew the first U-2 to penetrate Soviet airspace, Carmine Vito, appeared at the special unveiling ceremony to recall that he had been promised by the airplane’s designer that Soviet defenses could not reach him. That was correct at the time. Vito flew right over downtown Moscow. Below him he could see defending Soviet fighters vainly trying to reach his 70,000-foot altitude.
“I could see them scrambling,” Vito noted. “Two of them collided.”
Sunlight glinting off the surfaces of these secret, high-flying airplanes caused many to mistake them for something other-worldly. Almost 70 percent of early test flights resulted in UFO reports, according to a CIA historian.
Much post–1974 U-2 imagery remains classified, as do photos from a massive China overflight project that took place in the 1960s.
T-3A Firefly Out for Two Years
Air Education and Training Command announced Sept. 10 that its fleet of T-3A aircraft will be placed in minimal maintenance status.
That means one of the Air Force’s primary training aircraft will probably remain grounded for at least two years as USAF officials try to determine what caused a worrisome series of 66 uncommanded engine stoppages. The engine problems resulted in three deaths.
The T-3A was introduced into the Air Force fleet in 1994 to screen pilot candidates prior to entry into undergraduate pilot school.
The Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration will continue flight-testing three Fireflys in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Air Force will then make modifications in the entire fleet to resolve the shut-down problem, which has been linked to the fuel supply system of the engine.
The Air Force is studying the possibility of installing some sort of crew recovery system in the T-3. If it does, installation of the system would take 24 months.
Loss of the T-3 fleet has contributed to rising pilot training attrition rates, according to AETC. That is because many students now begin their Air Force pilot training without completing a pilot-screening program.
In an attempt to reinstitute the screening process, AETC is planning to send pilot candidates to civilian flight training at locations around the country to gain flight experience prior to their entry into Air Force training.
Tricare Senior Prime Experiment Begins
Tricare Senior Prime, a three-year experiment that could help bring 65-and-over military retirees back into the military health care system, was launched Sept. 12 with a ceremony at Brooke Army Medical Center and Wilford Hall Medical Center in Texas.
The San Antonio facilities make up the largest of the six Senior Prime test sites established by recent legislation.
The two Texas medical centers will enroll 10,000 military retirees, almost half the total number of veterans being brought into the Senior Prime project.
The experiment stems from problems caused by the fact that, once a retiree becomes eligible for Medicare, he or she is no longer able to enroll in the Tricare system, under current law. They are still eligible for space-available care in military facilities, but such spots are becoming harder to find.
The test will allow vets to use Medicare coverage to pay for military facility treatment. Over 108,000 retirees in the San Antonio area alone might be eligible for such treatment, if the program is expanded, said Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican.
Gramm said he believes Senior Prime will be made available to all retirees. “I intend to expand the program no matter what it costs,” stated Gramm. “These are earned benefits and we should provide these first, before unearned benefits.”
Cold War Airmen Interred at Arlington
The remains of 17 US airmen shot down in a single incident during the Cold War were interred with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 2.
The airmen were crew members aboard a C-130 Hercules that was flying near Soviet Armenia on a reconnaissance mission Sept. 2, 1958. The airplane strayed over the border and was shot down by pursuing Soviet MiGs.
Moscow returned some remains of six of the airmen shortly after the incident. US military medical personnel were able to identify three of them. The remaining 14 were listed as unaccounted for.
More modern technology allowed the identification of the three other sets of remains in 1996 and 1997. A US Army recovery team visited the crash site in 1993 and brought back many fragments of remains and aircraft wreckage.
Given the incomplete nature of the recovery the remains were given a group identification and buried together at Arlington. A total of 18 US military personnel lost during the struggle with the Soviet Union have now been identified. There are 123 Cold War casualties still unaccounted for.
C-17 Mission Capable Rate May Be Boosted
C-17 readiness has been so good that the Air Force may raise its Mission-Capable-Rate goal.
At present, the Air Force requires that 82.5 percent of the new Globemaster III airlifters be ready to fulfill their missions on a given day. Actual MCRs have been running at 87 percent, and Air Force leaders are considering boosting the goal to 90 percent, Air Force officials said in September.
Overall, C-17 maintenance has been much easier than anticipated. The aircraft is averaging seven maintenance man-hours per flying hour, far short of the 18.6 the Air Force expected. Mean time between repair rate is similarly impressive.
Realignments at Air Force Materiel Command
The Air Force on Sept. 14 announced major realignments at Air Force Materiel Command facilities. Primarily affected are the Air Force Development Test Center at Eglin AFB, Fla., and Aeronautical Systems Center, at Wright–Patterson AFB, Ohio.
Under the changes, the Air Force Development Test Center will be renamed the Air Armament Center. As its new name indicates, it will manage development, test, procurement, and support of all USAF air-delivered weapons. It will change from a test center to a product center, managing the full range of an armament’s life cycle.
With the realignment, the center will become responsible for the 377th Air Base Wing at Kirtland AFB, N.M., which was formerly under the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif. It will also acquire some Aeronautical Systems Center elements currently located at Eglin.
ASC will now manage the Human Systems Center at Brooks AFB, Texas. The center will be renamed the 311th Human Systems Wing, with ASC serving as its higher headquarters. The mission of the Brooks unit will stay the same—serving as an advocate for integrating the human in Air Force systems and operations.
Airborne Laser Produces 110 Percent of Power
Team ABL—Boeing, TRW, and Lockheed Martin—has produced 110 percent of the design output power called for in the Airborne Laser program’s first laser demonstration module.
This ability to outperform specifications with the initial building block of the ABL system is a significant achievement, according to Air Force officials.
“Meeting this milestone within two years, on schedule and cost, is a remarkable achievement,” said Col. Michael W. Booen, ABL System Program Office director. “The continued technical progress demonstrated by the laser test underscores the robust design of the ABL system.”
The Flight-weighted Laser Module is a multihundred-kilowatt chemical oxygen iodine laser. The test program for the first FLM was completed in late August at TRW’s Capistrano, Calif., test site.
The test program involved 26 lasing “firings” over several months. An updated FLM will begin a second series of tests in early 1999.
The Airborne Laser, a modified Boeing 747 freighter, will use multiple FLMs to generate a megawatt-class beam that can shoot down theater ballistic missiles shortly after launch. A live missile shoot-down test is currently set for 2002.
Global Hawk Reaches 61,000 Feet
The fourth flight of the Global Hawk UAV prototype reached an altitude of 61,067 feet. The long-range reconnaissance aircraft is designed to operate for up to 40 hours at altitudes as high as 65,000 feet.
“We have successfully expanded Global Hawk’s performance envelope,” said Claude Hashem, Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical vice president and program manager, in the wake of the Aug. 29 achievement.
Other objectives that were met during the flight included evaluation of aerodynamic performance, testing of flight control and navigation, and making sure that various UAV subsystems can work so far above the Earth.
“Aerodynamic performance was very stable, turn performance was as planned, and we were able to turn off the Differential Global [Positioning] System, fly accurately and on track with the onboard inertial navigation system only, and then return seamlessly to DGPS guidance,” said Alfredo Ramirez, air vehicle development team leader.
A-10s to Get PGM Capability
The A-10 Thunderbolt II will soon join the list of Air Force aircraft able to deliver precision guided weapons, according to Air Force officials.
The service has now set aside the $12 million needed to do research and development aimed at integrating GPS coordinates into the aircraft’s targeting system. If things proceed according to plan, the money will come out of the 2004 budget. Modification kits would be delivered shortly thereafter, with initial operational capability of PGM–ready A-10s set for 2006.
PGM weapons the A-10 could carry include the Joint Direct Attack Munition and the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser. The new Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile would not fit on the venerable cross-shaped airframe.
The Air Force wants to fly A-10s through 2020. That will eventually require regeneration of some 36 aircraft now stored at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis–Monthan AFB, Ariz., said Air Force officials.
F-22 Shaken by Engine Vibration
A slight vibration problem at certain power settings forced Air Force and Lockheed Martin technicians to replace one of the engines of the second F-22 fighter in late August.
Though not a large technical problem, the engine change caused Raptor 02 to be one week off schedule when it made its cross-country flight from Dobbins ARB, Ga., to Edwards AFB, Calif., on Aug. 26.
Since it joined Raptor 01 at Edwards for the flight test program, Air Force officials have been striving to pile up 183 F-22 flight test hours by Thanksgiving, to placate congressional critics who feel the aircraft should be flown more extensively before the first production contracts are let.
Meanwhile, in one of the first official expressions of foreign interest, Australia indicated that it will look at the F-22 as a possible replacement for the aging F-111s currently in its inventory. The Joint Strike Fighter, the Eurofighter, and the French–made Rafale are other candidates, said an Australian official.
More Base Closings—Overseas
On Sept. 3, the Defense Department announced that it will end or reduce operations at six overseas installations as part of the 23d round of base and force realignment actions.
Affected are four installations in Germany, one in Israel, and one in Spain.
To be returned to host nations are the US Air Force’s Kreuzberg Maintenance Facility at Ramstein AB, Germany; the US Army’s Eselsfuerth Quartermaster Facility at Kaiserslautern and Lohnsfeld Communications Station at Mannheim, Germany; and a Navy fleet hospital in Israel.
The Army’s Equipment Support Center Kaiserslautern will be partially returned to its host nation, as will a US military seismic detection station in Spain.
Whale of a Cargo
The C-17 is specifically designed to handle heavy cargo loads with unique weight distribution. That is an attribute which came in handy Sept. 9, when an Air Force Globemaster III hauled Keiko the killer whale from his old home in Oregon to a new harbor pen in coastal Iceland.
The flight took nine hours and two in-air refuelings. The airstrip at Vestmannaeyjar Airfield in Iceland, Keiko’s ultimate destination, was only 3,900 feet long—another reason to fly the C-17, which has unparalleled austere runway characteristics.
Keiko was made famous as the star of the film “Free Willy.” Subsequent revelations about his substandard living conditions in Mexico made him the focus of an international rescue campaign. The Free Willy Foundation was established to manage his rehabilitation at a Newport, Ore., aquarium.
His new pen in Iceland is intended as a sort of halfway house that will allow him to get used to open spaces and nature while still remaining under the care of veterinarians. Jean–Michel Cousteau, son of the famous explorer Jacques Cousteau and a member of the Free Willy Foundation board, said the hope is that Keiko can become Free Keiko within two years.
A 28-foot tank kept Keiko cool and moist during the journey. Four pallets of ice, fish, and other equipment kept him fed and refreshed. The foundation will reimburse the US government for the cost of the whalelift.
“Flying Keiko home to Iceland demonstrates the ability of Air Force people and [airplanes] to accomplish any mission, anyplace, anytime,” said acting Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters.
Group Fights for Retiree Health Care
The Class Act Group, a Florida–based organization dedicated to fighting for free lifetime medical care for US military retirees, came to Capitol Hill Sept. 22 in an effort to educate members of Congress about retiree health care concerns.
The group has already sued the federal government to make it live up to its decades-long promises of free or nearly free health care for life. A federal judge dismissed the case, saying the judiciary cannot meddle in affairs of the executive branch, but group leaders have vowed to appeal.
“We believe our membership wants us to fight until the last dog dies,” said Tom Pentecost, a retired Marine and self-described “chief of stuff” for the Class Act Group. Interested military retirees can contact the group at (850) 664-6324.
Airlifters Help in Hurricane Crisis
Air Mobility Command in late September flew five medical teams to the stricken Gulf Coast area as Hurricane Georges relief efforts continued. AMC had already flown more than 50 missions in response to federal government requests for delivery of hurricane relief supplies and aid.
Most airplanes flew into NAS Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, where an Air Force Tanker Airlift Control Element from McGuire AFB, N.J., deployed Sept. 22 to lay down command and control for arriving airplanes.
AMC crews delivered to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic massive amounts of relief supplies, including water bladders and bottled water, generators, construction supplies, and plastic.
NATO Air Meet ’98 Held
Twelve US Air Force fighter and tanker aircraft took part in a major multinational air operation in mid-September at Zaragoza AB, Spain. The exercise, NATO Air Meet ’98, ended Sept. 25.
The USAF contingent comprised four F-16 multirole fighters from Aviano AB, Italy; six F-15E dual role fighters from RAF Lakenheath, UK; and two KC-135 tankers from RAF Mildenhall, UK.
All told, more than 90 aircraft and 1,200 troops from nine Allied nations took part in the two-week exercise, which focused heavily on integration of alliance units.
The combined training exercise featured one of the largest concentrations of aircraft ever to gather at one location for an event of this kind, according to NATO officials. Joining the USAF units were forces from France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the UK.
The flying phase of NAM ’98 consisted of seven flying missions, one per day, with different types of tactical air scenarios.
Senate OKs Reserve Commander
The Senate confirmed Maj. Gen. James E. Sherrard III to be chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command. The vote was taken Sept. 25.
Sherrard is former commander of 22d Air Force at Dobbins ARB, Ga. He was nominated in April. He replaces Maj. Gen. Robert A. McIntosh as chief of Air Force Reserve, a member of the Air Staff, and principal advisor on Reserve matters to the Air Force Chief of Staff.
Military Policy on Gays Upheld
A federal appeals court in New York ruled Sept. 23 that the Defense Department’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy does not discriminate against homosexuals.
The 28-page ruling was handed down by a three-judge panel of the 2d US District Court of Appeals. The court upheld the 1994 legislation that instituted the policy and overturned a lower court decision.
“We will not substitute our judgment for that of Congress,” the panel said in refusing to challenge the legislation.
In 1995, US District Court Judge Eugene Nickerson struck down the policy and, in 1997, he drafted a follow-up opinion that the policy discriminated against gays. He cited First and Fifth Amendment concerns.
The appeals court’s ruling voids Nickerson’s 1997 opinion. The original lawsuit was filed in 1994 by six members of the military shortly after the Pentagon adopted the policy. The six now risk dismissal from the armed services.
USAF Sticks by Ogden, Boeing
The Air Force announced Oct. 9 that it is standing by its original decision on the public–private competition for depot maintenance work that had been carried out at Sacramento Air Logistics Center, McClellan AFB, Calif.
The service had announced Sept. 21 that Ogden ALC, with a Boeing subsidiary as a major subcontractor, was the winner of the “bundled” workload at Sacramento.
However, a week later the General Accounting Office upheld a protest filed before the award decision.
Darleen A. Druyun, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition and management, who was the source selection authority, announced that Ogden, located at Hill AFB, Utah, and Boeing Aerospace Support Center in San Antonio, were the winners. Then, on Sept. 28, the GAO found in favor of a protest from Pemco Aeroplex, based in Birmingham, Ala.
Pemco challenged how the Air Force had bundled the workload package for the bid process. The contractor said the method gave Ogden an undue advantage.
“We sustain the protest,” said GAO, although it had previously allowed bundling for the work performed at San Antonio ALC in Texas.
Two weeks later, the Air Force announced that it had decided to proceed with its original award.
The Air Force stated that while it was rare for the Pentagon not to implement GAO decisions, in this case, risk to readiness was its primary consideration. “Implementation of the GAO recommendations would require a delay in award of at least one year and then impose multiple transitions of the Sacramento ALC workload which would severely harm Air Force readiness,” according to a USAF statement.
The workload at Sacramento consists of KC-135 programmed depot maintenance, modification installs, and drop-in maintenance; A-10 analytical condition inspection, depaint/paint, modification installs, and drop-in maintenance; and commodities repair for such workloads as hydraulics, electrical accessories, and instruments–electronics.
The Air Force said that the risk to readiness would “rise unacceptably at a time when the KC-135 fleet is already below approved wartime standards.”
Ogden will do the A-10 and commodities work at Hill AFB, Utah, and Boeing will do the KC-135 work at what were the San Antonio ALC C-5 maintenance facilities.
Two offerors competed for the contract: Ogden, with Boeing as the major subcontractor, and Lockheed Martin Sacramento Aircraft Center, Inc., with AAI and GEC–Marconi as major subcontractors.
Separate Crashes Claim Lives
An Air Force Reserve Command F-16D crashed Sept. 12 at Avon Park Range, about 50 miles south of Orlando, Fla. Capt. Thomas Carr, a traditional Reservist with Homestead ARB’s 482d Fighter Wing, was killed in the accident.
Carr, an American Airlines pilot in civilian life, was in a four-ship gunnery mission at the time of the accident. No one was in the backseat of the aircraft.
First Lt. M. Brice Simpson, the pilot of an F-16 which crashed on the end of the runway at Misawa AB, Japan, July 24, died Sept. 17 as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.
At the time of the crash, Simpson had ejected safely, but his parachute carried him into the airplane’s burning wreckage.
On Aug. 21, Maj. Mike Brill became the first US Air Force pilot to reach 4,000 flight hours in the F-16. Brill, a full-time air reserve technician and operations officer of the 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing, at Hill AFB, Utah, set the hourly record in a Block 30 F-16C.
The F-117A Nighthawk, which has used the same mission planning system since becoming operational in 1983, switched recently to a state-of-the-art Mission Planning System. The new MPS is capable of working with the Air Force Mission Support System—making the Nighthawk the first stealthy aircraft able to use an AFMSS–based system.
F-117As have now flown a combined total of 150,000 flying hours. Brig. Gen. William J. Lake of the 49th Fighter Wing put the fleet of 57 USAF aircraft and five Lockheed Martin test airframes past this mark with a sortie from Holloman AFB, N.M., Aug. 25.
Osmar Alaniz, head coach of the Air Force Boxing Team, has been named a US Olympic Committee Coach of the Year. Alaniz, a DoD civilian employee of Kelly AFB, Texas, was one of 75 amateur sports coaches in the US named coach of the year.
The 1st Combat Communications Squadron, Ramstein AB, Germany, has been named the best small communications and information unit in the Air Force for the second consecutive year. The 1st CCS, which provides primary tactical communications and air traffic control, put in over 14,000 man-days in the field last year alone, said its commander.
A strike by local workers at Incirlik AB, Turkey, ended Sept. 29 after 69 days. The Turkish Harb-Is labor union agreed to a 20 percent pay raise, plus four $400 quality-of-life payments, seven quarterly cost of living adjustments, and a lump sum payment of $800. The walkout broke the old base strike record of 44 days, set in 1969.
Air Force Capt. Janice Mosely Langer, a medical resident at Eglin AFB, Fla., was recently named one of 20 nationwide recipients of the 1998 Mead Johnson Award for excellence in family practice residency.
An F-16C from the 523d Fighter Squadron, Cannon AFB, N.M., crashed near Fort Sumner, N.M., Sept. 1. The pilot, Maj. Kevin R. Frisbie, ejected and survived the crash despite serious leg injuries.
AFRC’s 939th Rescue Wing, based in Portland, Ore., saved four lives over the course of four consecutive weekends in the closing weeks of summer. Missions involved plucking a heart attack victim from a US merchant ship, a missing hiker from a ravine, and two ill Filipino sailors from foreign-flag vessels.
The US Air Force took delivery of its 42d Boeing C-17 Globemaster III in a short ceremony at Long Beach, Calif., Sept. 21. The airplane was dubbed The Spirit of Tuskegee Airmen in honor of the pilots and crew trained at Tuskegee AAF, Ala., during World War II.
An MH-53 aircrew and a four-man pararescue team from the 58th Special Operations Wing, Kirtland AFB, N.M., plucked an injured mountain climber from a ledge near Pueblo, Colo., Sept. 6. The mountainous nature of the terrain near the 13,500-foot ledge made the mission difficult. “High-altitude hovers were accomplished at times with less than 25 feet for blade tip clearance from the mountain,” said Capt. John Conley, helicopter copilot. “It takes a lot of skill on the part of the pilot to carry out a mission like this.”
Andrew Herr of Latrobe, Pa., winner of the first Air Fore Marathon in 1997, successfully defended his title Sept. 19 at Wright–Patterson AFB, Ohio, with a winning run of 2 hours, 27 minutes, 41 seconds. The winning female runner was Heidi McKenna of Colorado Springs, Colo., at 3:17:10. The first place relay team was the US Army, in the Men’s Open category, with a time of 2:23:43.
Enrollment in the new Tricare Retiree Dental Program has surpassed all expectations. Officials had projected 400,000 military retirees and family members would join the plan over five years, but as of September more than 325,000 people had already joined since the plan’s February debut.
Scott Ritter, a former member of the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq who resigned in protest over what he feels is laxness in UN policy toward the team’s actions, says that Saddam Hussein has seven to 12 Scud missiles on hand in disassembled form and the potential to build another 25 by combining available parts from Iraq’s short-range missile arsenal.
On Sept. 17, 11 Vietnam veterans sued CNN and Time magazine over their since-retracted report alleging that the US military used nerve gas on American defectors during the Southeast Asian war. The suit, filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif., was brought by former soldiers and pilots who either took part in Operation Tailwind in 1970 or were pictured or quoted in the news organizations’ stories on the issue.
Congress in late September wrapped up work on the twin pillars of annual military legislation—the defense authorization and appropriation bills for Fiscal 1999.
The authorization bill, which sets policy, approves some $271 billion for the Defense Department and for defense-related operations of the Energy Department and other agencies.
The appropriations bill (which excludes a few categories covered in the authorization bill) came in at $250.5 billion, or roughly $3 billion below this year’s level, if the effects of inflation are factored out.
Defense-minded legislators were generally optimistic that the bills would be the last drawn up under restrictions mandated by the need to balance the federal budget. They said that next year’s budgets might increase to address readiness concerns.
“All of us share the responsibility of reversing the current degradation in our military readiness,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R–Kan.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Lawmakers, in perhaps their most significant alteration of the Clinton Administration budget, tacked on additional money to provide a 3.6 percent pay raise for all military personnel. The White House had requested only a 3.1 percent increase.
The authorization bill prescribes an active duty end strength of 1,395,788, nearly 36,000 fewer troops than at the end of Fiscal 1998. Reserve components are set at 885,322, or 9,937 fewer than in 1998.
Authorization for the Total Air Force: 370,882 for the active-duty force; 106,991 for the Air National Guard; 74,242 for the Air Force Reserve.
The authorization bill also included some important test programs for retiree health care. Specifically, it called for a three-year program, carried out in at least six locations, to test allowing Medicare–eligible military retirees and their families into the federal government’s general health insurance program.
It approves a two-location test program that will use the military’s Tricare health system to supplement Medicare coverage for eligible retirees, as private Medigap coverage does now.
Authorization bill airpower highlights include an increase of $155 million in the aviation spares account. Also on tap is a $30 million hike in the budget for flight safety modifications.
The authorization legislation also calls on the Air Force to provide a plan for the future maintenance of the C-17.
The bills provide and fund increased spare parts needed to support Air Force and Navy flying hours and additional procurement of ammunition.
The authorizers approved withdrawal of 12,000 acres of public lands, known as the Juniper Butte Range, Idaho, to support Air Force training at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.
The lawmakers approved a budget request of $2,900.5 million for procurement, advance procurement, and spare parts for 13 C-17 airlifters.
The authorization bill contains a requirement that F-22 fighter flight testing reach 433 hours (10 percent of the planned total) before USAF can release advance procurement funds for Lot II aircraft. The Secretary of Defense can waive this testing requirement if he certifies to congressional defense committees that fewer flight hours are sufficient.
Congress approved the purchase of two more production F-22s and continued to fund Joint Strike Fighter development.
Congress cut $57 million from the Airborne Laser program, but it also increased a few programs:
$400 million for six additional C-130 cargo planes, for a total of seven this year.
$30 million for the purchase of one F-16 fighter.
$50 million to increase the B-2 bomber’s modifications and conventional weapons upgrades.
Appropriators agreed to provide $13.7 billion for Air Force research, development, test, and evaluation efforts. The other major investment account—procurement—came in at $17.5 billion.