Twelve C-17s and five C-5s carried power-restoration gear and experts to speed relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, described by meteorologists as a “superstorm” that knocked out electricity to more than 10 million Americans in late October.
Active Duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve mobility airmen and machines from 12 bases across the US began staging at March ARB, Calif., Nov. 1. The crews boarded civilian power experts and loaded 632 tons of equipment and supplies, including 69 vehicles from the Southern California Edison utility company, for transport to Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y.
Among the vehicles were 10 cherry picker trucks, four line trucks, a flat-bed digger, eight “trouble trucks,” and a mobile command center, according to Pentagon spokesman George Little.
Once offloaded at Stewart, the vehicles moved out for power-restoration activities in the New York area. “This operation demonstrates the strength of our air mobility system, said Col. James Finney, vice commander of March’s 452nd Air Mobility Wing, a Reserve unit.
“By leveraging our reserve component[s], in partnership with our Active Duty airmen, we are able to provide rapid response to national requirements,” he said. “This is Total Force global mobility at its finest.”
NY Air Guard Pitch In for Sandy
New York Air National Guardsmen deployed for relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Seventy-five members of the New York Air National Guard’s 105th Airlift Wing in Newburgh deployed to conduct relief operations in Manhattan. An equal number of airmen from the state’s 107th Airlift Wing in Niagara Falls staged to Camp Smith Training Site just north of Peekskill Oct. 31, according to officials.
Both contingents were made up exclusively of volunteers. The New York Air Guardsmen were only one element of some 10,000 National Guard airmen and soldiers aiding in relief efforts across 13 eastern seaboard states in the days following the storm, according to the Pentagon.
Guard forces primarily provided communications, shelter, and engineering support; evacuation and security capability; high-water vehicle support; high-water search and rescue; debris removal; and transportation. (For more coverage of Hurricane Sandy, see box, p.19.)
BAE-EADS Quit Merger Talks
The potential merger of defense industry giants BAE Systems and European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS) was called off Oct. 10 as the companies responded to European government concerns.
The merger would have created the largest defense company—by far—in the world.
“BAE Systems and EADS believe that the merger was based on a sound industrial logic” and “would have delivered tangible benefits to all stakeholders,” the companies said in a joint release the same day.
Reuters reported that German government resistance was the key stumbling block, though BAE Systems chief executive Ian G. King stated simply that the two companies were “disappointed” that they were unable to “reach an acceptable agreement” with government stakeholders.
King said the merger would have been a “unique opportunity” for both companies “to create a world-leading aerospace, defense, and security group.”
Youngest B-52 Hits 50
The last B-52H bomber delivered to the Air Force and still in service turned 50 years old on Oct. 26, manufacturer Boeing announced.
Stratofortress serial No. 61-040 is the youngest B-52 in the force and is assigned to Minot AFB, N.D. It flies with the 5th Bomb Wing and was originally delivered from Boeing’s Wichita, Kan., production plant in October 1962.
Between 1952 and 1962, Boeing built 744 B-52s in eight different models.
Today, the Air Force’s B-52 fleet comprises 76 H model aircraft, including two used as test aircraft at Edwards AFB, Calif.
Barksdale AFB, La., hosts the service’s second combat-coded B-52 unit, the 2nd Bomb Wing, as well as Air Force Reserve Command’s 307th BW that runs the B-52 schoolhouse.
The Air Force intends to keep B-52s in service to around 2040.
White House Pushes Fissile Ban
The Obama Administration is renewing efforts to mandate an end to production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons through a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.
The Administration deems that securing a multilateral, verifiable agreement is “too important a matter to be left in a deadlock forever,” the State Department said, announcing the push Oct. 10. As a result, the US is consulting with nuclear powers, including China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, to “find a way to reach consensus and move forward,” according to the State Department.
The treaty would be “the next fundamental step towards multilateral nuclear disarmament,” as it would ban, for the first time, the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, stated the news release.
The State Department noted that the United States has not produced plutonium for weapons since 1988.
The Pentagon issued its Western Hemisphere Defense Policy Statement in October, outlining the US military’s mission and roles close to home in support of the Obama Administration’s new defense guidance.
“We will seek to be the security partner of choice, enhancing existing partnerships and pursuing new ones with nations whose interests and viewpoints are merging into a common vision of freedom, stability, and prosperity,” according to the DOD document released Oct. 4.
In an era of tight resources, the Defense Department “will focus its security cooperation efforts” on activities that “enhance partnering bilaterally and regionally, based on shared security interests,” the statement said.
“Specifically, DOD will support the role of defense institutions in addressing the threats of the 21st century, help partners develop mature and professional forces, and promote integration and interoperability.”
The United States will also seek to strengthen “multilateral linkages and mechanisms for defense cooperation.”
Second Hold for X-37B
The Air Force and United Launch Alliance delayed launching an X-37B reusable spaceplane atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., in October and aimed instead for a late November launch. The delays stem from the booster; Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Tracy Bunko affirmed that “there is no problem” with the X-37 vehicle itself.
The launch delay will give engineers more time to analyze the data from the anomaly of a Delta IV RL-10B-2 upper-stage engine during a GPS IIF satellite launch in October, according to ULA, which supplies both the Atlas and Delta rockets.
This mission, designated OTV-3, will be the second journey to space for the Air Force’s first X-37 orbital test vehicle. This flight will demonstrate the craft is indeed reusable. The October launch was initially rescheduled for Nov. 13, before being pushed to the end of November.
“Although the Atlas V that will launch OTV-3 utilizes a different model of the RL-10 engine, ULA leadership and the OTV customer have decided to postpone the currently scheduled launch to allow an additional two weeks for the flight data anomaly investigation,” said ULA officials.
At the beginning of November, ULA said the investigation was progressing well, but USAF and company officials were postponing the launch another two weeks to more thoroughly probe the problem and conduct a “thorough crossover assessment” for the X-37B OTV launch vehicle, ULA officials said Nov. 2.
F-35 Funds Withheld
The Defense Department is withholding $46.5 million in reimbursements from Lockheed Martin until the company fixes deficiencies in its earned value management system used to track F-35 program costs and scheduling.
That amount totals five percent of two F-35 production contracts and a smaller development agreement for Israel, according to a Bloomberg news report Oct. 26.
Lockheed Martin President Christopher E. Kubasik said the company had already made progress toward resolving the issue. Speaking in a teleconference in late October, Kubasik said, “We have a corrective action plan that has been approved, and we are executing to that.”
He said Lockheed Martin is “having status checks monthly, and by all accounts, everybody is satisfied with the progress that we are making.”
Russian Nuclear Exercise
On Oct. 20, Russia conducted its largest strategic nuclear force exercise since the Soviet Union’s collapse, deploying heavy bombers, submarines, and land-based ballistic missiles, according to the Kremlin.
Russia launched an SS-25 ICBM from the Plesetsk site in northwest Russia, while a submarine fired a long-range missile from the Sea of Okhotsk in Russia’s Far East. Further, Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers fired four cruise missiles that hit their targets on a testing range in the Komi region of northwest Russia, Reuters reported.
The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir V. Putin gave a “high assessment” to the units involved and the military’s general staff “who all accomplished the tasks set and proved [the] reliability and efficiency of Russia’s nuclear forces.”
The exercises concluded one day after Putin reviewed nuclear forces’ management and oversaw test launches of ballistic and cruise missiles that “reached set targets at various military testing grounds,” Russian officials said.
Super Hercs Cleared
Air Force operational testers have certified the new special mission Super Hercules variants as “effective, suitable, and mission capable,” announced Lockheed Martin.
The Air Force is recapitalizing its legacy HC-130s and MC-130s with the new-build Combat King IIs and Commando IIs, modified versions of Lockheed’s base C-130J model.
The company is under contract for 15 HC-130Js and 27 MC-130Js. USAF plans to procure a total of 37 HC-130Js and 85 MC-130Js overall, and 16 of the MC-130Js are slated to undergo postproduction conversion to AC-130J gunships.
The HC-130J Combat King II rescue aircraft and MC-130J Commando II special mission tankers received certification after completing operational testing in October, according to the company.
Special Mission C-130Js Ordered
The Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin $889.5 million to supply 11 C-130J-based aircraft over the next two-and-a-half years, the Pentagon announced.
The order includes four HC-130J rescue aircraft for Air Combat Command, seven MC-130J special mission aircraft for Air Force Special Operations Command, and a single C-130J combat delivery airplane for Air Mobility Command, according to DOD’s major contract awards release Oct. 23.
The order also includes a single KC-130J tanker aircraft for the Marine Corps, said company spokesman Peter Simmons. All of them will be delivered from Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, Ga., plant by July 2015.
In the wake of the sexual misconduct scandal at JBSA-Lackland, Tex., Air Force officials are considering switching to all-female military training instructors for female flights in basic military training.
“We’re looking at everything, but at this point” switching to same-sex drill instructors isn’t an option “we are aggressively pursuing,” said Maj. Gen. Leonard A. Patrick, 2nd Air Force commander, who oversees BMT.
“We want to train like we fight,” he continued. “We don’t want to create something we’ll have to overcome in the future. Young men are going to have to learn how to be supervised by women and vice versa.”
In the meantime, Air Education and Training Command has mandated that at least one of the four assigned MTIs will be female when there are either two all-female flights or a brother and sister flight, said Patrick.
“When I start molding the young airmen, early on I want them to be exposed to all genders. It starts in BMT,” Patrick said.
The Marine Corps is the only service to segregate basic trainees by gender, Patrick said during an October teleconference with reporters.
Cyber CHAMP Missile
During a test flight over the Utah desert in October, the nonexplosive missile known as CHAMP successfully knocked out electronic targets with a payload emitting high-powered microwaves.
CHAMP, which stands for Counterelectronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project, targeted personal computers and electrical systems without causing collateral damage to the two-story building on the range during the hour-long test.
“Today we turned science fiction into science fact,” said Boeing’s CHAMP program manager Keith Coleman. “In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive.”
Boeing is developing CHAMP under an Office of the Secretary of Defense-sponsored project.
The company conducted the test with the Air Force Research Lab’s Directed Energy Directorate at the Utah Test and Training Range Oct. 16.
Devil in the Delta
The Air Force is investigating why a Delta IV RL-10B-2 upper stage engine malfunctioned during a GPS satellite launch in October.
The Delta IV successfully delivered the GPS satellite “into its proper orbit” despite the anomaly, but the incident was considered serious enough to warrant investigation, Air Force Space Command officials said in October. Gen. William L. Shelton, AFSPC commander, ordered the investigation.
“While the launch was ultimately successful, the time-honored rigor and earnest process of an accident investigation board will serve us well as we attempt to determine the root cause of this anomaly,” said Shelton. “In the end, our objective is continued safe and reliable launch for our nation.” The Air Force’s launch-manifest schedule was under review while the root cause was being determined, AFSPC officials said.
500 C-17 Flights in Antarctica
Airmen from JB Lewis-McChord, Wash., completed the 500th C-17 airlift mission to Antarctica Oct. 14, during the opening month of Operation Deep Freeze.
A McChord C-17, flying from Christchurch, New Zealand, under the call sign Ice 11, carried personnel and cargo bound for the research outpost at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Upon the mission’s completion, C-17s had transported more than 40,000 passengers and nearly 45 million pounds of cargo to Antarctica under Deep Freeze since 1999, McChord officials said.
“We are extremely proud of this milestone. Five hundred missions is a significant accomplishment,” said Col. R. Wyn Elder, 62nd Airlift Wing commander.
Airmen of the 62nd Airlift Wing and Air Force Reserve Command’s 446th Airlift Wing at McChord completed all 500 of the missions without a mishap, according to unit officials.
The Air Force plans to fly 48 missions during the 2012-2013 Deep Freeze season, providing logistical support of US scientific research through March.
Third GPS IIF Satellite Operational
The 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., accepted control of the third GPS Block IIF satellite, which launched earlier in the month, on Oct. 26.
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carried the Boeing-built positioning, navigation, and timing satellite designated SVN-65 aloft on Oct. 4.
“Everything went smoothly following the launch,” said Col. Bernard Gruber, Space and Missile Systems Center’s GPS director.
“This is the third GPS Block IIF that we’ve placed on orbit and the process seems to get better with each launch. We were able to decrease the timeline for checkout of the vehicle, and it’s clear we’re on the right track for future success.”
Airmen of 2nd SOPS will control the satellite during its operational service life, along with members of Air Force Reserve Command’s 19th SOPS.
The Block IIF satellites are designed for greater accuracy, a more robust and secure signal, and an extended service life over previous models. The first IIF satellite entered operational service in August 2010.
Vertigo Downed U-28A
Aircrew spatial disorientation caused the fatal crash of an Air Force Special Operations Command-operated U-28A on deployment to the Horn of Africa earlier this year.
All four crew members were killed when the ISR aircraft went down just outside Ambouli Airport, Djibouti, returning after a combat mission Feb. 18.
Evidence demonstrates the mission crew “did not recognize the position of the aircraft and, as a result, failed to take appropriate corrective actions,” according to the report by AFSOC’s accident investigation board.
“The crew never lost control of the aircraft” and “there were no indications of mechanical malfunction,” an AFSOC news release said. The aircrew was assigned to the 34th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
The aircraft, valued at $14.5 million, was assigned to Hurlburt Field, Fla.
“Most Complex” Missile Test
The US military conducted its “largest, most complex missile defense flight test ever,” Missile Defense Agency officials said.
The Oct. 25 drill, at the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the western Pacific, involved the simultaneous engagement of three ballistic missile targets and two cruise missile targets to stress the integrated performance of the Army’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems, as well as the Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense element.
Flight Test Integrated-01 was a combined developmental and operational live-fire exercise that included airmen in the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and airmen, sailors, and soldiers operating near Kwajalein.
Initial indications are that THAAD “successfully intercepted” a medium-range ballistic missile target for the first time, while PAC-3 “near simultaneously destroyed” a short-range ballistic missile and a low-flying cruise missile over water, according to MDA.
The destroyer USS Fitzgerald also “successfully engaged” a low-flying submarine-launched cruise missile with an SM-3 Block 1A interceptor, but there was no indication the missile actually intercepted its target, according to an MDA news release.
AEHF-2 Aces On-Orbit Testing
USAF’s second Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications satellite, AEHF-2, completed on-orbit testing, bringing it a step closer to operational status.
Operators probed the satellite’s individual performance as well as its cross-links with AEHF-1, and the legacy Milstar satellite constellation, said space officials at Los Angeles AFB, Calif.
The testing “successfully demonstrated the performance” of an all-AEHF constellation and also validated that “multiple AEHF satellites can operate seamlessly within a Milstar constellation,” stated the Oct. 31 press release.
AEHF satellites will eventually replace Milstar. Like the legacy constellation, AEHF is designed to provide secure and reliable global communication to US leadership and military commanders.
The Air Force and its industry partners launched the Lockheed Martin-built AEHF-2 into orbit in early May. It arrived at its intended orbit in August and completed testing in late September.
LAIRCM Layup Over
After a hiatus of more than one year, workers at Robins AFB, Ga., resumed installing the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures System on C-17 transports.
LAIRCM features a suite of sensors and lasers that work together to thwart anti-aircraft missiles having infrared guidance. The system is also fitted on C-5s and C-130s.
By the beginning of November, sheet metal and aircraft mechanics, electricians, and hydraulics technicians from the 562nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron had nearly completed the first aircraft since the work restarted, according to base officials.
“The pause in LAIRCM installations on C-17 aircraft was due to a delay in procuring the long-lead parts needed for the installation process,” Robins spokeswoman Christine Miner said.
“Although previously contracted C-17 LAIRCM installations were completed in July 2010, contractual agreements for further installations were not definitized until September 2010. C-17 installations restarted upon parts becoming available in February 2012,” she explained.
An expeditionary contingent of F-15Cs from Kadena AB, Japan, deployed to JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to support the Alaskan NORAD Region this fall.
For the purposes of the deployment, pilots, maintainers, and support personnel from Kadena deployed as the 44th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.
The unit is responsible for protecting the airspace around Alaska and “intercepting any aircraft attempting to enter US or Canada airspace,” said Capt. Joshua Gunderson, 44th EFS electronic combat officer, in an Oct. 31 news release from Elmendorf.
“We are also responsible for intercepting any aircraft that originate within the US not following their flight plan and/or showing signs of suspicious activity,” Gunderson said.
Typically, F-22s from Elmendorf-Richardson deploy to Okinawa and not the other way around.
The Kadena airmen took advantage of their time in Alaska to fly with Elmendorf’s F-22s and to conduct low-altitude training in a mountainous region, something they cannot do at their home base.
Forking Over the BACN
Northrop Grumman delivered its second specially configured Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft this year to Grand Forks AFB, N.D., early this fall.
The most recent EQ-4B air vehicle arrived at Grand Forks Sept. 7, some four months ahead of its delivery schedule, according to a company release Oct. 23.
The aircraft is the second of two Battlefield Airborne Communications Node-equipped EQ-4Bs ordered in 2011, the first having been delivered in June, according to Northrop Grumman.
Factoring the loss of an EQ-4B over Afghanistan in August 2011, these deliveries bring the operational BACN-carrying Global Hawk fleet up to three.
The Air Force also operates three similarly equipped E-11A Global Express jets for overhead communications-relay tasks in theater and recently ordered the conversion of a fourth.
California Sky Surfing
Two C-17s probed the fuel-savings potential of long-distance formation flying using automated control software to maintain position during recent trials at Edwards AFB, Calif. The Air Force Research Lab, in conjunction with Air Mobility Command, sponsors the project known as Surfing Aircraft Vortices for Energy, or Save.
The study “involves two or more aircraft flying together for a reduced drag effect, like what you see with a flock of geese,” explained AMC chief scientist Donald R. Erbschloe. The unique software allows pilots to “surf” the vortex of a lead airplane for long distances, thereby conserving energy. Analysis of initial data indicates that the trailing C-17 cut fuel burn by almost 10 percent while flying no closer than 4,000 feet from the lead aircraft, according to AFRL officials.
“The autopilot held the position extremely well, even close to the vortex,” said test pilot Capt. Zachary Schaffer.
As a result of initial testing, AFRL believes this type of formation flying holds the promise of reducing fuel consumption by “millions of gallons” annually.
Trials at Edwards ran from Sept. 6 to Oct. 2.
ADVENT Engine Tests
General Electric Aviation revealed that it has started testing a variable-cycle engine core it is maturing for the Air Force Research Lab’s Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology program.
“The ADVENT engine is a revolutionary military engine” that “will enable the Air Force to meet the aggressive performance targets required for future missions,” said Jeff Martin, GE Aviation’s general manager for ADVENT.
The tests will demonstrate “advanced core propulsion technologies,” including lightweight, heat-resistant ceramic matrix composite materials,” the company stated in a press release Oct. 4. The results are expected to be “a 25 percent improvement in fuel efficiency, a 30 percent increase in operating range, and a five- to 10-percent improvement in thrust compared to today’s fixed cycle engines,” according to GE.
This fall, AFRL awarded GE Aviation a $394.7 million contract to continue its engine work through September 2016 under a follow-on Adaptive Engine Technology Development project.
ADVENT is scheduled to conclude with a full engine test in 2013.
First Installment for More Satellites
The Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin an $82 million contract to begin work on the fifth and sixth Space Based Infrared System missile warning satellites, GEO-5 and GEO-6.
This initial contract covers “complete nonrecurring engineering activities” and procurement of select “long-lead spacecraft parts,” according to the company’s announcement Oct. 25.
“By the Air Force acquiring satellites in bulk, rather than one at a time, we can significantly reduce costs by achieving economies of scale,” explained Jeff Smith, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared mission area. The recent contract serves to “sustain a steady production rate” over time, he said.
The Air Force is procuring these two satellites under a fixed-price contract structure. The first SBIRS geosynchronous satellite, GEO-1, is already in space, and GEO-2 is scheduled for launch in March 2013, according to Lockheed Martin.
GEO-3 and GEO-4 are still in various stages of fabrication.
B-2 Upgrades Progress
B-2 stealth bombers will begin receiving new high-speed processing subsystems under a $108 million low-rate initial production contract awarded to Northrop Grumman in October.
The work is part of the first increment of the B-2’s Extremely High Frequency satellite communications program and will serve as “a smart, cost-effective way to enable future combat capability on the B-2,” said company B-2 modernization director Ron Naylor.
“Every current and future [B-2] upgrade program … will benefit from the quantum leap in processing power and data-handling capacity provided by this new hardware and software,” he said in a contract announcement Oct. 11.
The new hardware and software include an integrated processing unit, a high-capacity disk drive, and a network of fiber-optic cable, according to Northrop Grumman.
The Increment 1 hardware and software completed operational testing in July, said Naylor. The Air Force awarded the contract to Northrop Grumman, the B-2’s prime contractor, on Sept. 28.
MC-12 Training Stand-up at Beale
In an Oct. 5 ceremony, officials at Beale AFB, Calif., activated the 306th Intelligence Squadron to train tactical systems operators for the MC-12W Project Liberty ISR aircraft.
The unit, which falls under the 361st Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group at Hurlburt Field, Fla., will instruct more than 150 airmen each year, according to Beale officials.
“We will take the combat experience we have already and use new experience to build a strong pool of ISR airmen,” said Lt. Col. Robb Rigtrup, the squadron’s commander.
The squadron traces its heritage to the 6306th Reconnaissance Technical Flight that began as a photoreconnaissance unit in 1953, according to the base.
CV-22 at 2,000 Hours
A CV-22 tilt-rotor assigned to the 71st Special Operations Squadron at Kirtland AFB, N.M., became the first USAF Osprey to surpass 2,000 flying hours. It hit the milestone on a training sortie on Oct. 15.
“As a first generation, multirole weapon system, the 2,000-hour mark demonstrates the operational triumphs of this unique airframe,” said SSgt. Cameron Settle, 58th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “It has enabled the Air Force to see the concept in action, in order to evaluate the importance of the role this weapon system provides to our military.”
The 71st SOS has been training Osprey aircrews since 2006. The aircraft was built in 2002.
California Guardsmen and contingency response airmen from Travis AFB, Calif., opened a simulated Middle Eastern forward base during crisis exercise Soaring Angel.
Held at nearby Fort Hunter Liggett, “the main goal of this exercise was to integrate with our partners to get significant training close to home at a reduced cost,” said MSgt. Paul Spear of the 573rd Global Support Squadron.
More than 50 members of Travis’ 621st Contingency Response Wing partnered with the ANG’s 129th Rescue Wing from Moffett Field, Calif., for the nine-day exercise.
The Travis airmen got hands-on training in command and control, ramp coordination, aerial port activities, and security operations, according to Travis officials.
For the Moffett airmen, the exercise was valuable practice for deployments early next year to the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia, said Lt. Col. Andrew Ferguson, 129th RQW plans officer. Soaring Angel concluded Oct. 17.
Doubled RPA Training at Holloman
Officials activated the 9th Attack Squadron as a second MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft training at Holloman AFB, N.M., to deal with the service’s increased demand for RPA operators.
“MQ-9 training requirements have doubled,” said SMSgt. James Howard, 9th AS superintendent, in Holloman’s Oct. 4 release. “By having two training squadrons, it enables us to train more students to meet that requirement.”
“Last year, the US Air Force trained more RPA aircrew than traditional pilots, and that is a trend that is likely to continue,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Patton, 9th AS commander.
The unit stood up Sept. 28 and will now train half of the Reaper operators receiving instruction at Holloman, in concert with the base’s existing 29th AS.
Both units will share the base’s fleet of 11 MQ-9s. The new squadron traces its history to the 9th Fighter Squadron, flying P-38s, P-40s, and P-47s during World War II.
ICBM Payload Transporter
The Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a four-year, $39.7 million contract to design, develop, test, and qualify a replacement payload transporter system for the Minuteman III ICBM fleet.
The existing payload transporter is nearing the end of its design life, and “the replacement transporter will provide an immediate improvement in security,” said Mark Bishop, Northrop Grumman’s program manager for the payload transporter replacement.
The upgrade will also “prevent potential supportability impacts from the aging system currently in use,” he said in the company’s news release Nov. 1.
Northrop Grumman is the Minuteman III’s overall prime contractor in charge of sustaining the fleet, which USAF expects to operate out to 2030.
Yeager Revisits Mach 1
Retired Brig. Gen. Charles E. Yeager, the first man to officially break the “sound barrier” in level flight, on Oct. 14 recreated the feat exactly 65 years later to the minute—this time in the backseat of an F-15 fighter.
On Oct. 14, 1947, the then-24-year-old Yeager piloted the rocket-propelled Bell X-1 through Mach 1 over the Mojave Desert, achieving the feat at 10:24 a.m. on a flight from Edwards AFB, Calif.
Sixty-five years later, Capt. David Vincent, a 65th Aggressor Squadron pilot at Nellis Air Force Base flew the re-enactment flight out of the Nevada base.
Said Yeager of the anniversary flight, “I’m very familiar with the area and got a good view.”
|F-35A Drops First Weapons
An F-35A dropped a 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition over the China Lake range in southern California, Oct. 16, marking the first time the Air Force variant of the fighter has dropped a bomb.
AF-1, flown by Maj. Eric Schultz, released the weapon from the F-35’s left internal weapons bay, becoming the second F-35 overall to drop a weapon in flight.
The same Air Force F-35 also completed the first in-flight release of an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile three days later.
Pilot Maj. Matthew Phillips jettisoned the instrumented AIM-120 from one of the aircraft’s two internal weapons bays over China Lake Oct. 19 test, according to Lockheed Martin.
A Marine Corps F-35B made the first-ever in-flight drop from a Lightning II when it released a 1,000-pound inert bomb in August.
The F-35A has four internal weapon stations—two in each of its two weapon bays—and has an additional three external weapon stations per wing, if not flying in stealth mode.
The fighter can carry a payload of up to 18,000 pounds, stated Lockheed Martin.
|Record Year for US Arms Sales
The United States “dominated” the world in conventional arms sales last fiscal year, totaling $66.3 billion in arms transfer agreements to developing and developed nations, according to the Congressional Research Service.
“This is the highest single-year agreements total in the history of the US arms export program,” CRS said in its report discussing FMS transactions during 2011.
US sales accounted for 77.7 percent of the world’s total arms sales—$85.3 billion—during 2011. Total arms sales had substantially increased from $44.5 billion in 2010, according to the report released earlier this year.
However, authors Richard F. Grimmett and Paul K. Kerr said that much of the US spike was due to the atypical sale of $33.7 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia, including 84 new-build F-15SA fighters.
“The international arms market is not likely growing overall,” they wrote. Instead, “the weakened state of the global economy” has “generally limited defense purchases.”
|USAF Hunts for a New Rescue Chopper
The Air Force requested proposals from industry for a new combat rescue helicopter to replace its heavily worn HH-60G Pave Hawks, service officials announced Oct. 22.
The move signals “the official launch of this high-priority Air Force acquisition program,” to restart the search for a new helicopter after USAF scuttled the CSAR-X program back in 2010, the service said.
USAF wants a fleet of 112 new helicopters, aiming to field the first around Fiscal 2016, with deliveries into the late 2020s, according to solicitation documents published Oct. 19.
The CRH’s primary mission will be “to recover isolated personnel from hostile or denied territory,” but it will also conduct ancillary missions such as civil search and rescue and medical and casualty evacuations of combatants, according to the official release.
Hover performance, combat radius, payload, and cabin space will be important factors in the Air Force’s assessment of each bid. The Air Force wants “a product that meets the requirement at an affordable price,” service officials said.
USAF funded two CRH test aircraft in its Fiscal 2013 budget request and plans to award the CRH contract in late September 2013, according to the RFP’s cover letter, posted with the online solicitation.
The service got as far as selecting a new CSAR helicopter in 2010, choosing a variant of Boeing’s MH-47 Chinook, but budget cuts caused the service to quit the project and reduce the scope of its requirements.
|The War on Terrorism
Operation Enduring Freedom
By Nov. 14, a total of 2,147 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 2,144 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,701 were killed in action with the enemy while 442 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 17,992 troops wounded in action during OEF.
Afghan Air Force Graduates Pilots
Three Afghan Air Force pilot trainees at Shindand Air Base became the first fixed-wing students to earn their wings in Afghanistan in some 30 years, in a ceremony there Oct. 15.
They were also the first pilots to complete their fixed-wing training program entirely in Afghanistan—as opposed to instruction in the United States—since the beginning of NATO’s air training mission in Afghanistan in 2007, according to 438th Air Expeditionary Wing training advisors.
“Now I am a pilot. I have a job to do to serve my country. That’s all I wanted,” said 1st Lt. Khan Agha Ghaznavi.
The airmen began initial flight screening in December 2011 and worked through their course of study, including more than 250 hours in the simulator and Cessna 182 and Cessna 208 aircraft.
The three airmen now proceed to advanced qualification training to become operational C-208 copilots, according to advisory officials.
Aeromed’s Airplane-Side Dispensary
RED HORSE civil engineers opened a new crew-prep facility for the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, at the beginning of October.
“The new facility is right on the ramp, closer to the aircraft, and closer to the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility,” said 455th EAES Commander Lt. Col. Carla Marcinek during the ribbon cutting at Bagram Oct. 6. “This means we can work more efficiently, we can respond faster, and ultimately that translates to better patient care for our wounded.”
The new building is twice as large as the previous structure and holds enough flight-ready medical equipment and supplies to accommodate transient crews, from places such as Kandahar Airfield, as well as 455th EAES nurses and medics.
Civil engineers from the 457th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron designed the facility, working closely with members of the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron to cut construction cost.
|East Coast Air Bridge for Sandy
Air Mobility Command launched its largest Stateside humanitarian airlift since 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy at the end of October, command officials said.
Under the overall coordination of US Northern Command, AMC C-5s, C-17s, and C-130s airlifted 3,312 tons of relief cargo and 723 emergency personnel in 269 sorties between Oct. 31 and Nov. 8, according to official tallies.
“The devastation from Hurricane Sandy has required the largest domestic humanitarian airlift of cargo since Hurricane Katrina,” said AMC spokesman Roger Drinnon in a Nov. 9 statement. “It’s simple: We’re here to answer the call when it comes, whether across the globe or here at home.”
Relief flights delivered 261 response and utility repair vehicles from staging bases as far away as California to restore the electrical grid, notably in New York City ahead of the rapidly advancing cold.
“The welcome mat is out at our bases. We are standing by and ready to support utility crews with staging areas, logistical assistance, or anything else they need to help restore power quickly,” summed up NORTHCOM commander Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr.
Overall DOD response assets operating under Defense Logistics Agency control delivered humanitarian supplies and food to aid recovery from the storm in the hardest hit areas of West Virginia, New Jersey, and New York during the first week of November.
This included 253,000 gallons of gasoline and 157,000 gallons of diesel fuel to relieve shortages hampering recovery, nearly two million meals to displaced citizens, 112 pumps to drain flooded buildings, and 51 generators to provide emergency power, according to a DOD summary at the height of operations Nov. 5.
Nearly 7,700 Army and Air National Guard members from across the US were assisting in relief, damage assessment, debris removal, distribution of supplies, and law enforcement, the news release stated.
For comparison, AMC hefted a monumental 5,076 tons of supplies, evacuated 1,794 medical patients, and ferried 14,198 responder and relief workers during Katrina, command statistics show.
|Senior Staff Changes
RETIREMENTS: Maj. Gen. David J. Scott, Brig. Gen. Jimmy E. McMillian. AFRC RETIREMENTS: Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Coon, Maj. Gen. Anita R. Gallentine, Maj. Gen. Stephen P. Gross.
CHANGES: Brig. Gen. Balan R. Ayyar, from Cmdr., AF Recruiting Svc., AETC, JBSA-Randolph, Tex., to Dep. Commanding General, Detainee Ops., Combined Jt. Interagency Task Force-435, US Forces-Afghanistan, CENTCOM, Kabul, Afghanistan … Maj. Gen. Walter D. Givhan, from Dep. Asst. Secy., Plans, Prgms., & Ops., Department of State, Washington, D.C., to Cmdr., Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Dev. & Education, and Vice Cmdr., Air University, AETC, Maxwell AFB, Ala. … Maj. Gen. (sel.) Morris E. Haase, from Dep. Cmdr., Jt. Task Force, Horn of Africa, AFRICOM, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, to Dir., Intel., Surveillance, & Recon, DCS, ISR, USAF, Pentagon … Maj. Gen. Steven L. Kwast, from Dir., Rqmts., ACC, JB Langley-Eustis, Va., to Dir., AF Quadrennial Defense Review, Office of the Asst. Vice C/S, USAF, Pentagon … Brig. Gen. Scott F. Smith, from Exec. Officer to the Combatant Cmdr., SOUTHCOM, Miami, to Dep. Cmdr., Jt. Task Force, Horn of Africa, AFRICOM, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE CHANGES: Rodney A. Grandon, to Dep. General Counsel of the AF, Office of the AF General Counsel, Pentagon … Lawrence S. Kingsley, to Dir., Instl., Log., & Mission Spt., AFGSC, Barksdale AFB, La. … Jeffrey D. Specht, to Exec. Dir., AF Office of Special Investigations, Office of the Inspector General, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT CHANGE: CMSgt. James A. Cody, to Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, USAF, Pentagon.