Suicide Suspected in A-10 Crash
In a surprise twist to an unusual tale, the Air Force wrapped up its investigation into the crash of an A-10 aircraft last spring by concluding that the pilot probably caused the accident in an act of suicide.
Air Combat Command on Oct. 27 released the report of the accident investigation board that studied the April 2 crash of an A-10 near Eagle, Colo. The pilot, Capt. Craig Button, died in the aircraft.
The report concludes that “the pilot apparently committed suicide by crashing his aircraft into the side of a mountain.” It noted that the pilot did so “for undetermined reasons” and that one of the main supports for the conclusion was “a lack of credible evidence to the contrary.”
The A-10, assigned to the 355th Wing at Davis–Monthan AFB, Ariz., was part of a three-ship formation that had embarked on a routine training mission to a bombing range. Button’s A-10 carried four 500-pound bombs and 575 rounds of 30 mm training ammunition.
Just before the formation reached the range, the flight leader directed a formation change. As the other aircraft got in position, Button’s A-10 disappeared. Flight path information showed that Button flew his A-10 from central Arizona to central Colorado, approximately 495 miles from where he departed the training formation. His aircraft crashed 15 miles southeast of Eagle, Colo., just below the summit of 13,100-foot-high Gold Dust Peak.
Aircraft malfunction was ruled out as a potential cause of this incident. So was the possibility of pilot incapacitation. According to senior investigating officer Col. Philip J. Frazee, “Radar tracks and reports from numerous witnesses reveal the aircraft was maneuvering through high terrain along the route, changing altitude and heading on numerous occasions.”
Frazee added, “Based on all available evidence, it is my opinion that, for unknown reasons, the mishap pilot spontaneously elected to leave his briefed formation, consciously flew the aircraft to Colorado, and committed suicide by impacting the terrain while in controlled flight.”
Mountain Home AEF Returns
Units from the 366th Wing, located at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, returned from Bahrain on Oct. 22, the Air Force announced. Personnel and aircraft from the wing had been supporting Operation Southern Watch, the policing of a no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Their return marks the end of the first Air Expeditionary Force made up of people and aircraft from a single wing.
More than 800 airmen and 22 fighter aircraft, including F-16 Falcons, F-15C Eagles, and F-15E Strike Eagles, deployed to Bahrain in early September.
Two Perish in Midair Crash
A T-38 Talon aircraft crashed at Edwards AFB, Calif., on Oct. 22 following a midair collision with an F-16 fighter. Two died in the crash.
Dead are Lt. Col. William R. Nusz, assigned to the 419th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards, and Flight Leader Leigh Alexander Fox, of the Royal Air Force. Both were flying in the T-38.
The F-16 performed an emergency landing on a dry lake bed at Edwards. The aircraft was flown by Lt. Col. Richard Stevens, deputy commander of the 412th Operations Group, and Capt. Nicole Blatt of the 419th Test Wing, both assigned to Edwards. Neither crew member was injured.
Both aircraft were on a photographic support mission of a B-1B Lancer that was conducting a conventional weapons drop test of BDU-33s. The BDU-33 is a training bomb.
Russian Fighter Makes First Flight
A prototype of a Russian next-generation fighter, the Sukhoi S-32, made its first flight Sept. 25, according to the Russian news agency Tass.
The S-32’s maiden hop occurred two weeks after the first flight of the next-generation US air dominance aircraft, the F-22.
Tass said that the S-32 is stealthy, having a radar absorbent airframe coating and conformal, under-fuselage weapons stowage, among other stealth features. It features an “integrated triplane” design that uses forward-swept composite wings, aft-swept canards, and twin vertical fins. This flight surface arrangement is meant to increase maneuverability in dogfights.
The S-32 has been under development for the past decade. The Sukhoi design bureau is believed to have paid for this R&D via commercial sales of its Su-27/30 to China, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
According to Japanese media, China will start making its own Su-27SK fighters, under Russian license, in 1998.
Aviano Teams Help Quake Victims
In the wake of a Sept. 26 earthquake in central Italy, Air Force civil engineers from Aviano AB and Camp Darby, Italy, deployed to assist with local disaster relief efforts.
Included in the effort were more than 30 members of the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron and 31st RED HORSE Flight. They arrived with heavy equipment Oct. 17 and established a five-tent area to serve as base camp.
Using everything from bulldozers to earthmovers, the civil engineers are clearing and grading land, and trucking in gravel to pave the way for Italian crews to set up temporary, prefabricated shelters for the nearly 4,000 displaced residents.
The earthquake was the most destructive to hit the region in more than 80 years. It killed 12 and injured hundreds.
Reserve Trims Training Requirements
Air Force Reserve Command is cutting Reservists’ training requirements wherever possible in an effort to ease the burden of high personnel tempo. So far, AFRC officials have been able to do away with about 34 hours a year of noncombat readiness training requirements.
“And we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg,” said Brig. Gen. David S. Sibley, AFRC assistant vice commander. “We’re still working on reducing ancillary training and are hoping to capture another 25 to 30 hours per year.”
For years AFRC had been adding training without giving much thought to how much time people really had, say command officials. They estimate that there are now 50 to 75 annual ancillary training requirements.
Meanwhile, real-world contingency operations have been taking more and more of Reservists’ limited duty time.
“It’s safe to say that many functional areas experience more ancillary training requirements than they have hours to apply in meeting them,” said Maj. Larry Lee, chief of the Training Support Branch in AFRC’s Directorate of Personnel. “We have the same requirements as our active duty counterparts but have a much narrower window to satisfy them.”
After they’re done looking at ancillary training, AFRC plans to start scrutinizing Air Force Specialty Code training requirements for possible further time savings. A Reserve clearinghouse already ensures that no new requirements are added to the training list without another requirement being deleted.
Airlift/Tanker Hybrids Seen
Lockheed Martin officials say that future military tanker, transport, and airlift aircraft could be different versions of a single basic airframe.
A family of affordable, modular aircraft could become operational around 2007 to 2010, firm officials told reporters in Washington on Oct. 16. The plane would have a 30 percent lower development cost than existing transporters, among other advantages, they said.
Lockheed Martin believes there is a future market for as many as 970 of these aircraft. Of this number, 450 would be tactical airlift models, 370 would be tankers, and 150 would be strategic airlift aircraft.
The upcoming decision on replacement of the C-5 could be the first opportunity to test this modular theory—though an upgrade of existing C-5s’ reliability is also an option.
The concept could also be applicable to the KC-135 tanker replacement, due around 2013, and the proposed C-130 replacement, the Advanced Theater Transport, which is due around 2010.
NDP Seeks More Prototypes
The National Defense Panel recommends that the Pentagon focus its procurement strategy on the quick purchase and testing of small numbers of individual weapon systems, according to its chairman.
NDP chairman Philip A. Odeen told reporters on Oct. 2 that he supports efforts such as the Navy’s purchase of a few missile-laden Arsenal Ships and the idea of buying relatively limited numbers of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles.
“You don’t have to buy 50 of these things, but you ought to buy one or two,” said Odeen. They would then be field-tested in experiments and exercises, as the Army now uses its exercise base at Ft. Irwin, Calif., to test new weapons and concepts.
The NDP was established by Congress to provide a critique of alternatives to the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review. It was working against a Dec. 1 report deadline.
Odeen said the panel urges reform of the landmark National Security Act of 1947, which set up the current Department of Defense and established the Air Force as an independent military service.
There have been dramatic changes in the national security landscape in the last 50 years, yet the nation’s institutional structure for providing defense remains relatively unchanged, said Odeen. “We need to better organize the national security apparatus,” he said.
Servicewomen’s Memorial Dedicated
More than 30,000 people on Oct. 18 gathered outside the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery to witness the dedication of America’s first major memorial honoring women who have served in the armed forces. Among the crowd were servicewomen ranging from World War I vets to those currently serving.
The $21.5 million Women in Military Service for America Memorial site takes up 4.2 acres and features a 30-foot-high neoclassical retaining wall. It hosts a 33,000–square foot education center with a Hall of Honor, 196-seat theater, and computer register of servicewomen.
“This memorial is more than a remembrance, it’s also a reminder that women in the military’s service to America is not new and should never again be allowed to go unrecognized,” said Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen.
More than 1.8 million women have served in the military from the Revolutionary War to the present.
Mail-Order Pharmacy Kicks Off
Many military health care enrollees could mail away for prescriptions via a new mail-order pharmacy service that DoD initiated Oct. 6.
The Defense Personnel Support Center awarded an initial contract to run the service to Merck-Medco Managed Care, Inc., Maple Grove, Minn. This national plan will eventually replace regional mail-order plans now run by individual Tricare contractors.
“The goal of the program is to provide a uniform pharmacy benefit,” said Air Force Capt. Debra Parrish, the program’s director at DPSC. “Patients will have a convenient way of receiving prescription drugs and a greater variety of drugs are available.”
As all regions are phased in, more than seven million people will benefit from the program, officials estimate. Among those who might find the service particularly useful are active duty personnel who are far from a military base, including those overseas and at embassies. Military retirees who live close to facilities that have been closed by downsizing are also likely to find mail-order prescriptions convenient.
The mail-order pharmacy is free to military members. Their families will pay a $4 co-payment per item. Retirees and their family members will pay an $8 co-payment.
Specific categories of those initially eligible are:
All active duty military beneficiaries
Tricare beneficiaries who live in Alaska and Puerto Rico
Tricare Prime enrollees
Uniformed Services Treatment Facility enrollees
Base Realignment and Closure– Medicare-eligible beneficiaries in Tricare regions 1, 2, and 5 and newly established BRAC sites at NAS Adak, Alaska; NAS Treasure Island, Calif.; NAS Alameda, Calif.; Sierra Army Depot, Calif.; and Ft. Chaffee, Ark.
Overseas Tricare beneficiaries listed in the Defense Enrollment/Eligibility Reporting System (with APO or FPO addresses)
The service will be up and running in some parts of the country in early fall. Local military treatment facility pharmacies and health benefits advisers should have full information.
CMSAF Calls for Service Before Self
After 12 months in his job, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Eric W. Benken worries that too many of the enlisted personnel he meets are overly concerned about their pay checks and not worried enough about the responsibilities that go with being a military professional.
Benken spends some 20 to 25 days each month visiting troops at bases in the US and overseas, and he hears many complaints and comments about pay, retirement benefits, and health care.
“This job we’re in … is certainly not about pay and compensation,” said Benken at a speech at Grand Forks AFB, N.D., on Oct. 20. “It’s not about lucrative job offers from the private sector. Those things are secondary to what we are and what we do for our nation.”
Benken said he’d like to hear more questions about how individual effort can make individual units and the overall service better.
“We can’t satisfy all of the material things that people want. That’s not what we’re about,” he said.
Spaceplane Might be Transport
One way the Air Force might use any future military spaceplane is as a rapid-response transport system, according to service space officials.
Such a concept means the spaceplane would be available for the highest priority missions. “We are looking at the possibility of military spaceplanes which would be able to react in minutes instead of the hours, the days it takes today,” Lt. Gen. Roger G. DeKok, Space and Missile Systems Center commander, told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.
Such a system should be able to fly multiple missions and be more akin to an aircraft than a space launch system, said DeKok.
Such a use is far in the future, he admitted. Current plans call for a military spaceplane to reach operational status some time after 2010.
But “we believe that in the future we have the ability to perhaps reduce our airlift requirements” through such means, said the general.
Navy Bemoans JSF Cost
The Navy’s top acquisition official vowed that the Joint Strike Fighter’s program cost will not be permitted to grow, even if it takes scaling back program requirements.
“You have to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘I will not go beyond this price,’ ” said John Douglas in a speech to the Marine Corps League.
The Pentagon plans to spend $2.3 billion on JSF development. The Navy assumed control of program acquisition planning in August, as the Air Force takes its turn running program management. Though Douglas did not indicate which requirements are causing such affordability concerns, he did indicate that unique requirements are expensive.
A final JSF Joint Operational Requirements Document is due for release in 2000.
Raytheon–Hughes Merger OK’d
Raytheon on Oct. 2 announced that it has received Justice Department approval of its purchase of Hughes Electronics’ defense operations.
The transaction, which should be complete in mid-December, will result in a combined firm of 120,000 employees, with over $20 billion in sales—$13 billion from defense electronics. The new Raytheon will be part of a defense firm “Big Three” of top contractors, along with Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
To win the Justice Department nod, Raytheon agreed to sell two specific defense electronics businesses. Spun off will be Hughes’ electro optics division, based in El Segundo, Calif., and portions of Raytheon TI Systems’ focal plane array business, based in Dallas. Even after these sales the company will retain a significant presence in both EO and FPA technology.
Raytheon also agreed to take measures to preserve competition in missile production. It will set up “fire walls” to separate Raytheon and Hughes divisions that are the only bidders vying to produce a new generation of Army battlefield missile, the Follow-on to TOW. The firm will also provide the Air Force firm fixed pricing for the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile before it consummates the merger.
ASTOVL for Joint Strike Fighter
The Air Force is considering buying the advanced short takeoff, vertical landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter, USAF officials said. “We’re going to buy some of the ASTOVL variants,” Lt. Gen. George K. Muellner, deputy Air Force acquisition chief, said Sept. 23. “I’m not sure how much yet but probably two wings’ worth.”
The Navy is weighing a similar purchase. Both services have studies under way that are addressing the issue—indicating a broadening interest in JSF that could indicate improved prospects for the program.
Originally, only the US Marines and the British Royal Navy were slated as JSF ASTOVL customers. The Air Force had simply planned on purchasing conventional takeoff and landing versions of the new light fighter. But ASTOVL versions could broaden service capability.
According to Muellner, the Air Force might use ASTOVL JSFs to help make Air Expeditionary Force packages more mobile and easier to deploy overseas. A year-long Air Force study of the issue began in June.
New Lab Organization Stands Up
The Air Force christened its new Air Force Research Laboratory organization with a simple military stand-up ceremony in Dayton, Ohio, on Oct. 22. Gen. George T. Babbitt Jr., head of Air Force Materiel Command, passed the newly designed AFRL flag to the organization’s first commander, Maj. Gen. Richard R. Paul, while senior military and civilian leaders looked on.
AFRL will be responsible for research and technology development in support of future and existing Air Force aircraft and weapon systems. It was formed by realigning and consolidating the work of 22 directorates, formerly spread throughout four Air Force labs, into nine technology directorates and a single Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
The command officially inactivated the four labs on Oct. 31. They were Rome Lab, Rome, N.Y.; Armstrong Lab, Brooks AFB, Texas; Phillips Lab, Kirtland AFB, N.M.; and Wright Lab at Wright–Patterson AFB, Ohio.
The push for the consolidation came from a Congressional mandate to reduce Defense Department laboratory overhead costs. The new lab will not require a major employee relocation, but it will help with a previously planned reduction of 450 positions by the end of the decade.
“No research is going away,” said Paul, who had been director of science and technology at AFMC headquarters. “The primary goal is to reduce management overhead while improving the focus on technical activities.” For example, each of the four old laboratories had its own directorate for plans and programs.
“We now have one central plans shop, and that will help us do a better job of investing our science and technology dollars,” emphasized the general.
The nine new technology directorates cover air vehicles, space vehicles, information, materials and manufacturing, munitions, directed energy, sensors, human effectiveness, and propulsion. They will function as geographically separated units reporting to AFRL, which will have its headquarters at Wright–Patterson.
Cohen Downplays NATO Cost
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen on Oct. 21 told a Senate panel that the cost of enlarging NATO will be less than even DoD thought, and it had the lowest estimate.
Last summer, NATO invited Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to become part of the Western military Alliance. In its initial report on the subject, released last February, DoD said total costs to fully incorporate the new members would range from $27 billion to $35 billion through 2009. Cohen noted that NATO itself was planning to complete a cost study in December.
“Based on what we know now, I believe that the NATO cost estimates will be lower than those which you received from us in February.”
This will be so, said the Secretary, for two reasons. First the initial US cost was based on the predicted integration of four, not three, new members. Also, he said, experience has shown that the infrastructure in the new NATO nations is more robust and requires less work than had been anticipated.
Torrejon Set to Close
The US military will end its permanent presence at Torrejon AB, Spain, Secretary of Defense Cohen announced Oct. 21.
The base is vacated, and the remaining facilities will be returned to the Spanish government by the end of 1997. There are currently no US military or civilian personnel left at the base. It is one of some 900 European locations that have been closed, reduced, or placed on standby by US forces in recent years.
AMC Mounts Bulgarian Relief Effort
According to the Air Force, Air Mobility Command aircraft hauled more than half a million dollars’ worth of much-needed supplies to Bulgaria in October to support an international humanitarian mission.
C-141 Starlifter crews from 6th Airlift Squadron, McGuire AFB, N.J., transported $580,000 in medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and equipment, provided by the Department of Defense, to the southeastern European country where citizens are experiencing financial difficulties and lacking necessary medical supplies.
The Oct. 3 shipment included respirators, blood transfusion equipment, needles, tracheotomy tubes, bandages, gauze, antibiotics, heart medication, local anesthetics, surgical gowns and gloves, wheelchairs, and hospital beds. The request for aid came from CARE, an international service agency.
Defense Secretary Cohen on Oct. 24 announced the President had nominated Lt. Gen. John P. Jumper to become commander of US Air Forces in Europe and commander of NATO’s Air Forces Central Europe. Jumper, currently deputy chief of staff for air and space operations, would be promoted to general if confirmed.
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles “Chuck” Yeager reenacted his historic breaking of the sound barrier on its 50th anniversary, Oct. 14, 1997. This time, he surpassed Mach 1 flying an F-15 Eagle. The chase pilot from his long-ago feat, Bob Hoover, followed in an F-16.
The United States has committed more aircraft to the defense of the no-fly zone over southern Iraq in response to zone violations by Saddam Hussein’s regime, DoD spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon said Oct. 9. Operation Southern Watch flights are now flying farther north, closer to the 33d parallel, said defense officials.
The US Air Force took delivery of its 34th C-17 Globemaster airlifter during a ceremony in Long Beach, Calif., on Oct. 2. The plane was named The Spirit of the Air Force in honor of the Air Force’s 50th anniversary as a separate service.
The Air Force announced its plans to name the nation’s newest B-2 stealth bomber Spirit of Louisiana at a ceremony at Barksdale AFB, La., held Nov. 10. It would be the 17th model of the new heavy bomber to be named.
The first C-5 Galaxy to arrive at Robins AFB, Ga., for depot maintenance touched down Oct. 8. Warner Robins Air Logistics Center won a public/private competition for the C-5 workload in September. Base officials said that they believe the C-5 will be worked and delivered in less than 35 days—well before its Dec. 16 due date.
The Air Force won the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Best of the Best” Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award for steps it took to substantially reduce the amount of ozone depleting substances used in the production of Titan IV solid fuel rocket boosters. EPA chief Carol Browner presented the award to Defense Secretary Cohen on Sept. 25.
Dover AFB, Del., opened the doors on its new $5.5 million Air Mobility Command passenger terminal Oct. 10. The new terminal will provide 35,000 square feet of space and consolidate all passenger functions into one building.
A fatal March accident of an A-10 attack plane at Willow Grove ARS, Pa., was caused by pilot error, according to an Air Force accident investigation board. With 25-knot winds blowing across the landing strip, Air National Guard pilot Lt. Col. Joost VanBastelaar turned too close before his final approach, losing speed and possibly stalling, ruled investigators.
To replace a current tent city, Saudi Arabia is building a 4,257-person housing area for US and coalition personnel outside of Prince Sultan AB that will have the comforts of home—and then some. The two-story buildings have quarry tile floors and sport a gym, swimming pool, and roller hockey area, among other amenities. The project is scheduled for completion in February.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan announced the five winners of the 1997 Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award during an awards banquet Oct. 16. The awardees were a Dyess AFB, Texas, team that reduced cargo processing time by 40 percent; a Patrick AFB, Fla., team that streamlined the 45th Space Wing’s cost estimating system; a team from the Denver-based Air Reserve Personnel Center that improved individual mobilization augmentee contract handling; a Sheppard AFB, Texas, team that shaved 16 man-hours from operations support training; and a McConnell AFB, Kan., team that cut parts movement time in half.
Air Combat Command assumed management responsibility for the airspace of the Utah Test and Training Range on Oct. 1. The 1995 Base Realignment and Closure commission directed the range to transfer from Air Force Materiel Command to ACC, since ACC aircraft are the primary users of the airspace.
The Airman Leadership School at Scott AFB, Ill., was dedicated to former CMSAF Arthur L. “Bud” Andrews in a Sept. 25 ceremony. Andrews, who died in October 1996, was the seventh Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, serving in the Air Force’s top enlisted position from 1981 to 1983.
Air Force officials want to hear from the field about any C-130 incidents where the aircraft experienced an engine rollback or power loss. A team conducting a broad review of the C-130 is especially interested in information regarding fuel flow, torque, and RPM instrumentation readings during these incidents. Anonymous accounts can be left by calling (800) 343-0280.