Flying More With Less
For the last three months in a row, the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron has flown more sorties per month than in any other month for the previous five years. Jennifer Hlad went along for one of the squadron’s flights into Iraq. Read Hlad’s story and see a photo gallery of her flight.
AFCENT Counters Claims of Increased Civilian Casualties in Fight Against ISIS
Air Forces Central Command this summer increased its staff focused on investigating claims of civilian casualties as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, as US and coalition aircraft used a diverse array of weapons and persistent surveillance to try to avoid collateral damage on battlefields in Iraq and Syria. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Pave Hawk Mission Ending in Afghanistan, Joint USAF-US Army Squadron Taking Shape
The Air Force’s HH-60 Pave Hawk personnel rescue helicopter is transitioning out of Afghanistan, with a joint Air Force and US Army Chinook rescue operation taking over. On Oct. 22, US Air Force pararescuemen conducted a joint flight with Army pilots on CH-47 Chinooks at Bagram Airfield in preparation for the change. The 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, which had been strictly USAF personnel, will become a joint unit with Air Force pararescuemen and combat rescue officers along with US Army helicopters and pilots, according to an Air Forces Central Command release. The squadron is tasked with recovering isolated or injured personnel. So far this year, pararescuemen have not been tasked with any casualty evacuation sorties, saves, or assists, according to AFCENT figures. There was one save in all of 2016 and the last casualty evacuation sortie took place in 2015. The pace of casualty evacuations has declined dramatically since 2012, when 2,171 evacuations took place followed by 576 in 2013. —Brian Everstine
NATO to Change Command Structure in Face of Increasing Threats
NATO intends to adjust its command structure to better address increased threats from Russia, Czech Gen. Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, told reporters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. NATO’s current command structure—once about “23,000 strong” at the height of the Cold War, but only about 7,000 today—is no longer sufficient to address the existing threats. So, NATO commanders have come up with what the alliance is calling an “outline design,” which identifies and addresses deficiencies in the existing structure, as well as additional challenges, such cyber and hybrid warfare. The plan will be presented to defense ministers in early November and a final decision on what the new command structure will look like will be made during the Feb. 18 defense ministerial meeting in Brussels, said Pavel. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.
Boeing Reports Additional KC-46 Cost Overruns
Boeing on Wednesday reported additional cost overruns for the KC-46 tanker program, a total of $329 million that the company will pay itself. The overruns, detailed as part of the company’s third quarter earnings report, were “due to incorporating changes into initial production aircraft as we progress through late-stage testing and the certification process,” according to a Boeing release. As part of the KC-46 contract with the Air Force, Boeing is responsible for paying any expenses over the contract’s value of $4.9 billion. The latest developmental hiccup came to light last month, when it was disclosed that the KC-46’s refueling boom could scrape the skin of receiver aircraft, potentially limiting the low-observable features of planes such as F-22s, F-35s, and B-2s. The service is conducting test flights to collect data on this issue. Currently, six of the 24 KC-46s on contract are flying. —Brian Everstine
HH-60W Sims, Trainers Pass Critical Design Review
The assorted simulators, part-task trainers, maintenance trainers, and other training systems associated with the Air Force’s HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter passed their Critical Design Review after a four-day evaluation in September, Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky said Wednesday. The review included operators from Air Combat Command and Air Education and Training Command, along with key suppliers and program managers. The flight simulators will be able to connect with other simulators over the Combat Air Forces Distributed Mission Operations network, and the flight sims will allow pilots and special mission aviators to train together, allowing mission rehearsals. Some of the trainers are desktop devices with touchscreens that will allow students to learn troubleshooting in a classroom, while part-task trainers will permit component removal and installation. The Air Force is spending $1.5 billion on the HH-60W CRH engineering and manufacturing development program. The first aircraft is slated to fly in late 2018 and the service plans to buy 112 of the helicopters to replace the current HH-60G Pave Hawk aircraft that have been worn out in wartime service. —John A. Tirpak
Air Force Orders Six More A-29s for Afghans
The Air Force ordered six more A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft for the Afghan Air Force, bringing the total number for the program to 26. The aircraft is in use by the Afghan Air Force for close air support and aerial reconnaissance, and is expected to be a major contributor to the ongoing fight against both the Taliban and ISIS in the country. Production of the six new aircraft will begin immediately in Jacksonville, Fla., prime contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. said in a news release. The company did not disclose the price of the order. —Brian Everstine
—Air Force Undersecretary Matthew Donovan said the Air Force is working to push new technologies from the labs to the fields much faster in an effort to deal with a range of global threats: Air Force release.
—US Transportation Command recently initiated migration of its cyber domain to a commercial cloud provider, becoming the first in the Defense Department to do so. The move is intended to “streamline and strengthen its security when working with industry partners while allowing them quicker access to vital transportation information:” AMC release.
—Air Combat Command boss Gen. Mike Holmes said even though the command’s maintenance manning is at 98 percent, there is still a training backlog for airmen fresh out of technical training. However, Holmes said he expects that issue to soon be fixed: ACC release.
—Boeing is considering adding new workers or bringing back some retirees “to help support its delayed KC-46” tanker program: CNBC.