Air Force Identifies Airmen Involved in Fatal T-38 Crash

The Air Force identified the airmen involved in the fatal T-38 crash at Laughlin AFB, Texas, on Nov. 20. Capt. Paul J. Barbour, 32, was killed in the crash. Barbour was the aircrew flight equipment flight commander with the 47th Operations Support Squadron and an instructor pilot with the 87th Flying Training Squadron. Capt. Joshua Hammervold, an instructor pilot for the 87th FTS, was injured in the crash. “Tragic events like this are difficult for everyone—family, friends, co-workers, supervisors, and our entire Air Force,” said Col. Charlie Velino, 47th Flying Training Wing commander. “Every day, our pilots take a risk as they step into the cockpit, and every day they operate with the utmost skill, professionalism, and dedication to train the next generation of flying airmen and to ensure the safety of this great nation.” Laughlin temporarily grounded its aircraft after the crash, which took place during a training flight near the Texas-Mexico border. Laughlin announced last week that it was suspending all flying operations throughout the Thanksgiving holiday. “Our community has suffered the irreplaceable loss of one of our pilots,” 47th Flying Training Wing Commander Col. Charlie Velino said in a statement. “The immediate concern is to provide support and love to his family, friends, and colleagues.” The 47th Flying Training Wing at Laughlin is responsible for undergraduate pilot training in the T-38, along with flying T-6s and T-1s. —Brian Everstine

T-6As Grounded at Vance after Physiological Incidents

The 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance AFB, Okla., grounded all T-6A flying on Nov. 15 after pilots reported four physiological incidents there since Nov. 1. In each incident, “the aircraft’s backup oxygen system operated as designed,” and the aircraft landed safely, according to a Vance press release. T-6A flying operations have been halted while the wing analyzes the data from the reported events. “Vance AFB is committed to ensuring aircrew safety is paramount, and are conducting a full investigation of the reported cases,” said Col. Darrell Judy, 71st FTW commander, in the release. In the meantime, instructor pilots and students are being briefed on the incidents to raise their awareness of the issue. Because all incidents have been limited to the T-6A, training operations with the T-1A and T-38 are continuing as usual.

US Aircraft Return to Surge-Level Operations in Afghanistan

US aircraft in October dropped 653 bombs, the highest total since the surge in that war seven years ago. Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US Forces-Afghanistan, said that pace is only going to increase as US forces take advantage of new authorities to target Taliban infrastructure and funding. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

USAF’s S&T Review Runs Through 2018; Draft Results in September

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has asked AFRL to “clean the whiteboard,” and take a fresh look at the Air Force’s entire S&T enterprise, said Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, in an interview with Air Force Magazine at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The review will run the duration of 2018, with a first meeting planned for Jan. 18, hosted by the Air Force Studies Board, in Washington, D.C. Cooley said Wilson will decide when and how to release study results, but AFRL intends to provide a draft report to the Secretary by September 2018—one year after the study was announced at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber conference. Read the full story by Adam J. Hebert.

Punching Above Their Weight

The 447th Air Expeditionary Group and its sister group, the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group, played a significant role in the liberation of Raqqa, providing what the commander of the 447th AEG called “an overwhelming majority of the kinetic operations” for the fight. Jennifer Hlad spoke to the commanders of both groups about their airpower contributions. Read her full story.

The Real Cost of Nuclear Modernization

The true cost of modernizing US nuclear forces may be less than half the $1.2 trillion price tag recently published in a report by the Congressional Budget Office. Because the CBO report includes all sustainment and operations costs for the nuclear enterprise in its estimate, “the actual cost likely to be incurred to modernize our nuclear deterrent posture … will be less than $399 billion,” according to retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute, and Peter Huessy, Mitchell’s director of strategic deterrent studies. Read the full story by Wilson Brissett.

Deployed B-52s Receive New, Internal Weapons Launchers

B-52s deployed to the Middle East now, for the first time, have a new operational capability that both increases its weapons payload and allows it to carry a mix of conventional smart or GPS-guided weapons. On Nov. 6, a C-5M Super Galaxy delivered the first Conventional Rotary Launcher from Barksdale AFB, La., to B-52s deployed at Al Udeid AB, Qatar. Previously, B-52s could only carry smart bombs on external pylons. With the new system, the B-52 can carry these bombs inside, freeing up its pylons for additional weapons, according to an Air Force Global Strike Command release. This increases the B-52’s smart weapon payload by 67 percent. “It’s a big game changer for current and future warfare,” said MSgt. Adam Levandowski, Air Forces Strategic Armament Systems manager, in a release. The system underwent testing at Edwards AFB, Calif., for about two years before the deployment. —Brian Everstine

SASC To Hold Hearing on National Defense Strategy

The Senate Armed Services Committee is set to hold a hearing on Nov. 30 on future national defense strategy. The hearing comes after months of complaints from committee chair Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) about the lack of a coherent defense strategy from the Trump administration. Now McCain seems ready to start the conversation on his own. Read the full story by Wilson Brissett.

Fifty-Three Years Ago, Minuteman I Disaster Averted

On December 5, 1964, Bob Hicks found himself climbing down the shaft of a Minuteman I missile silo in a remote part of South Dakota, not far from the Black Hills, working to disarm the missile and recover the warhead. Through recently-released documents, the Associated Press told the story of how Hicks responded to a dangerous ICBM accident sparked when maintainers used the wrong tool—a screwdriver—to remove a fuse. Read the full story.


—The commander of US Forces in Afghanistan said Afghan forces could control 80 percent of their country within two with help from the US in pushing back Taliban forces: Reuters report.

—DARPA thinks plants could serve as the foundation for the “next generation of intelligence gatherers:” DARPA release.