F-22 Returns to SkiesThe Air Force's F-22 Raptor on May 17 began the formal flight test stage of its development with an 80-minute sortie at Edwards AFB, Calif.
Lt. Col. Steve Rainey flew the aircraft, becoming the first Air Force pilot to fly the F-22 since it rolled off the Lockheed Martin assembly line in Marietta, Ga., last summer.
"The aircraft handled like a dream," Rainey said. "It's the best flying aircraft I have flown."
Officials said the flight was undertaken to expand the flight envelope, assess speed brake handling qualities, and review formation flying qualities. Rainey said that each of the objectives was tested precisely as planned and that the overall flight was a success.
Raptor 01 is the first of three engineering and manufacturing development F-22s slated for Air Force use. The first Raptor, officially named Aircraft 4001, will engage in some 50 flights before it is joined by Aircraft 4002, probably in the fall.
Clinton Cuts Gulf ForceThe United States announced May 26 that it will keep about 20,000 US troops in the Persian Gulf region, returning to a force level that it maintained before the early 1998 "crisis" buildup aimed at Iraq.
The move will significantly cut the force of 37,000 kept in the region for several months. The Pentagon plans to shift out of the area an aircraft carrier battle group, dozens of warplanes, and thousands of soldiers.
According to Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon, DoD plans called for the reductions to take place in early summer. "Iraq has been complying with the UN mandates to allow inspectors to do their jobs," he said.
"We've made it very clear in the past that we're willing to respond to provocative action by Iraq," Bacon said. "That policy has not changed."
One aircraft carrier--USS Stennis--and about 1,200 Army troops will remain in Kuwait. Some Air Force warplanes also are expected to remain, since they help patrol and monitor the skies over southern Iraq.
Bacon said dozens of Air Force aircraft in Bahrain are expected to leave in early June. He declined to specify, but the F-117 stealth fighters and B-52 bombers in the area were expected to return home in the coming weeks.
Saudis Find No Foreign Role in BlastSaudi Arabian authorities concluded no foreigners were involved in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing that killed 19 USAF servicemen, according to a top Saudi official. Prince Nayef, the powerful Saudi interior minister, told a Kuwaiti newspaper that the terrorist bombing was carried out "by Saudi hands."
Nayef's statements were the first officially indicating Saudi complicity in the deaths. Earlier, Saudi Arabian officials had suggested privately that Iran was behind the bombing.
However, in the recent interview, the prince was quoted as stating, "No foreign party had any role in it." Iran has long denied taking any part in the operation.
Nayef's statement could give credence to opposition claims that Sunni Muslim dissidents were behind the attack.
Secrecy has cloaked much of the investigation. American officials charged several times that the Saudis were delaying the conclusion of the investigation and that they have refused to share information.
The bombing touched off several congressional and military probes in Washington to fix blame for the blast.
Tricare Coverage Nears CompletionOn June 1, the Department of Defense completed the establishment of Tricare managed health care system coverage to all regions of the United States.
The latest Tricare contract went into effect for the National Capital Area Region, which includes a large portion of the mid-Atlantic states. The program is already in place in other US regions.
Air Force officials said Tricare brings with it all of the old Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services benefits plus new options for thorough family medical care.
Access Seen as Key to AEFAccess to areas around the world will be the key to successful implementation of the Air Expeditionary Force concept, according to Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, Air Force vice chief of staff.
Strong, friendly relations with allies-and the use of their bases and airspace-will be necessary for all kinds of future Air Force deployments, from combat operations to humanitarian responses. Recent experiences, from Desert Storm to the Air Force response to the tragic crash of a Korean airliner on Guam, have shown that to be the case, he said.
"We must build new relationships, nourish our friendships, build trust, and instill confidence through formal and informal agreements with other nations," said Eberhart during a recent visit to Hickam AFB, Hawaii.
Because of the "tyranny of distance," access is doubly important in the Pacific region, according to the vice chief. So far, most AEFs have deployed from bases in the continental US. In the future, PACAF is likely to deploy AEFs, as well.
"We could take forces from one base or from several bases in the Pacific and move them forward to support an operation," said Eberhart. "We also plan to use bases like Andersen [Guam] for bedding AEFs down and launching their operations."
Carrier Goes Down--For NowThe United States Navy has decided to stick with what it knows and likes best-the giant 100,000-ton aircraft carrier-rather than rapidly pursue a newer and possibly smaller carrier concept.
The newer carrier, dubbed CVX, was to follow the next Nimitz-class deck, CVN-77, slated to be the last of the line. However, the service in May decided to substantially slow the CVX project for the time being. It said that a lack of funding--the project would cost $7 billion--compelled it to recast the project but that the Navy would try out some new technologies on the next carrier.
Rear Adm. Dennis V. McGinn, Navy director of air warfare, told reporters June 2 that the CVX is not dead but that the Navy will achieve total CVX goals "over two to three hulls, rather than in a single leap" from the last Nimitz carrier, CVN-77.
USACOM to Shepherd Joint ExperimentsThe Pentagon announced May 21 that it had designated the commander in chief of US Atlantic Command, Adm. Harold W. Gehman Jr., to be executive agent for joint warfighting experimentation within the Defense Department.
The designation becomes effective Oct. 1, 1998.
In his new capacity, Gehman and his command will explore, demonstrate, and evaluate joint warfighting concepts and capabilities required to implement Joint Vision 2010, the joint warfighting concept formulated by Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, the former JCS Chairman.
Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, Shalikashvili's successor, said he recognized the importance of joint warfighting experimentation and that USACOM's work "will focus our efforts to implement our future warfare vision."
The individual services had expressed concern about the step, fearing that the command would take over their traditional powers to train and equip the forces.
Shelton observed, "The services have individually made great strides in modeling and simulation and other new techniques [concerning joint warfare]. Our challenge now is to integrate those efforts," which he evidently sees as the role of USACOM.
The command's role is defined by a Joint Warfighting Experimentation Charter approved by Defense Secretary William S. Cohen on May 15. According to Cohen, joint warfighting experimentation will facilitate the development of doctrine, organizations, training and education, materiel, people, and leadership to improve joint operations.
By July 15, CINCUSACOM will submit to the JCS Chairman a plan of implementation that specifies resources required to assume these new responsibilities.
AMC Gets More Flying Crew ChiefsGen. Michael E. Ryan, USAF Chief of Staff, approved an Air Mobility Command request to authorize two flying crew chiefs for each AMC aircraft.
Command NCOs said the move, made April 1, is not a manpower increase. Instead, it will have the practical effect of boosting compensation for more sergeants who would have been flying out on the AMC airplanes anyway, by making them eligible for $110 a month in Special Duty Assignment Pay.
"Individuals who have done this type of work are very deserving of this compensation," said SMSgt. Sue Norwood, AMC's flying crew chief program manager. "The increase will benefit people who have been flying but have not been receiving the pay."
Flying crew chiefs are normally staff or technical sergeants. They accompany their airplanes worldwide to provide maintenance, inspection, and servicing in places where no such capabilities exist. They are trained on such specific tasks as engine runs, door and ramp operations, fueling supervision, and powered and nonpowered ground equipment operations.
The authorization increases the number of AMC's flying crew chiefs from 657 to 1,192. To qualify for special duty pay, these chiefs must fly at least three missions per quarter to off-line locations where no maintenance capability exists for their aircraft.
Two Space Squadrons MergeThe 2d and 4th Space Launch squadrons at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., merged May 18.
The new unit--which keeps the 2d Space Launch Squadron's name--will be responsible for overseeing orbital launch operations at Vandenberg.
The reason for the merger was that the two units performed similar missions for their assigned families of missiles. The old 2d handled Atlas rockets, while the 4th dealt with Titans.
The 45th Space Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla., will soon follow Vandenberg's lead and conduct similar mergers. At Patrick, the 1st, 3d, and 5th Space Launch squadrons plan to consolidate into a new 1st Space Launch Squadron over the next two years.
Boeing Wins NMD ContractOn April 30, the Pentagon selected Boeing to oversee development, integration, testing, and possible deployment of a national system to defend all 50 states against a limited ballistic missile attack. The contract could be worth upwards of $5.2 billion and might continue for as long as seven years.
Pentagon officials said Boeing was a clear winner in the National Missile Defense race. Its bid was lower than that of its competition, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and TRW, and was also strong technically.
Boeing officials suggested additional flight tests, for instance--something US officials saw as a good way to help lower program risk.
"Boeing's approach was very comprehensive," Army Brig. Gen. Joseph M. Cosumano Jr., NMD program manager, told reporters.
Some in Congress accuse the Clinton Administration of being a less-than-strong backer of the NMD concept. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen rejected that charge, saying that Clinton officials remain committed to a 3+3 strategy that calls for three years of research and development, then a go or no-go decision, followed by deployment three years later.
"I believe it's a challenge that we can, in fact, measure up to," Cohen said.
Still to come are DoD decisions about whether to use Minuteman III boosters, or a commercial alternative, for NMD's ground-based interceptor and a contract award for the kill vehicle that will mount on the interceptor's nose.
UCAV Program AdvancesThe US Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are forging ahead with an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle advanced technology demonstration program. Four contractors--Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Boeing--received $4 million each for a preliminary design effort on April 16.
The goal of the DARPAUSAF program is to demonstrate the feasibility of using unmanned aircraft to suppress enemy air defenses and conduct strike missions. If the 10-month preliminary design phase goes well, the Pentagon will pick one of the four competing firms to build and flight test two vehicles in a 42-month, $110 million second phase.
Meanwhile, the Air Force is planning to test nonlethal Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses via UAV on its own. If all goes as scheduled, early next year service officials will outfit a UAV with an electronics warfare suite which will allow it to loiter over a target, identify adversary emitters, and then switch to a jamming mode when manned strike aircraft arrive.
Location of the test has yet to be determined, though Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, is one possible site.
THAAD System Fails AgainOn May 12, the Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense missile failed to hit an incoming target for the fifth time in a row. It was an embarrassing failure for a system which is one of the Pentagon's top development priorities.
Neither defense officials nor contractors were able to immediately explain why the THAAD booster misfired seconds after launch, necessitating its destruction. The missile's previous four miscues had been due to four different problems, and prime contractor Lockheed Martin had thought all program glitches were finally fixed.
THAAD is intended to protect concentrations of US troops from tactical ballistic missiles, such as the Scuds they faced during the Gulf War. It is based on the so-called "bullet-to-bullet" concept, meaning it races into the sky and knocks incoming missiles aside, as if it were a bullet hitting a bullet.
The same basic concept is the core of the ambitious National Missile Defense system currently under development by Boeing.
"We will continue to test the program until we get it right," vowed Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon.
Upgraded AWACS Ready to GoOn May 8, the 552d Air Control Wing, Tinker AFB, Okla., declared that the latest E-3 Sentry upgrade has reached initial operational capability.
The new Block 30/35 modification package contains four important improvements, said Lt. Col. Melvin Fitzpatrick, chief of operational requirements for the 552d ACW: the Global Positioning System, upgraded computers, new electronic support measures system, and the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System Class 2H terminal.
The GPS upgrade incorporates space-based precision location information into the E-3's navigation and mission crew computers, allowing crews to more accurately figure out where they are and where their targets are. The new computer gives the airplane the microchip horsepower needed to run its new systems. The electronic support measures upgrade passively detects signals from all kinds of electronic emitters, augmenting current onboard sensors. The Class 2H JTIDS terminal allows secure communications with everything from USAF fighters to ground-based units.
The 552d now has 10 airplanes equipped with these modifications.
"The Block 30/35 upgrade is the cornerstone of the E-3 modernization program," said Brig. Gen. James W. Morehouse, 552d ACW commander.
Guard and Reserve Get JCS PostsThe chief of the Air Force Reserve, Maj. Gen. Robert A. McIntosh, was named the first Reserve assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Plans called for him to assume his new duties last month.
Replacing McIntosh, who had served as Reserve chief since 1994, is Maj. Gen. James E. Sherrard III, who was 22d Air Force commander. Sherrard was to assume command pending confirmation by the Senate.
Maj. Gen. Michael W. Davidson of the Army National Guard was named the first Guard JCS advisor. Both JCS positions were created by the Fiscal 1998 National Defense Authorization Act in an attempt by lawmakers to increase the clout of part-time soldiers, sailors, and airmen.
Vance Modifies SyllabusVance AFB, Okla., recently became the first pilot training base to modify its Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training, Phase 1, in anticipation of the arrival of the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System.
The Air Force and Navy will both use JPATS starting after the turn of the century, and a number of things have been added to Vance's syllabus, and some things discarded, in order to "dovetail" the two services' training efforts, said Capt. Thomas Kublie, preflight officer at the 8th Flying Training Squadron.
The biggest change is the addition of swimming training and a swimming survival test. The test is a rigorous one, consisting of a mile-long swim in flight gear, in no more than 80 minutes, and then 25 yards of freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and sidestroke.
Preflight courseware has also been changed to more closely mirror the Navy's way of doing things. That means less T-37-specific information and more general aerodynamics and general engine systems information at the beginning of flight school.
All aerospace physiology training, including parasail training, is now given at the beginning of Phase 1. That way, no students fly ejection-seat aircraft without parasail experience.
A day of officer development has been dropped from the syllabus. Still, the schedule is now much busier. The first four weeks of training are solid 10- to 12-hour days.
The added workload is not such a bad thing, said Kublie.
"Before, Phase 1 students only worked seven- or eight-hour days," he said. "When they hit the flight line (for Phase 2 training), with its solid 12-hour days, it was somewhat of a shock to them. So now when they hit the flight line, it won't be such a big transition."
GPS, JDAM Upgrade Ready for B-1BTwo modification kits that give the B-1B bomber the ability to carry Global Positioning Systemdirected Joint Direct Attack Munitions have been delivered to Tinker AFB, Okla., for installation. Current plans now call for Air Combat Command to have seven JDAMcapable Lancers by January 1999--18 months ahead of schedule.
The B-1B upgrade program is intended to configure the airplane to carry out its role as the primary Air Force heavy bomber for conventional warfare. JDAM-capable B-1Bs will be able to carry up to 24 of the accurate guided munitions at once, with eight loaded in each of its three weapon bays.
Ongoing B-1B JDAM flight tests continue to produce better than expected accuracy, say Air Force officials. "B-1 JDAM development test scores are the best to date for horizontal targets, like low bunkers and aircraft on the ground, and are tied for first place for vertical targets, like tall buildings," said Lou Cerrato, chief of the weapons development team, JDAM Joint Program Office in the B-1B System Program Office.
Instead, Air Force officials would like to add wings to the guided munition to increase its range from about 15 nautical miles to 40-60 nautical miles. Such an extension could make it easier for all JDAM-capable aircraft, not just the B-1B, to use it for attack missions.
Making such a wing reliable and affordable enough to marry to JDAM is a key to the upgrade, officials said.
Guard Pilots Return MedalsIn a protest against what they claim was Pentagon retribution for flunking an unqualified female pilot, a group of New York Air National Guard pilots came to Washington in May and returned their medals to Congress.
The F-16 pilots seek a new review of what they called a bungled military investigation that grounded their unit and careers after Maj. Jacquelyn Parker complained of sexual discrimination. They said she was not qualified.
Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.) offered an amendment to the defense authorization bill calling for a new investigation by the Pentagon inspector general. Additionally, Reps. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and Gerald Solomon (R-N.Y.) have asked Defense Secretary William S. Cohen to review the case.
It dates from 1995 when New York Guard officials concluded that members of the 174th Fighter Wing, Syracuse Hancock IAP, N.Y., had delayed Parker's F-16 training and that of a second woman, Capt. Sue Hart Lilly. Parker resigned from the 174th. Lilly completed her training and remains with the unit.
There have been two investigations of various allegations, including sexual improprieties on both sides of the issue. A two-year investigation by the New York inspector general did find flaws in the Guard investigation but upheld the basic finding that the Parker's training was unduly drawn out. In all, 12 pilots were fired or transferred.
Some C-130s to Be Eyes in SkyA shortage of Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles has prompted US Air Forces in Europe to plan to equip some C-130E aircraft with surveillance equipment.
The added capability will allow the theater airlifters to bolster US reconnaissance efforts over Bosnia. The C-130s will not necessarily be dedicated to surveillance flights per se, said Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Israel, director of the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office, during a May symposium. Instead, the airplanes will gather imagery in the course of their transport duties and provide information to help commanders improve situational awareness.
The Air Force plans to buy two sensor suites to carry out the plan, which is part of the service's "Big Safari" reconnaissance acquisition effort. C-130E eyes in the sky could be aloft by November, according to the Air Force.
Airborne Laser Passes Design MilestoneThe Air Force has told Boeing to proceed with work on the Airborne Laser following a week-long intensive study of the program in early May.
Air Force officials said that with the successful completion of its preliminary design review, the ABL program is on schedule and moving toward a scheduled demonstration in 2002, when it will attempt to shoot down a theater ballistic missile.
If that test goes well, the Boeing-TRW-Lockheed Martin team will likely be awarded a $4.5 billion contract to produce a seven-aircraft ABL fleet by 2008.
"We're exactly on track a year and a half into our six-year design schedule--a good-news story for acquisition reform initiatives," said Col. Michael W. Booen, director of the Airborne Laser System Program Office at Kirtland AFB, N.M.
Computerized design software is key to the current success of the program, said officials. Each ABL component is loaded into a central computer design system that shows where equipment from one subsystem might interfere with that of another. This allows potentially expensive trouble spots to be avoided ahead of time.
However, the Senate Armed Services Committee has charged that USAF has failed to justify a $6 billion-plus investment in the ABL program, particularly in light of the number of US theater missile defense development efforts.
In its Fiscal 1999 defense authorization report, the panel concluded the Secretary of Defense should establish an independent review of the program.
C-17 PLSR on TrackThe Air Force has finished operational testing of a precision landing system for the C-17 and has begun to field the system.
All C-17s now in service should be retrofitted with a Precision Landing System Receiver by the end of August. New Globemasters will come outfitted with PLSR as they roll off the assembly line.
The Air Force flew 220 missions at airports all over the world to test the new AN/ARN-155 PLSR. The system is now certified for Instrument Landing System approaches to a 100-foot ceiling and 0.25-mile visibility and, in the Microwave Landing System mode, to 200-foot ceilings and 0.5-mile visibility.
Installation of the system on the entire C-17 fleet will cost about $55 million, according to Air Force estimates.
The Battle of Arlington Ridge
Arlington, Va., June 7--Factions opposed to an Air Force memorial on Arlington Ridge, overlooking the Potomac River, continue to throw up new obstacles in their efforts to impede its construction.
Joined in the attempt to block the project are Marine veterans, their supporters in Congress, and a neighborhood group called the "Friends of Iwo Jima." Their claim is that the Air Force Memorial would encroach on the "sacred ground" of the Marine Corps Memorial, which occupies eight of the 25 acres on Arlington Ridge.
Objections to the Air Force Memorial did not arise until April 1997 when the Friends of Iwo Jima became active with concern that the new memorial might increase the number of cars and visitors coming to the area.
On May 15, Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon (R-N.Y.)--a former Marine--introduced his third piece of legislation in this regard, an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would have:
The same day the Solomon amendment was introduced, Edward Timperlake, an aide for the House Rules Committee (whose chairman is Solomon), filed a legal brief in US District Court in Alexandria, Va., supporting a request for an injunction to permanently bar construction of the Air Force Memorial. This tagged on to a series of legal efforts and actions initiated by the Friends of Iwo Jima in the past year.
In a "Dear Colleague" letter on May 19, Rep. James A. Gibbons (R-Nev.) urged members of Congress to vote no on the Solomon amendment. He said that from 1993 on the Air Force Memorial Foundation had followed all of the elaborate rules prescribed for memorials by the Commemorative Works Act of 1986.
"The process is designed to keep Congress from getting involved in what could be a politically charged process," he said. "Now is not the time to change the rules and penalize those who have followed the rules that the Congress established.
"I strongly urge you to reject the Solomon amendment. It is unfair to change the rules in the middle of the process, and it is unfair to the men and women who have served, are serving, and will serve in the United States Air Force."
Several members of the House met with Solomon to tell him they disagreed with his proposal.
"The men and women in the United States Air Force deserve a memorial for their sacrifices which have kept this nation free," said Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), who was an Air Force pilot and a POW in Vietnam. "I look forward to the day when we will unveil this fitting tribute to all those who have served in the Air Force. It is long overdue."
Solomon withdrew his amendment May 20.
Barry Goldwater Dies at 89
Sen. Barry Goldwater, the outspoken conservative Republican who ran unsuccessfully for President in 1964 but became a force in the Senate and in national defense, died May 29. He was 89.
He was known to many as "Mr. Conservative," but he was also "Mr. Airpower." From his World War II days as an Air Transport Command pilot flying supplies over the "Hump" to his long association with the Air Force Association and Aerospace Education Foundation, Goldwater was a tireless advocate for the Air Force.
Commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve in 1930, Goldwater went on active duty as a gunnery instructor in the Army Air Forces just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Equipped with a commercial pilot's license, he soon became an AAF pilot, transporting supplies and aircraft across the Atlantic and in the China-Burma-India Theater.
After the war, he helped establish the Arizona Air National Guard and finished his military career in the Air Force Reserve, retiring as a major general in 1967.
He was elected to the Senate in 1952. Throughout his long career, he maintained the need for a strong military and was also an early proponent of spacepower. In 1962, he said, "Space superiority in all of its scientific, technological, and military aspects is fundamental to the future well-being, security, and prosperity of the United States. ... Our armed forces must pursue and prepare to conduct military space missions as rapidly as these can be recognized and defined."
He was active in the Air Force Association for many years and was chairman of the AEF Board of Trustees from 1975-86. He also played a key role in the creation of the National Air and Space Museum.
He relinquished his Senate seat in 1964 to make what proved to be an unsuccessful presidential bid but was again elected to the Senate in 1974. He retired after choosing not to run for re-election in 1986.
AFA and AEF are accepting donations for a memorial education program being developed in his honor.
Compared to past years, congressional debate over Fiscal 1999 defense authorization bills has been restrained. That is because the parameters of defense spending largely are set. The 1997 balanced budget law capped the overall amount of money Congress can spend on the US military, while the disappearance of large budget deficits has removed much of the pressure that led to big cuts from the mid-1980s through most of the 1990s.
Still, in keeping with the balanced budget pact, the $271 billion defense bills now wending their way through the House and Senate represent a 1.1 percent decline, in real terms, from the previous year. This worries lawmakers on both sides of the Hill.
The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its report on the 1999 defense bill, stated, "While the budget agreement protects our military forces from unrealistic and unwise cuts in defense, the Committee remains concerned that the funding levels for defense may not [be] sufficient ... to adequately sustain, over time, the personnel, quality of life, readiness, and modernization programs critical to our military services."
Concern led the Senate panel to tinker with elements of the Administration's budget request. Readiness accounts in all armed services received a few extra dollars, for instance, with the Air Force getting a $16.4 million increase over Clinton's request.
F-22 Stays on Track
In dealing with an item of particular concern to the Air Force, the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed unhappiness with the slow pace of the F-22 test program. In its version of the 1999 defense bill, SASC called on the Secretary of Defense to ensure that F-22 flight testing reaches 433 hours (10 percent of planned total) before releasing advance procurement funds for a second procurement lot. The Secretary may waive that requirement if he certifies that tests have been sufficient.
The panel left the overall F-22 budget request unchanged, however, at $785 million for procurement of two aircraft and $1.6 billion for engineering and manufacturing development in the coming year.
Senate panel members also were critical of USAF's Airborne Laser program. They axed $97 million from the ABL budget request, lowering it to $195 million and directed the Defense Secretary to conduct an independent review of the technical operational viability of the program.
Other major changes included an addition of $72 million to E-8 Joint STARS accounts, for use in either future production or program termination, and an addition of $381.7 million for four C-130J aircraft. The Senate also added $50 million for F-15 engine upgrades, $15 million to accelerate alternative engine development for the Joint Strike Fighter, and $56 million to re-engine two RC-135 aircraft.
More C-17 Airlifters
The Senate would approve the full $2.9 billion Air Force request for acquisition and development of another 13 C-17s under a multiyear program. Committee members voted to terminate the Dark Star Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program and use some funds thus freed up to buy extra Global Hawk long-range UAVs.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, the House National Security Committee wrapped up its 1999 defense bill in early May. The full House then approved the measure on May 20, taking the opportunity to attach amendments banning the launch of US satellites on Chinese rockets.
The House and Senate are in general agreement on most matters. On aircraft programs, the House voted full funding for the F-22 and the C-17. It supported the President's request of $456 million for Air Force Joint Strike Fighter development and $463 million for the Navy JSF.
The House voted to add $60 million to the Pentagon budget for the purchase of two additional F-16C aircraft, "in an effort to reduce the Air Force's anticipated shortfall of 40 F-16C aircraft for attrition reserve," according to the bill's committee report. It recommended $285.2 million for purchase of five C-130J aircraft for the Guard and Reserve not requested by the Administration. The House added $72 million for advance procurement of two Joint STARS aircraft.
The Future Bomber
Building on the recommendations of the Panel to Review Long Range Airpower, it directed the Secretary of the Air Force to report to Congress by March 1, 1999, on planned upgrades to the current bomber fleet, a funding profile for those upgrades, and a timeline for consideration of a follow-on bomber. Apparently, no such timeline currently exists.
On health care, the House bill directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress by March 1, 1999, on how DoD will ensure adequate health coverage for retirees. The House ordered DoD to consider options ranging from expansion of Tricare eligibility to opening up the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to military retirees.
Reconciliation of the House and Senate positions could not begin until the Senate has passed its version of the bill, after which a conference committee could have to hammer out remaining differences. On two matters, however, there was pure unanimity: Both chambers agreed that active duty military personnel deserve a pay raise, and both agreed not to approve any new base closure authority this year.
If recent history is any guide, late summer would be the most likely time for completion of a final defense bill.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag