Balkan F-16s Hit SkidsThe Department of Defense on Jan. 6 conceded that USAF F-16 fighters policing the skies over Bosnia have not been as mission ready as the Air Force would like.
However, according to Pentagon officials, this and other Air Force readiness problems are not systemic but isolated in nature.
"I can't tell you that there are not readiness problems in the military because clearly, from time to time, we do have needs for spare parts or we run into temporary shortages of people, but we try to address those as quickly as possible," said Pentagon spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon.
According to numerous reports from the Balkan region, at least two Air Force fighter units-the 510th and 555th fighter squadrons-have had to cannibalize F-16 aircraft to maintain a mission readiness rate that is at least adequate.
The F-16 squadrons have been able to maintain an aircraft availability rate of less than 80 percent, according to Bacon; however, one news report quoting squadron members said only 76 percent. The Air Force goal for the F-16 force, fleetwide, is to maintain an 84 percent readiness rate, Bacon added.
F-16s form the backbone of US air operations supporting the Bosnian peacekeeping mission. They are based at Aviano AB, Italy.
USAF Readiness DipsThe readiness problem on display in the Balkan operation has begun to ripple through the Air Force as a whole.
For example, readiness figures for the F-16s, overall, were three percent lower in Fiscal 1997 than in the previous year, but all Air Force systems suffered from a one to three percent drop in readiness, according to officials.
Overall readiness is a prime concern of the Pentagon, said DoD spokesman Bacon. Each month, he noted, a Joint Senior Readiness Oversight Council reviews force availability issues, and operations and maintenance spending per US troop now runs to around $66,000 annually, an all-time high.
Even so, USAF said its units suffered a major shortage of spare parts last year, and that has contributed to spot readiness problems. Budget cuts, plus a miscalculation of maintenance requirements, drove some aircraft into a readiness hole.
Report Due on B-2 BomberA new study on US long-range airpower capabilities and the adequacy of the B-2 bomber fleet is due this month.
In the Fiscal 1998 defense appropriations bill, Congress created an independent panel to "evaluate the adequacy of current planning for United States long-range airpower and the requirement for continued low-rate production of B-2 stealth bombers." Congress' marching orders were for the panel to complete its work by March 1 and submit a report with its conclusions.
Chairing the panel was Gen. Larry D. Welch, USAF (Ret.), a former Chief of Staff. Other members were Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, USAF (Ret.); Gen. Robert L. Rutherford, USAF (Ret.); former Sen. James Exon (DNeb.); former Air Force Secretary Donald B. Rice; John Foster, TRW; Frederick L. Frostic, Booz·Allen & Hamilton; Samuel Adcock, Daimler-Benz; and Walter Morrow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The panel was to consider, among other issues, no-warning and little-warning scenarios; the makeup of the bomber fleet and expected attrition over 15 years; potential effect of more B-2s on deterrence; potential effect of additional B-2 bombers in the halt phase of war; potential for biological or chemical lockout of tactical US aircraft and the effect of B-2s on thwarting that tactic; and trade-offs between more B-2s and other assets.
At present, B-2 production is capped at 21 aircraft. Some in Congress are seeking to resume production.
Ryan Follows Father's FootstepsGen. Michael E. Ryan, Air Force Chief of Staff, recently completed a rapid-fire orientation in strategic power projection with heavy bombers, following in the footsteps of his father, Gen. John D. Ryan, a renowned bomber commander. The elder Ryan was Air Force Chief of Staff from 196973.
During the recent three-day orientation, Ryan flew in a B-52H from Barksdale AFB, La., and a B-2 from Whiteman AFB, Mo. The B-52 and B-2 bombers are assigned to the 2d Bomb Wing and the 509th Bomb Wing, respectively. Both units had been commanded in decades past by the elder Ryan.
In addition, the Air Force Chief of Staff took a flight in a B-1B Lancer based at Dyess AFB, Texas.
He noted that he was impressed by the unique capabilities of each aircraft. Turning to the B-1B specifically, Ryan said, "The Lancer has amazing speed and maneuverability, like a huge fighter."
UAV Tested in SEAD RoleThe Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Battlelab at the 53d Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla., tested its first major initiative over two days in late January near Cannon AFB, N.M., USAF announced Jan. 27.
The test featured the use of specially equipped UAVs in the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses role. The test on Jan. 2021 was to determine whether a UAV could locate enemy air defenses and hand off that data to attacking fighters.
Col. Joe Grasso, UAV Battlelab commander, summed up, "We successfully accomplished our goal of demonstrating a UAV's potential to detect enemy air defenses and transmit information about those defenses back to friendly aircraft."
Battlelab technicians used a Hunter UAV, which flew a two-hour mission each day. It carried a direction-finding package to identify and locate potential threats and an improved data modem to transmit gathered data from the UAV to the fighters.
"The payload on the Hunter UAV performed very well during the demonstration," said Maj. Jim Shane, SEAD initiative program manager. "The direction-finding package identified the given threats, and the improved data modem worked exceptionally well."
The demonstration was conducted near the Melrose Bombing Range in the Pecos Military Operating Area in New Mexico.
Ryan Issues Status ReportUSAF Chief of Staff Ryan released a NOTAM, or notice to airmen, on Jan. 14, addressing major challenges in personnel retention, including operations tempo, care for the families of deployed people, and quality of life.
"Several initiatives to decrease optempo are in place," noted Ryan. Among them:
Regarding families, the Air Force is pursuing an ombudsman program, stated Ryan. Wing commanders will instruct ombudsmen to serve as advisers on deployment-related family issues and to help affected families get access to base services.
Quality-of-life initiatives include this year's 2.8 percent pay raise. Fiscal 1998 funding will also pay for the construction, replacement, or improvement of more than 3,800 military family housing units, 21 dormitories, and three child development centers, among other infrastructure items.
Raytheon Deal CompleteRaytheon announced Dec. 18 that it had completed its $9.5 billion acquisition of General Motors' Hughes Electronics defense business. Additionally, the Massachusetts-based Raytheon said it would combine the former Hughes defense operations with Raytheon Electronic Systems, Raytheon TI Systems, and Raytheon E-Systems into a single unit, Raytheon Systems Co. The new company will rank as the third-largest DoD supplier and be headquartered in Washington.
"We believe it's key to be located next to our customer to help with that interface and stay on top of the business," said William H. Swanson, who will head the new defense arm.
Raytheon Systems will be a powerhouse in defense electronics and missiles, producing Patriot and Sidewinder munitions, as well as the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air-Missile. Despite weak defense budgets, the electronics business is expected to grow 10 percent a year, according to company officials.
Consolidation Costs 8,700 JobsRaytheon officials on Jan. 23 outlined the consolidation of facilities that the addition of Hughes-plus the earlier acquisition of Texas Instruments' defense business-made inevitable.
In the process, some 8,700 jobs will be eliminated.
As part of the consolidation, Raytheon Systems will make major changes at 26 plants, closing 20 and partially closing six, over the next two years. Facility space will be reduced from 42 million square feet to 34 million square feet-a cut of about 20 percent.
Hardest hit by the contraction will be California, which is to suffer the loss of approximately 5,200 positions. The former Raytheon E-Systems facility in Los Carneros and two San Diego plants will be among those closed.
"While we have superb people in California, the fact is that many of our operations here are less efficient than those elsewhere," said Ken Dahlberg, Raytheon Systems president and chief operating officer. He added that larger, more modern and efficient operations already exist in other states.
TRW to Watch Over ICBMsIn a fundamental shift in ICBM support philosophy, the Air Force turned over life-cycle management of its land-based nuclear deterrent force to a private contractor-TRW.
The Air Force on Dec. 22 awarded TRW the first of a series of ICBM maintenance and upgrade contracts in a program that could be worth more than $3.4 billion over a 15-year period.
Previously, the Air Force did all of this work itself, with help from TRW and other subcontractors. However, Air Force officials said that privatization of the effort could save up to 30 percent of today's cost.
TRW will now oversee support for the nation's 530-missile Minuteman III and 50-missile Peacekeeper inventories. Its tasks will include conversion of multiple-warhead weapons to single-warhead models, replacement of outdated guidance electronics, and installation of new Minuteman propulsion systems.
The initial contract is valued at $84.9 million.
JDAM Buy to ProceedThe Air Force this year will proceed with the purchase of Joint Direct Attack Munition kits for Mk. 84 2,000-pound bombs, while putting off procurement of JDAM equipment for BLU-109 2,000-pound munitions.
USAF officials had wanted to buy both JDAM variants this year, but instability problems discovered during wind tunnel testing killed that plan. The problems affected only the BLU-109 and Mk. 83 1,000-pound bombs, however.
Air Combat Command officials believe that obtaining 2,000-pound JDAMs as soon as possible is crucial, so the Air Force now is accelerating its Mk. 84 buy.
To eliminate the instability that appears at high angles of attack, engineers have redesigned the JDAM strakes that give the bombs additional lift. In addition, a new fin-lock mechanism should guard against movement-induced fin fatigue.
C-17 To Get New Landing SystemC-17 airlifters are set to begin receiving precision approach landing capability this year. Installation of the much-needed systems should be completed by this summer on all Globemasters at Charleston AFB, S.C., according to contractor officials.
Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Walter Kross asked for the new system-known as the Air Mobility Command Precision Approach Capability-after bad weather kept some C-17s from using certain airfields during early phases of the Bosnia mission.
AMCPAC modifications include installation of six microwave landing system antennas and two nose direction antennas, among other things. Prime contractor Boeing will also make software changes in nine line-replaceable units.
Other C-17 changes that Boeing and the Air Force are working on include improvements in the aft compartment heating system. Crew members have complained of excessive cold at cruising altitudes.
Extension Incentive IncreasesThe incentive bonus for certain enlisted personnel who extend overseas tours by 12 months has increased by more than $1,000, according to the terms of the Fiscal 1998 defense authorization bill.
The old award for extension was an $80 per month payment. The new one is a $2,000 lump sum, received upon entering the extension period.
Enlisted members who qualify include any stationed at a short-tour location and those serving in critical or imbalanced Air Force Specialty Codes at long-term locations. Among those in demand are personnel in Airborne Communications Systems, Combat Control, and Safety.
"Members who entered their [Date Eligible for Return from Overseas] forecast window Oct. 1  are eligible for the $2,000 lump sum incentive," said Lt. Col. Stan Perrin, chief of the Assignment Procedures Division at Randolph AFB, Texas. "Unfortunately, since this incentive begins with [Fiscal 1998], any members who forecast or entered their 12-month extension before this time aren't eligible for the $2,000 lump sum but will continue to be eligible for the $80 per month incentive."
Air Force Works on AEF RoadmapAn Air Force conference held early this year at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, developed a list of action items to help improve rapid-response Air Expeditionary Force capabilities.
During the first few AEF deployments, units involved were notified well in advance of deployments. The focus of the meeting between representatives from various commands, wings who have participated in AEFs, and several Air Force battlelabs, was to help units prepare to react to AEF calls in a minimum amount of time.
Among the conference suggestions:
C-130 Review CompleteAn Air Force advisory panel recommended that the service resume looking for parts of an Air Force Reserve Command C-130 aircraft, call sign King 56, that crashed off the coast of California a year ago, to help determine what caused the engines of the Hercules cargo airplane to lose power, according to a Jan. 16 USAF statement.
The initial accident investigation report, released April 24, 1997, concluded there was not enough evidence to determine why fuel stopped flowing to the aircraft's engines. Recovery of such parts as the airplane's wing sections, fuselage tanks, and cockpit fuel gauges might shed more light on the mysterious accident.
The recommendation was one of a number issued by the panel, headed by Maj. Gen. Bobby O. Floyd, Air Mobility Command's director of logistics. The panel was chartered by the Air Force Secretary, in response to a request from members of the US Senate, to broadly review C-130 safety as well as to take another look at the Nov. 22, 1996, accident involving an HC-130P from the 939th Rescue Wing, Portland IAP, Ore.
Ten of 11 crew members-all Air Force Reservists from Oregon-perished in the crash. Before the accident, each of the airplane's engines cut out, one by one, presumably from fuel starvation, as it struggled to make the coast some 80 miles away. The Air Force had closed its initial investigation of the King 56 accident last April without resolving why the fuel stopped flowing.
Broader C-130 Problem?A similar power loss problem has affected 71 other C-130s in the last decade, noted the panel, although none of those aircraft crashed.
As a result, the panel concluded, the Air Force should take broader action focused on the C-130 fleet. Some of the general recommendations made by the "C-130 Broad Area Review" include:
The Air Force should standardize cockpit instrumentation across fleets of like aircraft and make sure that maintenance and operation manuals are up to date, easy to read, and all alike.
USAF officials should review ditching and bail-out procedures for the C-130, analyzing previous ditching events and using lessons learned to update flight manuals.
C-130 crews should be required to review ditching and bail-out procedures on the first leg of every over-water mission.
The Air Force should fully fund a program to completely rewrite C-130 technical orders and convert technical manuals from paper to a digital format.
USAF Proposes T-3A FixesThe Air Force announced Jan. 5 that it has identified 10 modifications it will make to its fleet of T-3A trainer aircraft in order to solve an engine shut-off problem that has kept the airplane grounded since July.
The fixes include increasing the diameter and rerouting some of the fuel lines. They will be made by the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, Okla., and should be completed by mid-1998.
"We think the fixes will cure the problem," said Gen. Lloyd W. "Fig" Newton, commander of Air Education and Training Command, at a Pentagon press conference. He added that a fuel vapor problem has caused the engine to falter.
Introduced into the Air Force inventory in mid-1994, the single-engine, propeller-driven T-3A Firefly is used to screen pilot candidates. The aircraft are manufactured in the UK by Slingsby Aviation and assembled in the United States. Engines are USbuilt Textron Lycoming power plants.
Thirty midair engine stoppages, plus a series of shutoffs at critical points during takeoffs and landings, led to the T-3A grounding. Acting Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters ordered a full investigation into the incidents early in December.
USAF Responds to StormsAir Force and USAFrelated crews were among the first US military personnel to reach communities from Maine to New Brunswick, Canada, crippled by severe winter weather in early 1998.
The Canadian government requested a C-17 Globemaster to help move equipment and supplies between Montreal and Edmonton.
Air Mobility Command C-17s and C-5s also helped deliver electrical repair personnel and equipment to Maine. The aircraft flew 10 missions, transporting electric line workers, line maintenance trucks, and repair equipment from Pope AFB, N.C., to NAS Brunswick, Maine.
The Air Force auxiliary Civil Air Patrol also helped out in the northeast US. They did everything from manning shelters and flying emergency-service officials on damage- assessment flights to using their own gear to keep regional communications nets intact.
"Our people, including the cadets, worked around the clock in support of [Maine's] relief efforts," said CAP Maj. John Paeper, the New York Wing's director of emergency services. "They were exhausted, mentally and emotionally."
Roadman Talks ReadinessLt. Gen. Charles H. Roadman II, the Air Force surgeon general, emphasized that for medics, readiness is a peacetime function as well as a wartime issue. The reasons: The Air Force medical community has an obligation during peacetime to ensure airmen are ready to fight at a moment's notice. It also has an obligation to oversee the force's general well-being.
Roadman issued his remarks during a visit to Brooks AFB, Texas, medical units in early January.
"We've used the idea of buddy care in wartime as taking care of your wounded casualty next door," said Roadman. "It is equally important for us to think about buddy care in peacetime-to think about people having the stresses of normal life, to be able to react to them."
Mental, physical, and spiritual wellness are components for balance in people's lives that enable them to withstand the rigors of deployment and very high-stress environments, added Roadman.
Much of the work of striking this balance occurs long before a deployment or other kind of real-world contingency. Immunizations should be kept up to date. Cardiovascular fitness enables Air Force personnel to sustain heavy workloads in a stressful environment. Mental balance helps lonely and tired workers realize why they are there.
GAO Slams Super HornetA draft study from the Congressional General Accounting Office warned that the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet had several potentially serious problems and that the Pentagon should stop buying the airplanes until the glitches are fixed.
Among the GAO's points: The Super Hornet has shown a tendency to "wing drop" to one side in certain combat maneuvers. [See "The Super Hornet," p. 34.]
The Navy view was that a complete redesign of the wing to eliminate the dip might be prohibitively expensive and unneeded. Instead, the Navy proposed a number of inexpensive changes, including placing small strips of sandpaper or other material on the wing to alter airflow.
GAO investigators, however, believed that the Navy's proposed changes would not eliminate the problem under all aerodynamic conditions.
The 1998 defense budget includes more than $2.4 billion earmarked for purchase of 20 Super Hornets, but the Navy held up releasing the money pending the outcome of its own probe. GAO officials recommended that this money not be released this month, as had been planned.
USAF Seeks Bomber Training AreaAir Combat Command has started looking for ways to expand training areas for B-1 crews at Dyess AFB, Texas, and B-52 combat crews at Barksdale AFB, La.
Under the Realistic Bomber Training Initiative, Air Force officials are preparing an environmental impact statement on the use of airspace over western Texas or northern New Mexico.
Current electronic scoring sites near Harrison, Ark., and La Junta, Colo., would be closed under RBTI. Bomber flights in existing training areas would be increased, and the Air Force would buy 12 15-acre parcels of land for new electronic scoring sites.
According to ACC, the initiative's goal is to provide more realistic training now and in the future..
B-52s Integrate With Joint STARSCrews aboard two B-52 heavy bombers from Minot AFB, N.D., scored a historic first recently when they employed Handheld Terminal Units to communicate with Joint STARS aircraft during an exercise over Ft. Stewart, Ga.
HTU technology allowed the bombers to receive real-time targeting data from the radar aircraft. The exercise will contribute to the continued development of tactics and procedures for airborne alert interdiction and Joint STARS attack support operations, said Maj. Ron Funk, 93d Operations Support Squadron exercise and readiness flight commander.
"The ability to interact directly and plan missions with the bomber crews provides a valuable training opportunity for the B-52 and E-8 aircrews," said Funk. "It allows us to put a face to the voice in the other cockpit and gives us a chance to discuss before and after the mission what worked, what didn't, and what we can change in order to do it better and more effectively."
Pilot Crossflow ContinuesThe Air Force selected 25 more officers to crossflow from current jobs as pilots in nonfighter weapon systems to fighter aircraft, AETC announced Jan. 22.
Those officers selected are assigned to these fighters: four for A-10 attack aircraft; 10 for F-15C air dominance fighters; two for F-15E dual role fighters; and nine for F-16 multirole fighters.
Overall, the Air Force is offering 150 fighter cockpits through 1999 and will decide who gets them by using six fighter crossflow selection boards. The third board met at the Air Force Personnel Center, Randolph AFB, Texas, in December.
The move is intended to help deal with an expected shortage of fighter pilots as officers in nonfighter weapon systems begin to compete for the fighter vacancies, personnel officials said.
The pilots selected by the December board begin training in April and continue into early Fiscal 1999.
Airman Receives Silver StarTwenty-six years after his heroic act, Air Force Reserve Col. Paul Curs was awarded the Silver Star. The recent Pentagon ceremony recognized Curs for saving an Army Special Forces unit in the Vietnam War on Oct. 11, 1971.
On that day, then1st Lt. Curs was flying an O-2A above the Ia Drang Valley, serving as a forward air controller, when an Army reconnaissance team under attack called for help. Despite rough terrain and marginal weather conditions, he located the team and coordinated a US helicopter extraction of the Army Green Berets.
With no fighter support available, he fired target marking rockets at enveloping North Vietnamese troops, holding them off until help could arrive. Even after expending his rockets, he continued to make low passes over the NVA to keep them away from the American soldiers.
The unit suffered not a single casualty or loss.
Curs now is a Boeing 737 captain with Continental and, in his Reserve capacity, the mobilization assistant to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower, reserve affairs, installations, and environment.
Following his action in 1971, Curs received the Distinguished Flying Cross. It was upgraded to the Silver Star after the incident came to light in a book, SOG, by John Plaster, a retired Green Beret major who was with the rescue party.
"I've never seen such bravery as the Green Berets," Curs said at the ceremony. "I've seen them remain extremely calm in situations where they were seconds away from death."
B-2 Buzzes Super BowlA USAF B-2 stealth bomber on Jan. 25 overflew Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, site of the 32d Super Bowl. The overflight, which took place just before the kickoff of the game between the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers, was seen by millions of television viewers.
The B-2A Spirit is assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing, at Whiteman AFB, Mo. It flew to Edwards AFB, Calif., and took off from there for the Super Bowl site. Lt. Col. Will Gildner, aircraft pilot, and Capt. Roger Forsyth, mission commander, flew the aircraft, named Spirit of Oklahoma, over the stadium at an altitude of about 1,000 feet and a speed of about 280 mph.
C-17 Aids ChineseThe crews and aircraft of Air Mobility Command helped deliver to China more than 81,000 pounds of relief supplies for the victims of an earthquake. The tembler occurred Jan. 10 in northern Hebei Province.
One C-17 Globemaster III and its crew, based at the 437th Airlift Wing, Charleston AFB, S.C., loaded supplies at Kadena AB, Japan, for the flight into China. Relief items included blankets and sleeping bags, medical supplies, and rations.
The mission was in response to a formal Chinese request for assistance.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, air power, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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