F-22 Flies Cross-CountryOn Aug. 26, Raptor 4002, the second F-22 fighter, flew nonstop from Dobbins ARB, Ga., to Edwards AFB, Calif., where it joined the first F-22-Raptor 4001-for flight testing.
Arrival of 4002 at Edwards represents the USAF fighter program's next major flight test milestone. To date, the program has met all its requirements, DoD said. Many have been met earlier than expected.
Taken together, Raptors 4001 and 4002 have flown 39 test flights totaling 59.4 hours at Edwards and Dobbins. Thus far, F-22 test pilots have flown at altitudes up to 40,000 feet, at 16 degrees angle of attack, and at .95 Mach.
The Air Force plans to buy 339 of the stealthy, supercruising fighters to replace the F-15 as the world's premier air superiority fighter.
US Strikes Terrorist TargetsUS cruise missiles on Aug. 20 slammed into terrorist-related targets in Afghanistan and Sudan. US officials said the attacks were mounted both for retaliation for the earlier bombings of US embassies in East Africa and to pre-empt and disrupt imminent terrorist acts.
The sites, a training camp in the Afghani desert and a suspected chemical weapons materials factory in Khartoum, were both linked to the alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, a renegade Saudi exile. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen claimed to have "compelling" evidence that bin Laden was behind the Aug. 7 bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Pentagon officials were more guarded than usual in discussing operational details. However, it was known that the attacks entailed firings of 75 to 100 of the Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles from submarines and surface warships in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.
US officials said the weapons caused "moderate to heavy" damage. One of the TLAMs went off course and fell into Pakistan, after which the unexploded weapon was retrieved by authorities. Pakistan protested the attack for, among other reasons, violations of its airspace. The cruise missiles fired into Afghanistan would have overflown Pakistani territory.
Rockets Explode, Payloads LostTwice within weeks, two Expendable Launch Vehicles exploded shortly after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
The first was an Air Force Titan IVA Aug. 12; the second, Boeing's new Delta III, on its inaugural flight Aug. 26. No one was injured in either blast, but both payloads were destroyed.
The Titan was thought to carry a $1.3 billion intelligence satellite. The Delta carried a $225 million commercial communications satellite.
This was the 25th launch for USAF's Titan IV, since the heavy-lift ELV first took to the skies in 1989. It veered out of control seconds after liftoff. Range safety officers quickly destroyed the rocket, which had reached about 20,000 feet, to prevent possible damage from falling debris, according to 45th Space Wing officials.
The launch was the last for the A series of the rocket, which is being replaced by a new B model with an improved solid-fuel booster.
The disaster-which ranks among the most expensive unmanned launch failures ever for the US-was the second failure for the heavy-lift ELV. In August 1993, the rupture of a solid-fuel booster destroyed a Titan just after launch.
Initial investigation by Boeing into the Delta III launch is focusing on the new booster's control system, stated company officials Aug. 28. The Delta III, with its nine solid-fuel strap-on boosters and more powerful upper-stage engine, can carry twice the payload of the Delta II, which launches USAF's Global Positioning System satellites.
Boeing initially postponed launch of a Delta II set to boost five commercial satellites from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., Sept. 1. The Delta II was then rescheduled and successfully sent the five Iridium communications satellites into orbit Sept. 8.
Adultery Rules Upheld ...The Pentagon announced July 29 that, after a year-long examination, top defense officials had decided to leave basically unchanged the military's policy regarding adultery.
The way the armed services handle adultery in their ranks had been a subject of controversy ever since the Air Force sought to court-martial B-52 copilot 1st Lt. Kelly Flinn for lying about an adulterous affair she had with the husband of an Air Force enlisted woman.
In response to the national uproar, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen ordered a review of military social mores in June 1997.
The re-look culminated in a proposal that adultery remain "unacceptable conduct" in the military, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Commanders should bring adultery charges only when the offense interferes with good order and discipline or discredits the military, under the proposal. This essentially recapitulates the current guidelines.
"There have been no changes in the code, and there will be no lowering of standards," said Cohen.
Though these guidelines largely restate long-standing policy, the new proposal does attempt to clarify the factors commanders can consider when weighing the gravity of someone's adulterous conduct. These include whether the action included misuse of government resources, whether it had an impact on anyone's ability to carry out their duties, and the accused's marital status and rank. Following publication in the Federal Register, the proposed guidelines face a period of public comment before becoming final.
... Fraternization Rules To AgreeThe same year-long examination led to a determination that rules on fraternization between officer and enlisted should be standardized and toughened-a move which could affect hundreds of relationships, primarily in the Army.
On the fraternization issue, Cohen directed that the Army needs to bring its policy regarding relationships across the divide of rank into line with the other services.
The Air Force, Navy, and Marines largely prohibit fraternization between officers and enlisted members. The Army has not, permitting such relationships if the two involved members were not in the same chain of command and order and discipline were not affected.
The new tougher standard could force unmarried cross-rank Army couples to make a choice: get married or break up.
"Breaches of good order and discipline in the all volunteer force are not widespread," said Cohen, "but perceived and actual inconsistencies in policies and practices addressing those breaches must be remedied."
EAF Not a "Quick Fix"The Expeditionary Aerospace Force, far from being a "quick-fix" solution to high optempo levels, has taken years to develop, according to Gen. Michael E. Ryan, USAF Chief of Staff.
"In fact, the EAF concept was [nearly] eight years in the making," Ryan argued in an Aug. 24 statement.
Ryan and F. Whitten Peters, acting Secretary of the Air Force, announced Aug. 4 a plan to transform the Air Force into the EAF, comprising 10 standing Air Expeditionary Forces drawing forces from bases around the United States.
"Since the end of the Gulf War, we've been wrestling with various ways to respond to the increasing number of contingencies that require us to deploy forces around the world while maintaining high-quality service at the bases from which these forces have deployed."
This activity, said Ryan, "has taken a high toll on our people, both on those we send to remote locations as well as those whose workload at home station is expanded to make up for the absence of their teammates."
Ryan said that, in early 1998, he commissioned a six-month study by a small group of planners to use lessons of the past eight years to devise a new framework. "Eight years of experience and six months of intensive study-this was anything but a quick fix," said Ryan.
Missile Defense Proponents Play OffenseCongressional proponents of national defense against ballistic missiles pushed their issue forward on a number of fronts this summer.
On Aug. 5, a bipartisan group of 48 House members introduced legislation that would make deployment of a National Missile Defense system the official policy of the US. Such a move would toughen the current US position, formulated by the Clinton Administration, which calls for developing NMD technology to the point where a decision whether to deploy within three years can by made in the year 2000.
Meanwhile, the House passed a spending bill amendment intended to force the Administration to submit negotiated changes in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to the Senate for ratification.
The changes, hammered out in talks between the US, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus, include such items as a limit on the speed of theater defense missiles. NMD proponents think such alternations would hobble future missile defense deployment.
A poll released by the pro-NMD group Coalition to Defend America found 86 percent of respondents in favor of a missile shield deployment. Seventy-five percent of respondents supported spending $3 billion on the system.
Robot SMV in Successful TestOn Aug. 11, Boeing successfully drop tested a subscale prototype of the Air Force's proposed X-40A Space Maneuver Vehicle.
An Army Black Hawk helicopter hoisted the 22-foot-long uninhabited vehicle to an altitude of some 9,000 feet over Holloman AFB, N.M. Cut loose, the prototype SMV glided down to a runway landing using autonomous onboard guidance systems.
"We wanted to validate low-speed handling qualities and demonstrate autonomous approach and landing capability," said Boeing Project Manager John Fuller. "We did that today."
If it enters production, the space shuttle-shaped vehicle would be launched into orbit 22,000 miles high and loiter there for up to a year. It would travel to different trouble spots-a malfunctioning satellite, say-before gliding to Earth on its stubby delta wings.
The Air Force will probably decide within a year whether it wants to pursue the SMV concept. If it does, the service is likely to call for a competition to build a demonstrator vehicle, with Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Orbital Sciences likely participants.
Panel Moves to Ban Explicit MaterialMilitary retail services in August began the process of eliminating all sales of sexually explicit magazines, videotapes, and audio tapes.
Under Pentagon instructions, an eight-member Resale Activities Board of Review met Aug. 13. The board had asked all of the military exchanges to provide for its review materials that might be affected by the new law.
The resulting review list includes more than 100 publications. The board will announce findings later this year. Once the board determines that a particular item is sexually explicit, it will be removed and not offered for sale.
The Pentagon was responding to a ruling last June by the Supreme Court, upholding the 1996 Military Honor and Decency Act by refusing to review an appeal of a lower court ruling. The law requires DoD to remove all sexually explicit materials sold or rented by the exchange services, commissaries, and US Navy ships' stores.
More B-1 Upgrades in Store?The Air Force is considering a new B-1B upgrade program that would give the big bombers improved data links and avionics, among other things.
Right now the B-1 program is in the midst of an extensive upgrade program that is adding precision guided conventional weapon capability to the Lancer fleet. This December will see delivery of the first B-1s able to handle the Joint Direct Attack Munition. Seven JDAM-ready aircraft should be on the flight line at Ellsworth AFB, S.D., by February.
The new Block G program, if funded, would begin in 2002 or 2003, after the current effort has largely ended. Proposed Block G components would include the Link-16 data link and an upgraded PGM targeting system. Officials are also weighing the virtues of including the Small Bomb System in the next round of B-1 modifications.
ABL Team Gets Biggest Glass EverThe contractor team developing the USAF Airborne Battle Laser has accepted delivery of the largest piece of high-quality optical glass ever made, according to team officials.
The 994-pound piece of glass, made by Heraeus Quarzglas of Germany, will eventually become the turret window through which the ABL will produce a high-energy laser beam capable of tracking and destroying ballistic missiles in flight.
The task of producing the final window entails much more than simply slapping glass in place, as if it were a windshield or replacement window pane. Corning, Inc. of Canton, N.Y., is now processing the high-quality glass into a sphere. Then a Pittsburgh firm, ContravesBrashear Systems, will polish the window. It will be optically coated by yet another contractor, Optical Coating Laboratories, Inc., of Santa Rosa, Calif.
The window will have to show its stuff in 2002, when Team ABL-made up of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and TRW-is scheduled to run a test against an airborne theater ballistic missile.
Short Circuit Downed THAADThe May crash of the Theater High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile interceptor-the high-profile program's fifth straight intercept test failure-was caused by a short circuit in its booster, according to investigation results.
The short occurred when a high voltage wire came in contact with a low voltage one on the back of a connector plug in the booster's thrust vector control. Possible causes included a loose wire, metallic debris, or booster exhaust residue.
Ironically, the tough preflight inspections the THAAD booster underwent may have helped caused the problem, said program officials. The checks were meant to guard against the failures which dogged previous test shots, but frequent handling of the now four-year-old booster hardware may have shaken the wire or dislodged a foreign object.
The test failures have raised serious questions about the future of the $14 billion program. THAAD's designers point out that many other weapons, such as the Tomahawk cruise missile, had multiple failures in testing. They say they are confident they are gradually shaking out the bugs in the system.
B-2s Take Precautionary Time OffThe Air Force fleet of B-2 bombers suspended normal flying operations Aug. 6-10. The cause of the stand-down was a potential problem with the initiators that help power the aircrew ejection system.
The glitch was discovered by the manufacturer, O.E.A. Aerospace, during routine acceptance testing. Each B-2 has eight initiators, and all were replaced as a safety precaution.
Aviano Airmen Support Albanian ExerciseEight USAF airmen from the 31st Fighter Wing, based at Aviano AB, Italy, deployed to Albania on short notice to support a NATO exercise dubbed Cooperative Assembly '98, the Air Force announced Aug. 21.
The exercise was intended to display NATO displeasure at Serbian military actions against civilians in Kosovo, a restive, predominantly Albanian province of Yugoslavia.
The USAF contingent comprised seven air traffic controllers from the 31st Operations Support Squadron and one ground radio maintainer from the 31st Communications Squadron. The airmen were called in on an emergency basis after the unexpected deployment of US Marine controllers to Africa.
Forces participating in this exercise came from Albania, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Turkey, UK, and United States.
Russian Engine, US RocketLockheed Martin on July 29 started a Russian-built RD-180 engine in the first of a series of tests of the propulsion system for the new Atlas IIIA rocket.
The test marked the first time such Russian hardware has ever been fired up at a US government facility--in this case, a NASA stand at Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., originally built to test the first stage of the Saturn V.
The RD-180 throttled up to more than 90 percent power during its run, which lasted 70 seconds. The engine, tanks and feedlines, avionics, electronics, and hydraulics were all tested.
RD-180s produce 860,000 pounds of thrust and are produced by Russia's NPO Energomash and Pratt & Whitney for Atlas contractor Lockheed Martin. Use of the Russian hardware allows the Atlas IIIA to fly with 15,000 fewer parts than the Atlas IIAS.
"This test was an important milestone in our development of the new Atlas III and EELV rockets that will enable us to reduce assembly time and improve operational capability while cutting costs," said Raymond S. Colladay, president of Lockheed Martin Astronautics.
First launch of the Atlas IIIA is currently scheduled for March 1999.
Assignment System Changes for New PilotsOn July 31, the Air Force handed out assignments to its newest class of pilots at Vance AFB, Okla., under a revamped assignment system.
The assignment modifications mean that an individual's desires have less weight when it comes to that first cockpit-but the needs of the service will be better met, say Air Force personnel officials.
The new pilot assignment system also foreshadows what other Air Force officers will see when the overall Officer Assignment System is changed in January.
In the past, graduating pilots were ranked by a combination of flying and test scores. Students then ran a sort of reverse draft, with the top scorer getting first pick of the aircraft he or she wanted to fly, the No. 2 the next pick, and so on. Choices were rotated among the Air Force's three pilot training bases.
Under the new system, students fill out a "dream sheet" of assignments they would like to have. Taking these desires into account, flight, squadron, and operations group commanders, with input from Instructor Pilots, then determine what they think is an appropriate slot for each new set of Air Force wings.
"The old system was based strictly on numbers," said Col. Dale "Muddy" Waters, 71st Operations Group commander. "We added up all the flying and academic scores to determine a class ranking, then let the students pick assignments based on how they ranked. There was a transparent sort of purity to that system, but it did not always match students with assignments in a way that was best for the service."
Mismatches were fairly common under the old way. Sometimes IPs would tell commanders that a student was not ready to become a first-assignment instructor, but under the rank system the top levels had no control over a student's selection.
"I know there is some concern among the students about how the new system will affect them," said Waters. "I believe they will find out that the net result will probably not be too much different than when the students picked the assignments themselves. How you perform in training will still be the biggest factor in determining your assignment."
New Early Retirement Program OpensThe Air Force is offering another early retirement program in Fiscal 1999. The only incentive is early departure; no money, such as the Special Separation Bonus, is offered.
Only officers need apply. With the end of large-scale force reductions, waiver programs and other specialized personnel management tools are helping the Air Force shape the force it needs, say personnel officials.
Basic eligibility criteria include completion of at least 15 years-but less than 20 years-of federal commissioned service.
Eligible officers include:
Operation Flipper DropIn an airlift that some participants dubbed "Operation Flipper Drop," an Air Force Reserve Command C-141 Starlifter flew five US military dolphins to Lithuania to participate in a Partnership for Peace exercise in early July. [See "Baltic Guard," p. 26.]
The bottle-nosed dolphins, Tacoma, Wenatchee, Cinder, Spetsnaz, and Punane, are all members of the Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three, based in Coronado, Calif.
The "teenagers," as some of their handlers call them, are trained to locate and mark mines and other munitions on the ocean floor. During Baltic Challenge '98, an 11-nation joint land, sea, and air exercise, the dolphins did their stuff on the floor of the Baltic Sea.
Airlifting the marine mammals required more care than is lavished on the usual C-141 cargo. A C-141 crew from the 445th Airlift Wing, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, flew to NAS North Island, Calif., to pick up the animals and their handlers July 8. They were flown to Lithuania in carriers that resembled big blue bathtubs on wheels. When filled with water and a dolphin, each carrier weighed 1,900 pounds.
Electric Starlifter UnplugsThe C-141 Electric Starlifter program came to a successful close at Edwards AFB, Calif., July 29.
Electric Starlifter testing marked the first time in aviation history that a large military cargo aircraft has both been fitted with electric flight controls and flown more than 1,000 operational hours.
The program went beyond fly-by-wire techniques, in which electrical signals trigger hydraulic systems to move ailerons and other controls. It used power-by-wire techniques, in which the flight control surfaces are moved by electrical, not hydraulic, motors.
The program's purpose was to demonstrate the feasibility of such fly-by-wire/power-by-wire control systems for future platforms, under the Air Force's More Electric Aircraft program.
"The major benefit is the elimination of the central hydraulic systems," said Lockheed Martin Program Manager Walt Porter. "This will enhance reliability and safety; it eliminates the numerous requirements posed to maintain a central hydraulic system, and it greatly reduces the weight of the aircraft."
The Electric Starlifter-the second C-141 platform ever manufactured-was put through an exhaustive flight qualification test program, including temperature, shock, vibration, and electromagnetic interference exams. The program brought the technical readiness level of the electric actuator to flight-qualified status.
The plane's 1,000 hours were amassed in routine cargo and passenger-carrying missions for Air Mobility Command. The electric actuator unit was also bench-tested to over five million cycles.
The Joint Strike Fighter, the F-22, and the next-generation C-130J transport are among the aircraft that could benefit from the program's results, said Air Force officials.
Strikers Squeeze IncirlikUS Air Force fighters based at Incirlik AB, Turkey, continued to carry out operations over northern Iraq despite the outbreak of labor strife that all but closed base services and restricted US personnel throughout Turkey.
On July 23, some 1,400 unionized Turkish employees went out on strike, demanding more pay and benefits. By late August, the strike had begun to affect the more than 7,000 American military members, DoD civilian workers, contract employees, and family members at installations in Ankara, Izmir, Incirlik, and several smaller sites in Turkey.
Union members continued picketing at facilities throughout Incirlik AB, near Adana in southeastern Turkey. Turkish law permits unions to strike and gives striking workers access to their work sites to picket.
About 5,300 Americans are stationed at Incirlik, a Turkish air force facility that houses the US Air Force's 39th Wing and the 39th Air and Space Expeditionary Wing. The American units, along with British and French allies, enforce the UNmandated no-fly zone over northern Iraq.
About 45 US and Allied aircraft continue to fly daily sorties as part of Operation Northern Watch. "Military operations have not suffered at all," DoD spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon said at the Pentagon Aug. 11.
People at Incirlik are operating under difficult circumstances, Bacon said. To avoid conflict with striking union members, Air Force officials have restricted travel to the local community to official business only. People who live off base, however, are allowed to travel back and forth.
Since the closure of the base commissary, base officials have arranged for small groups to shop at an off-base supermarket each day in the company of US military and Turkish national police. Field kitchens have been set up to feed service members supporting Operation Northern Watch.
Gen. John P. Jumper, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe, visited Incirlik in August to answer questions about the situation. The USAFE commander then went to Ankara, the capital of Turkey, to discuss the strike with Turkey's senior military leadership and the American ambassador. He said his intention was to persuade leaders to help resolve legal issues associated with the strike.
Daily Report: 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