Tanker Compromise Reached
The Air Force announced Nov. 6 that the Administration had reached an agreement with Congress over the service’s plan to acquire new KC-767 refueling tankers. The deal would enable USAF to lease 20 and buy 80 of the Boeing aircraft, ending an extended controversy over USAF’s plan to lease all 100 tankers.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Air Force will lease 20 KC-767A aircraft, beginning in 2006. This will allow the service to begin to replace its fleet of aging KC-135s sooner than would have been possible through a traditional acquisition program. USAF will begin its purchase of 80 additional tankers in 2008, with final delivery in 2014.
The service’s acquisition executive, Marvin R. Sambur, said that “details remain to be finalized.” However, he added that the compromise agreement “achieves an appropriate balance between the need to begin tanker recapitalization and the hard fiscal realities of the budgeting process.”
F/A-22 Sails Through Review
The F/A-22 Raptor, the Air Force’s highest procurement priority, passed its most recent Defense Acquisition Board review, paving the way for the award of new contracts.
The review panel in late September concluded that the stealthy fighter’s contractor team “continues to make progress to improve avionics stability,” one of the key developmental stumbling blocks in recent months.
Next up for award are the program’s Lot 4 (production) and Lot 5 (advance procurement) contracts. However, the panel ordered USAF to wait until the program meets designated exit criteria.
Plans call for the panel in February to meet again to further review the F/A-22’s progress, according to a Defense Department information paper.
The panel will then evaluate readiness to enter initial operational test and evaluation, reliability growth plans, exit criteria for the next batch of contract awards, and “survivability against revised estimates of the [future] threat environment.”
27th FS To Get F/A-22s First
The 27th Fighter Squadron, part of the 1st Fighter Wing located at Langley AFB, Va., will be the first Air Force unit to fly operational F/A-22s.
The service announced the decision in October.
The squadron flies F-15C fighters and will begin next year to transition from Eagles to Raptors. The F/A-22 is scheduled to reach initial operational capability in 2005.
Evidently, the squadron’s history played a major role in USAF’s decision to make it the vanguard of F/A-22 deployment.
The 27th in 1941 became the first unit to fly the P-38 Lightning and in 1975 became the first to fly operational F-15s, said Col. Frank Gorenc, wing commander.
If all goes as planned, the three 1st FW squadrons will have made the transition to F/A-22 operations by the end of 2007.
In October, the first operational Raptor, No. 18, arrived at the pilot training schoolhouse at Tyndall AFB, Fla. Raptor pilots will train at Tyndall before returning to Langley.
Moseley: USAF Must Fill the Bins
USAF reconstitution requires a huge infusion of basic items consumed during Gulf War II, said Gen. T. Michael Moseley.
The Air Force vice chief of staff, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Oct. 21, said the service must restock depleted supplies of precision weapons—both laser guided and satellite guided types.
Also in the pipeline are new electro-optical Maverick missiles to replace older versions and Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser-equipped cluster bombs to restock older cluster bomb units used in the conflict. Other needs include rockets, various small arms, and fuzes.
Moseley said most of these items would be procured through supplemental funding.
Troops Need Reconstitution, Too
As Moseley sees it, the Air Force also needs to reconstitute its personnel to go along with its hardware.
He told the House panel that the equivalent of 7.3 of the Air Force’s 10 Air Expeditionary Forces are, even now, “globally engaged.” Fully eight of the 10 were engaged during Gulf War II.
The force has been so busy for so long that it has fallen well off its training, education, and rotation schedules. USAF needs to get back on track, said Moseley.
The Air Force “must focus on reconstituting capabilities, not just commodities,” he explained.
Air Force leaders are struggling to get back to troop rotations lasting 90 days. The 90-day rotations were suspended at the start of the war and have not been reinstated. Air Force plans call for resumption of the 90-day AEF standard in March.
At that time, said Moseley, Air Force fighter and bomber forces “will be ready to resume normal rotations.” Moreover, added Moseley, “we will have completed the repositioning of our war reserve stocks.”
However, said the vice chief, the Air Force “will not meet the March goal” in certain high-demand career fields because they are engaged in sustained combat operations and are not able to work off their training backlogs in time.
Dyess B-1Bs in Record Surge
A group of 18 B-1B bombers based at Dyess AFB, Tex., surged in October, generating 114 sorties in 68 hours. This was a record rate, Air Force officials said.
Operation Iron Thunder, as the surge exercise was called, ran from Oct. 7 through Oct. 9 and produced 321 simulated bombing runs, according to a service news release.
USAF has “known for a long time” that B-1Bs could strike targets from long range with large payloads, noted Col. Jonathan George, commander of the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess.
He went on to say that this surge operation “demonstrated the impressive amount of firepower ... that we could potentially unleash on the enemy” in a relatively short period.
If those 114 flights had been actual combat sorties, said George, the B-1Bs could have delivered more than 2,500 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. To deliver that same weapons load, a force of F-16 fighters would need 1,400 sorties.
Jones Says US May Quit Bosnia
US peacekeeping forces may be withdrawn from Bosnia in 2004, reported Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones.
Jones, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and commander of US European Command, made the announcement Oct. 10.
The first US peacekeepers entered Bosnia in December 1995, after the signing of the Dayton peace accords. President Clinton pledged at that time to have all troops out within one year.
Eight years later, about 500 airmen remain in that Balkan nation. The Army has a larger presence in the region—about 1,500 soldiers in Bosnia and 2,200 more in Kosovo.
The exit from Bosnia, if it happens, won’t be duplicated elsewhere in the Balkans. Jones said the Kosovo mission lacks the “maturity” needed to send military peacekeepers home.
US troops have been helping to keep the peace in Kosovo ever since Operation Allied Force in 1999 prompted Serbia to withdraw its forces from the breakaway province.
Perle: USAF Deserves More
Modern trends in warfare mean that the traditional even-thirds allocation of the defense budget may need retooling, with the Air Force getting a larger share, stated Richard Perle, a member of the Defense Policy Board.
Perle argued the case for the Air Force during an Oct. 10 American Enterprise Institute briefing in Washington, D.C.
In recent years, the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force have received roughly even shares of defense funds, though this was not always the case. (See “Footing the Bill for Military Space,” August, p. 54.)
Perle noted that recent operations show that the nation’s military puts “an incredible premium” on speed, flexibility, and precision in weapons systems.
With the United States now building cost-effective weapons that actually “hit the targets,” the Air Force should benefit, he said. That is because airpower forces offer advantages not conferred by ground and naval forces.
Perle noted that USAF can reliably strike targets with systems such as relatively inexpensive Joint Direct Attack Munitions. However, he went on, the service continues to live with a static budget.
Perhaps a better metric for determining defense budget shares would be to emphasize innovative measurements such as “cost per target destroyed,” Perle suggested.Changing the relative shares of the budget would require overcoming both parochialism and bureaucratic inertia, but would create a more capable military force, Perle concluded.
US Buying Up MANPADS
Trying to get the anti-aircraft weapons off the streets in Iraq, American officials are buying up Stinger-type, man-portable missiles. The US is paying $500 to take a single missile out of circulation.
Various wire service news reports said the US had succeeded in acquiring more than 300 of the missiles by Oct. 8.
Several man-portable air defense system missiles have been fired at US aircraft in Iraq, though no aircraft have been hit. (See “Aerospace World: Missiles Fired at C-141 Departing Baghdad,” November, p. 17.) Gen. John W. Handy, commander of US Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command, has said he views the MANPADS threat as a serious problem.
An Army official noted that the total number of weapons acquired does not include “many hundreds” of anti-aircraft missiles that coalition forces located and destroyed on their own.
According to Army Lt. Col. George Krivo, the going bounty is $500 for a full system and $250 for grip stock or an “a la carte” missile.
China Enters Space Club
The exclusive, two-member manned spaceflight club, formed in 1961, is no more.China in October joined the United States and Soviet Union (now Russia) as the only nations to have successfully launched a human being into space. Chinese astronaut Lt. Col. Yang Liwei orbited the Earth 14 times during a 21-hour flight that stretched from Oct. 15 through Oct. 16.
In early 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and American astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. made the trip into space within weeks of each other. No other nation has matched those feats—until now.
The spacecraft Shenzhou V blasted off from a launch site located in the Gobi Desert, northwest of Beijing.
The system used to launch Yang is primitive compared to those based on modern US technology. Even so, the event provided a source of tremendous national pride and political support for China’s Communist rulers.
The launch system has been described as comparable to what the superpowers used in the 1950s, during the early days of the “Space Race.”
Chinese officials said they expect their next spaceflight to occur within two years.
Civil Service Changes Slammed
Opponents of proposed Civil Service reforms for DOD employees have launched a grassroots campaign to protect union workers, the Washington Post reported.
Pentagon leaders would like to streamline the way the Defense Department manages its civilian employees. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld seeks legislation that would allow pay-for-performance procedures, faster and easier hirings and firings, and a shorter disciplinary process.
The American Federation of Government Employees, one of the largest unions representing DOD civil service employees, opposes some of the proposals that could affect AFGE’s members.
The union bought radio ads supporting legislation that would limit the changes. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), would, for example, guarantee that DOD civilians, if disciplined, would have access to an external appeals process.
AFGE is also opposed to proposed outsourcing measures that could turn over large numbers of DOD jobs to contractors. According to the Post, the Administration has determined that about 850,000 federal jobs are commercial in nature, meaning they could be candidates for outsourcing.
DOD has about 746,000 civilian employees and for years has led the way in performing competitive outsourcing competitions.
$87 Billion Iraq Bill Passes
Lawmakers in both houses on Nov. 3 agreed to President Bush’s $87 billion request for security and reconstruction requirements in Afghanistan and Iraq. The vast majority of the money—$67 billion—goes to finance American military efforts in the region.
The other $20 billion actually turned out to be the most controversial. It is earmarked for reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the greater portion—more than $18 billion—going to rebuilding efforts in Iraq. Lawmakers were bitterly divided over whether this money should be provided in the form of a grant or a loan.
The House had followed Bush’s request that the money be provided as a grant, but the Senate wanted roughly half the funds to be provided as loans that would be repaid out of future Iraqi oil revenues. After the White House threatened to veto the bill if the Senate amendment was included, lawmakers dropped the provision.
Weapons Dumps Pose Threat
Coalition forces in Iraq face a daunting task: securing and cleaning up more than 100 large weapons dumps holding perhaps as much as a million tons of ammunition.
Officials are attempting to clean up and secure the locations quickly to prevent terrorists and others hostile to the United States from laying hands on the weapons.According to Army Brig. Gen. Robert L. Davis, the chief US military engineer in Iraq, more than 105 large dumps have been identified across the nation, and “we find new caches every day.”
“I have no idea how many there are,” in all, Davis said, according to Knight Ridder News Service.
A large dump is defined as one containing more than 100 weapons bunkers. Some of those in Iraq have up to 700 open pits containing artillery shells and other munitions. And smaller weapons loads abound.
The cleanup process continues and is massive. Davis said that contractors had destroyed more than 2.5 million pounds of ammunition between mid-September and mid-October.
Overseas Base Closures Eyed
The Pentagon plans further cuts and shifts in US overseas bases before it proceeds with the 2005 base closure round, said a senior Defense Department official on Oct. 6.
The Pentagon is reworking budgets to shift money away from “nonenduring” overseas bases, noted Raymond F. DuBois, deputy under- secretary of defense for installations and environment.
In a speech at the Association of the US Army’s annual convention, DuBois reported that millions of dollars in military construction funds are being diverted to bases with critical missions in the “global basing” structure.
For example, he said, 26 projects in Germany worth $280 million were canceled in Fiscal 2003 and 2004. Funding was then directed to 18 new projects in the United States.
BRAC Is Looming
Two years before the next scheduled round of base realignment and closure, BRAC-mania has reached a fever pitch, with numerous communities taking actions they hope will protect their local bases and their associated jobs and benefits.
In October, Pentagon officials scrambled to knock down an inflammatory Los Angeles Times report that DOD planned to close at least 100 of the nation’s 425 military installations.
A spokesman noted that DOD intends to cut basing capacity by 25 percent, which is not the same as cutting bases by 25 percent, because of the huge disparity in the size and efficiency of various installations.
However, DOD does not deny the closures must come, given that billions of dollars are wasted on a base infrastructure that has not been reduced nearly in proportion to cuts in active duty force structure.
USAF Battening Down for BRAC
With an eye to the upcoming base closure round, USAF is cautioning commanders to be careful about accepting new missions on Air Force bases.
In August, the service’s top uniformed official for installations and logistics, as well as the assistant Air Force secretary for installations, environment, and logistics, penned a cautionary memo on beddown actions.
Lt. Gen. Michael E. Zettler and Nelson F. Gibbs noted that “an increasing number of organizations both in and out of the Department of Defense have sought to place new units or missions on Air Force installations.” Because of the pending BRAC efforts, they wrote, “it is particularly important to be sensitive to actions that may create an improper impression of Air Force intentions.”
The memo went on to point out that force structure changes, new missions, and construction projects do not “insulate” a facility from realignment or closure under BRAC.
The Latest in Iraq
OIF Casualties Slowly Climb
By Oct. 23, deaths during Operation Iraqi Freedom reached a total of 548 since combat operations began. These include 219 deaths due to hostile actions and 124 noncombat fatalities. Since the end of major combat operations May 1, deaths totaled 205. Of those fatalities, 104 were due to hostile fire, and 101 were from noncombat causes.
Gulf War II fatalities passed the total from the 1991 Gulf War on Sept. 13, when they reached 294. In the 40 days from Sept. 13 to Oct. 23, 49 additional Americans died in Iraq, slightly more than one per day.
Ansar al-Islam Terror Leader Apprehended
US officials captured Aso Hawleri, a top member of the Ansar al-Islam terror organization that has ties to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terror network, in Iraq. Hawleri, also known as Asad Muhammad Hasan, was taken into custody in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, according to the Associated Press.
Thought to be the third-ranking member of his terror organization, Hawleri was reportedly taken into custody by members of the 101st Airborne without shots being fired.
Saddam Hussein Holed Up Near Tikrit?
US officials said in October that they believe deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein may be hiding out near his hometown of Tikrit, in north-central Iraq. “We have clear indication he has been here recently,” said Army Maj. Troy Smith, a deputy brigade commander in Tikrit. “He could be here right now,” Smith said Oct. 13.
Hussein’s exact whereabouts—or even if he is still alive—has been unknown since the attacks March 20 that marked the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Overall, of the 55 former regime leaders on the coalition’s “most wanted” list, 38 are reportedly in custody, three are thought dead, and 14 remained at large by mid-October.
Would US Airmen Be “Trigger Hesitant”?
North American Aerospace Defense Command, charged with defending US and Canadian airspace, routinely practices the task of shooting down a hijacked civilian airliner.
That is the word from Air Force Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, commander of not only NORAD but also US Northern Command. Both are located in the Colorado Springs, Colo., area.In October, Eberhart told the Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C., “We exercise this several times every week, ... whether it is an airplane shooting down an airplane or whether it is the air defense system here in the National Capital Region shooting down an airplane.”
Such exercises are an outgrowth of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when the Defense Department was caught off guard by an unexpected type of attack against the United States. “God forbid we’d ever have to do this,” Eberhart noted, but interdicting a hijacked aircraft is now a scenario the military trains for and is “well-prepared to do,” he said.
Eberhart made it plain that this is not a mission that defense officials take lightly. Some pilots may have no qualms about attacking enemies in Iraq or Afghanistan, but pilots faced with “a lot of innocent people” on board—and perhaps only a handful of terrorists—may become queasy.
The problem is not that a pilot would be trigger happy but rather that he would be “trigger hesitant,” Eberhart said. Therefore, training is critical to ensure the mission could be accomplished.
DOD To Closely Watch Morale in Iraq
Pentagon leaders have not yet seen convincing indications that morale among troops is suffering in Iraq. Even so, officials pledged to closely monitor the situation in the wake of a Stars and Stripes poll that reported widespread dissatisfaction among the rank and file.
Morale is “something we take very, very seriously,” said Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In a survey of nearly 2,000 troops throughout Iraq, the newspaper found 34 percent of respondents described their morale as low, and 49 percent said their unit’s morale was low. These totals were in stark contrast to official reports of high morale. According to the survey, 27 percent described their morale as high, but only 16 percent felt their unit was in good spirits.
The newspaper conceded it had not conducted a scientific poll, with specific controls.Among those surveyed, 49 percent said it was not likely that they would remain in the military once their current tour of duty was up.
Furthermore, the paper said, many troops felt that visiting dignitaries, such as generals and members of Congress, were given a “dog and pony show” when they came to Iraq. Many respondents believed the VIPs only had access to preselected troops.
Asked about this at a Pentagon briefing, Myers echoed the concern. “As a four-star [general], somebody’s always ... bringing us all the happy folks,” he said. “I want to see the folks that have complaints,” Myers said, jokingly adding, “They won’t let them near me.”
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld noted at the same briefing that only the Army Reserve was having “soft” recruiting and retention, but added that “the effects of a stress on the force are unlikely to be felt immediately.”
JFCOM Itemizes Iraq’s Lessons Learned
A US Joint Forces Command evaluation of Operation Iraqi Freedom has determined that the prevention of fratricide is the Defense Department’s area of greatest need.
“We have to do things,” about fratricide, said Army Brig. Gen. Robert W. Cone, director of JFCOM’s lessons learned center.
The Defense Department sees fratricide prevention as having “two critical ingredients,” Cone said at an October Pentagon briefing. Combat identification (positively classifying a target before shooting) and situational awareness (knowing who is supposed to be where at a given time) are both areas requiring improvement.
“In terms of combat ID, I don’t think we’ve made a lot of progress in the last 10 years,” Cone said.
Thermal panels and infrared “bug lights” for ground forces can help, he said, but “I could show you ... what that looks like from an F-14 LANTIRN pod at 15,000 feet.” It is “not comforting in terms of the ability to discern” between friend and foe, Cone said.
Blue force tracking capabilities are good at the operations center level, Cone said, but DOD needs to ensure the information gets to the “lowest level,” where the shooters are.
Cone said part of the challenge in preventing fratricide recently has been that the battlefields have not been distinct—they lack clearly separated forces. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, there was considerable mixing of combatants, and as forces converge “it’s a greater challenge,” he said.
Overall, however, Cone described OIF as a triumph of integrated combat power. Joint force integration and adaptive planning, joint force synergy, and special operations on the battlefield were the “big winners,” according to JFCOM. These efforts gave the coalition “overmatching power, overmatching at a time and place of our choosing, on the battlefield against a specific opponent,” Cone said.
USAF Conducts Bare-Base Op—in New Jersey
With Exercise Eagle Flag, the Air Force for the first time practiced the setup and operation of a bare base in an official flag-level exercise. Held in Lakehurst, N.J., Eagle Flag tested the Air Force’s ability to quickly set up a bare base—a mission USAF has had to perform numerous times since 2001.
For support troops, Eagle Flag is the equivalent of the Red Flag exercises that fighter pilots use to hone their skills in realistic combat environments. It is an opportunity to rehearse the use of “force modules” that will be used in the future to initiate airfield operations. According to USAF, a force module is “a grouping of combat support forces and ... equipment and supplies” needed to sustain an initial force for at least 30 days.
For Eagle Flag, USAF forces deployed to Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst. They were led by an assessment team that determined what repairs and upgrades were needed to make the site operational. Three force modules followed.
The first module consisted of fuels, security, supply, and other personnel required to open the base. The second comprised civil engineers, logisticians, public affairs personnel, and other experts needed to give leadership on-site command and control capabilities. The third module deployed airmen to expand base infrastructure, such as chaplain, safety, and weather personnel.
According to the Air Force, in a real deployment, two more modules would follow. They would consist of experts needed to generate additional sorties and operate the air base.
The Air Force has eight Eagle Flag exercises scheduled in 2004.
AEF Blue Needs Some Airmen for Longer Period
The Air Force said in September that about 10 percent of airmen in AEF Blue, the first of two provisional Air Expeditionary Forces, will be deployed beyond the expected 120-day rotation.
AEF Blue and AEF Silver were formed of units and personnel not deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom. They were to cover USAF deployment responsibilities until March 2004 and thus give the wartime units a chance to reconstitute.
AEF Blue deployed in July. Plans called for it to be relieved in November by AEF Silver. However, about 2,300 of the 22,000 airmen assigned to AEF Blue had to stay on longer, the service announced.
Not all airmen assigned to an AEF actually deploy—the Air Force currently has about 20,440 personnel deployed worldwide. Of those, 16,700 are in US Central Command’s area of responsibility, which includes both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The extended-tour personnel are in the high-demand, low-density career fields that have seen frequent strain since 2001. They are primarily security forces but “may include air traffic control, civil engineering, services, medical, and intelligence personnel,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy A. Peppe, the Air Force’s chief AEF planner.
USAF Studies F/A-22, JSF Associate Units
As it seeks the best ways to deploy new F/A-22 and F-35 fighters, USAF is pondering integration of active, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve Command airmen into single units.
Such an organizational structure might yield the most efficient use of the two new fighters, bringing more combat power per unit, said Gen. John P. Jumper, the USAF Chief of Staff.
Greater efficiency, however, emphatically does not mean there is a reduced requirement, Jumper argued. He dismissed press reports that the Air Force is wavering on the number of fighters it seeks. Jumper said such reports are flat wrong.
“There is no decrease in commitment to either [fighter] right now,” said the Chief, speaking at a Capitol Hill breakfast sponsored by the consulting firm DFI International.
The Air Force has seen success with its most prominent associate unit. The 116th Air Control Wing, Robins AFB, Ga., has brought active, Guard, and Reserve personnel together to operate E-8 Joint STARS aircraft.
The service feels similar arrangements may be possible when combat units acquire the F/A-22 and F-35.
The Air Force’s stated goal is 381 F/A-22s. In an interview, Jumper noted the service’s long-range budget currently supports a fleet of 276 F/A-22s, but these are expected to replace roughly 700 F-15s.
“The objective is to get more efficiency out of the airplanes you have,” he said.One concept calls for basing the next generation fighters at locations where multiple crews could have access to the aircraft, allowing fewer aircraft to be flown more frequently.
Yet fighters pushed to maximum-use conditions create their own set of challenges. “The problem in the fighter business is a little different,” Jumper told DFI attendees. “When you do this integration in the fighter business, you’ve got to make sure that you have the resources and you’re buying the parts and the pieces to keep those airplanes flying at a high rate.”
USAF can experiment with existing F-15s and F-16s, Jumper told Air Force Magazine, but “you have to be able to generate a lot more sorties per aircraft than we are able to right now, on the aircraft we have, before it appears that [creative basing arrangements] will pay big dividends. That’s why we are aiming this at the next generation of airplanes.”
Plans call for the F-35, which will become operational in about a decade, to replace aging F-16 and A-10 aircraft. The Air Force requirement remains 1,763 F-35s.
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.
Daily Report: Read the days top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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