C-130s for Promotions?
The Senate on June 12 approved promotions for 127 active duty Air Force captains and majors. There were 741 nominees who were still on the list, some from early January. And approval for the 127 came only after pressure from the White House itself.
The problem is that Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho wants four additional C-130 aircraft for the Idaho Air National Guard.
Senators can and do hold up nominations—usually civilian, not military—indefinitely and anonymously. In this case, the New York Times reported on June 9, it was Craig who was blocking the promotions.
A spokesman for Craig said the Air Force promised seven years ago to station eight C-130s in Boise for the ANG squadron there. Currently, the unit has four operational C-130s and one trainer.
According to the Times, USAF officials said no such pledge was given and called the Senator’s action “blackmail.” Reports of the number of confirmations actually being blocked by Craig varied. His office claimed the Senator had only put a hold on 212.
Two Luke F-16s Crash
Two F-16 fighters based at Luke AFB, Ariz., crashed in a single week during training missions. The first crash occurred June 10, followed by one on June 13. Both pilots ejected safely.
The first F-16 crash occurred at 5:15 p.m. The pilot was Capt. David O’Malley, an instructor pilot with the 310th Fighter Squadron at Luke. The second crashed at 9:30 a.m. It was piloted by Capt. Scott Arbogast, also an IP, of Luke’s 61st Fighter Squadron. The aircraft were over the Barry M. Goldwater Range at the time of the accidents.
Luke suffered a series of six F-16 crashes in late 1998 and early 1999. The service found that four of those crashes were engine-related. A subsequent inspection of all the F-16s at Luke found engine cracks in 18 of the base’s older fighters. The Air Force is still investigating causes of the two recent crashes.
Two Aircraft Down in Iraq
US Central Command reported that an Air Force F-16CG had crashed and an Army Apache helicopter had been shot down during operations in Iraq on June 12. The crews of both aircraft were rescued.
In a briefing the next day, officials said that an initial report on the USAF fighter indicated it had a mechanical failure before it crashed at 6:30 a.m. (Baghdad time). The pilot ejected and was rescued about an hour after the crash.
CENTCOM said the AH-64 helicopter was hit by hostile fire. Two additional Apaches helped engage the hostile forces in the vicinity, and coalition ground forces reached the two crew members almost immediately.
Blue, Silver To Stabilize AEFs
The Air Force has tagged its two transitional 120-day Air and Space Expeditionary Forces as AEF Blue and AEF Silver. These two AEFs are part of USAF’s plan to fix its broken schedule by March 2004.
To handle Gulf War II in Iraq plus ongoing operations in Afghanistan, the service had to reach into its AEF rotation cycle—freezing some forces in place and advancing others. (See “Expeditionary Air Warriors,” June, p. 24.)
The service had established 90-day rotation periods as its norm but announced in May that it would carry out two temporary rotations of 120 days each to get the system back on track. AEF Blue will handle operations from July through October. AEF Silver will pick up then and run through February of next year.
Service leaders are currently reviewing the expeditionary system and the feasibility of maintaining its 15-month cycle.
It’s Never Too Late
President Bush nominated retired Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker to return to active duty to head the Army. He retired from service in December 2000 as commander of US Special Operations Command.
Gen. Eric K. Shinseki retired as Army Chief of Staff on June 11. Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane, who is also slated to retire, is serving as acting Chief. Keane was offered the top job but turned it down.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld fired the Army’s top civilian, Thomas E. White, who left office May 9. (See “Aerospace World: The Pentagon Shuffle,” June, p. 9.)
A-10s Under the Microscope
A New York Times op-ed article on May 27 claimed that Maj. Gen. David A. Deptula, director of plans and programs at Air Combat Command, had “ordered a subordinate to draft a memo justifying the decommissioning of the A-10 fleet.”
Deptula and ACC commander, Gen. Hal M. Hornburg, vehemently denied the claim. There is no drive in the Air Force to prematurely “kill” the A-10, affectionately called the Warthog, say USAF officials.
At issue were some planned A-10 upgrades that ACC is reviewing as it tries to craft a 2005 budget.
US Ends CRAF Call-Up
US Transportation Command on June 18 officially ended the Civil Reserve Air Fleet call-up for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The CRAF activation began on Feb. 8.
It was only the second time commercial carrier aircraft had been activated under the CRAF program to augment the Air Force mobility fleet.
From Feb. 8 through June 9, CRAF commercial carriers compiled an impressive record:Eleven carriers flying 51 passenger airliners carried out more than 1,600 missions and transported more than 254,000 troops.
Sixteen commercial carriers volunteered to move 11,050 short tons of cargo destined for Southwest Asia.
Welch: Nuclear Triad Still Useful
Retired Gen. Larry D. Welch recommends the US maintain its nuclear triad capability even as it reduces the scope of its nuclear arsenal. Speaking on Capitol Hill on June 4, the former Air Force Chief of Staff said each element of the triad—air, land, and sea—still offers unique value.
At the same time, Welch said the US must study what role nuclear weapons should play in the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world. He added that the current systems may no longer be relevant.
Welch endorses a plan proposed by Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) and included in the House version of the Fiscal 2004 defense authorization bill. It would create a commission to develop an all encompassing strategy for the US nuclear arsenal.
C-17 IPs Go Back to School
Starting this month, four C-17 instructor pilots will embark as the first class in a 5.5-month C-17 Weapons Instructor Course established at McGuire AFB, N.J. The new course is considered the “doctorate” for C-17 IPs.
The C-17 course will parallel similar instruction set up for C-130 and KC-135 IPs. The three courses make up the service’s new USAF Mobility Weapons School at McGuire.
Officials say C-17 pilots taking the course will follow an intensive curriculum of more than 300 academic hours and 25 flights in four phases: advanced tactical maneuvering, direct delivery, joint operations, and mission employment.
The advanced tactical maneuvering and direct delivery phases will orient the pilots to different types of flying, airdrop, and air-land techniques, including reaction to threats. After completing these two phases, the pilots will receive joint operations training.
At the end of the course, the C-17 pilots will participate in a two-week exercise at the USAF Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nev.
Once they graduate, the pilots are expected to return to their units and pass on their knowledge to other IPs and student pilots.
DOD and VA Form New Team
The Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments on May 31 opened a new compensation program for some disabled military retirees. Payments under the Combat-Related Special Compensation program were slated to begin this month.
The CRSC program applies to two categories of military retirees:
Eligible retirees must apply to their branch of service using DD Form 2860, “Application for Combat-Related Special Compensation.” The form is available from retirement services representatives or on the Web at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/crsc.
AMC Opens New Control Center
Air Mobility Command on May 16 officially opened a new Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott AFB, Ill. Officials say the new center brings all airlift control functions together.TACC personnel “now have the ability to call upon a wide range of electronic tools and databases to help them make smart decisions in a timely manner,” said Maj. Gen. Edward L. LaFountaine, TACC commander.
He said the new center permits flight dispatchers, flight controllers, weather and intelligence personnel, and logisticians to enter “a working community to optimize air mobility operations.”
The old control center’s operations were split between eastern and western hemispheres. “As part of the effort to create a more efficient and effective TACC, we got rid of the east-west divisions,” said SMSgt. Robert Dunn, superintendent of the TACC Operations Support Division.
The new center is divided into functional areas, or mission types, “which gives us the flexibility to manage our manpower based on our actual workload rather than by the location of each mission,” said Dunn. Before, the east division might be working 1,000 sorties in a day, while the west crew only had 300.
By dividing the operations center according to function, explained Dunn, “we can adjust the number of people to each type of mission.”
DOD Changes Budget Cycle
Pentagon Comptroller Dov S. Zakheim on May 22 unveiled DOD’s plan for a new two-year budget cycle. It requires no Congressional action, he said, and will begin with an abbreviated cycle for Fiscal 2005.
Under the new approach the annual program objective memorandum and budget estimate submission cycle moves to a biennial cycle. During the off year, Zakheim said, the Pentagon will focus on “fiscal execution and program performance.”
The change also affects the defense planning guidance, which the services and defense agencies use to develop their individual budget and programming requests. It was provided annually. Now, the DPG will be issued in the off year “at the discretion of the Secretary of Defense,” according to a Pentagon statement.
What’s more, the statement said, the off-year DPG will “not introduce major changes to the defense program, except as specifically directed by the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of Defense.”
There will be no DPG for Fiscal 2005.
To handle needed changes, DOD will use program change proposals in lieu of an off-year POM, and budget change proposals instead of an off-year BES.
UAV Ground Control Takes To Air
The Air Force has successfully tested control of a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle from an airborne platform. Predator normally is operated from a mobile ground station using satellite communications.
According to a May 23 report on InsideDefense.com, the test, dubbed Scathe Falcon, marks the first air-to-air control of a Predator UAV. It was conducted by Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright–Patterson AFB, Ohio, earlier this year.
ASC placed a modified Predator ground station with crew on board a C-130 aircraft. The Predator crew flew the UAV for more than five hours using a C-band line-of-sight antenna.
By developing this capability, the Air Force will be able to fly the UAV in areas that may have limited SATCOM coverage. The capability may be added to the service’s new E-10 multisensor command and control aircraft.
USAF Releases 2002 QOL Results
The Air Force on May 30 said that its personnel showed “an increase in satisfaction” with the service as a job and way of life. The claim was based on responses to the 2002 Chief of Staff Quality of Life Survey.
Charles Hamilton, chief of the Air Force Personnel Center’s survey branch, said the latest survey showed a rise in satisfaction virtually across the board, when compared to results from the 2000 QOL survey. He added, too, that “career intent was up among all demographic groups.”
Hamilton’s office sent the survey to more than 100,000 active duty airmen and civilian personnel last September.
While the responses were largely positive, with 90 percent of military members and 89 percent of civilians saying the Air Force is a good place to work, Hamilton said there was a recurring concern among all groups—manpower shortages. (See “Masters of What They Survey,” p. 76, for more on the manpower issue.)
Reservists To Weigh In
For the first time, the Air Force will query reservists when it conducts its next organizational climate survey. It is slated to run this fall.
Officials said the Air Force Climate Survey 2003 will be easily accessible on the Air Force survey Web site and user-friendly.
The climate survey, unlike the QOL survey, asks questions about organizations, teamwork, supervision, training, unit flexibility, etc. The QOL survey measures feedback on pay and benefits and base facilities.
Like the QOL survey, however, officials say the Air Force ensures anonymity of respondents by using software masking techniques to separate the respondent’s user identification and password from responses.
Ironman Returns Home
Nearly 59 years after his death, 1st Lt. Carl Hoenshell, has come home. The airman’s remains were returned in May to his hometown, Owosso, Mich., for burial.
Hoenshell was a member of the World War II “Ironmen” of the 71st Fighter Squadron. His P-38 was shot down over Bulgaria.
Hoenshell’s niece, Elizabeth Wilson, and nephew, David Hoenshell, in 1995 began an effort to locate and recover his remains. Research, both online and through personal contact with other World War II airmen, led them in 1998 to a probable crash site in Bulgaria. In 1999, an excavation team found Hoenshell’s ID bracelet. War in the Balkans disrupted the search, but in 2002, the team found his remains, which were shipped to the US Army Central Identification Lab Hawaii.
On Hoenshell’s last mission in 1944, he was among 48 P-38 pilots who accompanied bombers sent to attack the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania. On the return, he ran out of ammunition when Nazi fighter aircraft attacked. He told his fellow pilots to hit the deck and head for home as he led at least three of the enemy aircraft away. In 1945, he was officially removed from the missing in action list and declared killed in action.
AWACS Finally Goes Home
On May 28, the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System community completed an arduous, 13-year continuous mission in desolate Southwest Asia. The mission began in August 1990, when the first AWACS deployed as part of Operation Desert Shield, the buildup for Gulf War I.
AWACS aircraft and personnel from Tinker AFB, Okla., handled the mission alone for nine years. Then in 1999 Pacific Air Forces AWACS elements began helping out. Tinker forces then handled about 80 percent of the mission and PACAF the other 20 percent.AWACS forces flew 277 combat sorties during Gulf War II, according to USAF.
“ We were in the middle of everything,” said Lt. Col. Joe Rossacci, commander of the 363rd Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron. “We were providing battle management for fighters, bombers, combat search and rescue, aerial refuelings, recovery and time-sensitive targeting missions.”
SMSgt. Gary Oldham, the 363rd EAACS operations superintendent, was a member of the AWACS team to deploy for Desert Shield in 1990. He said he had been back to the region several times. He was back for the end as well. He noted, “Lots of guys have over 200 days a year away from home.”
Oldham called the last sortie an “awesome sense of closure.”
McPeak Faults Army on Use of Apaches and Patriot
Few military leaders rile more people more often than retired Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, Air Force Chief of Staff from 1990 to 1994. McPeak, blunt-spoken as always, continues to lob bombshells from his retirement home in Lake Oswego, Ore. His most recent shot was a Washington Post op-ed column June 5.
“ For all but the resolutely sightless, it is now obvious that air combat determines the outcome in modern war,” wrote McPeak, who went on to say the US had better figure out how to conduct aerial warfare as well as possible.
As in previous conflicts, airpower was highly effective in Iraq, McPeak said, but “the air war did feature lackluster performance involving two pieces of equipment: the Apache helicopter gunship and the Patriot air defense missile.”
In McPeak’s estimation, the Apache and the Patriot—both of them Army systems—are pretty good. His criticism was about how they were employed.
In March, the Army sent a battalion of 32 Apaches on a long-range attack mission against the Republican Guard. One helicopter was shot down and all of the others took severe battle damage.
The mistake, McPeak said, was using the Apaches for deep attack. They do not have the speed or stealth to evade ground fire. But the Army, long eager “to get into the air fight,” does not want to restrict its attack helicopters to close air support roles or missions with fighter escort.
Patriot shot down two friendly aircraft. McPeak said, “It’s hard to figure out why Patriot crews should be so quick on the draw,” especially when the Iraqi Air Force was not flying. The Patriots, he said, should be regarded as one part of a bigger air defense system, one that has prevented enemy aircraft from attacking US ground forces for 50 years.
“ Gen. Merrill A. McPeak does not speak for the US Air Force,” said Gen. Hal M. Hornburg, commander of Air Combat Command, in a rebuttal letter printed in the June 11 Washington Post. “While I agree that the Air Force has never been better, I would say the same about the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard.”The op-ed column was vintage McPeak, guaranteed to raise hackles from coast to coast. It was also a reprise of McPeak’s “Three Battles” concept from 10 years ago. Combat forces, he said in 1994, were hampered by overlap and duplication but were short on integration and coordination.
He proposed a realignment in which forces would be organized to fight a Close Battle (to seize and hold terrain), a Deep Battle (interdiction and strategic attack), and a High Battle (to control and exploit air and space).
The ground force commander would be in charge of the Close Battle, including the helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft that provided close air support for the troops. The Air Force and Navy would provide backup as needed.
The Deep Battle would be the province of the Air Force and the Navy. It would not be an arena for vulnerable Army helicopters, operating alone.
In the High Battle, defense against aircraft and ballistic missiles would be treated as an integrated system, with the Air Force primarily responsible for both land-based air and ballistic missile defense. (McPeak raised a furor when he publicly called for cancellation of the Army’s deep-attack missile system and transfer of Army theater air defenses to the Air Force.)
In his Washington Post column, McPeak said that, “a decade ago, while serving as Air Force Chief of Staff, I went quietly to my Army counterpart, Gordy Sullivan, and proposed that we make a trade: Swap the Air Force’s primary close air support aircraft, the A-10, for the Army’s theater air defense missile, the Patriot,” but Sullivan “gave me the cold shoulder.”
McPeak pitched his Three Battles realignment idea to the Congressionally chartered Commission on Roles and Missions in September 1994, but it was not adopted.— John T. Correll
Supreme Court Sinks “Class Act” Lawsuit
The Supreme Court on June 2 rejected a request for a formal hearing on a case—known as the “Class Act” lawsuit—that sought free lifetime medical care and some compensatory payment for World War II and Korean War-era military retirees.
The lawsuit maintains that recruiters and recruiting literature promised that the retirees would receive free medical care for life once they retired after 20 years of service.
The justices refused to review a ruling issued last November by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The ruling said the promises were not valid because the recruiters had no statutory right to make such claims. (See “Ghosts in the Machine,” by Air Force Magazine Editor in Chief Robert S. Dudney, January, p. 2.)
Retired USAF Col. George “Bud” Day—Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam War prisoner of war, and lawyer—initiated the suit in 1996 on behalf of two Air Force retirees, Robert L. Reinlie and William O. Schism. (Schism died earlier this year.) About 22,000 other retirees of the same eras formed a possible legal class.
Day called the Supreme Court action “clearly a disappointment.” He said it was “a sad day that the United States Supreme Court did not step up to the plate and deal with this gross injustice to our World War II/Korea-era warriors.”
He added, “The legal fight is over, [but] our legislative efforts will take center focus.” Day said the Defense Department’s implementation of Tricare for Life, which enables military retirees who are Medicare-eligible to use the military health care service, only “partially satisfied” the unwritten contract with older military retirees.
Since Day first initiated the lawsuit in 1996, various government officials have agreed that promises of lifetime care were made. Even President-elect Bush noted on Jan. 19, 2001, “We must keep our commitment to those who wore the uniform in the past.” During his campaign, Bush said the issue was “a contractual promise” he intended to fulfill.
There was no issue until the mid-1990s because military retirees, whatever age, had access to military medical facilities. Then came the post-Cold War drawdown and base closures. That was followed in 1995 by creation of the Tricare health care program, which forced those 65 and older out of the military system. Tricare for Life, instituted in October 2001, opened the door again for those 65 and older, but it is not free.“ We should never have been forced to wage this fight,” said Day, adding, “but we are in it and I will offer my energies toward a comprehensive legislative victory.”
DOD Names Air Force Academy Review Panel
The Pentagon on May 27 announced the names of the seven individuals who will serve on a Congressionally mandated panel to review allegations of sexual assault at the US Air Force Academy. They are:
A Pentagon statement said the panel has 90 days to study “the policies, management and organizational practices, and cultural elements of the academy that may have been conducive to the alleged sexual misconduct, including sexual assaults and rape.” The panel is to submit its report of findings to the Secretary of Defense and the chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.
It was slated to hold a public meeting on June 23 in Washington, D.C. Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Joel Hefley, both Republicans from Colorado and both vocal critics of the Air Force for its handling of the academy issue, planned to attend.
USAF planned to release the findings of Mary L. Walker, USAF general counsel, before the panel’s public hearing. The findings are titled “Report of the Working Group Concerning the Deterrence of and Response to Incidents of Sexual Assault at the US Air Force Academy.”
The Air Force has already made key leadership changes at the academy. Walker’s review determined that there were 61 reported incidents of sexual assault from 1990 to 2003. According to Allard and others, the number may be higher because cadets feared to report such incidents.
(For more information on the issue, see “Aerospace World” articles “Independent Panel to Review Situation at Academy,” May, p. 49, and “USAF Leaders Vow To Make Changes at Academy,” April, p. 18.)
Rumsfeld Targets Aircraft Accidents, Deaths
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has given the military services two years to cut the department’s safety mishap rate in half. The directive came in response to a 26 percent increase in 2002 in the number of deaths due to aircraft accidents.
“ World-class organizations do not tolerate preventable accidents,” Rumsfeld wrote in a May 19 memo to service leaders.
According to DOD, the number of deaths from Air Force aircraft accidents rose from nine in Fiscal 2001 to 22 in Fiscal 2002—a rate of 1.62 mishaps per 100,000 flying hours. So far this fiscal year, USAF’s rate has gone down to 1.27. However, that is still higher than the two previous years.
As of May 30, aircraft accidents DOD-wide have claimed 67 lives, compared to 63 in all of 2002.
Rumsfeld named David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, to lead the accident reduction effort.
The defense chief said in his memo, “I intend to be updated on our progress routinely.”
AFRC Facilities Emphasize Joint Use
Nine Air Force Reserve Command installations are being redesignated this summer as either joint bases or stations “to reflect the multiservice use of the facilities,” said officials.
The AFRC commander, Lt. Gen. James E. Sherrard III, called for a survey of Reserve installations. The survey identified nine that qualify for joint status.
There are five new Joint Air Reserve Bases (JARB): Dobbins JARB, Ga.; Grissom JARB, Ind.; Homestead JARB, Fla.; March JARB, Calif.; and Westover JARB, Mass.
There are four Joint Air Reserve Stations (JARS): Minneapolis–St. Paul JARS, Minn.; Niagara Falls JARS, N.Y.; Pittsburgh JARS, Pa.; and Youngstown JARS, Ohio.AFRC expects the changes to be completed by July 31.
News NotesBy Tamar A. Mehuron, Associate Editor
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.
Tweets by @AirForceMag