Roche Tapped To Head Army
President Bush on May 7 announced that he intended to nominate James G. Roche, the Secretary of the Air Force, to become the Secretary of the Army.
Former Army Secretary Thomas E. White submitted his resignation April 25.Roche must undergo a new Senate confirmation hearing, but he said he would be willing to make the move. (See “The Pentagon Shuffle,” p. 9.)
Two Airmen Killed
Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan took the lives of two more airmen.
A1C Raymond Losano, 24 of Del Rio, Tex., died of wounds he received April 25 during a firefight in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. He was a tactical air command and control specialist—known as a tactical air control party, or TACP, member. He was assigned to the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron, Pope AFB, N.C., but attached to the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, Ft. Bragg, N.C. His primary mission was to call in close air support for ground forces.
SSgt. Patrick L. Griffin Jr., 31, of Elgin, S.C., was killed in action May 13 near Diwaniyah, Iraq. The convoy in which Griffin, a data systems technician with the 728th Air Control Squadron, Eglin AFB, Fla., was traveling came under fire en route to Baghdad.
CSAR To Move to AFSOC
The Air Force on April 30 announced plans to transfer Air Combat Command combat search and rescue forces to Air Force Special Operations Command. The action, which is slated for Oct. 1, does not affect active or reserve CSAR units under Pacific Air Forces.
Ownership of the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, located at Langley AFB, Va., also will shift to AFSOC.
USAF officials said warfighting commanders will see no change in the CSAR resources provided to them. The transfer simply permits the service to benefit from combining comparable aircraft and missions, said Maj. Gen. Richard A. Mentemeyer, USAF director of operations and training.
Airborne RED HORSE Saddles Up
With little fanfare, the Air Force put a new concept for battlefield engineers into action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The concept—Airborne RED HORSE teams—had been formally approved late last year.
USAF sent its three ARH teams into Iraq to help quickly get captured airfields back into operation.
Traditional RED HORSE teams—the acronym means Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer—are inherently mobile but pack a lot of gear. The new airborne teams have lighter, less bulky equipment and include other specialties.
ARH teams go by parachute or assault helicopters into remote, high-threat areas where USAF needs to re-establish an airfield. All team members are volunteers from one of USAF’s active duty RED HORSE units. All will earn jump wings at Army Airborne School and learn how to rappel from helicopters.
Each team has 21 traditional RED HORSE members, plus six firefighters, six explosive ordnance disposal technicians, and two chemical/biological readiness experts.
The Army has had airborne engineers for years and provided one of them, Capt. Andy Taylor, to Air Combat Command to help establish the Air Force teams.
“ The vocabulary, mentality, and doctrine of the Army and Air Force are different,” said Taylor. “But we’re smoothing it out.”
USAF Reduces Stop-Loss
The Air Force on May 2 released more than half of the 99 officer and enlisted specialties on the Stop-Loss order it announced just days before the war in Iraq began.
It was the Air Force’s second use of Stop-Loss since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The May 2 release covers 31 officer and 20 enlisted specialties.
The officer list includes some pilots, navigators, engineers, and medical personnel. The enlisted fields include combat control, tactical air command and control, explosive ordnance disposal, historian, public affairs, and some health specialties.
By mid-May, USAF officials still had not determined when they would be able to release the remainder of the airmen on the list.
Airman’s Name Added to Wall
An Air Force staff sergeant who died during the Vietnam War finally had his name added to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial on May 13.
SSgt. Donald S. Carson was injured in a military aircraft accident in Thailand on April 12, 1963, and died a few days later.
His name had never been inscribed because of a clerical error, according to the Air Force.
Carson was one of six individual’s whose names were added to the Wall this year. The other five were US Army members.
Each year, as DOD confirms new information, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund hires stone workers to inscribe additional names and update the status of those already listed in the black granite monument. This year there were 26 updates.
Included among them was USAF Col. Robert A. Govan, whose status changed from Missing in Action to Killed in Action.
State Guards Move To Joint HQs
The head of the National Guard Bureau said on May 19 that each state will consolidate its separate Army and Air Force headquarters entities into one joint force headquarters per state. By Oct. 1 there will be 108 fewer HQ units.
Each state, US territory, and the District of Columbia has three Guard headquarters—a statewide headquarters and separate Army and Air Force headquarters. These HQs now total 162.
Any savings from the reduction will go to remedy personnel shortages in operational units, said Army Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau.
NCO Retraining Begins
The Air Force recently began a noncommissioned officer retraining program to help ease shortages in some career fields.
For Fiscal 2003, the service targeted 1,400 NCOs. In 2004, it plans to retrain up to 2,500.
The first phase of the effort sought volunteers. If that doesn’t produce the necessary number, the service will start an involuntary phase June 20.
“ Ultimately, we must balance our enlisted force to better meet today’s mission requirements and those in the future,” said USAF’s top enlisted member, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald R. Murray.
He noted that the retraining program does give people “options and choices.”
Airmen at risk for involuntary retraining may check their standing on the Air Force Personnel Center Web site at https://www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/enlskills/Retraining/retraining.htm.
USAF Gains, Loses Raptors
Air Force officials on May 15 said they will be able to buy one extra F/A-22 Raptor this year, raising the Fiscal 2003 purchase to 21 aircraft.
Unfortunately, some lawmakers are proposing the service buy two fewer F/A-22s than planned for Fiscal 2004.
Under the program’s “buy to budget” philosophy, the Air Force can purchase as many fighters as it can get within a budget limit, said Marvin R. Sambur, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.
He said the program is running much better than it was late last year when the service revealed a possible $1 billion cost problem in the engineering and manufacturing development phase.
It has also overcome technical challenges, such as overheating of the brakes, aerodynamic buffeting of the twin-tail stabilizers, and equipment and training problems.“We’ve put all those to bed,” said Sambur. However, he added that the service still hasn’t solved the aircraft’s problem with stability of software in its avionics suite.
And, that is what has key lawmakers worried. They want to place new restrictions on the Air Force until it resolves the problem.
Sambur said, “We’re fairly confident we should have a solution to this problem by mid-fall.”
Senate OKs New NATO Members
The Senate on May 8 voted unanimously to support the admission to NATO of seven central and Eastern European countries that were formerly under Soviet control.
The seven nations—Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia—were invited to join the Alliance last November. NATO member states must ratify the expansion.
Fewer Terrorist Attacks in 2002
The State Department on April 30 said that there were 44 percent fewer terrorist attacks in 2002 than in the previous year. In raw numbers, there were 199 last year and 355 in 2001.
State’s new coordinator for counterterrorism, Cofer Black, said it was the “lowest level of terrorism in more than 30 years.” He attributed the decrease to several reasons:A significant drop in the number of Columbian oil pipeline bombings, 41 in 2002 vs. 148 in 2001.
Imposition of harsher security measures around the world following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Arrest of many terrorists. (More than 3,000 al Qaeda members have been arrested in 100 countries.)
Pooling of intelligence and law enforcement information.
However, Secretary of State Colin Powell emphasized that terrorist attacks occurred in every region of the world last year. “Even as I speak,” he said, “terrorists are planning appalling crimes.”
U-2 Takes Part in Rescue
Air Force officials said that a U-2 pilot—airborne over Iraq on an unrelated mission—helped Marines in the April 13 rescue of seven Army personnel captured by enemy forces in northern Iraq.
Because of the altitude at which the U-2 operates, the aircraft has “tremendous radio range,” said the pilot, known as “Code.” He contacted the Marines and the combined air operations center to coordinate communications, since they were out of range with one another.
Code also ensured there were no Iraqi air defense or ground troops in the area to threaten the Marine helicopters that recovered the soldiers.
It was not typical U-2 work.
“ The gist of the mission is accomplished on the ground by intelligence experts,” said Code, who has flown U-2s with the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, Calif., for two years. “My biggest challenge is to take off, make sure the jet is healthy, navigate, and then land the beast.”
NPRC Puts Requests Online
The National Personnel Records Center has instituted a Web–based procedure that lets veterans and their families request official records.
The center says the online request process will speed service by prompting the requestor for all the information NPRC needs to process a request. It will eliminate the need to go through normal mail channels to get more information.
The Web–based application is available at http://vetrecs.archives.gov.
Aide Now a Special Duty
After more than 50 years, the Air Force made the enlisted aide function a special duty and replaced its generic air force specialty code with a separate one—8A200.
USAF also has begun to institutionalize the aide training program. In the past, said officials, enlisted aides normally received training through private sector courses.
Currently, there are some 90 enlisted aides assigned to general officers serving around the world. The field is open to all career airmen, but they must pass an extensive screening process, said MSgt. Gary Murdock, USAF enlisted aide manager at the Pentagon.
Pyongyang’s New Laser Gun?
In March, North Korea targeted two Army helicopters patrolling the demilitarized zone with what may have been a Chinese laser gun, reported the Washington Times on May 13. Such a weapon can cause eye damage up to three miles away, it said.
The incident occurred about the same time that four North Korean fighters intercepted a USAF RC-135S Cobra Ball aircraft flying in international airspace. (See “US Beefs Up Bombers for Korean Crisis,” April, p. 10.)
A US Forces Korea spokesman said that use of laser designators to track US aircraft occurs occasionally. The North Koreans are known to have both laser range-finding and target guidance equipment.
However, US intelligence officials reviewing the incident told the Times that the range involved indicated North Korea may now have a Chinese–made ZM-87 antipersonnel laser. It is possible, according to one intelligence official, that North Korea may have manufactured its own version of the laser gun.
It is designed specifically to attack personnel. At just less than two miles, it can injure human eyes, and, with a magnification device, it can extend that to three miles.
Since the incident, US aircrews patrolling the DMZ have worn eye protection gear.
The Speicher Mystery Continues
Addressing US forces at Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia, on April 29 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the Pentagon was pursuing efforts to determine the fate of Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher.
Speicher, a Naval aviator, was first listed as killed in action during Gulf War I, then was designated missing in action in 2002 because of newly acquired intelligence.
Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister taken into custody by the US in April, told interrogators that Speicher is dead. However, his statements by themselves are given little credibility.
US investigators sent to Iraq in April to search for signs of Speicher found what may be his initials carved in the wall of a prison.
Rumsfeld said that the searchers are pursuing “every single lead.”
DOD To Transform Logistics?
US Transportation Command and the Defense Logistics Agency should merge into a single organization to solve force sustainment problems, according to TRANSCOM.
Transportation Command moves equipment and troops, while DLA purchases and stores supplies.
According to a National Defense interview with Rear Adm. Christopher Ames, director of plans and policy at TRANSCOM, commanders in the field do not get adequate support because there’s no synchronization between transportation and supply providers.
Ames said the system is fragmented and should be made joint.
While DLA declined to comment, a DOD logistics official told National Defense that there are “lots of ways to improve the process.” Merging DLA and TRANSCOM, according to Alan Estevez, assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for supply chain integration, is one of them. DOD is reviewing the proposal, but such a merger would not create a single point of contact in the supply chain, he said.
Panel Says No to Small Nukes
The House Armed Services Committee on May 13 rejected a proposal from the Bush Administration to permit development of new types of low-yield nuclear weapons.
Instead, it voted to retain the 10-year-old ban on producing nuclear weapons having a force of less than five kilotons. The House panel did approve a compromise that would permit research into low-yield weapons.
The Administration says that Cold War strategic nuclear weapons have less deterrent value today, so the US needs to have the option to use small nukes to deter terrorists and rogue nations.
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted last week to lift the ban. It passed by a 15–10 vote.
The measure has to pass the full House and Senate.
CSAF Expands Reading List
Gen. John P. Jumper, Air Force Chief of Staff, added three books to his recommended reading list in early May. The new books are:
The entire list is posted on the Air Force Web site at http://www.af.mil/lib/csafbook/readinglist.shtml.
CAP Demonstrates New Tech
A Civil Air Patrol flight crew testing a new digital imaging system off the Florida Keys on April 25 spotted a raft carrying three people and transferred digital images to the Coast Guard. The real-world event went beyond the day’s test parameters.
The CAP Cessna 206 still had on board previously used test equipment that permitted the crew to transmit, within two minutes, the digital images via a satellite phone e-mail hookup using an onboard laptop computer. The CAP crew talked with the Coast Guard using the same phone.
CAP officials have been working with the Air Force on new technology to aid homeland security efforts. (See “The Citizen Air Fleet,” p. 76.)
Ability to Buy Local a Boon
Air Force officials believe early deployment of USAF contracting officers into the Iraqi theater of operations saved USAF a great deal of time and money.
“ At first blush, you might ask why we’d deploy a contracting officer to an Iraqi air base early on, because where would we find vendors?” said Col. Duane A. Jones, chief of logistics for the Combined Forces Air Component Command. The word got out, and the vendors came.
Even contracting officers sent to remote areas found suppliers, some traveling great distances to do business with the coalition. One of the first local purchases was gravel. USAF bought lots of gravel. It was used both for runway repair and to keep down the dust.
Jones said the purchases helped not only the local economy, cementing friendly relations, but also the military transportation system. It saved money and time. “That improves efficiency and quality of life,” he said.
USAF Creates Parent Pin
Top Air Force leaders on May 7 unveiled a new outreach program to thank parents for their support. Air Force Secretary James G. Roche and Chief of Staff John P. Jumper presented USAF Parent Pins to parents of an active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve Command airman.
Under the new program, Air Force members may register online to request that a letter of thanks signed by the two leaders be sent to parents (or parental figures). With the letter, USAF will send a lapel pin displaying the letter P cradled in the Air Force symbol.The Parent Pins reflect the World War II “E” flags that were used to recognize companies for their war support. The pins come with a card explaining their lineage.
“ Military service is no longer a rite of passage,” said Roche. “We now have an entire generation of Americans who do not understand the military culture. The Parent Pin can narrow the gulf between those who serve and the community at large.”
The pin request forms are available at the service’s Your Guardians of Freedom Web site: http://www.yourguardiansoffreedom.com.
Last fall, the Air Force started a similar campaign, providing E pins to employers of Guard and Reserve members.
USAF Studies Nursing Corps
The Air Force is conducting a wholesale review of its nursing corps to determine ways to ensure the service can maintain the right number of nurses in the right grades. Currently, 79 percent of USAF nurses are company grade officers.
The service’s top nurse told lawmakers that points to a need to adjust the system and increase the overall skill level.
“ Early data shows a significant need to increase field grade authorizations,” said Brig. Gen. Barbara Brannon, USAF’s assistant surgeon general for nursing services. She added, “A by-product of this increase would be a greater promotion opportunity,” bringing it more in line with the promotion opportunity of other Air Force officers.
Like other services and the private sector, the Air Force for several years has faced concerns over recruiting and retaining nurses. However, Brannon told Senators that the service was only 104 nurses short of its authorized strength in 2002. That was better than expected and reflected fewer separations, she said.
Jammers Get Job Done
During the war in Iraq, members of the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron completed some 200 sorties and 2,000 flying hours in their EC-130H Compass Call aircraft. During that time, they jammed more than 6,000 enemy transmissions.
The unit, whose home base is at Davis–Monthan AFB, Ariz., disrupted enemy communications to support many operations, including the rescue of Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch.
“ We were involved with almost every major operation that went on in Iraq,” said Lt. Col. Don Bacon, 41st ECCS commander.The unit’s maintainers, said night-shift supervisor MSgt. Daniel Johnson, “found new limits in themselves because they got pushed beyond the exhaustion point.”
The Pentagon Shuffle
Service leadership is changing. The top civilian for each service will be new to the job, but the Army faces the largest transition.
The Army’s top civilian was fired, and its top two military officers are due to retire. They are Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, Chief of Staff, and Gen. John Keane, Vice Chief. (Keane was offered the top job, turned it down for personal reasons, but was said to be reconsidering his decision.)
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld handed Army Secretary Thomas E. White his walking papers in April. White formally submitted his resignation April 25 and left office May 9. The two had tangled repeatedly over policy decisions, namely Rumsfeld’s desire to transform the Army by reducing its size and making it a lighter, more mobile force. The first name to surface as a possible replacement for White was Air Force Secretary James G. Roche. The 23-year Navy veteran and former Northrop Grumman official has served as SECAF since June 2001. During his tenure, he has worked to infuse the Air Force with a strong sense of “jointness” and get it in sync with transformation.
If Roche goes to the Army, which seems likely, that opens the Air Force spot.
A candidate to be the next Air Force Secretary is Barbara M. Barrett, who is an international business and aviation lawyer and corporate official with Raytheon. She served in several high-level government positions during the Reagan Administration.
She was also a civilian advisor to then–Defense Secretary Dick Cheney during Desert Storm. On top of that, Barrett is an instrument-rated pilot.
Meanwhile, the Navy has been headed by an acting Secretary—actually two—since the first of the year.
Former Navy Secretary Gordon England left in January to become deputy director of the new Department of Homeland Security. Within weeks, Susan Morrisey Livingstone, then–Navy undersecretary, stepped down as acting Secretary. She was replaced by the Navy’s undersecretary for installations and environment, Hansford T. Johnson, a retired Air Force general.
Colin R. McMillan, oil executive and former assistant secretary of defense in the first Bush Administration, has been mentioned as a likely nominee for the Navy job.
Most Powerful, Most Precise in History
“ Notwithstanding death squads and dust storms, [coalition forces] reached the gates of Baghdad in less than two weeks. And by the time they were ready to take the city, they had decimated Iraq’s command and control, and the Republican Guard divisions ringing Baghdad, with unquestionably the most powerful and precise air campaign in the history of warfare, using capabilities so discreet that coalition air crews could take out a tank hiding under a bridge without damaging the bridge.”
— Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld speaking with coalition forces at a town hall meeting at Camp Al Saliyah, Doha, Qatar, on April 28.
In the Wake of Iraq War, Farewell to PSAB
After 12 years of continuous US force deployments to Saudi Arabia, nearly all American military personnel will depart the kingdom by August. The combined air operations center at Prince Sultan Air Base, which was the nerve center of the successful air war over Iraq, will be mothballed.
The last air tasking order to originate at PSAB came out on April 28. The next day, the CAOC at Al Udeid AB, Qatar, took over responsibilities for air operations in Southwest Asia.
The Defense Department said US forces were leaving PSAB because the defeat of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein had reduced the military danger in the region. The departure coincided with the end of Operation Southern Watch, the armed enforcement of the no-fly zone in southern Iraq. Southern Watch had been mounted principally from PSAB. A secure compound had been built expressly to accommodate US troops and aircraft after the 1996 terrorist attack at Khobar Towers in Dhahran.
The Saudi government paid for construction of the sprawling base, which hosted both combat aircraft and an array of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance airplanes, including the E-3 AWACS, E-8 Joint STARS, and U-2. It was situated deep in the desert so as to keep US forces out of sight of the Saudi population. PSAB held the largest US presence in Saudi Arabia.
“ Iraq was a threat to the region,” said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. “Because that threat is gone, we ... have the ability to adjust some of our arrangements.”
Some US forces will remain in the region to provide an ongoing presence in Iraq and support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Other Gulf nations will play host to US forces. However, only about 500 personnel will remain in Saudi Arabia. They are part of an ongoing training mission. PSAB may be re-opened periodically for large joint training exercises with the Saudis, the Pentagon said.
Over 10,000 US military personnel and 200 coalition aircraft were in Saudi Arabia at the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom.— John A. Tirpak
William Leverette, a Double Ace, Dies
Retired Col. William L. Leverette, celebrated World War II ace, died April 7 in Beaverton, Ore. He was 89.
Leverette was one of only two Americans in World War II to score seven victories in a single encounter with the enemy.
He was born in Palatka, Fla., on Sept. 5, 1913, and received a degree in mechanical engineering from Clemson University and a masters in aeronautical engineering from Princeton. He entered the Army Air Corps in 1939 and earned his pilot wings in 1940.
As commander of the 37th Fighter Squadron, Leverette on Oct. 9, 1943, led seven P-38s on a mission to protect Royal Navy warships in the Mediterranean. When he sighted a formation of 30 German Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers, Leverette sent three of his fighters to fly top cover while he and the other three closed on the Stukas. Each of the German aircraft had a gunner manning a flexible machine gun plus two wing-mounted guns.
Leverette, who had spent two years teaching fighter tactics and had more than 1,000 hours flying fighters, took out seven of the Stukas himself. His unit shot down another nine, plus a Ju-88, and most of the rest either headed for home or ended up in the sea.
(See “Valor: Seven Come Eleven,” July 1984 online at www.afa.org/magazine/valor.) For his leadership and individual performance in this action, Leverette received the Distinguished Service Cross.
He continued to down enemy aircraft in other actions, finally totaling 11 victory credits to become one of the top 20 aces in the Mediterranean theater.
During his military career, Leverette flew 45 different aircraft, from the BT-2 biplane to the F-104. He retired from the Air Force in 1965.
Julian Rosenthal, 1909–2003
Julian B. Rosenthal, the last of the founding members of the Air Force Association, died April 29 in Durham, N.C. He was 94.
Rosenthal, who had been a private first class during World War II, was the only enlisted man in a group of 12 Army Air Forces veterans who met in New York City on Oct. 12, 1945, to establish the Air Force Association.
In an interview years later, Rosenthal explained that there was “no reason under the sun” for his invitation to attend the meeting. “There were thousands of other former enlisted men who were much more prominent and much more active in the military service than was I,” he said.
Nonetheless, he accepted the invitation and began an era of active support to AFA and the Air Force that lasted more than 50 years.
Among his first tasks was to draft AFA’s national constitution and bylaws. He also served as AFA national secretary for 12 years, from 1947 to 1959, and national chairman of the board in 1960. And, in 1953, AFA named Rosenthal its first “Man of the Year” (now Member of the Year).
Rosenthal, a native of New York, graduated from Columbia University and Fordham University Law School. As an attorney in New York City, he encouraged other New Yorkers to become active in AFA, which led to creation of AFA’s Iron Gate Chapter.The Air Force formally recognized his contributions with an exceptional service award, and noted in the citation that Rosenthal “has performed countless deeds of service.” The citation recounted his sponsorship of talks between leading Air Force officials and New York State Church and civic groups and his long-time work on behalf of the New York City–area Aerospace Education Council.
The citation went on to say that, even at age 87, he “continues to work in support of the Air Force and its people.”
In a foreword to a 1995 AFA history, Rosenthal wrote, “While there are few left of the ‘gang that got together in order to keep the gang together’ back in those early days, it seems to me the principles ... remain.” Rosenthal was one of the reasons those principles exist. For a half century, he helped ensure, in his words, AFA was “independent in thought, yet universally outspoken in its support of American airpower.”
DOD To Merge Exchange Systems
The Pentagon on May 16 launched a drive to create a single Armed Services Exchange System. Such a merger must have Congressional approval. If that is forthcoming, officials said, it would take years for DOD to make the consolidation a reality.
“ We may be looking at a five-year process here,” said Charles Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “It may be less if we’re more aggressive.” He added, though, that DOD would proceed “very carefully.”
Currently only the Army and Air Force share an exchange system. The Navy and Marine Corps each have separate systems.
Officials vow that the action, if approved, will result in “more efficient and effective” business processes, yet still provide service members with the same service–specific ambiance they have come to expect. Abell said that the Pentagon has attempted to consolidate the exchanges before, but this time the move has high-level support—from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Abell noted the step could arrest the decline in the dividend that the exchanges return to morale, welfare, and recreation funds. That money “has gone down over the last four or five years,” said Abell. “This is a way to save costs and thus improve our dividend.”
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles J. Wax, the former commander of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, is leading development of the consolidation plan. DOD is expected to complete it within the next two years and present it to Congress.
V-22 Testing Deemed OK, USAF Gears Up to Fly
The Pentagon’s top acquisition panel said in late May that it was satisfied with the testing progress of the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which the Air Force plans to use as a Special Operations Forces aircraft. The judgment clears the way for further testing and possible production.
The Defense Acquisition Board, chaired by Edward C. Aldridge, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, did not make any programmatic decisions about how many Ospreys should be bought or what particular equipment they should have. Instead, it passed judgment on the quality of the test program, which it had earlier deemed to have been insufficient for evaluating certain problem areas.
Last fall, Aldridge said he was “a skeptic” that the V-22 could come back from its mechanical problems, which had contributed to two crashes in 2000 that killed 23 Marines. Investigations subsequently showed that Marine V-22 personnel had falsified maintenance reports to make it seem the aircraft was performing better than it really was.
However, the DAB said the V-22 test program was addressing all areas of concern and could proceed. Aldridge made the decision only a few days before retiring from his DOD post.
Among the fixes to the aircraft were the rerouting of the hydraulic lines, a change of parts vendors for certain suspect components, and a shift of fuel tanks from the rear sponson to the wing, to correct a center-of-gravity problem.
The Marine Corps wants to buy 360 V-22s to ferry troops inland from ships and to move cargo from ship to shore. The Air Force plans to buy 50 CV-22s for SOF missions and the Navy expects to acquire 48 for a variety of roles.
The V-22 has a unique mechanism that allows the aircraft to take off and land like a helicopter with its rotors horizontal and tilt its rotors forward for high-speed turboprop flight. This makes it faster and longer-ranged than helicopters.
Although USAF considered buying the V-22 for the combat search and rescue mission, that requirement will be met with a helicopter, which is yet to be selected.
In early April, the V-22 completed a first-ever test in terrain-following radar mode, a capability deemed essential for its SOF role. The Pentagon will use the aircraft to infiltrate SOF troops deep in enemy territory by flying nap-of-the-earth, under-radar missions at high speed.
The Air Force expects to get its first CV-22s in 2006 and be fully operational with all 50 airplanes in 2010. The 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland AFB, N.M., has taken delivery of its first CV-22 full-motion simulator already, and will receive four in total. The simulators will be part of a nationwide network that will allow simultaneous, real-time training with aircrews on other types of simulators.
Besides building proficiency, the simulators will cost only a 10th as much to “fly” per hour as the actual aircraft.— John A. Tirpak
Leaders of the Pack No More?
Frustrated in their attempts to block the coalition war against the regime of Saddam Hussein, France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg rolled out a plan April 29 to create a new European army, one that would be outside NATO and the influence of the United States.
The four—dubbed “Old Europe” by US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld—met without the other 11 members of the European Union.
The United States and United Kingdom objected to the plan, which they said would further dilute NATO’s military power. The only EU member that announced support is Greece, which is also a NATO member. Russia, a NATO Partnership For Peace member, also praised the initiative.
The four-nation plan called for establishing the core of a rapid reaction force and setting up a new military headquarters to oversee the force and collaborative defense acquisition efforts.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said the move would be counterproductive.“ What we need is not more headquarters,” Powell said of the plan in testimony before Congress. “What we need is more capability and fleshing out of the structure and forces that are already there.”
The United States has long pressed NATO countries to take more responsibility for their own defense by upping their defense budgets, which have slid precipitously since the end of the Cold War. However, the US has argued that such improvement should take place within the context of NATO.
NATO is already working to launch a NATO Response Force this year. (See “The NATO Response Force,” April, p. 64.) The NRF will comprise land, sea, and air forces that enable NATO to quickly project power beyond the borders of its member countries. While the NRF was a US proposal, it was approved last year by NATO members and is part of an overall plan to improve NATO military capabilities.
And, after nearly five years of planning, the European Union finally may debut its 60,000-strong military Rapid Reaction Force, designed to handle peacekeeping duties that NATO itself may not cover. EU officials reportedly have said it is ready to undertake a mission, however they admit there are still hardware issues to address.
It is unclear where the four-nation plan fits within existing efforts, although French President Jacques Chirac insisted it was simply meant to energize EU defense efforts. He flatly denied that it was aimed at setting up a European challenger to the American military, as had been charged by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In the communiqué issued after their meeting, the four nations said nothing about raising their defense spending.
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.
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