Jumper Praises Air Precision
Gen. John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff, said the Air Force used precision tactics—both old and new—to great effect during recent operations against targets in Fallujah. The urban battle heralded the return of strafing, among other effective and precise tactics, Jumper told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Dec. 14.
“We’re using a lot of strafe,” Jumper said, adding that the situation “was a bit of a surprise to me, actually, but in order to get, again, precision, that’s one of the things that’s being called for.” He went on to say, “As far as airpower in Fallujah goes, there was a lot.” (See “The Fallujah Model,” p. 48.)
The Air Force “had a significant number of airplanes … working against individual buildings,” sometimes with advanced Global Positioning System-guided munitions, he said, adding, “There are many accounts of our GPS-guided weapons plucking buildings out of the middle of very populated areas.”
The Predator unmanned aerial vehicle also drew praise from the Chief. USAF used “a lot of the Hellfire missile capability off of our Predator UAVs to take out individual small targets, like snipers and the like, that were found by the ground forces,” he said.
“Glitch” Foils Missile Test
The Dec. 15 ground-based defensive system flight test failed because of a “very minor software glitch,” said Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III, Missile Defense Agency director.
Obering on Jan. 12 told reporters that the problem was “very rare” and could be corrected by fixing “one line of code.” He said it would not affect upcoming tests.
During the December test, an interceptor missile at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific failed to launch to intercept an incoming target missile. It was the second consecutive flight-test failure for the system, two years after the previous failed test. Four prior tests were all successful.
Obering said a mid-February test would proceed.
USAF Moves Out of France
The last major USAF presence in France ceased operations Dec. 17. More than a decade after the Air Force’s 774th Expeditionary Air Base Group set up shop at Istres Air Base, on the French Riviera, 107 airmen headed back to their primary units.
The Air Force began operating out of Istres in 1994, to support NATO military operations in the Balkans. With the European Union taking over peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the mission evaporated.
Thus ends “a proud chapter in the story of teamwork between two NATO allies,” said Col. Joseph Abbott, commander of the 401st Air Expeditionary Wing. Istres housed KC-135 tankers since February 1994 and hosted U-2 reconnaissance aircraft from 1996 to 1999. Despite recent disagreements over Iraq, the US and France are “committed to each other and ... the fight against terrorism around the world,” said Gen. Daniel Bastien, commander of France’s southern air region.
Exchanges Face Shake Up
Military exchanges must get more efficient to offset a major reduction in earnings steming primarily from projected overseas troop realignments, said the head of DOD’s Unified Exchange Task Force.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. C.J. Wax told the American Forces Press Service that the majority of exchange system profits come from overseas stores. Out of nearly 500 main military exchanges, the 153 overseas stores provide 53 percent of the profit.
The reason, said Wax, is that the overseas facilities have a “unique market,” with military personnel and their families usually living on or near bases and shopping where the items are familiar.
Stateside exchanges suffer, he said, because “at least 63 percent of our people will end up living closer to commercial retail entities than they do their exchanges.”
The restructured global footprint not only will lead to closures of profitable large overseas stores but also will necessitate creating numerous small stores at rudimentary facilities in southern Europe and Southwest Asia, which, Wax said, is “very expensive.”
Adding to the exchange turmoil is the upcoming round of Stateside base closures, which Wax said “could be a two-edged sword.” The base closure list could include facilities that have profitable exchanges as well as those with underperforming stores.
The task force initially considered combining the separate service exchange systems, but Wax said the group now favors simply consolidating business practices, such as finance and accounting, human resources, and information technology services. He said that private-sector retailers have made similar arrangements to reduce expenses.
Three USAF Offices To Combine
The Air Force is consolidating three information technology directorates at the Pentagon into a single entity. A Dec. 7 news release announced that the warfighting integration (XI), chief information officer (CIO), and communications operations offices will merge to form the Networks and Warfighting Integration-CIO Directorate.
Senior USAF leaders believe the consolidation will enable the service to more easily integrate current and emerging technologies with warfighting operations. The move reflects the Defense Department’s growing dependence “on information generated and shared across worldwide networks,” stated the release.
The director of networks and warfighting integration will be a lieutenant general, with a senior executive service civilian serving as deputy. The director also will serve as the service CIO. The new directorate will report to the Air Force Secretary.
Currently, Lt. Gen. William T. Hobbins is deputy chief of staff for warfighting integration, while John M. Gilligan serves as Air Force CIO.
The Air Force Pentagon Communications Agency, which was subordinate to the Communications Operations Directorate, now will fall under the Air Force administrative assistant.
Bush Signs Intel Reform Bill
When President Bush on Dec. 17 signed into law the Intelligence Community reform act, he set the stage for a “more unified, coordinated, and effective” intelligence enterprise, he said. The legislation, which carries out many of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, cuts across 15 intelligence agencies, but is designed to ensure military officials keep their quick access to tactical intel.
“A key lesson of Sept. 11 is that America’s intelligence agencies must work together as a single, unified enterprise,” said Bush.
The legislation creates the position of director of national intelligence (DNI), to whom the director of central intelligence will report.
“It will be the DNI’s responsibility to determine the annual budgets of all national intelligence agencies and offices and to direct how [those] funds are spent,” the President said. In addition to the all-important budget authority, the DNI is authorized to order the collection of new intelligence.
Bush said the changes are made with “a single goal: to ensure that the people in government responsible for defending America have the best possible information” for their decisions.
(More detailed coverage of the intelligence reform issue will appear in the March issue.)
Vandy Gets Missile Interceptor
The first missile defense interceptor at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., was installed Dec. 10. It joined six interceptors already in the ground at Ft. Greeley, Alaska, as the initial units in the Missile Defense Agency’s ground-based system for protection against ballistic missile attack.
When operational, interceptors at the two sites are expected to provide protection to all 50 states. The last time Vandenberg added an active weapons system was in 1959, when the Atlas-D ICBM came on line.
In the event of an enemy missile attack against the United States, defensive missiles from Vandenberg or Greeley are intended to intercept the incoming warheads. Plans call for a total of 40 interceptors at the two sites.
Board Faults ANG Pilot
An Air Force accident investigation board determined in December that pilot error and a poorly designed component led to November’s incident where 20 mm shells from an Air National Guard F-16 rained down on a New Jersey school.
Part of the problem was a “poorly designed pilot-vehicle interface,” according to a news release. The D.C. Guard F-16, flying out of Andrews AFB, Md., was on a nighttime training mission. At the Warren Grove Weapons Range in New Jersey, Maj. Roberto Balzano’s gun accidentally discharged.
The pilot’s F-16 used the same trigger for both the laser target marker and the gun. While lining up for a strafing run, Balzano “pulled the trigger to laser mark his intended target,” the report explained.
This was deemed pilot error, because Balzano had been warned not to use the laser marker during his preflight briefing. He “lost awareness that the aircraft’s gun was selected and armed,” the investigation determined.
Eight rounds hit a school four miles away. Five penetrated the roof. No students were in the school at the time, and no one was injured. (See “Aerospace World: F-16 Shells Hit School,” January, p. 18.)
The investigation also found that “using the same trigger for both laser marking and firing the aircraft’s gun significantly increases the risk of human error.”
In response, aircraft software will be modified to prevent repeats, and the Air Force is changing the tactics used at the Warren Grove range.
“Aircraft at the range will be restricted as to when they can arm weapons, and flight plans will be altered to point weapons toward unpopulated areas,” the release stated.
Peacekeeper LCC Closes
The Air Force on Dec. 7 deactivated the first of five Peacekeeper ICBM launch control centers (LCCs). The “Sierra” LCC is the first control center to be closed since Air Force Space Command began shutting down the Peacekeeper system in October 2002.
Each LCC controls 10 ICBMs. USAF plans to deactivate all 50 Peacekeepers by the fall. As each 10 warhead-capable missile is pulled from its launch silo, it goes through a 17-day disassembly and storage process. The warheads are being put away for safekeeping, and portions of the missile bodies and propulsion systems are being reused.
According to an Air Force news release, “several of the crew members pulling the last alerts for Sierra will also be [among] the first members to retrain into the Minuteman III ICBM system.” The retraining began in January.
The Peacekeepers are being retired as part of the Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review plans. The NPR calls for major reductions in the numbers of deployed nuclear warheads. The Air Force’s Minuteman III ICBMs will remain in service and are being modernized and upgraded.
668 Airmen Must Retrain
The Air Force announced in December that it would retrain involuntarily 668 active duty airmen to help boost understaffed career fields. The service had notified some 3,000 airmen in overstaffed fields that they were vulnerable under the Fiscal 2005 noncommissioned officer retraining program.
Most of those 3,000 either volunteered to retrain or opted to separate.
The 668 airmen will be put into a new specialty “chosen for them by the Air Force Personnel Center,” stated a Dec. 7 news release.
The retraining is necessary “to help meet the needs of the Air Force by putting airmen where they are needed most,” said TSgt. Catina Johnson-Roscoe, NCO in charge of enlisted retraining.
DOD Reinforces Ethics Rules
The Defense Department recently announced that it has tightened its ethics regulations to ensure that DOD personnel understand and abide by “revolving door” statutes when they leave federal service for the private sector.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz ordered three ethics policy changes, according to a Dec. 20 news release.
First, senior military and civilian officials must annually certify that they understand the revolving door statutes and that they have not violated them.
Second, information about post-government employment restrictions is to be included in DOD’s annual ethics training program for all personnel.
Finally, Wolfowitz established a requirement that all DOD personnel leaving federal service for private sector work “receive guidance on the restrictions that will affect them during and after their transition.”
The importance of the regulations was highlighted by the recent conviction of former Air Force procurement official Darleen A. Druyun. She pleaded guilty last year to illegally favoring Boeing for contract awards, while she was negotiating for a job with Boeing and still employed by the Air Force.
Edwards To Test Hypersonics?
A draft environmental assessment (EA) has identified two flight corridors that end at Edwards AFB, Calif., as the ideal locations for future hypersonic air vehicle testing. One 460-mile corridor would extend north from Edwards to central Nevada; the other would extend northeast, passing north of Las Vegas into southwest Utah.
The Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards, in conjunction with NASA’s co-located Dryden Flight Research Center, needs “to identify suitable hypersonic corridors for air-launched, hypersonic vehicles,” the draft EA stated.
Edwards’ long runways, remote location, and testing infrastructure have made it the ideal site for these types of test operations.
“Facilities at Edwards Air Force Base provide the support facilities and flight-test capabilities necessary to most effectively meet the projected test requirements for landing of an air-launched hypersonic vehicle,” the draft assessment determined.
USAF Demotes Top Lawyer
In early January, Air Force leaders decided to reduce the rank of the service’s former judge advocate general from major general to colonel upon his retirement Feb. 1.
Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Fiscus on Dec. 21 had been given a reprimand and ordered to forfeit pay for conduct unbecoming an officer, fraternization, obstruction of justice, and violating a general regulation.
Over the past decade, according to an Air Force inspector general investigation, Fiscus, who is married, had improper, though apparently consensual, relationships with 13 women, some of them subordinates. The IG report substantiated several allegations against Fiscus, including unprofessional relationships with officer and enlisted female subordinates, inappropriate sexual advances toward female subordinates, and improper relationships with female civilians.
The presiding officer for the nonjudicial Article 15 hearing, Gen. Donald G. Cook, levied the maximum monetary forfeiture—a full month’s pay, in this case $10,600—allowable under an Article 15. In addition to these punishments, Cook recommended that Fiscus be retired at a lower grade and face “appropriate action” from the officials overseeing judge advocate professional rules of conduct and USAF lawyer certification.
Then-Air Force Secretary James G. Roche reviewed the IG report and considered not only Cook’s recommendations but those of Gen. John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff, and a panel of three lieutenant generals before making his decision.
Air Force officials said the reduction in grade carried a “substantial financial penalty” but left Fiscus some benefits for his otherwise distinguished career of more than 32 years. They estimated his pay loss to be close to $900,000 over his lifetime.
Fiscus had been relieved of his position on Sept. 22, 2004, at his own request, pending the IG investigation. He had served as the service’s top lawyer since Feb. 25, 2002.
Bush Moves To Protect GPS
President Bush directed DOD officials to prepare emergency plans to prevent a potential terrorist attack on the US network of global positioning system satellites and to prevent their use by terrorists, reported the Associated Press on Dec. 16.
An unnamed Administration official told reporters that the GPS system could be shut down inside the US, but it would be done “under only the most remarkable circumstances.” DOD would limit disruption to the system, which is vital not only to the military but to civil and commercial aviation and shipping, by disabling parts of the GPS network.
The official said there is no plan to reinstate what is termed “selective availability,” a practice abandoned under the Clinton Administration.
Law Schools Win Round vs. Military Recruiters
A US appeals court late last year ruled that universities can ban military recruiters from their campuses without putting federal funding at risk.
The US Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled by a 2-1 vote that schools have a First Amendment right to ban recruiters as a way of protesting the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals.
Armed with the court ruling, Harvard Law School promptly prohibited recruiters from coming to campus. Other schools were expected to follow suit. Several schools, including the Harvard and Yale law schools, had prohibited military recruiting until 2002.
At that time, the Pentagon informed the schools that they were violating the so-called Solomon Amendment and risked losing their federal funds. (See “The Recruiters and the Schools,” October 2001, p. 62; “Aerospace World: Yale Opens Doors to Military Recruiters, Vowing To Challenge Pentagon,” November 2002, p. 27.)
The judges wrote in the majority decision that the Solomon Amendment compels colleges and universities to “express a message that is incompatible” with the educational objectives of the schools.
E. Joshua Rosenkranz, head counsel for the group of law schools and professors that challenged the Solomon Amendment, was reported widely to have said, “Enlightened institutions have a First Amendment right to exclude bigots.”
The irony of upholding the First Amendment by stifling the free speech of recruiters was not lost on observers.
“The schools offer a free-speech defense, but in reality they are suppressing free speech themselves by silencing others and preventing freedom of association,” commentator John Leo observed in US News & World Report. “Law schools that respected students would allow military recruiters to speak. They would encourage those who disagree with armed forces policy to picket, boycott,” and argue for new policies.
The dissenting appeals court judge said that the military’s policy against homosexual activity has been deemed constitutional by a number of federal courts, and nothing in the Solomon Amendment banned criticism of the military’s policies.
The Iraq Story Continues
By Jan. 5, 2005, a total of 1,339 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The fatalities included 1,336 troops and three Defense Department civilian employees.
Of those casualties, 1,053 Americans were killed in action by enemy attack, including the three DOD civilians. There have been 286 troops killed in noncombat incidents, such as accidents.
The number of wounded climbed above 10,000. There have been 4,856 troops wounded in action that returned to duty and 5,396 wounded who were not returned to duty.
OIF Costs Pass $100 Billion
Defense Department figures show that the cumulative cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom reached $99.1 billion by August 2004, the last month for which figures were available. With war appropriations averaging roughly $5 billion a month, the total war cost is now well beyond $100 billion.
R.I. Guard First To Deploy With C-130J
Airmen with the Rhode Island Air National Guard’s 143rd Airlift Squadron in December became the first to deploy with the C-130J airlifter on a wartime mission. The unit deployed to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
An Air Force news release noted that the J-model Hercules can “climb faster and higher, fly farther at a higher cruise speed, and take off and land in shorter distances” than older C-130s. That should make the J model even more effective in a combat environment.
The squadron began receiving the newest Hercules transports in 2001 and now has four of the eight it expects to operate by the end of 2006.
The Case for “Near Space”
Recent technological advances have made “near space” an area of enticing military possibilities, Air Force officials say. The “no man’s land” between 65,000 feet (the operational “ceiling” for air-breathing craft) and 325,000 feet (low Earth orbit) has long been ignored, said Gen. John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff. The realm simply wasn’t considered “cool” by either the air or the space communities, he said.
Jumper told the Defense Writers Group in December that the war in Iraq highlights the need for persistent intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance capabilities. Near space, which could be inhabited by stealthy, lighter than air vehicles capable of staying airborne for weeks or months, promises persistence. One Air Force Space Command official noted that warfighters don’t care where a capability comes from—what matters is the effect.
Jumper has given responsibility for the region to Air Force Space Command, where the Space Battlelab has ideas on how to make the most of the territory. The battlelab and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are already trying to prove the battlespace awareness potential of the realm.
According to the Space Battlelab’s Lt. Col. Ed Tomme, near space is attractive for ISR capabilities because it is a low-threat, high-payoff environment. The platforms themselves, he said in an interview, could be acquired for as little as a million dollars apiece—a far cry from a new satellite.
Near space vehicles would be able to operate as inexpensive “trucks,” he noted, with the cost driven primarily by the sensors. The Air Force is considering both maneuverable vehicles and less expensive “free floaters.”
Near space is the realm where weather balloons operate, but Tomme stressed that these are not blimps or aerostats. Military vehicles would be above the weather, have “inherently low [infrared] and radar cross sections,” and operate beyond the range of almost all conceivable threats. But they would still be 20 times closer to the ground than LEO satellites, offering large coverage areas, Tomme said.
One battlelab initiative is a “Near Space Maneuvering Vehicle,” which could notionally launch, fly 200 miles at an altitude of 120,000 feet, loiter on station for 120 hours, and return to its launch point. The Air Force plans to demonstrate the “military utility” of the concept this year.Tomme acknowledged that some near space capabilities have been “oversold” and that current efforts are trying to validate concepts and reduce risk.
Maneuverable vehicles could be available soon, with a development investment of roughly $10 million. By comparison, it cost more than $16 million simply to weaponize the Predator UAV, he said.
Air Force Aids Urgent Tsunami Relief Effort
The massive earthquake and resulting tsunamis that devastated portions of South Asia late last year required an unprecedented relief effort. The need to cross thousands of miles to bring relief into areas where little infrastructure remained gave the Air Force a key role aiding victims of the catastrophe.
The aid mission is “expected to be one of the largest humanitarian relief operations since the Berlin Airlift,” an Air Force news release stated.
The Dec. 26 earthquake off the coast of Indonesia created devastating tsunami waves that came ashore as far away as Africa. “The carnage is of a scale that defies comprehension,” said President Bush.
By early January, it was feared that more than 150,000 died in the hardest-hit nations of Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India. Eight other nations were also affected.
One of the humanitarian concerns was getting relief supplies to remote areas where roads were wiped out. Air Force C-5s and C-17s flew equipment, supplies, and personnel to major airports in the region.
In one example, four C-17s delivered 40 airmen, six HH-60 rescue helicopters, and 111 tons of supplies from Kadena AB, Japan, to Colombo, Sri Lanka. Defense Department helicopters proved especially valuable in bringing relief to remote areas.
From the hub locations, supplies and equipment were offloaded to helicopters and C-130 airlifters for transport to “small, damaged airfields with minimum to no support facilities,” explained a Pacific Air Forces news release. A single C-130 Hercules can deliver more than five tons of drinking water.
One of the Defense Department’s immediate missions was to assess the damage and determine how to get aid where it was needed. To that end, Joint Task Force 536, led by Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman, deployed to coordinate and plan the distribution of food, drinking water, medical supplies, and other critical materiel. “The amount of devastation is like none anyone has ever seen,” said Col. Douglas E. Kreulen, vice commander of the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota AB, Japan.
The Air Force was a key cog in a joint service, multi-agency, international relief effort. Air Force aircraft also used U Tapao, Thailand, as an airlift hub, and units from across the Pacific sent forces. “We’ve sent out every cargo aircraft we have to support humanitarian relief operations,” said Col. Mark O. Schissler, commander of Yokota’s 374th AW.
Leadership, Confidentiality Issues Fueled Problem
Defense Department and Air Force investigations into the sexual assault problem at the Air Force Academy found a wide range of factors that allowed the situation to go unchecked for years. Separate investigations by the DOD and Air Force inspectors general found leadership failures to be the “root cause” of the problems.
The DOD IG determined that “successive chains of command over the last 10 years” failed to understand and acknowledge the scale of the sexual assault problem at the academy. It blamed eight officers for leadership failure. Their names were not released in the public version of the report.
This finding stands in stark contrast to an earlier investigation by the Air Force general counsel. That report exonerated military leaders at both the academy and Pentagon. (For additional background on this issue, see “Aerospace World: IG Faults Academy Leaders,” January, p. 12; and “Upheaval at the Academy,” January 2004, p. 56.)
The DOD and Air Force IG findings were released at a Dec. 7 press conference.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, DOD IG Joseph E. Schmitz said he and Air Force Secretary James G. Roche share “concerns” about reporting procedures.
The Air Force IG investigation found confidentiality to be a problem. The confidentiality program at the academy was put in place in 1993, to encourage assault victims to come forward without fear of retribution from their fellow cadets. But the program differs from sexual assault requirements for the rest of DOD, which requires assaults be reported. The confidential program may have hindered prosecutions and prevented a full appreciation for the scope of the problem, according to the USAF IG.
“Deficiencies in mandatory sexual assault reporting resulted in [higher ranking] commanders being left unaware of the numbers and kinds of sexual assaults,” the Air Force IG determined. Victims could report details at their discretion, but “fear of reporting” limited the Air Force Office of Special Investigations’ ability to gather evidence.
Further, reports often came in too late for OSI to gather “perishable” evidence. One official explained that an OSI representative now meets with academy assault victims immediately, to inform them of their rights and of the importance of prosecuting the alleged assailants.
Schmitz wrote that he and Roche have “concerns about ensuring that the policies and command climate encourage reporting, confidentiality, victim protection, and effective law enforcement.” DOD does not favor changes in confidentiality procedures “without simultaneously ensuring timely and effective involvement by law enforcement.”
David S.C. Chu, DOD personnel chief, stated at the press conference that although the IG targeted the confidentiality policy at the academy, DOD would have a “strong confidentiality policy.” He said that confidentiality will increase the probability a victim will report a sexual assault. “We want to sustain good order and discipline by holding those who assault their fellow service members accountable for their actions, but first and foremost we want victims to come forward for help,” said Chu.
Gen. T. Michael Moseley, USAF vice chief of staff, speaking at the news conference, noted that USAF had not waited for the IG reports before instituting changes at the academy. The service replaced top leadership at the academy and, through its “agenda for change” issued in May 2003, began pushing cultural changes among the cadets and providing sexual assault prevention training for cadets, faculty, and staff.
Moseley said that the Air Force accepted 13 of the 14 recommendations made by the IG. The one not accepted dealt with the confidentiality rule. The Air Force, said Moseley, had been “working with Dr. Chu to address” that issue.
The Pentagon on Jan. 4 announced that officials had delivered to Congress, as directed, its new sexual assault prevention policy; however it did not include specifics about the issue of confidentiality.
At a special press briefing, Chu re-emphasized the Pentagon’s commitment to confidential reporting, saying that “final details” were being put together. He noted, however, that “there is a legal issue yet to be resolved as to whether one of the things we wish to do may contravene current statutes, and if so, we’ll seek the necessary statutory change from the Congress.”
USAF-Supported “Fighter Pilot” Film Opens at NASM
“Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag,” a new large-format Imax film produced with the Air Force’s assistance, opened in December.
A visual spectacle that captures the essence of Red Flag training, “Fighter Pilot” is expected to become the flagship film at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Va.
The 45-minute film portrays a stylized version of Red Flag, focusing on two real F-15 pilots. Capt. John C. Stratton is the lead character in the film, and Maj. Robert G. Novotny portrays the air boss aboard an E-3 AWACS.
Although director Stephen Low and cinematographer Clay Lacy used artistic license to create a stimulating film (such as by filming formations of tightly bunched aircraft racing through valleys), realism was also a goal.
Maj. Sam P. Morgan, an A-10 pilot, was on hand as the Air Force’s technical advisor for the film. His job was to ensure the film did not stray too far into the territory of the movie “Top Gun.” In “Fighter Pilot,” nobody goes into combat with their oxygen mask dangling from their helmet.
The purpose of Red Flag is to give airmen realistic combat training. Experience showed that pilots were much more likely to survive if they could make it through their first few combat missions—Red Flag simulates those missions.
The film gives due time to all the airmen who make a Red Flag possible. Crew chiefs, firemen, rescue forces, and weapons loaders all receive time on camera.
NASA’s B-52B Mother Ship Retires
NASA in December retired its venerable B-52B mother ship after nearly 50 years in service. A “new” B-52H, on permanent loan from the Air Force, is now ready to take over as NASA’s carriage aircraft.
At the time of the B-52B’s retirement on Dec. 17, the replacement BUFF had been run through depot, prepped, and given its new paint job, a NASA spokeswoman said. The B-52H had not yet flown any NASA missions, however.
Tentative plans call for the retired mother ship to be displayed at Edwards AFB, Calif., where NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center is also located.
“At retirement, the air-launch and research aircraft holds the distinction of being NASA’s oldest aircraft [and] the oldest B-52 still flyable,” a NASA press release noted. The B-52B mother ship first flew in June 1955 and bears NASA tail No. 008.
Ironically, the ancient B-52B also had the fewest flying hours of any B-52 in service. Before retirement, it was officially transferred from NASA back to the Air Force for final disposition. The mother ship began life as an Air Force test vehicle and was transferred to the space administration in 1959.
The B-52B’s final mission launched NASA’s X-43A hypersonic test vehicle on its record-breaking flight Nov. 16. ( See “Aerospace World: X-43 Scramjet Nears Mach 10,” January, p. 15.)
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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