Nine Airmen Killed in Crash
An MC-130H Combat Talon II special operations aircraft on March 31 crashed in Albania, killing nine airmen. The crash occurred during a nighttime training mission in a remote, mountainous region about 35 miles southeast of Tirana, the capital of Albania, according to a USAF news release
The aircraft was assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Group, based at RAF Mildenhall, Britain. Eight of the airmen were with the 352nd SOG’s 7th Special Operations Squadron and one with the 25th Intelligence Operations Squadron.
The airmen were: Capt. Todd Bracy, 34, of Murphysboro, Ill.; Capt. James Cronin, 32, Elk Grove Village, Ill.; TSgt. James Henry, 30, Valparaiso, Fla.; Capt. Surender Kothakota, 30, Fayetteville, N.C.; CMSgt. Lawrence Gray, 40, Chester, S.C.; TSgt. Glenn Lastes, 39, Southington, Conn.; SSgt. Patrick Pentico, 32, Hanksville, Utah; and Capt. Gil Williamson, 31, Dike, Tex.
US and Albanian rescue crews assisted in the recovery operation. The Combat Talon II aircraft was participating in joint training with the Albanian military when it went down.
Officials are investigating the cause of the accident.
USAF Faces $3 Billion Shortage
The Air Force began scaling back spending for the rest of 2005 to overcome what would otherwise be a $3 billion operation and maintenance shortfall, officials announced in March. The service also expects to be about $733 million short in personnel funding for the year.
“Based on our current burn rates, we project a $3 billion shortfall in our O&M funds by the end of the year,” wrote Gen. John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff, in a memo to USAF’s major commands. Unbudgeted war on terror expenses are the primary cause of the financial crunch.
To overcome the funding shortage, service leaders plan to cut lower priority functions while maintaining readiness.
“We must continue to support requirements of the global war on terrorism and ongoing operations in the theater,” Jumper said. “We must also protect efforts supporting the next rotation” of forces to support ongoing operations.
Lower priority “bill payers” will include administrative functions, business operations, facilities spending, new contracts, nondeployment-related training, and travel.
As part of this belt-tightening move, officials said the Air Force would trim its presence at the international Bright Star exercise in Egypt and cancel the annual Guardian Challenge space and missile competition. (See related items on p. 22.)
An Air Force press release noted that the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command will “not immediately be affected,” because Guard and Reserve funding is separate from the active duty system. B-2s Deploy to GuamFor the first time, B-2 stealth bombers have deployed from Whiteman AFB, Mo., to Guam for an air and space expeditionary force rotation. A detachment of B-2s deployed Feb. 25 for a four-month tour at Andersen Air Force Base on the western Pacific island.
The 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron brought along more than 270 airmen, among them many with specialized maintenance skills.
The B-2 gives “the combatant commander an airplane to use in instances that other aircraft can’t be used,” noted Col. Curtiss Petrek, 36th Expeditionary Operations Group commander. “This comes at some price, however, because it takes quite a bit of work” to maintain the bomber’s low observable characteristics.
B-2s have previously been based at Guam for short stays but not extended deployments.
Peter B. Teets, who began serving as acting Air Force Secretary when James G. Roche stepped down Jan. 20, retired at the end of March. At the time, Teets was also serving as Defense Department executive agent for space, director of the National Reconnaissance Office, and Air Force acquisition executive. Most of his positions—including Teets’ original post of Air Force undersecretary—were not immediately filled.
DOD announced March 28 that defense acquisition chief Michael W. Wynne had been designated to oversee all of the Air Force’s major acquisition programs. Wynne said the action was “not a punitive one” and was intended to assist the service “during a time of transition.”
Michael L. Dominguez, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs, has stepped up as acting Secretary of the Air Force.
Navy Names Ship for Chapman
The Navy in April named a 670-foot-long ship after Air Force TSgt. John A. Chapman, the combat controller who was killed in 2002 in Afghanistan. The pre-positioning ship, used to forward deploy Air Force munitions and other supplies, is one of 35 of its type that the Navy’s Military Sealift Command operates.
Chapman posthumously received the Air Force Cross, the second-highest military honor, for his heroism in Operation Anaconda. (See “Aerospace World: Combat Controller Receives Posthumous Honor,” February 2003, p. 11.)
The Navy has at times named “prepo” ships for a war hero who served in ground combat. Several of the ships have been named for Special Forces soldiers who received Medals of Honor for their service in Vietnam and Somalia.
Wolfowitz Out, England Steps Up
The President on March 16 nominated Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, to head the World Bank. Wolfowitz was confirmed as the 10th bank president on March 31 and is slated to take his new post on June 1.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld praised Wolfowitz, who has been the deputy since March 2001, in a statement, saying he is “thoughtful, astute, and broadly experienced in world affairs.” Rumsfeld said, “I will miss his daily counsel.”
To fill the No. 2 civilian position at the Pentagon, President Bush on April 1 nominated Navy Secretary Gordon R. England. England has served twice as Navy Secretary, serving for nine months in between as deputy secretary of homeland security.
In addition to his work as Navy Secretary, he has been overseeing the Pentagon’s implementation of the new National Security Personnel System.
England’s nomination has to be approved by the Senate.
US To Return to Bright Star
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in March that, later this year, the US would join in Egypt’s Bright Star wargame for the first time since 2001. However, he added, the Pentagon’s current financial and operational demands would limit US participation.
Bright Star is a massive international wargame: 14 countries will take part this year. Myers said US ground participation will not be “at the same levels” as in past years “because our ground forces are tied up doing other things.”
He indicated, though, that US air and naval participation may be increased. Myers said that “given what US forces are doing around the world right now, there is not going to be as large a contingent as there has been in the past.”
Guardian Challenge Canceled
Air Force Space Command has canceled its annual Guardian Challenge space and missile competition, citing excessive financial and operational pressures. “The nation’s space and missile warfighters are fully tasked,” AFSPC commander Gen. Lance W. Lord said in a press release.
Canceling Guardian Challenge will allow airmen to focus on real-world deployments, said AFSPC officials. “Given the budget and ongoing overseas commitments, we feel it is prudent to cancel this year’s event,” said Col. John Stocker, the Guardian Challenge commander.
This year’s event, which was to have been the 38th Guardian Challenge, was scheduled for May 1-6 at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. This is the third time the challenge has been canceled for similar reasons. The 1968 and 2003 events were also shut down.
Boeing Unveils F-15K
Boeing in March unveiled the first of 40 advanced F-15K Strike Eagles bound for South Korea’s Air Force. The rollout was held shortly after the fighter completed a Mach 2 test flight.
South Korea selected the Strike Eagle in a 2002 modernization competition. According to Boeing’s press release, South Korea is spending $4.2 billion for 40 of the aircraft, a unit cost of $105 million. Deliveries will begin this year and run through August 2008.
The F-15K cost, coincidentally, is about the same as the per-aircraft cost of the 100 F/A-22s the Administration recently slashed from the Air Force’s long-range spending plan. The December Raptor cuts totaled $10.5 billion—$105 million per fighter.
SBIRS Has New Cost Overrun
The estimated cost of the Space Based Infrared System High program recently increased by more than 15 percent. Before stepping down as acting Air Force Secretary in March, Peter B. Teets informed lawmakers of the event, commonly known as a Nunn-McCurdy breach.
SBIRS High will possibly go 25 percent over budget, according to the notification letter Teets sent to Congress, reported the defense newsletter Inside the Air Force. This is the third Nunn-McCurdy breach for the program.
Teets said he lacked confidence even in the new cost estimates. “I do not have the degree of confidence I want,” he said, adding that “alternative acquisition strategies” will be considered during an independent DOD cost review.
Teets explained to Senate authorizers at a March 16 hearing that the Defense Department is “still suffering from the effects of a program that was not founded properly, not scoped properly, [and] not set up with proper incentives to the contractor,” Lockheed Martin.SBIRS High satellites are slated to replace the Defense Support Program missile early warning system.
Bush Nominates BRAC Board
President Bush in March named former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi and eight other individuals to serve as commissioners for the 2005 base realignment and closure (BRAC) actions. All must receive Senate confirmation.
Principi would serve as chairman of the commission, whose job it is to review the Pentagon’s proposed list of facility closures or realignments and make independent recommendations to the President.
The other nominees are:
The Pentagon must submit its list to the BRAC commission and Congress by May 16. The commission, in turn, provides its list to the President by Sept. 8. The President then has until Sept. 23 to either accept or reject the entire findings.
USAF Creates UAV Center
The Air Force in March announced plans to create an Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Center of Excellence at Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field in Nevada. The center will “coordinate UAV activities at all levels of war—tactical, operational, and strategic,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Goldfein, and “provide a common structure for our command and control systems.”
The UAV center will serve as a one-stop shop to improve interoperability, develop concepts of operation, create requirements, and plan training for the Air Force’s unmanned vehicles, said Goldfein, who is commander of the Air Warfare Center at nearby Nellis Air Force Base.
He said the goal is to “exploit the full potential” of the diverse UAVs operating in the global war on terror. Currently, USAF has one operational Global Hawk, about 60 Predators, and roughly 300 Pointer, Raven, Desert Hawk, and other small and miniature UAVs, Goldfein said.
“The idea [is] to have one place, one center, [to] carry us forward with not only what we do have, but what we will be acquiring,” explained Goldfein.
The Air Force’s UAV Battlelab is already located at Indian Springs and will likely continue its work of rapid innovation, though its future relationship with the UAV center has not yet been determined.
“The battlelab really becomes the core, to help us develop and expand,” the general said. “Whether or not we continue to call it a battlelab, … the mission that [it has] will definitely stay alive.”
Korean War Pilot Identified
The Department of Defense earlier this year formally identified the remains of Air Force Capt. Troy Cope, shot down over China during the Korean War. Cope is to be buried in Plano, Tex., May 31.
An F-86 Sabre pilot flying out of Kimpo Air Base in South Korea, Cope was on a fighter sweep mission on Sept. 16, 1952. His flight encountered and fought enemy MiG-15s near the Yalu River, an area known as “MiG Alley” on the border between China and North Korea.
According to a Feb. 25 Air Force news release, Cope’s wingman survived the encounter, but lost sight of Cope, who was thereafter listed as missing in action.
Decades later, the release explained, a “chance observation” by an American tourist began the identification process. In 1995, a tourist visiting the military museum in Dandong, China, “noticed a display” that included Cope’s military dog tag. The American reported this to US authorities.
Four years later, US missing persons personnel found information in Russian archived records about Cope’s shootdown. Soviet pilots flying the MiG-15s for North Korea left statements and drawings about the encounter. With this information, officials went to China “and got the green light to move forward” with a recovery operation.
In 2004, a recovery team found and excavated Cope’s crash site, where there was aircraft debris and human remains. The remains were identified this year in Hawaii, at DOD’s Central Identification Laboratory.
JFK: The Unneeded Carrier?
In recent comments to lawmakers, Navy Secretary Gordon R. England strongly defended the Navy’s desire to retire the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, rather than proceeding with a lengthy reconditioning and overhaul later this year.
“Frankly, we do not need this carrier,” England told the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee March 16.
England added that the Mayport, Fla.-based carrier is expensive to maintain and only offers “marginal capability.”
The Navy’s new budget plan would reduce the number of carrier battle groups from 12 to 11. The service leadership feels a smaller fleet can more cost-effectively meet requirements.
JFK is one of only two conventionally powered carriers that remain in the Navy fleet. The other, USS Kitty Hawk, is forward based in Japan and is scheduled to retire in 2008.
Officials Find Root Cause
After several months of investigation, Boeing and USAF officials determined that fluid cavitation within the liquid oxygen feed system caused the premature main engine shutdown on the Delta IV heavy-lift vehicle launched Dec. 21, 2004.
The Air Force on March 16 released the finding, which was supported by The Aerospace Corp. in an independent review, said officials.
The 2004 launch was a demonstration flight with a dummy payload, intended to test ground and flight systems for the heavy-lift version of Boeing’s Delta IV evolved expendable launch vehicle. The medium-lift version first successfully boosted a satellite to orbit in 2002.
The fluid cavitation problem “originated at the entrance of the propellant feed line, where a filtration screen and turning elbow restrict the propellant flow as it accelerates leaving the tank,” said a news release. A unique combination of factors for this mission created “gaseous oxygen at this location as the tanks emptied,” it said. The Delta IV flight computer initiated a shut-down sequence as it is programmed to do.
Officials said they had followed a “deliberate process” throughout the investigation to ensure they did not miss any potential causes.
Officials also said Boeing has started to select and validate potential corrective actions.
USAF Upgrades Talon I
The Air Force in late March completed the first risk reduction flight for an MC-130E Combat Talon I after making avionics improvements to the special operations aircraft.
The 418th Flight Test Squadron, Edwards AFB, Calif., conducted the test flight to ensure the new terrain-following radar and algorithms performed as expected.
The Talon I, which belongs to Air Force Reserve Command’s 919th Special Operations Wing, Duke Field, Fla., is one of eight different models of C-130 Hercules aircraft that will be tested at Edwards following their upgrades.
The modifications include a glass cockpit with head-up display, flight management system, air data computer, multifunction radar, and new communications systems.
C-130 Maintainers Keep Rates Up
Air Force maintenance personnel at Karshi-Khanabad AB, Uzbekistan, have kept the mission capable rates for C-130 tactical airlifters at their location as high as 15 percent above the Air Mobility Command standard, said USAF officials.
The aircraft maintainers with the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron established MC rates of nearly 90 percent during the first few months of this year. The standard rate for the C-130 is 75 percent.
The 774th EAS comprises both active and Air National Guard personnel.
World War II Airman Identified
The Pentagon on April 12 announced that it had officially identified the remains of SSgt. Robert W. McKee, an aerial gunner on a B-24 that crashed in Hungary during World War II.
The Army Air Forces B-24 Liberator, carrying an 11-member crew, took off from Pantanella, Italy, on Dec. 17, 1944, on a mission to bomb targets in Germany. Nine of the crew safely bailed out of the aircraft, but McKee and one other were unaccounted for. After the war, remains of the other crewman were found in a cemetery in Hungary.
In 1992, an undertaker discovered remains of an American in another cemetery in Hungary. The remains included aerial gunner wings but no specific identification. Scientists of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab used forensic tools, including DNA, to confirm the remains were those of McKee.
George F. Kennan, a key figure in the early days of American Cold War strategy, died March 18 at the age of 101. As a top US diplomat in Moscow in 1946, Kennan authored a cable to Washington that warned of the Soviet Union’s fanatical commitment to spreading communism.
The Soviet Union, with whom the US had cooperated against Hitler, had become “impervious to logic of reason,” Kennan wrote in what became known as the Long Telegram. The USSR was, however, “highly sensitive to logic of force.”
The next year, he anonymously published a version of his message in the journal Foreign Affairs. It was there that the term “containment” entered the public vernacular. “The main element of any [US] policy toward the Soviet Union must be … a long-term, patient, but firm and vigilant containment,” he wrote
The Perils of the QDR
Senior Air Force officials say the service faces a challenging task in the Quadrennial Defense Review. A long-term problem, planners say, is that air dominance is now often taken for granted. It is therefore the Air Force’s job in the QDR to ensure that senior DOD leaders understand how USAF’s pieces fit together and how critical they are to the overall defense effort.
There is “too little understanding of what goes into joint air dominance,” said Maj. Gen. Ronald J. Bath, USAF director of strategic planning. The other military services seem to operate with an “expectation” that the Air Force will be providing its capabilities, added Brig. Gen. S. Taco Gilbert III, Bath’s deputy.
Unfortunately, outside of the Air Force there appears to be little appreciation of what it takes to provide those capabilities. Airlift, space, and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance functions—heavily used by all the military services—consume ever increasing shares of the Air Force budget. Long-range Air Force modernization plans look to the force and capabilities needed in 2025. But to get there, the service needs to begin recapitalizing now.
“Joint air dominance has costs,” Bath said during an interview with both senior planners.
Asked if money spent on F/A-18 Hornets would be better invested in F/A-22s or F-35s, Gilbert responded that DOD “may not want to replace old, legacy aircraft with new legacy aircraft.”
Bath added that USAF’s requirement for 381 F/A-22 Raptors is backed by solid analysis and should be validated in the QDR.
The overall defense topline, however, is likely locked in. If, during the QDR, it is determined that more money is needed for air dominance capabilities, the Air Force will have to “either get more resources” or pull money out of other USAF accounts. Yet to be determined is whether the Air Force’s overall share of the defense budget will remain the same, Bath said.
The QDR discussions “have the potential to get in too close,” cautioned Bath. By that, he meant that there is a risk that near-term operational needs—what the ground forces in Iraq need—could generate a short-term perspective at the expense of long-term needs.
Bath added that the Air Force’s QDR approach is not merely a validation of the service’s existing programs. Current program plans are a “snapshot in time,” he noted, and “if you accept that the last 25 years” of planning were a good process that resulted in a quality Air Force, then now is the time to extend the planning for the next 20 years.
“This is not a defense of the status quo,” Bath said.
New Home for 13th Air Force
After 14 years on Guam, Pacific Air Forces’ 13th Air Force is relocating to Hawaii. The numbered air force headquarters will be moved from Andersen AFB, Guam, to Hickam Air Force Base, near Honolulu, where it will set up near the headquarters for PACAF and US Pacific Command.
“The habitual relationships that can be developed between the warfighters [are an] important reason to locate [13th Air Force] at Hickam,” said Maj. Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., the NAF commander.
Thirteenth Air Force will also stand up a regional warfighting headquarters at Hickam to focus on preparing for combat in the Pacific area of responsibility (AOR).
The physical move will occur this month, and the warfighting headquarters should be up and running this fall, according to press reports. PACAF plans to set up a second warfighting headquarters in South Korea.Officials said 77 personnel, most of them military, will move to Hickam. Andersen’s 36th Air Expeditionary Wing, with about 1,800 members, is staying put, and officials have said the overall USAF presence on Guam is likely to increase in the coming years.
Thirteenth Air Force, with an AOR that covers most of the Pacific Theater, was placed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines shortly after World War II. It remained there until 1991 when it was relocated to Andersen after Clark’s closure, following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.
STRATCOM Outlines New Structure
Recognizing that it needed to abandon its centralized organizational structure to best address a host of new missions and threats, US Strategic Command has reorganized its basic setup.
STRATCOM recently added worldwide global strike, information warfare, integrated missile defense, and other new missions to its portfolio and is dealing with unconventional, fast-moving threats. The command risked paralysis if decisions had to work through a layered, top-down command structure, said Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, STRATCOM commander, at AFA’s Orlando, Fla., air warfare symposium. (See box “The New and Improved Style of US Strategic Command,” p. 35, in “Headwinds for the Air Force,” April, p. 30.)
The goal, wrote STRATCOM officials in a fact sheet, “is to decrease the decision cycles for these operations and to increase effectiveness of the products and services” that STRATCOM provides to the unified combatant commanders.
To that end, Cartwright has delegated much of his decision-making authority to a group of functional subordinates. Responsibility for nuclear weapons missions will remain with STRATCOM’s headquarters staff, but operational execution of non-nuclear missions is being pushed out to four joint functional component commands (JFCCs).
The new functional commands are:
A STRATCOM spokesman added that the command may soon add a fifth functional command. The Pentagon recently gave STRATCOM the mission of combating weapons of mass destruction, which may require its own JFCC.
Cartwright noted in February that much of the command’s headquarters personnel will be relocated to the functional components. According to the fact sheet, “migration of billets to the JFCCs” will take place over three years, primarily through the normal military assignment process.
The War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By April 7, a total of 1,543 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 1,539 troops and four Defense Department civilians. Of those fatalities, 1,174 were killed in action by enemy attack, and 369 died in noncombat incidents such as accidents.
There have been 11,664 troops wounded in action during OIF. This includes 5,645 who returned to duty within 72 hours and 6,019 who were unable to quickly return to action.
Two Years of Iraqi Freedom
March 19 marked two years since the US-led invasion of Iraq was launched to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s ruthless regime. Senior defense officials used the anniversary to highlight some of the achievements in Iraq since Hussein’s dictatorship was toppled.
Officials noted that, during Iraq’s free elections Jan. 30, “more than eight million Iraqis exercised their right to choose their new government.”
Reconstruction of the nation’s infrastructure is continuing, and Baghdad now receives roughly 13 hours of electricity daily, roughly the same as other urban areas in Iraq. “It’s getting better every day,” said Marine Corps Col. Patrick Kanewske, chief of current operations for US Central Command.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs Chairman, said Iraq now has about 142,000 security forces—of all types—trained and equipped. Myers noted that “it takes all kinds of security,” including “police and special forces, to go after the insurgents.”
Troop Cuts May Come in 2006
The Army may begin a troop drawdown in Iraq in 2006, assuming the new Iraqi security forces are able to take on a greater share of the country’s security burden. Asked if the presence in Iraq would be numerically smaller in 2006, Gen. Richard A. Cody, Army vice chief of staff, told reporters, “I would think so, but your definition of smaller and my definition of smaller may be different.”
The next force rotation into Iraq will likely “be smaller than the force that’s in there right now,” Cody told the Defense Writers Group March 17. The next rotation will consist of soldiers relieving the troops just now beginning one-year tours.
In mid-March, there were about 150,000 US troops in Iraq. That consisted of 138,000 scheduled to be in place before the Iraqi elections and additional forces that were kept in theater to beef up security. Cody said Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army commander in Iraq, would discuss force requirements with the DOD leadership in April.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By April 7, a total of 176 US troops had died in Operation Enduring Freedom, conducted primarily in Afghanistan. The total includes 70 troops killed in action and 106 who died in nonhostile incidents.
A total of 439 troops have been wounded in Enduring Freedom. They include 142 who were able to return to duty within three days and 297 who were not.
USAF Makes Emergency Repairs at Bagram
Air Force civil engineers are rebuilding the decrepit runway at Bagram AB, Afghanistan. The 9,800-foot runway has suffered “severe damage” from heavy use, said Maj. Bobbie Moore, commander of Bagram’s 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron. That forced the Air Force to “look for an immediate solution,” Moore said.
Bagram is still Afghanistan’s busiest airfield, and shutting it down for repairs was not an option. Therefore, said an Air Force news release, “the answer was precast concrete.” Precast concrete is “poured and cured ... away from the runway and put into place when ready.”
Engineers poured 28 concrete slabs, each 12 feet by 13 feet and more than a foot thick. One by one, the 12-ton slabs are being moved into place to replace damaged sections of the original runway.
More than 30 years old, Bagram’s runway was built by the Soviet Union and poorly maintained over the years. US forces are constructing a new runway at the base, but, according to USAF, it will not be completed until June 2006.
Chu Outlines New Sexual Assault Reporting Policy
The Pentagon has revised its sexual assault reporting policy to allow victims to report attacks confidentially. The new policy, which takes effect in June, should encourage victims to come forward and offers the option of seeking prosecution at a later date, said Defense Department personnel chief David S.C. Chu. Chu said he is hopeful the new policy will increase “willingness to come forward … and to pursue an investigation, eventually.”
According to a new survey conducted by the DOD inspector general covering all three service academies, out of 302 sexual assault incidents cited by female cadets, less than a third had been reported to authorities.
Some victims are not ready to immediately launch a formal investigation, so confidential reporting will accomplish two things, Chu said. First, it will “give them access to medical care, to counseling, and to victim advocacy.” (In the past, only chaplains could offer confidential support.)
Second, the policy will give commanders knowledge of sexual assault problems—even when reports are kept confidential. Commanders “will be informed of offenses that had previously gone unreported,” Chu said. They will be notified about incidents within 24 hours, but will not be given any identifying information about the victim.
Pentagon Releases New National Defense Strategy
The Pentagon in March released an updated National Defense Strategy, a document intended to guide the Defense Department in meeting future threats. “This strategy emphasizes the importance of influencing events before [they] become more dangerous and less manageable,” wrote Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in the document’s cover letter.
The strategy outlines a series of strategic objectives to guide planning. First among these is securing the United States from direct attack. According to the strategy, DOD will give “top priority” to preventing attacks, with a specific emphasis on defeating “extremist enemies with weapons of mass destruction.”The document notes that even while facing asymmetric challenges, DOD can accomplish its objectives partly by continuing to develop key US military strengths.
It states further that traditional strengths are not considered sacred. The strategy offers “implementation guidelines” that call for continuous transformation; a capabilities-based approach to set priorities among competing capabilities; and risk management to consider “clear trade-offs across the department.”
Overseas facilities face probable realignment. “Operational experience since 1990 indicates we will surge forces” to respond to threats, the strategy notes. But Cold War basing, still focused on Western Europe and Northeast Asia, was set up to fight in place. The modern expeditionary paradigm is “driving a comprehensive realignment of [the] US global defense posture,” the strategy states.
Patriot Problems “Not Exactly a Surprise”
The Defense Science Board determined that a number of long-standing weaknesses in the Army’s Patriot air defense system led to three fratricide incidents in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Notably, the Patriot’s combat identification capability “performed very poorly,” the DSB wrote. “This is not exactly a surprise; this poor performance has been seen in many training exercises.”
During three separate incidents in OIF, Patriot systems engaged friendly aircraft. Patriots shot down one American F/A-18 Hornet and one British GR4 Tornado, killing a total of three aircrew members.
In the other incident, an Air Force F-16 fired a radar-seeking missile at a Patriot battery, destroying its antenna. The F-16 pilot thought the Patriot was an enemy surface-to-air missile site because the Patriot’s radar had locked on to the fighter.
The first month in Iraq’s combat zone featured 41,000 coalition aircraft sorties and only nine enemy tactical missile engagements, stated the DSB report. With 60 armed Patriot units, “even very low-probability failures could result in regrettable fratricide incidents,” the DSB task force noted.
The DSB wrote that it was “puzzled” that the combat ID deficiency “never garners enough resolve and support to result in a robust fix. … We have to fix [the combat ID system] and institute additional protection measures such as safe return corridors for our aircraft.”
Another problem was that Patriot operation was largely automated, and operators were “trained to trust the system’s software.” Future wars likely will be more stressing than Iraq and may require simultaneous missile and aircraft engagements. The task force said more operator control is needed, but this will require improved training, software, and displays.
As a defensive system, the Patriot worked as intended, the DSB found. “All nine enemy tactical ballistic missiles” targeting defended areas were successfully engaged and caused no damage or casualties.
Although the attacking missiles were not deemed “stressing targets,” the task force judged “Patriot missile defense in OIF to be a substantial success.”
Pentagon Creates New Medals
The Defense Department on April 7 announced creation of two separate campaign medals for Afghanistan and Iraq. Officials said these new medals require of recipients “specific sacrifices and significant contributions.”
To receive the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, a service member must have served in direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom on or after Oct. 24, 2001, to a future date yet to be determined. The area of eligibility covers all land areas of the country of Afghanistan and all air space above the land. For the Iraq Campaign Medal, a member must have served in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on or after March 19, 2003, to a future date yet to be determined. The area of eligibility covers all land areas of Iraq, the contiguous water out to 13.8 miles, and all air space above the land areas of Iraq and the designated water.
There are two other primary criteria, involving either length of service or combat operations. At least one of these two primary criteria must be met for a member to receive either of these new medals.
The time requirement calls for service in these areas for either 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days.
There are three subsets under combat operations, at least one of which must be met. The recipient must have been one of these:
Two other provisos apply. Officials said no member can receive these two new medals and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for the same act or period of service. Moreover, the new medals can only be awarded once per member.
The Riddle of the Misplaced Nuclear Test
A transcription error recently set off an international furor about a supposed US nuclear test in Sudan. Such an event never happened.
According to initial transcripts from a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing held March 2, Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.) referenced “the Sudan nuclear test site.” The transcript continued, “In 1962 we took [a] 100 kiloton nuclear warhead, … buried it 635 feet under the surface,” and blew it up. “The Sudan test displaced 12 million tons of earth and dug a crater 320 feet deep [and] over 1,000 feet in diameter,” read two transcripts, which made their way into the Nexis worldwide news database, according to the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News electronic newsletter.
Tauscher was referring to the nuclear test site in Nevada, dubbed Sedan, not Sudan. But the error was caught too late.
China’s Xinhua news service reported March 10 that the Sudanese government “held the United States responsible for cancer spread in Sudan caused by US nuclear experiments in the African country.”
In the article, Sudan’s agriculture minister said his government would move to regain the rights of the Sudanese people who suffered from these nuclear experiments.
Things were sorted out the next day. Sudan’s Suna News Agency reported that the nation “received assurances from the American Administration that the area where the nuclear experiments and explosions took place was … not Sudan.”
The hearing transcripts have since been corrected.
News NotesBy Tamar A. Mehuron, Associate Editor
Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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