Airman Dies in Afghanistan
SrA. Jonathan A. V. Yelner, 24, of Lafayette, Calif., died April 29 near Bagram AB, Afghanistan, from wounds he received when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
Yelner, a weapons load crew member assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Ellsworth AFB, S.D., was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star medal on May 8.
Sheppard Crash Claims Two
Maj. Brad Funk, 35, an instructor pilot, and 2nd Lt. Alec Littler, 23, a student pilot, were killed May 1 when their T-38C aircraft crashed on approach during a training flight at Sheppard AFB, Tex. Funk was with the base’s 90th Flying Training Squadron, while Littler was enrolled in the 80th Flying Training Wing’s Euro-NATO joint jet pilot training program.
The mishap was the second fatal accident involving a T-38C, following a crash April 23 at Columbus AFB, Miss., which similarly claimed two lives. The incidents led Air Education and Training Command to suspend flight operations of all T-38Cs from May 1 to May 6 and to order a one-day safety stand-down of all of its flying training operations on May 5. Both crashes remained under investigation as of mid-May.
Reaper Tests GPS Munition
An Air Force-led team began the first live drops of a Global Positioning System-guided weapon from the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle in May at the Navy test range at China Lake, Calif., achieving direct hits on targets.
USAF is integrating the Reaper with the GBU-49 munition, a 500-pound bomb that features both laser guidance and an on-board GPS kit for all-weather, precision-delivery capability. The Air Force has been flying MQ-9s in combat in Afghanistan since September 2007, employing 500-pound laser guided bombs in combat as well as Hellfire surface-attack missiles.
Airmen Awarded Bronze Stars
MSgt. Clarence Barry Jr., Maj. Erik Bruce, and SMSgt. Gregory Williams received Bronze Star medals April 16 for their actions while deployed to Iraq. All are members of the 28th Security Forces Squadron at Ellsworth AFB, S.D.
Bruce is commander of the 28th SFS, while Williams is the unit’s operations superintendent, and Barry its operations section chief. Williams’ award was an oak leaf cluster to go with the Bronze Star that he received for valor during an earlier deployment to Iraq in 2005.
Lockheed Wins GPS III Bid
Lockheed Martin bested Boeing to win the Air Force’s Global Positioning System Block III satellite contest, securing an initial $1.46 billion contract May 15 to build the first of three planned increments of the next generation spacecraft.
Under the contract, Lockheed’s team, which includes ITT and General Dynamics, will supply the first two GPS Block IIIA satellites, the first of which is projected for launch in 2014. The contract includes options for up to eight additional GPS IIIA production vehicles.
More capable Block IIIB and Block IIIC satellites will follow, bringing the projected future constellation to more than 30 satellites. All three increments will provide improved position, navigation, and timing services for civil and military users as well as increased resistance to hostile jamming for military users.
USAF Aids Burma, China
Air Force C-130s operating from U Tapao, Thailand, had delivered more than 800,000 pounds of relief supplies as of May 20 in 36 flights into Yangon Airport in Rangoon, to help survivors of Tropical Cyclone Nargis that hit Burma May 2. The first C-130 touched down at Yangon May 12.
Meanwhile two C-17s landed May 18 at Shuangliu Airport in Chengdu, China, carrying nearly 200,000 pounds of food, water containers, blankets, generators, lanterns, and various hand tools to aid victims of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck China’s central Sichuan Province May 12.
A third C-17 delivered a nine-member US Agency for International Development team May 20 to Chengdu to help Chinese search and rescue efforts. The US was also providing satellite imagery to assist Chinese assessments of damage to key infrastructure such as dams, reservoirs, roads, and bridges in the province.
Fighter Shortfall Looms
Senior Air Force officials told Congress in early April that the Air Force faces a looming fighter shortage of more than 800 aircraft starting in 2017 and running through 2024. But Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, Air National Guard director, told lawmakers May 14 that the impact will be felt "as early as Fiscal 2015" for the Air Guard units flying F-15s and F-16s that protect the nation’s airspace.
"We have determined that, at that early date, we’ll start attriting aircraft out of this fleet, and we’ll be leaving the combatant commander of [US Northern Command] unable to meet his requirements," McKinley said during a Senate oversight hearing.
The general said he is working closely with Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, to mitigate this shortage. "But today as we look at it, there is a bathtub [in the trend line for fighters]," he said. Pouring money into the aging F-15s and F-16s will not solve the problem long-term, both Blum and McKinley said at the hearing.
Adm. Michael G. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed on the latter point, telling the same panel May 20, "We actually don’t have a very good history of upgrading [legacy] airplanes." Instead, he said he has faith in the F-35 program and is "comfortable" with the Bush Administration plan to punt the F-22 decision to the next Administration.
Air Guardsman Dies in Africa
Lt. Col. Joseph A. Moore, 54, a chaplain with the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th Wing, died of natural causes on May 20 while deployed to Djibouti. He was on a seven-month tour for Operation Enduring Freedom.
Cruise Missile Recertified
Pentagon acquisition czar John J. Young Jr. approved the Air Force’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile program to move ahead after a Congressionally mandated Nunn-McCurdy review, the service announced May 2.
Young recertified to the Congress that the stealthy cruise missile remains vital to national security and, therefore, the program should continue despite the challenges that it has faced—in particular, a less-than-stellar record in test flights and programmatic cost growth due to changing requirements.
With the new certification in hand, the Air Force was poised to award Lockheed Martin the next JASSM production contract, Lot 7, in June for approximately 115 missiles. It said it also had negotiated a not-to-exceed price for Lot 8 with the company. Development and testing activities for JASSM-ER, the extended-range variant of the missile, were scheduled to resume in June, with a production decision scheduled for Fiscal 2010. Development of a JASSM variant for maritime interdiction is slated to start in 2010.
Predator Strikes On Rise
The number of air strikes carried out by Predator MQ-1 unmanned aerial vehicles firing Hellfire missiles against insurgents in Iraq reached 11 in April, setting a new high mark. The previous one-month high of six was set both in November 2006 and July 2007.
Since July 2007, Predator missions have more than doubled in Iraq, the Air Force said May 6. The service is able to provide 24 simultaneous Predator combat air patrols in Southwest Asia, besting a Pentagon goal by some two years. The MQ-1 force now supplies "more than 13,400 hours of full-motion video to ground forces every month," USAF said.
NORAD Marks 50 Years
Canada and the US celebrated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the NORAD agreement on May 12 with a golden jubilee ball in Colorado Springs, Colo. US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Canadian Minister of National Defence Peter Gordon MacKay spoke at the event, which celebrated the partnership that has protected both nations from air and space threats for the past half-century.
Dignitaries from both nations participated the following day in the opening ceremony of the new NORAD-US Northern Command integrated command center at Peterson AFB, Colo.
KC-X MILCON Questioned
Two of the lawmakers intent on overturning the Air Force’s selection of the Northrop Grumman-EADS tanker over the Boeing model wrote to USAF’s acquisition czar Sue C. Payton May 19, asking her why, based on their understanding, the service did not consider the military construction costs of supporting each tanker platform as part of its source selection process. Further, they called for an independent cost estimate so that these figures could come to light.
Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) and Rep. Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.) stated that the Air Force KC-X tanker competition "failed to accurately assess the true cost of the two proposals" in "at least one critical area—military construction." The winning Northrop Grumman KC-30 tanker (now designated the KC-45A) is 53 percent larger than Boeing’s losing KC-767 design, they wrote. Accordingly, the MILCON needs for it "will clearly result in a higher cost to the Air Force."
The Government Accountability Office was slated to rule by June 19 on Boeing’s protest of the Air Force’s award to Northrop Grumman.
New Engine Type Flies
The Air Force made history Jan. 31 at Mojave, Calif., by flying a manned aircraft powered by a pulse detonation engine for the first time ever, the Air Force Research Laboratory announced May 16.
The PDE propelled a modified Scaled Composites Long-EZ aircraft and test pilot Pete Siebold to speeds of more than 120 miles per hour and 60 feet to 100 feet in altitude, producing greater than 200 pounds of thrust.
Pulse detonation engines ignite fuel and air in controlled explosions inside open-ended tubes to generate thrust. The history-making aircraft will be displayed this summer at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
B-2 Crash Cause Identified
Water intrusion in air-data sensors caused a B-2 bomber to crash during takeoff Feb. 23 from Andersen AFB, Guam, a top Air Force official said in mid-May. The skin-flush sensors, which collect information about air pressure and density, much like a pitot tube on a conventional aircraft, provide angle-of-attack and yaw data to the B-2’s computerized flight-control system.
After heavy, lashing rains, water got into the sensors and caused them to give faulty readings to the flight-control system, the official said. As a result, the aircraft’s computers determined—based on the bogus data—that the aircraft was in an improper attitude and corrected automatically.
The B-2 made a sudden pitch-up and yaw that was not commanded by the pilot. The aircraft quickly stalled, became unrecoverable, and the crew of two ejected. The aircraft was a total loss.
Cyber Command Sites Eyed
The Air Force sent letters on May 16 to the governors of the 18 states in contention to host the permanent location for USAF’s new Cyber Command, asking for more details on why their states should get the new unit. The governors’ inputs were due by July 1.
In the letter, William C. Anderson, USAF’s assistant secretary for installations, environment, and logistics, invited the governors to review the initial basing criteria provided and make the case for why the site that each champions would be an "ideal host location" for either the new command’s headquarters or supporting organizations or both.
As the next step in the selection process, the Air Force planned to dispatch teams sometime this summer to visit each potential location. The service expects to issue its short list in mid-November, leading to the announcement of the winner by September 2009.
Missileer Alerts Shortened
The Air Force in May began implementing two-person, 24-hour alerts for the crews of Minuteman III ICBM launch control centers in place of the three-person, 72-hour shifts that it instituted in 2007.
20th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Roger W. Burg, who oversees the nation’s ICBM forces, said May 2 the change is "a step forward" for USAF since it learned that the benefits of the 72-hour model did not outweigh its risks.
The 72-hour construct allowed 20th Air Force to decrease the number of travel miles to the ICBM complexes by almost two million miles and reduce its vehicle fuel costs nearly by half, Burg said. But it did not achieve the anticipated manpower savings and placed a strain on training and evaluation, leaving 20th Air Force "undermanned to execute" that construct, he said, citing an independent assessment.
Further, the LCC crews require "a level of alertness and split-second decision making" that are difficult to meet under 72-hour alerts without increased manpower, he said.
Gunships Cleared for Cannon
The Air Force May 12 formally authorized the relocation of the 16th Special Operations Squadron and its eight AC-130H gunships from Hurlburt Field, Fla., to Cannon AFB, N.M. The 16th SOS, formerly a part of Hurlburt’s 1st Special Operations Wing, will transfer to the 27th SOW at Cannon, Air Force Special Operation Command’s western hub since October 2007.
The squadron’s transfer is expected to be complete by November 2009. It will involve approximately 600 positions, with an initial cadre moving this year and the majority of the squadron in April 2009, AFSOC said.
AFSOC’s presence at Cannon continues to expand. The command on May 16 activated the 318th SOS, its second operational squadron at Cannon, which will fly light and medium aircraft, including the PC-12. It follows Cannon’s 73rd SOS, flying MC-130W Combat Spears.
Partnership Strategy Launched
Bruce S. Lemkin, the Air Force’s deputy undersecretary for international affairs, on May 13 announced USAF’s new global partnership strategy that supplants its security cooperation strategy.
The new plan will be a more expansive and improved means of building relationships, interoperable capabilities, and partnership capacity with international friends and allies, Lemkin said.
It will incorporate elements of irregular warfare, security force assistance (formerly train, test, and assist activities), and building partnership capacity portfolios. These will be in addition to the traditional counterinsurgency, foreign internal defense, security cooperation, security assistance, and international military education and training aspects of the former strategy, he said.
New Fuel Powers Fighter Engine
The Air Force in late April began ground tests of Pratt & Whitney’s F100 fighter engine running on the synthetic fuel blend that the service wants its entire fleet capable of using by 2011. The tests took place at the Arnold Engineering Development Center on the grounds of Arnold AFB, Tenn., in a test cell that simulates supersonic and high-altitude conditions.
The F100, which powers the F-15 and versions of the F-16, is the first fighter engine tested with the synthetic fuel mix, which is half traditional JP-8 aviation fuel and half synthetic paraffinic kerosene, or SPK. The latter is derived from natural gas or coal via the Fischer-Tropsch refining process.
Kadena F-15 Shuffle Completed
The Air Force in April concluded the three-year process of swapping out more than 50 older F-15s assigned to the 18th Wing at Kadena AB, Japan, for newer F-15s, with increased combat capability, from bases in the US. The final three of Kadena’s older F-15Cs left the base April 23, thereby completing the transfer of its 53 aging F-15s to eight Air National Guard bases Stateside in exchange for 54 younger F-15s from active duty squadrons at Langley AFB, Va., and Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.
Eighteen of the newer F-15s on Kadena’s roster, from Elmendorf, were the first F-15s in USAF’s inventory to carry advanced electronically scanned array radar systems.
USAF Fixes Mortuary Procedures
The Air Force in May directed changes in the cremation process for the remains of fallen warfighters from Afghanistan and Iraq that come through the mortuary at Dover AFB, Del., the US military’s single point for repatriating service members who die overseas.
USAF ordered the mortuary to use only crematory facilities that are co-located with licensed funeral homes. The new procedure also stipulated that there would be a military presence at these facilities during the process.
The Dover Port Mortuary, since it lacks a crematory, had been contracting crematory services at two facilities in the Dover area, one of which was not co-located with a funeral home and processed both human and pet remains—in separate, dedicated incinerators, but still under the same roof.
Upon hearing that a soldier who visited this crematory to be present for a fallen comrade found the site insensitive, the Office of the Secretary of Defense determined this arrangement was inappropriate "for the dignified treatment of our fallen," even though there was "absolutely no evidence whatsoever" at the time that any human remains had been mistreated, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said during a press briefing May 9.
F-22 Displays Networking Power
Two specially configured F-22 fighters demonstrated the ability to transfer real-time sensor data to ground stations during the latest Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment April 15 to 25 at Nellis AFB, Nev. This was the first time that F-22 sensor data was down-linked to a combined air operations center using a tactical network, according to Lockheed Martin, the F-22 prime contractor.
The two F-22s were outfitted with an experimental version of Rockwell Collins’ Tactical Targeting Network Technology waveform that enabled them to link with the CAOC at Nellis, a command center at Langley AFB, Va., and other airborne platforms. Currently Raptors have the ability only to pass digital data to other F-22s, but TTNT is envisioned as an upgrade to the F-22 fleet early next decade.
Maintenance Units Reorganized
The Air Force plans in July to begin implementing changes under its global wing structure reorganization to meld the aircraft maintenance units that support bomber, fighter, and rescue aircraft into the flying squadrons that they support.
Maj. Gen. Robert H. McMahon, director of maintenance on the Air Staff, said May 19 the changes will give squadron commanders the authority and the responsibility for ensuring that their units are ready for combat and also allow them to train on a daily basis the same way that they intend to fight. The transition should be complete by the end of November, he said.
Air Force Reserve Command is opting in to the new structure, but the Air National Guard plans to evaluate it first on a trial basis in five wings, McMahon said. USAF is studying whether it makes sense to adopt the same changes or some variant for its mobility and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance units.
E-8 Re-engining Advances
Northrop Grumman has begun work to complete nonrecurring developmental activities and then begin production of new engines for the Air Force’s E-8C Joint STARS fleet, the company announced May 13. The Air Force awarded it two contracts worth $300 million collectively for this work.
The company will first convert the E-8C test bed aircraft from the current Pratt & Whitney JT3D engines to the new Pratt & Whitney JT8D power plants that offer improved performance and consume comparatively less fuel. Concurrently, Pratt & Whitney and Seven Q Seven are working to produce the propulsion pod system that will house the JT8Ds as well as the engine nacelles, thrust reversers, and pylons.
The first of USAF’s 17 operational E-8Cs is slated to receive the new engines in late 2010.
New Associate Unit Activated
The Air Force in April activated the 911th Air Refueling Squadron at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., the first active associate tanker unit in the service’s Total Force Integration plan.
At Seymour Johnson, the new unit’s active duty airmen will share operation and maintenance of KC-135 tanker aircraft "owned" by Air Force Reserve Command’s 916th Air Refueling Wing. In 2007, the 911th ARS ceased operations at its former home at Grand Forks AFB, N.D., which is giving up its KC-135s under BRAC 2005.
F-15 Problem Still a Mystery
Air Force investigators could find "no clear and convincing evidence" pointing them to a root cause of the crash of a Hawaii Air National Guard F-15D Feb. 1 about 60 miles off the coast of Oahu, Pacific Air Forces said May 7.
However, the investigators did find "sufficient evidence to conclude" that both of the fighter’s rudders failed, most likely due to a failure involving the aircraft’s aileron-rudder interconnect that "induced a yawing, rolling motion to the left that the pilot was unable to correct," according to PACAF.
The pilot ejected, suffering only minor injuries. But the aircraft, assigned to the 199th Fighter Squadron at Hickam Air Force Base, was destroyed upon impact. PACAF gave no indication that this crash was related to the midair breakup of a Missouri ANG F-15C in November 2007 due to a faulty structural support near the cockpit.
New Housing Project Starts
Air Force and contractor officials broke ground May 16 at Schriever AFB, Colo., for the base’s first housing development.
Over the next three years, Tierra Vista Communities, a housing privatization partnership between USAF and Actus Lend Lease, will build 242 environmentally friendly, single family and duplex homes at the long-time commuter facility.
Depot Workload Declines
Workload at the Air Force’s three air logistics centers is projected to drop significantly in coming years, the Air Force told Congress in April. Capacity utilization at the three depots (Ogden in Utah, Oklahoma City, and Warner Robins in Georgia) likely will decrease from 87 percent in 2007 to about 75 percent by 2020, USAF’s legislative liaison office told members of the House Armed Services Committee in a six-page document obtained by the Telegraph of Macon, Ga.
USAF attributed the decline to several factors: current force structure plans that are tied to a largely static budget, the retirement of older weapon systems, and the increased reliability of newer replacement aircraft and components.
In the case of Warner Robins, avionics work for the F-22 and future demands to keep C-27 transports flying will not offset the decline there, according to the document. Nonetheless, the Air Force said the depots will remain viable.
World War II Airmen Identified
The Department of Defense announced in late April that it has identified the remains of 11 Army Air Forces personnel who went missing in December 1943 when their B-24D Liberator bomber disappeared during an armed reconnaissance mission over New Hanover Island in the Bismarck Sea.
The airmen are: SSgt. Albert J. Caruso, of Kearny, N.J.; 2nd Lt. Kenneth L. Cassidy, of Worcester, Mass.; Capt. Robert L. Coleman, of Wilmington, Del., who piloted the aircraft; SSgt. Robert E. Frank, of Plainfield, N.J.; TSgt. William L. Fraser, of Maplewood, Mo.; TSgt. Paul Miecias, of Piscataway, N.J.; TSgt. Robert C. Morgan, of Flint, Mich.; 2nd Lt. Irving Schechner, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Pvt. Joseph Thompson, of Compton, Calif.; 1st Lt. George E. Wallinder, of San Antonio; and 2nd Lt. Ronald F. Ward, of Cambridge, Mass.
The bomber departed Dobodura, New Guinea, but never returned to base; searches failed to locate it. In 2000, locals discovered the aircraft near Iwaia village on Papua, New Guinea. Between 2004 and 2007, the site was excavated twice and remains recovered that were later identified.
Federal Auditors Side With Protest of KC-X Award
The Government Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog agency, upheld on June 18 Boeing’s protest of USAF’s KC-X tanker award to Northrop Grumman. The GAO auditors recommended that the Air Force "obtain revised proposals" from the two companies and "make a new source-selection decision."
Experts estimate the contract’s overall value at some $35 billion.
GAO reported that its review showed that the Air Force had made "a number of significant errors"—miscues that could have affected the outcome of the "close competition" between Boeing’s KC-767 and Northrop Grumman’s KC-30. The latter is based on the A330 airliner from European Airbus, Boeing’s archrival.
Sue C. Payton, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, responded shortly after the GAO ruling, saying, "As soon as possible, we will provide the Air Force’s way ahead."
Mark McGraw, Boeing vice president for tanker programs, welcomed the GAO’s ruling, saying the company looked forward to working with the Air Force on the "next steps."
Randy Belote, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of corporate and international communications, said his company continues to believe that it "offered the most modern and capable tanker."
GAO found merit in seven of Boeing’s complaints, but it also rejected some of the company’s challenges.
By law, USAF has 60 days to answer GAO’s ruling. GAO recommendations are not binding. However, they carry much weight on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers have been clamoring to overturn the original decision.
GAO found that USAF:
Failed to stick to the evaluation criteria in assessing the tanker bids.
Unfairly gave credit to KC-30 attributes that went beyond objective requirements.
Conducted "misleading and unequal discussions" with Boeing in one performance area.
"Improperly" increased Boeing’s estimated nonrecurring engineering costs.
Failed to convincingly show that the KC-30 could refuel all of the fixed-wing aircraft in the fleet.
"Unreasonably" dismissed as an administrative oversight Northrop Grumman’s refusal to agree to a maintenance requirement.
Made "unreasonable" estimates of military construction costs that incorrectly made Boeing appear to be the higher cost offeror.
Payton reaffirmed USAF’s desire to field the "urgently needed" tankers as soon as possible. The service wants up to 179 of them to begin replacing Eisenhower-era KC-135s.
Defense Leaders Outline New Roles and Missions Review
Senior Department of Defense officials in May laid out the parameters of the Congressionally mandated quadrennial roles and missions review now under way inside the Pentagon. In addition to the stipulation by Congress that the review address unnecessary duplication of capabilities and effort across the department’s components, DOD added six more areas of focus: unmanned aircraft/intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance systems; intratheater lift (including the Joint Cargo Aircraft); the cyber domain; irregular warfare; internal DOD governance roles and responsibilities; and supporting interagency roles and missions capabilities.
The officials said the review will be a leadership-driven process, including participation by the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to avoid "parochial stovepipes." The combatant commanders and their staffs will also be heavily involved, they said.
The review is due to Congress no later than the Pentagon’s submission of its Fiscal 2010 budget request (i.e., by the first week of February 2009). The officials said DOD anticipates wrapping up the study in late November. How it is packaged and delivered to Congress likely will be the work of the next Administration, but that is yet to be determined.
The Thundervision Probe Rolls On
The Pentagon inspector general’s office agreed in early May to reopen its inquiry into the Air Force’s Thunderbirds Air Show Production Services contract affair. The focus this time would be on the "conduct of senior officials" in the Air Force, an IG spokesman said May 8.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, respectively, wrote IG Claude M. Kicklighter April 21, seeking a deeper probe. (See "Washington Watch: L’Affaire Thunderbird," June, p. 8.)
The IG’s original two-year investigation into the matter determined that Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Goldfein had improperly influenced the award of the $50 million TAPS contract to a company called Strategic Message Solutions in 2005. The contract was canceled and then-Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne meted out administrative discipline to Goldfein and two other officers and referred two additional officers for discipline within their chains of command. The IG’s findings were released publicly in April.
Levin and McCain wrote that the IG’s original probe "raises serious questions about the role played by other more senior current and former Air Force officials." Yet, they continued, "neither the report of the investigation nor the [related] memorandum reaches any findings or recommendations with regard to the conduct of these senior officials." They did not mention any officials by name, but at least one lawmaker, Sen. Claire C. McCaskill (D-Mo.), criticized the role of then-Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley in the affair.
Levin and McCain specifically asked Kicklighter to ensure that, during the course of the new probe, his office interviews anyone with "information pertinent to the case" and takes a second look at other generals named in its original investigation report "not only as to criminal conduct, but also for possible ethical violations and failures of leadership." The IG spokesman said there is no time limit on the new inquiry.
Air Force Addresses F-16 Bulkhead Cracks
The Air Force’s F-16 Block 40/42 aircraft are experiencing cracked bulkheads that require repair or eventual replacement, officials at Hill AFB, Utah, said in May. While not a safety-of-flight concern, this issue, like the F-15 longeron saga, epitomizes the challenges of managing aging platforms while having to fly them at high tempo rates—in USAF’s case, 17 years of continual overseas deployments and war.
Already 63 of USAF’s 397 F-16 Block 40/42s have been identified as having the cracks. They are found in the aircraft’s 341 Bulkhead, which is located in the center fuselage area and serves as the primary attach point for the aircraft’s main landing gear. The cracks were first discovered in the fall of 2007.
Four F-16s were grounded initially and had their bulkheads replaced, the Hill officials said. While the remaining 59 currently operate under "no flight restrictions" due to the cracks, USAF is not flying some of them to avoid the expense of additional structural damage prior to instituting a repair. Those aircraft that still fly are being inspected every 10 flight hours to monitor the situation.
The Air Force and Lockheed Martin, the F-16’s manufacturer, planned to start installing a repair design in May. It will serve as a permanent fix for aircraft with very minor cracks (i.e., less than one-quarter inch). For those airframes with more pronounced cracks or more severe mission requirements, the repair will only extend the bulkhead’s service life by an additional one-to-three years before a replacement is necessary. A new bulkhead design that can withstand additional stresses is already available.
Installation of the repair design should be complete for all known cases by January 2009, the Hill officials said. Bulkhead replacements will continue through December 2009. USAF hopes to catch future cracking early enough so that the repair will suffice and greatly reduce the need for replacing bulkheads.
Newer F-16 Block 50/52s have the same bulkhead design as the F-16 Block 40/42s, so structural fatigue will lead to the cracks in them at some point, according to the Hill officials.
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By June 12, a total of 4,097 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 4,086 troops and 11 Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,338 were killed in action with the enemy while 759 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 30,209 troops wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This number includes 16,775 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 13,434 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
In Diyala, Air Attack Sweeps Out Enemy Fighters, Weapons
US and Iraqi forces killed six enemy personnel and destroyed a weapons cache May 17 near Khan Bani Sa’ad in Diyala Province with an air strike, according to Multinational Force-Iraq officials.
While conducting operations to disarm an improvised explosive device, members of the 5th Iraqi Army Division took small-arms fire and rocket propelled grenades from a nearby building, killing one Iraqi soldier. Following the attack, coalition forces observed four enemy fighters with multiple weapons next to a house that was suspected of containing a weapons cache. An F-16 was called in and dropped GBU-38s on the building, destroying the cache and killing the four enemy fighters.
Another vehicle thought to have been involved in the attack was engaged by a coalition helicopter shortly thereafter, resulting in multiple secondary explosions and the death of two additional suspects.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By June 7, a total of 513 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 512 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of these deaths, 313 were killed in action with the enemy while 200 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 2,071 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 798 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 1,273 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Air Strikes Foil Taliban Ambush in Southern Afghanistan
US and coalition forces spotted Taliban elements attempting to set up an ambush May 12 in the vicinity of Garmsir, Afghanistan, and called in an air strike that killed about a dozen militants.
Troops in the area had been tracking a Taliban commander moving weapons when they discovered the attempted ambush. A-10s responded to the request, firing cannon rounds and dropping a general-purpose 500-pound bomb on enemy forces. F-15Es also dropped GBU-38s onto enemy forces in the same area, with the on-scene joint terminal attack controller reporting the strikes successful. Coalition troops also discovered weapons and ammunition in a search of compounds in the area.
Fighting in and around the southern Afghan province of Helmand had intensified since US marines pushed into the town of Garmsir in late April, attempting to cut off Taliban supply lines in a Taliban stronghold.
The Air Force closed its noncommissioned officers academies at Goodfellow AFB, Tex., and Robins AFB, Ga., in May as part of cost-cutting measures as it draws down end strength.
Lt. Col. Michael Brill, an Air Force Reserve Command pilot from the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah, on May 2 became the first pilot to accumulate more than 6,000 total flight hours in the cockpit of the F-16 fighter.
The Air Force awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously to 1st Lt. Louis Valls on March 28 for his actions piloting a B-26 bomber on a mission over Italy in January 1944.
MSgt. Anthony Acciani, an EC-130H Compass Call flight engineer, flew his 1,000th career sortie May 7 during a mission over Iraq. Acciani is a 21-year Air Force veteran assigned to Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.
An April 4 ground accident in Southwest Asia so severely damaged a 28th Bomb Wing B-1B bomber that USAF declared it to be a total loss. The aircraft was from Ellsworth AFB, S.D.
An inspector general report chided the Pentagon’s security service for failing to ensure that BAE Systems, a key contractor in the F-35 stealth fighter program, was exercising appropriate controls over access to the aircraft’s sensitive technologies.
A NATO plan to purchase and operate several Boeing C-17s took an important step forward May 9 with the Pentagon’s notification to Congress of the pending $700 million sale of two C-17s and support to NATO’s Strategic Airlift Capability consortium.
The President’s Volunteer Service Award on May 16 was presented to seven military members, including three airmen. They were: Maj. Laird Abbott, MSgt. Tammy Caban (Air National Guard), and SMSgt. Rene Rubiella (Reserve).
The last KC-135s operated by Air Force Reserve Command’s 940th Air Refueling Wing, Beale AFB, Calif., left May 3 for their new home at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. The wing’s personnel will now support U-2 and Global Hawk activities.
Lockheed Martin agreed in May to pay the US government $10.5 million to settle a lingering dispute dealing with overpayments made by the Air Force between 1998 and 2001 for work on the now-retired Titan IV space launch vehicle.
A federal grand jury indicted J. Reece Roth, a retired University of Tennessee professor, and a Knoxville-based firm on charges of conspiring to defraud the Air Force and disclose restricted data about unmanned aerial vehicles to foreign nationals, the Department of Justice said May 20.
Daily Report: The day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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