IEDs Kill Three Airmen
Three airmen deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq were killed by improvised explosive devices in March and April during operations supporting coalition forces.
TSgt. William H. Jefferson Jr., 34, of Norfolk, Va., died March 22 from wounds received when his vehicle struck an IED near Sperwan Ghar, Afghanistan. Jefferson was from Air Force Special Operations Command’s 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope AFB, N.C.
SSgt. Travis L. Griffin, 28, of Dover, Del., was killed April 3 in Baghdad when his vehicle encountered an IED during a patrol. Griffin had deployed to the Multinational Force Division-Baghdad from the 377th Security Forces Squadron, Kirtland AFB, N.M.
TSgt. Anthony L. Capra, 31, of Hanford, Calif., succumbed to his wounds from an IED encountered April 9 near Golden Hills, Iraq. Capra was an explosive ordnance disposal craftsman deployed to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad AB, Iraq, from Det. 63, 688th Armament Systems Squadron, at Indian Head City, Md.
T-38C Crash Claims Two
Maj. Blair Faulkner and 2nd Lt. Matthew Emmons died in the crash of a T-38C Talon training aircraft April 23 at Columbus AFB, Miss. Faulkner was an instructor pilot in the base’s 43rd Flying Training Squadron; Emmons was a student pilot in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 08-14.
The aircraft went down on initial takeoff, the Air Force said. It was the first fatal crash at the Mississippi pilot training base since March 1984. An accident investigation board was convened to investigate the mishap.
Young Issues Tanker Warning
Pentagon acquisition czar John J. Young Jr. on April 18 during a meeting with reporters cautioned lawmakers looking to overturn the Air Force’s KC-X tanker decision that "to set aside valid source selections on a political basis" would be a "slippery slope" that would set a dangerous precedent.
In fact, the end result of such actions, would be delivering weapons systems with less capability for more cost, Young told the reporters. He was responding to statements made by members of the Kansas and Washington Congressional delegations—the states where Boeing would have built its KC-767 tanker had it won—threatening to block funding for the winning Northrop Grumman KC-30 tanker that USAF chose Feb. 29. Instead they want to mandate that the Boeing aircraft is built.
The program, with the winner to be designated KC-45A, is in limbo since Boeing filed a legal protest in March against the Air Force’s decision, claiming serious flaws and inconsistencies in USAF’s evaluation. The Government Accountability Office is expected to rule by mid-June.
Black Jet Gets a Farewell
The Air Force retired the F-117A Nighthawk, its first-ever stealth combat aircraft, April 21, ending a 27-year service life. On that day, the four remaining operational F-117As in the fleet departed Holloman AFB, N.M., and the base’s 49th Fighter Wing for good during a ceremony.
The four aircraft flew to Palmdale, Calif., for a farewell event April 22 at the Lockheed Martin "Skunk Works" facility where the Nighthawk design was conceived. The four Nighthawks then traveled to Tonopah, Nev., their final resting place near Nellis Air Force Base, for placement in recallable storage along with the other 50 or so F-117As.
USAF has placed the F-117A with the most combat time on static display at Holloman’s Heritage Park.
Millionth Flight Milestone Passed
Air Force officials said April 19 was a historic day as the service surpassed the astonishing mark of one million sorties in the Global War on Terror since Sept. 11, 2001. The service did not provide the details on the aircraft that carried out the milestone flight, saying it would be difficult to identify the particular platform due to the flurry of daily air activities worldwide.
Indeed USAF says it flies more than 450 sorties each day from sites in the United States and more than 100 locations abroad. This includes airlift, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation, bomber, fighter, information-gathering, and tanker flights around the clock to support military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, and aerial surveillance, fighter, and tanker sorties that protect the homeland.
"Synchronized and integrated into larger coalition air efforts, these missions represent the most deliberate, disciplined, and precise air campaign in history," USAF said.
As of April 1, the Air Force’s tally was 991,172 total sorties. This included 352,586 in Operation Iraqi Freedom (about 200 per day on average); 193,908 in Operation Enduring Freedom (about 85 per day); 50,984 in Operation Noble Eagle (about 18 per day); and 393,424 additional supporting airlift missions (about 180 per day).
Air Force Cross Awarded, Belatedly
After 40 years of waiting, retired Air National Guard CMSgt. Dennis Richardson has received the Air Force Cross, USAF’s second highest honor for valor, for his actions aboard an HH-53 rescue helicopter during a perilous mission over Vietnam in March 1968.
"In an extraordinary display of courage and valor, Richardson, despite his wounds, leaned far outside the door of his helicopter and neutralized charging enemy combatants who appeared intent on boarding," stated the citation read to him during the April 5 award ceremony at the Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., home of his former unit, the New York ANG’s 106th Rescue Wing.
Richardson was in one of two HH-53s dispatched on March 14, 1968 to rescue the aircrew of a downed F-4 Phantom. Although the helicopters repeatedly moved in to make a pickup, they were driven away by gunfire and both sustained heavy damage.
He was one of four crew members that day to be recommended for awards; the three other men received Silver Stars, but Richardson’s award for the Air Force Cross, though granted, "was lost in paperwork," according to a New York ANG news release. In December 2007, following the resurrection of the paper trail by an unnamed "military history buff," an Air Force review panel confirmed the award.
B-2s Get Airborne Again
The Air Force’s fleet of B-2A stealth bomber aircraft returned to flight April 15 after a 53-day safety pause. The 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo., home to all B-2s, directed the stand-down after the crash of a B-2 Feb. 23 at Andersen AFB, Guam.
Officials didn’t want to fly the bombers until they were sure there wasn’t an inherent safety defect with the remaining 20 B-2s in the fleet. A safety investigation board identified a problem with the flight-control system in the doomed aircraft, and the Air Force issued a time change technical order requiring all B-2s to be modified, Air Combat Command officials said.
The findings of an accident investigation board were expected in May.
New Satellite Boosts Communication
The Air Force’s first Wideband Global Satellite Communications system became operational April 15 and is now able to deliver more communications bandwidth capability than the entire nine-satellite legacy Defense Satellite Communications System constellation.
USAF launched the satellite into orbit on Oct. 10, 2007 from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. The first of six planned WGS birds, it is on station over the Western Pacific.
Airmen Receive Bronze Star
Air Force Office of Special Investigations Special Agent Brent M. Howell was awarded a Bronze Star medal April 7 for his actions while operating out of Bagram AB, Afghanistan, during a seven-month deployment.
During one mission, Howell, who serves with OSI Det. 422 at Altus AFB, Okla., was wounded when attackers struck his convoy, but he managed to identify their positions and return fire while others got his vehicle back in shape to travel with the convoy.
Howell returned to his unit after medical treatment and helped process the attack scene, leading to the capture of the attackers.
Receiving Bronze Stars in March for their service in Southwest Asia were: MSgt. Manuel Camacho (March 12), an instructor with the 96th Ground Combat Training Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla.; OSI Special Agent Jac Christiansen, assigned to Columbus AFB, Miss.; TSgt. Kenneth Perry, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron at Eglin; and TSgt. Douglas Rose of the 1st Security Forces Squadron at Langley AFB, Va.
DOD Axes Space Radar
The Defense Department and Intelligence Community formally canceled the Space Radar program of record, effective March 25. According to the National Reconnaissance Office, the program was "not affordable." The SR program office began implementing the direction in March, with the intention to curtail program-of-record activities "as soon as practical," NRO said.
The US government will "continue to vigorously pursue alternatives" to meet the Pentagon’s and IC’s requirements for on-orbit radar capabilities, NRO said. DOD had been working with the IC to come up with a plan for Space Radar that was acceptable to Congress. Lawmakers had grown skeptical of the realism of the approach, having already seen similar projects (e.g., Discoverer II) falter.
Laser JDAMs Join Inventory
The Air Force has taken delivery of the first laser guidance kits for 500-pound GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions from Boeing, the company announced April 16. The new capability, which is expected to be operational sometime this year both with the Air Force and Navy, fills an urgent need request of combatant commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq for a precision weapon that can strike high-speed moving land targets.
Laser JDAM has proved effective in tests against targets traveling at up to 70 miles per hour.
F-35 Costs Drop
The overall projected total cost of the F-35 program has gone down by 0.3 percent, or nearly a billion dollars, the Pentagon reported April 7. The three variants of the F-35, including development, military construction, and support costs, will total $298.84 billion, down from the previous estimate of $299.82 billion, according to the DOD selected acquisition report for the period of October to December 2007.
The decrease is due to lower than anticipated support costs, labor rates, and learning curve improvements, as well as other factors, the document said.
"We’re obviously happy," Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles R. Davis, F-35 program executive officer, told reporters April 8. Davis said the SAR shows that the Government Accountability Office’s estimate that F-35 costs had actually increased by $38 billion was not sound. The GAO did not develop its own numbers and, therefore, had "no basis" for its conclusions and "no numbers to support" its assertions, he said.
Wing Recertified for Nukes
The 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, N.D., has regained its certification to handle nuclear weapons after being stripped of it in 2007 in the wake of a major breech of oversight that led to the errant transfer of nuclear warheads from the base.
Gen. John D. W. Corley, Air Combat Command commander, granted the recertification March 31, leaving the wing free and clear to perform its nuclear-related activities once again. The recertification came after a week-long inspection of the unit.
ACC decertified the wing after a B-52 bomber mistakenly carried six nuclear cruise missile warheads in August 2007 from Minot to Barksdale AFB, La., due to what investigators found to be unacceptably lax oversight by airmen responsible for the weapons. The unit’s then-commander was sacked and about 65 airmen were disciplined.
CSAR-X Decision Slips Again
The Air Force has pushed back the date of announcing the winner of its CSAR-X combat rescue helicopter recapitalization contest from the July time frame to later in the year or beyond.
USAF issued Amendment 6 to the CSAR-X request for proposals April 22. The service said it needed more time to review the updated bid information that the three industry offerors—Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Sikorsky—provided in January under the previous amendment. The new addendum also asks the bidders to adjust their proposals to comply with new laws effective in 2008 that restrict the use of imported specialty metals.
Industry responses to Amendment 6 were due May 27. The Air Force gave no set time for choosing the winner, saying only it planned "to take as much time as necessary to evaluate the proposals."
The CSAR-X program has been embroiled in litigation since November 2006, when the Air Force crowned Boeing’s HH-47 the winner over Lockheed Martin’s US101 and Sikorsky’s HH-92 to replace the HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet. Two rounds of successful legal protests by Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky with the Government Accountability Office over the Air Force’s evaluation method caused the service to accept new bids.
Insufficient Lift, Says Lichte
The currently programmed mix of 190 C-17s, 52 re-engined C-5s, and 59 legacy C-5s "will not quite provide the organic strategic airlift capacity" of 33.95 million ton miles per day specified by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, Gen. Arthur J. Lichte, commander of Air Mobility Command, told the House Armed Services Committee April 1.
We’re "slightly short, but we’re within shooting distance" of the current requirement, he told the panel during an oversight hearing. But when one considers that no airlift studies completed to date have captured the dynamics of the changing world (e.g., planned increase in ground forces, needs of US Africa Command), the shortfall might be even greater, Lichte said.
AMC and its partners in US Transportation Command are awaiting the results of a Department of Defense-led mobility capabilities and requirements study, due in May 2009, and a Congressionally mandated review of the airlift mix that is set for completion next January, before being able to articulate the new requirement.
F-22 Parts Dispute Flares
Boeing in late March filed suit against Alcoa over defective titanium structural supports that the latter provided from 2000 to 2005 for the aft section of the F-22, The Seattle Times reported April 11.
Boeing builds the F-22’s wings and aft fuselage for Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the stealth fighter. The Chicago-based company seeks more than $12 million from Alcoa, alleging that it "failed to follow required procedures" in heat-treating the forged supports, which are used to connect F-22 wings to the aircraft’s fuselage, the newspaper reported, citing Boeing’s court complaint.
Because of the alleged shoddy manufacturing, 71 of 459 supports inspected to date from the 695 in total that Alcoa provided up until April 2005 have been found to be defective, according to the newspaper.
While the Air Force does not consider the faulty supports a safety-of-flight issue, it will conduct more frequent inspections to monitor for cracks in them, the newspaper reported. The Alcoa pieces are resident in only the first 101 of the 183 F-22s that the Air Force has on order. As of April 9, USAF said it has taken delivery of 116 F-22s.
Air Sovereignty Duty Backed
Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, director of the Air National Guard, said April 1 it remains a top priority of his to get the Department of Defense’s baseline budget to include all of the necessary annual funding to sustain the air sovereignty alert missions that protect the US homeland.
"It’s a tremendous concern," he told the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee, "that we have to continually come back and through supplementals and through end-year funding sources try to compensate those who are serving."
The ANG faces a gap of nearly $35 million in Fiscal 2009 to cover the alert mission. Such shortages impede the Guard’s ability to create stability and predictable career paths for its airmen, the general said.
As a result, the Guard is working to identify funding so that the alert mission is fully included in the Air Force’s Fiscal 2010 program objective memorandum, McKinley said.
C-130J Program Grows
The Air Force has increased the number of C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft that it intends to buy from 82 to 134 airframes. The change was reflected in the Department of Defense’s cost report for the final quarter of 2007 that was issued April 7.
The revised program of record includes 117 combat-delivery models, 10 WC-130Js for weather monitoring, and seven EC-130J Commando Solo psychological operations aircraft, the Air Force said.
The 134 number includes 32 C-130Js that USAF plans to purchase at rates of eight per year from Fiscal 2010 to Fiscal 2013 to replace older E-model C-130s, according to the Air Force. But this total does not include any of the 115 or so new modified C-130Js that USAF wants to replace aged MC-130s or HC-130s used with special operations forces and combat search and rescue units, respectively.
USAF Pushing Energy Coalition
The Air Force has begun to work with the French and British Air Forces to cooperate on incorporating alternative aviation fuels into their respective fleets and to learn from each other how to be more efficient and environmentally friendly consumers of energy, in general, William C. Anderson, USAF’s assistant secretary for installations, environment, and logistics, said April 15.
"We are at the very preliminary stages of doing this," he said at a presentation on Capitol Hill. There is "great enthusiasm from all three Air Chiefs."
Officials from the three Air Forces first came together for this purpose in the fall of 2007 in Washington, D.C. The next meeting is planned this month in Paris to develop a position paper that the French and UK Air Chiefs will present during a meeting of the European Air Chiefs in August, Anderson said.
Fate of the Nine F-15Cs
The Air Force intends this year to repair five of its nine F-15Cs found to have cracked longerons, two senior generals told a Senate oversight panel April 9. It will retire the four remaining airplanes, "due to their proximity to planned retirement," stated Lt. Gen. Daniel J. Darnell, head of plans and requirements on the Air Staff, and Lt. Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, military deputy to USAF’s acquisition executive, in written testimony.
The cost of fixing each of the five F-15Cs will run about $235,000. USAF will use organic materials and labor at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia, they said.
These nine aircraft have been grounded since the midair breakup of a Missouri Air National Guard F-15C last November due to the catastrophic failure of a longeron near the cockpit. For a while, all of the Air Force’s F-15 A-E model aircraft were grounded; but gradually after inspections, most were cleared again to fly.
Illinois Still Fights for Wing
A federal appeals court gave Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s efforts to keep F-16s at the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield a boost March 11 when it sent his legal complaint against the Department of Defense back to the federal district court in Springfield to be judged on its merits. Twice before, the Springfield court had dismissed the case on procedural grounds.
Blagojevich is challenging the Pentagon over the BRAC 2005 decision to strip the Illinois Air National Guard’s 183rd Fighter Wing of its 15 F-16s by the end of this fiscal year. He argues that only he, not DOD, has the authority to order such a move. Now he has another shot.
Housing Projects May Get Help
The Hunt/Pinnacle building and development group formally expressed interest in taking over the failed American Eagle housing projects at Air Force bases in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and Massachusetts, the Associated Press reported in mid-April.
Lawmakers have sharply criticized the Air Force for its handling of the situation that affected privatized housing developments at Hanscom AFB, Mass., Little Rock AFB, Ark., Moody AFB, Ga., and Patrick AFB, Fla.—and for selecting a housing developer with a history of problems.
Missing WWII Airman Identified
The Department of Defense announced March 24 that it has identified the remains of US Army Air Forces pilot 2nd Lt. Arthur F. Eastman, of East Orange, N.J., whose aircraft went missing during a flight in August 1944 in New Guinea.
Eastman departed Finschhafen, New Guinea, Aug. 18, 1944, on a test flight of his F-5E-2 aircraft, but never returned. Based on documents found in Australian archives, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command officials investigated a crash site in 2004 in the mountains of Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. The site was subsequently excavated in 2007, leading to the recovery of remains and personal effects that led to Eastman’s identification.
World War II Ace Dies
Retired Lt. Gen. Gordon M. Graham, 90, who flew 73 combat missions in the P-51 Mustang during World War II and amassed seven aerial victories, died March 22. The Washington Post reported that he died of a stroke at his home in Virginia.
Graham was born in Ouray, Colo., in 1918. He received his pilot wings upon completion of flying school in August 1941. After World War II, he served in a variety of staff and command positions. During the Vietnam War, he flew 146 combat missions in F-4 and RF-4 aircraft as vice commander of 7th Air Force. He retired in July 1973 as commander of the 6th Allied Tactical Air Force based at Izmir, Turkey.
ICBM Parts Mistakenly Sent to Taiwan
Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense officials disclosed March 25 that the Defense Logistics Agency mistakenly sent four nose cone fuse assemblies for Minuteman ICBMs to Taiwan in the fall of 2006 from Hill AFB, Utah, instead of the helicopter batteries that the Asian nation had requested.
Although these parts "could not be construed as being nuclear material," they are still classified, and the fact that they are components for a nuclear strike system makes the US government "very concerned about it," Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne said of the incident during a Pentagon press conference on that day. Equally disconcerting was that it took the United States until mid-March 2008 to realize the gravity of the error and retrieve the materials, which are now safely back in the US.
Taiwan, recognizing the erroneous shipment, had placed the shipping containers in storage and the Taiwanese government notified the US of having received the wrong items. However, a failure in "early communications," such that "we thought we were hearing one thing, [but] in reality they were saying something different," led to the latency in the Department of Defense’s response, according to Ryan Henry, a top OSD policy official who appeared with Wynne.
Henry said the Pentagon had launched a "thorough investigation" to determine the sequence of events. On top of that, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates directed the Air Force and Navy to conduct policy and procedural reviews and a complete physical inventory of all nuclear equipment.
Although technically a DLA misstep, the incident is the second inadvertent transfer of nuclear-related materials involving the Air Force since the errant movement of six cruise missile nuclear warheads on a B-52 bomber flying from Minot AFB, N.D., to Barksdale AFB, La., in August 2007. That event brought about major changes in USAF’s nuclear weapons handling, organization, and oversight.
Schwalier Case Takes Another Downturn
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, top Pentagon lawyer Daniel J. Dell’Orto, and unnamed Justice Department confreres in March struck yet another blow at retired Air Force general officer Terryl J. Schwalier, Washington’s designated Khobar Towers scapegoat.
These officials forced the Air Force to halt and reverse its efforts to restore Schwalier’s second star after a 10-year struggle. The new decision was elaborated in a March 28 letter from Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne to the Air Force Review Boards Agency. In it, Wynne orders the agency to halt implementation of its decision, announced in January, to correct "an injustice" and retroactively promote Schwalier to major general.
That corrective step had drawn strong praise from the Air Force Association and many other Air Force groups. They believed Schwalier had been made the fall guy by the Clinton Administration and some members of Congress for alleged command failures in the 1996 terrorist bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.
Nineteen airmen died in the attack. Though the Senate had confirmed Schwalier’s promotion to major general before the attack, and though critics produced no credible evidence of fault on the part of Schwalier, then-Defense Secretary William S. Cohen blocked his second star.
In his March 28 letter, Wynne appeared to be acting under duress. He said Gates "has informed me" that Dell’Orto thinks the Air Force acted beyond its authority, that "the Department of Justice supports [Dell’Orto’s] conclusion of law," and that "the Secretary of Defense agrees."
The service had already changed the general’s official biography to reflect the two-star grade, promotion date, and retirement date. After Wynne’s missive, this was then rescinded. As of mid-April, Schwalier had not commented publicly on his options, which clearly could include further legal action in federal court.
Nuclear Mission Emphasized in B-52 Fleet Revamp
The Air Force announced in April that it is going ahead with the plan to maintain 76 B-52s and rotate its Stratofortress units at Minot AFB, N.D., and Barksdale AFB, La., in and out of the nuclear mission.
Last year, the service championed maintaining a fleet of only 56 B-52s. But in the aftermath of the errant transfer of six nuclear weapons last August aboard a B-52, USAF has changed its position. It now says the extra B-52s will allow it to place more emphasis on the nuclear mission and help to prevent such gaffes from occurring again.
Air Combat Command spokesman Maj. Tom Crosson said April 9 the changes are being implemented under the Global Deterrence Air Expeditionary Force concept, under which USAF will "buy back" 12 B-52s it had not maintained in combat status and establish an additional operational squadron at Minot, giving the base two. USAF will then have four B-52 combat operations squadrons when factoring the two at Barksdale.
The alignment of four combat-coded squadrons will allow the nuclear mission to rotate on four-month intervals between the two B-52 bases, Crosson said. Each operational squadron will conduct focused nuclear training for six out of every 16 months. Additionally, each squadron will be eligible to deploy for four out of every 16 months.
"By putting ourselves into this rotation, I think it gets us properly postured," both for the B-52 fleet’s conventional and nuclear roles, ACC Commander Gen. John D. W. Corley told reporters March 27 in Washington, D.C.
Crosson said ACC expects that the new squadron at Minot will require a manpower increase of approximately 1,000 airmen. The service also projects a manpower increase of 300 personnel for Barksdale to cover increased B-52 training requirements. But Barksdale could lose up to 10 of its B-52s to Minot under the changes, Louisiana press reports said in April.
Air Force Surges to Meet Predator Demands
Despite escalating pressure, the Air Force continues to be responsive to the burgeoning warfighter demand for Predator unmanned aerial vehicles and the streaming overhead surveillance video that they provide, according to USAF spokesman Maj. David Small.
Small provided background information on USAF’s Predator initiatives April 21 after remarks made by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates from earlier that day were erroneously characterized in initial press reports as a rebuke of the Air Force’s efforts. (See "Washington Watch: A Strange Interlude," on p. 10 for more.)
According to the information, the rise in Predator requirements has been on a steady slope since early Fiscal 2007. That is when USAF readjusted its program of record for the MQ-1 force to reach the Joint Requirements Oversight Council-directed mandate to provide 21 simultaneous Predator combat air patrols by October 2009.
The Air Force programmed equipment and training to meet that mark; however, in July 2007, at Gates’ request, USAF accelerated its plans by one year, setting October 2008 as the new goal post for 21 CAPs. To meet that requirement, the service delayed upgrades to older equipment and used backup equipment, and it ramped up to train 160 crews per year, holding over current crews to help in that training.
In September 2007, Gates then requested an increase to 18 CAPs by November 2007, which USAF accomplished by cutting ops testing and calling on reserve personnel and prior Predator crews. In January of this year, Gates directed yet another change—bumping up Predator CAPs to 24 by June 1.
This latest directive, which USAF said it was "on track to meet," takes the Predator push out of the "acceleration" bracket and into a "surge" because it exceeds the program of record and the JROC-validated requirement for 21 CAPs.
The Air Force believes it can sustain this level of effort only through early 2009, when the Air National Guard mobilization must end, because it doesn’t have the end strength to continue. And, since the service knows that its increased training pipeline will not be sufficient, it plans to increase from 160 to 240 crews per year in Fiscal 2009.
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By May 14, a total of 4,079 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 4,068 troops and 11 Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,325 were killed in action with the enemy while 754 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 30,059 troops wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This number includes 16,664 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 13,395 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Predator Strikes Militia Fighters in Basra
Skirmishes with Shiite militias in the Iraqi cities of Basra and the Sadr City district of Baghdad flared up on April 16, as Iraqi Army patrols attempted to roll back militias and fighters allied with the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. An Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle was called in to support operations in the Basra area, performing an air strike that killed four militants.
The strike came after militia members attacked an Iraqi Army patrol with rocket-propelled grenades in the Hayaniyah district of Basra, according to US officials. The MQ-1 fired a pair of Hellfire missiles to destroy a vehicle carrying additional weapons and ammunition as well as the RPG team.
Earlier in the month, another Predator supported Iraqi Army operations in the al-Halaf area of Basra, responding to reports of heavy machine gun fire from criminal elements in the area. An MQ-1 observed a vehicle equipped with a heavy machine gun in the area where friendly forces had reported attacks, and employed a Hellfire missile to destroy the vehicle. A joint terminal attack controller confirmed the successful hit and six armed fighters were reported killed in the strike.
Coalition forces provided air support for Iraqi forces in and around Basra on an as-requested basis as part of their efforts to disarm and contain militias, US officials said.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By May 10, a total of 496 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 495 troops and one Department of Defense civilian. Of these deaths, 301 were killed in action with the enemy while 195 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 1,958 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 759 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 1,199 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Air Strikes Target Hekmatyar Guerrillas in Nuristan
A series of air strikes assisting ground troops April 6 in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, targeted the network of a top fugitive Afghan warlord, coalition and Afghan government officials confirmed.
The strike, involving US and Afghan ground troops, was launched in the Dohabi district of the mountainous province after intelligence suggested veteran warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the most wanted insurgents in Afghanistan, was attempting to meet with his top military commander. Afghan Army commandos and US troops approached two small villages in the district when a major skirmish erupted, with the patrol receiving small-arms fire from insurgents hunkered in nearby compounds. After responding with its own small-arms fire, the patrol called in close air support to strike the compounds.
Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles responded to the request, dropping a GBU-31, GBU-12s and GBU-38s on the enemy buildings, according to Air Forces Central. Several insurgents were arrested after the strike and an arms dump was uncovered as well.
Hekmatyar was a key player in the Soviet-Afghan war who allied himself with the Taliban in 2002 until falling out with its leadership. His network has been tied to splinter radical groups responsible for training suicide bombers and smuggling improvised explosive devices.
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