Cyber Unit Starts Operations
Twenty-fourth Air Force, USAF’s new cyber operations arm, on Jan. 22 was cleared to commence initial operations by Gen. C. Robert Kehler, head of Air Force Space Command. AFSPC oversees the new numbered air force, which is headquartered at Lackland AFB, Tex.
“This is a big day for the United States Air Force,” said Kehler. His certification that 24th Air Force had achieved initial operational capability means that the organization is now deemed capable of performing elements of its mission to operate and protect the Air Force’s portion of the US military’s cyber network.
Maj. Gen. Richard E. Webber, 24th Air Force commander, said, “Cyber mission assurance is a top priority of the Air Force,” and his airmen are “well under way” toward that goal.
Mullen: Get New Bomber Right
Defining the Air Force’s future long-range strike platform poses a difficult challenge for Pentagon planners, making it prudent to proceed slowly in acquiring the new capability, said Adm. Michael G. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Feb. 2.
“We want to get it right,” Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee while testifying on the Administration’s Fiscal 2011 budget proposal. After all, the chosen system would have “a huge impact” on the Air Force’s future, he noted. The new bomber is not expected to enter the force until the mid-2020s.
Mullen said previous Pentagon analyses such as that reflected in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review that envisioned the new bomber being available around 2018 were “incredibly aggressive.” Better, he indicated, is the deliberative process upon which the DOD is now embarked.”
Severely Injured Airman Re-enlists
During a special ceremony Feb. 8 at Randolph AFB, Tex., TSgt. Israel Del Toro, who had been severely burned after his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device during a 2005 deployment to Afghanistan, re-enlisted even though he has a 100 percent medical disability rating. He will train tactical air control party airmen.
Del Toro was burned over 80 percent of his body and remained in a coma for three months, and, if he survived, doctors believed he would not walk again. He endured 120 surgeries, but he not only survived but is also running in 10K races.
He persisted for more than four years to remain in the active duty service. A medical board finally offered the TACP airman two choices: medically retire and train TACP airmen as a civilian or remain in the service, training TACPs. He chose the latter.
C-5M Ends Operational Tests
Officials at Dover AFB, Del., announced Jan. 30 that they had completed operational testing and evaluation of the C-5M Super Galaxy transport aircraft. The OT&E phase comprised nearly four months of missions and demonstrations, with the three C-5M test aircraft amassing about 1,300 flying hours.
The tests included training sorties and wartime surge operations to overseas bases to validate the performance of the upgraded C-5 configuration, which features new engines, avionics, and reliability enhancements.
The test data will be used to inform the Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense acquisition officials as they mull future production decisions to complete the C-5 Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program for the 52 planned Super Galaxy aircraft. The Air Force is now transitioning the C-5M test aircraft into normal operations.
F-35 Engine War Reheats
Pratt & Whitney announced Feb. 2 that it had delivered the first F135 production version engine for the F-35 Lightning II strike fighter, a “clear demonstration of the maturity of the F135,” which has accrued more than 13,000 hours in tests thus far.
Meanwhile, for the fourth consecutive year, the political battle heated up again with the release of the President’s budget on Feb. 1 over whether to maintain the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 engine for the F-35 in addition to the F135.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said Feb. 1 he would “strongly recommend” that President Obama veto any Fiscal 2011 legislation that sustains the F136 engine, arguing the Pentagon cannot afford to mature two engine types and that he has confidence in the F135 design. But the F136 still enjoys strong support on Capitol Hill.
USAF Acquiring New Gunships
The Air Force plans to launch an initiative in Fiscal 2011 to acquire 16 new gunships based on modified, new-build MC-130J special operations tankers that are outfitted with a “precision strike package” to give them an attack capability.
The Air Force is requesting $1.6 billion from Fiscal 2011 through 2015 for this buy. These aircraft would increase the size of the Air Force’s highly taxed gunship fleet to 33 aircraft, a net increase of eight, after accounting for the planned retirement of eight old AC-130Hs.
The first aircraft would be bought in Fiscal 2012, followed by two in Fiscal 2013, five in Fiscal 2014, and the final eight in Fiscal 2015.
Encroachment Pact Reached
The Arizona state government and Arizona’s Maricopa County reached a settlement Feb. 2 to stop the construction of new single-family homes in high-noise and accident-potential zones near Luke Air Force Base, and, in the process, remove one issue potentially detracting from the base’s allure to host future F-35 strike fighters.
The Arizona Republic reported Feb. 3 that the agreement was meant to resolve the years-long dispute between the two parties over residential encroachment of the base, which is an important F-16 fighter hub today and is in the running for the F-35 training mission.
The state government had fought in the courts against the construction, while the county had been supporting landowner property rights. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) stated Feb. 4 that the agreement makes clear that “Arizona stands ready” for the F-35 mission.
B-2 Flies With Synthetic Fuel
In early January, the Air Force conducted a flight demonstration with a B-2A Spirit stealth bomber running, for the first time ever, on the synthetic fuel blend that the service wants all of its aircraft capable of operating on in 2011.
The demonstration involved an operational B-2 flying a training sortie from Whiteman AFB, Mo., according to the Air Force’s alternative fuel certification office. This fuel blend is a 50-50 mix of traditional JP-8 jet fuel and synthetic paraffinic kerosene. Pursuing it is one means of reducing US dependence on foreign sources of energy.
As of late February, the Air Force had certified these aircraft for “unrestricted operations” with the SPK blend: the B-1B, B-52H, C-17, C-130J, F-4 (USAF still flies QF-4 target drones), F-15 (Eagles and Strike Eagles), F-22, and T-38. The A-10, C-5, F-16, KC-135, and older C-130s had flown with the fuel blend, but not yet been certified.
AFAFRICA Expands Capability
Seventeenth Air Force (Air Forces Africa) in January took over responsibility for US military missions in African airspace from Air Forces Central, a component of US Central Command.
While 17th Air Force had activated the 617th Air and Space Operations Center in May 2009, the center did not previously have full airspace authority. “Now that we have the lead, we can work in a better partnership with forces operating in Africa,” said Maj. Randy Naylor, 617th AOC air tasking order production chief.
AFAFRICA officials said they had to build new policies, procedures, and system requirements that focus not on combat operations, as with AFCENT, but on airlift and intelligence gathering.
Munitions Unit Decertified
After inspections identified deficiencies in performance, Air Force Materiel Command on Jan. 27 decertified the 898th Munitions Squadron at Kirtland AFB, N.M., meaning it was temporarily suspended from conducting its usual nuclear weapons maintenance activities in order to complete corrective actions.
Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, AFMC commander, said in a Feb. 9 release that the decertification would give the unit time to identify and implement the necessary changes. It was a tough decision to make, he said, but it shows the Air Force’s commitment to excellence in the nuclear enterprise.
The squadron, which falls under Kirtland’s 498th Nuclear Systems Wing, must undergo a new nuclear surety inspection before regaining certification to perform its mission. The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland oversees the wing.
QDR Outlines Irregular Growth
The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review outlines significant expansion of the Air Force’s irregular capabilities in both its general-purpose and special operations forces for tasks including training and assisting foreign partners.
The policy document, issued Feb. 1, tasks the service to expand its regionally oriented contingency response groups so that they “can sustain” their specialized regional and country-specific expertise and “regularly detach experts” to accompany training units deploying abroad.
The Air Force will also field “light mobility” and “light attack aircraft” in general-purpose units to increase partnership activities with a wider range of allied militaries. And starting in Fiscal 2012, Air Force Special Operations Command will double its partnership training capacity with the purchase of light fixed-wing aircraft.
USAF Resumes JASSM Buys
The Air Force on Jan. 20 awarded Lockheed Martin a $245 million contract for Lot 8 production of the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, resuming its buy of the missile after suspending purchases in 2009 due to concerns over the missile’s reliability.
The company will build about 160 missiles in baseline and extended-range variants for USAF and foreign military sales customers during this production run. The Lot 8 production contract was made possible via the successful performance of the missile in a series of flight tests in 2009 to verify its reliability.
Concurrent with the disclosure of the contract, Lockheed Martin announced that the JASSM performed well during a Jan. 12 flight test at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. A B-52 bomber released the missile which then “successfully navigated through a preplanned route before destroying its intended target,” said the company.
Predator Makes Unmanned History
The Air Force made history on two fronts on Jan. 27 when an unarmed Predator unmanned air vehicle took off from an airport near Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, to fly a surveillance mission over earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
This mission marked the first use of the Predator in support of humanitarian-assistance operations. It was also the first time that an UAV operated from an active civilian airport, taking turns on the runway with commercial air traffic, according to Air Force officials.
About 50 airmen and six Predators deployed to Puerto Rico Jan. 18 for the Haiti mission. “Our job is to get the [Predator’s] video camera where international aid workers cannot reach to identify people and places most in need,” said Maj. Jeff Bright, commander of this Predator detachment.
New Mission for Fighter Wing
The 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard on Feb. 15 began its air sovereignty alert mission, sitting on 24-hour alert with its new force of 18 F-15 fighters.
The Massachusetts unit, based at Barnes Airport, converted from A-10 ground-attack aircraft to F-15s under changes mandated by BRAC 2005. It shed its last A-10s in 2007 and completed the conversion to the F-15 in January.
The wing replaced the Vermont Air National Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing in the ASA role for the Northeast sector of the US. The Vermont unit had flown ASA mission since late 2007. Prior to that, another Massachusetts Air Guard unit—the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base—had the ASA mission for the Northeast sector.
WRALC To Lead C-17 Upkeep
The Air Force announced Jan. 21 that it will establish an integrated program office at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia to oversee sustainment of the C-17 Globemaster III airlift fleet starting in Fiscal 2012.
Boeing now leads C-17 logistics support efforts, but will move into a supporting role at that time, said service officials. Similarly, the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center in Oklahoma will manage work on the F117 propulsion systems for the C-17 with support from engine-maker Pratt & Whitney.
These moves are part of a larger service effort to in-source acquisition oversight and could wind up saving $12 billion over a 30-year period, the officials said. This decision “capitalizes on Air Force and defense private sector expertise,” said Debra K. Tune, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for logistics.
Recycling TSAT Technologies?
The Air Force will work over the next several years to determine which technologies developed for the now-defunct Transformational Satellite Communications System will be inserted into its existing communications satellite designs and when, said Gary E. Payton, the service’s top civilian space official.
Briefing reporters Feb. 4 in Washington, D.C., Payton said “it is more than likely” that the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM spacecraft will be the first satellite in that series to reap the benefits of TSAT technology. Already three WGS satellites are on orbit and six in total have been purchased.
Similarly, Payton said he thinks TSAT technology will probably make its way into the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite. AEHF-1 is slated for launch later this year, and four have been ordered.
USAF, Navy Study Cruise Missile
The Navy and the Air Force are cooperatively assessing alternatives for a new joint cruise missile potentially to replace the Air Force’s aging AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile that carries a nuclear warhead and has been a part of the US strategic nuclear deterrent since 1982.
According to Air Force budget officials, the new design would have “standoff capability critical to nuclear deterrence.” The Air Force’s Fiscal 2011 budget proposal earmarks $3.3 million toward this effort, which is meant to address concerns over ALCM survivability, they said. ALCM is carried on B-52H bombers.
Speaking at a defense conference Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C., Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, head of US Strategic Command, said he thinks development of the ALCM follow-on should commence in the mid-2020s since the current ALCM inventory could be modified to last until about 2030.
BMT Grads Enter UAV Training
The Air Force in January took another major step in institutionalizing its novel enlisted career field for unmanned air vehicle sensor operators by accepting, for the first time, students directly from basic military training into its new training course at Randolph AFB, Tex.
Of the 14 students in this Basic Sensor Operator Training Course, which began Jan. 15, eight came straight from BMT at Lackland AFB, Tex., joining six students, who have prior Air Force service and are being retrained for this role.
Randolph officials consider the inclusion of fresh BMT graduates “a very big deal” for the ramp-up of BSOT training, said TSgt. Sonny Cohrs, a spokesman for Randolph’s 12th Flying Training Wing. This instruction is one of several efforts under way to speed the flow of MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAV operators.
Wyatt Seeks Steady Funding
Despite the daily tangible contributions of Guardsmen and Reservists to the US military, there is still the danger that tough economic times and scarce resources may drive some elements within the Defense Department toward funding the reserve components as if they were a second-tier fighting force, warned Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, Air National Guard director, Feb. 9 in Washington, D.C.
Speaking at the Reserve Officers Association’s national convention, Wyatt said such detrimental “old paradigm” thinking may have been acceptable in the days of the Cold War, but “will no longer serve the best interests of this country,” since, today, the reserves are seamlessly integrated into everything that the military does.
Accordingly, he called for ensuring that the reserve force’s value is well understood and it is resourced consistent with that.
Missile Defense Test Fails
A major test on Jan. 31 of the US Ballistic Missile Defense System ended unsuccessfully when an interceptor missile failed to destroy a target missile in space over the Pacific Ocean due to a radar malfunction, according to the Missile Defense Agency.
This was the first major test of the BMDS’ Ground-based Midcourse Defense element since December 2008. It involved a long-range interceptor missile fired from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., to destroy a ballistic missile target launched from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. Both missiles launched successfully, but there was no intercept.
The reason, said MDA, was because the Sea-based X-band radar portion of the system “did not perform as expected.” MDA said it planned to conduct “an extensive investigation” to find the specific cause. David Altwegg, MDA executive director, said Feb. 1 it would “probably be months” before the problem can be determined.
Growlers To Fill EW Gap
The Navy intends to procure an additional 26 EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft to mitigate a looming US military capability gap in airborne electronic attack, given factors such as the decision to forego jamming pods on Air Force B-52H bombers.
The sea service plans to buy two of these Growlers in Fiscal 2011 and 24 in 2012. They would populate the four expeditionary Marine Corps EA squadrons that have escorted joint-force strike aircraft into hostile territory for decades, but were scheduled for decommissioning when their EA-6B Prowlers are retired in 2014.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates directed this change to help fill “an imminent EW shortfall” that the combatant commanders have highlighted as one of their top concerns. Previously, the Navy had planned to procure enough Growlers only to support its carrier-based air wings and not serve in expeditionary roles.
Air Guard To Stay at Moffett
The Air Force and NASA have agreed to a 50-year-lease that will allow the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing to continue using Moffett Field as its base of operations. The wing, which flies HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and MC-130P Combat Shadow tankers, has been there since 1984.
The long-term lease will allow the wing to improve its infrastructure and facilities, “enhancing our mission capability and capacity to respond to natural disasters, emergencies, and worldwide contingencies,” said Col. Amos Bagdasarian, 129th RQW commander.
In a Feb. 3 statement, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), in whose district Moffett lies, said: “At long last, the unit known for taking care of others is being taken care of with a permanent home in the heart of Silicon Valley.”
Bronze Star Medals for Airman
TSgt. Christopher Grove, a combat controller with Air Force Special Operations Command’s 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Feb. 5 received two Bronze Star Medals, one of them a Bronze Star for valor.
According to the citation recognizing his valor award, Grove, while deployed to Afghanistan, directed air strikes with six 500-pound bombs against enemy forces that were as close as 130 yards from his position.
He continued calling in close air support with 15 insurgents closing on his position, executing his duties with professionalism and calm despite the danger he faced, stated the citation.
Encroachment Demo Launched
The Air Force announced Jan. 28 that Air Force Space Command will lead a servicewide encroachment management initiative, using two AFSPC bases—Buckley in Colorado and Patrick in Florida—as the inaugural facilities for this pilot program.
During a demonstration phase, the bases will identify, communicate, manage, and take action on encroachment issues that may affect their missions, working from the local to the federal levels. Each base will also develop an installation complex encroachment management action plan, with assistance from an environmental consulting firm.
AFSPC was chosen since it has already established command- and installation-level encroachment prevention committees and leads the service in electromagnetic encroachment planning, said service officials. This choice also fulfills a commitment to former Sen. Kenneth L. Salazar (D) of Colorado to include his state in the pilot program.
Stenner Open To Amending USERRA
Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., Air Force Reserve chief and Air Force Reserve Command commander, said Feb. 9 he is open to re-examining whether to change the current five-year limit on a reservist retaining re-employment rights with an employer under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994.
Speaking at the Reserve Officers Association’s national convention in Washington, D.C., Stenner said “the landscape has changed,” given the enduring operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and Reservists’ support of them every step of the way.
“It’s theoretically possible,” he later said, that some airmen could exceed the five-year limit, and this situation “may continue for some years.” He said he would also favor changes providing their employers with more repeatability, predictability, and sustainability.
Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm, 1921-2010
Retired Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm, the Air Force’s first female brigadier general and, later, the US military’s first female major general, died Feb. 15. She was 88.
A native of Portland, Ore., Holm enlisted in the Army in 1942, serving initially as a truck driver, and then, after attending Officer Candidate School, she received a commission in 1943 in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Holm left active duty in 1946, was recalled in 1948 during the Berlin crisis, and, in 1949, transferred to the Air Force.
She served in various personnel and plans assignments at wing, Air Staff, and NATO levels and became the first woman to attend Air Command and Staff School.
Holm served as director of Women in the Air Force on the Air Staff from 1965 to 1973, during which time she was instrumental in policy revisions that greatly expanded job and assignment opportunities for women in USAF. She received the Distinguished Service Medal for her work in this assignment.
In 1973, she became director of the Secretary of the Air Force Personnel Council, in which position she received her second star. She retired in 1975 after some 34 years of total service.
She continued to support military females, including by writing Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution and by serving in advisory roles in three Administrations.
Among her awards, Holm received the Air Force Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 and entered the Women in Aviation, International Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 2008, Air University named its newly reorganized Officer Accession and Training Schools the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development.
Weather Satellite Program Gets Drastic Overhaul
The Obama Administration, as part of its Fiscal 2011 budget submission to Congress, has proposed ending the tri-agency National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System program, or NPOESS, that aimed to build a next generation US civil-military weather-monitoring satellite.
Under the changes, the Department of Defense’s activities (led by the Air Force) would be split from those of the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA.
The Air Force would concentrate on the design of a new satellite to meet the needs of the military community for weather observation and forecasting. Conversely, NOAA and NASA would focus on the task deemed by the Administration to be more urgent: fielding a new satellite primarily for climate monitoring.
All the parties would continue to mature a common ground system for these satellites.
The drastic overhaul is meant to place these efforts “on a more sustainable pathway toward success,” stated the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OTSP) in a Feb. 1 release.
The restructure came after “conflicting perspectives and priorities” ultimately doomed the joint program’s chances of success and saw its costs more than double from $6.5 billion in 2002 to about $13.9 billion today, according to OTSP.
These issues have reached the point that NPOESS “cannot be successfully executed with the current management structure, and with the current budget structure,” said OTSP.
The Air Force is planning to start its new satellite acquisition effort in the fourth quarter of Fiscal 2011, according to the White House.
Gary E. Payton, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs, said Feb. 4 the service is working to ensure that the organizational split occurs as smoothly as possible so that nothing disrupts NOAA’s and NASA’s work on advancing their climate-monitoring satellite.
The Air Force satellite would reside in the so-called early morning orbit for weather monitoring, while the NOAA-NASA spacecraft would operate in the afternoon weather orbit.
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By March 15, a total of 1,011 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 1,009 troops and two Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 737 were killed in action with the enemy, while 274 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 5,190 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 2,223 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 2,967 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Reapers, A-10s Attack Enemy Positions
Operating Feb. 19 over southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack platforms and MQ-9A Reaper unmanned air vehicles provided close air support for coalition ground troops operating near Lashkar Gah.
The A-10 pilots strafed insurgents whom they observed attempting to plant improvised explosive devices, killing the insurgents, said Air Forces Central officials.
The MQ-9s fired missiles to take out insurgents who were firing on friendly troops. These Reapers later attacked an enemy sniper’s fighting position and enemy personnel who were modifying a compound’s walls to create an observation and firing post, according to AFCENT.
Air-drop Test Gauges Surge Capacity
A C-130J transport operating with the 772nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron from Kandahar Airfield on Jan. 27 dropped 56 containerized delivery systems full of supplies over three different drop zones within Afghanistan, setting a single-day, single-aircraft record for the unit.
This mission was a test to gauge how well the unit will be able to execute greater numbers of airdrops to support the continuing US troop surge in Afghanistan.
As part of the surge, the Army is establishing at Kandahar a CDS rigging facility that will enable CDS bundles to be built and loaded on the C-130Js, vice the aircraft having to fly to Bagram for this.
“We’re expecting to see about a 250 percent increase in the number of airdrops we can support here,” said Maj. Joe Framptom, a 772nd EAS operations officer.
First Afghan Medical Evacuation Mission
Accompanied by their US Air Force mentors, Afghan National Army Air Corps personnel on Feb. 3 conducted their first rotary-wing medical evacuation mission.
They flew an Afghan national in an Mi-17 helicopter from the Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield to FOB Lightning, Gardez, for continued care in a local medical facility.
“This is the first step for the Afghans to gain some independence and become part of the coalition,” said USAF medic MSgt. Richard Kramer, one of the mentors from the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group.
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
By March 15, a total of 4,386 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 4,373 troops and 13 Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,478 were killed in action with the enemy, while 908 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 31,716 troops wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This number includes 17,789 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 13,927 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
C-5M Makes Iraq Debut
A C-5M Super Galaxy transport aircraft flew to Iraq in January, a historic first for the new version of the massive cargo hauler that features new engines, avionics, and reliability enhancements.
“It’s satisfying to get the aircraft into the fight,” said Lt. Col. Michael Semo, C-5M program office chief and pilot with Air Force Reserve Command’s 709th Airlift Squadron at Dover AFB, Del., the aircraft’s home.
The C-5M not only delivered more than 85,000 pounds of equipment on short notice, but also arrived back home at Dover well ahead of schedule, said Dover officials.
Once C-5M aircraft are cleared for direct delivery, they will be able to fly straight from Dover to Iraq without stopping en route to refuel, they said.
Nuclear Bombers Shift to Global Strike Command
Air Force Global Strike Command on Feb. 1 took responsibility from Air Combat Command for the service’s B-2A and B-52H bomber units, which are aligned under 8th Air Force, thereby completing the consolidation of the service’s nuclear-capable assets under the new major command.
Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, AFGSC commander, said on the occasion of the bomber transfer that these aircraft “remain critically important” to the US and its global friends and allies in their role as part of the US nuclear deterrent force.
He said the B-52s provide “unique, unmatched standoff capabilities,” while the stealthy B-2s have the ability to attack heavily defended targets. Both bomber types also continue to provide important non-nuclear conventional capabilities, he noted.
Eighth Air Force comprises the 2nd Bomb Wing, a B-52 unit at Barksdale, La., the 5th Bomb Wing, another B-52 grouping at Minot AFB, N.D., and the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo., the service’s sole B-2 organization.
AFGSC, headquartered at Barksdale, began operations in August 2009. Its creation was one of the changes instituted by the Air Force leadership to reinvigorate the service’s nuclear enterprise and restore the quality of its nuclear stewardship after identifying serious deficiencies.
The command now comprises 8th Air Force, also headquartered at Barksdale, and 20th Air Force, overseer of the nation’s three Minuteman III ICBM wings: the 90th Missile Wing, at F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo., 91st MW at Minot, and 341st MW at Malmstrom AFB, Mont.
Twentieth Air Force, residing at F. E. Warren, was subsumed in December 2009 in a handover from Air Force Space Command.
Testifying before House lawmakers on Jan. 21, Klotz said Global Strike Command would continue to work “very closely” on bomber-related issues with ACC, which retains control over the conventional-only B-1B bomber force.
ACC continues to be the lead Air Force organization for tasks such as developing combat tactics and planning exercises in which the B-2s and B-52s will participate, he said.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarz-enegger (R) on Feb. 2 appointed Air Force Brig. Gen. Mary J. Kight to be adjutant general of the California National Guard. She became the first female to hold this position in California and the nation’s first black female AG.
Lt. Col. Dave Iverson, 492nd Fighter Squadron commander at RAF Lakenheath, Britain, on Jan. 11 became the only active duty pilot to reach 4,000 flying hours in an F-15E fighter. He did it during a flight from Lakenheath to Lackland AFB, Tex.
The first Global Positioning System Block IIF satellite on Feb. 12 traveled on a C-17 transport aircraft from Boeing’s satellite assembly facility in El Segundo, Calif., to Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., for its scheduled launch into space around May.
The Air Force on Feb. 1 merged all of its medical treatment facilities in San Antonio under the 59th Medical Wing (Wilford Hall Medical Center) at Lackland AFB, Tex., as part of the BRAC 2005 moves to form Joint Base San Antonio.
Air Force officials announced in January that the service is establishing a flag-level position to oversee the acquisition of its nuclear systems. This official will lead a new program executive office for strategic systems at Kirtland AFB, N.M.
The 69th Bomb Squadron at Minot AFB, N.D., the Air Force’s newest B-52H bomber unit, in late January received initial certification to perform its strategic mission after undergoing its initial nuclear surety inspection.
The courageous actions of MSgt. Alan Andrews and MSgt. Michael Wingler on Jan. 18 at an air base in Southwest Asia helped save lives and prevent the loss of a B-1B bomber after it made an emergency landing and caught fire.
The National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, on Jan. 25 opened a new exhibit on the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned air vehicle in its Modern Flight Gallery. It is the first permanent public Reaper display.
The Federation Aeronautique Internationale on Jan. 19 confirmed the 41 world records claimed during a Sept. 13, 2009 flight of a C-5M Super Galaxy from Dover AFB, Del. The National Aeronautic Association recognized these as US records last October.
Air Mobility Command announced Feb. 3 that its investigators concluded that flight crew errors caused a C-21 transport aircraft to depart the end of the runway at Ali Base, Iraq, on Nov. 2, 2009. The C-21 sustained about $1.8 million in damage.
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