Israel Joins F-35 Club
Israel has officially become an F-35 customer, after long speculation over how many of the fighters it would buy and when.
Israel signed an agreement with the US in October to acquire 20 F-35 strike fighters under a foreign military sale valued at $2.75 billion. It will receive the aircraft between 2015 and 2017.
Michael B. Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the US said the F-35 will "enhance Israel's ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat or combination of threats, from anywhere within the Middle East."
Israeli Ministry of Defense Director-General Udi Shani signed the letter of offer at an acceptance ceremony in New York City Oct. 7.
Israel will be the first nation to acquire the F-35 outside of the original nine countries partnering to develop the aircraft.
F-16 Sale to Iraq Proposed
The Defense Department notified Congress of the potential sale of 18 F-16IQ fighters, munitions, and aircraft support to Iraq, under a foreign military sale. The overall value of the deal is estimated at $4.2 billion.
DOD officials have expressed support for Iraq acquiring an air superiority fighter, preferably a Western aircraft like the F-16, to allow that country to provide for its own air sovereignty. Iraq’s more advanced aircraft, such as MiG-29s, were destroyed in numerous wars or sent to Iran, which never returned them.
"The proposed sale will allow the Iraqi Air Force to modernize its air force by acquiring Western-interoperable fighter aircraft, thereby enabling Iraq to support both its own air defense needs and coalition operations," the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in announcing the potential sale.
The FMS package would include the AIM-7 Sparrow, AIM-9 Sidewinder, 500- and 2,000-pound laser guided bombs, and targeting pods, as well as conformal overwing extended range fuel tanks.
B53 Dismantlement Authorized
An entire type of nuclear weapon will be eliminated from the US inventory under plans announced by the National Nuclear Security Administration in October.
The NNSA announced that dismantlement of the B53 nuclear bomb inventory will soon begin at the Department of Energy’s Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Tex.
The United States introduced this thermonuclear bomb type into its stockpile in 1962. About the size of a minivan, it weighs some 10,000 pounds and was designed to be carried by the Air Force’s B-47, B-52, and B-58 bombers.
The weapon, with a reported nine-megaton yield, was a key part of the US nuclear deterrent until its retirement in 1997. The B61-11 tactical nuclear bomb replaced the B53 in the Air Force inventory, but the current number of stockpiled B53s remains classified.
Dismantlement of the weapons will entail physically separating the high-explosive trigger mechanism from the nuclear warhead, then processing the material and components for reuse, demilitarization, recycling, or disposal.
F-15s Depart Tyndall …
The 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall AFB, Fla., has been inactivated, marking the formal end of the F-15 training mission there. The Eagles have been a fixture at Tyndall since 1983.
The 325th Fighter Wing gave up its 48 F-15s as part of the Air Force's divestiture of about 250 legacy fighters for Fiscal 2010.
The aircraft began departing in April, and the final aircraft lifted off for Edwards AFB, Calif. —where it has joined NASA’s test fleet—following the unit’s inactivation ceremony Sept. 21.
With the drawdown at Tyndall, the Oregon Air National Guard's 173rd Fighter Wing at Klamath Falls Airport-Kingsley Field will formally assume responsibility for the Air Force’s F-15 training mission. Tyndall will remain the training base for USAF’s F-22 Raptor fighters.
… And Elmendorf
The last F-15 assigned to Alaska’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, left on Sept. 24, completing the drawdown of the base’s F-15s under the combat air forces restructuring plan.
Elmendorf, which has been home to the F-15 since 1982, completed the transition to a solely F-22 fighter force with the departure of the 19th Fighter Squadron's last of 24 F-15s.
The 3rd Wing at Elmendorf joins the 325th FW at Tyndall AFB, Fla., and the 1st FW at JB Langley, Va., which similarly completed drawdown of F-15 operations within a nine-day period in September.
Secret F-15E Radar Pod Disclosed
The Air Force has acknowledged a previously secret radar pod and revealed that was first fielded on the F-15E in June 2009.
Designated the AN/ASQ-236, the Northrop Grumman pod is meant to bolster US all-weather, precision geo-location capabilities and overhead surveillance and reconnaissance support to ground troops, the Air Force said.
The pod’s synthetic aperture radar "provides detailed maps for surveillance, coordinate generation, and bomb impact assessment purposes," according to a recently published Air Force fact sheet.
Development of the pod began in the late 1990s, leveraging technology associated with the F-22 program. However, details about the pod’s design, development, production and inventory size remain classified.
The Air Force did confirm that the pod is not an interim step pending development of the F-15E’s own active electronically scanned array radar, but serves a separate and unique role.
Cyber Force Is Operational
Twenty-fourth Air Force, charged with USAF’s cyber operations role, achieved full operational capability Oct. 1.
"Cyberspace is critical to today's joint military operations, and 24th Air Force is proud to be the Air Force's component to US Cyber Command," AFSPC Commander Gen. C. Robert Kehler said in announcing FOC. He added that 24th Air Force is now "a full operational partner on the joint cyber team."
The 24th was formally activated in August 2009, at Lackland AFB, Tex., combining the service's information operations, network warfare, and combat communications functions under one roof.
Following the FOC milestone, the Air Force's LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education announced completion of the new cyber operations doctrine outlining command and organizational structures, computer network design and planning, and standard operating and assessment procedures.
AFGSC Fully Operational
Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale AFB, La., is now fully operational, less than 14 months after initial activation.
The command now fully assumes the task of overseeing the nation's nuclear-capable bomber and ICBM force, having accomplished more than 700 prerequisite actions, including the establishment and manning of a fully functional headquarters.
"Our successful stand-up was possible because of the commitment, innovative spirit, and sheer hard work of Global Strike Command airmen," stated AFGSC commander Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz. AFGSC "put in place all the functions of a major command, while simultaneously executing its functions," Klotz added.
AFGSC is now responsible for planning, programming, and financial management of the Air Force’s combined nuclear deterrence-assurance mission.
Klotz To Retire
Shortly after declaring Air Force Global Strike Command fully operational, Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz announced he is retiring. Klotz has headed AFGSC at Barksdale AFB, La., since August 2009, nurturing the command from its infancy through to its formal stand-up.
Maj. Gen. James M. Kowalski, Strike Command’s vice commander, has been confirmed to receive a third star and succeed Klotz.
Klotz, a missileer, graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1973 and was later a Rhodes Scholar. He went on to command at the squadron, group, wing, and numbered air force levels, overseeing ICBM and space operations during his 37-year career.
Prior to taking charge of AFGSC, Klotz served as assistant vice chief of staff and also as vice commander of Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB, Colo.
High Court To Hear A-12 Dispute
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the 19-year-old case pitting the US government against Boeing and General Dynamics over the Pentagon's termination of the Navy A-12 stealth attack airplane.
The Navy, at the direction of then-Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney, canceled the Avenger II program in 1991, claiming that General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas (now part of Boeing) failed to meet contractual obligations. The government is seeking the return of $1.35 billion paid to the two companies, plus billions in interest accrued as the parties have battled in the courts.
The companies counter that delays to the program were caused by the Pentagon's refusal to share stealth technology. They further assert that they’ve been prevented from mounting a proper defense until now due to continued Pentagon refusal to disclose information it deems secret.
General Dynamics sold its aircraft business to Lockheed Martin in 1993, but retained its interest in the A-12 lawsuit.
SBSS "Eyes" Are on Orbit
The Air Force's first Space Based Space Surveillance satellite is now in orbit, and has transmitted its first signals back to Earth.
The payload is designed to detect and track other space objects. According to Col. Richard Boltz, 30th Space Wing commander who oversaw the launch, "SBSS will greatly enhance our existing space situational awareness capability."
Prime contractor Boeing reported in September that the satellite was functioning normally and was ready "to begin orbital maneuvers and operational testing."
Following initial testing, Boeing will hand control of the satellite over to the Air Force. It should become mission-ready this month.
SBSS launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., aboard an Orbital Sciences Minotaur IV launch vehicle on Sept. 25.
JSTARS Tests Anti-Shipping Role
An E-8C JSTARS aircraft recently completed a series of flights in which it guided Navy anti-ship weapons against surface combatants from a standoff distance.
Part of a Navy-led joint surface warfare demonstration, the aircraft served as the command and control node, transmitting inflight targeting updates to Navy weapons during tests off the California coast in September.
The JSTARS modernization branch at Hanscom AFB, Mass., developed the prototype software known as Link 16 Network-Enabled Weapon, used on the test JSTARS. Officials judged the test successful.
B-52-Upgrades Contract Awarded
The Defense Department awarded Boeing an $11.9 billion contract for B-52 upgrades, the company announced Sept. 29. Boeing said the contract will put all B-52 modernization under a single "umbrella contract."
Though funds have yet to be allocated, the contract allows the Air Force to directly commission studies and work as needed to update and enhance the B-52 fleet as a strategic asset.
The indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contract spans eight years, during which time Boeing will likely study replacement options for the B-52's current radar, and begin production and integration of the B-52's upgraded CONECT communications suite, according to the company.
Boeing already holds a similar contract for sustainment, having maintained the B-52 fleet for the better part of 55 years, but development and enhancements previously required separate, individual contracts.
Gamecocks Return to Hawaii
The 19th Fighter Squadron has returned to its World War II home island, standing up at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to operate F-22 Raptors as part of the 15th Wing.
The unit was stationed on Oahu from 1923 until 1944. However, since 1994, the squadron had operated the F-15 at JB Elmendorf, Alaska.
Nicknamed the Gamecocks, the unit joins the Hawaii Air National Guard's 199th FS, jointly operating the F-22 as an active duty associate unit. Twenty F-22s are assigned to the combined unit.
The Deep Freeze Is On
Springtime in Antarctica—fall in the Northern Hemisphere—heralds the Sept. 26 resumption of Operation Deep Freeze, the US military's Antarctic mission supporting US scientific research.
C-17s from JB Lewis-McChord, Wash., joined ski-equipped LC-130s from the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing ferrying personnel and supplies between Christchurch, New Zealand, and McMurdo Station on Ross Island in the Antarctic.
The Deep Freeze's 2010-11 season extends through late February. Thirteenth Air Force at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, leads the joint task force.
C-17 aircrews will use night vision equipment again this season, landing at McMurdo Station in total darkness—a capability that could lead to an earlier start of operations.
In addition to Air Force efforts, the US Navy and Coast Guard are again providing sealift and logistical support.
New Home for 11th Wing
The Air Force inactivated the 316th Wing at JB Andrews, Md., Sept. 30 and transferred its duties to the 11th Wing, now to conduct business from Andrews, instead of JB Bolling, D.C. The duties assumed by the 11th Wing include Presidential support.
The transfer occurred as part of the BRAC 2005-mandated merger of Bolling with Anacostia Naval Station, creating JB Anacostia-Bolling, D.C. This merger put the Navy in charge of the base's operations, including security and law enforcement. Rather than retire the 11th Wing's colors, the Air Force moved the unit to Andrews.
The 11th Wing was formed in 1933 as the 11th Observation Group, based at Hickam Field, Hawaii. The unit fought against the Japanese at Pearl Harbor and continued in the Pacific Theater throughout the war, flying raids over Japan up to the conflict’s final days.
Last Ohio ANG F-16 Class Graduates
The Ohio Air National Guard's 178th Fighter Wing in Springfield has closed the book on its F-16 training mission, graduating the final class from its nine-month initial qualification course.
The course ended when the last four Royal Netherlands Air Force pilots completed the course Oct. 9, marking the end of 178th FW’s F-16 operations.
The 178th is transitioning to three new roles: operating MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft; analyzing intelligence for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; and undertaking structural repair of F-16 bulkheads throughout the fleet.
As the 178th shifts roles, responsibility for Dutch F-16 training will fall to the Arizona ANG's 162nd FW in Tucson, which already trains pilots from several allied countries on the aircraft.
Holloman Reaper Crashes
An MQ-9 Reaper assigned to the 29th Attack Squadron crashed on landing at Holloman AFB, N.M. It was returning from an Oct. 27 training mission. The Reaper was the second Holloman-based remotely piloted aircraft to crash within a week; an MQ-1 Predator of the 6th Reconnaissance Squadron went down on Oct. 22, also returning from a training sortie.
The wrecks represent the second and third such mishaps since the base declared initial operational capability with the MQ-1 Predator in September 2009.
The Air Force is convening boards of inquiry into the causes of the two incidents, though no injury or damage to ground property resulted from either crash.
USAF Plans Start Compliance
The Air Force was developing plans on how it would comply should the lame-duck Senate ratify the New START with Russia this year, reported Maj. Gen. William A. Chambers, who oversees nuclear matters on the Air Staff.
Speaking at an Air Force Association-sponsored breakfast in Arlington, Va., in October, Chambers said Air Force officials were readying logistical and budgetary schemes needed to comply with the pact, should it enter into force.
While New START's limits on nuclear force levels will have little effect on either the active nuclear-capable bomber fleet or personnel levels within Air Force Global Strike Command, they will require many stored assets to be "completely defanged," noted Chambers.
Most likely to face the ax would be mothballed B-52s and a number of Peacekeeper ICBM silos presently maintained in renewable condition. A Pentagon compliance review group would define whether, and in what manner, to scrap aircraft and silos, he said.
CYBERCOM Reaches FOC
US Cyber Command, established at Fort Meade, Md., to protect the Pentagon's computer networks, is now fully capable of executing its mission, the Defense Department announced Nov. 3.
CYBERCOM, a subunified component of US Strategic Command, began initial operations in May, reaching full operational capability after establishing a joint operations center and incorporating personnel and functions from multiple organizations across the military.
"Cyberspace is essential to our way of life, and US Cyber Command synchronizes our efforts in the defense of DOD networks," said CYBERCOM commander Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander.
World War II Airman Laid To Rest
The remains of Sgt. Michael A. Chiodo, missing since his aircraft was lost on a bombing mission over Germany in 1944, were buried with full military honors Oct. 20 near his hometown of Cleveland.
Chiodo, who was 22 years old at the time of his death, flew as an assistant radio operator on the B-24J Liberator. Chiodo died April 29, 1944, near Hanover, when German fighters downed his aircraft as it flew toward targets in Berlin.
The remains of one of Chiodo’s crewmates, Sgt. John P. Bonnassiolle, were also recovered in 2007 and were buried in San Francisco in August.
Crew Remains Returned From Pacific
Two airmen, missing in action in the Western Pacific since late 1943 were buried with full military honors Oct. 27. SSgt. Claude A. Ray, 24, of Coffeyville, Kan., was buried in Fallbrook, Calif., and SSgt. Claude G. Tyler, 24, of Landover, Md., was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.
The two airmen were among 12 B-24D crew members lost on a reconnaissance mission from an airfield near Port Moresby, New Guinea, Oct. 27, 1943.
A DOD team excavated the crash site in 2007, returning the airmen's remains to the United States.
SBIRS Gains Allies
The US, Australia, Britain, and Canada will extend their previous collaboration on the Defense Support Program now that the Space Based Infrared System, or SBIRS, is taking its place.
"We have a memorandum of agreement that's been signed by all four nations agreeing to how the three partner nations integrate in with us," said Lt. Col. Jennifer Jenkins, 2nd Space Warning Squadron commander at Buckley AFB, Colo., Oct. 28.
The agreement "has been signed for another three years" which "gets us well into the SBIRS" program, she noted. Sixteen of the 140 controllers at Buckley's mission control center operating DSP and SBIRS are currently from the three allied countries. The DSP is being phased out after 40 years of operations.
Glitch Silences Minuteman ICBMs
Fifty Minuteman III ICBMS were temporarily out of contact with launch authorities on Oct. 23, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.
The 319th Missile Squadron, headquartered at F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo., experienced "a disruption of communications" between its five launch control centers and their missiles, said Lt. Col. John Thomas, an AFGSC spokesman.
Evidence pointed to a mechanical failure associated with the missile complex’s primary communications system.
Multilayered safety, security, and command and control systems remained available to missile control crews throughout the incident, assuring there was no danger of unauthorized missile launch at any time during the disruption, Thomas said. The missiles’ launch capability was unaffected.
Electronic queries sent from the launch control center to verify the health and security of the missile sites became unsynchronized, transmitting simultaneously over the same frequency, effectively canceling transmission altogether. Missileers diagnosed and isolated the malfunction within 45 minutes, switching control of all 50 missiles to a single launch control center, according to Thomas. The LCCs normally control only 10 missiles each.
All but one LCC was quickly re-integrated into the network, the other remaining offline for additional study of the anomaly. There was no evidence of tampering or malicious activity.
Air Force technical experts noted marked similarities between the incident and others reported at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and Minot AFB, N.D., in the late 1990s, Thomas said.
Do We Need a National Space Policy?
Discussion of President Obama’s National Space Policy, released in June, has centered on the policy’s content. But does the nation really need a national policy governing space? John B. Sheldon, a visiting professor at Air University at Maxwell AFB, Ala., posed that question at a George C. Marshall Institute panel on the new space policy in Washington, D.C., Oct. 6.
"We don’t have an air policy," said Sheldon, "we have a set of policies that govern air issues, from military right through to the FAA. The Air Force cooperates with the FAA on a daily basis, and it doesn’t need White House guidance to do that."
Ideally, Sheldon argued, space should be removed from the "politicized environment" of White House policy, leaving agencies such as NASA and DOD to cooperate in the same manner as agencies already do in other domains.
"Part of the problem is [that] we in the space community think we’re special. From a strategic perspective, we’re not. We bring something unique to the strategic equation, but we’re not special," he said.
At the implementation stage, the White House policy runs up against yet another obstacle, the lack of what Sheldon referred to as a "grand strategy," which he argues has been absent since the end of the Cold War. "I think, ultimately, [the implementation of] any space policy, regardless of which Administration, will founder on the rocks of a lack of a US grand strategy," he said.
"America must first prioritize what we want to do in the world, and how we’re going to do it," before constructing what risks becoming simply another layer of bureaucracy, something requiring nonpartisan consensus.
During the Cold War, Sheldon noted, "the grand strategy was called containment … and had bipartisan support." The danger posed by al Qaeda today, he added, "is simply not the existential threat the Soviet Union posed," explaining why such a strategy remains elusive today.
Raptor’s Final Steps
The F-22 production line is starting to wind down, as the last of the aircraft planned to be built are now in some stage of manufacture on the production line.
By October, Lockheed Martin had delivered 87 defect-free F-22s in a row "on time or ahead of schedule," company officials said. The last 28 airplanes are making their way down the Marietta, Ga., line and will exit the factory in August 2011. Following paint, engine installation, and checkout operations, the last Raptor—tail No. 195—will be delivered to the Air Force in February 2012.
The remaining 13 midfuselage assemblies currently under way will be completed by April 2011, followed in May by 13 aft fuselages. In June 2011, the final 15 wing sets are set to roll off the line. The last of the Air Force’s 187 F-22s entered production at Marietta last month. That Raptor will emerge roughly nine months later, said F-22 general manager George Shultz.
According to Lockheed Martin officials, USAF is retaining the Raptor’s production tooling until the service develops a plan to sustain the aircraft, outlining requirements for spare parts and assemblies.
"There are 30,000 tools" involved, and each is promptly placed in a storage container as it is used for the last time. The tools will remain in storage for the next "three to five years" in a government-owned, contractor-operated facility, according to Shultz. Though the long-term storage arrangements for the tooling remain to be determined, Lockheed is meticulously documenting production processes, filming each process as it is completed for the last time. This should enable production to resume, if and when parts or assemblies are needed in the future.
Though the F-22 has been built in a number of configurations over the course of production, the fleet will ultimately consolidate to only two with the installation of increment 3.2 software bringing most F-22s up to "a common standard." Several early mark F-22s will remain in slightly different configuration, however, given the difficulty incurred in standardizing them with later versions. Final changes will be made to the rest of the fleet as F-22s go into depot for modifications.
The War on Terrorism
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
By Nov. 16, a total of 1,383 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 1,381 troops and two Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,070 were killed in action with the enemy while 313 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 9,368 troops wounded in action during OEF.
Afghan Election Operations Accentuate Room for Growth
The Afghan Air Force had its first taste of full-scale operations, providing airlift in support of Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections, according to USAF Brig. Gen. David W. Allvin, commander of NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan.
That effort highlighted both the nascent air service’s progress and its need for growth, particularly in the area of command and control.
"They did tremendously well" in supporting the Sept. 18 election, but the effort "was just harder than it needed to be," he said. The Afghans logged 225 flight hours, lifting 150,000 pounds of supplies and 530 election workers, supporting 200 polling stations, he said, but "there were several occasions where ... air assets weren’t used as efficiently as they could have been."
Explaining NATO’s key goals for the air arm, he underscored the importance of "centralized management" and "decentralized executions" in order to maximize the Afghans’ limited assets.
Laser JDAM Dropped
An F-16 deployed to Bagram Airfield from Aviano AB, Italy, recently dropped the first GBU-54 bomb used in combat in the Afghan theater of operations.
The GBU-54 is a 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition employing an additional laser guidance kit; it’s commonly referred to as the Laser JDAM. The combination allows the munition to strike moving targets using laser guidance, in addition to hitting stationary targets using GPS guidance.
According to Capt. Nick Ilchena, an Aviano pilot assigned to Bagram, the Laser JDAM allows ground commanders "more flexibility to attack a variety of targets, in a variety of environments and situations."
The GBU-54 made its combat debut in Iraq in August 2008. It was developed in response to an urgent operational need and fielded within 17 months.
Afghan Wing Takes Over Training Duties
The Afghan Air Force’s Kabul Air Wing recently took responsibility for the Afghan crew chief and air assault academy from NATO advisors of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade.
Overseen by NATO’s Task Force Falcon, courses had been taught at Bagram Airfield for the nine months leading up to the transition. The arrival of more Mi-17 helicopters, combined with the graduation of the AAF’s first batch of instructors, mean that the wing is finally ready to assume responsibility for its own operation, according to NATO.
Four helicopters that arrived in October brought the Afghan military’s Mi-17 fleet to 31, with a total of 56 eventually earmarked for Afghan service.
It’s a Gas, Gas, Blend
The Air Force is looking at several blends of alternative aviation fuel, containing up to 50 percent biomass-derived, or synthetic, fuel mixed with traditional JP-8, according to Jeff Braun, the Air Force’s alternative fuels certification director at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
Several years ago, the Air Force set the goal of certifying its entire fleet to operate on a 50-50 synthetic-biofuel and JP-8 mixture by 2011, bolstering the service’s energy independence.
Currently, synthetic paraffinic kerosene (SKP) is derived from natural gas using the Fischer-Tropsch refining process, though there is significant potential for use of coal—abundant in the US—as another option.
Fleetwide certification of a 50-50 blend of JP-8 and SPK is already well under way, with all but four aircraft types in the Air Force inventory now cleared for unconstrained operation on the current SPK-JP-8 blend. As of November, the UH-1 Huey helicopter was nearing certification, with only the MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted vehicles and CV-22 tilt-rotor remaining to be cleared for operations throughout the flight envelope using the fuel.
The next step for the Air Force is focusing on approving a variety of mixtures featuring some percentage of hydro-treated renewable jet fuel (HRJ), derived from biomass.
According to officials at Wright-Patterson, any combination of HRJ and SPK adding up to 50 percent of a given fuel blend is possible, assuming it meets Air Force performance and safety specifications. The service is "agnostic" with respect to the HRJ source, be it animal fat (e.g., beef tallow or chicken fat), plant oil (e.g., camelina or algae), or a combination thereof, explained Braun.
As the approval process continues, the Air Force expects to certify the Global Hawk by next spring, with the Reaper following shortly behind in summer 2011. Certification of the CV-22 is currently being pursued as a joint project with the Navy.
F-16s Targeted for Upgrades
As F-16s of the active duty and Air Force reserve fleets surpass their life expectancies, the Air Force is planning a suite of upgrades that will keep them flying as long as necessary, a senior USAF general said.
Lt. Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, head of operations, plans, and requirements on the Air Staff, said USAF has begun discussing how to extend the life of the existing tactical inventory, to ensure we "maintain that operationally viable capability that we need," particularly as advanced air defense weapons are rendering legacy fleets increasingly vulnerable.
Both the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve have been fully engaged in a "fruitful discussion" regarding F-16 modernization, assuring that even newer F-16s have the "right amount of capability" to address rising threats, Breedlove added.
The USAF has already decided to pursue "structural changes" on Block 30 and earlier F-16s, mostly aimed at simple operational life extension. Block 40 and 50 aircraft will require "tail by tail" examination to determine how many aircraft, what type of upgrades, and what kind of enhancement they will ultimately need, he said.
The F-16 in particular is worrisome because the type will age out of the inventory faster than its replacement, the F-35, will arrive.
Breedlove—who has been confirmed to become vice chief of staff—emphasized that the fleet must be examined both in terms of lifespan and the capabilities required to survive in future combat. Given that, almost all Block 40 and 50 aircraft will need not only basic structural modification, but avionics, communication, navigation, and radar upgrade in some instances.
Above all, Breedlove noted there will be no blanket approach to service life extension, as some aircraft require more robust capabilities than others. However, the analysis currently under way will inform the Air Force’s 2012 budgeting decisions, some of which have already been made.
Senior Staff Changes
NOMINATIONS: To be Lieutenant General: Susan J. Helms, Darrell D. Jones. To be Major General: Richard T. Devereaux.
CHANGES: Brig. Gen. William J. Bender, from Dir., Warfighter Sys. Integration, Office of Info. Dominance & CIO, OSAF, Pentagon, to Cmdr., USAF Expeditionary Ctr., AMC, JB McGuire, N.J. ... Maj. Gen. (sel.) Richard T. Devereaux, from Cmdr., USAF Expeditionary Ctr., AMC, JB McGuire, N.J., to Dir., Operational Planning, Policy, & Strategy, DCS, Ops., P&R, USAF, Pentagon ... Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Rock, from Commandant, Air Command & Staff College, AU, AETC, Maxwell AFB, Ala., to Cmdr., 321st AEW, ACC, Baghdad, Iraq ... Maj. Gen. Suzanne M. Vautrinot, from Dir., Plans & Policy, CYBERCOM, Fort Meade, Md., to Spec. Asst. to the Vice C/S, USAF, Pentagon.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE CHANGES: Jeffrey C. Allen, to Dep. Dir., Log., DCS, Log., Instl., & Mission Spt., USAF, Pentagon ... Wendell D. Banks, to Dir., Sensors, AFRL, AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio ... Mark A. Correll, to Dep. AF Civil Engineer, DCS, Log., Instl., & Mission Spt., USAF, Pentagon ... Ava Sue Dryden, to Dir., 309th Maintenance Wg., Ogden ALC, AFMC, Hill AFB, Utah ... Terry G. Edwards, to Dir., AF Center for Engineering & the Environment, DCS, Log., Instl., & Mission Spt., Lackland AFB, Tex. ... Gail P. Forest, to Dir., P&P, AFRL, AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio ... Kevin T. Geiss, to Dep. Asst. Sec. of Energy, Office of the Asst. Sec. of Instl., Environment, & Log., USAF, Pentagon ... David A. Hardy, to Dir., Directed Energy, AFRL, AFMC, Kirtland AFB, N.M. ... Michael V. Sorrento, to Chief Info. Officer, Asst. SECAF, Financial Mgmt. & Comptroller, JB Andrews, Md.
USMC Gen. James F. Amos was confirmed by the US Senate as Commandant of the Marine Corps. He succeeds Gen. James T. Conway. Amos is the first career aviator to lead the Marine Corps.
Air Force leadership approved the new, official motto for the US Air Force, "Aim High … Fly-Fight-Win." The motto will be gradually incorporated into Air Force presentations, correspondence, materials, and training courses.
Japan said it is considering acquiring Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk to enhance monitoring of its territorial waters, though the Defense Ministry has yet to formally select the Global Hawk or define specific requirements.
The Indian Air Force will acquire between 250 and 300 Sukoi PAK-FA stealth fighters from Russia starting in 2017, according the Indian defense ministry. The aircraft will be jointly manufactured by Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited pending formal agreement.
Kadena AB, Japan, is undergoing a major overhaul of its runways, temporarily shifting all operations to a single set of runways. The project will last approximately 18 months, requiring nine months each for its north-south runways.
Lt. Col. Robert Starnes, a navigator with the 15th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., eclipsed 5,000 total flight hours in the MC-130H Combat Talon II, establishing a new record for the type. Starnes retires this month after 23 years of flying service.
Flight testing has commenced on the B-2 bomber’s extremely high frequency satellite communications upgrade, which will speed up the exchange of battlefield information. Northrop Grumman announced that the aircraft began flying with the equipment at Edwards AFB, Calif., in September.
An RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft that arrived at Andersen AFB, Guam, in September has begun preliminary operations. Two additional Global Hawks are scheduled to arrive at Andersen over the next few months, completing the base’s complement.
The Idaho Air National Guard’s 190th Fighter Squadron won the Air Force’s biennial "Hawgsmoke" A-10 competition for the second time running. Eighteen teams, 200 pilots, and 40 A-10s participated in the competition, held at Boise Air Terminal, in October (see picture on p. 19).
Great Falls Arpt., Mont., was selected over Boise Air Terminal, Idaho, as the Air Force’s preferred location to host the Air National Guard’s seventh operational C-27J unit. The final basing decision is expected in mid-2011.
Fifteen airmen completed an 860-mile trek from Lackland AFB, Tex., to Hurlburt Field, Fla., Oct. 9-21, honoring the 14 special tactics airmen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each walker carried a 50-pound rucksack and a baton etched with the name of a fallen airman.
Air Force 2nd Lt. Jacob Bradosky, 23, won the 35th annual Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., Oct. 31, with a time of two hours, 23 minutes, and 30 seconds. Bradosky finished ahead of nearly 21,000 participants, 11 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor.
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