Guard Now on the Joint Chiefs
The National Guard now has a permanent seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanks to the Fiscal 2012 defense authorization act.
Congress overruled unanimous objection by the service chiefs, requiring in addition that the National Guard Bureau’s vice chief be a three-star, and eliminating the two-star position of director of the bureau’s joint staff.
Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, National Guard Bureau chief, said Guardsmen were grateful to the various proponents of this measure, which McKinley championed despite stiff opposition.
He said the Guard looks forward to "working alongside the other Joint Chiefs to provide our nation’s senior leaders with a fuller picture of the nonfederalized National Guard as it serves in support of both homeland defense and civil support missions."
Defense Bill Signed
President Obama signed the Fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill into law Dec. 31, despite reservations over language covering the military detainment of suspected terrorists.
The act authorizes $662.4 billion for national defense programs, including $530 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget, $115.5 billion for overseas contingency operations in places such as Afghanistan, and $16.9 billion for Energy Department national security activities.
"The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it," said Obama in a White House statement. He had particular "serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists."
Obama said he ultimately decided to sign this bill because not doing so "would have jeopardized the safety, security, and liberty of the American people."
USAF Seeks Volunteers To Leave
The Air Force is expanding voluntary separation measures for officers in Fiscal 2012, building on ongoing force-management initiatives enacted in September.
Among the new measures, a waiver now allows active duty officers at the rank of lieutenant colonel and below, in selected specialties, to request retirement or separation prior to completing specific commitments.
In addition, a time-in-grade waiver program allows lieutenant colonels in some competitive categories and specialties, with two years in grade and 20 years of active service, to request retirement in grade.
The Palace Chase program will also allow lieutenant colonels and below, in selected specialties, to transfer from active duty to the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve.
Tasked with drawing down to its congressionally mandated end strength of 332,800 active duty airmen by the end of Fiscal 2012, the service released a list of similar programs for the enlisted force last November.
Air Force Keeps MC-12
The MC-12 Liberty intelligence-reconnaissance-surveillance aircraft will stay with the Air Force, under provisions of the defense authorization bill. The Senate had wanted to transfer the fleet to the Army, but withdrew the change from the final conference bill, signed by President Obama on Dec. 31.
"The conferees accept [the Defense Department’s] judgment" that "the Air Force should continue to operate and manage the MC-12 Liberty fleet," stated the conference report accompanying the authorization bill.
The conferees voiced concern, however, over USAF’s proposal to shift the fleet to the Air National Guard. Though the panel wasn’t opposed to the ANG operating the fleet per se, it questioned the Guard’s ability to sustain the MC-12 fleet in-theater at the required deployment schedule.
Stick a Fork in It
General Electric and Rolls Royce pulled the plug on their alternative engine for the F-35, ending a long-running battle between the Pentagon and Congress.
The partners announced they would stop funding development of the F136 engine at their own expense due to "continued uncertainty in the development and production schedules" for the F-35.
The F136 was intended to be a competitor to Pratt & Whitney’s F135, selected to power the F-35. It was expected that competition would drive down costs and increase quality, as experienced in the "Great Engine War" between GE and Pratt & Whitney in the 1980s for F-15 and F-16 power plants. However, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates decided the second engine was an unnecessary expense and ordered it terminated. Congress objected, and the issue became a political tug-of-war for several years.
Though "GE and Rolls Royce are proud of our technology advancements and accomplishments on the F136, … difficult circumstances are converging that impact the potential benefit of a self-funded development effort," said Fighter Engine Team President Dan McCormick, explaining the decision Dec. 2.
The two companies chose to continue funding maturation of the F136 on their own dime after the Pentagon terminated the F136 contract last April, hoping to leverage congressional support to offer the alternative engine in future F-35 production lots.
With the F136’s demise, the F135 will remain the sole engine option on the Lightning II.
Locklear for Pacific Command
President Obama has selected Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Forces Command, to lead US Pacific Command.
If confirmed by the Senate, Locklear will replace Adm. Robert F. Willard, who has served in the position since October 2009.
Locklear is a 1977 graduate of the Naval Academy and also serves as commander of US Naval Forces Europe and head of US Naval Forces Africa.
He commanded Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, the US-led portion of NATO’s engagement in Libya, last year.
The Air Force recently ordered a Predator C Avenger remotely piloted aircraft for test purposes.
Built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the multirole jet aircraft will help the service mature concepts and technologies for the next generation of RPAs.
"This aircraft will act as the test vehicle to develop those next generation [RPA] sensors, weapons, and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), ensuring a quick, smooth, and efficient fielding of these advanced capabilities to the area of operations," USAF stated in a document outlining the project.
Procurement will allow developers to advance Avenger "into a platform able to carry a greater variety of sensors and weapons, up to and including 2,000-pound stores, which is double the ability of current [RPA] platforms."
General Atomics discussed its self-funded development of a stealthy member of the Predator family for years, but did not unveil the Avenger until April 2009.
Stick Around, U-2
Congress has directed the Air Force to keep the U-2 reconnaissance airplane in service at current capability levels through 2016.
Beyond 2016, defense authorizers stipulated USAF must seek congressional approval to retire the fleet and ensure the RQ-4 Global Hawk is ready to assume full responsibility for high-altitude intelligence missions.
In the conference report accompanying the Fiscal 2012 defense policy bill Congress stated that the Air Force "may take no action" to prevent it from maintaining the U-2 fleet "in its current configuration and capability beyond Fiscal Year 2016."
To retire the U-2, Pentagon officials must certify that the Global Hawk’s operating and sustainment costs "are less than" those of the U-2, and the Global Hawk’s capability is "equal [to] or greater" than the U-2’s.
F-35 Fifth Lot
The Defense Department and Lockheed Martin have agreed to tentative terms for production of the fifth lot of F-35 strike fighters.
While low rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 5 will be a fixed-price contract, according to the F-35 Joint Program Office, it will contain an exception for DOD and Lockheed to split the cost of modifications needed to address issues discovered during concurrent development and production.
The Pentagon will use an "undefinitized" contract action to allow Lockheed to begin work on LRIP 5 aircraft and simply bill the government for incurred costs.
DOD will announce the exact value of the LRIP 5 contract and the number of aircraft procured through the normal contract announcement process, according to the JPO.
Lockheed will incorporate redesigned structural components in the wing assemblies of the Air Force F-35A variant and Marine Corps F-35B for the first time in Lot 5.
$5 Billion Later ...
The Missile Defense Agency announced it will dismantle the heavily modified Boeing 747 that served as the Airborne Laser Test Bed. The ALTB will be placed in permanent storage.
The Pentagon invested more than $5 billion in the Airborne Laser Test Bed, which was meant to serve as the pathfinder for a fleet of aircraft that could shoot down boosting ballistic missiles via a high-powered chemical laser fired through a nose turret. ALTB successfully shot down both solid- and liquid-fueled missiles during tests in February 2010.
The program was ultimately felled by its operational concept, cost, and employment limitations.
Experiments yielded critical insight into future design, highlighting the need for next generation anti-missile lasers to pack greater power into a smaller platform capable of higher altitude operations, said Army Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly, MDA director.
MDA is "very close" to a prototype that will operate off an "unattended air vehicle" at extreme altitude, he added.
The Air Force’s next generation bomber program got a hefty funding increase in Fiscal 2012 from congressional defense appropriators, who added $100 million to the service’s $197 million request.
Congress allocated $297 million for the bomber’s development, according to the final version of the Fiscal 2012 defense spending bill signed by President Obama.
Lawmakers included no language in the omnibus bill or accompanying conference report explaining why the funds were added.
The Air Force intends to field a force of 80 to 100 new long-range bombers starting in the mid-2020s, but has yet to nail down specific requirements for the future platform.
The Air Force has cleared B-1B bombers to employ the GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike moving targets, thanks to a targeting pod upgrade.
Though the B-1 has used the Sniper pod in combat since 2008, the Laptop Controlled Targeting Pod Phase II upgrade allows the Sniper’s laser to send constant updates to the aircraft’s avionics via laptop computer.
"Perhaps the greatest benefit of this upgrade will be the ability to streamline the targeting process and get bombs on target faster," said Lt. Col. Matthew Brooks, 9th Bomb Squadron commander at Dyess AFB, Tex.
After successful development and operational testing the 9th BS will become the first B-1 unit to field the Laser JDAM in combat on the B-1.
Six of USAF’s 66 B-1B bombers can now proceed to retirement as USAF requested, under conditions specified by Congress in the Fiscal 2012 defense bill.
USAF can retire the aircraft as long as it plows more of the savings back into the B-1 force. Congress didn’t like USAF’s plan to reinvest "less than 40 percent" of the savings in the Lancer fleet.
In addition, no B-1s may be retired before the Air Force details its plan to modernize and maintain the Lancer fleet through 2022, including "an estimate of the savings that will result" each year until then.
The authorization also stipulates the Air Force must maintain at least 33 combat-coded B-1s through Fiscal 2016.
BUFF Under the START Axe
A total of 39 retired B-52G bombers stored at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., will be cut up under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia.
Stored relatively intact, the bombers currently count against the US "deployed" heavy bomber limit—as do portions of the B-2A and B-52H fleets—under treaty rules, according to the State Department.
To finally render the bombers incapable of nuclear delivery, according to treaty requirements at least, the Air Force will sever the tail section from each of the aircraft fuselages "at a location obviously not an assembly joint," said officials with the Air Staff’s nuclear directorate.
Though multiple options existed for compliance with treaty protocols, this method effectively demonstrates the "completion of elimination" of the old airframes.
The Air Force intends to cut its fleets to no more than 60 deployable nuclear-capable bombers to meet New START ceilings on strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems by February 2018.
A Familiar Drone in Iraq
Despite the pullout from Iraq, Predator remotely piloted aircraft will continue to fly unarmed reconnaissance flights over the country’s northern border region, flying from Incirlik AB, Turkey.
The US is aiding its NATO ally Turkey against the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK, which the Turkish government has branded as a terrorist organization.
"As you know, we do provide some technology to assist [the Turks] in their efforts against the PKK," said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, during an official visit to Ankara Dec. 17.
The PKK continues to launch attacks against the Turkish government from havens in northern Iraq and is listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department.
As such, Panetta said he made it "very clear" to Turkish officials that the United States would continue to assist efforts to confront the PKK.
The US military reportedly began flying Predator missions monitoring the PKK from bases in Iraq beginning in 2007, and the Washington Post reported that Panetta conveyed that the Iraqi government has agreed to permit the overflights.
First in Glass
The first C-130H upgraded by USAF technicians with a glass cockpit under the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program went into low rate initial production at Robins AFB, Ga.
As of December, the first aircraft was undergoing functional testing while a second aircraft was 85 percent of the way through the upgrades.
The C-130 AMP adds new air traffic management, defensive suites, navigation instruments, and instrument landing systems to USAF’s fleet of legacy Hercules.
The first aircraft required significant troubleshooting to smooth the upgrade process for later aircraft. Two additional C-130s are scheduled to arrive on the AMP line later this fiscal year.
Reaper Crashes in Seychelles
An unarmed Air Force MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft crashed Dec. 13 at the Seychelles Airport on the island of Mahe near the capital, Victoria.
The crash caused no injuries. US military and Seychelles civil aviation authorities coordinated removal of debris, and the airport reopened to normal traffic not long after the crash, according to a USAF release.
The Defense Department first confirmed the presence of unarmed MQ-9s in the Seychelles in 2009 for counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
The cause of the incident is under investigation.
The One We Lost
The F-15E that crashed in Libya March 21 during Operation Odyssey Dawn was felled by an unrecoverable spin induced by uneven fuel and bomb distribution on the aircraft during combat maneuvers, USAF has determined.
Investigators found the Strike Eagle pilot employed an Air Force-approved maneuver—albeit at a previously untested altitude—egressing the target area after dropping a single weapon.
Weight imbalance resulting from a software glitch rendered it impossible to drop ordnance mounted on its right wing, contributing significantly to the loss of control.
The ordnance imbalance was further exacerbated by the underwing fuel tank on the same wing emptying too slowly.
Assigned to RAF Lakenheath, Britain, the aircraft was operating from Aviano AB, Italy, in the opening days of the NATO air campaign.
Both the pilot and combat systems officer ejected and suffered minor injuries from the crash near Benghazi. The total loss of equipment was valued at an estimated $48.2 million.
Still More BACN
Northrop Grumman will equip two additional RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 20s with Battlefield Airborne Communications Node payloads through a $47.2 million contract with the Air Force.
The service will provide these two Global Hawk air vehicles, designated AF-11 and AF-13, to Northrop for integration of the BACN payloads at the company’s facility in Palmdale, Calif.
The service expects the payload integration on AF-11 to be completed in August and on AF-13 in December.
USAF operates two BACN-equipped Global Hawks, recently designated EQ-4, supporting operations in Southwest Asia.
Alongside the manned BACN equipped Bombardier E-11A Global Express jet aircraft, the EQ-4 serves as an overhead communications-relay for ground troops.
The Air Force recently selected Lockheed Martin to demonstrate a winged, rocket-powered spacelifter under a five-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract worth up to $250 million, according to the company.
The Air Force is potentially interested in the craft, known as the Reusable Booster System, as a more economical alternative to expendable launch vehicles.
"We are very pleased to be selected by the Air Force to support them on the Reusable Booster System program," said John Karas, Lockheed’s vice president and general manager of Human Space Flight.
After initial experimentation, the company is scheduled to launch a demonstrator, dubbed RBS Pathfinder, to validate requirements for the design of an operational vehicle in 2015.
Pathfinder will be tested from Spaceport America, the nation’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, in southern New Mexico, according to Lockheed officials.
Economy Herk Announced
Lockheed Martin plans to offer a low-cost variant of the C-130J early this year, specifically aimed at budget-conscious international customers with less-intensive mission needs.
Dubbed the C-130XJ, the new aircraft will boast a "significantly lower price," incorporating sizable "growth capability, post delivery," said Lockheed Martin spokesman Peter Simmons.
Though the C-130XJ will be optimized for "low-threat" movement of personnel and supplies, particularly tasks such as firefighting and search and rescue, it retains all "provisions necessary to fully configure the aircraft for combat operations should the need arise," noted Simmons. Lockheed’s Enhanced Cargo Handling System is the only feature that cannot be retrofitted to the XJ, he said.
Since the C-130XJ uses the same power plant and avionics as the C-130J, Lockheed Martin could potentially offer a similar package for its stretched C-130J-30, at a customer’s request.
Lockheed is also developing a "next generation" Hercules, designated C-130NG, incorporating "increased fuel efficiency and reduced overall operating costs," available around 2030.
Saudi Eagle Deal Sealed
Saudi Arabia and the US have formalized a deal for the kingdom to buy 84 advanced new-build F-15SA aircraft under a $29.4 billion foreign military sale.
The two nations signed a letter of offer and acceptance including modernization of 70 of existing Saudi F-15s, as well as munitions, spares, training, and support.
"This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia and demonstrates the US commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability," said a White House spokesman announcing the deal Dec. 29.
The Obama Administration disclosed its intent to make the sale last year, and delivery of the first new aircraft is anticipated in early 2015, said Pentagon policy official James N. Miller in a press briefing.
Sigint To Go
Lockheed Martin delivered an airborne signals intelligence payload specifically configured for the C-130J for acceptance testing in December.
The Senior Scout tactical sensor suite is designed to locate enemy communications, reporting them directly to air and ground commanders, stated a company press release Dec. 7.
Senior Scout is mounted in a cargo-bay-length palletized container that airmen can easily load and off-load from a Super Hercules.
Lockheed said it enhanced the latest Senior Scout shelter for structural compatibility with the C-130J, while updating systems and interface to improving maintenance access.
One More C-17
Congressional appropriators have added funds in Fiscal 2012 to buy the Air Force one more C-17, a replacement for the transport lost in a crash at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, in July 2010.
USAF didn’t request the airlifter, but lawmakers included the $225 million in the 2012 omnibus spending bill signed by the President late last year.
The extra aircraft will bring the fleet size up to its authorized 223 airframes, raising the service’s total buy to 224 C-17s.
Boeing is already under contract for 218 of those airframes, but as of early January, the replacement aircraft had yet to be added to the company’s production schedule at Long Beach, Calif., according to an Air Force spokesman.
Delivery of the aircraft is expected in 2013.
The Air Force tapped Boeing to begin work on the eighth Wideband Global Satellite Communications spacecraft, WGS-8, exercising a contract option for $296 million, USAF space officials announced in December.
The option builds on $58 million signed to Boeing in August for the long-lead-items and work associated with fabricating WGS-8, bringing the satellite’s cost to $354 million.
WGS-8 is part of the Block 2 follow-on contract encompassing Wideband Global Satellites -7, -8, and -9.
The Air Force already operates three WGS Block 1 satellites in geosynchronous orbit supporting simultaneous X-band and Ka-band military communications around the globe.
The first more capable Block 2 satellite—WGS-4—was scheduled for launch in January from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla.
As of December, WGS-5, -6, and -7 were in various stages of production.
Recognizing Angel Thunder
The personnel recovery exercise Angel Thunder, run at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., has attained official Defense Department accreditation after six years as a base-level exercise.
"This is a David and Goliath story of an exercise being founded by rescue airmen in the trenches because what we needed was not in the system," said Brett Hartnett, exercise coordinator.
Air Combat Command sponsorship over the past few years paved the way for Joint National Training Capability certification Nov. 30.
"With no budget, we built the world’s largest and most dynamic rescue exercise in our spare time. In turn, ACC recognized our success and made us their official personnel recovery exercise," summed up Hartnett. JNTC credentials affirm that the exercise offers a consistent standard of quality training each year.
Held in October, last year’s Angel Thunder hosted 46 aircraft and more than 1,000 personnel from 17 countries.
Cuts at Home, Sales Abroad
US foreign military sales for Fiscal 2011 exceeded $30 billion for the fourth consecutive year. In fact, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees the Pentagon’s transfer of military equipment to allies and friends, recorded $34.8 billion in equipment sales for the fiscal year ending last September.
Government-to-government FMS programs accounted for the bulk of sales, totaling $28.3 billion.
The top three FMS customers were: Afghanistan ($5.4 billion), Taiwan ($4.9 billion), and India ($4.5 billion), according to the agency.
Rounding out the top 10 were Australia ($3.9 billion), Saudi Arabia ($3.5 billion), Iraq ($2.0 billion), the United Arab Emirates ($1.5 billion), Israel ($1.4 billion), Japan ($0.5 billion), and Sweden ($0.5 billion).
DSCA forecasts that FMS will reach a similar total in Fiscal 2012.
C-17 To Air Force Museum
T-1, the first C-17 Globemaster III built, has been earmarked for display at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, on its retirement later this year.
C-17A serial No. 87-0025 first flew in September 1991 and served primarily as a test asset at Edwards AFB, Calif., during its career.
The Globemaster’s specific arrival date at Dayton has yet to be determined.
Narrowed To Four
Candidate hosts for a regional security forces training center recently narrowed to four installations under Air Force training consolidation efforts.
Officials at Air Force Security Forces Center headquarters are evaluating Camp Guernsey, Wyo.; Fort Bliss, Tex.; JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; and JB San Antonio, Tex., as a future home of the consolidated schoolhouse.
After the detailed review is complete, Air Force leaders will select one or more of the installations as preferred alternatives sometime in mid-2012.
The realignment is part of USAF’s broader goal of consolidating regional training centers to fewer locations. The service’s aim is to conduct security forces training more efficiently while enhancing airmen’s adaptation to emerging combat trends and enemy tactics.
A Double Helping of F-16s
Lockheed Martin received an $835 million contract in December to supply 18 F-16 Block 52 aircraft to the Iraqi Air Force. Less than two weeks later, the Pentagon alerted Congress to a potential second sale of 18 Falcons to Iraq.
Under the current foreign military sales arrangement agreed to with Iraq, Lockheed will supply 12 F-16Cs and six two-seat F-16Ds as well as associated weapons, equipment, and support services.
A potential follow-on deal could double the total order to 36 new-build F-16s, worth an estimated $2.3 billion.
"We hope that the Congress will approve another group of F-16 airplanes to Iraq because our Air Force was destroyed completely during the war that Iraq entered into," stated Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki during a Dec. 12 press conference with President Obama at the White House.
"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 Department stated in a release the same day.
Iraqi’s initial cadre of F-16 pilots is already undergoing training in the United States, though delivery of the country’s first F-16 is not expected until at least 2015.
Mission Complete in Iraq
Pentagon leaders officially ended the US military mission in Iraq in a ceremony saluting the nearly 4,500 US troops killed and 32,000 wounded in Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn over nearly nine years.
"On this very historic occasion for both the Iraqi people and the American people, no words, no ceremony can provide full tribute to the sacrifices that have brought this day to pass," said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, speaking at US Forces-Iraq headquarters on Sather Air Base, in Baghdad, Dec. 15.
"For more than 20 years, Iraq has been a defining part of our professional and our personal lives. The road we have traveled was long and it was tough," said Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey at the ceremony. "Our journey was a lesson in courage, affirmation of shared sacrifice, and a monument to sheer will."
After the ceremony, several hundred troops departed Sather. All US military personnel were out by mid-December. Five hours after the last US airmen crossed the border from Iraq to Kuwait, the Air Force cased its expeditionary colors, officially standing down its units in theater.
Officials inactivated the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq, along with the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing, 368th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Group, and 467th Air Expeditionary Group, at an undisclosed base in Kuwait Dec. 18.
"It’s been an honor to serve with so many men and women who poured their heart and soul into this mission," said Maj. Gen. Russell J. Handy, task force leader since August 2010.
Handy highlighted the sacrifice of military members who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom-Operation New Dawn as well as the wounded. "Understandably, many of you will look back and wonder if it was worth the price. That question is one we all will have to ask ourselves because sacrifice is a deeply personal thing," said Handy.
"As you all depart here very soon, hold your heads high as proud members of a specialized fraternity of warriors."
Raptor Pilot Faulted in Fatal Crash
A pilot’s "failure to recognize and initiate a timely dive recovery" was the most direct cause of a fatal F-22 crash in November 2010 in Alaska, according to Pacific Air Forces accident investigators.
According to a summary of findings, "channelized attention, breakdown of visual scan, and unrecognized spatial disorientation" resulted in the loss of both aircraft and pilot. The Air Force specifically ruled out problems with the on-board oxygen system as the direct cause of the crash. Problems with the oxygen system grounded the F-22 fleet for months last year.
On a three-ship night training sortie from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Capt. Jeffrey Haney’s Raptor suffered "an engine bleed air leak malfunction" depriving several systems—including his oxygen system—of power, according to the accident investigation report released in December.
Haney quickly cut the engine to idle power, initiating a shallow dive from approximately 41,000 feet to lower altitude.
Several seconds later, he sharply increased the dive angle, rolling the aircraft inverted.
At roughly 5,500 feet, Haney initiated a 7.4G pull-up. Nevertheless, the aircraft struck the ground at a 48-degree angle and a speed greater than Mach 1.1, roughly 140 miles northeast of the joint base.
The board cited issues such as training deficiencies and "personal equipment interference" as contributing factors. "Due to the extensive damage and limited evidence recovered, the cause of the bleed air leak could not be determined," investigators said.
Konnichiwa, Lightning II
Japan’s Defense Ministry selected the F-35 strike fighter as the next generation fighter for the Japan Air Self Defense Force, Lockheed Martin revealed Dec. 19.
The initial order is for 42 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variants, replacing Japan’s aged F-4EJ Phantom fleet. Japan has an eventual total requirement for some 200 new fighters, according to Lockheed Martin executives.
Lockheed Martin’s bid emerged the winner from Japan’s F-X fighter competition, beating out the F-18E/F Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon. The initial contract for four aircraft will come from Japan’s Fiscal 2012 spending, beginning April 1, stated Lockheed.
"We are honored by the confidence the Japanese government has placed in the F-35 and our industry team to deliver this fifth generation fighter to the Japan Air Self Defense Force," said Robert J. Stevens, Lockheed Martin chairman and CEO.
As a result of its decision to procure the F-35, the Japanese government also announced it will lift its longstanding policy banning export of any defense-related systems or components. This modification will allow Japan to compete for F-35 component manufacturing for all of the nations participating in the program.
Nine F-35 partner nations—United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Turkey—will buy the F-35, and Israel has also committed to buying it, making Japan the 11th customer for the Lightning II.
Less than a week after selecting Sierra Nevada’s A-29 Super Tucano as the winner of the Light Air Support competition, the Air Force issued a temporary stop-work order on the aircraft.
USAF is procuring the aircraft to provide Afghanistan with an advanced trainer and light close air support platform. Sierra Nevada teamed with Brazil’s Embraer to build the aircraft in Jacksonville, Fla. Initially delivery was scheduled for April 2014, but Hawker Beechcraft filed a federal suit against the Air Force Dec. 30, the same day the contract was announced, citing a lack of justification for the company’s exclusion.
Hawker filed suit after the Government Accountability Office dismissed an earlier protest.
Air Force officials are "confident in the merits of its contract award decision and anticipates that the litigation will be quickly resolved," said USAF spokesman Lt. Col. Wesley Miller. "The competition and source selection evaluation were fair, open, and transparent."
The War on Terrorism
Operation Enduring Freedom
By Jan. 17, a total of 1,864 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 1,861 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,487 were killed in action with the enemy while 377 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 15,204 troops wounded in action during OEF.
Blame To Go Around
Pentagon investigators vindicated US forces acting in "self-defense and with appropriate force after being fired upon" by Pakistani troops in a mistaken engagement on the Afghan border last November.
USAF Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark, who led the investigation, stated that "inadequate coordination" between governments, incorrect mapping information, and communication failures also contributed to the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers Nov. 25-26.
Pentagon spokesman George Little expressed the Defense Department’s "deepest regret" for the lives lost in the crossfire and ensuing air strikes.
US, NATO, and Afghan investigators conducted some 60 interviews to unravel what Clark termed a very "complicated situation." He added that the allies "did not benefit from Pakistani participation" in the investigation.
"That’s a significant element there that is missing because there’re always two sides to a particular event," said Clark.
First Afghan-based UPT in 30 Years Begins
Seven Afghan Air Force lieutenants recently began the first undergraduate flight training course held entirely in Afghanistan in more than 30 years.
The small group at Shindand Air Base on Dec. 10 began the roughly year-long course with more than 200 Afghan and coalition air advisors present at an opening ceremony. During training, they will receive some 60 hours of academic instruction and flight screening in the Cessna182T then break into separate fixed- and rotary-wing tracks.
Before beginning undergraduate pilot training, all seven had graduated from the National Military Academy, received initial officer training in Britain, and passed English studies at Kabul English Language Training Center.
First Afghans Graduate From Laughlin’s SUPT
The first three Afghan airmen to undergo specialized undergraduate pilot training in the United States graduated at Laughlin AFB, Tex.
One of the Afghan lieutenants receiving his wings Dec. 18 called the experience a "dream come true."
Selected from among more than 350 candidates, the airmen completed a year’s worth of intensive English language courses at JB San Antonio, Tex., before stepping onto Laughlin’s flight line.
Over the last year, each flew roughly 200 hours in the T-6 Texan II; this amounted to more than 140 sorties.
"Now I’m going back to Afghanistan with my wings as an official pilot," said one of the airmen. Upon returning to Afghanistan, all three pilots will begin advanced training on the C-27A airlifter.
Senior Staff Changes
RETIREMENT: Lt. Gen. Loren M. Reno.
NOMINATIONS: To be Major General: Mark A. Ediger. To be AFRC Brigadier General: Brian E. Dominguez, Merle D. Hart.
CHANGES: Brig. Gen. Darryl W. Burke, from Cmdr., 82nd Tng. Wg., AETC, Sheppard AFB, Tex., to Dep. Cmdr., Jt. Functional Component Command, Intel., Surveillance, & Recon., STRATCOM, JB Bolling-Anacostia, D.C. ... Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, from Cmdr., 3rd AF, USAFE, Ramstein AB, Germany, to Asst. Vice C/S, USAF, Pentagon ... Maj. Gen. James J. Jones, from Dep. Cmdr., AFCENT, Southwest Asia, to Dir., Operational Planning, Policy, & Strategy, DCS, Ops., Plans, & Rqmts., USAF, Pentagon ... Brig Gen. Robert D. McMurry Jr., from Dep. Chief, Support, Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, CENTCOM, Baghdad, Iraq, to Dir., Space Prgms., Office of the Asst. SECAF, Acq., Pentagon ... Maj. Gen. Harry D. Polumbo Jr., from C/S, AFRICOM, Stuttgart, Germany, to Cmdr., 9th Air & Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan, ACC, Kabul, Afghanistan ... Maj Gen. Lori J. Robinson, from Dir., LL, OSAF, Pentagon, to Dep. Cmdr., AFCENT, Southwest Asia ... Maj. Gen. Tod D. Wolters, from Cmdr., 9th Air & Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan, ACC, Kabul, Afghanistan, to Dir., LL, OSAF, Pentagon.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE CHANGES: Barbara J. Barger, to Dir., AF Language, Region, & Culture Prgm. Office, DCS, Manpower, Personnel, & Svcs., USAF, Pentagon ... Michael R. Deis, to Dir., Sensors Directorate, AFRL, AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio ... Ava Sue Dryden, to Dep. Asst. SECDEF, Materiel Readiness, Office of the USD, Acq., Tech., & Log., Pentagon ... Lynda T. O’Sullivan, to Dep. General Counsel, Acq., Office of the AF General Counsel, Pentagon.
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