Welsh Nominated as Chief of Staff
President Obama nominated Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, now serving as commander, US Air Forces in Europe, to succeed Gen. Norton A. Schwartz as the USAF’s next Chief of Staff.
Pending Senate approval, Welsh would become the Air Force’s 20th Chief of Staff. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in a May 10 press briefing announced the nomination.
"If confirmed, I’ll do everything in my power to live up to the example set by [General Schwartz and the other] great officers who have led our service so well throughout its remarkable history," said Welsh.
Prior to leading USAFE, Welsh worked for Panetta at the CIA; Welsh was the associate director for military affairs when Panetta was director of the agency.
"Over the course of our time working together, I developed a deep appreciation for his wisdom and his counsel," Panetta said in his statement.
Before the CIA job, Welsh was vice commander at Air Education and Training Command. He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1976 and has logged more than 3,400 flight hours, mostly in fighters and training aircraft.
Senior Leaders Shift
Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Philip M. Breedlove has been tapped to command US Air Forces in Europe at Ramstein AB, Germany, Pentagon officials announced May 11.
Breedlove has served as vice chief since January 2011 and was confirmed May 24 for his new position. He will replace Gen. Mark A. Welsh III at USAFE’s helm.
Also on May 24, Lt. Gen. Larry O. Spencer received confirmation for a fourth star. He will replace Breedlove as vice chief of staff.
Spencer has served as Joint Staff’s director of force structure, resources, and assessment since April 2010.
Proposed F-35 Sale To Japan
The Pentagon notified Congress of a potential foreign military sale of F-35A strike fighters to Japan earlier this year.
The $10 billion deal would supply Japan four aircraft along with parts and support, opening the additional option of purchasing 38 more F-35s, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
"Japan is one of the major political and economic powers in East Asia and the Western Pacific and a key ally of the United States in ensuring the peace and stability of this region," DSCA stated in an announcement May 1.
"The proposed sale of aircraft and support will augment Japan’s operational aircraft inventory and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability," the agency said.
Japan selected the F-35 as its next generation fighter last December to begin replacing the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s aged F-4J Phantom fleet.
Meanwhile, Australia has decided to delay purchasing its 12 initial F-35s by two years as a budgetary measure, Business Week reported three days after Congress was apprised of the Japan sale.
Lightning Plan B, Again
Britain has abandoned fitting its new class of aircraft carriers with catapults and arresting gear to accommodate the F-35C strike fighter, opting instead to return to the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing variant.
Defense Minister Philip Hammond said the UK government’s 2010 decision to abandon the F-35B in favor of the longer range, carrier-optimized F-35C "was right at the time, but the facts have changed and therefore so, too, must our approach."
Hammond said cost estimates for building Britain’s two Queen Elizabeth II-class carriers with electromagnetic catapults had doubled since 2010, asserting that the cost outweighed the strategic benefits of a more capable and interoperable carrier.
The F-35C "no longer represents the best way ... and I am not prepared to tolerate a three-year further delay to reintroducing our carrier strike capability," he said in justifying his decision to Parliament May 10.
Britain’s first F-35B is scheduled to enter service this summer, beginning carrier trials aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth II in 2018, according to Hammond.
Get Ready To Sandbag
Air Force Reservists can now be activated to respond to a natural disaster or civil emergency, according to a new measure included in the Fiscal 2012 defense authorization act.
"We mobilize Reservists to handle contingencies overseas, so it makes sense that we do that to take care of our own country," said Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., Air Force Reserve Command boss, in a news release May 20.
In presidentially declared emergencies, state governors can now request reserve assistance from every service branch, for up to 120 days, according to AFRC officials.
Since it is under the control of the states during peacetime, the National Guard has traditionally filled this role. The Reserve force is under federal control, but as a result of the new law, both the Guard and Reserve may now be called upon to provide state aid.
The law also permits reserve mobilizations for extended periods to support deployed theater security missions.
NATO Missile Shield Operational
NATO has an operational interim ballistic missile defense, shielding the European mainland, the Alliance announced at its summit in Chicago, May 21.
The interim system comprises a command and control hub at Allied Air Command headquarters, Ramstein AB, Germany, linking various nations’ missile interceptors and sensors spread across the continent.
"Our system will link together missile defense assets from different allies—satellites, ships, radars, and interceptors—under NATO command and control," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
"It will allow us to defend against threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area," he noted, including Iran and North Korea.
The first stage anti-ballistic missile system includes US Aegis radar ships equipped with interceptor missiles as well as US ground-based radars stationed in Kurecik, Turkey, US officials said.
Full operational capability of the Alliance’s BMD is expected "around the end of the current decade or early next decade," according to NATO.
AEHF-2 Easing Into Position
The Air Force and Lockheed Martin recently completed the first stage of raising the second Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite into an operational orbit, Air Force Space Command announced.
The satellite completed its liquid apogee burn and deployment of its solar array to begin onboard power generation, AFSPC said May 17. This step marked the "completion of approximately 60 percent of AEHF-2’s total orbit-raising activity," said Col. Michael Sarchet, AEHF program manager. The crucial boost also "raised the satellite above the Van Allen radiation belts and region of space with the densest space debris," he said.
Controllers then began firing the satellite’s Hall Current Thruster, to gradually dampen AEHF-2’s elliptical orbit onto a more circular trajectory until the satellite achieves its intended geosynchronous rotation.
AEHF-2 blasted off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., May 4.
The first AEHF satellite finished on-orbit testing earlier this year. The complete constellation is intended to replace the military’s current Milstar communications satellites.
RPA Pilots Finish ANG FTU
The first four Active Duty aircrew members graduated from the New York Air National Guard’s MQ-9 Reaper formal training unit at Syracuse in May, according to wing officials.
The 174th Fighter Wing schoolhouse is the first ANG Reaper unit and is tasked with training Active Duty, ANG, Air Force Reserve, and foreign military MQ-9 pilots.
Half the 45-day course, to upgrade from the MQ-1 Predator to the MQ-9 Reaper, is done at Syracuse, while the other half is spent flying Reapers over a military range near Watertown, N.Y., or Creech AFB, Nev., according to the wing.
"The Syracuse FTU has been top notch from Day 1—easily the best learning environment I’ve experienced in the Air Force," said one of the first trainees to graduate.
Falcon Targets Debut
A QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target flew for the first time—albeit in manned configuration—on a flight from Naval Air Station Cecil Field near Jacksonville, Fla., May 4.
"With this successful first flight of the QF-16, the Air Force, Boeing, and our supplier partners have laid the groundwork for the program to enter low-rate production in 2013," said Torbjorn Sjogren, Boeing’s upgrades vice president in a company news release following the flight.
The optionally manned QF-16 drones are converted from retired early model F-16s pulled from the Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., "Boneyard." USAF plans to purchase as many as 126 FSATs to gradually replace its inventory of QF-4 Phantoms in the aerial test and practice target role.
The first six QF-16s will go to Tyndall AFB, Fla., for testing over the Gulf Coast target range in October, and the first production QF-16 is slated for delivery in 2014, the company said.
The Air Force awarded Boeing first phase of the QF-16 modification contract in 2010.
B-1B bombers from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., recently dropped the first in-service 500-pound GBU-54 laser guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions during a Combat Hammer weapon evaluation in Utah this spring.
Aircrews from the 34th Bomb Squadron and 37th Bomb Squadron successfully dropped six GBU-54s against moving targets on the Utah Test and Training Range near Hill AFB, Utah, during exercises May 14-16.
"It was gratifying to be part of the first operational release" from the B-1, said Capt. Charles Armstrong, a 37th BS weapon systems operator and a mission leader for Combat Hammer.
Crashing the Fighter Party
Two B-52s flew from Andersen AFB, Guam, and tangled with US and South Korean aircraft for the first time during a Max Thunder exercise at Gwangju AB, South Korea, earlier this year.
The twice-yearly drill has traditionally been a fighter-only air-to-air combat exercise and Max Thunder 12-1 marked the first time heavy bombers of any type have taken part, according to officials at nearby Osan Air Base.
"Bringing the B-52 to Max Thunder is really great training for everyone," said Capt. Seth Spidahl, B-52 pilot and exercise liaison. "A lot of the time we don’t get to integrate with other fighter aircraft."
During the two-week exercise, the B-52s delivered 40 percent of the weaponry, hitting 85 percent of the exercise’s planned ground targets, according to the release.
"This exercise has been a series of firsts and this has been an excellent addition to show our capabilities," said Max Thunder deployed commander Col. Patrick Matthews.
Turboprop T-6A Texan II trainers recently began flying "aggressor" sorties simulating slow-moving, low-altitude threats at the Air Force Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nev.
"It is difficult for fighter aircraft to simulate low and slow targets, so the T-6 Texan II fills that void," said Lt. Col. Daniel Garoutte, 33rd Flying Training Squadron operations director from Vance AFB, Okla., in a Nellis press release May 15.
"We add another dimension to [the weapons school students’] decision-making, and we increase the numbers of the opposing forces" that they face in the training drills, he said.
Paired with F-15 and F-16 aggressor aircraft from Nellis, the Vance T-6s force the students to "prioritize their intercept decisions based on the type of threat they were facing," explained Maj. Jason Zumwalt, adversary integration boss with the USAF Warfare Center.
Debuting in the weapons instructor course this May, the Texan IIs add a "unique intercept challenge against an asymmetric threat," he said.
Weapons School Holds Mobility Drill
Nearly 70 aircraft—mostly C-17s and C-130s—dropped paratroopers in a forced-entry airborne invasion exercise over the Nevada Test and Training Range during the Air Force Weapons School’s biannual Mobility Forces Exercise this spring.
Orchestrated from Nellis AFB, Nev., the participating aircraft came from bases around the world and were synchronized to arrive over the range as a combined force.
MAFEX focused on the tactics needed to defeat air defenses and insert troops into a defended enemy country, according to Nellis officials, and is part of the weapons school’s six-month weapons instructor course.
The C-130s and C-17s delivered more than 100 paratroopers and supporting equipment in airdrops and landings on an unimproved landing strip.
Iceland’s Anytime Wingmen
F-15Cs from RAF Lakenheath, UK, temporarily deployed to Iceland on a NATO aerospace control alert to Keflavik Airport this May.
"In this NATO mission, we identify and escort unauthorized aircraft before they reach Iceland’s sovereign airspace," said 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Michael Casey.
Air Force Eagles provided continuous quick-reaction alert under a bilateral agreement with Iceland until 2006. NATO fighters now intermittently rotate for several weeks at a time to defend Iceland’s skies, at the request of the Icelandic government.
"We practice scramble launches and when we receive an alert, the F-15s can be in the air within 15 minutes," added Casey, detailing the squadron’s rotational mission.
KC-135s from RAF Mildenhall, UK, and C-130Js from Ramstein AB, Germany, deployed with the alert package to provide aerial refueling and rescue support.
German Air Force F-4s completed a stint at Keflavik earlier this spring and departed several weeks before the 48th Fighter Wing aircraft arrived May 12. The F-15s completed their mission and returned to Lakenheath, June 7.
Hill F-16 Crashes
An F-16 fighter assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah, crashed during a training mission over the Utah Test and Training Range May 4, wing officials said.
The pilot successfully ejected without injury and was taken to nearby hospital as a medical precaution, Ogden’s Standard-Examiner reported, citing wing officials.
The Air Force is investigating the cause of the accident.
Spartans Triumph Down Under
The Air Force awarded L-3 Communications a $321 million foreign military sales contract to build 10 C-27J Spartan airlifters for the Royal Australian Air Force in May, the Pentagon announced.
Australia’s Defense Ministry announced the overall $1.4 billion purchase of aircraft, equipment, and spares in early May, shortly followed by the USAF contract May 31.
Australia is buying the C-27 to fill a short-field airlift gap left by the retirement of the RAAF’s 14-strong DHC-4 Caribou fleet several years ago, as well as the planned phase-out of the RAAF’s 12 legacy C-130Hs.
"The C-27J has the capacity to carry significant load and still access small, soft, narrow runways that are too short for the C-130J," while complementing the RAAF’s existing C-130 and C-17 fleets, said defense officials discussing the deal May 10.
They said the Spartan "best met all the essential capability requirements and provides the best value for money," beating Airbus Military’s C-295 transport in a competitive bidding process. The Australian fleet is scheduled for delivery and beddown at RAAF Richmond near Sydney in 2015, according to the Defense Ministry.
Australia’s purchase comes just as the US Air Force is attempting to divest its own fleet of C-27Js, asking to retire the type in its Fiscal 2013 budget request.
An experimental supersonic-combustion ramjet successfully accelerated to Mach 8 from atop a rocket launched at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii, according to the Air Force Research Lab.
The Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation Program vehicle boosted to Mach 6.5 on a three-stage sounding rocket, then accelerated away from the rocket, using its scramjet to reach Mach 8.
HiFIRE maintained Mach 8 flight for 12 seconds yielding "unique scientific data about scramjets transitioning from subsonic to supersonic combustion," said NASA project scientist Ken Rock in an AFRL news release May 8.
AFRL has launched a total of four vehicles in collaboration with NASA and Australia’s Defense Science and Technology Organization, but the recent shot was "the first time we have flight-tested a hydrocarbon-fueled scramjet accelerating ... to Mach 8," said Rock.
The three program partners are studying flight dynamics beyond supersonic and into the hypersonic speed range above Mach 5.
Though AFRL officials declined to divulge the fourth test flight’s date, they said the agency plans to launch as many as six additional hypersonic test vehicles.
AWACS Cockpit Remodel
The Air Force awarded Boeing a $368 million development contract to design and build a modernized prototype flight deck for the E-3 AWACS.
"This move from analog systems to a digital flight deck will enable the US and NATO AWACS fleets to meet current and identified future air traffic management requirements for flying in worldwide airspace," said Jon Hunsberger, Boeing’s AWACS program manager, announcing the deal May 23.
Boeing will upgrade two aircraft under the initial contract phase, one NATO and one US, with five panel glass cockpit displays and digital avionics for the purpose of flight testing.
Boeing plans to upgrade NATO’s first E-3 Sentry next year, followed by a USAF AWACS in 2014, completing both aircraft by the end of 2015.
The initial phase reviewed aircraft subsystem requirements and wrapped up in March, according to Boeing, and the engineering, manufacturing, and development contract is the second phase of the company’s AWACS upgrade program.
USAF approved full-up production of Northrop Grumman’s NexGen infrared missile warning system to equip its C-5, C-17, and C-130 fleets, the manufacturer announced May 14.
The missile-detection system augments the company’s Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures already onboard many USAF airlifters, improving their ability to counter the man-portable air defense threat, said Col. Shawn Shanley, LAIRCM acquisition leader.
"This latest milestone decision will ensure the Air Force has the most advanced missile warning system with longer detection range and reduced false alarms," added Carl Smith, Northrop Grumman IR countermeasures vice president.
The Air Force originally selected the company’s NexGen MWS in January 2009.
Red Tails Stand Down
Air Forces Central deactivated the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia this spring.
"As the largest combat wing in the Air Force for most of its timeframe, this wing served with distinction," said Maj. Gen. James J. Jones, Air Forces Central deputy commander, retiring the wing colors May 8.
The unit began operations as the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group at Ahmed Al Jaber AB, Kuwait, in 1998, quickly becoming one of USAF’s busiest combat wings.
"In the nearly 10 years since the wing flag was reinstated, the Red Tails have been the very backbone of AFCENT forces engaged in Operation Southern Watch, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn," said Jones.
At the height of operations, the wing boasted nine groups at JB Balad, Iraq, and at four geographically separate groups, as well as several detachments scattered throughout the theater.
The wing relocated from Balad last November to fly top cover for the US troop withdrawal from Iraq the following month. It traces its lineage to the 332nd Fighter Group—World War II’s famed Tuskegee Airmen.
Whiteman Association Takes Shape
More than 100 Active Duty joined Air Force Reserve Command’s 442nd Fighter Wing, standing up a new active association at Whiteman AFB, Mo., as part of an ongoing initiative to associate every reserve component fighter unit.
"There is a synergy with this setup: We get full-time manpower, which will help with our high operations tempo and deployments," said Col. Gregory A. Eckfeld, 442nd Fighter Wing vice commander.
"The Active Duty airmen get the benefit of our experienced Reservists, who will help train and season their pilots and maintainers."
The Air Force announced its plan to stand up active associations at every Air National Guard and AFRC fighter unit last November, and the 442nd is one of several units receiving an injection of Active Duty manpower this year.
Under the active association concept, the ANG or AFRC unit owns the aircraft—in this case the 442nd Fighter Wing’s A-10 Thunderbolt IIs—and Active Duty pilots and maintainers from Air Combat Command assist in daily operations.
The Active Duty commander will take day-to-day operational direction from 442nd boss, Brig. Gen. Eric S. Overturf, wing officials said May 22.
Air Force Space Command officials recently announced plans to restructure the Air Force Network Integration Center at Scott AFB, Ill., divesting many of its operational functions to several new squadrons.
Instead of serving as the service’s cyberspace lead command, AFNIC will now concentrate exclusively on maintaining and securing the Air Force’s internal networks.
"These changes will allow AFNIC to focus on its core mission and ultimately make AFNIC the premier Air Force organization providing network integration and engineering services for the Air Force," said Lt. Gen. Michael J. Basla, AFSPC vice commander.
AFNIC’s cyber-related staff functions, such as training and requirements support, will go to AFSPC’s new Cyberspace Support Squadron, activated at Scott, May 14.
Oversight of AFNIC’s former operation and maintenance functions transfers over to the 92nd Information Operations Squadron and 38th Cyber Readiness Squadron.
The units stood up at Scott in April in preparation for the reshuffle, under 24th Air Force, the command’s cyber operations arm headquartered at JBSA-Lackland, Tex.
New Home for Battlefield Airmen
Keesler AFB, Miss., and JBSA-Lackland, Tex., are the Air Force’s candidate locations to host a relocated tactical air control party and air liaison officer schoolhouse.
Due to the demand for tactical air control in theater, the TACP/ALO training pipeline has outgrown the current facilities at Hurlburt Field, Fla., service officials said in a news release May 15.
As a result, "these candidate bases will be analyzed to determine which location will best host this mission," said Air Force installations chief Kathleen I. Ferguson.
The service leadership has given Air Education and Training Command the nod to begin site surveys at Keesler and San Antonio-Lackland. Based on AETC’s feedback, leaders are expected to select a preferred base this summer.
The final decision will be made following a full environmental impact study, according to officials.
The Air Force Test Pilot School launched a Cyber Systems Test Course as the newest part of its intense year-long test pilot master’s program at Edwards AFB, Calif.
"This is the first course of its kind that includes a disciplined, yet flexible approach to testing cyber intensive systems," said Col. Noel Zamot, TPS commandant, explaining the course in May.
"Whether it’s testing ... the Joint Strike Fighter, the radar signal processor of a Global Hawk, or even a laser targeting pod for the B-1 or F-15 Strike Eagle, ... students will look at systems in a disciplined fashion," he added.
TPS instructors taught the CSTC several times thus far this year, including during the school’s inaugural Enlisted Flight Test Course in April, said school officials.
The school plans to expand cyber instruction from the current four-hour class, to anywhere from six hours to a week, TPS faculty said.
Hawaiian Active-Associate Deal
The Active Duty 15th Wing recently signed a memorandum of understanding formally defining the command structure of its association with the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
"Maintaining unity of effort can be a challenge due to separate chains of command ... and even different work rules," said Brig. Gen. Braden Sakai, 154th Wing commander, in a May 8 release.
"By signing this MOU, we are giving our officers, [noncommissioned officers], and civilians the structure and tools they need to ensure unity of effort in their integrated workforce," he added.
The new structure empowers functional supervisors—whether Active or Guard, to direct the day-to-day activities of the airmen under their direction. "This authority is crucial ... to effectively employ all of the airmen working in their shops," said Lt. Col. Stanley Springer, 15th Maintenance Group deputy commander.
Canadian Herks Complete
Lockheed Martin delivered the last of 17 Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130J-30 Super Hercules—the "stretched" version—in a ceremony at the company’s Marietta plant in Georgia this spring.
"The aircraft [type] has already proven its worth around the world in places like Afghanistan and Libya, as well as here at home in Canada," said RCAF Lt. Col. Colin Keiver, 436 Transport Squadron commander, accepting the new airframe May 8.
"Our partners at Lockheed Martin have delivered us an aircraft that more than lives up to the motto of 436 Squadron: ... ‘We Carry the Load,’ " he said.
Canada signed a $1.4 billion contract with Lockheed Martin for the 17 Super Herks and associated support services in December 2007.
The company delivered Canada’s first aircraft—designated CC-130J in RCAF service—in June 2010. It completed delivery of the fleet ahead of schedule this year.
Canada’s final Super Herk flew to its new assigned base at Trenton, Ontario, joining 436 Transport Squadron the same week it was accepted.
Legendary Lightning Ace Dies
Bill Harris, a World War II triple ace, died at age 96 in Midland, Ore., May 23, reported neighboring Klamath Falls’ Herald and News.
Harris, who enlisted in the Navy in 1936 joined the Army Air Corps shortly after the war broke out, scored 16 confirmed aerial victories flying a P-38 Lightning against the Japanese.
During the war Harris rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel but returned to civilian life, working as a rancher and entrepreneur after the end of hostilities.
"What people don’t know about Bill is that, more so than what he did in the war, he was just a fine man," said Col. Curtis Waite, president of the Air Force Association’s chapter in southern Oregon named in honor of Harris.
In his later years Harris continued to influence airmen, often speaking and offering advice to the Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Wing at Klamath Falls Arpt./Kingsley Field, according to the newspaper.
Airmen Excel in Warrior Games
Airmen brought home 18 medals from the 2012 Warrior Games held at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo—the team’s best performance in three years.
"I think we exceeded all expectations," said team coach Maj. James Bales. "The goal for the team was just to come out here and perform at the best of their ability, and they did that," he said.
The Warrior Games bring together ill, injured, or wounded athletes across the US and British militaries to compete in paralympic sports.
USAF athletes medaled for the first time in seated volleyball and wheelchair basketball, earning a bronze medal in both. They brought home a gold medal and two silver medals in swimming; two silver medals and a bronze medal in cycling; and two gold medals, three silver medals, and four bronze medals in track and field.
The Marine Corps team won the trophy for the most cumulative medal points during the competition at the academy April 30 to May 5.
Francis Gary Powers Awarded Silver Star
Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz on June 15 presented a Silver Star medal to Francis Gary Powers, posthumously honoring the Cold War U-2 pilot for gallantry and sustained courage during 21 months of captivity in the Soviet Union.
Grandchildren of Powers accepted the Silver Star on behalf of their grandfather, who died in August 1977 at age 47. The decoration came more than 50 years after Powers returned from Soviet captivity.
A Russian SA-2 surface-to-air missile downed Powers’ U-2 airplane during a top-secret CIA-run reconnaissance mission over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. The Soviet Union held him in solitary confinement in Lubyanka prison in Moscow until his release in a US-Soviet spy swap on Feb. 10, 1962.
"For almost 107 days" during this period, "Powers was interrogated, harassed, and endured unmentionable hardships on a continuous basis by numerous top Soviet secret police interrogating teams," reads his Silver Star award citation.
"Although greatly weakened physically by the lack of food, denial of sleep, and the mental rigors of constant interrogation, Captain Powers steadfastly refused all attempts to give sensitive defense information or be exploited for propaganda purposes," states the citation.
It continues: "As a result of his indomitable spirit, exceptional loyalty, and continuous heroic actions, Russian intelligence gained no vital information from him."
Power’s shootdown and capture was one of the Cold War’s most memorable incidents. It heightened tension between the two superpowers and delivered Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev a propaganda coup.
Despite faithfully serving his country and helping to gather invaluable intelligence on Soviet military activity for the Eisenhower Administration during his secret U-2 flights over Soviet territory starting in 1956, the nation never treated Powers as a hero until after his death.
Powers was in part a victim of Cold War secrecy, with decades passing before the US government declassified details of his service. Cold War politics also caused the government that should have embraced him to shun him upon his return.
Slowly, the veil lifted and the truth has emerged. The Air Force Board for the Correction of Military Records (AFBCMR) decided on Dec. 8, 2011—after Powers’ son, Francis Gary Powers Jr., petitioned the board in March of last year—that Powers "met the eligibility criteria for the Silver Star," according to an Air Force statement.
Further, "based on the precedent of the award to two other officers similarly shot down and held prisoner in the USSR," it found that awarding Powers the Silver Star "would be appropriate." Consequently, the board directed that Powers receive the medal.
The Silver Star is the third-highest combat military decoration awarded to a member of any US military branch for valor in the face of the enemy.
When Powers, then a first lieutenant on Active Duty, joined the CIA’s Aquatone overhead reconnaissance program in 1956 to fly the U-2, he ostensibly became a civilian, like the other U-2 pilots of that time.
"The national security interests of the United States required that [Powers] be publically presented as a civilian contractor," according to the Air Force’s statement. However, "in reality, he was a commissioned officer on Active Duty until March 1, 1963," reads the statement.
The AFBCMR on Feb. 15, 2000, corrected Powers’ records to acknowledge his Active Duty status throughout the Aquatone program up until his discharge as a captain. It also recognized him as a prisoner in the Soviet Union, for which he posthumously received the Prisoner of War Medal.
Prior to Powers’ fateful mission, U-2s had operated for several years with impunity in Soviet airspace, but US intelligence knew that the Soviets were fielding missiles that could reach the high-flying reconnaissance aircraft.
Powers took off from Pakistan on a course meant to take him across Afghanistan and over the Soviet Union until exiting Soviet airspace near Murmansk and eventually landing in Norway. However, about four hours into his flight, the SA-2 detonated near Powers’ U-2, blowing off the aircraft’s tail.
Powers bailed out and was quickly captured. The Soviets staged a show trial that sentenced him to prison for espionage.
After his return to the United States, Powers worked for Lockheed for seven years and then became a helicopter pilot broadcasting traffic updates in Los Angeles. He died in a helicopter crash.
Powers has also posthumously received the Distinguished Flying Cross, National Defense Service Medal, and, from the CIA, the Director’s Medal.
KC-46A Moves Ahead
Boeing’s KC-46A tanker passed its USAF preliminary design review in May, demonstrating the aircraft "meets system requirements and establishes the basis for proceeding with detailed design," the company stated.
"Working closely with our Air Force teammates, we’ve made tremendous progress in the past 14 months and have the foundation in place to enter the detailed design phase," Maureen Dougherty, Boeing KC-46 program manager, said on May 8.
Boeing says it remains on course to deliver the initial 18 mission-ready KC-46As as promised by 2017.
"I’m happy with Boeing’s performance. They’re maintaining a very tight focus on meeting commitments and staying on or ahead of schedule," said Maj. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan, KC-46 program executive officer, reviewing the design this spring.
Boeing and USAF are now aiming at the next program hurdle: next summer’s critical design review, which will certify the design is mature enough for the factory floor.
USAF also announced on May 14 its basing criteria for a KC-46A formal training site and two main operating bases—one Active Duty and one Air National Guard. Once selected, the FTU and Active Duty sites would take delivery of their first aircraft in 2016, followed by the ANG location in 2018.
Primary factors in the Air Force’s final decision on operational sites will be their proximity to receiver aircraft, ramp space, capacity, and cost. Air Mobility Command plans to release a list of preferred alternatives this December.
NATO Greenlights Global Hawk Buy
NATO allies have signed a $1.7 billion contract to purchase five RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 remotely piloted surveillance aircraft. The deal was inked at a NATO summit in Chicago this spring.
"The signature of the procurement contract for the AGS [Alliance Ground Surveillance] system is an important step towards the delivery of this key capability to the Alliance," said NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander R. Vershbow, addressing Defense Ministers at the signing ceremony May 20.
Thirteen NATO members, including the United States, signed the initial Alliance Ground Surveillance contract, which includes initial operation and maintenance costs, as well as the purchase of the actual Global Hawk fleet.
The allies will use the Global Hawks to protect ground forces in Afghanistan, provide maritime security, and support counterterrorism, peacekeeping, and disaster relief.
The fleet will carry Northrop Grumman’s advanced MP-RTIP ground surveillance radar, according to the company. Several European suppliers will work with Northrop Grumman to provide the system mobile, remote, and transportable ground stations.
"Northrop Grumman and our entire trans-Atlantic industry team are proud to be bringing this strategic capability to NATO and its member nations," said Wesley G. Bush, the company’s chairman, CEO, and president.
"The decision to move ahead with the Alliance Ground Surveillance program in today’s difficult economic climate sends a powerful message," added Vershbow. The Alliance plans to fully field AGS by 2017.
The War on Terror
Operation Enduring Freedom
By June 21, a total of 2,006 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 2,003 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,581 were killed in action with the enemy while 425 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 16,526 troops wounded in action during OEF.
NATO Affirms Post-2014 Mission to Afghanistan
At a summit in May, NATO members agreed to an Alliance-led advisory mission in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 end of its combat role there.
The follow-on mission "will focus on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces" once they assume full security responsibility for the country from the International Security Assistance Force, according to NATO officials in Chicago, May 21.
"Let me be clear: This will not be ISAF under a different name," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, outlining the plan during the second day of NATO’s two-day summit in Chicago. "It will be a new mission, with a new role for NATO," he said.
Afghanistan’s government welcomed NATO assistance, and member countries also agreed to begin handing the lead combat role over to Afghan forces by the middle of next year, stated the release.
President Obama said the handover "will mark a major step" toward the goal of "completing the transition to Afghan lead for security by the end of 2014 so that Afghans can take responsibility for their own country and so our troops can come home."
Kandahar Opens Expanded Aerial Port
Engineers recently expanded the aerial port at Kandahar Airfield, NATO’s busiest airfield in-country, according to the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, which is in charge of the base.
The project added more than 15,000 square meters of additional space for handling inbound and outbound aerial cargo shipments.
Before the new ramp was built, "in a lot of ways, we were limited by our surroundings," said Lt. Col. Joseph Browning, 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron commander. "This new ramp will make us ready for whatever the mission demands," he said. The 451st ELRS airmen "are able to handle a lot of passengers and cargo," he said in the wing’s May 22 press release.
The Army Corps of Engineers also upgraded the airfield’s safety and security infrastructure adding several new features, such as enhanced lighting and airfield fencing.
Terre Haute to Afghan Heights
Joint terminal attack controllers of the Indiana Air National Guard’s 113th Air Support Operations Squadron deployed for the first time as a unit to Afghanistan, May 14, according to wing officials.
Teamed with the Army National Guard’s 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the JTACs are part of an all-Guard presence mentoring Afghan forces in Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan. On the ground, the ANG teams will directly support the security force assistance coordinating air support for the Ohio and Michigan Army Guard units.
Each of the unit’s deployed JTACs and air liaison officers, who are assigned to Hulman Field near Terre Haute, volunteered for the assignment.
The 113th ASOS’ parent 181st Intelligence Wing stood up in 2008, training and equipping battlefield airmen over the last few years to bring the air support squadron up to deployment readiness.
Senior Staff Changes
RETIREMENTS: Lt. Gen. Marc E. Rogers, Maj. Gen. Kathleen D. Close, Maj. Gen. Richard T. Devereaux, Maj. Gen. Howard N. Thompson, Maj. Gen. Mark R. Zamzow, Brig. Gen. Gregory L. Brundidge.
NOMINATIONS: To be General: Paul J. Selva, Larry O. Spencer. To be Lieutenant General: Darren McDew, Noel T. Jones, Thomas W. Travis. To be Major General: Timothy M. Ray. To be Brigadier General: David B. Been, Bobby V. Page. To be ANG Lieutenant General: Michael D. Dubie, Joseph L. Lengyel. To be ANG Brigadier General: Russ A. Walz, Donald S. Wenke, Wayne A. Zimmet.
CHANGES: Brig. Gen. Dwyer L. Dennis, from Dir., Intel., Surveillance, Recon, & Rqmts., AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, to PEO, Fighters & Bombers, AF Life Cycle Mgmt. Center, AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio ... Maj. Gen. Sharon K. Dunbar, from Dir., Force Mgmt. Policy, DCS, Manpower, Personnel, & Svcs., USAF, Pentagon, to Cmdr., AF District of Washington, JB Andrews, Md. ... Brig. Gen. Mark A. Ediger, Cmdr., AF Medical Ops. Agency, Office of the Surgeon General, San Antonio, to Dep. Surgeon General, Office of the Surgeon General, USAF, Pentagon ... Brig. Gen. Edward A. Fienga, from Exec. Officer to the Cmdr., AFSPC, Peterson AFB, Colo., to the Dep. Dir., Prgms., Office of the DCS, Strat. Plans & Prgms., USAF, Pentagon ... Brig. Gen. Gina M. Grosso, from Dir., Manpower, Orgn. & Resources, DCS, Manpower, Personnel, & Svcs., USAF, Pentagon, to Dir., Force Mgmt. Policy, DCS, Manpower, Personnel, & Svcs., USAF, Pentagon ... Brig. Gen. Francis L. Hendricks, from Cmdr., Army & AF Exchange Svc., Dallas, to the Spec. Asst. to the DCS, Manpower, Personnel, & Svcs., USAF, Pentagon ... Brig. Gen. Richard A. Klumpp Jr., from Dir., US Forces-Afghanistan Liaison to the US Embassy, CENTCOM, Kabul, Afghanistan, to Dir., Strat. Planning, DCS, Strat. Plans & Prgms., USAF, Pentagon ... Brig. Gen. Mark M. McLeod, from Dir., Log., PACAF, JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to Dir., Log., Engineer, & Security Assistance, PACOM, Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii ... Maj. Gen. Kenneth D. Merchant, from Cmdr., Air Armament Center, AFMC, Eglin AFB, Fla., to PEO, Weapons, AF Life Cycle Mgmt. Center, AFMC, Eglin AFB, Fla. ... Maj. Gen. Craig S. Olson, from PEO, Business & Enterprise Sys., ESC, AFMC, Maxwell AFB-Gunter Annex, Ala., to PEO, Command, Control, & Comm. Info. & Networks, AF Life Cycle Mgmt. Center, AFMC, Hanscom AFB, Mass. ... Maj. Gen. Darryl L. Roberson, from Dir., Strat. Planning, DCS, Strat. Plans & Prgms., USAF, Pentagon, to the Vice Dir., Jt. Staff, Pentagon ... Gen. (sel.) Larry O. Spencer, from Dir., Force Structure, Resources, & Assessments, Jt. Staff, Pentagon, to Vice C/S, USAF, Pentagon ... Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward, from Spec. Asst. to the DCS, Ops., Plans, & Rqmts., USAF, Pentagon, to AF Chief, Safety, USAF, Pentagon.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag