Welsh Becomes Chief of Staff
Gen. Mark A. Welsh III succeeded Gen. Norton A. Schwartz on Aug. 10, becoming the 20th Chief of Staff of the Air Force, after the Senate lifted a hold on his nomination two weeks before.
Welsh, most recently head of US Air Forces in Europe, is a command pilot with more than 3,400 hours in the F-16, A-10, and training aircraft. Before that, he served as associate director of the Central Intelligence Agency, for military affairs. He is a 1976 graduate of the US Air Force Academy.
The Senate confirmed Welsh on Aug. 2 after Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) lifted a hold on his nomination. Cornyn placed the hold because he wanted reassurances the Air Force would address the underlying causes of sex abuse by military training instructors at JBSA-Lackland, Tex. Cornyn met with Welsh in late July and reported being satisfied Welsh would work to combat the problems.
Schwartz, who had served as CSAF since August 2008, will formally retire effective Oct. 1 after 39 years of Air Force service.
Theater, Reserve Leaders Change
Gen. Philip M. Breedlove took command of US Air Forces in Europe in a July 31 ceremony at Ramstein AB, Germany. Breedlove previously served as vice chief of staff and succeeded the new Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, at USAFE.
Gen. Herbert J. Carlisle succeeded Gen. Gary L. North as commander of Pacific Air Forces on Aug. 3. Carlisle, promoted to four-star rank the day before, previously served as deputy chief of staff for operations, plans, and requirements.
North, who had commanded PACAF since 2009, is set to retire after 36 years in uniform, effective Oct. 1.
New leaders stepped up to command the reserve component as well. Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson took the helm at Air Force Reserve Command the same week that the Senate confirmed new leadership for the Air National Guard in late July.
The Senate confirmed Army Lt. Gen. Frank J. Grass to become the next head of the National Guard Bureau, succeeding Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, who is retiring. McKinley was the first head of the Guard Bureau to be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Nineteenth Air Force Stands Down
Air Education and Training Command inactivated 19th Air Force, which oversaw the command’s flight training mission for nearly two decades, in a ceremony at JBSA-Randolph, Tex., July 17.
"Nineteenth Air Force led the stand-up of the F-35 [strike fighter] schoolhouse and the Air Force’s only undergraduate remotely piloted aircraft training program for pilots and sensor operators. The unit also activated student squadrons, streamlining the administrative control of the nearly 1,400 student pilots who begin training each year," said AETC chief Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr. at the inactivation.
The numbered Air Force "did all this while maintaining the day-to-day flying training missions, which account for 47 percent of the Air Force’s total flying hour program," added Rice.
Nineteenth Air Force is one of three NAFs slated for elimination as part of the Air Force’s $34 billion overhead-cutting initiative. US Air Forces in Europe inactivated its constituent 17th Air Force in Germany earlier this year, and Pacific Air Forces is slated to stand down 13th Air Force in Hawaii this month.
First International F-35 Delivered
British Defense Minister Philip Hammond accepted delivery of the UK’s first F-35 strike fighter in a July 19 ceremony at manufacturer Lockheed Martin’s aircraft facility in Fort Worth, Tex.
Designated BK-1, Britain’s F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft is the first F-35 supplied to an international customer.
BK-1 flew for the first time in April and is slated for test and training duties at Eglin AFB, Fla.
"The United Kingdom was the first partner nation to join the F-35 program and has been a tremendous partner throughout the development, testing, and the initial production," said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in a joint briefing with Hammond in the Pentagon July 18.
The British government dropped plans to buy the naval F-35C in favor of the F-35B earlier this year. "Buying the STOVL version of the F-35 will allow us quickly to generate strike capability from our next generation aircraft carriers," reasoned Hammond, speaking at a Center for a New American Security event July 18.
He was referring to Britain’s two planned Queen Elizabeth-class carriers. Britain plans to buy 48 F-35Bs, Reuters reports.
AFMC Reorganizes Depots
Large pieces of Air Force Materiel Command’s restructuring plan came together at Hill AFB, Utah; Tinker AFB, Okla., and Robins AFB, Ga.,in July.
AFMC officials redesignated the air logistics centers at Hill, Tinker, and Robins, as complexes, rebranding them the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, and Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, respectively.
The complexes now report directly to the newly minted Air Force Sustainment Center, which stood up July 10 at Tinker to oversee the well-being of USAF’s combined weapon systems fleets.
"Mission-capable and ready weapons systems are … required to fight and win our nation’s wars, and that is what AFSC will deliver," said Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Litchfield, AFSC’s commander.
The air logistics complexes will continue their missions, minus their previous in-house command staff, reducing management overhead, according to Tinker officials.
The changes are part of AFMC’s overall consolidation from 12 centers to five, in an effort to trim about $109 million in annual operating costs.
The Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., was also renamed, to become the Air Force Test Center on July 13.
C-27J Fleet Grounded
A flight-control problem grounded the Air National Guard’s C-27J Spartan airlift fleet after an aircraft experienced in-flight difficulty on a training sortie July 10.
Aeronautical Systems Center officials at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, suspended flight operations as "a precautionary measure" while service and industry officials investigated the incident, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.
"The program office is working with the C-27J prime contractor, L-3 Communications, and the aircraft manufacturer, Alenia Aermacchi, to resolve the matter as quickly as possible and return the C-27J fleet to normal flight operations," she said in an interview July 18.
The Air Force’s decision to pull the C-27Js out of Afghanistan in June was unrelated to the temporary-control issue, though service officials say they have no plans to redeploy the small airlifters at present.
Despite the Air Force’s attempts at divesting the C-27J fleet in Fiscal 2013, Congress has thus far prohibited their retirement, at least until next fiscal year.
As of press time, the C-27J fleet remained grounded.
BRAC Didn’t Save Us Much
Projected net savings from the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure fell about 72 percent, dropping from $35.6 billion in Fiscal 2005 to $9.9 billion in Fiscal 2011, according to Government Accountability Office estimates.
GAO blamed higher-than-expected construction costs for the growth, stating that "overall, military construction costs … increased 86 percent, from $13.2 billion estimated by the BRAC commission to $24.5 billion," in a summary of the report, publicly released in July. "Over the same time period, general inflation increased by 13.7 percent," further escalating implementation costs, GAO said.
Analysts figure that future BRAC savings will actually amount to less than the up-front investment cost of implementing the measures, when calculated in present value terms, according to GAO.
"In contrast, military construction costs for the four prior BRAC rounds combined amounted to less than $7 billion." Of the BRAC commission’s 182 approved recommendations in 2005, 75—about 41 percent—are now expected to net a negative 20-year present value, noted the report summary.
Luke Hosts F-35A Pilot Training
Air Force leaders chose Luke AFB, Ariz., to host USAF’s F-35A pilot training center, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley announced Aug. 1. After pilots complete initial F-35 training at Eglin AFB, Fla., they will go to Luke for Air Force-specific combat training in the aircraft.
Three squadrons of 72 F-35As are slated to take their places at Luke between late 2013 and mid-2014, depending on the production schedule.
"This is a great day for Luke. Our selection for F-35 training ensures the long-term viability of our mission of training the world’s greatest fighter pilots, which we’ve been doing at Luke for seven decades," said Brig. Gen. Jerry D. Harris, 56th Fighter Wing commander.
Luke was chosen for its ample facilities and ramp space, nearby range access, favorable weather, and future growth capacity, among other reasons.
Luke won its place over two Air National Guard sites at Boise, Idaho, and Tucson, Ariz., as well as Holloman AFB, N.M.
Luke currently hosts US and international F-16 conversion training and will eventually serve as an international partner training site for the F-35A.
AC-130J Takes Shape
Line workers began converting the first new-build AC-130J gunship for Air Force Special Operations Command at Lockheed Martin’s plant in Marietta, Ga., in July.
The gunship is being reconfigured from an MC-130J Commando II special-mission airplane, with the addition of USAF’s modular Precision Strike Package, according to a company statement July 23.
The PSP scalable weapons and sensor suite designed to equip the AC-130J is already operational on AFSOC’s MC-130W Dragon Spear special-mission aircraft.
The Air Force plans to purchase 16 factory-fresh AC-130Js under a $1.6 billion recapitalization effort to replace the legacy AC-130H fleet, and expand the overall gunship fleet.
AFSOC plans to operate a combined fleet of 33 gunships, including the 17 late-model AC-130Us already on duty.
Lockheed said that AFSOC expects to field its first AC-130Js in 2015.
Strike Eagle—Now With JASSM
An F-15E launched a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile over White Sands Missile Range, N.M., clearing all Strike Eagles to use the weapon, Lockheed Martin officials said.
The F-15E successfully destroyed its intended target from an altitude of 22,000 feet. The aircraft is now the sixth platform for the cruise missile, said Lockheed Martin’s JASSM Program Director Alan Jackson.
"JASSM on the F-15E will enhance that tactical fighter’s capabilities by broadening the range of options available," he added.
This was the first weapon certification accomplished using USAF’s new Universal Armament Interface. The system eliminates the need for flight software changes.
JASSM is already cleared for use on the B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers, the F-16 fighter, and Australia’s F/A-18 fleet.
C-17 End of the Line
The Air Force awarded Boeing a $500 million contract to transition from production of the C-17 transport to postproduction support.
"The contract allows the US Air Force to purchase critical spare assemblies and also allows for postproduction planning of the C-17 program," explained Bob Ceisla, Boeing’s airlift vice president, in an interview July 11.
"This is the beginning of a 10-year process ... to leverage cost-effective purchases of critical parts to support the C-17 during its operational lifetime," he said.
Boeing plans to deliver the Air Force’s 224th, and likely final, C-17 constructed at its Long Beach, Calif., plant next May. The company is still "pursuing international sales" though, and believes there is "strong customer interest in the capabilities only the C-17 can deliver," said Ceisla.
Boeing delivered its 27th international C-17 this May. It went to the United Arab Emirates.
Another Chinese Stealth Fighter?
Photos of what may be a new Chinese stealth fighter design turned up on the Internet, less than two years after China surprised the West by unveiling its first fifth generation design, the J-20.
Some analysts believe the aircraft is the long-rumored direct analogy to the F-22, known as the Shenyang F-60.
The fact that China may be working on a second advanced fighter in addition to the stealthy J-20 that came to light in early 2011, however, "should not come as a surprise," said former Air Force intelligence chief David A. Deptula.
"The [People’s Liberation Army Air Force] has a very comprehensive planning process and may have several advanced aircraft in various stages of design and development," Deptula said.
The aircraft was shown heavily shrouded in tarpaulin lying on a flat-bed truck, purportedly en route to a stress-testing facility somewhere in China.
The photographs originally appeared in late June, according to press reports.
F-22s Deploy to Japan
F-22s and airmen of the 1st Fighter Wing at JB Langley-Eustis, Va., deployed to Kadena AB, Japan, in July for a show-of-presence rotation, under revised flight limitations having to do with the F-22’s oxygen issues. (See "You Can Breathe, Now," at left.)
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta authorized the deployment after officials confirmed they’d pinpointed the cause of pilot in-flight oxygen deprivation and were implementing a plan to resolve the problem.
"The F-22 deployment to Kadena AB is in support of US Pacific Command’s security obligations in the Western Pacific, and the deployed unit will perform training under the direction of the 18th Wing at Kadena," according to PACAF.
As a safety precaution, the Raptors flew the Aleutian Island chain en route to Japan, staying close to potential divert airfields along the way.
F-22s usually deploy to the Pacific for about four months at a time.
Next Time, Just Sink it a Little
Four A-10s bombed, strafed, and sank the decommissioned naval supply ship USNS Niagara Falls off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, during this summer’s Rim of the Pacific exercise, leaving nothing for other aircraft in the wargame to shoot at.
"I think they underestimated the ability of the A-10," said Maj. Grant McCall, a pilot with Air Force Reserve Command’s 47th Fighter Squadron, deployed to RIMPAC from Barksdale AFB, La.
"Other groups were supposed to shoot at the target ... but never got the chance because we sank it" on the first run, he said upon returning from the July 14 sortie.
A-10s struck the ship with four inert 2,000-pound laser guided bombs—one of which penetrated the hull—and finished the crippled vessel with cannon fire.
"The 30 millimeters were pounding the ship and sending monster geysers of water up in the air. It was a spectacular sight, like something out of old World War II footage," added Lt. Col. Jim Travis, 47th Fighter Squadron commander.
A-10s struck maritime targets—possibly for the first time in combat—during the Libya campaign last year.
F-16 Pilot Ejects Over Pacific
An F-16 pilot ejected over the Pacific Ocean en route to North America, roughly 250 miles northeast of Hokkaido island, Japan, July 21.
The pilot, assigned to the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa AB, Japan, was retrieved from his survival raft by a US commercial vessel, guided by USAF and joint service assets, according to USAF.
"The men and women of US Forces Japan are extremely grateful for the successful and safe recovery of our pilot," said Lt. Gen. Salvatore A. Angelella, US Forces Japan commander, following the incident.
Misawa suspended F-16 flight operations for several days to review aircraft safety records, crew procedures, and maintenance practices.
"To further ensure our commitment to safety, all F-16 pilots were briefed on long-duration mission and egress procedures," with an emphasis on extended overwater flights, said Col. Van A. Wimmer Jr., 35th Fighter Wing vice commander.
Though PACAF investigators are still probing the cause of the crash, Misawa’s F-16s returned to the air July 26.
More F-35 Shooters Than Testers
Lockheed Martin delivered four F-35 strike fighters in early summer, pushing the size of the operational fleet beyond that of the test fleet, the company announced.
The F-35s delivered in late June and early July bolstered the operational F-35 fleet to 16 aircraft, surpassing the 14-strong test fleet for the first time.
"We’re increasingly becoming more operationally focused. These deliveries illustrate the program’s natural progression and maturation that is taking place on a daily basis," said Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program general manager Orlando Carvalho.
Three of the new jets are Air Force F-35A variants and one is a Marine Corps F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing model.
All four jets were assigned to units at Eglin AFB, Fla., home of the initial joint F-35 schoolhouse, for use in pilot and maintainer training, according to the company.
Testing Shuffle at Eglin
Air Force Material Command in a July 18 ceremony inactivated the Air Armament Center and realigned the test wing at Eglin AFB, Fla., under a commandwide shake-up.
Eglin testers now report to the rebranded Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., AFMC officials said.
The development and acquisition missions of the former AAC now align under the also newly formed Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
In addition, Eglin’s 96th Air Base Wing was redesignated the 96th Test Wing, then absorbed the 46th Test Wing mission and people. The 96th is aligned to AFTC.
"Our mission to develop, test, and produce war-winning weapons remains vital, … and it must continue," said Maj. Gen. Kenneth D. Merchant, outgoing AAC commander.
Despite elimination of the center, Eglin retains its previous functions, simply without its own administrative and command staff, which were done away with on cost grounds.
A proposed measure in the Fiscal 2013 defense authorization legislation could reverse the consolidation, however, Florida’s Emerald Coast Daily News reported in July.
"My pending legislation is explicit. ... When it becomes law, the Air Force will be required to re-establish and restore the Air Armament Center," said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who represents the Eglin community.
Hawaii F-22 Problem
Investigators deemed that a life support malfunction caused a Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 pilot’s hypoxia symptoms during a training sortie July 6.
The Air Force is formally investigating the incident, but unlike similar incidents with the F-22, the service classed the malfunction as "a physiological ‘cause-known’ event," officials confirmed July 17.
Accordingly, the case did not factor into the service’s then-ongoing quest to determine the cause of Raptor pilots’ mysterious disorientation and nausea in flight.
The Hawaii Air Guard pilot received a cockpit warning at the end of his training sortie from JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam that his onboard oxygen-generating system was not delivering sufficient oxygen, according to officials.
The pilot experienced oxygen deprivation but activated the emergency oxygen system, and "the symptom immediately subsided" allowing the pilot to return to base "uneventfully," according to USAF.
The pilot experienced no lingering physiological effects and has returned to flight status.
An MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft flew a search and rescue exercise in national airspace for the first time earlier this year, Air National Guard officials revealed.
Controllers with the Texas Air Guard’s 147th Reconnaissance Wing launched the aircraft from Fort Polk, La., during exercise Ardent Sentry. After takeoff, the Texas crews handed the RPA off to California Air Guard controllers of the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing at March ARB, Calif., for the search.
The MQ-1 "demonstrated the capability to safely fly within the US national airspace system and provide persistent full-motion video from remotely piloted aircraft to incident commanders, first responders, and interagency partners," Col. Randall R. Ball, 163rd RW commander, said in a wing news release July 7.
The Predator orbited above a simulated hurricane-ravaged zone, locating survivors and relaying potential hazards to rescue teams on the ground during the exercise this spring, according to the release.
Air Force Buys 10th WGS
The Air Force awarded Boeing $338.7 million to build the 10th Wideband Global Satellite Communications spacecraft, Air Force Space Command announced July 27.
WGS-10, like WGS-8 and WGS-9 which are in production, will feature a new wideband digital "channelizer" that nearly doubles the satellite’s bandwidth compared to the earlier iterations, according to AFSPC.
All WGS spacecraft are designed to support simultaneous X- and Ka-band communications.
The first four WGS are already operating in orbit, with the 3rd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., taking control of WGS-4 on July 30.
WGS-4 launched from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., in January, and WGS-5, WGS-6, and WGS-7 are still in production, with the next launch slated for 2013.
The deal for WGS-10 is part of the commercial-like arrangement the Air Force instituted with Boeing to purchase procurement of WGS-7 through WGS-10. The model has already generated "significant savings to the US government," according to AFSPC.
Swarming Boats Beware
An F-15E flying from Holloman AFB, N.M., scored a direct hit on a moving target for the first time with a GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II, in tests at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., July 17.
The bomb’s trimode seeker acquired, tracked, and guided the bomb to its intended target, demonstrating success at each flight phase, manufacturer Raytheon announced.
The SDB II’s sophisticated seeker allows the bomb to "engage moving targets in bad weather or battlefield obscurants in high threat environments," explained Harry Schulte, Raytheon’s missile systems vice president.
For its part, the weapons’ small warhead is extremely useful in "defeating threats, such as swarming boats, mobile air defense systems, or armored targets," while limiting collateral damage, he said.
The weapon, undergoing development for the Air Force, is capable of striking targets with accuracy even from stand-off range.
The bunker-busting Massive Ordnance Penetrator is ready for operation if needed, although the powerful bomb is still undergoing final tests and tweaks, according to Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley.
"If it was needed to go today, we would be able to do that," he said speaking at an Air Force Association co-sponsored event in Washington, D.C., this July.
"We could go with the existing configuration," but the Air Force is continuing to test and refine the weapon, he said.
Air Force officials first announced that the 30,000-pound MOP built by Boeing was ready for use on the B-2 stealth bomber last fall.
MOP is designed to give the United States the means to attack tough targets—for example, hardened and deeply buried nuclear development and test facilities in countries such as Iran and North Korea—without resorting to nuclear weapons.
F-15E AESA, Round Two
The Air Force approved production of the second batch of APG-82(V)1 active electronically scanned array radars for the F-15E, lead integrator Boeing announced.
Under Lot 2, the Boeing-led industrial team will build 10 APG-82 units, in addition to the six units already completed in Lot 1, the company stated in a July 23 release.
The AESA radar, built by Boeing partner Raytheon, will replace the F-15E’s mechanically scanned APG-70, significantly improving reliability and the F-15E’s ability to detect and track targets.
The APG-82 is undergoing testing at Eglin AFB, Fla., and Nellis AFB, Nev.
Retrofitting the new radar units onto the F-15Es will begin next fall, according to the manufacturer.
Eighth Super Galaxy Completed
Lockheed Martin delivered the eighth C-5M Super Galaxy transport to the Air Force, from its rework plant at Marietta, Ga., July 20.
This C-5 completed the Reliability Enhancement and Re-Engining Program upgrades at Marietta and quickly departed for interior refurbishments to the cargo bay and passenger deck at Stewart ANGB, N. Y., before final delivery to Dover AFB, Del.
The Air Force intends to upgrade 52 C-5s overall to the Super Galaxy standard, which encompasses the RERP modifications, along with an avionics update performed prior to RERP under the separate Avionics Modernization Program.
The Dutch Parliament voted to terminate participation in the F-35 strike fighter program in a nonbinding resolution strongly condemned by Dutch Defense Minister Hans Hillen, July 5.
"If we were to stop investing in fighter aircraft, ... it would simply mean that we would be neglecting our duties," said Hillen in a statement three days before the vote.
The Netherlands is one of the F-35 project’s original industrial partners, and Hillen noted it has "reserved 4.5 billion euros [$5.3 billion] for the purchase" of as many as 80 F-35s.
Labor Party ministers plan to front a formal bill to challenge Dutch participation in the F-35 project ahead of elections to replace the sitting government this month.
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin says it is confident, however, that the Dutch will stick with the program despite the opposition of some in Parliament, Bloomberg reported July 10.
Dutch industry holds a roughly 9 billion euro industrial share in the F-35 program, according to Hillen, and the first Dutch F-35A rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant in Texas, this April.
Three Japan Air Self-Defense Force pilots are undergoing F-16 conversion training with the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Fighter Wing in Tucson, after last year’s tsunami dented Japan’s training capacity.
"Not many of our pilots have flown this type of fighter. It’s a real privilege for us," said JASDF 1st Lt. Kazuhiro Ota in a July 9 Tucson release.
Last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan severely damaged several of Japan’s Mitsubishi F-2 fighter trainers, so the trio is training in the United States to regenerate Japan’s air defense capability and relieve strain on JASDF’s training pipeline.
Though the F-2 is a different design from the F-16, it’s based on the F-16 and the two aircraft have many common attributes. Mitsubishi collaborated with Lockheed Martin to develop the fighter.
This makes the F-16 an ideal training surrogate, according to wing officials. Another JASDF pilot is scheduled to arrive at the same time that the first three trainees finish the course this fall.
Rescue Unit Ends Gulf Alert
The 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, which covered forces in Iraq since the beginning of combat operations there in 2003, recently returned from Kuwait, closing out USAF’s Gulf personnel recovery operation.
"It is the end of 64th ERQS deployments" to the Middle East, said Col. Steven Gregg, commander of the 347th Rescue Group at Moody AFB, Ga., as the unit headed home in July.
"Since every Active Duty HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue squadron has served in the 64th ERQS, I feel that this is significant," he added.
The unit left JB Balad, Iraq, with the US military’s withdrawal from the country last year, restaging its alert forces to Ali Al Salem Air Base in central Kuwait.
"We look forward to meeting the challenges of the future with the same professionalism as we did in Iraq and Kuwait," affirmed Gregg.
The first wave of 64th ERQS airmen returned to Moody on July 17.
Airman Killed in Theater Shooting
Air Force Reservist SSgt. Jesse Childress was killed in a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., July 20, Air Force officials stated. Eleven other people lost their lives in the attack.
The Thornton, Colo., native was serving on active status with the 310th Forces Support Squadron at Buckley AFB, Colo., when he was killed. He was 29 years old.
A second Reservist was wounded in the shooting as well, according to officials.
The injured airman, also on active duty orders at Buckley, was admitted to the hospital, treated, and released the following day.
Two Navy personnel were caught in the cross fire as well. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John T. Larimer, 27, of Crystal Lake, Ill., was killed, and one seaman was injured, according to the Navy.
Missileers and Maintainers Together
Air Education and Training Command officials merged its previously separate missileer and ICBM maintenance training squadrons into a single combined unit at Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
"The newly merged unit will continue to teach 12 different ICBM and Air Launched Cruise Missile courses," but with less administrative and support infrastructure, said Col. Michele Edmondson, commander of Vandenberg’s 381st Training Group, said in a July 13 release.
"Class structure and teaching requirements will not change." Instead, the new structure will allow ICBM and ALCM trainees "to further capitalize on synergies between the missile maintenance and missile operations career fields, ultimately resulting in more well-rounded maintainers and operators," said Edmondson.
Under the commandwide streamlining initiative, the 392nd Training Squadron, which previously trained all ICBM missileers, became part of the 532nd TRS, formerly responsible only for training Minuteman III and ALCM technicians.
The 392nd TRS, which traces its lineage to World War II and was most recently redesignated in 1994, was inactivated July 2.
The Air Force Academy retired its TG-10C Kestrel glider fleet after certifying one last cadet as an instructor pilot on a check ride in July.
The school acquired its fleet of 12 TG-10s in 2002 to teach cadets basic flying skills as well as more advanced aerobatic maneuvers.
Now, the academy is replacing the Kestrels with an all-new fleet of high-performance, German-built DG-1000 sailplanes—designated TG-16A in USAF service.
USAFA’s new TG-16As "are made of fiberglass instead of sheet metal. [They’re] leading-edge soaring equipment," said Lt. Col. Richard Roller, 94th Flying Training Squadron commander.
As of late July, the academy had received 15 of the 19 total TG-16s on order, allowing cadets to begin training on the new aircraft for the first time July 16.
The school’s Kestrels logged a total of 140,000 flights before they were handed over to the Civil Air Patrol to train CAP cadets, according to 94th FTS officials.
Three BMT Instructors Found Guilty of Sexual Misconduct
Air Force military training instructor TSgt. Christopher Smith was convicted of sexual misconduct with two trainees in basic training at JBSA-Lackland, Tex., Aug. 1. Smith was sentenced to 30 days of confinement and a reduction in grade to airman first class for unprofessional relationships with his subordinates.
At least 12 instructors are under investigation by the Air Force for sexual misconduct involving MTIs at Lackland.
Former basic military training instructor SSgt. Luis Walker was convicted of 28 counts of sexual misconduct and sentenced to 20 years of confinement at a court-martial the month before.
Walker was stripped of his grade, compelled to forfeit all pay and allowances, and dishonorably discharged, following his conviction July 20.
The weeklong court-martial found him guilty of charges including rape and aggravated sexual contact, in incidents involving 10 female basic military trainees between October 2010 and June 2011.
SSgt. Peter Vega-Maldonado, the first ex-instructor tried, pleaded guilty to a single charge of improper relations with a trainee. Vega was sentenced to 90 days of confinement and reduced in rank to airman, according to Air Force officials.
Ax the Triad?
US Strategic Command would eliminate part of the US nuclear triad at the President’s direction, but the mix of bombers, ICBMs, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles remains the best deterrent option for now, said STRATCOM Commander Gen. C. Robert Kehler.
"My view today is that the triad continues to serve us well. It may not be true in the future, but it continues to serve us well," stated Kehler during an Air Force Association co-sponsored address on Capitol Hill July 12.
US nuclear doctrine has traditionally adhered to an indivisible triad concept, wherein each "leg" provides unique and indispensable capability.
Kehler affirmed that the survivability, speed of response, and flexibility offered by each respective leg is "the best arrangement that we have today," but opened the door to possible changes to long-standing nuclear force structure doctrine in the future.
He asserted that there has "always been concern" about whether the ICBM force is stabilizing or destabilizing, adding that for now it’s "still a valuable component" in the range of alternatives for the President.
Kehler said the command regularly reviews the triad concept, and if the President determines that the deterrent need has diminished, "it’s up to us to meet his needs," up to and including eliminating a whole leg of the nuclear triad.
You Can Breathe, Now
The Air Force believes that a flaw in the design of F-22 pilot flight suits is to blame for the mysterious hypoxia-like symptoms that have plagued Raptor pilots for the past few years.
The service is confident that two problems—a faulty valve connection in the upper part of the Combat Edge full-body G-suit and a charcoal filter—are the culprits and is taking measures to address the problems, then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz said.
Data for the official investigation ruled out contamination of the Raptor's oxygen system, and the service was finally able to narrow the problem to these specific components, Schwartz revealed in a press conference July 24.
USAF is taking a "phased approach" to fixing the problem, gradually lifting flight restrictions on the F-22 as hardware retrofits are incorporated into the aircraft to rectify the issues, he said.
Schwartz said Air Force officials apprised Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta of their finding on July 20. Panetta in turn loosened flight restrictions on the F-22 enough to allow a squadron-sized group to deploy to Kadena AB, Japan, several days later, said Schwartz.
Centrifuge and altitude-chamber tests confirmed the Air Force's findings that the problem was "the amount, not the quality" of the air pilots are receiving, he said.
Filters installed on the jets as a precaution last year have already been removed, and the Air Force plans to have a modified G-suit sometime this month, Schwartz said.
For the Japan deployment, the jets followed the Aleutian Island chain across the Pacific, staying within 90 minutes’ flight time of a useable runway at all times.
Tankers accompanied the Raptors to allow them to descend to lower, less fuel-efficient altitudes, if necessary.
The Air Force must submit a final report to Panetta, detailing its complete findings before the aircraft are cleared for unrestricted operations.
Operation Enduring Freedom
As of Aug. 16, a total of 2,080 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 2,077 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,646 were killed in action with the enemy while 434 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 17,204 troops wounded during OEF.
Big Time Lancer Presence
Nine B-1 bombers and more than 400 airmen from the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess AFB, Tex., have returned home after a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia for combat operations in Afghanistan.
The overseas stint was the largest single deployment of B-1 bombers and associated support personnel in the last decade, according to wing officials.
"There wasn’t a single moment during our deployment that we did not have a B-1 in the air over Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. Matthew Brooks, commander of Dyess’ 9th Bomb Squadron.
The expeditionary contingent of B-1s "flew 130 more sorties than any B-1 squadron had flown in any other six-month deployment," delivering more than 400 weapons on target, he said.
Bombers and personnel began arriving at Dyess July 25. They were replaced in theater by B-1s of the 28th Bomb Wing from Ellsworth AFB, S.D.
Valor in the Door
Aerial gunner SSgt. Justin Tite was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device for heroic actions during a rescue mission in Afghanistan, in a ceremony at Nellis ABF, Nev.
Flying as an HH-60 door gunner on a rescue mission April 23, 2011, Tite suppressed intense enemy fire, covering the extraction of a downed Army helicopter crew.
Over the course of the six-hour mission, Tite’s actions allowed the safe recovery of two soldiers and the recovery of the body of a third.
"In all honesty, I’m just humbled to get this," said Tite, after receiving the decoration from Air Force Warfare Center Commander Maj. Gen. James W. Hyatt July 9. "I don’t take this award necessarily [because] of just what I’ve done. I think it’s more or less for the [rescue] community itself," he said.
Capt. Elliot Milliken, one of the pilots on Tite’s crew—call sign Pedro 83—also received the DFC for the mission back in April.
Tite is assigned to the 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis.
Bars in 3,000 More Places
USAF’s tiny fleet of E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node jets completed 3,000 combat support sorties over Afghanistan in less than four years on deployment.
"It’s a great honor and feeling of satisfaction knowing our missions have such a significant impact supporting the ground and air forces in theater," said Lt. Col. Paul Bedesem, 451st Tactical Airborne Gateway pilot, after the milestone flight July 14.
Airmen and contractors of the 451st TAG at Kandahar Airfield operate the E-11As as overhead communications relays to overcome the limitations of ground communications in Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain.
The modified Bombardier BD-700 business jets augment the Air Force’s BACN-outfitted EQ-4B Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft.
Northrop Grumman announced that the Air Force awarded it a $156 million contract in July to extend both fleets’ deployments in theater, at least through June 2013.
"These awards are evidence of that invaluable support and the exceptional performance of the BACN program office," Northrop Grumman’s communication systems vice president Claude Hashem said in a company news release July 23.
Summer of Sequestration
As implementation of the 2011 Budget Control Act looms ever closer—which would result in an automatic, additional half-trillion dollars in defense cuts in January, called a "sequester"—industry groups, members of Congress, and academics tried to sound the alarm in hopes that Congress will act to stave off financial disaster.
The National Association of Manufacturers released a report on June 21 warning that by 2014, more than a million jobs could be lost in the private sector, including 130,000 manufacturing positions, if sequestration takes effect.
George Mason University economist Stephen S. Fuller projects in a July 17 report the total number of jobs lost to sequestration across all industries would be 2.14 million.
Seven senators, including John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), sent a letter to 15 major defense companies, asking what sequestration’s effects would be on the defense industry. The Senators wanted to know the impact on employees, suppliers, and bottom line, and how many contracts the companies would have to restructure or terminate. Lockheed Martin’s outgoing chief executive officer, Robert J. Stevens, has already stated publicly that his company will notify its 120,000 employees next month that their jobs could disappear in January due to sequestration.
Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said in June that sequestration will deeply affect the Air Force’s budget. Operation and maintenance accounts would lose $6 billion, procurement would come down $4.5 billion, and research, development, test, and evaluation activities would be cut by $3.4 billion. "All our programs would have to be reduced, restructured, or terminated," Donley said at a July Capitol Hill event co-sponsored by the Air Force Association.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard P. McKeon (R-Calif.), along with GOP committee members, urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bring a plan to the Senate floor without delay to resolve sequestration. "The time for rhetoric has passed," wrote McKeon and the other members in their June 29 letter.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter urged "action now" while testifying before the HASC on Aug. 1.
The House and Senate approved the Sequestration Transparency Act, forcing President Obama to provide specific information about $1.2 trillion in cuts to domestic and defense programs. President Obama signed the bill on Aug. 7, giving him 30 days to provide the information to Congress.
—Evan A. Milberg
Senior Staff Changes
CHANGES: Maj. Gen. (sel.) Richard D. Clark, from Commandant of Cadets, US Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., to Defense Attaché, DIA, Cairo, Egypt ... Brig. Gen. Bobby V. Page, from Command Chaplain, AETC, JBSA-Randolph, Tex., to AF Dep. Chief of Chaplains, Pentagon ... Maj. Gen. Stephen D. Schmidt, from Cmdr., NATO, Airborne Early Warning & Control Force Command, NATO, Casteau, Belgium, to Spec. Asst. to the Cmdr., USAFE, Ramstein AB, Germany ... Brig. Gen. Christopher P. Weggeman, from Cmdr., 52nd FW, USAFE, Spangdahlem AB, Germany, to Dep. Dir., C4/Cyber Sys., Jt. Staff, Washington, D.C.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE RETIREMENT: Joan A. Causey.
SES CHANGES: Douglas M. Bennett, to Dep. Asst. Secy. for Financial Ops., Office of the Asst. SECAF, Financial Mgmt., & Comptroller, Pentagon ... Douglas L. Bowers, to Dir., Aerospace Systems Directorate, AF Research Lab, AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio ... Roberto I. Guerrero, to Dir., Staff, AFRC, Robins AFB, Ga. ... Gilbert J. Montoya, to Dir. Log., AF Sustainment Center, AFMC, Tinker AFB, Okla. ... William C. Redmond, to Dep. Dir., Air, Space, & Info. Ops., AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio ... James T. Rubeor, to Exec. Dir., AF Safety Center, Kirtland AFB, N.M. ... Teresa M. Salazar, to Dep. Chief, Info. Dominance & Dep. CIO, OSAF, Pentagon ... Glenda H. Scheiner, to Dir., Human Capital & Resource Mgmt., Office of the USD, Comptroller, Pentagon ... Angela L. Tymofichuk, to Dir., Engineering & Tech. Mgmt., AF Sustainment Center, AFMC, Tinker AFB, Okla. ... Debra A. Warner, to Dir., Civilian Force Integration, AFPC, JBSA-Randolph, Tex. ... Steven D. Wert, to PEO, Battle Mgmt., AF Life Cycle Mgmt. Center, AFMC, Hanscom AFB, Mass. ... Steven J. Zamparelli, to Dir., Enterprise Sourcing Gp, AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, air power, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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