Pilot Killed in Training Mishap
Capt. Lucas Gruenther, a fighter pilot with the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano AB, Italy, died following the disappearance of his F-16 over the Adriatic Sea during a nighttime training sortie Jan. 28.
The fighter was flying about 12 miles east of Cervia, Italy, when it disappeared. Weather initially hampered a joint US and Italian search effort, but the air and sea force managed to locate Gruenther's parachute and helmet along with aircraft debris, indicating that he had ejected.
Aviano F-16s using targeting pods joined in a redoubled effort to locate Gruenther, but his body was ultimately recovered Jan. 31.
Gruenther flew numerous combat sorties during a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2011.
Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley approved Gruenther's posthumous promotion to major.
Cody Succeeds Roy
CMSgt. James A. Cody became the 17th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force during a ceremony at JB Andrews, Md., Jan. 24. He succeeded CMSAF James A. Roy, who had held the position since July 2009 and retired in February.
As the top noncommissioned officer in the Air Force, Cody will advise the Chief of Staff on enlisted issues and serve as liaison to the enlisted corps.
Cody "delivers the Air Force message with passion and he inspires airmen to take ownership of their work, their professional development, and the environment around them," said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III at the ceremony. Addressing airmen at the event, Welsh said people describe Cody "as smart, talented, articulate, poised, and it won't take you long to figure out why they feel that way."
Cody and his wife, retired CMSgt. Athena Cody, were both career air traffic controllers. To Cody, Welsh said, "This is your Air Force and all of us are now your airmen. Lead us well."
Speaking to the force for the first time in his new role, Cody said he "will focus on strengthening relationships, taking care of one another, and holding each other more accountable for measuring up to the high standard demanded of every airman."
Civilian Hiring Freeze
Air Force senior leaders imposed a forcewide civilian hiring freeze on Jan. 16, directing commanders to release temporary employees and not renew term employees, service officials announced.
The immediate steps were set in motion to reduce the service's rate of expenditure and protect core readiness functions in the face of a possible budget sequestration and other funding shortfalls.
Air Force leaders outlined these moves—intended to be reversible and recoverable—in a memo to the heads of the major commands.
"These are uncharted waters concerning the federal budget and the effect it will have on the Air Force," Lt. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, USAF's manpower and personnel chief, stated in the memo. "It is imperative we work closely together to balance mission needs and minimize impacts to our dedicated civilian employees and their families."
Civilian pay makes up a large share of the Air Force's operating budget. Moreover, service officials projecta$1 .8 billion shortfall for overseas contingency operations in this fiscal year.
KC-46 Base Options
The Air Force has selected its candidate hosts for a KC-46A tanker schoolhouse and the new tanker's first two operating bases.
Formal training unit candidate bases are Altus AFB, Okla., and McConnell AFB, Kan., officials said Jan. 9.
Options for the first main operating base (MOB 1) are Altus, Fairchild AFB, Wash., Grand Forks AFB, N.D., and McConnell.
Meanwhile, Forbes Field, Kan., JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Pease International Tradeport ANGS, N.H., Pittsburgh Arpt./ANGS, Pa., and Rickenbacker ANGB, Ohio, are all options for the Air National Guard-led KC-46A main operating base (MOB 2).
The next step in selection is a detailed survey of each site to determine comparative beddown costs.
Based on the results, the Air Force will announce its preferred and reasonable alternative locations this siring and begin the requisite environmental impact studies.
The FTIJ and MOB 1 are slated to welcome KC-46s in Fiscal 2016, while MOB 2 is expected to receive its first tankers in Fiscal 2018, the release stated.
Last Engine for Raptor Fleet
Pratt & Whitney delivered the 507th and final F119 production engine for the F-22 fleet to the Air Force in a ceremony at the company's production facility in Middletown, Conn., Jan. 17.
"This is a bittersweet occasion for those of us who have played a part in 12 years of successful production deliveries," said Bennett M. Croswell, the company's president of military engines, at the ceremony. "The F119 production engine program might be ending, but we look forward to a 30- to 40-year sustainment period in partnership with the Air Force to keep the fleet flying."
Each F-22 is powered by two Fl19s, the first of which Pratt & Whitney delivered to the Air Force in December 2000.
Pratt& Whitney has partnered with the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker AFB, Okla., to manage scheduled F119 overhauls.
The F119 is the forefather of the F-35 strike fighter's F135 propulsion system. Due to a lull between the end of F119 production and the transition to full-up, F135 manufacture, the company has begun shedding some 350 employees, the local press reported.
F-22s Hold at Holloman
The squadron of combat-ready F-22s slated for transfer from Holloman AFB, N.M., to Tyndall AFB, Fla., early this year won't be moving until spring 2014, Air Force officials recently announced.
"The timing of the move allows the approved actions to be synchronized in a way that minimizes disruption to airmen and their families, while optimizing combat capabilities and continuity in training for the units affected by the decision," Tyndall officials explained in a release Jan. 9.
The northwest Florida base is already home to the F-22 schoolhouse. Under the Air Force's 2010 Raptor fleet consolidation plan, Tyndall stands to gain 21 Raptors and some 620 Active Duty and 230 Air Force Reserve manpower authorizations.
Seven T-38s that fly as mock adversary aircraft against F-22s in training will transfer with the F-22s from Holloman to Tyndall, according to the release.
The first Holloman F-22swere originally scheduled to arrive to Tyndall in January.
Raptors Return From Middle East
A contingent of six F-22s and more than 200 airmen arrived back at Holloman AFB, N.M., in January, following a nine-month deployment to an undisclosed location in the Middle East, 49th Wing officials announced.
The deployment—the first of its kind—"was a tangible demonstration of our strong commitment to regional security and stability," wing spokesman Arlan Ponder said Jan. 31. The F-22s "supported regional exercises, mil-to-mil activities, regional security cooperation, and improved joint tactical air operations" during their time in the region, he said.
The Raptor deployment was not well publicized but closely followed belligerent talk from Iran, which threatened US bases, ships, and other assets in the Persian Gulf area last year.
Members of Holloman's 7th Fighter Squadron and 49th Maintenance Group took part in the overseas rotation, according to the base's Jan. 29 news release.
Big Bang Ready
Boeing's redesigned Massive Ordnance Penetrator is ready for "successful prosecution," according to the Pentagon's top tester's most recent annual report to Congress.
The 30,000-pound bunker-busting bomb underwent two sled tests at Holloman AFB, N.M., last summer "to confirm a successful redesign of a critical part of the weapon system," stated the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation's 2012 report, released Jan. 11.
A B-2 stealth bomber successfully conducted five weapon drops—three with live warheads and two with inert warheads—at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., between last June and October, further proving MOP's performance.
"The sled test results and the additional weapon drops indicate that the weapon redesign is adequate for successful prosecution of all of the elements of the currently defined target set," the report stated.
Streamlining Nuclear Stockpiles
The Air Force and Navy are attempting to streamline care and sustainment of the US nuclear warhead stockpile under a long-term strategy dubbed "three plus two." The stockpile currently holds 12 variants of warheads, including five versions of the B61 nuclear bomb alone, Air Staff Associate Strategic Deterrence Director Billy W. Mullins revealed in January.
The two services plan to coordinate to bring the total down to five variants: three shared ballistic missile systems and two air-deployed nuclear weapons, said Mullins.
"These variants, long term, will take us well into the 21st century," said Mullins. The joint Defense Department-Energy Department Nuclear Weapons Council signed off on the strategy in December, said Mullins.
The strategy has been briefed to Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and is now going through the budgeting process with all stakeholders involved, he said.
Tanker Engine Upgrade
Technicians installed the first of 1,440 planned upgraded engines for the KC-135 tanker fleet at the beginning of this year, Air Mobility Command officials said.
Workers finished installing the first CFM Propulsion Upgrade Program engine—C-PUP for short—at MacDill AFB, Fla., Jan. 15, AMC reported.
The C-PUP motors burn less fuel and run for longer periods without requiring repairs, command officials said.
Under the C-PUP, the Air Force is replacing 1970s-vintage parts on the tankers' F108 turbofan engines with modern technology, such as in the high-pressure compressor and turbine sections.
General Electric is providing the first modified power plants, and the Air Force expects to deliver its first organically produced C-PUP engine from the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker AFB, Okla., later this year.
USAF plans to produce 120 of the upgraded engines annually, and the entire upgrade initiative is expected to take 12 years to complete.
Patriots to Turkey
C-5 and C-17 airlifters from units assigned to USAF's three components at bases in the US and Europe deployed Army Patriot missile defense batteries and hundreds of personnel to Turkey at the beginning of January.
The Patriots were sent to help secure the NATO ally against missiles fired from Syria, which is undergoing a civil war. Syrian government forces shot down a Turkish RF-4 Phantom last year.
"The Air Force has the unique means to provide rapid global mobility in support of an important ally," said Brig. Gen. Lawrence M. Martin Jr., Tanker Airlift Control Center vice commander at Scott AFB, Ill., Jan. 7.
NATO foreign ministers agreed to Turkey's request for air defense in December, and German and Dutch batteries went active alongside US systems under NATO command in January.
Airmen at Altus AFB, Okla., loaded C-5s with more than two million pounds of Patriot equipment, and several C-17s established a follow-on air bridge to provision the deployment, said Scott officials.
China Flatters the C-17
China's first indigenously designed heavy airlifter, called the Y-20, lifted off on its maiden flight from the country's Xi'an flight-test center in central China on Jan. 26, according to press reports.
The aircraft bears a strong resemblance to Boeing's C-17—which deployed to China on a 2008 earthquake relief mission—and the C-17's experimental forerunner, the YC-15.
"We are developing large transport aircraft on our own to improve the capability of air transport," Chinese defense spokesman Yang Yujun said in announcing the existence of the aircraft in December. He was quoted by the government-run news agency, Xinhua.
"The research and development of the large trans.ort aircraft is going forward as planned," he said.
The Xian Aircraft Industry-developed Y-20 addresses China's need for long-range, heavy-lift aerial transport to extend its global reach, now filled by aging Russian-built I1-76s.
For testing, the prototype is powered by Russian-built turbofans, but production versions will be powered by Chinese-developed engines, the Associated Press reported.
Four Thousand Scrambles
On Jan. 9, F-16s from the District of Columbia's Air National Guard scrambled for the 4,000th time since September 2001 against potential airborne threats to the nation's capital, Air Forces Northern officials said.
"It is a testament to the dedication, professionalism, and daily sacrifice of our folks who have done the alert mission day in and day out for over 11 years," commented Lt. Col. Christopher Hardgrave, 113th Aerospace Control Alert Detachment commander at JB Andrews, Md.
The detachment is the busiest NORAD alert unit, responding to more events—whether rushing pilots to cockpit standby or launching to intercept a threat—than all of the other ACA units across the nation, according to AFNORTH.
Hardgrave said he is "extremely proud of the accomplishments of the men and women" of the detachment for hitting this alert milestone.
Typhoons at Red Flag
Royal Air Force ERG Typhoon fighters deployed to the United States for two months of exercises and training starting in January.
The British fighters were slated to make their first Red Flag appearance at the aerial combat training exercise at Nellis AFB, Nev.
The Typhoons spent the first several weeks developing tactics with the Air Force's F-22s at JB Langley-Eustis, Va., during Exercise Western Zephyr.
"It is a big opportunity to test the capability of the aircraft and the pilots against the very best and develop tactics," said Wing Cmdr. Richard Wells, leader of 11 Squadron. He was quoted in the Bermuda Sun after the Typhoons stopped over on the island en route to Langley Jan. 22.
The fighter unit, based at RAF Coningsby, England, was scheduled to push on to Las Vegas for Red Flag 13-3 in February. "This has been over six months in the planning and is the first time the RAF has deployed Typhoon to such a prestigious exercise," said Squadron Leader Andy Chisholm, 11 Squadron's executive officer.
B-2s Back to the Pacific
Two B-2A stealth bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo., began operating from Andersen AFB, Guam, in support of US Pacific Command's in-theater training objectives in January.
"This deployment will provide the opportunity for our airmen to become familiar with operating in the Pacific and exercise the B-2's ability to employ strategic precision attack capabilities across the globe," stated Pacific Air Forces in a news release Jan. 18.
The deployment is the first time in several years that the B-2s have deployed to Andersen. B-2s had been a regular tart of the Air Force's bomber rotations to Guam where the United States has maintained a continual long-range strike presence since 2004. However, the Air Force pulled the bomber out of rotation after a B-2 crashed on the island in 2008 and another was severely damaged by an engine fire there in 2010.
An expeditionary contingent of airmen and B-52s from Barksdale AFB, La., that rotated to Guam last October overlapped with the B-2's training deployment, which began Jan. 21.
Hijack Scare Brings Eagle Escort
F-15s of the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland intercepted and escorted an allegedly hacked airliner to a safe landing in Seattle.
NORAD scrambled two F-15 fighters from Portland Jan. 17 in response to an anonymous tip to the FBI that someone had hacked Alaska Airlines Flight 819 heading to Seattle from Kona, Hawaii, the Associated Press reported.
The airplane touched down at Seattle-Tacoma Airport at approximately 7 p.m. Seattle time. Law enforcement officials questioned a passenger on the airplane, but the tip turned out to be "a hoax phone call," said FBI Honolulu branch office spokesman Tom Simon, according to the press report.
"The FBI gets lots of hoax phone calls but something that rises to this level is not something that we're going to take lightly," he added. The passenger reportedly cooperated with law enforcement and was not arrested.
The first MC-130J airframe destined for conversion to AC-130J gunship specs arrived for modifications at Eglin AFB, Fla., in January, Air Force Special Operations Command revealed.
The aircraft—recently dubbed Ghostrider by AFSOC—touched down to begin 10 months of modification work at Eglin.
Ghostrider pairs the AC-130W's precision strike ability with the MC-1 30J's airframe. It will carry low-yield precision weapons specifically optimized for urban engagements, such as Small Diameter Bombs and Griffin mini-missiles, AFSOC stated.
Technicians are scheduled to complete the AC-130J prototype in November, to begin flight trials the following month. A second MC-130J is scheduled to arrive for conversion at Eglin in Fiscal 2014, a base spokeswoman said.
The command now plans to acquire 37 AC-1 30Js under a $2.4 billion recapitalization plan to replace older AC-130Hs.
Fresno F-16 Crash
An F-i6C from the California Air National Guard's 144th Fighter Wing at Fresno went down in the California desert during a routine mission Dec. 27.
The pilot ejected safely and was admitted to a local medical facility before being released the same day, a wing spokesman said.
Wing officials instituted a one-day internal safety stand-down the day after the mishap for all aircraft except the unit's alert F-16s tasked with round-the-clock air defense duties under NORAD.
Raptors to Kadena
A contingent of F-22s and some 300 airmen arrived on Okinawa, Japan, from JB Langley-Eustis, Va., as part of a normal rotation of combat forces to the Asia-Pacific theater Jan. 14.
Pacific Air Forces officials emphasized that while the deployment comes at a time of heightened tensions between China and Japan over territorial disagreements in the East China Sea, the F-22s routinely deploy to the area.
Days before the arrival of the Raptors on Okinawa, Chinese J-10s and Japanese F-15s intercepted and shadowed each other near the disputed Senkaku Islands, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While on Okinawa, the F-22s and Langley airmen will serve as part of US Pacific Command's theater security package to ensure regional stability and will take advantage of the rotation to train with Kadena's 18th Wing.
The four-month deployment includes Active Duty personnel from the 1st Fighter Wing and members of the Virginia Air National Guard's 192nd FW.
Are We There Already?
Air Mobility Command cited pilot error in the unexpected landing of a C-17 at a small airstrip four miles shy of its intended touchdown at MacDill AFB, Fla., last July, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
"The young pilot did a good job landing, albeit on the wrong strip," said US Central Command boss Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, who was one of the 23 passengers aboard the July 20 flight, the press article said Jan. 24.
AMC officials said the pilot misjudged his position due to "fatigue, complacency, and a lack of flight discipline," stated the newspaper.
The Peter O. Knight Airport is on Davis Island across Hillsborough Bay from MacDill. Its runway roughly aligns on the same heading as MacDill's. The aircrew managed to land the C-17 safely, causing minimal damage to the runway, which mainly hosts business jets.
The Times also reported that MacDill officials are modifying the way they handle incoming air traffic to mitigate the chances of pilots confusing the two airfields.
Eagles and Spanish Steel
F-15Cs from RAF Lakenheath, England, flew with fighters from six Allied countries at Albacete AB, Spain, for NATO's Tactical Leadership Program course early this year.
Pilots from Lakenheath's 493rd Fighter Squadron brushed up on the tactical skills needed to coordinate and lead an allied air campaign over 16 combat scenarios with nearly 30 allied aircraft.
"We can bring in experience that we acquire across the globe and share that with our allies," said Maj. Manny Gomez, War Preparation Center Det. 1 operations director at the TLP. "At the same time, we can learn from them because they also have different ways of doing things."
Lakenheath F-15s flew mixed sorties with Spanish Eurofighters and coordinated with assets from Belgium, Britain, France, Greece, and Italy, during the TLP course at Albacete from Jan. 16 to Feb. 7.
Predator Power Outage
An electrical system failure led to the crash of an MQ-1B Predator remotely piloted aircraft during a mission over Afghanistan last August, Air Combat Command reported.
The RPA switched to battery power after a dual alternator failure crippled its main electrical power source on a sortie Aug. 22, ACC stated in a Jan. 10 press release summarizing the investigation findings.
The Predator stayed airborne despite the malfunction, but its onboard recovery system failed to reboot the electrical system. Controllers operating from Creech AFB, Nev., and Fargo ANGB, N.D., twice lost contact with the RPA before launch-and-recovery controllers in theater were able to take over.
Before the handoff, the Stateside aircrews failed to follow a battery-conservation checklist, causing the aircraft to run out of power and crash short of the runway despite the efforts of local controllers.
The Predator and a Hellfire missile onboard were destroyed in the incident, making for an overall $4.6 million loss.
The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center solicited industry for conceptual schemes for a next generation ground based leg to the nuclear deterrent triad. The replies were due at the end of February.
The AFNWC is seeking ideas for a Ground Based Strategic Deterrent with an operational service life from 2025 to 2075, according to an online Federal Business Opportunities notice, revised Jan. 15.
The solicitation is in support of USAF efforts to analyze upgrade or replacement options for the Minuteman III ICBM fleet from four basic angles: incrementally changing Minuteman to make it more capable or developing a new fixed-site, mobile, or tunnel based system.
"Each white paper/proposal should provide adequate technical, schedule, and cost information to allow feasibility analysis of the concept," stated the notice.
Any concepts judged to be "adequate," including continued use of the Minuteman III with no capability upgrades through 2075, will be considered in the analysis of alternatives to identify the best option, according to the center's notice.
Eglin Tests WiFi Pod
Officials with the 40th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla., wrapped up developmental flight testing of a wireless router destined for the Air Force's Litening and Sniper targeting pods, test officials said in January.
The router is a software upgrade —known by its truncated nickname "Net-T," for "network tactical"—for the two pods carried on B-1 bombers and legacy fighters.
With it, ground forces equipped with the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver-5, a small-size touchscreen device, will be able to communicate with each other and with the aircraft.
Previously, the ROVER-5 could only send and receive data from aircraft. "This is a new capability the Air Force does not currently deploy with and it has not been tested until now," said Capt. Joseph Rojas of the 40th FLTS and the Net-T project test engineer, in a Jan. 18 Eglin news release.
The router provides real-time information and images without relying on satellites, radio, or other traditional communications. The squadron flew 23 test sorties starting last October, and the Air Force officials hope to complete operational testing and field the router by 2014.
Indian C-17 Starts Testing
Boeing delivered the first of 10 C-17s destined for the Indian Air Force for flight testing at Edwards AFB, Calif., company officials announced at the end of January.
Edwards' 418th Flight Test Squadron will conduct several months of routine flight testing and inspections of the airplane, which arrived on Jan.22, detailed base officials.
The Indian government asked for an independent evaluation of its C-17s to ensure it is getting the most out of them, according to an Edwards news release."This is the first foreign military sale C-17 tested" by the squadron, said Shelly Huie, project manager for the 412th Test Wing's integrated test team.
India signed an agreement with the United States in June 2011 to acquire the C-17s, and Boeing said it is on track to deliver four additional aircraft this year followed by a further five in 2014.
Sniper SE Production Cleared
Lockheed Martin's upgraded Sniper targeting pod has been cleared for full-rate production by Air Force officials.
Developed as a quick-reaction capability under the Air Force's Advanced Targeting Pod-Sensor Enhancement program, the updated Sniper is capable of pinpointing targets beyond visual range.
"With Sniper ATP-SE, aircrews and ground forces can identify targets faster and farther away, boosting their situational awareness and ensuring their safety in high-threat environments," Bill Spangenberg, Lockheed Martin's Sniper program manager, said in a company press release Jan. 16.
The pod has already undergone testing and integration on the A-10, B-1, B-52, F-15E, and F-16, and "initial deployment of Sniper ATP-SE pods will occur this year," said Spangenberg.
Sniper SE incorporates new sensors and processors and boasts greater image stability and accuracy. The upgrades enhance its utility for reconnaissance augmentation with a high-resolution video data link.
Goodbye Hawkeye Falcons
Congress approved the elimination of the Iowa Air National Guard's F-16s, proposed by the Air Force as part of force structure adjustments approved in the Fiscal 2013 defense authorization act.
The Air Force is retiring 21 F-16s from the inventory in Fiscal 2013—all of them from the 132nd Fighter Wing at Des Moines, explained Col. Jon Thomas, the Air Force's program integration division chief at the Pentagon.
Air Force leaders "spent a whole lot of time talking about it," but ultimately the case was clear and "Congress accepted it," he said in a press round table at the Pentagon in January.
The 132nd FW's fighters most recently deployed to Afghanistan in February 2012. Unlike the Air Force's proposal to cut 102 A-10s that Congress scaled back to just 61, the F-16 cut was simpler, said Thomas. "With the A- l0s, you were talking about five different squadrons at different locations," he said. With the F-16s, "it was just one unit."
Tactical Party Schools
The Air Force announced JBSA-Lackland, Tex., as its preferred relocation spot for the tactical air control party schoolhouse, choosing Keesler AFB, Miss., as a fallback.
Service officials picked Lackland for its "favorable weather conditions, training efficiencies, and beddown costs," said the Air Force's deputy assistant secretary for installations, Timothy K. Bridges, in a release Jan. 9. "Based on our criteria-based analysis and the application of military judgment, we feel JBSA-Lackland is the best location for this mission."
Air Force leaders made their choice as the result of detailed site surveys at Lackland and Keesler, identified as candidate sites last May.
A final basing decision will follow completion of a mandatory environmental impact study. Demand for TACPs has outpaced the capacity of the current school location at Hurlburt Field, Fla., prompting the change of venue.
Drill Press Gangs
The Air Force is involuntarily pressing senior noncommissioned officers into military training instructor roles to fill a critical shortage for basic training at JBSA-Lackland, Tex.
"Basic military training is the cornerstone of the Air Force," said Col. Deborah Landry, Air Force Personnel Center's airman assignments division chief, in a release Jan. 11. "So getting the MTI field healthy is a critical priority."
Only qualified technical sergeants and master sergeants will be drafted, and "this month, we will use the nonvolunteer selection process to bring the manning levels up," she said.
NCOs selected for MTI duty will have 45 days to submit their nonvolunteer application or decline the assignment, which would make them ineligible for promotion or re-enlistment, according to AFPC.
Voluntary applications are still accepted, and senior NCOs in critical career fields or with more than 16 years of Active Duty service are exempt.
Turkish Delay on F-35
Turkey has delayed purchasing its first two F-35 strike fighters, citing concerns over the aircraft's development and recent cost hikes.
"The operational capabilities of the F-35 aircraft have lagged behind desired levels, and given the increasing drift of costs to supply aircraft in future years, Turkey is re-evaluating its plans," stated Turkey's defense s procurement agency, UPI reported Jan. 14.
The US government, Lockheed Martin, and Turkey were close to signing a deal last year for the company to deliver the first two Turkish F-35s in 2015. Turkey is an original F-35 development partner and plans to operate a fleet of 100 airframes.
Not Such a Slam-Dunk
The Air Force wasn't justified in blaming Capt. Jeffrey Haney for the Nov. 16, 2010, crash of an F-22 in Alaska that killed Haney and destroyed the single-seat stealth fighter, according to the Pentagon's inspector general.
The Department of Defense IG found that the Pacific Air Forces Accident Investigation Board didn't prove its conclusion: that pilot error and disorientation caused the mishap. The AIB's conclusions were "not supported by the facts," and the panel's findings were "not consistent with the clear and convincing standard of proof" set forth in USAF's own regulations, the IG said.
The accident board originally determined that Haney's failure to recognize vertigo symptoms, on top of his mental fixation and visual inattention, were the primary causes of the crash, which occurred at night. It also allowed that Haney was probably affected by a lack of oxygen—a problem that grounded USAF's entire F-22 fleet for months—but that he was still responsible for the crash.
Services have an opportunity to comment on IG investigations, and the Air Force rejected the DOD IG's assertion that the AIB's conclusions were unjustified, but admitted to flaws in the report. However, the DOD IG did "not concur" with USAF's response, restating that the Air Force panel's conclusions were not "sufficiently supported by clear and convincing evidence."
Air Force officials told the IG that they plan to address some—though not all—of the DOD IG's concerns, and drew additional fire for failing to explain what measures they would take. The IG directed the Air Force to explain in detail, by the end of February, what remedial action will be taken.
In January 2012, when the IG announced it would look into the Haney accident board's findings, then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz said the probe was simply a "routine" double check on USAF's investigation procedures.
Structure Changes for the Reserve
Air Force Reserve Command will add seven new units and make additional force structure changes, including inactivating several units, based on the language in the Fiscal 2013 defense authorization act.
"These force structure changes will take place over the next three years and are necessary to help meet Budget Control Act of 2011 resource levels," said Maj. Gen. Craig N. Gourley, AFRC's vice commander, in a news release Jan. 25.
AFRC will stand up five squadrons as classic associate units: the 14th Intelligence Squadron at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; 28th IS at Hurlburt Field, Fla.; 37th IS at Fort Meade, Md.; 41st IS at Offutt AFB, Neb.; and 960th Network Warfare Squadron at JBSA-Lackland, Tex. It will also activate the 655th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group at Wright-Patterson and the 960th Cyber Operations Group at Lackland, according to officials.
Among the other changes, AFRC will inactivate: the 917th Fighter Group at Barksdale AFB, La.; 13th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale AFB, Calif.; and Band of the US Air Force Reserve at Robins AFB, Ga.
The overall defense legislation became law in early January.
On Guard for Warthogs
Retaining Air National Guard flying missions in each state was the key deciding factor shaping Total Force cuts to the A-10 fleet for Fiscal 2013, said Col. Michael Norton, ANG programs chief at the Pentagon.
In this fiscal year's defense policy act, Congress allowed the retirement of 61 A-10s—41 fewer than the service requested in its original budget proposal. These cuts are about equally divided between the Active Duty component (20), Air Guard (20), and Air Force Reserve Command (21), according to a summary of the Air Force's Fiscal 2013 force structure changes shown at a Jan. 10 media roundtable with Norton.
When Air Force officials revised the service's original Fiscal 2013 force structure proposal after lawmakers raised concerns, they opted to restore A-10s to the Air Guard's 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge ANGB, Mich., and the 163rd FS in Fort Wayne, Ind. The Air Guard's A-10 cuts will all come from the 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith, Ark., a unit transitioning to remotely piloted aircraft. "If you look at a state like Indiana, A-10 is their only flying mission," said Norton. Conversely, "Arkansas has other flying missions," he said, citing C-130s at Little Rock.
Operation Enduring Freedom
By Feb. 12, a total of 2,168 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 2,165 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,718 were killed in action with the enemy while 450 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 18,230 troops wounded in action during OEF.
RPA Strikes Still Rising
After rising gradually for several years, the number of weapons launches from Air Force remotely piloted aircraft over Afghanistan ticked up sharply in 2012, according to Air Forces Central's year-end airpower statistics.
Service-operated RPAs dropped 506 weapons on ground targets in Afghanistan last year, up from 294 in 2011, the data released Jan. 6 show. In 2010, 279 RPA weapon releases were logged, up from 257 in 2009.
The Air Force uses armed MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers in Afghanistan as well as unarmed RPAs, such as RQ-4 Global Hawks.
Predators can fire Hellfire air-to-surfaces missiles, while Reapers carry Hellfires and 500-pound precision guided bombs.
AFCENT began including the data on RPA weapon releases several months ago with the release of the airpower stats for 2012 through October.
Rescue Ending at Kandahar
The Air Force's combat rescue mission at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan is coming to a close after 11 years.
On Jan. 30, airmen at Kandahar came together to mark the inactivation of the 46th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron. This "Guardian Angel" pararescue unit was based at Camp Bastion northwest of Kandahar but also operated a detachment at Kandahar.
The ceremony also marked the imminent departure of the 59th ERQS HH-60 rescue helicopters from Kandahar. There is no planned replacement for these rescue helicopters at the base.
"Because of Guardian Angel efforts in Afghanistan, many lives have been saved, even more enemies have been deterred," said Maj. Joseph Barnard, 46th ERQS commander. "Now, coalition troops' need for advanced access to sophisticated care under fire is lessening," he noted.
Rescue forces at Kandahar saved nearly 1,200 lives, evacuated nearly 1,800 additional personnel from the battlefield, and stood alert for 97,000 hours since they began operating from there in February 2002, according to the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing.
A rescue capability at Bagram Air Base in eastern Afghanistan is being maintained.
Afghanistan Transition Accelerated
Afghan security forces will take the lead for security across all of Afghanistan from NATO forces sooner than originally planned, assuming that role this spring instead of midyear, President Obama announced.
"Because of the progress that's been made by our troops, because of the progress that's been made in terms of Afghan security forces, ...we are able to meet those goals and accelerate them somewhat," Obama said alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the White House Jan. 11. "Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission—training, advising, assisting Afghan forces," added Obama.
There are still some 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan. The US combat mission is scheduled to conclude there at the end of 2014. Obama said the details of how the US drawdown will proceed aren't yet "fully determined."
Discussions with the Afghan government are still underway on the scope of US troop presence, post-2014 to train, assist, and advise the Afghan forces, he said.
Air Force Aids French in Mali
C-17s flew 15 missions carrying 329.5 tons of cargo and transporting 496 passengers in support of French troops in Mali in January. The French were acting to thwart a jihadist effort to seize the West African country.
A C-17 from Dover AFB, Del., launched the first sortie, delivering troops and equipment from Istres in southern France to Bamako, Mali, on Jan. 21, according to a DOD press release.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said the United States "moved quickly to provide intelligence and airlift" to the French and other nations combating the terrorists in Mali and would continue providing that support.
"We commend the French for their actions in Mali to confront an extremist threat in that country," he said. "We stand by our French allies and will continue to work with [them] to determine what their future needs might be."
Little said US C-130s and C-17s also evacuated wounded US and foreign nationals from Algeria following a terrorist attack against a natural gas plant there. They were relocated to facilities in Germany and Italy.
Senior Staff Changes
RETIREMENT: Brig. Gen. John R. Ranck Jr.
NOMINATIONS: To be Major General: Arnold W. Bunch Jr., Theresa C. Carter, Sandra E. Finan, Jeffrey L. Harrigian, Timothy J. Leahy, Gregory J. Lengyel, Lee K. Levy II, James F. Martin Jr., Jerry P. Martinez, Paul H. McGillicuddy, Robert D. McMurry Jr., Edward M. Minahan, Mark C. Nowland, Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, Michael T. Plehn, Margaret B. Poore, James N. Post III, Steven M. Shepro, David D. Thompson, Scott A. Vander Hamm, Marshall Webb, Burke E. Wilson, Scott J. Zobrist. To be Brigadier General: Nina M. Armagno, Sam Barrett, Steven L. Basham, Ronald D. Buckley, Carl A. Buhler, John A. Cherrey, James C. Dawkins Jr., Patrick J. Doherty, Dawn M. Dunlop, Thomas L. Gibson, James B. Hecker, Patrick C. Higby, Mark K. Johnson, Brian M. Killough, Robert D. LaBrutta, Scott C. Long, Russell L. Mack, James E. McClain, Patrick X. Mordente, Shaun Q. Morris, Richard M. Murphy, Paul D. Nelson, John M. Pletcher, Duke Z. Richardson, Brian S. Robinson, Barre R. Seguin, John S. Shapland, Robert J. Skinner, James C. Slife, Dirk D. Smith, Jeffrey B. Taliaferro, Jon T. Thomas, Glen D. VanHerck, Stephen N. Whiting, John M. Wood.
CHANGES: Brig. Gen. (sel.) James B. Hecker, from Cmdr., 432nd Wg. & 432nd Air Expeditionary Wg., ACC, Creech AFB, Nev., to Cmdr., 18th Wg., PACAF, Kadena AB, Japan ... Brig. Gen. Scott W. Jansson, from Cmdr., Defense Log. Agency Aviation, Defense Log. Agency, Richmond, Va., to PEG, Weapons, AF Life Cycle Mgmt. Center, AFMC, Eglin AFB, Fla.... Maj. Gen. (sel.) Michael J. Kingsley, from Vice Cmdr., AFSOC, Hurlburt Field, Fla., to Dir., NATO Afghanistan Transformation Task Force, Intl. Security Assistance Force, Kabul, Afghanistan... Brig. Gen. (sel.) Scott C. Long, from Cmdr., 388th FW, ACC, Hill AFB, Utah, to Cmdr., 31st FW, USAFE, Aviano AB, Italy ... Maj. Gen. Kenneth D. Merchant, from PEO, Weapons, AF Life Cycle Mgmt. Center, AFMC, Eglin AFB, Fla., to Dir., Global Reach Prgms., Office of the Asst. SECAF, Acq., Pentagon
Brig. Gen. Matthew H. Molloy, from Cmdr., 18th Wg., PACAF, Kadena AB, Japan, to Dep. Dir., Ops., NORTHCOM, Peterson AFB, Colo.... Brig. Gen. Kenneth E. Todorov, from Dep. Dir., Ops., NORTHCOM, Peterson AFB, Cob., to Dir., A. Integrated Air & Missile Defense Org., A. Staff, Pentagon ... Brig. Gen. David C. Wesley, from Staff Judge Advocate, AMC, Scott AFB, Ill., to Staff Judge Advocate, AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio ... Maj. Gen. (sel.) Scott J. Zobrist, from Cmdr., 31st FW, USAFE, Aviano AB, Italy, to Dir., Rqmts., ACC, JB Langley-Eustis, Va.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE CHANGES: James F. Geurts, to Dir., Acq., SOCOM, MacDill AFB, Fla.... Michael M. Hale, to Dir., Ground Enterprise Directorate, Natl. Recon. Office, Chantilly, Va. … Fred P. Lewis, to Dir., Policy & Resources, Office of Warfighting Integration & Chief Info. Officer, OSAF, Pentagon... Ricky L. Peters, to Exec. Dir., AF Research Lab., AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio ... Barbara J. Sotirin,to Dep. Dir., Prgms., AFRICOM, Stuttgart, Germany ... Randall G. Walden, to Dir., Test & Eval., 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.d
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