MOH Process Updated
The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act changed the review process for awarding the nation’s highest military honor for valor in combat.
Specifically, it lifted a long-standing restriction preventing service members from earning multiple Medals of Honor, even if several awards are merited.
All military services now have three years from the combat action to recommend an individual for the MOH and five years from the date of the action to present the honor, according to the NDAA.
Time limits previously varied among the services, leading some in Congress to question the MOH review process for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill also approved a waiver to this rule, authorizing the MOH be awarded to Civil War-era 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing, who as commander of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, gallantly fought to his death at Cemetery Ridge on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.
Raymond Now at 14th Air Force
Lt. Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond took command of 14th Air Force (Air Forces Strategic) at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., from Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms in January.
Raymond pinned on his third star just prior to taking charge of the numbered air force to lead Air Force’s space forces.
He previously served as US Strategic Command’s director of plans and policy, a position he held from July 2012. Helms had led 14th Air Force since January 2011 and officially retires April 1, after nearly 34 years in uniform.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) blocked Helms’ nomination to be Air Force Space Command’s vice commander because the legislator objected to Helms having overturned a sexual assault conviction.
“She’s been caught in the middle of an intense political battle,” said Gen. William L. Shelton, AFSPC boss, about Helms during the ceremony. “I can’t tell you how proud I am, personally, of her courage, her composure under extreme stress, and she’s handled it all with style and grace that I can only wish to duplicate,” he said.
PACAF Reports on Deadly HH-60 Crash
A steep low-altitude maneuver to avoid a collision caused the crash of an HH-60 Pave Hawk northeast of Kadena AB, Japan, last August, accident investigators stated.
Two HH-60s were flying a pattern to cover pararescue personnel inserted at a training range on Aug. 5, 2013. When the copilot reversed the flight’s figure-eight pattern to correct the aircraft’s track, he crossed ahead of the trailing helicopter. The mishap pilot took control and “based upon his perception of a potential for a midair collision … maneuvered [the mishap aircraft] at low altitude in a manner that resulted in excessive altitude loss,” which the pilot could not recover from, lead investigator Brig. Gen. Steven L. Basham said in the report.
The pilot applied additional power attempting to avoid hitting the ground and was able to level and slow the aircraft before impact, according to the report. The flight engineer, TSgt. Mark A. Smith, died. Three other crew members were injured. The pilot’s inexperience flying lead position also was cited as a factor in the accident. The Pave Hawk’s loss was tallied at more than $38 million.
Combat F-22s at Tyndall
The first five combat-coded F-22 Raptors transferring from Holloman AFB, N.M., to Tyndall AFB, Fla., landed at their new home on Jan. 6.
“The 95th Fighter Squadron showing up represents a new era,” said 325th Fighter Wing Commander Col. David E. Graff. “No combat aviation unit has ever deployed out of Tyndall. ... Now we will have the largest collection of F-22s in the world and will stand ready to project airpower and defend our nation’s freedom.”
Tyndall is expected to receive 24 Raptors—several each month, with the last jets arriving in April, according to a base release.
“Unfortunately, we had a delay of a year, but today we were able to successfully bring in the first wave of aircraft,” said 95th Fighter Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Erick Gilbert.
The transition is expected to add nearly 1,100 uniformed personnel to Tyndall, he noted.
Special Op Air Warfare Center Commander Fired
Brig. Gen. Jon A. Weeks was removed from command of Air Force Special Operations Command’s Air Warfare Center at Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Jan. 9, AFSOC officials announced. AFSOC boss Lt. Gen. Eric E. Fiel relieved Weeks, citing a “loss of trust and confidence in his leadership” based on an alleged inappropriate relationship, according to a news release.
“This was not an easy decision, but I believe it is in the best interest of the men and women of AFSOAWC,” said Fiel. The center “will continue to train and equip our air commandos to effectively conduct special operations missions around the globe,” he added.
AFSOAWC Vice Commander Col. Royce Lott was tasked to serve as interim commander until Col. David Tabor was able to take command this spring, stated the release.
Weeks was reassigned as mobilization assistant to AFSOC’s director of operations, pending the outcome of an inspector general investigation.
Weeks is a Reservist who has been serving on Active Duty since February 2013, the release said.
Double JASSM Contracts
The Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin two production contracts worth up to $449 million for Lots 11 and 12 of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile and its extended range variant.
The contract includes production of 340 baseline missiles and 100 JASSM-ERs, as well as systems engineering, logistics support, tooling, and test equipment, stated the company’s Jan. 9 press release.
“These contracts bring the total number of JASSM cruise missiles on contract to over 2,100 and underscore the US Air Force’s and Lockheed Martin’s commitment to the program,” said Jason Denney, program director of Long-range Strike Systems at Lockheed.
The contract award follows a $34 million foreign military sales contract to integrate JASSM on to Finland’s F-18C/D aircraft.
Air Force B-2, B-52, F-15Es, and F-16s can all carry JASSM. The B-1B is capable of carrying both JASSM and the JASSM-ER.
Free To Good Home
All 14 former Air Force C-27J Spartans left in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., will join the Coast Guard, said manufacturer Alenia.
Congress approved the intraservice transfer deal of the former Air National Guard Spartans in the 2014 defense authorization bill, signed by President Obama late last year.
“The C-27J will provide the USCG with greater range, endurance, speed, and payload capacity than other twin turboprops in its inventory, and the capability to perform both medium- and long-range missions,” said Alenia North America President and CEO Benjamin Stone.
The aircraft will enter service in the maritime patrol, counternarcotics, and search roles sometime this year, and all 14 aircraft eventually will be upgraded with search radar and specialized mission sensors.
Seven of the 21 divested airframes had already been assigned to US Special Operations Command. In exchange for the new aircraft, USCG will transfer seven of its legacy HC-130s to the US Forest Service for conversion into firefighting tankers.
First Foreign Ospreys
The Defense Department alerted Congress Jan. 13 of a possible $1.1 billion foreign military sale of six V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors to Israel, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced.
“The proposed sale of V-22B aircraft will enhance and increase the Israel Defense Forces’ search and rescue and special operations capabilities,” stated DSCA’s release. “The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel first announced the FMS on a visit to Israel last April as part of a larger arms package, including aerial tankers, F-16 upgrades, and radar-seeking missiles.
The proposed sale would include spare engines, full countermeasure and self-defensive suites, advanced communications equipment, night vision capability, training, and support, according to DSCA.
Decade Over the Baltic
Four F-15Cs from RAF Lakenheath, Britain, marked a decade of NATO’s Baltic air policing mission in Lithuania, taking over from Belgian F-16s at the beginning of January.
“The execution of this mission by different allies to an exacting level of performance … highlights the importance of bringing together personnel of the highest caliber,” said US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa Commander Gen. Frank Gorenc, marking the anniversary Jan. 3.
Since Russian aircraft routinely enter Baltic airspace unannounced and the three NATO members in the Baltics—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—lack air defense assets of their own, fighters from 14 allied air forces deploy on roughly four-month alert rotations to Šiauliai AB, Lithuania.
The Lakenheath F-15s chalked up USAFE-AFAFRICA’s fourth rotation, supported by more than 150 support personnel.
Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, UK, and US have contributed to a combined 34 rotations to Šiauliai since the mission began in 2004.
Italy and Hungary pledged recently to contribute aircraft on future rotations.
A flight-control system failure caused the F-15C crash during an air-to-air training flight near Kadena AB, Japan, on May 28, 2013, Pacific Air Forces investigators determined.
The 44th Fighter Squadron aircraft had completed a two-ship scenario and was returning to base when the pilot reported the aircraft stopped responding to control inputs, according to the report. The F-15 entered a descending left-hand corkscrew, from which the pilot was unable to recover, despite attempts to isolate the fault, forcing him to successfully eject at 4,500 feet.
The accident investigation board conclusively found the mishap was caused by the aircraft’s failure to respond to the pilot’s flight-control inputs due to a failure in the aircraft’s hydro-mechanical flight-control system, according to the AIB report.
Investigators said that a lack of simulator training on this type of malfunction and limited time for the pilot to troubleshoot contributed to the accident.
The F-15’s loss was estimated at $32 million, according to PACAF.
Report on MQ-1 Crash
Turbocharger failure and gusty winds on landing caused the crash of an MQ-1 remotely piloted aircraft at Jalalabad AB, Afghanistan, last summer, Air Combat Command investigators determined.
The Predator was flying a classified surveillance mission from Jalalabad on June 27, 2013, when operators noticed indications of a possible failure that could cause the aircraft to lose altitude. The crew turned the RPA around, but during final approach, a strong gust of wind caught the aircraft, according to the results of ACC’s abbreviated accident investigation. The pilot attempted a go-around, but the aircraft crashed some 800 feet from the end of the runway.
The MQ-1 and its Hellfire air-to-ground missile were destroyed on impact, resulting in an estimated $4.5 million loss, according to ACC.
The MQ-1 was deployed to Jalalabad from Creech AFB, Nev.
Broken Bombers, Filled Silos
The Air Force began eliminating 50 Minuteman III ICBM silos and five launch alert facilities associated with the now-inactive 564th Missile Squadron at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., base officials stated.
The United States is getting rid of this infrastructure so that the silos no longer count as launchers for strategic nuclear warheads under the inventory limits imposed by the New START agreement with Russia.
Construction contractors will fill all 50 silos with earth and gravel and should be finished by 2015, according to Malmstrom’s release.
The US is eliminating 103 silos and 10 missile alert facilities to meet New START’s limits on warheads and launchers.
In August, the Air Force began demolishing 50 inactivated Peacekeeper ICBM silos and five launch alert facilities at F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo. That demolition is scheduled for completion in December.
The service is also eliminating three silos at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. Late last year the Air Force cut up the last of its retired B-52G bombers as part of the New START drawdown.
Luke’s First F-35 Jock
Capt. Joshua Arki, who was selected as the first F-16 pilot to transition to F-35s at Luke AFB, Ariz., recently began conversion training at Eglin AFB, Fla.
“Captain Arki has a lot riding on his shoulders,” said 62nd Fighter Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Shamsher Mann, in Luke’s Jan. 17 news release. “On those shoulders rests the initial trajectory of the combat training effectiveness of the F-35 when it arrives at Luke.”
Arki is currently the 61st FS chief of weapons and tactics and a former F-16 instructor. “I’m learning a lot from the Eglin instructors and hope to bring back to Luke many of their lessons learned,” said Arki.
He was slated to complete his training at Eglin in March and begin “defining new tactics for a new fighter while building the initial crop of F-35 pilots for the Air Force” back at Luke, according to Mann.
The first of Luke’s eventual 144 F-35As are due to arrive early this year, according to the base.
Inaugural Iceland Air Meet
In February, US and NATO allies flew their first Icelandic air-defense training exercise over the island with alliance partners Finland and Sweden.
“This is a further step forward in NATO’s excellent cooperation with Finland and Sweden,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in an alliance press release.
During the exercise, dubbed Iceland Air Meet 2014, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish fighters were supported by US and Dutch tankers as well as NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft, according to the Feb. 3 release. Iceland provided local search and rescue capabilities. The event wrapped up Feb. 21.
“Thanks to this training event, our pilots, ground crews, and fighter controllers will be better trained, more experienced, and better able to deploy and operate together, if needed,” said Rasmussen.
Norwegian fighters were already rotationally deployed to Iceland protecting the island’s airspace under a separate NATO mission.
The Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing launched its first locally generated C-130H sortie with the recently assigned airlifters, officials announced early this year.
A local aircrew, augmented by New York Air Guardsmen and other airmen, took off from the wing’s home at Bradley Airport on the historic mission. “It was very exciting to be a part of the first local launch,” said SMSgt. Bill Westling, a flight engineer assigned to Bradley’s 118th Airlift Squadron. “From the preflight to takeoff without any hiccups is a testament to the team effort from maintenance and ops,” he said.
The wing received the first of eight C-130Hs last October and was still building up to a full complement of aircraft and airmen at the time of maiden sortie from East Granby on Dec. 19, 2013.
The wing formerly operated Learjet C-21A executive aircraft.
Smart Belly BUFF
Weapon-bay modifications recently got underway to nearly double the B-52’s guided weapon capacity, enabling internal carriage of JDAM, JASSM, Miniature Air Launched Decoy, and MALD Jammer.
“With this modification, we’re converting the bomb bay from dropping just gravity-type bombs to releasing precision guided weapons,” Boeing spokeswoman Jennifer Hogan said in an Air Force news release. “When you combine that ability with the B-52’s unlimited range with air refueling, you have an efficient and versatile weapon system that is valuable to warfighters,” said Boeing’s B-52 Program Director Scot Oathout.
Boeing will modify existing rotary launchers to carry as many as two dozen 500-pound or 20 2,000-pound JDAMs internally instead of on the wing pylons. Three prototype launchers will be tested with the intention of fielding an initial capability in March 2016, according to USAF.
Work on the $24.6 million contract is assigned to Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker AFB, Okla.
Pandora’s Boxing Match
An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft equipped with the Pandora electronic warfare suite aided in attacking simulated air defenses during a demonstration at MCAS Yuma, Ariz., Northrop Grumman announced.
The MQ-9 worked in tandem with Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft to carry out a “multinode” attack capable of taking down more advanced air defense networks, stated a news release Jan. 22.
“We demonstrated operational concepts using a layered approach to electronic warfare,” explained Brig. Gen. Matthew G. Glavy, Marine Corps assistant deputy aviation commandant. “By conducting multiple events with a networked, pod-based jamming system, we were able to evaluate the viability of [unmanned aerial vehicles] to conduct electronic warfare missions ... in support of tactical strike aircraft,” said Glavy.
A Reaper flew a similar exercise last April, but the October trial—only announced in January—marked the first time it flew as part of a larger electronic strike package, the company said.
Boeing delivered the first B-1 bomber upgraded with the Integrated Battle Station to the Air Force in late January.
According to Boeing, the modification “essentially turns the B-1 into a new aircraft with the addition of the full color displays, moving maps, and a new diagnostics system.” The upgrade is the “most extensive” in “B-1 history” and substantially improves crews’ situational awareness, while providing “faster and more secure communication capabilities,” stated the Jan. 22 release.
The first fully upgraded aircraft was delivered to Dyess AFB, Tex., on Jan 21, Boeing officials said.
Who’s Left at Holloman?
The 4th Space Control Squadron, located at Holloman AFB, N.M., will move to Peterson AFB, Colo., this year, where it will be collocated with the 76th Space Control Squadron there.
The move is a result of force structure changes affecting Holloman, which is losing its F-22 mission to Tyndall AFB, Fla., in exchange for an F-16 training mission. The new mission is expected to bring 56 Falcons to the New Mexico base by October 2015. Holloman already hosts the Air Force’s remotely piloted aircraft formal training unit.
The move will help “realize efficiencies between [the 4th SPCS and the 76th SPCS] units, create more effective mission training, increase availability of deployable forces, and reduce the training and sustainment burden for Air Force Space Command and the Space and Missile Systems Center,” stated a press release.
Net results of the shift will be that Holloman will gain some 300 personnel, and according to the base release, about 90 Active Duty personnel will be affected by the Peterson move.
Quicker Help for Iraq
The Defense Department will speed delivery of combat aircraft, air-to-ground missiles, and other key military aid to Iraq in an effort to help government forces in an escalating fight against al Qaeda-affiliated groups and tribal militias.
DOD is committed to supporting Iraq’s fight against resurgent terrorist groups in Anbar province, but the US will not send military personnel back to Iraq, officials stressed.
The US is sending an additional 100 Hellfire missiles this spring and already delivered six C-130s and 27 helicopters to Iraq last year, said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren.
Hellfires have already been effective at targeting al Qaeda operatives in Anbar, said Warren. The US also plans to expedite delivery of 10 ScanEagle remotely piloted aircraft this spring, as well as an additional 48 Raven RPAs to aid battlefield intelligence gathering.
A federal grand jury in Connecticut indicted former Pratt & Whitney employee Mozaffar Khazaee on Jan. 21 for attempting to pass F-35 fighter data to Iran.Khazaee faces two counts of interstate transport of stolen property for attempting to ship sensitive materials about the F-35 strike fighter program to contacts abroad. Khazaee, a 59-year-old dual Iranian and US citizen, worked as an engineer performing strength tests on P&W’s engines before he was laid off last August during a restructuring by the company, according to local press reports.He subsequently crated off documents, schematics, technical manuals, and other sensitive information related to the F-35 and sent them to California for onward shipment to Iran. Federal Customs and Border Protection agents intercepted the package and Khazaee was arrested at Newark Arpt., N.J., attempting to flee to Germany, where he planned to catch a connecting flight to Tehran on Jan. 9. Pratt & Whitney spokesman Ray Hernandez told Air Force Magazine the company “will support the government’s investigation in any way necessary,” noting P&W is just one of three companies identified in the criminal complaint. “Protecting sensitive technical data is one of our highest priorities,” said Hernandez. The US Air Force Office of Special Investigations is investigating the case along with the FBI and CBP. If convicted, Khazaee faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on each charge.
The Air Force’s first association between a Reserve and Air National Guard unit is no more. The Guard’s 107th Airlift Wing and the Reserve’s 914th Airlift Wing joined forces as a result of the 2005 BRAC decision, jointly flying and maintaining 12 aircraft at Niagara Falls Arpt./ARS, N.Y. “We figured it out and went through all those battles; now we’re pulling it apart,” said Col. John J. Higgins, 107th AW commander. Though Higgins said “in a perfect world” he would have liked to have maintained the association for a few more years, he acknowledged he was excited for the wing to take on its new mission, flying remotely piloted aircraft. “In the long term, this change will benefit the 107th [AW],” said Higgins. “We are moving into a newer mission. The 107th has converted missions every five years, it seems, and the RPA mission will stick with us for awhile.” Although the partnership officially dissolved on Dec. 31, the two organizations signed an agreement allowing the Guardsmen to continue assisting the 914th AW on a limited basis through Dec. 31, 2014, according to a unit news release in January. Eventually the 107th AW will lose 221 personnel and be downgraded from a wing to a group, said Higgins.
The War on Terrorism
Operation Enduring Freedom
CasualtiesBy Feb. 11, a total of 2,306 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 2,303 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,803 were killed in action with the enemy while 496 died in noncombat incidents.There have been 19,639 troops wounded in action during OEF.MC-12 Crash Claims Three LivesAn Army MC-12 variant crashed in eastern Afghanistan on Jan. 10, killing two coalition servicemen and one NATO civilian, International Security Assistance Force officials stated. ABC News identified all three personnel as Americans, though ISAF’s official casualty report kept the nationalities confidential. “The incident is under investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further until the investigation is complete,” ISAF spokesman Lt. Col. William Griffin said. Four airmen were killed in a separate MC-12 crash in Afghanistan last April.Adios, PedroHH-60G rescue helicopters stood on alert at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, for the last time on New Year’s Eve. Aircrew and pararescuemen of the 26th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron saved more than 2,400 US and coalition lives since beginning around-the-clock casualty evacuation alert at Bastion in early 2009, according to a news release. “The airmen of the 26th ERQS, along with Guardian Angel teams, have accomplished some remarkably brave missions in support of the joint and coalition force,” said squadron boss Maj. Adams Darling. “I am humbled to have had the chance to command these warriors.” The squadron inactivated on Jan. 1, passing its alert responsibilities to Army UH-60 Black Hawk and Royal Air Force CH-47 Chinook rescue crews. The 83rd ERQS at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, is now the Air Force’s sole combat rescue unit in the theater, according to officials. Making the Bluegrass State ProudEight Kentucky Air National Guardsmen were awarded decorations, including a Distinguished Flying Cross and two Bronze Star Medals with Valor Devices for gallantry in Afghanistan. Capt. Nathan Tingle, a combat rescue officer assigned to the wing’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, received the DFC for his “extraordinary achievement” in Afghanistan, during the ceremony at Louisville, Arpt./AGS, Ky. On May 26, 2011, Tingle led a CRO team on a “harrowing rescue mission” in the Shorbak district of Kandahar province. Despite poor visibility and mountainous terrain, he formed a plan to extract, over a still-active minefield, one critically wounded soldier, two isolated soldiers, and 10 killed in action. Also honored was TSgt. Jeff Kinlaw, a combat controller, who received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device for his heroic actions in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan in 2012. On April 12 that year, Kinlaw, who was serving as the primary joint terminal attack controller for a US Special Forces team, helped battle Taliban fighters for 14 hours, repeatedly placing himself in plain sight of the enemy to protect his teammates. TSgt. Robert Bonello, another combat controller awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device, was honored for heroic actions in Afghanistan’s Faryab province in 2012. Bonello served as the primary JTAC with an Army Special Forces team, conducting a time-sensitive air assault mission while in direct contact with enemy forces, according to the wing’s news release.
Senior Staff ChangesRETIREMENT: Maj. Gen. Stephen D. Schmidt.NOMINATIONS: To be Brigadier General: Paul W. Tibbets IV. To be Major General: Jay B. Silveria. CHANGES: Maj. Gen. John B. Cooper, from Dir., Log., DCS, Log., Instl., & Mission Spt., USAF, Pentagon, to Dir., Log., ACC, JB Langley-Eustis, Va. ... Brig. Gen. Kathryn J. Johnson, Dir., Sys. Integration, DCS, Log., Instl., & Mission Spt., USAF, Pentagon, to Dir., Log., DCS, Log., Instl., & Mission Spt., USAF, Pentagon ... Brig. Gen. Michael D. Rothstein, from Cmdr., 56th FW, AETC, Luke AFB, Ariz., to Cmdr., 438th AEW, ACC, Kabul, Afghanistan ... Maj. Gen. (sel.) Jay B. Silveria, from Vice Cmdr., 14th AF, Air Forces Strat., AFSPC, Vandenberg AFB, Calif., to Cmdr., USAF Warfare Center, ACC, Nellis AFB, Nev. SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE CHANGES: Gregg D. Costabile, to Dir., Engineering & Tech. Mgmt., F-35 Lightning II Jt. Program Office, AF Life Cycle Mgmt. Center, AFMC, Arlington, Va. .... Thomas A. Lockhart, to Dir., Materiels & Manufacturing, AF Research Lab., AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio ... Daniel F. McMillin, to Auditor General of the Air Force, OSAF, Pentagon ... Joseph M. Oder, to Exec. Dir., AF Nuclear Weapons Center, AFMC, Kirtland AFB, N.M. ... Robert E. Tarleton, to Dir., Mil. Satellite Comm. Sys. Directorate, SMC, AFSPC, Los Angeles AFB, Calif.
Daily Report: 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.
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