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Daily Report

Wednesday October 12, 2011
  • Talon Time at Tyndall: A pair of freshly refurbished T-38 Talons landed at Tyndall AFB, Fla., enhancing combat training for the 325th Fighter Wing's F-22s. The two T-38s, regenerated at Holloman AFB, N.M., arrived on Oct. 6. They are the first of 20 earmarked for Tyndall for use as dedicated aggressor aircraft. Up until now, Raptor pilots have been forced to fly simulators, or duel other F-22s. "Using the F-22 to replicate the bad guy isn't the most efficient means of resources," stressed Lt. Col. Glen Richards, 325th FW program integration officer. "Half of the F-22 pilots aren't training to the standards that we would prefer for combat training since half are replicating enemy aircraft," noted Lt. Col. Ronald Miller, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group deputy commander. Operating less expensive T-38s, "will provide higher standards of training for all of the F-22 pilots," he said. (Tyndall report by A1C Christopher Reel) (See also Raptor versus Talon.)
  • Reaper Crash Landing at Holloman: An MQ-9 Reaper assigned to the 29th Attack Squadron crashed on final approach at Holloman AFB, N.M., last week, according to base officials. The remotely piloted aircraft, operated by one of Air Combat Command's RPA flying training units, had just completed a local training mission when the incident occurred on Oct. 7. There were no injuries or damage to private property, according to a base release. A board will convene to investigate the cause of the accident. This is one of several RPA mishaps at Holloman since its schoolhouse began operations in September 2009.
  • Snubbing F-22 Maintenance Costs: The Air Force Research Lab has snubbed potential maintenance costs associated with the F-22's engine, possibly saving the Air Force millions of dollars. Before AFRL's propulsion researchers discovered the "snubber," a tiny, $35 rubber vibration damper to help prevent cracks in the J seal on the F119 engine's inlet case, maintainers would have to pull out the engine and drill to stop cracks from growing. If problems occurred during drilling, maintainers would have to discard the $362,000 inlet case. Now, the Air Force has begun fitting seven snubbers on each F119. "We hope this will eliminate a huge maintenance driver at a very, very low cost," said Stephen Bringman, a manager in AFRL's F-22 propulsion division. The snubbers entered service in April and have logged about 3,000 flight hours. (Wright-Patterson report by Laura Dempsey)
  • AWACS' Trio of Treats: A team of Air Force engineers successfully demonstrated three battlefield-requested capabilities for the E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft during proof-of-concept testing at Tinker AFB, Okla. The upgrades require only minimal modifications to E-3. The first is the Situational Awareness Data Link. Operating on the Link 16 network, the E-3 can only send airspace information directly to other Link 16-capable aircraft—excluding the A-10 and many Air National Guard fighters. But SADL "lets us use the E-3 as an opportunistic aerial gateway . . . to provide direct communication and send the air picture" to those other platforms, said Jonathan Lee, AWACS lead project engineer. The two other low-cost modifications enabled the AWACS to extend Link 16 beyond line of sight using a satellite mobile telephone, and switch between USAF and Army networks in flight without rebooting. (Tinker report by Patty Welsh)
  • New Headquarters for Barksdale Security Forces: Members of the 2nd Security Forces Squadron at Barksdale AFB, La., moved into their new headquarters complex. The 40,000-square-foot building is much larger than the 1930s-era hangar that the squadron formerly called home, but was not large enough to accommodate all of its members. "The new facility consolidates security forces investigations, mobility, confinement, operations, and administrative functions under one roof for the first time at Barksdale," said Christopher Bowman, 2nd SFS chief of plans and programs. Construction of the new building, which opened on Sept. 22, began in February 2010. The facility is energy efficient and has features like a new alarm system, electronic key access, and a radio system with an 80-foot tower. (Barksdale report by A1C Micaiah Anthony)
  • Plan B: Procuring F-22s is a viable option for the Marine Corps in place of acquiring the F-35B strike fighter, according to one Marine Corps officer. Doing this "may seem like an extreme course of action, but it makes the most sense for the Marine Corps for several reasons," asserted Maj. Christopher Cannon, an operations analyst with Marine Corps Combat Development Command, in a September article in the Marine Corps Gazette, the service's professional journal. Cannon argues that the Marines could purchase F-22s for less than the F-35's current flyaway cost. Plus, F-22s would "cost less" to maintain than F–35Bs, he states, citing Air Force estimates of some $44,000 per flying hour for the F-22 and his own projection of up to $50,000 per flying hour for the F-35B. He says this would make the costs of restarting the F-22 manufacturing line worthwhile. Capability-wise, the F-22s "dwarfs the F–35," he states. Cannon's article discussed the F-22 option in the context of the two-year F-35B probation period that is intended to give the Marines time to overcome the aircraft's developmental issues or face F-35B cancellation.
  • Mutual Assured Economic Destruction: Beyond advanced military capabilities, a vibrant US economy ultimately may be the best weapon in deterring China, according to a RAND paper. "It is often said that a strong economy is the basis of a strong defense. In the case of China, a strong US economy is not just the basis for a strong defense, it is itself perhaps the best defense against an adventurous China," states Conflict with China: Prospects, Consequences, and Strategies for Deterrence. The two nations' economies are linked in a manner "unparalleled in history," state the authors. "This mutual dependency can be an immensely powerful deterrent, in effect a form of mutually assured economic destruction," they write. They add, "At the moment, the balance of advantage rests with the United States, but even the winner in such a contest will wish it had been avoided." It's important that "the balance of dependency does not shift too heavily against the United States" in coming decades, they warn.
  • FAA Investigates Near-Collision Claim: The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a claim by an Alaska flying instructor that a C-17 assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson overtook her single-engine Cessna while flying a practice mission near Wasilla last month, reported the Anchorage Daily News. Instructor Heidi Ruess, with Arctic Flyers, said the cargo airplane came within 100 feet of her aircraft on Sept. 20. The military denies that the C-17 came any closer than 500 feet, according to the newspaper.
  • X-47B Cruises Toward Validation: Northrop Grumman's X-47B naval unmanned combat air system demonstration aircraft successfully flew in its cruise configuration for the first time. The milestone flight, conducted Sept. 30 from Edwards AFB, Calif., helped to validate the navigation hardware and software used to land on a moving aircraft carrier, according to a company release. "[The] flight gave us our first clean look at the aerodynamic cruise performance of the X-47B air system . . . and it is proving out all of our predictions,” said Janis Pamiljans, Northrop's Navy UCAS program manager. "Reaching this critical test point demonstrates the growing maturity of the air system, and its readiness to move to the next phase of flight testing." Northrop plans to begin transitioning aircraft to NAS Patuxent River, Md., later this year for shore-based suitability testing in 2012. (See also X-47B Makes First Flight from the Daily Report archives.)
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