The Air Force reached an important flight test hour goal for the F-22 prior to a critical Pentagon review of the program.
Through late November the two F-22s at Edwards AFB, Calif., had accumulated 160 flight test hours. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan had set 184 flight test hours-4 percent of the planned total-as a goal for the aircraft by Thanksgiving. Release of money for purchase of the first two production aircraft could not occur until the goal was reached.
The F-22s hit the mark with 184.4 hours Nov. 23, beating the Thanksgiving Day target and ensuring the program was ready for a Pentagon review scheduled to begin Dec. 1. The review will determine whether Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen approves purchase of the two production aircraft.
So far the test program has resulted in only a few minor changes to the aircraft, such as a new fuel pump design, said officials. The F-22 has gone supersonic (1.4 Mach), reached 40,000 feet, and flown at up to 26 degrees angle of attack, said officials.
Meteoroid Shower Leaves Satellites Unharmed
Air Force satellites appear to have escaped the Leonid meteoroid shower unscathed, said service officials Nov. 17.
Space operations crews had not known what to expect during the height of the Leonid storm and had spent months preparing to limit possible shower damage through such techniques as powering down unnecessary onboard electronics and reducing a satellite’s cross-section.
“We prepared for the worst and were pleased the shower did not directly threaten our space assets,” said Maj. Gen. Gerald F. Perryman Jr., commander of 14th Air Force and Air Force ComponentSpace Operations of US Space Command.
The Leonid shower occurs every 32 to 33 years, when the Earth passes through the densest portion of the debris trail of the comet TempelTuttle. The last time around for the shower was 1966, when there were not as many satellites orbiting the planet.
Pay a Top Priority, Says Pentagon
Department of Defense leaders say that a quality pay and retirement package will be the top item on their legislative agenda in 1999.
In an Oct. 22 interview with Armed Forces Radio and Television, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen said he will ask for a 4.4 percent across-the-board wage hike. He indicated that DoD is also considering a targeted pay boost for mid-career officers and NCOs whose salaries lag particularly far behind those of their civilian counterparts.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, in the same interview, said that it is his intention that any change in retirement funding will cover everyone who has entered the military since 1986. “It’s too early to tell exactly how this will shape up, but that would be the intent,” he said.
Meanwhile, Congressional leaders are warning that the Pentagon needs to thoroughly analyze any pay or retirement proposals to determine their significant long term costs.
In an Oct. 8 letter to Cohen, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Strom Thurmond (R) of South Carolina and ranking minority member Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan said that any such proposals “must be fully supported by careful analyses justifying the costs and providing assurance of measurable increases in recruiting, retention, and military readiness.”
Mountain Home Wing To Be Full-Time AEF
The 366th Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, will become a permanent Air Expeditionary Force, according to service officials.
If deployed, it will be bolstered as needed by B-2s or other aircraft from units not directly under its control, Maj. Gen. Daniel M. Dick, vice commander of Air Combat Command’s 12th Air Force, said in late October.
The Air Force’s original plans had called for 10 AEFs, all made up of units from different bases. Now there will be nine such distributed AEFs, said the general. The 366th will be AEF No. 10.
He also said that the Expeditionary Force Experiment held by the Air Force last fall was a success, in everything from transmission of target data to en route aircraft to use of Special Operations Command air-delivered acoustic sensors.
C-17 Tries Dual-Row Airdrop Capability
Air Force testers recently tried out a new C-17 dual-row airdrop capability that could double the aircraft’s capacity to carry certain kinds of cargo.
When set up for airdrop delivery, current practice calls for C-17s to carry only one row of cargo-leaving wasted space on the sides. Certifying Globemasters to carry and drop two rows at a time could solve this problem and reduce the number of aircraft needed to support an Army strategic brigade drop by 20.
“The dual-row airdrop capability should result in a more efficient use of C-17s,” said Alec Dyatt, 418th Flight Test Squadron dual-row airdrop project engineer.
The recent testing took place at Edwards AFB, Calif., and focused on using gravity, instead of parachutes, to pull cargo from the plane.
One big step was determining the proper aircraft deck angle for gravity dropping of cargo. Too shallow, and the pallets are spread too far over the drop zone. Too steep, and locks that hold the pallets in place won’t retract properly.
Cargo dropped included mock-up Humvees and howitzers. Attempts to drop the rows simultaneously resulted in collisions between platforms forced into each other by the convergence of airflow off the back of the plane. Dropping rows one after the other proved more successful.
“Once we found the problem with simultaneous drops, we went back and perfected the sequential drop,” said Dyatt.
C-141 Tested in Chemical Environment
A first-of-its-kind field test at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah gave Air Mobility Command a look at how to conduct airlift operations in a chemical warfare environment.
The autumn experiment involved a full-scale air mobility launch and recovery process, plus air bursts of a simulated chemical agent.
“The overall objective was to take existing contamination control procedures, refine them as necessary, and then test them so that we can provide a report containing valid information for the unified CINCs to make decisions,” said MSgt. Todd Herzog, test manager for AMC’s directorate of test and evaluation.
Sixty-eight airmen from McGuire AFB, N.J., Scott AFB, Ill., Andrews AFB, Md., and Grand Forks AFB, N.D., took part in the tests. During the trial, canisters containing a blue-dyed chemical simulant were launched from the ground. They exploded in the air, creating a mist that drifted down over personnel bunkers, cargo, equipment, and a C-141 from the 305th Air Mobility Wing at McGuire.
“When we came out of our shelters to examine the aircraft after the aerial burst, we could see puddles of the simulant in the engine intake and had to clean simulant from places you never thought it would get to,” said Capt. Timothy Bailey, a C-141 maintenance officer from the 305th.
Following ground contamination cleanup, the C-141 was loaded up with passengers and cargo and flown depressurized for two hours, as the crew vented the interior of the aircraft to purge it of simulated chemicals.
While the full results are not in yet, the test seemed to go well, said officials. “After the two-hour flight, our chemical agent monitors displayed a zero vapor level,” said Herzog.
A Global Hawk long-distance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle successfully completed its sixth test flight Oct. 29 at Edwards AFB, Calif.
The nine-hour, 33-minute mission reached an altitude of 60,000 feet and included a preplanned landing wave-off before touchdown on the desert runway.
The UAV covered roughly 3,100 nautical miles following its early morning takeoff as it flew a figure eight track above the Mojave Desert.
“This flight test was a big confidence-booster,” said Lt. Col. Pat Bolibrzuch, Global Hawk program manager. “All test objectives were exceeded, and no anomalies were found.”
A USAF Predator UAV is helping NATO commanders watch over the tinderbox Balkan area of Kosovo. The one-ton propeller-driven UAV from the 11th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron has flown several missions, making sure that the Yugoslav government lives up to its agreement to end police provocations against ethnic Albanians in the region.
In total, the Predator flew more than 100 missions in 1998 in the Balkans. A pilot and sensor operators work from a ground control station at Taszar AB, Hungary, to fly the 27-foot-long craft. NATO commanders see television-quality video from the Predator less than two seconds after it is recorded. The video is then transmitted to some 35 stations around the world.
Anti-Drug Radar Airmen Redeploy
The final redeployment of Air Force personnel who ran the original US counterdrug ground radars in South America occurred Nov. 9 at Howard AFB, Panama.
The Vietnamera radars used to track the flights of suspected cocaine aircraft remain. Their operators are now contractor personnel from Northrop Grumman, who replaced the old mix of active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve forces.
The anti-drug emitter mission began as a 90-day requirement for National Guardsmen in 1993 and grew from there. Some Guardsmen went on annual orders and ended up returning regularly to South America over five years-averaging 200 days of deployment per year.
Air Force people will continue to support the on-the-scene contractors. “We have 12 people at the Regional Operation Center in Panama, a 10-person contingent at Dobbins ARB, Ga., … and five officers working with US Customs [Service at] the Domestic Interdiction Center at March ARB, Calif.,” said Lt. Col. Don Hamblett, National Guard Bureau chief of radar deployments.
Russian Engine Roars in Alabama
On Nov. 4, Lockheed Martin Astronautics successfully completed the third test firing of an entire launch vehicle stage with a Russian rocket engine at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The Russian RD-180 engine will power Lockheed Martin’s new Atlas III rockets and the firm’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle family. The engine is both powerful and simple: It reduces from nine to two the number of engines needed to power an Atlas and cuts the number of engine parts by more than 15,000.
The first RD-180 test, July 29, lasted 10 seconds. The second, Oct. 14, was scheduled to run for 56 seconds but shut down after 2.7 seconds when a monitoring computer misread engine data.
November’s test run roared for the full 56 seconds. A fourth test, planned to last 70 seconds, is next on the schedule.
Micro Air Vehicle Could Carry Many Payloads
A micro air vehicle the length of a pencil, being developed by Lockheed Martin under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contract, could carry a wide array of payloads-from day imaging sensors to radar jammers to a signals intelligence or communications relay system.
That is what company officials said at the annual Lockheed Martin Technology Symposium in Washington, at least. Current plans call for the tiny craft to carry the day imager, but “it’s very simple to put in other sensor technology,” said Jeffrey D. Harris, advanced program manager for Lockheed’s Sanders unit.
The design calls for a micro vehicle some six inches in length, that weighs about 85 grams, fully loaded. Its speed is predicted at 30 knots, with an initial endurance of 20 minutes and altitude ceiling of 300 feet.
Use of an electric motor will make the craft virtually undectable beyond 100 to 200 feet. Projected per-unit cost in a large procurement would run $3,000 to $5,000.
Wind represents one potential problem. Micro air vehicles may not be able to operate with wind speeds much above 30 knots, said Harris.
Name of Father, Son To Be on Memorial
The Department of Defense has told the family of Air Force TSgt. Richard Bernard Fitzgibbon Jr. that his name will be added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.
Fitzgibbon died in the line of duty in Vietnam June 8, 1956, while serving as a military advisor. Past Pentagon policy has held Jan. 1, 1961, as the starting date for inclusion of casualties in the Southeast Asia Casualty Database. A high-level review of the circumstances of Fitzgibbon’s death decided that he belonged on “The Wall,” however.
Eight other pre-1961 casualties have been similarly added in years past.
Fitzgibbon’s son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard Fitzgibbon III, was killed in action in Vietnam Sept. 7, 1965. They are thought to be the only father and son US service members to die in the Vietnam War.
B-2 Comm Systems Fine, Pentagon Says
The Department of Defense says that contrary to some published reports the B-2 stealth bomber can be recalled if sent over the North Pole toward its targets in a nuclear conflict.
The B-2 currently uses the Milstar UHF satellite communications systems as its primary means for receiving emergency action messages from National Command Authorities, said DoD spokesman Navy Capt. Mike Doubleday Nov. 5. “It is a nuclear survivable global capability that gives Air Force bombers the connectivity they need to conduct their worldwide business,” he said.
Published reports indicated that internal Pentagon budget documents hint that the B-2 needs to be outfitted with Extremely High Frequency capability to ensure communications in time of war. The Air Force must allocate $2.8 million to a B-2 EHF risk reduction study in 2000, according to the documents.
An EHF system for the B-2 is part of planned future stealth upgrades, said Doubleday. But the change would be aimed at maintaining current communication standards.
“The future requirement for EHF or other nuclear survivable communications is due to planned discontinuation of the current Milstar system in favor of a constellation of EHF [satellites],” said the Pentagon spokesman.
USAF Looks for More Reserve Cops
The Air Force hopes to offset a decline in the retention rate for enlisted security forces by signing up Reservists for extended active duty tours of 12 to 15 months.
Specifically, the Air Force is looking for Air Force Reserve Command security force members in grades E-2 through E-6, as well as a limited number of E-7s, for active duty service.
Qualifications necessary include a commander’s recommendation and a secret clearance. Reservists can apply for five stateside locations and can request overseas duty.
Both the Air Force and the Marine Corps achieved 100 percent of their numeric recruiting goals for Fiscal 1998, according to Defense Department officials.
The Army reached 99 percent of its numeric goal. The Navy achieved 88 percent, with a shortfall of 6,892 recruits.
Overall, the Department of Defense enrolled 186,131 recruits in Fiscal 1998-97 percent of the goal of 192,332 active duty accessions.
Recruitment for all services exceeded quality benchmarks. Department-wide, 94 percent of all recruits without prior military service had high school diplomas. Sixty-eight percent scored above average on the Armed Forces Qualification Test.
The new accessions also showed diversity. Twenty percent were AfricanAmericans, a number unchanged from Fiscal 1997. Twelve percent were Hispanic, up from 10 percent in 1997.
Eighteen percent of recruits were women, the same as last year.
“Recruiting has been challenging for several years, but it was especially so this past year because of the robust economy, the lowest unemployment in 29 years, and increased interest among potential recruits in attending college immediately after high school rather than earning money for college through military service,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management Policy Frank Rush.
Looking toward next year, the Pentagon has put a number of incentives in place in an effort to guarantee continued recruiting success. They include higher enlistment bonuses, increased college tuition assistance for those enlisting in some critical job specialties, and more money for advertising.
Air Force Space Command officially grounded all USAF Titan launch vehicles in late October. The stand-down was a reaction to the failure of a Titan IVA launch vehicle Aug. 12. It was not issued earlier because no Titans were in line for launch, said an AFSC spokesman.
Until the cause of the August failure is determined all Titan IVB and Titan II launches are on indefinite hold. Among the shots possibly affected are Titan mission B-27 (a Defense Support Program payload), B-32 (a Milstar satellite), and B-12 (a National Reconnaissance Office payload).
NASA, out of reliability concerns, had already delayed a Titan launch that was to carry its QuikSCAT ocean scatterometer spacecraft.
The launch schedule will be re-evaluated once an accident board completes its work and recovery actions are identified, said AFSPC officials.
USAF Launches Commercial Space Study
The US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center wants input from commercial firms for a study that could lead to a greater service reliance on the private sector for space operations.
Top Air Force leaders have asked the center to weigh the utility of commercial space systems and develop an investment strategy before a meeting of four-star Air Force officers next June.
The Commercial Space Opportunities Study has five study areas: remote sensing, surveillance, and meteorology; launch services; navigation; communication; and range and satellite command and control. A Nov. 13 Commerce Business Daily notice asked interested firms to provide information for the effort.
The study is part of a “Doable Space” plan meant to improve how the Air Force handles both space operations and space-related acquisitions.
On Nov. 9, Department of Defense acquisition chief Jacques S. Gansler authorized the transition of Lockheed Martin’s Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile into the development phase of the program.
The move included the award of a $132.8 million contract increase to Lockheed Martin for JASSM’s engineering and manufacturing development phase. Production is currently set to begin in January 2001.
JASSM is an autonomous long-range cruise missile designed to destroy high-value and well-defended targets. The stealthy weapon will be carried on a variety of USAF and Navy fighters and bombers.
“We’re very pleased to move forward into the heart of this important development effort,” said Dick Caime, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of strike weapon systems.
- The US Air Force and Army have together delivered more than 2.5 million pounds of relief supplies to Hondurans whose lives have been devastated by Hurricane Mitch. Reserve C-130 crews on two-week annual training with the 171st Airlift Squadron, Selfridge ANGB, Mich., have been among the Air Force personnel helping in the effort.
- Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems recently made an on-schedule delivery of the first major production component for Japan’s F-2 fighter. The part, an aft fuselage section, was accepted by officials of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the prime contractor for the F-2, at Lockheed’s Fort Worth, Texas, plant Nov. 10.
- On Nov. 10, Vice President Al Gore announced the creation of a new virtual Vietnam Wall-a web site that will allow computer users to call up names from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and hear audio remembrances from family members or friends.
- On Oct. 22, an Air Force B-1B bomber made a precautionary landing at the Colorado Springs Airport, Colo., due to a partial electrical system malfunction. Five tires blew out upon landing. There were no injuries or interruption in normal airport activities due to the incident.
- On Oct. 22, a single-seat F-16 from Luke AFB, Ariz., crashed approximately 10 miles north of the base. The pilot, Lt. Col. Mike L. Bartley, ejected safely. He was on a routine training mission at the time of the accident.
- Amn. Marcus A. Zaharko of Helena, Mont., died in an explosion at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M., Oct. 19. Zaharko, who had been a seismic analyst with the Air Force Technical Applications Center at Patrick AFB, Fla., was part of a group preparing for field tests when unexploded ammunition accidentally detonated.
- Sens. John McCain (RAriz.) and Max Cleland (DGa.) and Reps. Sam Johnson (RTexas) and Jack Murtha (DPa.) have sponsored a new bill that would establish a national memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor disabled veterans. The memorial would be the first such national monument dedicated to disabled vets who are still living and would be paid for by private contributions.
- Retired Army Air Corps SSgt. Edward Barton, of Camarillo, Calif., received a long-overdue Purple Heart medal at a Vandenberg AFB, Calif., ceremony Nov. 4. Barton’s daughter Jacqueline, herself an Air Force veteran, researched and gained the belated award for her father. Barton, a flight engineer on a B-24 Liberator based in England during World War II, had his part in the war ended by a shell burst from an anti-aircraft gun.
- Airmen who are residents of Minnesota and served in the Persian Gulf War may be eligible for a bonus. The state legislature has passed a law calling for special stipends for Minnesotans who were on active US duty from Aug. 2, 1990, to July 31, 1991, and participated in the effort to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
- USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan presented the 1997 Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy to Capt. Jeffrey B. Samuel of the 493d Fighter Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, UK, in a Pentagon ceremony in October. Samuel earned the award, which is given every year to the member of the Air Force who best manages an in-flight emergency, by landing his F-15C despite two explosions caused by an AIM missile breaking apart immediately after launch and a massive fuel leak.
- Boeing’s Airlift and Tanker Programs component has won a 1998 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for manufacturing from the Department of Commerce. President Clinton and Commerce Secretary William M. Daley will present the award to David Spong, vice president and general manager of airlift and tankers programs, at a Washington ceremony early this year.
- The Tunner, the Air Force’s newest cargo loader, reached initial operational capability Nov. 6, according to Air Force officials. The loader, named after Lt. Gen. William H. Tunner who was a commander of the Berlin Airlift, has a total loading capacity of 60,000 pounds. It will replace older, 40,000-pound capacity loaders in the Air Force inventory.
- The 99th Airlift Squadron at Andrews AFB, Md., recently received its first C-37A in a formal arrival ceremony. The C-37A, based on the Gulfstream V business jet, will replace aging 707-based C-137s.
- The 44th Boeing C-17 Globemaster III was delivered to USAF in a short ceremony in Long Beach, Calif., Nov. 9. It was the 32d consecutive C-17 delivered ahead of schedule.
- North Dakota’s only Air National Guard unit set a safety record Nov. 3 by surpassing 40,000 flight hours in F-16 fighter aircraft without accident. The unit’s last accident occurred 25 years ago, when it was flying the F-101B Voodoo fighter.
- The Air Force will stop maintaining 150 Minuteman launch silos at Grand Forks AFB, N.D., due to the service’s decision to select off-the-shelf commercial boosters instead of Minutemen for the national missile defense ground-based interceptor role. The silos will be destroyed in accordance with arms treaty and base closure requirements.
- On Nov. 12, acting Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters opened the door of a new Air Force Outreach Program Office at Brooks AFB, Texas. The office, the first of its kind, is intended to improve service liaison with small businesses.
- Air Combat Command has released an accident report on a March 23 incident in which the landing gear of an F-16C collapsed on the runway at Hill AFB, Utah. The report concluded that the accident was caused by the pilot, Lt. Col. John Burgess Jr., failing to properly control his descent rate during landing.