Aerospace World

June 1, 2006

IED Kills Airman in Iraq

The Defense Department announced the death of an airman in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

TSgt. Walter M. Moss Jr., of Houston, died March 29 in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was working to clear the area of such bombs.

Moss was deployed to the 447th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight at Sather AB, Iraq. His home base unit was the 366th Civil Engineer Squadron, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.

A memorial service was held April 1 at Sather Air Base.

F-35 Production Approved

The Defense Acquisition Board has approved low rate production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Kenneth J. Krieg, the Pentagon’s acquisition, technology, and logistics chief and the DAB chairman, signed the order on April 6.

The DAB gave its approval to start awarding contracts for long-lead items needed to construct the first five Conventional Takeoff and Landing examples of the aircraft. The CTOL model, F-35A, will be flown by the Air Force. The F-35B is the Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing version for the Marine Corps and British air arms, while the F-35C is the carrier-compatible version to be built for the Navy.

The Joint Strike Fighter is the largest DOD program ever, with new cost estimates at $276.5 billion. (See “Counted a Different Way, Major Weapons Costs Go Up,” p. 24.)

The F-35 is being developed by Lockheed Martin.

Tanker Competition Launched

Pentagon acquisition chief Krieg approved on April 13 the Air Force’s plan to begin a competition for its next generation tanker aircraft.

The Air Force released a request for information (RFI) to industry in April, and a formal request for proposal is expected in September.

Krieg, in a memorandum giving the program a green light, said that in his view, there is “sufficient time to structure a traditional competitive program to gain the best value for the taxpayer.”

A recent Rand study indicated that the KC-135 fleet is not in such bad condition that the Air Force must launch an urgent, sole-source contract to replace it. (See “Charting a Course for Tankers,” p. 64.)

Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne said on March 30 that the service hopes to make a source selection for the tanker by mid-2007.

Wynne, at a Capitol Hill seminar, said the turnaround time to get a program under way should be “fairly minimal. … I am convinced [it] can be done within 36 to 48 months.”

The Air Force’s existing KC-135 Stratotankers are more than 42 years old on average. Some scenarios anticipate a 31-year replacement effort with annual buys of up to 20 aircraft.

The Rand study found that most of the midsize airliners now in production could satisfy the tanker requirement, and the Mobility Capabilities Study stated a Defense Department preference for a combination tanker-cargo platform.

Boeing is expected to compete against Northrop Grumman for the tanker contract. Northrop Grumman would be the US prime contractor for the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. KC-330 or similar aircraft, based on an airliner built by Airbus. (See “The European Invasion,” p. 68.)

C-130 Blows an AMP

Growing costs and other priorities have prompted the Air Force to drop the Avionics Modernization Program, or AMP, for all its C-130Es and some of its oldest C-130Hs as well.

An April 5 memo from Lt. Gen. Christopher A. Kelly, Air Mobility Command’s vice commander, constituted “formal notification of AMC’s intention to not AMP the active C-130E fleet,” according to a report from Dow Jones Newswires. The memo also noted that AMC would rather not perform the AMP on its oldest C-130Hs. Boeing is performing the C-130 AMP.

Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff, telegraphed the move at a Capitol Hill seminar April 4, in which he noted that it would cost $20 million apiece to upgrade the C-130E’s structures and systems, versus about $70 million apiece to buy new C-130Js. At the seminar, Moseley wondered out loud if there’s “a better way.”

He noted that, after the substantial modification, the 1960s-vintage aircraft would still be 40-year-old transports with all their performance and range limitations, versus the latest J model. He said then that the Air Force was considering a “continued buy” of some Js instead of throwing the money at old ones.

At an April 11 meeting with defense reporters, Moseley said he still thinks the AMP is necessary for the bulk of the H models, but “I just don’t know that it’s required for the Es.”

The move also highlights a sore spot between the Air Force and Congress. The Air Force would like to retire its C-30Es, in large part because so many are grounded by wing box cracks. Congress, however, so far has restricted the service from retiring any E models.

Academy Sat Destroyed …

The Air Force Academy cadet-designed and -built FalconSat-2 small satellite was destroyed in a launch failure March 24. The satellite was to measure the effect of plasma radiation on communications and Global Positioning System satellites.

The FalconSat-2 satellite was being boosted from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll, in the Pacific Ocean. It was aboard the maiden launch of the SpaceX-built Falcon-1 rocket. SpaceX is a private-sector company.

Shortly after clearing the tower, the launch vehicle suffered a fuel leak and fire, destroying the payload. Academy cadets continue work on FalconSat-3, which is scheduled to launch in October.

… But Doesn’t End Success Streak

Because FalconSat-2 was aboard a commercial launch vehicle, its loss did not end Air Force Space Command’s record streak of consecutive successful space launches. At the end of March, AFSPC had 44 straight launches without a failure, a streak that dates back to May 1999.

Lt. Gen. Michael A. Hamel, commander of AFSPC’s Space and Missile Systems Center, told Air Force Magazine earlier this year that a string of USAF launch failures in the 1990s were largely the result of insufficient oversight and attention. Space launch is a highly difficult business, and a “hands off” approach simply did not work.

The Air Force “didn’t lose the recipe,” for space launch success, Hamel said, but “stopped following it for about a decade.” The lengthy string of successes beginning in 1999 is a testament to the fact that the Air Force has “put the rigor back in” to its launch standards and oversight, he said.

ANG Recruiting Goes Up

According to an April 10 Pentagon news release, the Air National Guard in March met 100 percent of its recruiting goal. The recruiting goal had been set higher than in the previous four months.

By the end of April, the Air National Guard was at 92 percent of its authorized end strength.

All services exceeded their numbers for active duty recruiting in March and were expected to meet their retention goals for the rest of the fiscal year. Only the Army and Navy Reserve failed to hit their recruiting targets.

Senate Confirms England

By voice vote, the Senate on April 6 confirmed Gordon England to be the 29th deputy secretary of defense.

England had already been on the job since last summer, first as acting deputy—replacing Paul D. Wolfowitz, who left to head the World Bank—and then as deputy, when President Bush bypassed the Senate and appointed England to the post during a Congressional recess.

During the Bush Administration, England served as Secretary of the Navy twice—succeeding himself the second time—with a stint in between as deputy secretary for homeland security. Much of his career, he worked for the land and aircraft units of both General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin.

Nuclear Center Opens at Kirtland

The Air Force has consolidated all its functions for the design and maintenance of nuclear weapons at the new Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M. The organization was activated March 31.

The NWC won’t result in any new hires or spending. It merely brings various functions, previously spread out across USAF, into one centralized location.

The center will manage the Air Force’s nuclear weapons systems to support the National Command Structure and will act as a parent organization for Kirtland, with two subordinate units: the 377th Air Base Wing and the 498th Armament Systems Wing. The 377th will be responsible for nuclear safety, expeditionary forces, and operating support. The 498th will be responsible for a broad range of support functions.

Pakistani F-16 Deal Back On

Pakistan announced on April 13 that it would complete a deal to buy Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighters, delayed after last year’s earthquake.

The Pakistan government put the deal on hold last year when there were prominent domestic calls to spend the estimated $3.5 billion cost of the procurement on earthquake relief and reconstruction. The Oct. 8, 2005 earthquake killed about 73,000 people in Pakistan. (See “Aerospace World: Pakistan Suspends F-16 Buy,” January, p. 16.)

Under the deal, Pakistan has received two older and updated F-16s and will acquire up to 77 more of the Block 52 configuration.

The Pakistani government also has approved the purchase of Chinese FC-10 fighter aircraft and JF-17 thunder airplanes being built jointly by Pakistan and China.

Senate OKs More C-17 Money

A Senate supplemental appropriations bill approved May 4 included $227.5 million to the budget to pay for advance parts and procurement for additional C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.

The extra funds in the bill would pay for C-17 parts, supplies, and raw materials, but must be ordered far in advance to be ready for installation on the airplanes.

The House version approved earlier this year only allocated $100 million. The difference between the two bodies will have to be ironed out in conference.

The House version of the 2007 defense authorization bill, passed May 11, included nearly $300 million to purchase three additional C-17s. As of mid-May, the Senate had yet to complete work on its bill.

The Air Force plans to end C-17 production in 2008, which would spell an end to hundreds of jobs at Boeing’s Long Beach, Calif., plant where the aircraft is built. Some lawmakers—not all with constituencies in California —have been lobbying to keep the plant open. (See “Aerospace World: C-17 Halt Brings Penalties” and “Lawmakers Line Up for C-17,” April, p. 14.)

“I have long believed that more C-17s are necessary to meet our nation’s strategic airlift requirements. So I hope that this funding is the first step in ensuring that more C-17s will be built in the coming years,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

The Air Force has put the acquisition of seven C-17s—as attrition replacements for aircraft being prematurely worn out in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars—at the top of its Fiscal 2007 unfunded priorities list. They would cost $1.6 billion to build.

New Life for U-2, F-117

The Air Force may have been premature in deciding a date for retirement of the U-2 and F-117, service Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley said on April 11.

While the Fiscal 2007 budget request called for retiring both aircraft within the next five years, Moseley acknowledged that their planned replacements may not materialize on time.

“I am not opposed” to the idea of extending F-117 and U-2 service, Moseley said. Using the analogy of a wing-walker, Moseley said USAF won’t let go of one strut until it has the next firmly in hand and won’t retire an important capability before a replacement is ready.

The Global Hawk Block 10 aircraft are already flying combat missions, but Moseley believes the Block 20 aircraft will be the first version to compare with the U-2’s capability.

“Until the Global Hawk is ready, then taking the U-2 off line doesn’t make sense, because the combatant commander still has a requirement for long look radar capability as well as signals intelligence and electronic intelligence,” remarked Moseley.

Intel Sweats the U-2

Prior to Moseley’s comments, Letitia A. Long, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, requirements, and resources in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, told the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee on April 6 that OSD has tasked STRATCOM with reviewing the U-2 retirement plan to “ensure we have the proper capabilities coming on line before we draw down those platforms.”

Long did concede that if the review proves that OSD acted too quickly on the decision, an adjustment would be requested. Neither Long nor Moseley specified how much longer the U-2 would fly or how much additional money it would require.

The Air Force’s February budget proposal had removed $1 billion from U-2 funds though Fiscal 2011.

Boeing Gives Big Gift

Boeing made a $15 million gift to the National Air and Space Museum in April, to help complete construction of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., and to fund various programs.

The donation represents the single largest corporate gift ever given to the Smithsonian Institution.

The facility—at one time known as the “Dulles Annex” to the NASM because it is adjacent to Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C.—opened more than two years ago, but its artifact restoration facilities are still under construction. The museum collection includes large aircraft that do not fit in NASM’s main building in downtown Washington, D.C. (See “The Nation’s Hangar,” and “Airplanes Under Glass” March 2004, p. 22 and p. 30.)

In recognition of the gift, the Smithsonian will name the main portion of the Udvar-Hazy center’s display area the Boeing Aviation Hangar.

Boeing made a separate $5 million donation in 1998 for phase one construction of the Chantilly facility. Boeing also has been the lead sponsor since 1996 for the “How Things Fly” exhibit at the downtown Washington site, donating $1.4 million.

ANG Pilot Schmidt Sues USAF

Maj. Harry Schmidt, a former Illinois Air National Guard pilot who, in April 2002, killed four Canadian soldiers and injured eight others in an accidental bombing in Afghanistan, is suing the Air Force for disclosing personal information about his case without his permission. (See “Aerospace World: The Case of the ANG Pilots … ,” February 2003, p. 20.)

Schmidt, in a civil lawsuit, alleges that the Air Force violated the federal Privacy Act by releasing a document in which he was reprimanded by Gen. Bruce Carlson, then commander of 8th Air Force and now head of Air Force Materiel Command. Schmidt, according to the Springfield Journal Register, maintains that the letter is a confidential document and also charges that its release breaks a plea bargain deal struck with the Air Force in which he accepted nonjudicial punishment from Carlson rather than exercise his right to a court-martial.

Schmidt filed his suit April 7 in the US District Court in Springfield, Ill.

In the Article 15 letter of reprimand, which the Air Force posted on a Web site, Carlson chastised Schmidt for “gross poor judgment” and “arrogance” and said Schmidt “acted shamefully.” Carlson fined Schmidt the maximum amount allowable—$5,672—and barred him from flying for the Air Force. Schmidt’s appeal was denied. He continues to serve in the Illinois Air National Guard in a nonflying job.

The suit seeks damages from the Air Force for injury to Schmidt’s reputation and unauthorized disclosure of his military records.

Russia Plans ICBM Updates

Russia’s top nuclear missile designer said in April that his country’s ICBM force will be a credible deterrent into the 2040s and that Russia’s nuclear arsenal won’t drop below 2,000 warheads in the near future.

Yury Solomonov, head and chief designer at the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, made the remarks in a rare news conference called to reassure Russians concerned about the status of Russia’s nuclear deterrent. According to the Moscow Times, analysts have suggested that Russia’s arsenal will drop below an effective deterrent level because only five or six single-warhead Topol-M missiles are being deployed every year, but many more older multiwarhead missiles are being retired.

“I assure you that the number of active warheads the strategic nuclear forces will have in 2015 and even in 2020 will be no less than 2,000,” said Solomonov.

He announced a plan to adapt the six-warhead Bulava missile, designed for submarine launches, for land-based deployment. All Soviet-era ICBMs will be replaced with newer missiles by 2015, Solomonov said, adding that their design will make them capable of penetrating any missile defenses developed by the United States. The Topol-M and Bulava shed their engines early in the midcourse phase, making them harder to track, he said.

The first land-based mobile Topol-Ms should be commissioned this year to augment the 300 Topol-Ms and Topol missile systems already deployed in land-based silos.

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty in 2002, which requires both sides to cut their nuclear arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by 2012.

Cost Overruns Killed B-52 SOJ

Snowballing requirements killed off the B-52 Standoff Jammer program, according to Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff. At a Capitol Hill seminar in April, he said that the original plan for the B-52 SOJ called for about a $1 billion project, but by December, it had ballooned to $7 billion and was no longer affordable.

Moseley said the SOJ—a modification that would have employed interchangeable jamming pods on the outer wings of B-52s—would only have fulfilled a “very narrow slice” of the overall jamming mission, and the need simply didn’t justify the cost. Moseley said he didn’t know why the Air Force wasn’t able to restrain the cost growth as it was happening.

A podded system, perhaps deployed on F-15Es, is one alternative being considered. Others include partnering with the Navy on the EA-18G Growler or using the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as an electronic warfare platform. This last approach was suggested by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee. (See “Aerospace World: Electronic Warfare—Mission in Search of a Service,” April, p. 17.)

F-35s—Not F-22s—for Japan

The Air Force would like Japan to consider buying the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, rather than the F-22 Raptor, according to Pacific Air Forces chief Gen. Paul V. Hester.

The F-35 was designed from the outset to be an exportable aircraft and “shares remarkably” many of the features of the F-22, he told Inside the Air Force.

“What I’m seeing,” he said, is that the Air Force’s “preference would be to encourage them to become interested in the Joint Strike Fighter” rather than the F-22.

As the Air Force has had its planned buy of F-22s slashed in recent years, there has been speculation that foreign sales to Japan could be one way to improve production efficiencies on the F-22 line. However, the F-22’s technologies are so advanced that exporting the aircraft would not be an easy matter for Congress to approve. A sale of Aegis warships to Japan in the 1980s prompted heated Congressional debate that Japan would back-engineer the technology and adapt it for commercial advantage.

The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force has expressed interest in purchasing the F-22 to replace its F-4Js and possibly F-15Js.

US Joins in Aces South

Three Air Force B1-B Lancers from the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth AFB, S.D., flew Down Under in April to join in the Royal Australian Air Force’s Aces South exercise.

Aces South is a large-force employment for the RAAF Weapon School. The American B-1s each flew one sortie as simulated enemy bombers conducting antiship strikes off the southeast Australian coast during the three-day exercise, said Lt. Col. Thomas Curran, commander of the 34th EBS. Australian F/A-18 Hornets and F-111 Aardvarks piloted by weapon school students flew against the B-1Bs.

Combined training exercises gave the RAAF a chance to practice in real scenarios with the unfamiliar B-1 aircraft. The training also served to replicate missions the Australians fly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The B-1s also flew the “Green Lightning” missions, which consisted of 16-hour missions from Andersen AFB, Guam, to Australia while KC-135 Stratotankers from Wisconsin and Mississippi Air National Guard units refueled the bombers in-flight.

The Air Force trains with the RAAF two to four times a year. Aces South was the first exercise during which the B-1s participated in a RAAF exercise in Australian territory.

US Identifies Remains of 11 World War II Airmen

The remains of 11 World War II Army Air Forces airmen missing in action since 1944 have been identified, DOD announced in April.

The airmen are Capt. Thomas C. Paschal, El Monte, Calif.; 1st Lt. Frank P. Giugliano, New York; 1st Lt. James P. Gullion, Paris, Tex.; 2nd Lt. Leland A. Rehmet, San Antonio; 2nd Lt. John A. Widsteen, Palo Alto, Calif.; SSgt. Richard F. King, Moultrie, Ga.; SSgt. William Lowery, Republic, Pa.; SSgt. Elgin J. Luckenbach, Luckenbach, Tex.; SSgt. Marion B. May, Amarillo, Tex.; Sgt. Marshall P. Borofsky, Chicago; and Sgt. Walter G. Harm, Philadelphia.

Remains from the entire crew, as a group, along with partial remains of each man were buried at Arlington National Cemetery on April 21, except for King, Giugliano, and Widsteen, whose remains were sent to their hometowns for burial.

Paschal and Widsteen were flying a B-24J Liberator on April 16, 1944, with the nine other men aboard, returning to Nadzab, New Guinea, after bombing targets near Hollandia, a Japanese air base during World War II. The airplane was last seen off the coast of the island, flying into poor weather.

The loss was investigated after the war and a military board concluded that the aircraft had been lost over water and was unrecoverable.

In 2001, a team of specialists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command interviewed a native of Papua New Guinea who claimed to have found the aircraft and identification for crew members May and Harm. The JPAC team surveyed the site in 2002 and found airplane wreckage, matching the tail number of Paschal’s aircraft, along with human remains. The team also took the remains collected by the New Guinea native. JPAC teams then excavated the crash site and found additional artifacts and crew remains. Identification tags were found for Luckenbach, May, and Paschal.

JPAC scientists and Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory specialists used the mitochondrial DNA from dental and bone samples to positively identify the airmen.

DOD To Set Up Joint Intelligence Operations

The Department of Defense is preparing to establish worldwide joint intelligence operations centers at each unified combatant command, at the Defense Intelligence Agency, and at US Forces Korea. They will be modeled after CENTCOM’s Joint Intelligence Operations Center in Baghdad.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a directive on April 3 to establish the centers to “operationalize” intelligence.

The joint operations center in Baghdad will serve as a template for the other combatant commands due to its success. Analysts at the Iraqi center now accomplish tasks in minutes that routinely would take hours to do at an old-style center, according to Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and warfighting support.

The centers are an attempt to put into effect lessons learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They will seek to eliminate usual chain-of-command logjams and promote rapid crossfeed between analysts and intelligence collectors.

Counted a Different Way, Major Weapons Costs Go Up

The cost of 36 major weapon systems rose significantly in the last quarter of 2005, owing in large part to program changes and new accounting rules. The new rules—imposed by Congress to get better insight into cost growth—require a cost report versus both the original estimate and the most recent estimate.

The costs were detailed in the quarterly Selected Acquisition Reports, released April 7.

Some of the high-profile Air Force programs showing cost increases since the last estimate include:

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—Program costs rose 7.7 percent from $256.6 billion to $276.5 billion, due primarily to higher costs for acquisition of long-lead items for the first set of test aircraft.

  • F-22 Raptor—Program costs increased 2.1 percent from $61.3 billion to $62.6 billion, because of the purchase of four additional aircraft, extension of procurement to Fiscal 2012, and increases in initial spares buys.
  • C-130 AMP (Avionics Modernization Program)—Program costs jumped 10.9 percent from $4.4 billion to $4.9 billion, despite a reduction of 31 kits to be bought. Downsizing and stretch-out of the program were the culprits.
  • C-130J—Program costs increased 22.3 percent from $6.2 billion to $7.6 billion due to buying 26 more aircraft.
  • Global Hawk UAV—Program costs hiked 19 percent from $6.6 billion to $7.8 billion because of higher labor costs, extension of the system development and demonstration phase, and the addition of new sensors.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the new accounting rules mean, “We now have warning lights in the system to show when costs are escalating rapidly. This gives the committee a basis to analyze the true costs of programs.”

A. Scott Crossfield, 1921-2006

A. Scott Crossfield, the first man to fly at twice the speed of sound, died April 20 in the crash of his Cessna aircraft in northwest Georgia. He was 84.

Crossfield, a Navy fighter pilot in World War II and an aeronautical engineer, was picked by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics—a forerunner of NASA—to fly the first types of supersonic rocket aircraft. He flew the X-1 and the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, among many others.

It was in the Skyrocket on Nov. 20, 1953 that Crossfield became the first person to exceed Mach 2, achieving a speed of more than 1,290 mph.

He left NACA to work for North American Aviation in 1955, where he helped develop the X-15 hypersonic research airplane. Among Crossfield’s milestones in the X-15 were its first unpowered and powered flights. On one flight, he nudged another Mach milestone by reaching Mach 2.97 at 81,000 feet. He survived one crash-landing of the X-15 as well as an explosion during a ground test.

Crossfield’s exploits as a rocket pilot, along with those of fellow pilots and astronauts, were the subject of the best-selling book by Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff, and the subsequent film of the same name, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture in 1983.

Crossfield left North American in 1967 to head research and development for Eastern Airlines, working on air traffic control technologies. In 1974, he became vice president of Hawker-Siddeley Aviation. In 1977, he signed on as technical advisor on civil aviation R&D to the House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology, where he served until his retirement in 1993. He remained active in aviation circles as an advisor and consultant, and as a private pilot, until his death.

Among his many awards, Crossfield received the Collier Trophy and was inducted into both the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame.

The War on Terrorism

Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq


By May 5, a total of 2,415 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. This total includes 2,408 troops and seven Defense Department civilians. Of those fatalities, 1,901 were killed in action by enemy attack, and 514 died in noncombat incidents.

There have been 17,874 troops wounded in action during OIF. This includes 9,680 who returned to duty within 72 hours and 8,194 who were unable to quickly return to action.

Airmen Control Airspace, Act as Lawmen

Airmen with the 407th Air Expeditionary Group deployed to Ali Air Base in Iraq now control one-third of Iraqi airspace, making it the second busiest air traffic control center in the Middle East Theater. Balad Air Base is the busiest.

Controllers at Ali now handle traffic as far as 200 miles away and up to 40,000 feet.

Airmen from the 407th also are responsible for law enforcement at Ali, including writing speeding tickets, gatekeeping duties, patrolling land outside the air base’s perimeter, checking and escorting local and foreign national labor, and removing explosive ordnance when necessary.

The allocation of such duties to the Air Force, particularly on a base that is mostly US Army personnel, is rare, according to Col. Kevin Kilb, the 407th AEG commander.

USAF has been steadily decreasing the number of airmen at Ali, but for security airmen, the Air Force has extended the standard tour of duty from four to six months.

Predator Drone Kills Insurgents

An MQ-1B Predator unmanned aerial vehicle killed three insurgents who were planting a homemade bomb along the road near Balad Air Base, on March 28. The UAV launched an AGM-114 Hellfire missile against the three.

The Predator monitored the insurgents for approximately 30 minutes, watching them dig a hole in the road with a pickax, place an explosive round in the hole, and string wires from the hole to a ditch on the side of the road, according to the Air Force.

When it was apparent the insurgents were planting a bomb, the UAV fired the 100-pound missile.

Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan


By May 5, a total of 281 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom, primarily in and around Afghanistan. The total includes 280 troops and one Defense Department civilian. Of those fatalities, 144 were killed in action by enemy attack, and 137 died in nonhostile incidents such as accidents.

A total of 718 troops have been wounded in Enduring Freedom. They include 291 who were able to return to duty in three days and 427 who were not.

Operation Mountain Lion

Coalition forces, in cooperation with the Afghan National Army, launched Operation Mountain Lion in Afghanistan on April 11, killing six insurgents. The operation was launched to “establish security, deter the re-emergence of terrorism, and enhance the sovereignty of Afghanistan,” according to an American Forces Press Service news release.

Coalition forces provided 24-hour close air support for the operation, beginning with predawn air and ground assaults in the Pech River Valley, an area known for terrorist activity.

USAF A-10s, B-52s, and F-15s and RAF GR-7s aided ground forces as they searched for insurgent sanctuaries and supply networks. Predator and Global Hawk UAVs provided intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance data. Air Force KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft provided refueling support.

Military officials said the insurgents were killed in the Marawara district of Afghanistan’s Kunar Province while coalition forces were conducting antiterrorism offensives. More than 2,500 Afghan National Army and coalition forces were involved in the operation.

News Notes

  • Capt. John Vargas, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot based at Aviano AB, Italy, was named the winner in April of the 2006 Colonel James Jabara Award for excellence in airmanship. Vargas, a 1996 Air Force Academy graduate, has completed 45 combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Joint Forge and is credited with developing new F-16 tactics, including urban close air support and fighter integration with special operations forces.
  • The Air Force Association named its 2006 AFA Team of the Year in April. Five airmen in the “services” enlisted career field were selected for displaying superior technical expertise, eliciting the praise of their superiors, and providing leadership and inspiration to their co-workers. The airmen, SSgt. Heather Schaffer, SrA. John Hitchens, A1C Nicolas Paulino, A1C Andrea Quintanilla, and A1C Ashley Sakurai, were to be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on May 22.
  • Lockheed Martin received a $750 million contract from the Air Force on April 3 to sustain the Defense Message System, which provides secure e-mail, messaging, directory, and security services for the Department of Defense at all classification levels. The initial contract will be completed in April 2007 with nine one-year options.
  • The Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., received its third and final stainless steel spire base in late March. The base will be the foundation of the tallest of the three spires, at a height of 270 feet above the base, which will itself be 50 feet tall and weigh 34 tons. The memorial, built to honor the men and women of the Air Force and the former Army Air Corps and Army Air Forces, is slated for completion in mid-September.
  • USAF awarded a $408 million contract to Lockheed Martin on April 6 for engineering and operations services for satellite operation complexes at Schriever AFB, Colo., Kirtland AFB, N.M., and for space range systems services at Camp Parks Communication Annex, Dublin, Calif., and deployed locations around the world.
  • Air Force Space Command personnel launched an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM on April 7 from the North Vandenberg AFB, Calif., launch facility as part of a development test to demonstrate the weapon’s effectiveness. The missile’s re-entry vehicle traveled 5,100 miles to hit a predetermined water target in the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. was awarded a $275 million contract March 20 for Litening targeting pods, upgrade support equipment, and pod integration for the A-10, B-52, F-15, and F-16 in support of the Air Force, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command, and the Marine Corps. Completion date is to be announced.
  • One hundred thirty-five Air Force Academy cadet volunteers spent their March spring vacation building and restoring houses and cleaning up areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina, joining other college students working with Habitat for Humanity in Covington, La., Hattiesburg, Miss., and Biloxi, Miss. Cadets have for the past six years volunteered for spring community service missions called “Alternative Spring Break,” but this year saw the largest number of volunteers yet.
  • Airmen and soldiers with the National Guard Counterdrug Program went to Washington, D.C., in early April in support of Vital Guardian, a training exercise designed to prepare for a terrorist attack with a weapon of mass destruction. The Counterdrug Program, which falls under the Guard’s Domestic Operations Division that led the exercise, sent three helicopters, two RC-26B aircraft, and one light armored vehicle.
  • An EC-135 aircraft, formerly an airborne command post used by Strategic Air Command for continuous airborne launch control of Minuteman and Peacekeeper missiles, was placed at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Ga., on April 2. First commissioned in 1961 and retired from active duty in 2003, the EC-135 also served as a CENTCOM commander transport for Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Gen. Tommy R. Franks.
  • Applications for Air Force active duty enlisted retraining programs went online March 31 as part of the Personnel Services Delivery Transformation. Called the Virtual Military Personnel Flight, the online program features a retraining advisory, instructions for retraining, job instructions, and the actual applications, which will be routed electronically to unit commanders.
  • The Air Force Research Laboratory and Lockheed Martin have completed 200 hours of wind tunnel tests on a stealthy strike tanker concept model. Such an aircraft could fly at low or high speeds and refuel everything from small unmanned aerial vehicles up to fighters and large sensor aircraft. The team used Lockheed’s Marietta, Ga., facilities to collect two weeks’ worth of aerodynamic data on locations around the model, as well as the aerodynamic environment of the receiver aircraft. AFRL is exploring the concept with both Lockheed Martin and Boeing.