C-17 Crash Claims Four Airmen
An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 3rd Wing, JB Elmendorf, Alaska, crashed near the base shortly after takeoff July 28, killing the four airmen on board and resulting in the total destruction of the aircraft, the first such accident in the C-17 fleet’s history.
The four airmen on board the flight were Maj. Michael Freyholtz of Hines, Minn., and Maj. Aaron Malone, of Anchorage, Alaska, both pilots with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 249th Airlift Squadron; Capt. Jeffrey Hill of York, Pa., a pilot with Elmendorf’s 517th AS; and SMSgt. Thomas Cicardo, of Anchorage, a 249th AS loadmaster.
The aircraft was on a local training mission when it took off from the base about 6:14 p.m., crashing in a wooded area about two miles from the base’s runway. The crash occurred only days before Elmendorf’s popular “Arctic Thunder” air show and open house.
Safety investigation board members were assembled Aug. 2, and a full investigation is ongoing, according to a 3rd Wing statement.
Silent Eagle Fires First AMRAAM
Boeing announced in July it had successfully launched a missile for the first time from the new conformal weapons bay designed for the company’s new F-15 variant, called the Silent Eagle. The fighter features radar cross-section reduction and internal weapons carriage.
The F-15E1 demonstration aircraft made its debut flight with the special bay on July 8 in St. Louis, and the missile firing occurring on July 14 at Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons Station, Calif.
The test pilot fired an inert AIM-120 air-to-air missile from the left side bay. The weapon performed exactly as planned—demonstrating the flightworthiness of the new bay and ability to deploy missiles with no adverse effect on performance—said chief Boeing F-15 test pilot Dan Draeger.
Airpower Casualties Low—Report
A Cambridge, Mass., think tank in July released a paper suggesting that improvised explosive devices used by the Taliban and affiliated militants in Afghanistan are far more likely to kill or injure civilians than are air strikes from coalition aircraft.
The National Bureau of Economic Research issued these findings in a working paper, “The Effect of Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq.” It shows that, despite the publicity they receive, air strikes accounted only for six percent of International Security Assistance Force-caused casualties of women and children and about 16 percent of ISAF-caused casualties among adult male civilians.
Traffic accidents between local Afghan and ISAF vehicles caused more Afghan civilian casualties than air strikes, the data show.
The study period ran from January 2009 through March 2010. During the period, insurgents and militants caused 243 of 395 casualties among women and children and 3,857 of 4,255 casualties among adult males, states the report.
IEDs accounted for about 60 percent of the insurgent-caused casualties among women and children and about 70 percent of insurgent-caused adult male casualties.
WTO Delays Boeing Ruling
The World Trade Organization announced July 8 it will not rule on a European counterclaim, alleging improper US support for Boeing’s large aircraft division, until later this month. This pushes the WTO’s decision closer to the Air Force’s expected announcement of the winner of the KC-X contract.
The WTO’s announcement came on the heels of its ruling in March that Airbus, a subsidiary of EADS, did receive improper subsidies.
The impact of the ruling on the KC-X competition remains unclear, since the first WTO decision is being e appealed, and so far the Pentagon has kept the trade dispute separate from the KC-X competition. The KC-X winner is expected to be announced in November.
Canada Commits to F-35
Canada’s department of defense on July 16 announced that the country will commit itself to spending about $8.5 billion to buy 65 F-35s as replacements for its fleet of CF-18 fighters.
The announcement was regarded as a significant boost to the F-35 Lightning II program.
First delivery of the new fighters is expected in 2016 as the CF-18s are due to reach the end of their operational service by 2020.
“Not only does the F-35 meet all of the Canadian Forces operational requirements for a next generation fighter aircraft, the F-35 offers the best value by providing exceptional capability at the lowest cost with excellent benefits and opportunities for the Canadian defense industry,” stated the July announcement.
Canada has been a member of the multinational consortium developing the F-35 since 1997.
C-17 Makes RIMPAC Debut
A C-17 from the 535th Airlift Squadron at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, dropped supplies to marines on the island of Hawaii on June 24 as part of the Rim of the Pacific exercise, better known as RIMPAC, the largest maritime biennial exercise in the world.
The sortie marked the first time C-17s participated in the exercise, which tests participating nations and strengthens their ability to communicate and operate in simulated air, land, and maritime scenarios. This year’s exercise included 14 nations, 34 ships, five submarines, more than 170 aircraft, and 20,000 personnel, and ran from June 23 through Aug. 1.
The C-17 crew used the Improved Container Delivery System to drop more than 25,000 pounds of supplies to marines deployed for the exercise, said Maj. Paul Anderson.
Gary Payton Retires
Gary E. Payton, who had overseen the Air Force’s space portfolio since 2005, retired July 31. Richard W. McKinney was named as his successor for the post of deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs.
A pilot and 1971 graduate of the Air Force Academy, Payton flew on the space shuttle Discovery in 1985 as a payload specialist. He retired from active duty with the rank of colonel after more than 23 years of service, and served stints with NASA and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization—later renamed the Missile Defense Agency—and also worked in the aerospace industry.
SBSS July Launch Scrubbed
The Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) satellite system launch planned for July 8 from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., was delayed days before the launch, to resolve a test anomaly associated with the Minotaur IV rocket design, the Space and Missiles Systems Center said in a July 1 statement.
Air Force officials, according to press reports, are working out a timing flaw with the flight software of the Minotaur IV, which was first designed for a different mission. While chances were considered small that the software issue would have affected the rocket being used for the SBSS’ placement in low Earth orbit, the Air Force decided to take no chances and ordered a software patch created. As of mid-August, USAF and industry officials expected a late September launch.
The satellite will be the Air Force’s only space-based asset used for detecting and monitoring objects in orbit.
Record Class for SNCO Academy
The Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Maxwell AFB, Ala., graduated its largest class ever on July 21, according to CMSgt. Alexander D. Perry, the academy commandant.
The following class could be even larger, he said, than the 457 students who just graduated from the six-week course. Normally the cap is 450 students divided into 30 flights, but the decision was made to accept the extra seven and create an extra flight to accommodate them.
Perry said the goal for the August class was 32 flights serving 476 students, and the academy plans to graduate 2,200 students annually.
Cyber Expansion Completed
A $1.3 million military construction project to expand training facilities of the 39th Information Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., wrapped up on July 20, after nearly a year of construction.
The 39th IOS is currently the Air Force’s sole information operations and cyber formal training unit, and the new 4,500-square-foot addition will house nearly 200 computers, along with classified and unclassified network connections and video teleconference capability, to instruct more than 60 students at one time. The unit is transitioning more into mission qualification training as undergraduate cyber training moves to Keesler AFB, Miss.
DOD Announces Research Awards
The Department of Defense announced the list of academic institutions that won its Fiscal 2010 contract awards for basic, multidisciplinary research on July 16—32 projects for a total of $227 million in research funds. The program is highly competitive, and the final awards were selected from 152 submitted formal proposals.
Ten of the selected projects will support the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, with topics ranging from energy-dense liquids to social networking. Ten additional projects fall under the Army Research Office, and 12 are for the Office of Naval Research.
The awards are a result of a competition under the DOD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program, which supports research by teams of investigators that intersect more than one traditional science and engineering discipline in order to accelerate both research and transition of the results to applications.
Pakistan Comes to Red Flag
The Air Force conducted Red Flag 10-4 at the Nevada Test and Training Range July 19-30. The service’s premier combat training exercise featured Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and allied aircraft simulating a range of scenarios over the range’s 12,000 square miles of airspace.
In addition to US aircraft such as F-15s, F-16s, MC-130s, KC-135s, Navy EA-6Bs, EA-18Gs, and others, the exercise welcomed approximately 100 Pakistan Air Force pilots, maintainers, and support personnel to Nellis AFB, Nev., along with six F-16B fighters. The deployment for the Pakistanis marked their first time participating in Red Flag. (The PAF also participated in Green Flag 10-9 held at Nellis in August.)
Other allies that participated in the last 2010 iteration of Red Flag included the Royal Saudi Air Force with its F-15S fighters and the Republic of Singapore Air Force detachment from Luke AFB, Ariz., bringing its F-16CGs.
Chilton Sees ALCM in 2030
The Air Force’s nuclear-armed Air Launched Cruise Missile will be viable in the fleet for two more decades, said Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of US Strategic Command in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 20 regarding the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
However, he issued this important caveat: The ALCM will last that long only if it receives proper upgrades.
The Air Force’s ALCM can easily be extended until 2030 with “modest investments” in upgrades, Chilton told the committee. The approach is the proper path to take and will allow the US to begin studies by 2015 or so to see what the appropriate follow-on replacement to the cruise missile should be.
The Air Force announced in February its intent to explore an ALCM replacement together with the Navy, allotting $3.3 million in its proposed budget for the concept. The Navy is already retiring its nuclear Tomahawk cruise missiles, DOD leadership announced earlier this year.
Robot Concept Eyed for Loading
Air Force Research Laboratory engineers and Air Mobility Command’s chief scientist, Donald R. Erbschloe, visited JB Charleston, S.C., on July 16 to see how the base’s aerial port squadron operates—and whether to infuse it with robotic equipment.
Calling the trip a fact-finding mission, the researchers went to see how the 437th APS carries out its tasks every day, and whether the introduction of robotics could make the loading and unloading of cargo more efficient.
The AFRL researchers are working on a concept called a “robo-pallet” that could drive itself to and from the loading dock and aircraft. The system would know the exact weight and type of cargo it is hauling and could discern whether the contents have been tampered with at any point in the transit process.
AFRL researchers are currently refining the concept in order to eliminate non-value-added tasks that take up time but don’t require a person to perform. Already, the lab’s Air Base Technologies Division has developed robots for a variety of Air Force platforms and is working on an automated ground refueling system.
Cyber Hiring Streamlined
Air Force managers hiring civilian federal employees for certain cyber security jobs have been authorized to use a streamlined hiring authority to quickly fill more than 680 positions, the Air Force Personnel Center announced in July.
The Pentagon grants use of “Schedule A” hiring authority in cases when there is a critical need or when there are special jobs which need filling. The authority allows applicants to be considered for jobs without using traditional competitive procedures.
Positions approved for streamlined hiring include strategic analysis and cyber risk assessment, incident handling, vulnerability analysis, cyber vulnerability detection and assessment, intelligence analysis, network and systems engineering, and other functions. US Strategic Command, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and 24th Air Force have all been cleared to use the streamlined hiring authority to fill the jobs.
WWII Airman Receives DFC
Retired Col. Claude M. Schonberger, a B-24 bomber pilot during World War II, received a long-delayed Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism in February 1945 in the attack on Regensburg, Germany. The medal was awarded in a July 19 ceremony in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.
“Despite the fact that it’s taken over 60 years for this day to arrive, time in no way diminishes the courageous actions of my fellow airman, Claude Schonberger,” said Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, the deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, who presented the DFC to Schonberger.
Raptors Roost at Hickam
Officials at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, formally dedicated two F-22 Raptors on July 9, inaugurating the base as the newest permanent home for the fifth generation fighter and marking the start of the partnership between the US Air Force and the Hawaii Air National Guard.
Attending the ceremony were Gen. Gary L. North, commander of Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle (R), and other dignitaries.
Pilots from the 199th Fighter Squadron of the Hawaii ANG and the 19th Fighter Squadron of the active duty US Air Force will fly the F-22s at Hickam. A combination of ANG personnel and active duty airmen will maintain and sustain the planned fleet of 20 Raptors.
New Weather Sat Flies in 2018
A new acquisition strategy for the Defense Department’s next generation weather satellite is now complete, and the effort is being developed for a 2018 launch date, the director for space and intelligence programs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s acquisition office told Congress June 29.
Gil I. Klinger told the House Committee on Science and Technology’s subcommittee on oversight that the new satellite program, now called the Air Force’s Defense Weather Satellite System, will fill the void left by the cancellation of the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System weather satellite this past February. The Obama Administration axed NPOESS after the joint DOD-Commerce Department-NASA program became untenable due to cost growth, management difficulties, and schedule slips.
In its place, the Air Force will pursue DWSS, while Commerce develops the Joint Polar Satellite System for climate monitoring. The first JPSS launch is expected around 2014.
SOF Wing Hosts Capabilities Drill
The 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon AFB, N.M., held its first capabilities exercise (CAPEX) at the Melrose Air Force Range on June 26, featuring AC-130 gunship mock close air support runs, pre-assault fire support, exfiltration by CV-22 Ospreys, and soldiers performing high-altitude, low-opening parachute jumps.
A team effort by the 27th SOW and Army Special Forces, CAPEX demonstrated how the operations and maintenance groups prepared aircraft for missions. Explosive ordnance disposal personnel set up explosions on the range, adding more realism and helping EOD personnel hone their skills. Opposing forces captured an Army SF team, leading to a close air support run by an AC-130H Spectre.
Observing the exercise were about 400 airmen from the base and their families, since many of the support personnel had never seen the 27th SOW in operation, said Capt. Paul Golando, of Cannon’s 16th SOS. The 27th SOW, Air Force Special Operations Command’s newest active wing, stood up at Cannon in October 2007.
Bullis Gets New Med Facility
Air Force officials unveiled the $18 million Medical Readiness Training Center at Camp Bullis, Tex., on June 25. It is the new home of all initial, sustainment, and future medical readiness training. The BRAC 2005 round relocated the 882nd Training Group from Sheppard AFB, Tex., to Bullis, where an estimated 6,500 airmen will transition through in 2010 on their way to their deployed locations.
“The goal from the beginning has been to have a place that would allow all the services to train together and to know exactly what the equipment sets are going into war,” Lt. Gen. Charles B. Green, the Air Force surgeon general, said at the opening ceremony.
The new facility includes six classrooms, four dorms, three buildings, a dining facility, a 10,000-square-foot warehouse, and 10 training pads. Five training aircraft have been moved to the site, so students can train in aeromedical evacuation as well.
Courses ended at Sheppard in April, and are transitioning to Bullis and Ft. Sam Houston, Tex. The 882nd TRG’s mission is to develop, conduct, and evaluate Total Force military medical service-medical readiness training for 15,000 members of all four uniformed services each year. The group at Camp Bullis will be composed of members from the 882nd Training Support Squadron and the 381st, 382nd, and 383rd Training Squadrons.
Seven WWII Airmen Identified
The remains of seven servicemen, missing in action from World War II, were identified earlier this summer, the Pentagon’s Prisoner of War-Missing Personnel Office announced July 2.
Identified were Army Capt. Joseph M. Olbinski of Chicago; 1st Lt. Joseph J. Auld of Floral Park, N.Y.; 1st Lt. Robert M. Anderson of Millen, Ga.; TSgt. Clarence E. Frantz of Tyrone, Pa.; Pfc. Richard M. Dawson of Haynesville, Va.; Pvt. Robert L. Crane of Sacramento, Calif.; and Pvt. Fred G. Fagan of Piedmont, Ala. The remains of all Army Air Corps airmen were interred July 15 in Arlington National Cemetery.
On May 23, 1944, the men were aboard a C-47 flying from Dinjan, India, on an air-drop mission to resupply Allied forces near Myitkyina, Burma.
When the crew didn’t return, searchers were sent out, but no evidence of the aircraft was recovered from its flight path. In 2002, a missionary gave US officials a data plate from a C-47 crash site about 31 miles north of Myitkyina. The following year, a Burmese citizen turned over human remains and identification tags for three of the crew, leading to an excavation of the crash site.
Last AMPed C-130 Ready To Test
Boeing delivered the last of three upgraded Avionics Modernization Program C-130 test aircraft to the Air Force on June 30, and announced the program was prepared to shift into low-rate initial production.
The third test aircraft was flown from Boeing’s San Antonio facility to Little Rock AFB, Ark., where it was prepared for programmed depot maintenance. The two other C-130 AMP test aircraft were sent to Robins AFB, Ga., for depot maintenance as well. The program has developed a new digital cockpit, new communications and navigation gear, and night-vision capability for 220 legacy C-130H transports.
During the low-rate initial production phase, Boeing will supply 20 upgrade kits, five of which it will also install. The Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia will install another 10, while a competition will be held to select the third party to install the remaining five.
Initial operational test and evaluation activities for the AMP test aircraft are scheduled to start by late Fiscal 2011 at Little Rock.
Disaster Response Units Announced
The Pentagon announced July 12 its selection of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, Missouri, Utah, and California to host the remaining eight homeland response forces to be established in Fiscal 2012. In June, DOD announced Ohio and Washington state as hosts for the first two HRFs.
The HRFs will be distributed across the country, with one for each of the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency regions. They will provide a response capability of approximately 570 personnel, from National Guard and Air National Guard units, who specialize in chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive threats, search and rescue, command and control capabilities, security forces, and other areas. The units will be able to self-deploy within 12 hours of an event.
DOD has also selected Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon, and Maine to replace existing CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Packages which will evolve into HRFs.
|Raptor Makes Korea Debut in Invincible Spirit
Two F-22 fighters participated in Invincible Spirit in July, a large-scale combined US and South Korean exercise to demonstrate allied resolve. The exercise came in the wake of the sinking of the South Korean frigate Cheonan in March off the west coast of the peninsula, killing 46 sailors, and North Korea’s increasingly bellicose rhetoric toward its neighbor. The exercise marked the F-22’s first deployment to the Korean peninsula. The Raptors participated in the exercise on July 26 and 27, and deployed from Kadena AB, Japan’s, 7th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (visiting from their home station at Holloman AFB, N.M., according to Pacific Air Forces officials).
The largest such exercise on the peninsula in years, according to US Pacific Command, Invincible Spirit was the first in a series of combined maritime and air readiness exercises planned to take place in the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan.
Approximately 8,000 US and South Korean service members participated in the exercise in the Sea of Japan, as well as 20 surface ships and submarines. The exercise was centered around the USS George Washington carrier strike group and South Korean Navy ships, plus 200 fixed wing aircraft, including the F-22s. Raptors have deployed routinely to Okinawa, Japan, and Guam over the past few years, but the July exercise was the highest-profile F-22 event in the region so far.
Over the course of four days, participating ships and aircraft conducted strike exercises, aerial refueling practice, air defense simulation, anti-submarine warfare training, and other activities, US PACOM officials said.
|A Transition at Air Force Magazine
This issue of Air Force Magazine is the final one with Robert S. Dudney as Editor in Chief atop its masthead. Dudney became the magazine’s top editor in 2002, and presided over exactly 100 issues in that role. During his tenure, Dudney modernized the magazine while ensuring it remained the standard for defense journalism. He also conceived and launched the online Daily Report and was instrumental in establishing AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies. After 23 years with this magazine, Dudney retires Sept. 1.
AFA named Adam J. Hebert to succeed Dudney as Editor in Chief. Previously the magazine’s principal Executive Editor, Hebert joined the magazine in 2002 and since 2007 has had day-to-day responsibility for planning, assigning, and editing most articles. He also played a key role in configuring the magazine and managing its finances. Hebert announced several related staff changes that took effect this summer.
The position of Editor has acquired new duties. Suzann Chapman on June 1 assumed cradle-to-grave responsibility for all special projects, including reports, studies, conference programs, and the May Almanac.
Michael C. Sirak was promoted to Executive Editor June 1. He is now responsible for all aspects of the Daily Report, including planning and editing. He joined the magazine staff in January 2008.
Sirak joins John A. Tirpak as an Executive Editor. Tirpak oversees the print magazine’s news departments, writes the highly regarded “Washington Watch” column, and will take on additional editorial duties.
Marc V. Schanz, who joined the magazine in 2005, was promoted to Senior Editor. He writes for the Daily Report and print magazine, and adds new editorial responsibilities. The change was effective June 1.
Air ForceMagazine also welcomes Amy McCullough, who joined the staff as Senior Editor on July 12 from the Military Times family of publications. She is a former Air Force Reserve staff sergeant.
|The War on Terrorism |
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
CasualtiesBy Aug. 12, a total of 1,213 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 1,211 troops and two Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 915 were killed in action with the enemy while 298 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 7,416 troops wounded in action during OEF. This number includes 3,385 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 4,031 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Afghan Wing Conducts First FTX
During the July 11 event, the Afghans responded to the simulated crash of an Afghan National Army Air Force Mi-17 helicopter at Kandahar Airfield shortly after its takeoff. The exercise tested the ability of the Afghans as first responders and their leaders to act decisively throughout the crisis. All the elements of the wing pulled together and effectively communicated and coordinated their actions to respond as a team during the exercise, said Col. Bernard Mater, commander of the 738th AEAG.
Afghan Air Force Expanding Rapidly The Afghan National Army Air Force has grown significantly in the last year and will expand its aircraft fleet to more than 70 airframes by 2011, Brig. Gen. Michael R. Boera told reporters on a teleconference call July 16. Pilot training and technical skills will continue to be the areas US and NATO advisors focus on in their efforts.
Boera, commander of the Combined Airpower Transition Force, said the ANAAF fleet is on track to increase from 40 aircraft in November 2009 to a planned 71 by July 2011 as it transitions to more Western airframes and fewer legacy Warsaw Pact-era platforms. Over the next year, an additional 2,300 airmen are expected to join the air arm, and mission capability is expected to grow 215 percent, Boera said.
Operation Iraqi Freedom—Iraq
CasualtiesBy Aug. 12, a total of 4,418 Americans had died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The total includes 4,405 troops and 13 Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 3,490 were killed in action with the enemy while 928 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 31,907 troops wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This number includes 17,922 who were wounded and returned to duty within 72 hours and 13,985 who were unable to return to duty quickly.
Airpower Shifts Course in Iraq As of July 22, there had not been a kinetic air strike in Iraq in at least six months, the head of US Forces-Iraq told reporters in Washington in July, and there likely won’t be one soon. Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who has been confirmed to take over US Joint Forces Command, said that three years ago, US and coalition allies had to carry out strikes in order to get control. Now that control has been returned to the Iraqi government, “we don’t have to use that [kind of capability]. … What we don’t want to do is to alienate people with collateral damage.”
With the number of US troops down by 75,000 since January 2009, the focus of operations has shifted more to stability activities, he added. But airpower has other uses, such as for reconnaissance and deterrence.
Odierno Supports Iraqi F-16 Sale US Forces-Iraq’s commander, Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, told reporters in July he supports the sale of F-16s to the Iraqi Air Force, which the rebuilt air arm and Iraqi government have expressed interest in acquiring.
“They are going to buy multirole aircraft, so … I’d rather have them buy F-16s. That’s probably better for us if we are involved in that,” he said. He added that the Iraqis have requested purchase of 18 fighters initially, enough to build their own squadron. The new aircraft would likely not be delivered until 2018, when the country’s oil revenues are expected to be at a level to support the purchase and follow-on sustainment activities, he noted.
Last year, US Air Forces Central began an air sovereignty study to examine the possibility of providing new aircraft, or excess inventory USAF assets, to Iraq.
Global Hawk Block 40 RPA Ready for New RadarNorthrop Grumman announced July 19 that its first RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 remote piloted aircraft built for the Air Force had completed envelope expansion flights at Edwards AFB, Calif.—six months after conducting its first flight.
The Block 40 aircraft will carry the sophisticated MP-RTIP (Multiplatform Radar Technology Insertion Program) active electronically scanned array radar, used to track ground objects and produce high-quality radar imagery. The Air Force currently plans to acquire 22 Global Hawk Block 40 aircraft out of a total fleet of 77 aircraft.
The first MP-RTIP unit for developmental testing arrived at Edwards from the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, Mass., earlier in July for integration on the Block 40 Global Hawk test vehicle. Testing at Edwards includes assessment of the simultaneous operation of the radar’s ground moving target indicator and its synthetic aperture radar.
Also in July, the first of two RQ-4 Block 20 aircraft was outfitted with special gear to serve as an aerial communications relay and made its maiden flight from Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, Calif. The flight served as a functional checkout of the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) configuration. After taking off and checking out, it landed at nearby Edwards. The Air Force is modifying the two Block 20 vehicles to meet urgent requests from battlefield commanders in Afghanistan for enhanced battlefield air and ground communications. They are expected to be operational by Fiscal 2011.