Contingency Response Airmen Mirror the Current Fight In Rural Washington
Contingency response airmen, training as part of Air Mobility Command’s Mobility Guardian exercise, have set up an “austere” airstrip in rural Washington and they are running it just like they do in the current fight. Read the full story by Brian Everstine, who is covering Mobility Guardian in Washington state.
Pentagon Issues Classified Guidance to Help Troops Counter Drone Threat
The Pentagon has issued “very specific but classified” guidance detailing how service members can counter threats provided by unmanned aircraft. “The Department of Defense is committed to the safety and security of our personnel, installations, and equipment as well as communities near our DOD installations,” according to the statement. “We support civilian law enforcement investigations and the prosecution of unauthorized UAS operations over military installations. Although we will not discuss our specific force protection measures, DOD personnel retain the right of self-defense.” Read the full story by Amy McCullough.
Search Continues for Three Troops After Osprey Crash
Twenty-three of the 26 people aboard an MV-22 Osprey that crashed off the eastern coast of Australia on Saturday have been rescued, while the search continues for the remaining three service members, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said. The Osprey was assigned to Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 265, which was operating with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit with the USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group at the time of the incident. “The aircraft was conducting regularly scheduled operations when it hit the water,” said Davis. “We thank the Australian Defense Force [and] in particular, the crew of the HMAS Melville for their assistance in the search and recovery effort,” Davis added. “The Royal Australian Navy clearance diving team completed an embark aboard the HMAS Melville on Aug. 7. … The dive team plans to commence recovery operations using a remote-operated vehicle this evening.” Melville, a hydrographic survey vessel, located the aircraft Sunday. “The Australian forces volunteered their help before we could even ask, demonstrating the deep ties and enduring nature of the alliance between our two countries, and the crew of the Melville,” Davis said. “Their assets have been invaluable in the recovery effort.” —Amy McCullough
AFA President Calls Decision to Drastically Cut Fighter Squadrons “Grave Mistake”
The Air Force is short 1,555 pilots, including 1,211 fighter pilots. At the same time, USAF is short another 3,500 maintenance personnel. “Clearly this problem is complex and didn’t happen overnight. There is no delicate way to say this, so I’ll just be blunt: The reduction from 134 fighter squadrons [during the 1991 Gulf War] to just 55 [today] was a grave mistake,” wrote AFA President Larry Spencer in a op-ed published in Air Force Times. “Decision-makers can blame it on seeking the ‘peace dividend,’ budget constraints, reducing the federal deficit, or whatever, but it fundamentally was a bad decision.” The shortfalls have directly impacted aircraft availability, “negatively” impacted readiness, and “lowered morale,” wrote Spencer. At the same time, the services equipment is the oldest it’s ever been, which places a significant burden on airmen who have been involved in constant combat for the last 26 years. “It takes 10 years and $10 million dollars to train a fighter pilot. It doesn’t take an experienced business leader to understand that is an investment that must be nurtured and protected,” wrote Spencer. He added, “The Air Force recognizes this problem and it is not sitting on its hands. I applaud the Air Force Secretary and the service Chief for taking this issue head-on. For example, to develop strategic solutions, they recently met with airline executives, their associations, the Civil Air Patrol, flight schools and the Air Force Association. Partnering will go a long way in solving the pilot-shortage problem.”
See also: Combat Forces in Peril from the July issue of Air Force Magazine, Pilot Shortage Back with a Vengeance from the August 2016 issue, and Maintainer Misery from November 2016.
Luke Graduates First Class of Brand New F-35 Pilots
The first class of F-35A pilots with no prior experience on other aircraft graduated from initial qualification at Luke AFB, Ariz., on Aug. 5. The six pilots finished eight months of training at the 56th Fighter Wing, including 48 sorties totaling 77 hours, according to a Luke release. Pilots flew day and night refueling sorties, low-altitude step-down training, and dropped multiple weapons as part of the training, said Lt. Col. Rhett Hierlmeier, commander of the 61st Fighter Squadron at Luke. The six pilots received awards during a ceremony Saturday at Luke. “It is really important for you to know that the F-35 is the future,” Air Education and Training Command boss Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson said at the ceremony.
First Female, Enlisted RPA Pilot Graduates from Training
The first female enlisted pilot completed Undergraduate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training on Aug. 4 at JBSA-Randolph, Texas, as part of the Air Force’s push to build its ranks of RPA crews. “It’s great to fill that role as the first female,” said TSgt. Courtney (the Air Force does not release the full names of its RPA pilots) in a release. “It’s awesome and humbling, but our units don’t care if you’re male or female, they just want you to be a good pilot.” Courtney previously served as an imagery analyst and sensor operator for the MQ-1 Predator and RQ-4 Global Hawk. The Air Force in 2015 announced it would include enlisted airmen in training to be RPA pilots, with the first class graduating in May. It is part of an overall effort to increase the number of pilots in the service to address an unrelenting need for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. —Brian Everstine
MC-130s, F-15C Conduct Forward Arming and Refueling Point Exercise
Airmen from the 67th Special Operations Squadron in late July conducted the first-ever Forward Arming and Refueling Point exercise between MC-130s and an F-15C, at RAF Mildenhall, England. A FARP is a point near a combat zone where an aircraft can transfer fuel and supplies to another aircraft, giving airmen the ability “to ground refuel fixed wing, tilt-rotor, and rotor assets,” said MSgt. Jeffrey Nighbert, 67th SOS operations superintendent. A FARP “allows our air assets to engage the enemy, get refueled, rearmed, and get back to the fight quickly,” without needing a fully manned base, explained the 67th SOS combat systems officer, Maj. John Kauzlaric. This particular FARP “helped prove the concept of integrating the FARP capabilities of the MC-130 with the F-15C,” which could mean more flexibility in the future, noted Lt. Col. Jason Zumwalt, commander of the 493rd Fighter Squadron. The exercise involved the 48th Fighter Wing, 352nd Special Operations Wing, and 100th Air Refueling Wing. —Jennifer Hlad
Lockheed Deploys Upgraded GPS Receivers
Lockheed Martin recently began deploying upgraded receiver systems to help the Air Force more accurately monitor GPS signals. Three new Monitor Station Technology Improvement Capability receivers have been deployed to the Air Force, with one operational at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. Upgrades are continuing at monitoring stations on the Kwajalein Atoll and Hawaii, according to a Lockheed release. The new systems replace 1990s technology, and are part of an overall effort to upgrade the system. The last three monitoring station receivers are slated for delivery by the end of the year.
—Keesler AFB, Miss., was locked down on Monday after reports that an armed man on base. The lockdown was later lifted after it was believed the man had left the installation: Stars and Stripes.
—Three F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing arrived at Kunsan AB, South Korea, on Monday as part of a theater security package: USAF release.