Archive for February, 2009

Extending F-22 Production Would Save 90,000 Jobs

February 16, 2009

Keeping the F-22 going will preserve about 90,000 to 95,000 jobs, both directly and indirectly, Lockheed Martin program manager Larry Lawson said in an interview with Air Force Magazine. It’s a great stimulus package, he said: The money takes effect immediately, and there’s no uncertainty about how many jobs will be affected, or how much it will cost. The F-22’s parts are made in 44 states, with big clusters of employers in Texas, Georgia, Missouri, Washington state, and California. Although final assembly is in Marietta, Ga., the majority of F-22 jobs are in California, Lawson noted.
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US Navy Nabs Pirates

February 16, 2009

Concerned about the future of America? Read Jack Cafferty’s newest bookNow or Never: Getting Down to the Business of Saving Our American Dream

The crew of the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) apprehended seven suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden Feb. 11 after responding to a distress call from a nearby merchant vessel.

The event marks the first time CTF-151 has apprehended suspected pirates.

The Marshall Islands-flagged Motor Vessel Polaris sent a distress call to all ships in the area reporting that a small skiff containing seven suspected pirates had attempted a forcible boarding of their vessel using a ladder. Polaris crewmembers removed the ladder before pirates could come aboard.

Vella Gulf closed immediately with the M/V Polaris and intercepted a skiff matching the description given by the motor vessel. The skiff contained individuals fitting the physical descriptions given by Polaris crewmembers. A Vella Gulf visit, board, search and seizure team conducted a consensual boarding and found several weapons.

M/V Polaris rendezvoused with Vella Gulf and provided positive visual identification of the suspected pirates. The suspected pirates were brought on board Vella Gulf, where they were processed and are being held until they transfer to a temporary holding facility on board the supply ship USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1).

CTF 151 is a multinational task force that conducts counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.
(NNS)

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Obama Ready for Arms Control Talks With Russia

February 16, 2009

What is Barack Obama’s foreign and defense policy really about? Read the facts in Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly: Vol. IX, Nr. 1 (Winter 2009)

The Obama administration plans to negotiate an unprecedented strategic nuclear arms reduction initiative with Moscow. The drastic proposal, greeted by Russia, may result in cutting the American and Russian nuclear stockpiles by some 80 percent to 1,000 warheads each. [ FULL STORY ]

NCADE offers effective BMD at bargain-basement cost

February 16, 2009

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Loren Thompson reports on the Network Centric Airborne Defense Element, a low-cost concept for intercepting short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in boost phase using a modified version of the main air-to-air missile carried on most U.S. fighter aircraft today. [ FULL STORY ]

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Navy “VESSEL” – Newest Military “Video Game” Training Tool

February 16, 2009

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Video computer gaming is coming to the Navy as a training tool adapting to a new generation of gaming Sailors.

“This has the look-and-feel of a first-person role-playing game, but it would be better to call it a training simulation designed to enhance a Sailor’s critical thinking, problem solving, decision-making and ultimately ‘on-the-job’ performance,” said Rodney Chapman, director of Learning Strategies (N9) at Naval Service Training Command (NSTC).

“But because a recruit comes into the Navy growing up with gaming technologies it’s hard to get away from calling this a game.”

The new Navy video computer training tool is called VESSEL and stands for Virtual Environments for Ship and Shore Experiential Learning. VESSEL is a computer-based game that combines and resembles first person role-playing, educational and real-time strategy games.

“This is uncharted waters,” Chapman said. “We are using game based technology to supplement instructor led training. This strategy should lead to improved Sailor readiness and performance where the Navy can introduce real time fleet concepts to Sailors at various stages of their career. We happen to be starting this effort in Great Lakes, however, the strength of this technology is applicable and will help improve all Sailors no matter how senior or experienced.”

Although there are flight simulators for Navy pilots and Navy surface officers to learn navigation in large bridge simulators, VESSEL can be accessed by popping a disc into a Sailor’s computer in a workspace or office, like inserting a disk into a PlayStation or Xbox.

Through partnerships with BBN Technologies, Intelligent Decisions Systems Inc., (IDSI), University of California Los Angeles, University of Central Florida, the Office of Naval Research, Recruit Training Command (RTC) and NSTC’s N9 Department have designed a computer-based video “game” training tool built to be an adaptive product to enhance learning and build confidence in handling shipboard scenarios and casualties such as flooding and firefighting.

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Dr. Clint Bowers, a psychology professor and evaluator with UCF, said the computer “game” and gaming in general that many Sailors are familiar with “has a certain intrinsic quality that motivates young people today.

“If we can tap that motivation so that a Sailor wants to go back to their room or compartment and play and learn and not feel they are in a classroom, we think that will be a great thing.”

Bowers also said his team has seen Sailors who have participated in the evaluation since October 2008. He said they have demonstrated a high level of interest when exposed to the software and that it does have an appeal for today’s generation of gamers. “It’s one thing to build a game, but we need to make sure it works and we are seeing that it is.”

The current “game” or first simulation is designed to have a Sailor investigate a space aboard a ship for flooding from a cracked fire main. A Sailor is introduced with a short story of how he or she has transferred from Naval Station Great Lakes to their first ship in Norfolk, Va. After boarding the ship, the Sailor enters the “game” in a first-person role-playing scenario and must report to his or her repair locker after the general quarters alarm has sounded. From the repair locker, the Sailor is sent out as an investigator and directed to look for a possible flood in a certain space.

A Sailor will need to find the space by locating the correct “bulls-eye” (numbered identification outside the space on the bulkhead, or wall) and, once found, go into the space where they will find there is flooding from a crack on the fire main. The Sailor then has to call Damage Control (DC) Central and report the situation.

“A more senior enlisted Sailor might want to shut down the fire main and cut off the water, but that would be wrong in this simulation,” Chapman said.

“We want the Sailor to report the flooding to DC Central using the shipboard phone IVCS (Integrated Voice Communications System) in the space, then go back to the repair locker and pick up the equipment they might need (Jubilee Patch), bring the equipment back to the space and properly patch the pipe.”

In the simulation, there is only one way to seat the Jubilee Patch, by putting it on the pipe and sliding it from the top down over the crack. If the Sailor doesn’t seat the patch correctly, the video will force it off.
A Sailor is also graded on time from reporting to the repair locker, finding the space with the flooding, reporting to DC Central, returning to the repair locker and patching the pipe.

If a Sailor does all this properly (using the certain buttons on the computer keyboard to move around and grab things) he or she then needs to call back to DC Central and make a final report of what they did and how they accomplished the task. An example of what the Sailor might report would be, “flooding was secured by properly applying Jubilee Patch over crack on fire main in space 1-109-2-L, Admin Berthing. There are two inches of water on deck, or there is no water coming up through the grates. Request dewatering team sent to compartment.”

After a Sailor has made a final report and has been told that a dewatering team has been sent to the space, objectives for the evolution show up on the left side of the computer monitor with a green, yellow or red mark. If an objective lights up green, the Sailor has successfully met that objective. If yellow lights up, the recruit completed the objective but was marginal and could have been faster making reports, getting the right equipment or took too long patching the fire main. A red means a failure for that particular objective and the things performed incorrectly will be identified and the Sailor will need to go through the task again.

When the objectives have been graded, the Sailor will then be directed to an Individual Development Plan (IDP). The plan is based on how well they did and what areas may need. The Sailor is then told where to go to receive more instruction on the areas that need work.

“This was a great experience,” Seaman Apprentice Melvin Cooks, 18, from East St. Louis, Ill., said. “I think this will help Sailors in here at Great Lakes and in the fleet to strengthen and refresh what they learned at boot camp and in school.”

Cooks, a student at Boatswain’s Mate “A” School was an early test-subject of the “game” adding that with tools like Battle Stations and VESSEL Sailors will be more prepared to handle situations and emergencies aboard ships and in the fleet.

Chapman called the IDP the most important thing for each Sailor.

“Ultimately, besides the usability of the ‘game’, we’ve put in enhancements with the Individual Development Plan. If I believed they were going to walk away from the test and remember what they were supposed to work on, I’d be sadly mistaken. We are going to deliver an Individual Development Plan with further instruction and training to make them better Sailors,” he said.

Early indications of improved Sailor performance are encouraging and impressive, according to Chapman. Two groups of Sailors were selected to participate in a study that required them to secure flooding in a main space aboard USS Trayer (BST 21), a 210-foot long Arleigh Burke-class destroyer at RTC, the Navy’s largest training simulator. Both groups had basic damage control training but had no previous exposure to the Trayer’s internal compartments or design. Only one of the two groups played VESSEL. The Sailors who played VESSEL found the flooding compartment using a bull’s-eye, learned from the “game,” in half the time of the Sailors who didn’t play the game (two versus four minutes). Sailors had less than half (eight versus 17) of the communications errors when making reports to DC Central. Twice as many (50 percent versus 25 percent) non-VESSEL participants repaired the leak without permission and 50 percent of the non-VESSEL participants secured the fire main without permission. No one from the group exposed to VESSEL secured the fire main.

Even though N-9 and ONR have been testing the “game” on recruits from RTC since October 2008, the VESSEL is not geared toward passing Battle Stations 21, the final test for a recruit before graduating from the Navy’s only bootcamp. Battle Stations 21 is conducted aboard Trayer a week prior to graduation.

“We didn’t specifically build this for Battle Stations 21, because we knew there would be a far reaching benefit to the rest of the Navy enterprise. We purposely built this so it could be used at RTC or delivered to TSC (Training Support Center) and other training or shipboard commands fleetwide. The educational outcome and benefits will be consistent if you are in recruit training or out in the fleet. Whether you are a recruit, a bluejacket, chief or officer; this will benefit all Sailors.”

The NSTC N-9 team is working with ONR to build more scenarios to accompany the flooding evolution. They are exploring adding oil on top of the flooded water, placing “hot” electric wires in the space, and there will be personnel casualties in the space.

“We are going to add firefighting to it as another training opportunity and continue to build out to be an enterprise-wide learning tool,” Chapman said.

Chapman hopes both delayed-entry personnel as well as Sailors out in the fleet will be able sit down at a computer, put in VESSEL and use it as another training tool.

“We are entering an era where we are demanding more from our Sailors and they have to master things in a shorter period of time. We no longer have the luxury to put Sailors through long periods of training,” Chapman said.

“The nice thing [about the ‘game’] is technology will help us supplement today’s training in a well defined strategy. “Hopefully, in the future this will be just another tool in a Sailor’s toolbox that will help a Sailor identify a situation and react in a positive way to save the ship and save a shipmate.”
Scott Thornbloom (NNS)

US Airspace Vulnerable, Warns GAO

February 12, 2009

Air Sovereignty Alert at Risk: Eleven of the 18 sites across the nation at which the Air Force maintains fighter aircraft on 24-hour alert to protect US airspace “could be without viable aircraft by 2020,” if their legacy F-15s and F-16s are not replaced within the next few years, the GAO warns in a new report.

Also disconcerting is GAO’s assessment that the Air National Guard and active duty units at 14 of these sites will have to suspend ASA operations for some time between 2010 and 2020 as their legacy aircraft reach the end of their service life or as they transition to new fighters, writes Air Force Magazine.

While it may not solve the issue, GAO says formally elevating ASA to a steady-state mission may help to alleviate some of the personnel and equipment issues facing the units that are consistently executing the mission today in addition to their expeditionary rotations. This is something the Air Force tells GAO it hasn’t done yet because it is focused on other priorities such as overseas military operations, writes Air Force Magazine.

GAO also calls on NORAD to conduct routine risk assessment to determine ASA operational requirements. The fate of some Air Guard fighter units is a major looming issue for the Air Force as the service mulls phasing out many of its legacy fighters more quickly and questions still surround the ultimate size of the F-22 fleet and the production rates of the F-35. (For more, read The Hill’s report.)

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Bottom Line: USAF Needs 250 F-22 Raptors, Minimum

February 12, 2009

Not Less Than 250: That’s how many F-22s the United States needs “for the good of the nation and the world” to shore up its conventional deterrence capabilities for the next 20 years, writes Rebecca Grant in a new study she authored for the Lexington Institute.

Air Force Magazine quotes Grant as saying that the F-22 is crucial for conventional deterrence because it gives the US the ability to conduct tailored, proportional air strikes in the face of evolving threats and also to gather valuable intelligence information over defended areas that otherwise “lock out” other airborne assets.

The US would be taking a risk by halting F-22 production now and could see its policy options cramped in coming decades by the limits of its own military power, Grant says. “If the F-22 fleet remains stuck at 183 aircraft, it will put future conventional deterrence abilities at risk,” quotes Air Force Magazine.

Commanders may not have enough of them to defeat threats with confidence and “the overall life of the fleet would be used up years before it should be, due to heavy tasking,” she states.

The Obama Administration has until March 1 by law to inform Congress whether it intends to keep Raptor production going beyond 183 aircraft.

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Boeing, US Navy to Offer F/A-18 Super Hornets to Brazil

February 9, 2009

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Boeing and the U.S. Navy on Feb. 2 delivered a proposal to the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) offering the advanced, multirole F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as part of Brazil’s F-X2 fighter aircraft competition. 

The Super Hornet was one of three aircraft selected by the FAB in October 2008 to be evaluated in the Request for Proposal phase of the F-X2 competition. Brazil’s stated requirement is for 36 aircraft; final contract award is expected in late 2009.

“We are pleased to offer the Brazilian Air Force the advanced combat capability the Block II Super Hornet delivers,” said Bob Gower, vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 Programs for Global Strike Systems, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. “We believe this proposal will meet the Brazilian Air Force’s operational requirements and reflects the U.S. government’s decision to release Super Hornet technology.

“Boeing is looking forward to the opportunity to establish long-term partnerships with the Brazilian Air Force, Brazilian industry and the government of Brazil,” Gower added.

The Super Hornet, with core strengths in both performance and technology, is the most advanced multipurpose strike fighter in production today, with a proven performance record through more than 500,000 hours of flight time. It is operated by the U.S. Navy and is currently being built for the Royal Australian Air Force. The Super Hornet program has continued to add capability to the aircraft while decreasing cost over its lifetime. In addition, the Super Hornet is the first operationally deployed strike fighter incorporating next-generation capabilities, including the Raytheon-built APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, which the U.S. government released to Brazil as part of the Super Hornet offering.

Boeing has delivered more than 380 Super Hornets to the U.S. Navy, all on or ahead of the original production delivery schedule. Australia is procuring Super Hornets to bolster its fleet of F/A-18 Hornets. Boeing is in discussions with several other international customers about their interest in procuring the Super Hornet.

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Navy SEALS Train USAF Security Forces

February 5, 2009

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The 5th Security Forces Squadron is participating in a series of training classes, which began Jan. 5, in an Air Force-wide initiative to improve the tactics, awareness, vigilance and survivability of security forces at Minot AFB (North Dakota).

“This training better prepares us for any situation we may come across,” said Master Sgt. William Wilson, 5th SFS security forces training noncommissioned officer-in-charge.

The training, called the Air Force Blue Coach Initiative, began at Whiteman AFB, Mo., where an entire flight participated in an intense Navy SEALs training program. Airmen of all ranks trained in preparation for the Mighty Guardian exercise. During this exercise, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency brought in outside forces to test the Air Force’s defenses.

“This exercise was the first time these newly-learned tactics were employed and Air Force cops defeated the Marine Corps aggressors,” Sergeant Wilson added.

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Upon successful completion of the exercise, the Air Force decided this was training all security forces members needed. Subsequently, Brig. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog, Director of Security Forces, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., directed all security forces units to undergo the training.

The first two bases in Air Combat Command to receive the training are Minot AFB and Whiteman AFB during the fiscal year 2009, Minot being the first of the two bases.

General Hertog was not the only officer who felt the training was important for security forces members.

“Through this training, we received a higher level of individual and team tactics, which are vital to preserving our national resources and helps to ensure we have a fighting chance against a well-trained adversary,” said Capt. James Masoner, 5th SFS operations and training officer.

The training comes in four iterations available to 200 security forces members; the first was from Jan. 5 to 16. The next three will be: Feb. 23 to March 6, March 23 to April 3 and April 6 to 17.

The SEALs cover a wide variety of topics aimed at improving the capability of security forces units here.

“Our folks will learn how to best dress for cold weather, close-quarter combat, patrolling, employment of low-light equipment, among many others,” said Sergeant Wilson. “The trainers ensure our Airmen feel comfortable and completely understand all the tactics being taught. The training culminates to where we go out into the Weapons Storage Area and practice recapture techniques on structures.”

Sergeant Wilson said he has four members who have gone through the training. They act as instructors for training those who won’t have the opportunity to be trained first hand. He also said part of the contract states the trainers will leave all their lesson plans, power points, visual aids, etc.

Additionally, Sergeant Wilson said the training is considered an enhanced nuclear training initiative.

While all who participated in the first iteration of the training did extremely well, there were a few who shined for Sergeant Wilson.

One such Airman reflects on her experience from the training:

“At first, it seemed intimidating working with the SEALs,” said Senior Airman Angelena Lee, 5th SFS supply custodian. “They really had their stuff together and knew exactly what they were here to talk about. Between the five instructors, they had more than 120 years of experience.”

Another Airman from the first iteration revealed how important he felt the training was:

“It gives us a fundamental understanding for more advanced tactics and was a great way to get back to the basics,” said Staff Sgt. Casey Muffley, 5th SFS installation patrolman. “It was a great opportunity to train with highly-experienced military personnel and learn how to do our jobs better and work as a team much more effectively.”

Continued training of security forces personnel is a mission-essential task. These hard-working Airmen deserve only the best training the AF has to offer. Training is a crucial step to ensuring the nuclear surety of this base is as secure as possible, security forces leadership said.

“This training taught us how to overcome the challenges of our mission here,” concluded Airman Lee. “It improved our awareness, increased our vigilance and taught us new strategies for survivability.”

Ben Stratton

Shaw AFB to Receive F-35 Lightning II / Joint Strike Fighter in 2017

February 3, 2009

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The first F-35s destined for basing at Shaw AFB, S.C., will start arriving in 2017. So said Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of 9th Air Force, which is headquartered at Shaw, to the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce earlier this month, reported Sumter’s The Item newspaper yesterday.

Shaw, located on the outskirts of Sumter, is also home to the 20th Fighter Wing, USAF’s largest combat F-16 wing. F-35s will replace those F-16s. Shaw is reportedly on the Air Force’s shortlist of beddown locations for the F-35, a list that we still haven’t seen issued publicly.

The Item, citing Charlie Savage, a regional manager for F-35 maker Lockheed Martin, also said a noise analysis of basing the F-35s at Shaw will be issued in March. The Air Force has acknowledged that the noise level associated with the F-35 “is significant.” This has already prompted concern among some residents near Eglin AFB, Fla., which is supposed to serve as the joint F-35 schoolhouse. These concerns have prompted the Air Force to delay its final decision on Eglin.