Posts Tagged ‘Air Force Special Operations Command’

Multinational recovery exercise kicks off at Davis-Monthan

December 14, 2008

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More than 850 ground recovery forces and 51 aircraft from the Department of Defense and numerous other countries kicked off a personnel recovery and combat search and rescue exercise Dec. 8 at Davis-Monthan AFB (Arizona).

The two week-long Angel Thunder 2008 exercise allows U.S. and international military forces and numerous national, multinational and interagency personnel recovery assets to train through the full spectrum of personnel recovery capabilities — preparation, planning, execution and adaptation.

“Angel Thunder is a very unique program, built by the combat search and rescue community from the grass roots level, that incorporates the lessons we’ve collectively learned from our experiences,” said Maj. Brett Hartnett, the Angel Thunder Project Officer assigned to the 563rd Operational Support Squadron here. “This exercise helps to eliminate the idea that personnel recovery can be done independent of other agencies, because from experience, we know that each service and government agency must work together to make successful recoveries at home and abroad.”

Personnel recovery is the sum of military, civil, and political operations needed to gain the release or rescue of military personnel from uncertain or hostile environments, and civilians during combat, disaster and relief operations.

The exercise takes rescue personnel through a number of scenarios that emulate real-world rescue operations that have happened or have the possibility of happening. The mountainous regions of Southern Arizona and New Mexico are being used because they mirror the landscapes found throughout Iraq and Afghanistan and other locations around the world.

The recovery forces see the benefit of learning and making mistakes during exercises like Angel Thunder, versus on the battlefield where lives are on the line. 

“It’s better to exercise this now than it would be when bullets are flying in a real combat situation,” said Master Sgt. Chad Watts, the superintendent of combat survival training at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. 

More than 30 volunteers from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Air Force ROTC cadets from the University of Arizona served as survivors to add another level of realism to this exercise, Sergeant Watts said. “We need something tangible to look for, something to bring home. Ultimately, without a survivor you don’t have an exercise.” 

Other key players participating in Angel Thunder included rescue forces from Chile, Colombia and Germany who are working alongside American forces throughout each phase of the exercise.

Personnel recovery operations require a precise mix of ground air forces to aid in successful rescues. Angel Thunder 2008 integrates combat aircrew forces, guardian angel and intelligence personnel, battle managers, and joint search and rescue center personnel. Because ground recovery forces routinely operate with forces from sister services, and other national, international and interagencies that may communicate, and respond in slightly different ways, Angel Thunder 2008 was designed to facilitate interoperability, cross-culture sharing of tactics and procedures.

“Everybody has their own tactics, techniques and procedures and having everybody come together allows us to work through some of the communication differences, and allows us to share lessons learned with each other,” Sergeant Watts said.

Aircraft participating in Angel Thunder 2008 include the HH-60G Pave Hawk, the MC-130P Combat Shadow, C-130 Hercules, the AH-64D Longbow, the UH-1N Huey, C-17 Globemaster III, the KC-135 Stratotanker, the HC-130P/N, EC-130H Compass Call, the E-3 Sentry, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, and the German air force Tornado.

Angel Thunder 2008, hosted by Air Combat Command officials, is the third joint personnel recovery and combat rescue exercise conducted at Davis-Monthan AFB. American participation in this exercise include members from the Air Force, Army, the Department of Justice, the National Reconnaissance Office, the State Department, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Joint Forces Command with multinational observers from Mexico, Canada and Pakistan.

Kerry Jackson (AFNS)

AFSOC’s CV-22 Ospreys — A Big Win in Africa

December 13, 2008

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The final two CV-22s broke across the Florida horizon just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. And after a 5,300 nautical mile flight across the Atlantic ocean, they had surely worked up an appetite.

The aircraft, from the 8th Special Operations Squadron, arrived home Nov. 26 on the heels of two other CV-22s, all of which had spent the last month in Bamako, Mali supporting Exercise FLINTLOCK-09, a regularly scheduled training exercise in the Trans-Saharan region designed build relationships and capacity and to enhance African nations’ ability to patrol and control their sovereign territory.

The exercise marked an important milestone for the CV-22s as their first operational deployment.

“This is something we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” said Maj. Jim Rowe, an 8th SOS pilot, fresh out of the cockpit from the trans-Atlantic flight. “It was one of the highlights of my military career.”

The exercise included personnel from 15 countries, and the CV-22 served as a platform for multinational training. Specifically, the aircraft was used to transport Malian and Senegalese special operations forces and their leadership teams.

“We did long range, vertical lift, and dropped [teams] off at a landing zone,” said Capt. Dennis Woodlief, 8th SOS pilot. “They practiced their ground movements, then we brought them back.”

Lt. Col. Eric Hill, 8th SOS squadron commander, said missions like this allowed the CV-22 to take advantage of its unique capabilities as a tiltrotor aircraft.

“The tyranny of distance in the African continent is amazing,” he said. “We were able to go over 500 nautical miles, infiltrate a small team for them to run their exercise, and bring them back all the way to home base without doing an air refueling stop. And we were able to do that in the span of about four hours. ”

“It would take the MH-53 twice, sometimes three times as long [to do these missions],” Captain Woodlief said. “And we did it with just one aircraft.”

Colonel Hill said the CV-22 is an “unprecedented capability.” And with the new capability, there were also new lessons to be learned.

“We learned some lessons like we always do on different equipment we’d like to have and requirements that we’ll have in the future,” he said.

Many of those lessons revolve around tailoring maintenance packages for future deployments.

The 1st Special Operations Helicopter Maintenance Squadron deployed to Bamako in support of the 8th SOS. Because the exercise was held at a remote location rather than an established base, one of the maintenance challenges was self-deploying with all the parts and equipment they needed to keep the CV-22s operational for the entire exercise – and for the cumulative 10,000 nautical mile trans-Atlantic flights.

“We have a laundry list about three pages long of things we’d like to take next time,” said Master Sgt. Craig Kornely, the squadron’s lead production supervisor. “As we grow into the machine, we realize our needs for equipment and resources.”

But despite the challenges of operating a new aircraft for the first time overseas and in an austere environment, the squadron had a perfect mission success rate during the exercise.

“We had zero maintenance cancels, zero delays, and we executed 100 percent every time,” Captain Woodlief said. “I think we went above and beyond everyone’s expectations.”

Colonel Hill said he was extremely proud of the 8th SOS and 1st SOHMXS’s accomplishments.

“There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing [your squadron] take a revolutionary capability out on its first deployment, have huge mission success, meet every mission task, and most importantly bring everybody back to home base safely,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud as a squadron commander.”


Lauren Johnson

Refueling Operation Flintlock

December 13, 2008

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Two 100th Air Refueling Wing aircrews recently provided air refueling in support of Operation Flintlock, a joint military exercise in Bamako, Mali which concluded Nov. 20. 

According to a release by United States Africa Command Public Affairs, “The principal purpose of Flintlock is to assist partner nations to establish and develop military interoperability and strengthen regional relationships, in support of future combined humanitarian, peacekeeping and disaster relief operations. It includes participants from the Trans-Saharan nations and the U.S. as well as advisors from multiple European countries.” 

The exercise also included the first Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 Osprey oceanic crossing, according to Lt. Col. Bruce McNaughton, 100th ARW director of staff, and aircraft commander of one of the KC-135 Stratotankers (from RAF Mildenhall) taking part in the mission. 

The Osprey is a self-deployable aircraft providing increased speed and range over other rotary-wing aircraft which enable AFSOC aircrews to execute long-range special operations missions, according to an Air Force fact sheet. 

The Osprey can perform missions that normally require both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. It takes off vertically, and once airborne, the nacelles (engine and pro-rotor group) on each wing can rotate into a forward position. 

Max Blumenfeld, Operation Flintlock public affairs officer, wrote in an e-mail that the 352nd Special Operations Group’s MC-130s and the CV-22s are “significant platforms for an ongoing effort in the Trans-Sahara region for regional cooperation and security. Flintlock is an established SOF exercise which continually builds from experiences gained from previous Flintlocks and its smaller scale version; Silent Warrior.”

After launching from Lajes-Field, Azores, Portugal, Oct. 22, Colonel McNaughton and his aircrew refueled a 352nd SOG aircrew’s MC-130 – also from RAF Mildenhall – which in turn refueled the CV-22s. 

“I call it, ‘Slowin’ down the gas,'” said the aircraft commander. “Having that middleman (the MC-130) slows the refueling down (passing fuel from one aircraft to another then to another). We weren’t able to refuel the CV-22 directly; we used a boom to refuel the (SOG aircraft), then that aircraft used a probe and drogue system to refuel the CV-22. We do have that capability, but primarily use it for Navy jets; our drogues aren’t designed to operate at lower speeds.” 

The colonel explained that he and his aircrew met face to face with the MC-130 and CV-22 pilots in Lajes-Field, so they could brief them before the refueling took place. 

“We’ve refueled MC-130s before, but the question arose as to whether the Ospreys could keep up with us, and where they were physically going to be while we refueled the MC-130,” he said. “The briefing beforehand allowed us to iron out those problems and find solutions.” 

On Colonel McNaughton’s aircraft there were four crewmembers and three crew chiefs; three crewmembers flew on the other KC-135 from RAF Mildenhall. 

The co-pilot, 1st Lt. Jeff Lascurain, 351st Air Refueling Squadron, said he’d never seen or worked a mission with the Osprey aircraft before. 

“It’s always cool to see a new type of aircraft on your wing,” he said, explaining that during the refueling the Ospreys were positioned off the left wing, about one mile out. 

“I was on the right-hand side of the plane, so my best view of the CV-22s was as we were making our turn to rejoin with the MC-130 and CV-22 formation,” he said. 

Colonel McNaughton said he had no idea his scheduled mission would turn into helping refuel the new AFSOC aircraft. 

“We usually have a one-day run to Lajes-Field each week, and I volunteered for that particular week – and it turned into this,” he said. “It was a hoot being part of it.” 

Mr. Blumenfeld said the mission was evidence of the importance of aerial refueling. 

“The CV-22 ‘s range is dependent on your efforts and thus provides it that ‘far reach’ capability as evidenced by its transatlantic flight,” he wrote. “This reach capability is important due to the fact that Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara is conducted over a geographic area the size of (the continental United States).” 

He also said the exercise is the result of great interagency communication and coordination. 

Flintlock “has geo-political impact as the exercise involves African partner nations as well as European partner nations such as Germany, the Netherlands and the UK,” he explained.

AFSOC Needs More

December 9, 2008
Vulcans Forge

Vulcan's Forge

Air Force Special Operations Command needs to expand its foreign aviation training force, finds a new report on Special Operations Forces compiled by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment. Other recommendations include expanding the command’s fixed wing fleet, fielding a stealthy transport, creating additional unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons, and adding more special tactics squadrons, reports the Air Force Association. Expanding AFSOC’s 6th Special Operations Squadron, the unit charged with providing combat aviation training for foreign militaries, has been a pressing concern for USSOCOM for several years as Pentagon policy has focused more on irregular warfare and building partnership capacity, writes the AFA. The last Quadrennial Defense Review called for AFSOC to double the size of the 6th SOS from about 110 to 230 special advisors. However, CSBA concludes that the “anticipated demand for combat aviation advisors far exceeds the projected capacity.

MH-53 Pave Low — 41 Years of Special Operations Action

December 2, 2008

The MH-53J/M Pave Low helicopter was flown by the US Air Force Special Operations Command or AFSOC from 1967 until retirement in 2008. The Pave Low’s mission was low-level, long-range, undetected penetration into denied areas by day or night. It served honorably in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the first Gulf War, and the entire gamut of anti-terrorist operations since 9/11.

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V-22 Osprey Excels in Africa and Iraq

November 30, 2008

The CV-22 Osprey has made its operational debut with the US Air Force Special Operations Command AFSOC.  Several CV-22 deployed to Africa in November to participate in the anti-terrorism exercise Flintlock 09. The MV-22 Osprey variant has already served in Iraq with the US Marine Corps USMC.

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An Osprey success story

October 24, 2008
AFSOC CV-22 Osprey

AFSOC CV-22 Osprey

The US Air Force Special Operations Command AFSOC has been operating its new CV-22 Osprey special operations tiltrotor aircraft since October 2008. You can own one of these legendary CV-22 Osprey special operations tiltrotor aircraft. Choose the poster, a framed art print, a 12-month 2009 calendar, or even a greeting card set. Find all your AFSOC CV-22 Osprey art gifts at PatriArt Gallery. Or if you prefer the AFSOC CV-22 Osprey tee-shirt, beer stein, or other souvenir items, visit Military Chest.

After a troubled history, the V-22 Osprey – half-helicopter, half-plane – has been ferrying troops and equipment across Iraq for just more than a year without a major incident.

Critics say the Osprey, which was designed to replace transport helicopters, lacks firepower for defense in heavy combat.

But pilots say the Osprey makes up for that in speed, which one of them says can take the plane “like a bat out of hell” to altitudes safe from small-arms fire.

Since arriving at the sprawling Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq, a dozen Ospreys have been ferrying troops and equipment at forward operating bases. One even took Barack Obama around during his tour of Iraq in the summer.

But on only a handful of occasions has the aircraft faced serious enemy fire.

Military officials say that is partly a result of the changing nature of the war in Iraq, as well as the advantages the high-flying Osprey.

Read the complete Osprey story in the Philadelphia Enquirer

Rehorn: Irregular Warfare Shift Among Services is Acceptable Risk

October 24, 2008
Naval Special Operations

Naval Special Operations

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Some in the Pentagon worry the armed services are becoming too dependent on irregular warfare, but one military official in charge of training commanders how to use special operations forces argues the risk of becoming too heavily invested in IW skills is acceptable given the current threat environment, writes Inside the Pentagon.
Some active-duty and retired general officers have warned that focusing on IW capabilities could lead to an erosion of more traditional warfare skill sets over time. That erosion of conventional warfare capabilities could put U.S. forces at a disadvantage should a more conventional conflict erupt, these officers argue.

But until the Defense Department is able to develop overarching guidance to properly balance irregular and conventional warfare skill sets within general purpose forces, the risk of swaying too far toward IW capability is one that U.S. force will have to accept, Col. Wesley Rehorn told Inside the Pentagon in an Oct. 14 interview. “Is there a possibility that the general purpose forces could sort of tip that teeter-totter too far to being more SOF-like? No doubt about it,” Rehorn said.

Read more at Inside Defense (subscription required)

USAF Special Operations Command Gets OK to Buy 16 AC-27 Gunships

October 21, 2008
Aviation Calendar 2009

Aviation Calendar 2009

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Air Force Special Operations Command has received Pentagon approval to purchase 16 L-3 Communications-Alenia AC-27 gunships, according to a senior service official.

The approval — delivered via program decision memorandum II — also gives the Air Force the OK to install a medium-caliber cannon on the aircraft, according to Brig. Gen. Bradley Heithold, AFSOC’s top acquisition officer. His comments came during an Oct. 7 presentation during a munitions conference here.

In addition to either a 30-millimeter or 40-millimeter gun, the AC-27 will fire stand-off, precision-guided munitions like the Northrop Grumman-built Viper Strike bomb, the one-star said.
Read the full report at

3rd SOS changes leadership, transfers to Cannon

October 14, 2008
Global Hawk - Good Hunting

Global Hawk - Good Hunting

The USAF Global Hawk UAV / UAS is a premier tool in the war against terrorism. Put this terrorist-hunting Global Hawk UAV on your wall as a poster, framed art print, or 2009 calendar. Or buy the Global Hawk — Good Hunting poster, framed print or calendar for a friend this Christmas or Hannukhah. You can even find Global Hawk greeting cards to send to your friends for the holidays. Quick and secure shopping is yours at The PatriArt Gallery.

Just one week after the 27th Special Operations Wing marked its first year at Cannon Air Force Base, the 3rd Special Operations Squadron commemorated its transfer from Nellis AFB, Nev., to Cannon AFB in a change-of-command ceremony Oct. 8. 

In front of a backdrop of parachuting Special Operations Forces currently training on the base, Lt. Col. Robert Brock, former 3rd SOS, Detachment 1 commander at Cannon, took command of the 3rd SOS from Lt. Col. Paul Caltagirone. Colonel Caltagirone will become the 27th Special Operations Group deputy commander. 

This event also signified the official transfer of the 3rd SOS from Nellis AFB to Cannon AFB. 

“The transfer of the 3rd SOS to Cannon brings yet another combat-steeped squadron to the high plains of eastern New Mexico,” said 27th SOW commander Col. Timothy Leahy. “We welcome a band of warriors…[who] have sought out, engaged, and destroyed the enemies of this nation…and because they are on duty, we can sleep at night.” 

Colonel Leahy added that although most of the 3rd SOS’s accomplishments are now highly classified, one day the dedication, skill, and accomplishments of its Airmen will be read about and honored in history books. 

Two 3rd SOS accomplishments while under the leadership of Colonel Caltagirone, however, were mentioned at the change-of-command ceremony. 

“The 3rd SOS flew 3,678 sorties over Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to more than 6,000 enemy combatants captured or killed,” said Col. James Cardoso, the 27th SOG commander. “And during that time, [Colonel Caltagirone] led the squadron through unprecedented growth, and oversaw the move from Nellis to Cannon with zero reduction in combat capability.” 

Representing one of the appreciative users of the 3rd SOS was Army Col. Charles Yomant, Deputy Commander of the Special Operations Command Air Component. Presenting a framed collage of different SOCOM assets to Colonel Caltagirone, Colonel Yomant said that the special operations operatives on the ground want the 3rd SOS supporting them. 

“We can’t do what we do without the [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] capability provided by the 3rd SOS,” he said. 

Cannon leadership said that the quality support already provided by the 3rd SOS to fight the Global War on Terror will continue under the direction of Colonel Brock. 

“It is difficult to imagine the 3rd SOS attaining greater accomplishments than they already have,” said Colonel Cardoso of Colonel Brock. “However, under Bob’s command, there is no doubt they will.”

Colonel Cardoso added that Colonel Brock is uniquely qualified to assume command of the Predator squadron because of his background as a maintenance officer and later as a pilot who flew combat missions in the MH-53 Pave Low. This was followed by his great involvement in setting up the 3rd SOS at Cannon AFB. 

The full transition of personnel and Predator-flying capabilities from Nellis to Cannon will likely take several more months, culminating in a squadron population of more than 300 personnel in about six to eight months.

Mae-Li Allison