Posts Tagged ‘USAF’

Air Force Perils

March 8, 2009

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The perils of flying aging aircraft was an issue at last February’s Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., and it remained on the mind of Gen. John Corley, Air Combat Command head, at this year’s event. During his presentation Friday, Corley reminded attendees that, this time last year, the Air Force was still in the midst of ascertaining what caused an F-15C to break apart in flight over Missouri in November 2007, and numerous F-15s remain grounded. This year, the rigors of age are continuing to plague the A-10 fleet, Air Force Magazine quotes the general. Corley said 108 A-10s—in a fleet of roughly 350—remain on the ground due to a systemic issue with wing cracks in the thinner winged variant of the aircraft. And, 53 more have yet to be inspected; probably 10 of those will end up grounded, too, he said.

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F-22 Raptor — Major Acquisition Unlikely

February 25, 2009

According to Air Force Magazine, US Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz is noncommital on continued F-22 Raptor fighter jet acquisition, but his words sound bearish. Here’s what Air Force Magazine writes:

The Air Force’s new acquisition objective for the F-22 likely won’t be officially announced until President Obama decides whether to certify the airplane as a critical defense program that must be kept going, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told Washington-based defense reporters Feb. 17.

See the F-22 Raptor in action: History – Modern Marvels : F/A-22 Raptor

Lawmakers in both houses have urged the President to continue Raptor production in the short term, pending another review of the necessary total number. Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen has publicly stated the Air Force is looking at perhaps an additional 60 Raptors. Rumor has it that Mullen will make the final call.

Schwartz said the new number has been run through “an analysis which I feel is credible” and was arrived at “objectively.” He added that the Air Force is not afraid to revisit old assumptions and react to changes.

However, he dodged saying just what strategic considerations have changed that would make the F-22 less important in the future. The new number will be a “moderate risk” inventory, Schwartz said, and “I will be happy to defend the numbers when they become public.” However, he said there was “considerable skepticism about the validity” of the old Air Force target of 381 F-22s. “Maybe there will be equal skepticism of the new number,” he continued, “but it is my number and that is what we will use.”

F-22 Raptor’s Proud Record

February 17, 2009

Find the F-22 Raptor on posters, framed art prints, 2009 calendars, and greeting card sets. Visit the PatriArt Gallery today — your one-stop shopping site for military and patriotic themed holiday gifts. Worldwide delivery available.

Late last year, the F-22 was verbally trashed by Pentagon acquisition chief John Young, who charged that the Raptor wasn’t meeting key performance parameters and was turning in mission capable rates of only about 60 percent.

Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin’s F-22 program manager, declined to rebut those remarks directly during an interview with Air Force Magazine. However, he displayed a chart showing that the F-22 meets all KPPs and exceeds about half of them, including range, top speed, acceleration, and radar detection range.

The aircraft’s mission capable rates are coming in around 70 percent—which is the Air Force’s overall fighter average—but they don’t have to meet that level until the aircraft reaches “maturity,” which is around 100,000 flight hours.

Young dinged the F-22 for needing too much maintenance, but the program is on track to meet a specification that calls for three hours mean time between maintenance at maturity in 2010; it’s at 1.8 hours now.

In exercises and simulations, the Raptor racks up a 30:1 kill ratio, vs. 3:1 for the F-35, and slightly better than 1:1 for the F-15. All other fourth-generation fighters in US service score a tossup against foreign fighters.

Lawson also noted that the F-22 program received two performance awards from the Pentagon in 2008—the Secretary of Defense Performance-Based Logistics Award, and Collaborator of the Year.

See the F-22 Raptor in action: History – Modern Marvels : F/A-22 Raptor

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.)

See the F-22-Raptor’s power in action with the History – Modern Marvels : F/A-22 Raptor

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.

Learn all about the F-22 Raptor via a breathtaking multimedia view: 21st Century U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, Next-Generation USAF Fighter Aircraft (CD-ROM)

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.

Learn the Navy SEALs’ fitness secrets by reading The Complete Guide to Navy Seal Fitness, Third Edition (Includes Free DVD): Updated for Today’s Warrior Elite.

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

USAF Selects First F-35 Pilots

February 2, 2009

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Two Airmen of Luke Air Force Base’s F-16 Fighting Falcon family were selected Jan. 9 to become the initial cadre for the F-35 Lightning II. 

Lt. Col. Stephen Pieper, 310th Fighter Squadron director of operations, was selected to be a squadron commander and Maj. Chad Lewis, 56th Operations Support Squadron assistant director of operations in weapons and tactics, was selected to be one of the first instructor pilots for the Air Force’s newest fighter aircraft. 

Since only a handful of test pilots currently fly the F-35, the Falcon duo will need to learn to fly the aircraft from them, Major Lewis said. 

“This initial qualification training will take approximately two to three months,” he said. “Once we’re qualified, we’ll be responsible for training the next pilot in line. The United States Air Force plans to buy more than 1,700 of these aircraft, so we have a lot of pilots to train.” 

The two aviators will be part of the 10 initial instructors in the F-35 training program and will be responsible for training all the subsequent instructors. Along with FTU instructor responsibilities, the initial cadre will develop tactics and assist with systems development in future F-35 variants. They will also be developing methods of force application that will revolutionize warfare, the major said. 

To find suitable applicants to become initial cadre, the Air Force sought pilots with A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-16, F-22 Raptor and F-15E Strike Eagle experience. Colonel Pieper and Major Lewis submitted applications through their chain of command to be assigned a rank order number. Once the applications left the base, they were reviewed by a selection board chaired by Maj. Gen. Anthony Przybyslawski, Air Education and Training Command vice commander. 

The selection board evaluated multiple criteria including flying hours and fighter experience. Major Lewis believes these areas gave him an advantage above other applicants. 

“I am a weapons instructor course graduate with more than 1,500 F-16 Fighting Falcon and 500 instructor pilot hours,” he said. “I also have combat experience in Operations Northern Watch and Iraqi Freedom. I think these are some of the biggest things that helped me get selected.” 

Along with Major Lewis’ background, Colonel Pieper and the others bring similar combat experiences as well to benefit future Lightning II pilots they take under their wing. 

“The combat experience that a number of us have will prove valuable as we attempt to marry the additional capabilities the aircraft bring and the tasking the Air Force has for us to fill and uphold,” Colonel Pieper said. 

Though Colonel Pieper will be filling a different position than his current job, he is confident his experience will transition well as an F-35 squadron commander. 

“As director of operations, I have gained experience balancing schedule priorities with aircraft and airspace availability, which will be of great benefit in bringing the Air Force’s newest fighter into service.” he said. “The leadership development opportunities in my current position will pay dividends in the F-35 program.” 

For Major Lewis the opportunity the new assignment provides is two-fold. 

“One is to be among the first pilots to fly the F-35,” he said. “Number two is to be involved in the development of a program that will have a long lasting impact on future airpower application.” 

Along with the opportunities are the challenges associated with any new weapon system, he said. 

“This aircraft and weapons system is drastically different than any other in the Air Force,” Major Lewis said.

(Tong Duong)

Lockheed Martin Rejects F-22 Performance Criticism

February 1, 2009

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MARIETTA, GA — The Air Force’s premier fifth-generation F-22A fighter jet meets all of its key performance parameters despite accusations from the Pentagon’s top acquisition executive to the contrary, according to senior Lockheed Martin program officials.

The company’s defense comes as future Raptor buys remain in limbo as the White House has yet to make a decision on whether to extend production beyond the 183-aircraft program of record, reports Inside Defense (paid subscription required).

“We meet all our KPPs,” Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-22A general manager, told a small group of reporters here during a Jan. 29 briefing.

Lawson was responding to accusations made by Pentagon acquisition executive John Young in December that the plane had not met all of its KPPs

“2018” a Flexible Date for USAF’s Future Bomber

January 10, 2009

 

Our military Aviation Calendar 2009 features 13 images of US and allied military aircraft in action. Buy the Aviation Calendar 2009 exclusively at the PatriArt Gallery for only $ 19.99. Worldwide delivery available.

Aviation Calendar 2009

Aviation Calendar 2009

The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review instructed the Air Force to have a new bomber on the ramp by 2018, but the aircraft ready to fly by then will in all likelihood still be “developmental,” Air Force Magazine quotes Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. However, the bomber program is not overly ambitious and will heavily leverage technology developed in classified programs, Schwartz said. When the program gets going, Schwartz said, it will hew closely to Pentagon acquisition chief John Young’s admonition that new-start programs be based on “mature technology.” The bomber will fit that category, Air Force Magazine quotes Schwartz. Earlier this year, Young said 2018 is a “nice planning date,” but “not a mandatory date,” for the bomber to be fielded. (For more on the new bomber, read Great Expectations.)

USAF to Abandon 86 Wing Structure

January 9, 2009

Our military Aviation Calendar 2009 features 13 images of US and allied military aircraft in action. Buy the Aviation Calendar 2009 exclusively at the PatriArt Gallery for only $ 19.99. Worldwide delivery available.

Aviation Calendar 2009

Aviation Calendar 2009

In a recent article, Air Force Magazine cites a  little-quoted and oft-forgotten edict of the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review directed the Air Force to maintain 86 combat wings. The service never really defined what that meant, and the number is now likely to fall by the wayside, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said in a Dec. 22 interview with Air Force Magazine. Schwartz acknowledged that the Air Force has proposed some force structure cuts in the 2010 budget, and they are not all in the area of fighters, the magazine reports. “I don’t think anyone sees that number [86 wings] as a line in the sand,” Schwartz said. He added that the Air Force will reorganize itself “in a way that makes the most sense,” and not necessarily to meet a particular number. He also said he believes that “there is excess capacity” in the Air Force’s basing infrastructure still, and would like to see that cut before retiring hardware, but he noted, “I don’t think there’s the will” in Congress to order up yet another BRAC round anytime soon. (For more, read Eighty-Six Combat Wings.)