A Defense Technology Blog
Upgraded F-15Cs to protect F-22s
Posted by David A. Fulghum at 4/14/2010 9:07 AM CDT
F-22 stealth fighter production is capped, so USAF officials are upgrading their best F-15C with advanced, long-range radars to beef up the air dominance force.
Because of the larger size of the F-15s radar and the aircraft’s greater flight endurance, they also will serve as “stand-in” electronic warfare jamming and attack aircraft as part of the Air Force’s composite air dominance force that also includes stealthy F-22s stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Va.
Each fighter type will shoulder 50% of the air dominance mission now that the F-22 force has been capped at 187 aircraft. The upgraded F-15Cs will carry the larger APG-63(V)3 active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The radar's long range and small target detection capability will allow F-22s to operate in electronic silence with their low observability uncompromised by electronic emissions.
The first F-15C modified with the Raytheon radar was declared operational with the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing last week.
“Our objective is to fly in front [of any strike force] with the F-22s, and have the persistence [because of larger fuel loads] to stay there while the [stealthy fighters] are conducting their LO attack,” says Maj. Todd Giggy, the wing’s chief of weapons and tactics. Giggy was formerly with the chief of weapons and tactics for the 1st Air Dominance Wing at Langley. “That persistence is something we can add that no one else can in the air dominance world.”
The Florida, Louisiana and Oregon ANG will field the first 48 V3 radar-equipped F-15Cs. Massachusetts and Montana ANG units will follow so that the East, West and Gulf coasts have a cruise missile defense capability.
“We’re embracing an air-launched concept for theater ballistic missile defense as a deterrent and as a tactical capability to protect our forces in theater and for homeland defense,” Giggy says.
One of the missiles in consideration for the theater ballistic missile mission is Raytheon’s NCADE variant of the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
“We’re talking to the ANG about a demonstration of an air-launched, hit-to-kill system, says Ramon Estrada, Raytheon’s F-15 AESA program manager. “It takes the AMRAAM body and extends the range to support a ballistic missile mission.” The AIM-120C-6 and AIM-120D AMRAAM models were optimized in part to attack small-signature cruise missiles.
The Air Force will deliver up to six AESA radars this summer for installation on F-15Cs at the Weapons School and 442 Sgdn. at Nellis AFB, Nev. The fleet will eventually grow to 176 Golden Eagles that are slated to serve until 2030.
The F-15Cs also will provide electronic jamming and attack capability, self-protect the force against enemy missiles and aircraft, shoot their beyond visual range missiles to supplement limited numbers carried by the F-22s and use the radar to create situational awareness for everyone else.
“Weapons effects are the priority, and we are carrying so few weapons that BVR fighting is going to be distributed among all the platforms out there,” Giggy says. “So we distribute the targets and weapons management.”
The F-15C’s electronic surveillance capability also can identify and precisely locate electronic emitters – communications and radars in the air and on the ground – to direct the attacks of other aircraft carrying conventional missiles or non-kinetic, electronic or cyber weapons. Examples of the latter are Raytheon’s Miniature Air Launched Decoy – Jammer (Mald-J) and the CHAMP high power microwave (HPM) generator for cruise missiles being developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland AFB, N.M.
There are also more modifications to come, say aerospace industry officials.
“The simple answer is yes,” says Jim Means, Boeing’s director of proprietary programs for global strike systems. “We are looking in all the right places for the future and that includes the radar and modification to the [AESA] antenna.”
The APG-82(V)4 radar and a new radome planned for the Air Force’s fleet of about 220 F-15Es “we may retrofit to the F-15Cs,” Means says. “There’s also a new computer, a larger cockpit display and enhanced bandwidth datalinks that can send more data to other aircraft faster.”
“Our goal is to break the [enemy’s] kill chain,” Giggy says. “The AESA is a critical component. We can’t stand-in against the current threats unless we can build that [electronic and radar] picture of the battlefield. The V3 allows us to pick and chose where we can go to deliver the [weapons’] effect. And some of those EW and non-kinetic warfare effects are very important.”
But they are expected to be only a few of the upgrades considered through the end of the F-15C’s operational life in 2030.
“With the capability gap that the Air Force is trying to address through the air dominance category with the F-15C, we looked at a lot technologies,” says Robert Martin, a Boeing business development official for the F-15 program.” The Air Force is going to look across platforms for effects to enhance warfighter capability.”
Technologies already in consideration include advanced processing, electronic warfare, multi-spectral sensors, high volume, low probability of intercept datalinks and interoperability with unmanned platforms, he says.
ACC Looks At Possibilities For Future Weapons
Apr 30, 2010
By David A. Fulghum
Langley AFB, Va.
Early planning for improved fifth- and new sixth-generation aircraft indicates they could be designed with wide-area optical and electronic surveillance and nonexplosive weapons, and offer an intricate analysis of the enemy networks that might affect them.
Also part of the formula will be communications—including command and control—that can function even when under network attack.
Fifth-generation aircraft combine stealth and supersonic cruise speeds. The follow-on sixth generation will likely include optionally manned, stealthy, non-supersonic designs with advanced electronic attack payloads involved in ISR and clandestine transport missions.
“We’ve stood up a sixth-generation fighter office here, and we’re starting to figure out what those attributes should be,” says USAF Maj. Gen. Tom Andersen, Air Combat Command’s director of requirements. “Survivability will be huge, so how do you do that—with speed, stealth or some combination? Affordability is critical because $500 million per air vehicle doesn’t do much good [in a tough budget environment]. If we start right now, 2030 is about the time you get a sixth-gen fighter on the line. I think it will have to be capable of being [optionally] manned. The cost margin between manned and unmanned is now only about a 3-5% delta. We have to be prepared to go either way.”
These aircraft will need to be linked so they always know where they are in reference to one another and to any enemy threat all the time. The advanced architecture for connectivity is called the Joint Aerial Layered Network (JLAN). It creates a mosaic for the battlefield with space, airborne and surface layers. And within those layers, the denied and anti-access areas are detailed along with where everybody else can operate. “We have to concentrate on low probability of intercept or detection [LPI/LPD] type wave forms. Then we have to get [those messages] out of that environment so they can help the follow-on forces and support jammers like the nonstealthy Growler. That’s going to be a challenge.”
The equipment on these new aircraft designs will also be innovative. It will, for example, exploit new segments of the electromagnetic spectrum. Also increasingly important will be a translator that transforms an LPI signal to a waveform that can be widely distributed by Link 16. That would avoid compromising stealth and also generate digital information that everyone can use immediately.
Electronic attack, network invasion and generating high-power microwave (HPM) pulses as weapons will also be part of the formula.
“We’re working the Champ [counter-electronics HPM *advanced missile project] demonstration,” which is anHPM device in a cruise missile at Kirtland AFB, N.M., says USAF Brig. Gen. Dave Goldfein, ACC’s director of air and space operations. “We’re probably about three years from where we will have to transition it from the [joint demonstration program].”
ACC officials contend that HPM and laser research is finally at a crucial point. After 20 years of promises, the laboratories and industry are miniaturizing and weaponizing those technologies, and even more progress is anticipated. The U.S. Marines, for example, plan to introduce truck-mounted, base-defense HPM into operations in Afghanistan.
There are also hints about sixth-generation unmanned aircraft.
“We’re looking at our next-generation RPAs [remotely piloted aircraft] more as standard trucks that would be modular and able to be configured to support several possible missions,” says Andersen. “Generally, we’re likely to see much less onboard processing. Also key will be machine-to-machine communications and automated decision-making aids so that communications can be limited to decision-quality data. It also will help us with the manpower-intensive back end [of RPA operations] if people can limit or automate some of the activity that eats up those man-hours.”
Upgrades to the active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radars can turn them into fighter-size directed-energy weapons.
“Build it and we will come,” says Andersen. “What comes first, the investment from the services to weaponize something or the proof that the technology is ready for operational use? In today’s fiscal environment, we need to see some evidence before we can invest.
“An issue with most directed-energy concepts is that usually you can’t see the [HPM] weapon’s point of impact or the effect on the target,” he says. “So how do you boresight that weapon and produce a known effect? Is that effect temporary or permanent? What does the strike planner want and what can he trust? How do you treat it like a real weapon so that the joint force commander knows the capability it will deliver?”
AESA radars also may be the core of a new jammer and self-protection suite similar to the Navy’s Next-Generation Jammer program.
“There is no next-generation jammer, per se, for us,” says Goldfein. “There are capabilities that we’re looking for, but there’s no program of record. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface on AESA. We haven’t got it on the F-35 yet so that we can wring it out, but I think it is going to have tremendous capability for both electronic attack and protection.”
The capability allows aircrews to find, avoid and neutralize enemy emitters on the battlefield. RPAs are also certain to be part of the offensive mix, ACC officials say. Rather than working toward a single, elegant but expensive solution, they are looking for multiple ways of attacking a foe electronically.
Whether the Air Force can successfully turn its fifth- and sixth-generation aircraft into a combination ISR, electronic attack, strike and AWACS aircraft is also an issue of perspective.
“The first day of Desert Storm [Jan. 16, 1991], I rolled in an F-16 with dumb bombs,” says Goldfein. “Ten years later I was rolling into Kosovo with laser-guided bombs with all kinds of data coming into the cockpit. Now we’re far more capable than we were then.”
Nevertheless, some of the most pressing needs for operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East and Southwest Asia are pretty prosaic.
A tour in theater for the F-22 was more about gathering data on operating in a dry, high-temperature, fine-sand situation for an extended period and less about functioning in a different electromagnetic environment.
Ironically, the big three issues in the Middle East are maintainability, supportability and commonality. These lessons from the F-22 are already being rolled into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
“We have more panels for maintenance access that you don’t have in the F-22,” says Goldfein. “You don’t have to refinish the [low-observable] surface. The radar is much more capable. And the architecture is much more versatile for accepting upgrades.”
The next generation of aircraft will follow an incremental approach.
“It will be logical, sustainable and affordable,” says Goldfein. “Long-range strike, sixth-generation fighter and follow-ons to the MC-12 and MQ-1/9 will have evolutionary but multiple capabilities, such as ISR and electronic attack and protection, and strike.”
However, weaponry and sensors for the current Afghan conflict are not all esoteric.
“The requests I have been getting are in the arena of limited-effect kinetic weapons that are all-weather, day/night, high precision and low collateral damage,” says Goldfein.
Specifically, troops want bombs that create grenade-size explosions without fragmentation that can make the best use of intelligence by destroying a very small area—perhaps one room in a house.
“We have been doing that with different warhead fills and putting a composite body on the weapon and delivering it with a laser,” says Andersen. “We find that the energy dissipates in single-digit feet instead of going out to 40-50 ft.”
Those small, air-launched weapons of 250 lb. or less also would allow an increase in the number of bombs that an aircraft can drop. Or it could carry the same number of bombs, but the decrease in payload weight would allow unmanned aircraft to fly higher, faster and farther.
“We’re working on the capabilities document for the follow-on to the MQ-9 [Reaper],” says Goldfein. “If you line up the master schedules, it’s a capability that is delivered in 2020. You’ll hear modularity, sustainability, affordability, and it will be built with the idea of operations in civil airspace with see-and-avoid, for example. It will be much more suited for bad weather and operate in the mid-altitudes around 20,000-30,000 ft. It could be weaponized and carry sensors, and it would have to be monitored. Stealth will be an affordability issue. It will probably be difficult.”
But recent low-intensity conflicts offer clues about how advanced unmanned aircraft may be used in large-scale future wars.
ACC officials learned a lot from Israel’s attack on Syria in 2007 and Russia’s attack on Georgia in 2008. Some of it was exotic and some of it was basic EW blocking and tackling, they say. Georgia had an unintegrated air defense network. But the Russians did not develop an electronic order of battle and flew unbriefed into Georgian air defense. Another piece of evidence is that Israel is planning for its communications and military networks to be disabled by electronic attack.
“We also are making sure that we can still fight with our networks degraded,” Andersen says. “If I lose my connectivity to locations in the [combat area], how do I continue to deliver [critical information]? There are a couple of major projects that commanders are focused on. One that reported out at the four-star and service-secretary level was the ability to operate in denied environments. That includes the survival or quick reconstruction of data links and secure or insecure communications. Other priorities are the ability to tie into command-and-control systems, the coordination of real-time decision-making and the ability to adjust to dynamic targets.”
Photo: General Atomics
AF Panel Likens DOD Acquisition to Contact Sport
(Source: U.S Air Force; issued April 30, 2010)
(Scroll down to see the Editor’s note in the second item below)
DAYTON, Ohio --- The Defense Department's journey to recapture acquisition excellence took a big step forward during two days of discussions and workforce training held at Sinclair Community College here April 20 and 21.
That was the assessment made by several senior leaders at the DOD Acquisition Insight Conference, at which more than 700 military, civilian and contractor acquisition professionals and defense industry partners met.
Sponsored by Defense Acquisition University - Midwest Region, the conference focused principally on providing acquisition experts from nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base with a forum to exchange ideas and discuss how to best implement the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009.
"In my mind, it's about continuous process improvement," said Lt. Gen. Tom Owen, commander of the Aeronautical Systems Center and the Air Force's program executive officer, or PEO, responsible for buying and modernizing aircraft systems. "We know that what we do is vitally important, so we should work hard to improve our processes."
General Owen's boss, Gen. Donald Hoffman, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, said it's important for weapon system program managers to think carefully about program scope. They need to be willing to say no when nice-to-have, emerging weapon systems requirements are proposed late in the game because these ideas lead to cost overruns and delivery delays.
General Hoffman used the word "pugnacity" to describe the attitude he wants to see in program managers. They must be hard-nosed enough to ensure well-intentioned but disruptive ideas don't derail the process. Program managers must defend the boundaries of their program and aggressively execute the agreed plan with their industrial partners or schedule delays and cost increases will creep in.
Virtually everyone acknowledged that years of downsizing and outsourcing left the acquisition workforce out of balance and ill-equipped to deal with a concurrent significant increase in oversight, documentation requirements and dollar value of contracts written.
The government must stop the trend of hollowing out DOD's in-house technical capability and then attempting to compensate by adding burdensome oversight, said Dr. Ashton Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
The DOD acquisition workforce improvement plan, currently in execution, includes a number of concurrent efforts to increase the size of the department's in-house acquisition workforce through recruitment of people into newly created positions and "in-sourcing" or conversion of contractors to government positions. General Hoffman said for his command, AFMC officials plan to in-source about 4,000 positions.
Enhancing skills of acquisition, technology and logistics workers through education and training and establishing a clear path for their professional development also are key components of the improvement plan. Rebuilding skills in the workforce which have atrophied, like those of budget estimators and system engineers, will take time, but the effort is necessary and worthwhile, senior panel experts said.
"It takes about 10 years to (develop) a good fighter pilot," said retired Gen. Lawrence Skantze, former commander of Air Force Systems Command, adding the same is true for a good acquisition professional.
Additionally, a soon-to-be announced major restructure of major AFMC acquisition centers was previewed. In part, it will increase the number of program executive officers to enable better senior officer-level focus on high-dollar, high-risk programs that warrant additional scrutiny.
General Owen, who currently serves as the PEO for aircraft systems, said that will mean five new PEOs at Aeronautical Systems Center, for a total of six. He will remain PEO for B-2 Spirit, C-17 Globemaster III and F-22 Raptor but will be joined by PEOs for Agile Combat Support; Fighters and Bombers; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; KC-X; and Mobility.
Sue Payton, former assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said across AFMC, the number of PEOs will go from five to 15.
Ms. Payton, General Hoffman and others extolled the value of solid systems engineering, as well as incentive-based contracting with industry to move to firm fixed-price contracts as early as feasible. Funding fewer programs at high confidence levels to enable low-risk development and production to proceed quickly at efficient economies of scale was universally preferred to stretching out weapons buys in tiny lots over many years. Competitive prototyping up front to reduce risk later was another lauded approach.
"The only leverage you have in Air Force acquisition is to say 'no,'" Ms. Payton said, noting that programs with prioritized, stable requirements and realistically funded for block upgrades are preferred to attempts to go from zero to hero in fielding the perfect weapon system straight out of the starting block.
"This is a contact sport," said Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds, commander of the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, Mass. It requires active leadership and personal contact, early and often, between acquirers, testers, sustainers and industry producers, he added.
Transparent, open communication between these communities and sharing detailed analyses using various information technology tools enhances trust and credibility, General Owen said.
Gary Bliss, the director of the Pentagon's Performance Assessment and Root Cause Analysis office, agreed, noting the one unifying theme he's learned in his reviews of acquisition programs that encountered serious problems was a need for "greater transparency of programs throughout the acquisition chain of command."
Mr. Bliss also said there is no substitute for knowledge of the complex series of rules and policies that drive acquisition decisions.
"Everyone in this room must understand (the Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009)," he said to the conferees in attendance.
Despite its difficulties, when really tested, the acquisition community can perform with incredible agility, General Owen noted.
"Some of our most successful programs (came about from being) challenged with doing something really quickly," he said. The MC-12 Liberty is a notable ASC example, with an entire squadron of ISR aircraft being fielded in less than 10 months from concept to combat. (ends)
DOD Acquisition Leader Shares His Priorities
(Source: US Air Force; issued April 30, 2010)
DAYTON, Ohio --- More than 700 military, civilian and contractor acquisition professionals and defense industry partners discussed challenges they face during the Department of Defense Acquisition Insight Conference April 20 through 21 here.
The Pentagon's top acquisition official, Dr. Ashton Carter, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, was among the senior executives.
"Secretary (of Defense Robert) Gates is insistent that we do things differently," said Dr. Carter on the imperative to improve the way U.S. military weapons and systems are acquired and delivered. "There is no silver bullet here; It's not oversight. It's the practice."
The forum, hosted by Defense Acquisition University members, is one of the three largest DAU annual training events for military and civilian acquisition professionals.
Doctor Carter used real-world development challenges with DOD's largest acquisition program, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, to illustrate what most urgently needs to be fixed.
The complex acquisition program represents the cornerstone of America's stealthy, multi-role fighter force for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Many allied nations also plan to buy the F-35 and several are helping to share the cost to develop it.
Despite discipline in keeping F-35 requirements stable, a combination of unforeseen engineering changes and other factors went unacknowledged and virtually unmanaged for two years, resulting in a 30-month delay and $3 billion in additional program costs, according to one estimate.
"We should have better situational awareness and better early warning about the status of our programs," Doctor Carter said.
Once the F-35's problems finally surfaced, DOD and industry officials were able to collaborate and come up with a strategy to reduce the delay to just 13 months, Dr. Carter said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: It is somewhat disingenuous of Carter to say that the F-35’s problems “went unacknowledged…for two years.” On the contrary, they were chronicled in excruciating detail by many trade publications, not least defense-aerospace.com, before and during this period. The solution to the acquisition problem that the Pentagon wants to fix may well rest, at least in part, in simply paying more attention to outside observers.)
Secretary Gates withheld certain award fees to the contractor and tied earning them back to meeting specific development and production goals and timelines, so taxpayers didn't bear the additional cost burden alone, Doctor Carter said.
While he underscored the importance of the industry-government partnership, Doctor Carter said a key lesson learned is less reliance on contractor estimates and "a need to strengthen the government's capability for independent technical judgment."
The government must stop the trend of hollowing out DOD's in-house technical capability and then attempting to compensate by adding burdensome oversight, regulation and documentation requirements, he said.
That's another reason why the acquisition workforce improvement plan is so vital, Doctor Carter said. After years of downsizing and outsourcing, the plan includes a number of concurrent efforts to increase the size of the department's in-house acquisition workforce by nearly 20,000 over the next five years through new recruitment and conversion of some contractor functions to government positions.
Enhancing workforce skills through education and training are also key components, with a focus on systems engineering as one example, he added.
Another strategy Doctor Carter said officials can employ to help wrestle in program development costs is to identify when firm fixed-price contracts are appropriate, rather than cost plus award fee contracts.
Firm fixed-price contracts should be used when they make sense to the warfighter and the taxpayer, he said. The intent is to reduce and share technical and business risk.
Ultimately, improving acquisition performance should depend on "quality people making quality decisions, rather than a ponderous process and oversight," Doctor Carter said.
Delivering capabilities on time and on cost benefits both U.S. warfighters and taxpayers, Doctor Carter said.
"The top priority, the No. 1 priority, is to support the troops."
USAF To Reduce Reliance On UCAs
May 12, 2010
By Amy Butler
Obviously I'm a member of the "ancien(t) regime"...........I didn't even know "undefinitized" was a real word with a real meaning beyond USAF quatsch-sprach ("rubbish speak" to you)..............
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio — U.S. Air Force officials are working to reduce the number of undefinitized contract actions (UCAs) used by the service to procure weapon systems as a result of some criticism that this procurement tool has been used too often.
UCAs are a tool used by procurement officers to get a company on contract for specific tasks while saving detailed negotiations until later. They are typically considered appropriate for use in areas such as urgent needs for commanders fighting a war. For example, UCAs were used to quickly get contractors working on the MC-12W Project Liberty aircraft, which are providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan. Acquisition officials also sometimes turn to them as an option if a foreign customer is eager to get on contract, but negotiations take longer than planned.
However, after high-profile procurement foul-ups such as KC-X, the Air Force is bound to draw criticism if it does not follow acquisition regulations closely.
Defense acquisition regulations require that a service has 180 days to “definitize” a contract, which means to iron out all of the details and get a signed deal.
This is an area where the Air Force has fallen short, according to some critics in government. During an April 23 speech, David Van Buren, the service’s acting top procurement official, also acknowledged that the number of UCAs open for Air Force contracts is a “major problem” that raised eyebrows in Congress.
“Unfortunately, we have allowed UCAs to just be used more commonly than they should,” said Aeronautical Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Owen during a May 7 interview with AVIATION WEEK. “In our zeal to get product developed and delivered, that led to using UCAs more often than we should.” Owen says his command is reducing the number of UCAs.
As of April 2010, the ASC had 57 undefinitized UCAs; that number is projected to dwindle to zero by July 2011, with fewer projected new UCAs to be opened.
U.S. Lawmakers Push for Additional F/A-18s, C-17s
By JOHN REED
Published: 18 May 2010 16:51
Fresh on the heels of the U.S. Navy's move to buy 124 new F/A-18 Super Hornets and E/A-18G Growlers, Missouri lawmakers on May 18 announced a renewed push for the Pentagon to purchase additional Super Hornets and C-17 Globemaster III cargo haulers.
Calling last week's news of the Super Hornet buy "an important first step," but just a first step in addressing the sea service's looming fighter gap, Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., and fellow Missouri lawmakers held a news conference on Capitol Hill to announce they will urge the Pentagon to buy additional fighters using savings garnered from the multiyear Super Hornet buy.
Bond was joined by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who added that she will insist the Navy use the nearly half a billion dollars in savings from the multiyear buy to "go right back into" buying more Super Hornets to address the Navy's fighter gap.
The pending Super Hornet deal, unveiled May 14, is worth about $70 million per airplane, according to Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo. Akin and McCaskill called out the Navy for issuing "perplexing" estimates regarding the size of the fighter gap, which have ranged from 243 jets to the current estimate of 100.
McCaskill also said that she is trying to get enough votes in the Senate to allow the Air Force to retire its 50 oldest C-5A Galaxys and purchase additional C-17s in the 2011 defense authorization bill, which the Senate is expected to mark up on May 25.
Retiring the C-5As would free up ramp space for the C-17s without building a fleet of strategic airlifters larger than the 317 the Air Force says it needs, according to the Missouri democrat. The House favors such a move, according to Akin, although McCaskill said garnering the votes in the Senate will be a challenge.
Mistakes become career-enders during drawdown
By Michelle Tan - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday May 23, 2010 9:41:00 EDT
Nearly every airman has forgotten to salute, missed a meeting, showed up for work late or flubbed a test.
By and large, those moments strike fear in airmen’s hearts — and for good reason.
A little thing, or a seemingly little thing, can kill a career as much as a big thing. You don’t have to commit a crime to get kicked out of the service. You can be handed your walking papers for simply being in an overmanned career field or flunking the PT test.
And in these times when the Air Force is looking to get rid of 6,000 active-duty airmen, it doesn’t hurt to know what can trip you up — innocuous or not.
The list of potential pitfalls comes mostly from the rank and file. The Air Force doesn’t keep an official list of reasons why airmen separate — either voluntarily or involuntarily, a spokeswoman told Air Force Times.
“Currently we have no means to track the different, varied separation reasons,” Elizabeth Gosselin wrote in an e-mail.
The number of airmen who left the service in fiscal 2009 totaled 2,246, up from 2,234 in fiscal 2008. The number for the first seven months of fiscal 2010 is 1,145.
A tough civilian job market triggered the drawdown, announced in early April by Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. High unemployment plus job security equals high retention. Now, the Air Force is faced with doing its own layoffs.
Schwartz and his force management advisers figure a three-pronged plan — the active-duty cuts along with the delayed commissioning of hundreds of ROTC cadets and severely curtailed recruitment goals — will bring the service back to its congressionally mandated end strength of 332,200. The number right now is about 335,500 and was projected to hit 336,500 by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, if the Air Force didn’t act.
To implement the cuts, the service is using both the carrot and the stick. Some airmen are eligible for incentives — accelerated retirements, voluntary separation pay, fewer years in grade and shortened service commitments, for example. Others are getting the boot — for being denied or declining re-enlistment, poor grades in technical school or being passed over for promotion.
Crime, cross-train and PT
Even if you don’t think you’re vulnerable because of the drawdown, your fellow airmen warn that you should know how to protect your future anyway.
One big way to stay in is to stay out of trouble — criminal trouble.
Assigned to the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, Tech. Sgt. Christina Parsons has seen a lot of airmen get kicked out because they broke the law: smoking pot, viewing pornography — not only at work but at home — writing bad checks, misusing a government travel card, sexual misconduct, assault.
“These are just to name a few,” wrote Parsons, one of three dozen airmen and retirees who responded to a call-out from Air Force Times. “And although most think that there is no way that they will be found out, remember, someone is always watching and/or listening. There is never anywhere to hide.”
An Air Force legal expert backed up Parsons’ contention about crime being bad for careers: A drug conviction, for example, means discharge.
“Most of our courts-martial are drug offenses, marijuana, dereliction of duty, making false statements, disobeying orders, and everything you can imagine, to sexual assault and the occasional murder,” said Col. Ken Theurer, chief of the military justice division in the Air Force Legal Operations Agency.
“We expect our airmen to live up to the Air Force core values at all times,” he said.
Saving your career can be as easy as being open to switching Air Force Specialty Codes.
“Being in an overmanned career field coupled with an unwillingness to cross-train can be a career-ender,” Maj. Juan Doan of the Georgia Air National Guard told Air Force Times. “With the Air Force ranks swelling due to the economy, the Air Force may have to push you out if you are unwilling to move into a position of need.”
Keeping fit is an easy way to make sure you stay in. Involuntary separation is automatic if you get four unsatisfactory fitness assessment scores in a 24-month period or remain in an unsatisfactory fitness category for 12 continuous months.
“The No. 1 career-ender? No question about it, the scarlet letter ‘F’ as in consistent fitness test failure,” Capt. John Parrish wrote. “We’re not a one-mistake Air Force unless you mistakenly under-prioritize your fitness.”
Parrish, an enlisted airman for 10 years before being commissioned eight years ago, never saw or heard of anyone being separated for “gross occupational incompetence (unfortunately) but quite a few due to the old ‘fat boy’ program and the misguided bike test. In other words, historically in the Air Force, you can be a borderline moron in your AFSC and make 20 years, but being a slow runner makes you a dirt bag. That applies to officers and enlisted alike.”
Lies, washouts and rusty skills
Capt. Michael Fontana sent up a red flare about false allegations. He speaks from experience, accused — and eventually acquitted — of giving lethal doses of painkillers to three terminally ill patients at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
“My personal opinion is victims of false accusations and failures of the chain of command are career-enders,” wrote Fontana, who had faced three counts of murder. “I am living proof of such an event. I am trying to remain strong after dealing with this situation, which is now over, but reintegration back into patient care has been an enormous obstacle.”
In the explosive ordnance disposal community, what’s needed to hold on to your job depends on whether the country is at war or not, according to Tech. Sgt. John McCoy. On the battlefield, endangering a fellow team member or killing a non-combatant almost guarantees you’ll be fired as soon as you go back home. During peacetime, you’ll be shown the door if you don’t keep up your skills.
Francis Crotty said he saw his career come to a screeching halt when he had to leave navigator school for medical reasons, though he didn’t realize it at the time. He entered another career field, acquisitions, and retired as a major.
“Washing out of a school, may it be the military member’s choice or not, puts a permanent mark against them forever,” Crotty wrote. “The lesson to be learned is to be successful at everything you undertake, period.”
As a training manager, Master Sgt. Lyndell Massey said he has seen commanders target airmen who have failed a career development course twice — especially during a drawdown.
“Although the commander has multiple options [90-day review period, CDC waiver and retraining], oftentimes the struggling young airman is simply shown the door with minimal benefits and options.”
Massey said he also has seen airmen punished for failing to progress in training or for receiving one too many letters of counseling for decreased performance when dealing with personal or family issues.
“The Air Force says people are their number one resource,” Massey wrote. “If this is true, why are our fellow Air Force brothers and sisters always the first thing on the chopping block to save money?”
Air Force should not relegate F-15 Eagles to boneyard
By Robert F. Dorr - Special to Air Force Times
The F-15 Eagle could be the only air-to-air fighter in history that has never been beaten in battle.
The score is 104-0, according to the Eagle’s manufacturer. The 104 is the number of enemy planes downed by F-15s, and the zero is the number of F-15s lost in air-to-air combat. The total includes aerial victories by American, Israeli and Saudi pilots.
More than 100 Eagles — 112 — are headed to the boneyard, nearly half of 259 perfectly good aircraft that Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to retire from service. The rest of the 500-plus planes in the fleet will be upgraded, but those being retired will not be replaced.
Besides sidelining F-15s, the Air Force is consolidating Eagle training at one location — Kingsley Field in Oregon. The 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., graduated its final five student pilots in May and is saying goodbye to its 48 Eagles. All should be in the boneyard by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
While there’s no doubt that the Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Wing will do a fine job with the F-15 training, it’s sad to see the mission leave Tyndall. In 22 years, the 325th taught 3,900 pilots well.
An instructor at Tyndall likened the F-15 drawdown to “retiring the undefeated New England Patriots.”
Once, there appeared to be a reason for putting the F-15 out to pasture: An Air National Guard pilot had to eject from an Eagle during a routine training mission Nov. 2, 2007, when it broke apart over Missouri. Parts of the plane struck Maj. Stephen Stilwell, hurting him seriously enough that he can no longer fly for the Guard or his private employer, Southwest Airlines. Stilwell brought a personal injury lawsuit against Boeing and declined to be interviewed.
Stilwell’s bailout prompted initial fears of a fleetwide structural problem caused by aging of the F-15, fears that experts now deem unfounded.
Today, F-15s showing the least structural wear and tear are having their lives extended from 8,000 to 16,000 flying hours by upgrades. Despite being 25 years old, many Eagles have just 4,000 or 5,000 hours, not exorbitant flight time for a jet fighter.
Because of the Air Force’s puny F-22 Raptor buy (187 aircraft), the Eagle remains its primary air-to-air fighter. And the F-15 probably keep the honor even when the F-35 Lightning II finally makes it into the air, some airmen theorize. “The F-35 pilots need to accomplish many tasks, and we need a single-mission airplane for the air-to-air role,” as one Eagle pilot put it.
There are lawmakers who want to halt the retirement of the Eagles and are going to debate Gates’ decision come fall. Until Congress has its say, though, the Air Force should halt the “iron flow,” as airmen call it.
Retiring F-15s now is certainly premature because of the resistance on Capitol Hill, and it will ultimately prove unwise because it weakens the nation’s defenses. Ë
Robert F. Dorr, an Air Force veteran, is co-author of “Hell Hawks,” a history of a U.S. fighter group in World War II. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
B-1B Lancer Fleet To the Boneyard?
Back to the Title 10 side of the house for a moment; the Air Force Council meets today to consider further cuts in aircraft to meet aggressive savings targets laid out by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. One option on the table: early retirement of all 66 B-1B Lancer bombers (the last delivery of which came back in 1988).
Force structure cuts might also extend to the air arm’s much cherished but currently under-utilized fighter force. The service already plans to early retire 250 fighters this year, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said last month; gone are 112 F-15s, 134 F-16s, and 3 A-10s.
Some of the fighter wings, mainly A-10, are being chopped altogether, while others are transitioning from legacy F-15s to upgraded F-15s or to the fifth-generation F-22 and other wings are prepping to receive the F-35 at some uncertain future date.
“By accepting some short-term risk, we can convert our inventory of legacy fighters and F-22 (Raptors) into a smaller, more flexible and lethal bridge to fifth-generation fighters like the F-35 (Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter),” Donley said.
While short-range tactical fighters (and potentially bombers) are being cut, the Air Force is adding more MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones and more analysts to scrutinize the massive amounts of imagery they generate.
– Greg Grant
Read more: http://defensetech.org/2010/06/24/b-...#ixzz0royeu5HD
Boeing outlines C-130H and KC-10 cockpit upgrades
By Stephen Trimble
Boeing will upgrade cockpits for US Air Force C-130Hs and KC-10 tankers under separate deals announced on 24 June.
The USAF has cleared Boeing to launch low-rate initial production (LRIP) for the C-130 avionics modernization programme (AMP). Boeing will deliver five of 20 kits ordered by the USAF during the first lot of LRIP, with the balance produced by the Warner Robbins Air Logistics Centre and also by an unnamed competitor.
Boeing developed the AMP kit under a $1.4 billion development programme awarded in 2000 that endured cost overruns and schedule delays until a final restructuring in 2007.
Last year, the USAF attempted to terminate the programme, citing lack of funding. But the service relented under pressure from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Congress.
“I’m very confident that the air force will continue with the C-130 AMP,” says Mike Harris, Boeing vice president of C-130 AMP. “They never said they didn’t need it. They just didn’t have the money.”
The USAF decided in 2007 to qualify alternate sources to build and install about 198 AMP kits developed by Boeing under the original contract. Boeing’s goal is to reduce the price of AMP kit production from $14 million today to $7 million by the 69th aircraft, Harris says.
Meanwhile, Boeing also has received a $216 million contract to upgrade the 59-aircraft KC-10 fleet with a new communication, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management (CNS/ATM) system.
The five-year contract will allow the fleet to operate in civil airspace after 2015, as new US FAA and ICAO standards take effect, Boeing says.
A report I nearly missed...........forgot about it...........
Previewing T-X: The biggest USAF contract nobody is talking about
By Stephen Trimble on June 21, 2010 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBacks (0) |ShareThis
[As promised, here's the link: US Air Force, industry prepare for T-38 replacement)
I'm amazed that the unfolding T-X contract battle, which I'm previewing in this week's magazine (I'll add the link after the story is posted online), isn't one of the biggest news stories in military aviation today.
It's a story that has it all. Controversy? Three largely foreign aircraft in competition with potential American rivals. Size? Projected initial orders range from 350 to 500 aircraft, with follow-on potential up to 1,000. Emotion? Replace the US Air Force's venerable Northrop T-38 Talon, the advanced jet trainer that has primed three generations of fighter and bomber pilots for combat.
And it's a story that's moving very fast. Until a few years ago, the USAF had delayed plans for a T-38 replacement past 2020. A fatal crash in 2008 caused by an over-fatigued aileron helped to change the plan. The in-service date was accelerated to 2017. Since then, the USAF has released two fairly explicit requests for information to industry, detailing what the service thinks it needs.
But there is one thing holding this story back, and it's a 'biggie'. So far, the USAF hasn't put any real funding into the budget for T-X, despite plans to award a full-scale development contract before 2013. Industry expects that oversight to be cleared up in the Fiscal 2012 budget request that will be released in early February.
The USAF will not lack for options. Three off the shelf options exist to replace the T-38: AleniaAermacchi M346 Master, BAE Systems Hawk 128 and Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 Golden Eagle. The catch: All of them are primairly designed and built overseas, although final assembly of course would shift to the US for the T-X contract winner.
But the USAF doesn't have to settle for off the shelf. It's possible that Boeing and perhaps Northrop Grumman could propose an alternative route: design a "purpose-built" -- and, more importantly, "all-American" -- advanced jet trainer.
That option may please a faction of parochial lawmakers, but it will add at least $3 to $5 billion to the program price tag. Given that buying new trainers rank among the lowest of any air force's spending priorities, that may be asking a lot.
One more option still exists, and it's perhaps Northrop's favorite strategy. Rather than buy an all-new aircraft, simply launch a "super-SLEP" (service life extension program) on the T-38 fleet.