Posts tagged ‘Air Force’
Gathering of Eagles.
A flight of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets from the 4th Fighter Wing accompany their commander, Col. Jeannie Leavitt, (middle airplane) on her final flight May 29, 2014, over North Carolina.
Leavitt left Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, where she commanded the 4th Fighter Wing, for a Pentagon assignment as the principal military assistant to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Leavitt became the first Air Force female fighter pilot in 1993, and the first female wing commander in 2012. She recorded more than 2,600 flying hours in the F-15E. In 1993, the Defense Department changed its rules, allowing women to serve as combat pilots. She was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The photo above was taken from a KC-135 aerial refueling tanker.
Wearin’ of the Green.
UPDATES with link to AP story on Air Force report about a botched security drill at another ICBM site last summer.
We know we’ve run photos in the past of the sniper camouflage outfit known as a ghillie suit, but this one caught our eye. With the red plastic training rifles and all green smoke, it looks more like a special effects scene from a science fiction movie than an important security exercise at an Air Force nuclear missile base.
But as kooky as the scene in this photo may appear, it illustrates part of a key training session: keeping the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) sites secure.
Here we see the opposing forces — the pretend bad guys — capturing a missile payload transport vehicle during a “recapture and recovery exercise” at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The exercise involved a mock hijack of a payload transporter and the necessary steps for the 91st Security Forces Group to recover the vehicle.
Such exercises evaluate the missile base’s response force and their abilities to deny hostile intruders access to Minot’s Minuteman III nuclear missiles and their launch area. The drills also hone skills for recovering control of critical equipment if attackers do gain access.
UPDATE: The necessity of such exercises has been underscored by an Air Force internal report on the security team’s “botched response” to a simulated attack at another Air Force base last summer, according to an exclusive report by the Associated Press. (See it here)
Chief Master Sgt. Reynold Albright (right) and Philippine Navy personnel prepare a low altitude airdrop from a U.S. Air Force C-130H Hercules cargo plane during Exercise Balikatan near Subic Bay in the Philippines.
Albright is a 36th Airlift Squadron superintendent demonstrating the unique Low-cost, Low-altitude airdrop (LCLA) technique to practice delivering humanitarian aid and supplies to remote regions. LCLA uses available resources and re-purposed personnel parachutes to build supply pallets at a fraction of the cost of other airdrop bundles. The pallets are dropped at low altitude, which improves drop accuracy.
Balikatan, which translates from Tagalog to “shoulder-to-shoulder,” is an annual bilateral exercise focusing on U.S. -Philippine cooperation and mutual defense.
Land, Sea and Air
TAMPA, Florida – Special Operations Forces from the United States and other nations converged on the waterfront of downtown Tampa today (May 21) via parachute, helicopter, inflatable assault boat, all terrain vehicle and swimming underwater in a demonstration of international commando skills at a defense industry conference today.
Your 4GWAR editor saw it all while covering this annual conference where special operators explain their technology and equipment needs to contractors and manufacturers.
The lunchtime event was conducted in the waters just outside the Tampa Convention Center where this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference is being held.
The idea behind the exercise was to showcase the tactical capabilities of commandos from different nations working together. In addition to U.S. Navy SEALS and special boat operators,, Army Rangers, Army and Air Force pilots, the 30-minutes exercise included special ops troops from Britain, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Sweden among others.
The scenario included the “rescue” of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn from “terrorists.” Two MH-6 Littlebird helicopters delivered snipers to cover the rescue. Two rigid hull inflatable assault boats stormed the water front with covering fire from the two small helicopters. An MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter delivered additional troops via rappel rope down to the ground. Still more troops jumped into the water from the Blackhawk and parachutists from the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland jumped from an MC-130 airplane from 8,000 feet and landed in the water near the convention center.
The conference, sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association, drew more than 300 exhibiting companies and nearly 8,000 attendees.
Click on the photos to enlarge.
A U.S. pararescueman assigned to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron lowers into the ocean from an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter as part of a water rescue exercise near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, March 22, 2014.
Pararescuemen, commonly known as PJs (for Pararescue Jumpers) are part of U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Combat Command. They are the only Defense Department personnel specifically trained and equipped to conduct conventional and unconventional recovery operations – over land and water.
The PJ’s primary function is to recover personnel in emergency situations. They are trained in emergency trauma medical capabilities for both humanitarian and combat environments. Their motto — “That Others May Live” — says it all.
The 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron is the Air Force first responder unit charged with personnel recovery in the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa area of responsibility. Based in Djibouti, their mission is to recover aircraft personnel using both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters to get to the scene.
To see more photos of this training exercise, click here.
Hunt for a Warlord
The Obama administration is sending military aircraft and support personnel to assist the efforts of African Union troops to hunt down renegade warlord Joseph Kony and his vicious rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
At a press briefing Monday (March 24) the Pentagon’s press secretary confirmed the Defense Department was deploying four CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, as well as two C-130 Hercules transport planes and a KC-135 aerial refueling tanker to northern Uganda to aid the counter-LRA effort and “specifically to support the air transport requirements of the African Union Regional Task Force.”
The spokesman, Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby, said the aircraft along with 150 aircrew and support personnel will be conducting periodic deployments to Uganda to support the counter-LRA effort. All the aircraft and personnel are based in the East African nation of Djibouti, home to the only fixed U.S. military base in Africa.
They join about 100 U.S. Special Operations troops that have been posted in Central Africa since October 2011 to advise African militaries pursuing senior LRA commanders and protecting civilians. The aircraft deployment was first reported by the Washington Post.
Kony, who is being sought by the United Nations on human rights violation charges, has been leading the LRA on a rampage of pillage, rape, murder and kidnapping across Central Africa for decades, according to the U.S. State Department. U.S. strategy in the area has been to help the governments of Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and South Sudan as well as the African Union and the United Nations “end the threat posed to civilians and regional stability by the LRA.” In addition to military advisers and air transportation, since 2010, the United States has provided $87.2 million to support food assistance, humanitarian protection and other relied activities in areas affected by the LRA.
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The death toll in Guinea from a rare Ebola virus outbreak has risen to 63, according to health officials in the West African nation. International aid workers have set up quarantine centers in the country’s south to isolate patients with the deadly and highly infectious disease, the Associated Press reported.
United Nations agencies and medical charities such as Doctors Without Borders are scrambling to help Guinea – one of the world’s poorest countries – to cope with the virus, amid fears that it could spill over borders into neighboring countries, according to Reuters. Five deaths from the suspected infection were reported in Liberia, which borders southeastern Guinea. And in neighboring Sierra Leone officials said two deaths are suspected to be linked to Ebola.
Ebola is one of a handful of diseases so deadly and contagious that they pose a risk to national security, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bloomberg reported. The CDC lists Ebola as a Category A bioterrorism agent, along with anthrax and smallpox. The virus identified as the one causing the Guinea outbreak is known as the Zaire strain, the most common and the most deadly variety.
There is no known cure or vaccine for the hemorrhagic fever which is spread by close personal contact with people who are infected. The disease killed between 25 and 90 percent of its victims. Symptoms include internal and external bleeding, diarrhea and vomiting, according to the BBC.
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Pirate Activities Shifting
While pirate activities have dwindled off the Horn of Africa there are concerns about an increase in illegal activity in the waters of West Africa.
In its latest ‘Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly Report,” the Office of Naval Intelligence OPINTEL report lists two kidnappings from tugboats off the coast of Nigeria, but zero incidents off the Horn of Africa, according to MarineLink.com
But officials in Ghana are becoming increasingly concerned about piracy off their coast. At a three-day conference on coastal and maritime surveillance in Accra last week, a Ghana Navy official said that while Ghana’s waters were spared pirate activities, there were 50 incidents of ship hijackings in West African waters in 2013.
Captain Issah Yakubu, the director of Naval Administration, said the incidents included ships being taken hostage, their cargo stolen, the crew molested, sometimes even killed. “Fortunately we (Ghana) haven’t suffered any of these insecurities, but then we are not complacent,” he told the Ghana website myjoyonline.com.
Yakubu said security chiefs in the countries around the Gulf of Guinea are also concerned about drug trafficking, citing a recent seizure of a ship carrying 400 kilograms of cocaine from South America to Ghana’s waters, the website noted.
We were saddened to learn Thursday (March 20) that retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Robert “Muck” Brown has died after a long bout with cancer.
Brown, 56, was an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot with 3,100 hours in the 1970s-era tank buster known affectionately as the Warthog, for its homely – some would say ugly – appearance as well as its sturdy, resilient airframe and fearsome armament. That combination made it ideal for delivering close air support to troops on the ground.
Brown flew NATO peacekeeping missions in A-10s over Bosnia and combat missions over Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch in the late 1990s, according to a local North Carolina newspaper, The Mountaineer.
Brown also served as an A-10 instructor. He retired in 2001 but returned to the Air Force for three years after 9/11 – including three months in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He told 4GWAR that he got the nickname “Muck” as a young lieutenant after falling face-first into the mud.
On March 18 he passed away after a three-year struggle with cancer. Funeral services and burial were held Monday, March 24 in Waynesville, N.C.
Your 4GWAR editor met Lieutenant Colonel Brown last November when he emerged as a passionate — but gentlemanly — defender of the Warthog when the Air Force began hinting that it might retire the whole fleet as a cost-savings measure.
At a close air support conference sponsored by two Washington watchdog groups, the Straus Military Reform Project and the Project On Government Oversight, Brown rose to defend the A-10, challenging Air Force claims that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — a Fifth Generation fighter/bomber — could easily replace the A-10 in the ground support mission.
Later, in a lengthy phone interview as he drove back home to North Carolina, Brown told 4GWAR that the A-10 was better suited for the close air support mission because it could fly low and slow – even in bad weather – and take off and land on short, forward area runways. He and other A-10 supporters insisted the Warthog wasn’t a one trick pony and that it was useful for intelligence gathering and surveillance as well as combat search and rescue. The digitized Warthog C model, Brown told us, with a number of technology upgrades, including color multi-function displays and state of the art targeting pods is “more relevant now than it was before 9/11.” “The airplane continues, decade after decade, to prove it’s extremely survivable,” he added.
But in February, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that in order to save money in these fiscally restrained times — and protect top priority Air Force projects in the 2015 defense budget, like the F-35, a new aerial refueling tanker and a planned long range strike bomber, the A-10 fleet would be retired. The Air Force can save $3.5 billion over five years by retiring the 300-plus A-10 fleet rather than upgrade it, Hagel said.
Hagel, an infantry sergeant in Vietnam who knew first-hand the importance of close air support, said it was a tough decision to eliminate the beloved A-10. But he noted it was a “40-year-old single-purpose airplane originally designed to kill enemy tanks on a Cold War battlefield.” The A-10 “cannot survive or operate effectively where there are more advanced aircraft or air defenses,” Hagel added.
Several members of Congress — including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican and wife of a retired A-10 pilot — have voiced concern or outright opposition to the planned A-10 retirement. So it could be months before we know the fate of the twin-engine A-10.
Modern Face of War
UPDATES with additional information and links
The camera that took this photo was using a night vision lens, just like the night vision goggles worn by these combat air traffic controllers, a little known speciality (outside the military community) in the U.S. Air Force and Special Operations Forces. They are the first to arrive at hazardous landing areas (either because of enemy action or damage from natural disaster) to set up aircraft landing or parachute drop zones. Combat controllers are FAA certified air traffic controllers who provide the link between the air and ground forces in direct action, special reconnaissance, humanitarian assistance and foreign internal defense operations.
This Combat Controller Team is from the 720th Special Tactics Group, based at Hurlburt Field, Florida. In this photo they are relaying wind speed and aircraft direction to a C-130 H3 cargo plane during night operations on an airfield in northeastern Niger, late last month (Feb. 28) during Joint Exercise Flintlock 2014. Troops from Canada, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom — as well as 6 north and west African nations participated in Niger this year.
Flintlock is an annual, African-led, military exercise focused on security, counter-terrorism and military humanitarian support to outlying areas. Each year a different government in west Africa plays host to the exercise, which includes U.S. forces and troops from other non-African countries. To see an Africa Command slide show of the wide variety of Flintlock 2014 activities, click here.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft takes off on a mission at dawn from Baghram Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 11, 2014.
For a slideshow of other activities around Baghram that cold clear morning, click here.
Eyes in the Sky Needed
The head of U.S. Africa Command said Thursday (March 6) that he is woefully short of intelligence-gathering assets like unmanned aircraft to monitor the vast, troubled stretches of North West Africa.
Gen. David Rodriguez told the Senate Armed Services Committee that only 11 percent of his command’s intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) needs were being met – but that was up from just 7 percent last year.
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the senior Republican on the panel, said he found those numbers “pretty troubling.” He noted that when violence broke out in South Sudan last December, ISR assets had to be pulled away from helping African and U.S. Special Operations troops track down the murderous renegade rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Headed by indicted war criminal Joseph Kony, the LRA has for decades murdered and plundered its way across Central Africa, kidnapping children to be used as soldiers or sex slaves.
There are two unmanned surveillance drones and about 100 U.S. Air Force personnel to operate and maintain them based in Niger to help French and African peacekeepers restore order after a military coup fueled a revolt by nomadic Tuaregs that morphed into a takeover by Islamic extremists. More drones reportedly fly out of the U.S. military’s one African base, Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti to monitor Sudan, Somalia and other flash points around the Horn of Africa.
Rodriquez told the Senate panel that the biggest intelligence gap he faced ranged from northern Mali to eastern Libya at the northern end of the continent. The Army general said he needed Joint STARS surveillance aircraft and remotely piloted air vehicles [drones] “to cover that vast range.”
At he start of the hearing, to explore the needs of AFRICOM and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, said ISR assets were “a particular area of focus” for the panel this year since the Pentagon decided to reduce its capacity for round-the-clock unmanned combat air patrols because of budget constraints.
In his written testimony for the hearing, Rodriguez said his command was “making significant progress” in expanding collaboration and information-sharing with African and European partners to reduce threats and increase stability in a region threatened by violent extremist organizations..
While AFRICOM can mitigate immediate threats and crises like violent extremist organizations like al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab in Somalia, long term solutions will hinge on development of “effective and democratic partner nation security institutions and professional [armed] forces that respect civil authority.
He noted that Africa will be “increasingly important to the United States in the future.” It is home to six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies, a population estimated to double by 2050. “Nearly 80 percentr of United Nations peacekjeeping personnel worldwide are deployed in missions to Africa,” Rodriguez said. “Modest investments, in the right places, go a long way in Africa,” he added.