Archive for January 27, 2012

FRIDAY FOTO (January 27, 2012)

Afghan Avalanche Rescue

U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Todd Peplow, a helicopter gunner from the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, watches as injured villagers are carried off his Mi-17 helicopter to awaiting ambulances at Fayzabad, Afghanistan. That’s right, his ride is a Russian-made, twin turbine Mi-17 Afghan transport helicopter. The 438th is part of the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing which has been training Afghan Air Force pilots, air and ground crews in tasks ranging from maintenance to flight discipline.

In this photo (click on it to enlarge) you can see some of the tools of the trade that the master sergeant carries, including a helmet-mounted video camera, 9 mm pistol, work gloves, a GPS (global positioning system) and a first aid kit.

Peplow was part of a U.S.-Afghan rescue mission in Badakshan province, after an avalanche trapped and injured residents of Shewa Village in northern Afghanistan.Two Mi-17s  were sent to rescue the injured as well as the crew of a downed Afghan Mi-17. The downed aircrew supplied triage information about the victims — many suffering frostbite — and helped villagers shovel out a landing zone in minus-15-degree-temperatures.

See the photo below for an idea of the terrain and weather the helo crews faced at the landing site — 9,000 feet above sea level.

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Hill, an Mi-17 helicopter engineer with the 438th Squadron, directs villagers to his helicopter. Photo by Master Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo

For additional photos of the rescue operation, click here.

January 27, 2012 at 11:19 am Leave a comment

DEFENSE BUDGET: Where to Make the Cuts

Counter Terrorism Effort Funded

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps will shrink as will the number of Air Force fighter squadrons and Navy cruisers under the Obama administration’s 2013 budget request, but Special Operations Forces and other irregular warfare programs will continue to see steady funding.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff outlined their plans for cutting personnel, programs and units to meet congressionally-mandated spending cuts during a Pentagon briefing session Thursday (Jan. 26).

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff brief the media on major budget decisions. (Defense Dept. photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

The Defense Department will ask Congress for $525 billion in funding for Fiscal Year 2013 which runs from Oct. 1 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013. That’s about $33 billion less than Congress approved for the Pentagon in 2012 9$531 billion). Panetta and military leaders are also seeking an additional $88.4 billion to fund the war in Afghanistan and other overseas contingency operations around the world like this week’s hostage rescue mission in Somalia. That figure, too, is lower than the $115 billion approved by Congress last year.

Earlier this month, Panetta and Dempsey unveiled the Pentagon’s strategic guidance which called for a shift in priorities after a decade of war in iraq and Afghanistan. It calls for focusing more on the Asia-Pacific area while keeping an eye on the Middle East – especially in the area of the Persian Gulf.

But the 2013 budget request is also being driven by pressure from Congress to cut the enormous U.S. Budget deficit. The 2011 Budget Control Act requires the Defense Department to reduce spending by $487 billion over the next 10 years.

“We have to retain the kind of leverage the lessons of recent conflicts have given us,” Panetta told the press briefing. “And we need to stay ahead of the most lethal and distruptive threats that we’re going to face in the future,” he added.

That means protecting – or increasing – investments in things like cyber cabailities, projecting power in denied areas and Special Operations Forces “the kind that we saw that conducted the bin Laden raid and the hostage rescue operation.” Panetta said. Other investments to be protected include homeland missile defense and countering weapons of mass destruction.

Dempsey and other Pentagon officials noted that while the amount of money was directed by Congress, the decisions on where to make the cuts were driven by the strategic guidance and the concdept of matching the size and needs of the military to the missions of the future. “This budget is the first step,” Dempsey said, adding: “It’s a downpayment as we transition from an emphasis on today’s wars to preparing for tomorrow’s.”

Details of the Pentagon’s 2013 budget request will be released after President Obama issues the full budget on Feb. 13. Meanwhile, Pentagon officials outlined some of the proposed cuts and changes:

The Army will be reduced in size from a high of 570,000 in the years after 9/11 to 490,000 by 2017. The Marine Corps will shrink during the same period from a peak of 202,000 to 182,000 personnel.

There are also plans to cut six of the Air Force’s 60 tactical air fighter squadrons. “None of that will impact our ability to police the skies,” Panetta said. The budget also calls for retiring 27 aging C-5As – the massive four-engine intercontinental cargo airlifters – and 65 of the oldest C-130s – smaller turbo-prop transport aircraft. That will still leave the Air Force with 52 modernized C-5Ms and 318 C-130s as well as 222 jet-powered C-17 cargo aircraft.

The Navy will retire seven cruisers ahead of schedule but maintain its 11 nuclear-powered, big deck aircraft carriers, which are deemed essential for projecting power in an era when the number of U.S. overseas bases is shrinking. There are also plans to base one of the new Littoral Combat Ships in Singapore and the Marine Corps will have a small but steady presence in Australia.

Special Operations Forces, like these Army Rangers, will be funded in the 2013 Pentagon budget request. (U.S. Army photo)

Pentagon leaders say the U.S. will be engaged in counter terrorism operations around the globe, so in addition to the emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, there will be a focus on Special Operations Forces like Navy Seals, Green Berets and Army Rangers. Unmanned air systems (UAS) are also getting a boost with funds aimed at sustaining the Air Force MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper. The Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle is also being funded in the next budget.

One UAS that is being cut is the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 program. Panetta said the high flying unmanned surveillance aircraft had proved to be just too expensive at more than $200 million apiece. Instead the Defense Department is extending the Cold War era U-2 spy plane program. Other versions of the Global Hawk, such as the Block 40 and the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance system will continue. Other programs that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance are also being shielded from the budget ax.

January 27, 2012 at 12:40 am Leave a comment


January 2012


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