Wednesday, September 30, 2009

USAF to Reenact Historic Wright-Brothers 1905 Flight

An authentic replica of the 1905 Wright Flyer III will return to take flight at Huffman Prairie Flying Field on Wright-PAtterson AFB (Ohio) Monday, Oct. 5.

The flight will re-enact one that took place Oct. 5, 1905, on the same 84 acres of prairie, when Wilbur Wright flew 24 miles in 39 minutes, circling the field 29 times, at an average speed of 38 miles per hour, said Julia Frasure, a park ranger and education specialist with the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

Vintage aircraft builder and pilot Mark Dusenberry, from Dennison, Ohio will make the flight using a hand-built aircraft and catapult system virtually identical in every respect to the one designed by Wilbur and Orville Wright 104 years ago.

The event is free and open to the public. An opening ceremony starts at 9:30 a.m. There is no seating, so visitors are invited come early, wear comfortable walking shoes, bring a lawn chair and a camera. Carpooling is encouraged.

Also on hand will be an exhibit celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the first plane to fly in Canada, the Silver Dart.

The event is hosted by the National Park Service, National Aviation Heritage Alliance and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, with the support of many partners. For more information visit or call (937) 425-0008 or (937) 225-7705.


USAF Recalls Retired Pilots

­The secretary of the Air Force has initiated two voluntary recall to active duty programs and expanded the number of eligible Air Force specialties for an existing one to help minimize the service's critical shortage of rated officers.

"The rapid expansion of unmanned aircraft systems as well as other emerging missions and rated requirements that directly support contingency operations created a demand for experienced, rated officers that exceeds current Air Force levels," said Col. William Foote, the Air Force Personnel Center director of personnel services.

The Voluntary Retired Rated Officer Recall Program allows the secretary of the Air Force to order retired Air Force rated officers to active duty. The Voluntary Limited Period Recall Program and Voluntary Permanent Rated Officer Recall Program allow Reserve officers the opportunity to apply for recall to extended active duty. Rated officers include pilots, combat systems officers and air battle managers.

Adriana Bazan, the chief of voluntary officer recall operations, said these programs are designed to put experienced and motivated officers back into the Air Force ranks.

"There has been a tremendous response to these programs with more than 500 rated officers selected for recall to active duty," Ms. Bazan said. "Applications remain steady, averaging 70 per month."

The success of these programs was lauded by Maj. Gen. Marke Gibson during a recent visit to AFPC. General Gibson, the Air Force director of operations, praised the results of the programs and underscored the operational impact of these critical positions in today's fight.

"These officers possess the knowledge and training to effectively contribute to our success in the joint fight," General Gibson said. "Their role is crucial as the Air Force boosts its unmanned (aircraft) systems capabilities and leverage our latest technologies across all warfighting domains."

Lt. Col. Deborah Landry, AFPC operations staff assignments branch chief, said officers returning thus far have been assigned to the full spectrum of the Air Force's rated billets and come from backgrounds as diverse as those retiring later this year to F-111 Aardvark pilots who last flew in Desert Storm.

"Each officer brings unique expertise and wisdom to the Air Force mission," said Colonel Landry.

In the fall 2009 assignment cycle, 149 recalled officers were matched to rated staffs, filling critical billets that would have otherwise remained vacant due to the shortage of active-duty officers available to move out of operational flying assignments. In addition, many of those recalled officers who are current and qualified in an Air Force aircraft or are eligible for local training are being utilized in flying assignments.

"Unfortunately, there is not enough training available to return every rated officer to an active flying assignment," she said. "But, every qualified applicant is being offered an assignment and will be a valuable asset to the rated force."

More than 225 officers have already received orders and are returning to active duty.

Daniel Elkins (AFNS)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

US, Allied Navies' SHADE Meetings Discuss Anti-Piracy Strategy

Pirate activity has increased recently off the coast of Somalia with four attempted attacks occurring on motor vessels in the Gulf of Aden since Sept. 19.

Three separate unsuccessful attacks occurred Sept. 19 and 20, while the most recent attack occurred Sept. 26 on the Panamanian-flagged Motor Vessel Handy V, in which seven pirates were arrested by the Turkish ship TCG Gediz (F-495), assigned to NATO's Piracy Task Force. This brings the total number of piracy attacks on merchant vessels in 2009 to 146, 28 of which have been successful.

In order to coordinate, deconflict, and maximize the effectiveness of naval forces conducting counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, naval leaders from 30 nations and international organizations met on 29 September for a series of meetings held in Bahrain.

The Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) meetings provide a working-level opportunity for navies to come together to share information and deconflict counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia.

"By synchronizing and deconflicting our efforts, Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, EU, NATO and other international forces are making a difference," said Commodore Tim Lowe, deputy commander, Combined Maritime Forces.

Last week, CMF warned mariners of an increase in piracy off Africa's coast as the monsoon season has ended and expectations are that pirate activity will again increase as they target passing ships.

"CTF 151 is ready to counter these attacks and support vessels in need," said Rear Adm. Scott E. Sanders, commander, CTF 151. "We're not being passive out here; we're being proactive. We are creating an environment in which pirates are not so bold."

CMF continues to operate off the coast of Somalia to enhance the security of commercial maritime routes.

"We make every attempt to intercept the skiffs with pirate paraphernalia before they can attack a merchant ship," said Sanders.

Multinational forces are on patrol and prepared to defend commercial and fishing vessels and keep the area safe for trade and passage.

According to Sanders, the maritime strategy is at work each and every day off the coast of Somalia and coalition naval forces are ready to respond to any surge in piracy.

Since August 2008, CTF 151 and other cooperating naval forces have disarmed and released 343 pirates, 212 others have been turned over for prosecution, and 11 were killed.

The presence of Coalition naval vessels in the region demonstrates a commitment to regional security and stability. CTF 151 continues to improve its working relationship with all the naval forces in the region by coordinating efforts and streamlining communication to strengthen counter piracy efforts.

B.K. Dandridge (NNS)

Don't Call Them 'Playstation Pilots'

Ten pilots and nine sensor operators graduated Sept. 25 from initial qualification training at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., where they learned to operate the MQ-1 Predator.

Among the graduates were eight pilot candidates from nonpilot career fields.

The group was part of a Beta-test class to train pilots who have not attended undergraduate pilot training. Service officials are currently refining aeronautical training programs for operation of these remotely-flown vehicles. A second Beta class is currently underway.

During the ceremony, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz congratulated all of the students and emphasized the importance of their mission, stressing the role they will play in the evolution of unmanned aircraft systems.

"You are in the front row of history with the game-changing capabilities you provide," General Schwartz said. "The success of our Air Force and the joint team depends on your professional and personal excellence."

Air Force officials have been working hard to increase UAS availability to meet the "insatiable demand" for the capabilities these Air Force aircraft provide. There are currently 37 UAS combat air patrols supporting ongoing operations, and the service is working to achieve 50 combat air patrols over the next two years. Because the systems are unmanned in name only, central to the goal is how to best develop manning of the UAS force.

"You are part of the major Air Force development of the decade," General Schwartz said. "The culture change for our Air Force has to do with the future of UAS and how we see ourselves as Airmen."

Air Force leaders said there are still fundamental questions to be answered including career field title, aeronautical rating, active-duty service commitment, and Air Force specialty code designation. Additionally, there are significant professional development issues to be addressed with regard to the high-operations tempo the UAS force maintains.

The intent is to develop a professional, sustainable population of UAS and sensor operators with includes equitable opportunities for promotion, developmental education, leadership and command.

"Secretary (of the Air Force Michael B.) Donley and I recognize that our Airmen are the linchpin in this system and we are giving it our personal attention," General Schwartz said. "As we grow technical expertise from within the community, we will also focus on developing future UAS leaders," the general pledged.

During training, the students used their time at Creech AFB to perform 16 simulator events and nine Predator flights. Within those simulator events and flights, they performed joint, ISR and close-air-support missions.

The course brought individuals from varying backgrounds together to work as a team, operating an asset that is high demand in overseas contingency operations. For most, entry into the UAS program was an opportunity to join the cutting edge of technology in today's Air Force.

Capt. Rob McGowan, a former security forces officer, always wanted to be a pilot. However, it wasn't until the creation of this program that he got the chance to make his dream a reality.

"I had been deployed several times overseas and saw the impact the Predators were making on the ground and I wanted to be a part of that," Captain McGowan said.

Working alongside the pilot, one Airman saw this course as an opportunity to be more involved in supporting the on-going efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I wanted to make a greater impact on the war on terrorism," said Staff Sgt. Laura Hernandez, a 15th Reconnaissance Squadron sensor operator. "I just felt I could do more."

The team works together to make that mission succeed, with the pilot flying the aircraft, and the sensor operator using the camera and associated sensors to gather data.

"We are an extra set of eyes and ears for the pilot," Sergeant Hernandez said. "I am tasked to operate the camera and help monitor the system. We can request airspace and help the pilot find clear paths to fly the aircraft."

Together the pilot and sensor operator provide information to commanders in the field, strike targets not easily accessible by ground forces, and protect troops on the ground.

For both officer and enlisted, the selection process was competitive. It would be just the first hurdle the students had to clear.

For the officers, their qualification training spanned many months and several locations. The eight officers without a flying background initially spent about two weeks in Pueblo, Colo., getting flight experience, to include a solo flight. Then it was on to Randolph AFB, Texas, for instrument training, and finally arriving at Creech AFB, where they actually flew the unmanned aircraft and worked alongside their enlisted counterparts.

For the enlisted Airmen, the path to graduation took a slightly different route. Initial career field training at Randolph AFB was the first step, followed by 45 more days of training at Creech AFB prior to graduation.

After the graduation Sergeant Hernandez said the program, while tough, was the most fun she ever had and that it was an honor to be in this position.

"The training was fast and furious they threw a lot at us," Sergeant Hernandez said. "It is a great responsibility to take all that information and go out and perform."

Ryan Mattox (AFNS)

Monday, September 28, 2009

AMC Testing C-17 Semi-Prepared Runway Ops

At many bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, Air Mobility Command airlifters, such as the C-17 Globemaster III, are landing on dirt runways bringing much-needed cargo to forward-deployed Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and coalition partners.

These "semi prepared" airfields are rugged and to improve operations to forward operating bases, AMC tested the capabilities of aircraft landing through semi prepared runway operations to increase the capability of the C-17 to meet warfighter needs.

This summer, AMC officials conducted SPRO testing at numerous undisclosed locations around the world using the C-17 platform. In their results, they found the C-17 is able to take off and land on 65 percent of the world's soils, whereas previously it was only able to take off and land on 6 percent.

The 59 percent increase in semi-prepared airfield take offs and landings for the C-17 means more stops can be made in areas otherwise not available. As recently as June, C-17s were the primary aircraft delivering more than 300 Army Stryker vehicles to military forces in bases throughout Afghanistan.

It's through "surge" operations such as the Stryker vehicle delivery where this increase in capability is significant, AMC officials said.

The Air Force's airlift support for the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, which includes the C-17, was also recognized by Army Gen. David Petraeus, the CENTCOM commander, in August during the U.S. Air Forces Central change of command.

"Moving the mass formations of troopers and the iron mountain of materiel to perform our missions would be impossible without the phenomenal airlift support provided by the men and women of AFCENT," General Petraeus said.

Through the past three years, "crews flew more than 100,000 airlift sorties, moved more than 2 million personnel, delivered nearly 300,000 tons of cargo, and executed almost 2,000 airdrops throughout the CENTCOM AOR," he added.

Through SPRO testing, the dramatic capability increase of the C-17 was made possible by an additional piece of equipment, called a grip tester, that measures friction, said Maj. James Hill, the Chief of the Aircraft Test Management Branch at AMC headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. AMC, in an ongoing effort to continue to advance efficiencies while maintaining operational effectiveness, requested the test be performed to improve the C-17's overall mission.

"The C-17 SPRO test results will translate into expanded capability since rainy or wet weather conditions won't be such a limiting factor at austere locations with semi-prepared or dirt runways," Major Hill said.

The test results translate to customers being more likely to "get the goods" they need to complete their respective missions. Such deliveries might involve resupplying a forward operating base with ammunition, food, equipment parts or even everyday supplies such as toilet paper or light bulbs.

"Sometimes you have to get a little dirty to advance mobility capability," said Col. John Scorsone, the director of AMC Test and Evaluation. "This test effort will clear a path to future austere landing operations for the C-17."

The test evaluated how C-17s can fly into more restrictive locations and areas under varying weather conditions in an effort to best meet the needs of the warfighter as well as providing rapid response at home and abroad in response to humanitarian relief operations, Colonel Scorsone said.

Testing also evaluated C-17 takeoffs and landings in dry and various wet conditions, and increased the aircraft's operating weight capacity by 41,000 pounds.

"This payload increase allows more people and cargo to be transported at one time, possibly reducing the number of flights necessary to get supplies and troops to theater," Colonel Scorsone said. "Extra payload can also equate into more fuel the C-17 is able to carry, adding capability and flexibility to the aircraft."

The 140 flight-hour test involved flying multiple sorties to dirt strips around the country was an effort to characterize how different soil types hold up under multiple C-17 operations into and out of the particular ground environment.

The takeoffs and landings were evaluated by whether or not the aircraft had the distance and speed to takeoff or land as determined by a mission computer. The mission computer takes into account aircraft weight and environmental conditions. If the test dirt strip met the requirements as dictated by the mission computer, a test takeoff and landing were conducted.

To determine ground conditions, aircrews use a runway condition reading to determine the moisture levels of the ground, Major Hill said. The lower the number of an RCR, the higher the moisture content, the higher number of an RCR, the lower the moisture content. An RCR of 20 represents a relatively dry surface, while an RCR of four represents a surface as slick as ice.

Before this test, if any moisture was present on the dirt strip, ground personnel had to use an overly restrictive RCR rating of four which significantly limited the C-17's flexibility. If no moisture was present, an RCR rating of 20 was used, thereby increasing the C-17s velocity and capacity to deliver our mission to the warfighter as well as assist nations in need.

After this test, with the help of the grip tester, ground personnel will have a range of RCRs they can designate on a strip of land, making it a more usable runway.

"This testing allows us to determine a range of RCRs from four to 20, which will improve our overall ability to operate into otherwise overly restrictive locations," Major Hill said. "We will be able to get into more locations under varying weather conditions.

According to the test report, all test objectives were met. A final decision on equipment available to ground personnel to use is still pending until results are briefed to the AMC Operations Directorate.

Bekah Clark (AFNS)

NAVSEA Testing Integrated Swimmer Defense Team

The US Navy's Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) reports its personnel completed a week-long test of the second Integrated Swimmer Defense (ISD) User Operational Evaluation System (UOES2) on Sept. 18. The UOES2 is currently in the final stages of development.

The NAVSEA ISD team is supporting acquisition of an enhanced, deployable ISD capability for the Maritime Expeditionary Security Forces (MESF). "The testing event was very successful in meeting all of the objectives set forth prior to commencement," said James Pollock, NUWC's project lead for the ISD system.

The mission of the MESF is to protect strategic port facilities, strategic commercial shipping and naval ships operating within the shallow waters, at anchorages and in harbors, from bare beach to sophisticated port facilities, to ensure the uninterrupted flow of cargo and units to the combatant commander. This mission has the added requirement of protecting critical assets along the littorals of the United States and its territories from terrorist attacks.

The ISD team is setting the stage for the acquisition of an end-to-end detect-to-engage anti-swimmer capability for the MESF community based on current commercial technology, reports NAVSEA.

"Many of us considered this test to be the most critical of the three integration test events due to the large jump in system capability from the first integration test we conducted in mid-June of this year," said Pollock. "This is the optimal time to identify and correct any major issues with the system before the final integration test scheduled for November."

The test was the second of three integration tests of the UOES2. NAVSEA states that the system is scheduled to be delivered to the MESF for evaluation in early spring 2010.


Army Looks for "Abrams Lite"

The Army is exploring the possibility of developing a 60-ton Abrams main battle tank that provides as much protection as the current 75-ton version, reports Army Times.

Plans to lighten the vehicle complement an existing Army effort to build prototypes of a tougher, more high-tech M1A3 Abrams main battle tank by 2014, with an aim to field it by 2017. The US Army plans to keep the Abrams MBT in the field through 2050.


Friday, September 25, 2009

KC-X Tanker Acquisition Program Takes Off (Again)

Senior Department of Defense and Air Force officials announced the rollout of the KC-X Acquisition Program at a Pentagon briefing Sept. 24. Air Force leaders are seeking a replacement for the KC-135 Stratotankers that entered service between 1956 and 1964.

William J. Lynn, deputy secretary of defense,.termed the search to be a "best value" competition, not one based solely on cost. "We tried to play this straight down the middle," Mr. Lynn said. "You will also see that this strategy weighs both price and non-price factors. Thus, it is not a Low-Price Technically Acceptable approach. In acquisition parlance, it is a Best Value competition, with both price and non-price factors taken into account."

In addition to acquisition cost, the Air Force will consider factors such as efficiency, wartime performance (as determined in military simulations), and lifecycle costs (operations and maintenance).

Michael Donley, secretary of the Air Force, and Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, also took part in the hour-long briefing.

Currently, there are 415 KC-135s in the Air Force inventory. The KC-X program calls for 179 new tankers over 15 years.

The first production KC-X delivery is planned for 2015, with a planned initial operating capability of 2017.

"As we integrate the KC-X into the fleet, we will begin evaluating our future tanker needs and begin work on the second phase, KC-Y," Secretary Donley said. A third phase is called KC-Z. The complete program has a potential value of 35 billion Dollars.

KC-X must be a highly capable and go-to-war-on-day-1-ready aircraft for the warfighter, Secretary Donley said. "We expect the KC-X to be far more capable than the KC-135."

The winning aircraft must meet 373 mandatory requirements, including:

· a permanent centerline drogue to refuel receptacle and probe-equipped aircraft;

· a receiver receptacle to allow it to refuel from KC-135s, KC-10s or another KC-Xs;

· an integrated Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures system, which the current tankers do not have; and

· improved communications; navigation and air traffic capabilities to allow it global airspace access.

Potential contractors and Congress both have 60 days to have a look at the new tanker draft request for proposals and offer comments and suggestions. After that, the Pentagon will release a final RFP, and contractors will have 60 days to respond. Then the Air Force gets a maximum of 120 days to evaluate the offers
. A decision is expected in June 2010.

Mr. Carter said the source selection strategy will be objective to ensure contractors bidding on KC-X know what it takes to win. He said it will also be transparent so when a winner is chosen everyone can understand why that bidder won.


Army's electronic warfare needs receive heightened emphasis

As the U.S. Army approaches eight years of counter-insurgency operations in two theaters, Iraq and Afghanistan, the enemy use of the electromagnetic spectrum against U.S. Soldiers has remained a persistent challenge.

Protecting Soldiers from improvised explosive devices and providing them with an accurate and complete understanding of their environment across the spectrum has brought about significant change in focus for the Army in the area of Electronic Warfare.

Land component commanders and their staffs must now be more adept in their knowledge of how the electromagnetic spectrum can both positively as well as negatively impact operations, officials said. They said by tightly integrating EW as a form of non-kinetic fires with existing kinetic capabilities, the Army can achieve spectrum dominance through an effects-based joint operations plan.

The Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors has stepped to the forefront in supporting this new direction with a focus on operationalizing EW as an integrated battlefield capability that will enhance situational awareness, improve force protection, enable dominant maneuver, and aid in precision lethality.

To meet the emerging demand for the recently established EW vision, PEO IEW&S stood up the Project Manager Electronic Warfare office Sept. 1 under Col. Rod Mentzer.

PM EW, formerly Project Director Signals Warfare, was established to give the developing areas of EW a home for all of their integration needs.

"We're changing the name to highlight the core competencies of this project management office as the Army transitions into an era of increased emphasis on capabilities associated with electronic warfare," said Brig. Gen. Thomas Cole, program executive officer for IEW&S.

"We have a talented, experienced workforce and synergy of effort among IEW&S, RDECOM, and CECOM here for doing this type of work. PM EW provides the Army a focal point for providing EW capability to Soldiers," Cole said.

This change in direction coincides with recent actions within the Army to establish a formal home for EW requirements.

"As the Army began to get its fingers back into the fight and electronic warfare scenarios came to the forefront, the Army decided it needed to get back into the EW arena and stood up an office in the G3/5/7 shop," said Mentzer, referring to the establishment of the Electronic Warfare Division in the Pentagon.

In February, an EW military occupation series was created, the 29 series, that will eventually give the Army the largest electronic-warfare manpower force of all the services. Nearly 1,600 EW personnel, serving at every level of command, will be added to the Army over the next three years, officials said.

The Army's EW personnel will not only be experts in fighting the threat of IEDs, but they will be versed in a much more complex challenge of controlling the electromagnetic environment in land warfare by tactical employment of the three major EW tenets: electronic attack, electronic protection, and electronic warfare support -- to gain an advantage in support of tactical and operational objectives across the full spectrum of operations.

PM EW is poised to supply these Soldiers with the tools they need to operate within the EW spectrum, Mentzer said.

"PM Electronic Warfare will enable and support these adaptive, versatile and full- spectrum-capable Electronic Warfare Soldiers with the highest technology possible," Mentzer said.

Product Managers CREW, Prophet and Information Warfare will remain under the EW charter as the organization poises itself to take the prominent position in fielding and sustaining systems, which will meet the Army's EW needs.

PM EW currently fields various versions of Counter RCIED Electronic Warfare Systems, Prophet-enhanced systems and a multitude of classified systems. In fiscal year 2009, the organization fielded more than 36,000 CREW devices as well as more than 30 Prophet systems.

Over the near term, Mentzer said he plans on working closely with the G3 as they define the requirements and the direction the Army will take in the realm of EW.

In summarizing the role EW will play in the Army in current conflicts, as well as in the future, Gen. Raymond Odierno, Multi-National Force-Iraq commander said, "I think by having (EW specialists) within every unit in Multi-National Corp-Iraq, in Afghanistan and any future operation, it will better enable our forces to combat the threat that is inside the electronic warfare spectrum."

"This expertise and capacity will obviously help save the lives of our Soldiers and it will also help us to move forward and understand the spectrum as we continue to develop our operation."

Brandon Pollachek (ANS)

"No Cookie Cutter Approach" in Afghanistan, Says US General

A cookie-cutter approach to helping Afghan forces take back control of their country is not what the people of Afghanistan need, said Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, addressing thousands of Soldiers Tuesday, at the 2009 Infantry Warfighting Conference in Columbus, Ga.

Caldwell, commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and the commandant of the Command and General Staff College, spoke on training, equipping, advising and building the confidence of Afghan national security forces as the Army transitions its advisory mission from smaller, transition team elements to brigade combat teams.

"Doctrine which has always been our touchstone is still just as relevant but it's not a cookie cutter approach," Caldwell said. "We need to understand our doctrine and how it applies, but we cannot afford to let our doctrinal molehills to literally become impassible mountains ... the complex situations we are operating today require nothing less.

Caldwell's seminar focused on changing the American Soldier's mindset toward security force assistance and he encouraged Soldiers to partner at all echelons with the Afghan national security forces. If the U.S. advisory mission in Afghanistan fails it is the Afghans who will live those consequences, said Caldwell, citing a story from a deployed lieutenant who recalled an Afghan village that refused U.S. aid because the Taliban threatened to return and kill the villagers once the U.S. pulls out of the area.

"It's imperative for us to develop the Afghan security forces with sufficient capability to protect their people, their government and their borders," he said. "We must leave the Afghan people with enduring capability and force generation capacity for security or they will lose the means to resist (the Taliban) when we leave in the end. It's not (about) how well we can secure them in the short term, but rather how well we prepare them and assist them for the long term."

In building Afghan security forces, Caldwell said there were three conditions for reaching a desirable end state: the force should be able to provide reasonable security, be founded on a rule of law and be sustainable. But Caldwell cautioned Soldiers not to attempt to "Americanize" Afghan forces by imposing rules that impact their culture.

"As we establish training standards and conduct the training of foreign security forces, we need to keep in mind that an American solution may not be culturally acceptable to the local population or any foreign culture," he said. Caldwell encouraged Soldiers to build a rapport with Afghan security forces and foster relationships that build trust.

Key elements that are paramount to be successful in the advisory mission include a change in mindset, flexible brigades, relationships built on trust and being prepared to share intelligence. When considering sharing information, "don't ask yourself, should I do it, ask yourself why can't I do it?" he said. "As General (Stanley) McChrystal said in his guidance 'share the same battle rhythm and information, integrate them into your command and control structures. We must be prudent with OPSEC but we also must realize the need to embrace the development of these forces,'" Caldwell said.

"It's not just sharing intelligence, it's the mindset that tells you how critically important it is that you operate as one entity and develop that trust between yourselves. Our strength comes from our partnerships - and it's about people," he said.

"This is the method and the tools that will allow us to get after what we need done in that battle space in order to create room for national forces to secure the population and create police," said Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, commanding general of Fort Benning.

Following his speech, Caldwell took questions from the audience and was presented a 'Follow Me' statue mounted to a brick from Fort Benning's Building 4, the future site of the Maneuver Center of Excellence.

Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey, senior NCO for 4th Infantry Division, said Caldwell's speech re-emphasized the concepts 4th Infantry Division has integrated into its ranks and hopes it will lead to more resources being available. "We've been living it and training it for some time now," said Dailey, who has one brigade combay team training for the advisory mission, one currently deployed to Afghanistan and another brigade that recently returned home.

Dailey said he expects the advisory mission to be the culminating effort in Iraq that will help security forces transition and take complete control for the country's defense. More work will be needed in Afghanistan but Dailey said the concepts discussed at the conference may make a big difference in the country.

The Taliban has had and will continue to have a foothold in Afghanistan for a long time but the U.S. can make an impact by focusing on training and building the confidence of the security forces, he said.

Kristin Molinaro (ANS)

FOL Manta Closes for Good

Operations at Forward Operating Location Manta, Ecuador, came to an end Sept. 18, as the nation's left-wing government refused to renew the lease.

Located at the Ecuadorian Air Force Base Eloy Alfaro, FOL Manta has been a well-defined part of a multinational partnership to stop illegal narcotic trafficking over the eastern Pacific Ocean. Missions flown by the 487th EOS included aerial detection, monitoring, tracking and control of narcotic activities. About 60% of all drug shipments intercepted in the eastern Pacific had been identified through flights out of Manta.

Counterdrug flights will now be conducted from forward operating locations in Colombia.

Despite the eviction by Ecuador's  government, US forces remain optimistic about future cooperation with that nation's military. American military officials  donated almost $1 million worth of equipment, food and supplies to local establishments near Manta.

Among the donated items were five vehicles, an ambulance, a runway sweeper, office and medical supplies, and tools. More than 30 organizations received donations including six schools, seven fire departments, two outreach programs, two orphanages, four hospitals and three soup kitchens.

The support for FOL Manta and other communities in Manabi Province is nothing new for U.S. servicemembers.

Unit members carried out an intensive community relations program since it opened in 1999. In an average year, troops volunteered for 200 events and donated more than 4,000 hours and 15,000 items. Just last year, nonprofit organizations in the country received $30,000 in donations from the U.S. Embassy as well.

"We appreciate the goodwill shown by our Ecuadorian hosts over that past 10 years," Colonel Jared Curtis, commander of the 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron which had been flying out of Manta, said. "Their support was key to our success."


Vietnam-Era USN Unit Secures Iraqi Waterways

The Navy's Riverine Squadron 2, a Vietnam-era security patrol brought back after 9/11, is securing Iraq's waterways here and giving its sailors unique opportunities.

"The training we receive is unlike anything else we do in the Navy," Navy Cmdr. Ty Britt said. "It's physically demanding as well as mentally challenging, requiring us to learn small unit tactics and apply them on the water."

Britt, of Mississippi, commands Riverine Squadron 2 under 17th Fires Brigade tactical control. Known as the "brown-water" Navy because of its association with coastal waters, the squadron has three detachments based in Multinational Division South.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Harold M. Crockett, assistant public affairs officer for the squadron's headquarters and one-time squadron bow gunner, is based here where detachments 2 and 3 are responsible for patrolling the inland waterways of Basra province, to include the Shatt al Arab and Qarmat Ali rivers.

The Fort Worth, Texas, native echoes Britt's statement regarding the squadron's sometimes demanding schedule.

Crockett remembers past deployments with the squadron, working 18 hours or more daily. Such hours are mission-dependent and not the case now in Iraq, he said, but that doesn't mean his Riverines are any less prepared to accomplish the most demanding task.

"It's very different from the rest of the Navy," Crockett said. "When we're ready to roll on a mission, there's time for a pre-combat check and we go. Riverines are expected to have the experience and the motivation to excel and stand on their own, and they do. We deliver."

Not used since the Vietnam War, the squadron resumed official operations after 9/11 to assist with ongoing coastal operations throughout the world. Serving under the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, the Norfolk, Va.-based Riverine Squadron 2 is on its second deployment to Iraq since its formation in 2007.

In securing the waterways of Iraq, and in accordance with the U.S.-Iraq security agreement, squadron forces conduct combined operations with the Iraqi forces, training them in operations, intelligence and surveillance.

Being relatively new to Basra, Britt said, his squadron is still in the beginning phases of establishing working relationships with Iraq's coastal border guard, river police and army. Tasked with conducting both day and night operations, Britt said their current operating schedule remains flexible.

"We try to base our patrols on . . . times that our Iraqi partners feel suit the training and mission objectives they're looking for," he said.

When patrolling, Riverines need fine-tuned interpersonal skills when called upon to interact with local civilians, whether through boat-to-boat searches or during their routine shoreline foot patrols, Britt said. Each detachment also has a quick-reaction security team prepared to set out in patrol boats at a moment's notice to provide land-based operations including security, extractions and searches for weapons caches.

"It is our job to interact with the locals to let them know why we are there," Britt said, "to stop dangerous, illegal activities."

During joint patrols with their Iraqi counterparts, a Riverine's main job is to provide overwatch, Britt said. In circumstances when joint patrols are not required, such as in base defense, independent patrols can be conducted.

By conducting combined patrols and training with Iraqi forces, the squadron is increasing Iraqi capabilities to interdict waterborne smuggling of weapons, deny violent extremist networks the use of the provincial waterways and promote Iraqi rule of law.

The squadron's Sailors appreciate the chance to train alongside the Iraqis.

"It's really interesting to work with another culture and getting to know their customs and values," said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Tim M. Bower, of Hawaii. "Working with them is an experience that I've enjoyed."

Although his squadron has not faced any serious incidents during their deployment, Britt said the Riverines remain steadfast in their training and are mentally prepared for any scenario.

"We constantly look to anticipate and train for worst-case scenarios," he said, "whether it is an [improvised explosive device] attack as we move to our boat launch site, or a complex attack from the shoreline."

Perhaps it's the variety and never-ending "what if" scenarios of their training that motivates sailors to request the duty in the first place – the opportunity for quick, decisive decision-making, as well as the camaraderie of team work.

"I like the brotherhood I have here," said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason N. Ellis, of Texas. "The people I work and serve with are family to me and I will do anything for them."

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Justin A. Slager, operations leading petty officer for Detachment 1, monitors the Khawr az Zubayr River. The Colorado native agreed the job requires teamwork, but also an ability to adapt independently to ever-changing situations.

"It's a challenging atmosphere we work in," he said, "with the out-of-the-box mentality and need to adapt to any situation that comes your way. But that is a definite leadership-building tool."

Britt said the retention rate across the Riverine force remains high – more than 90 percent – which he attributes to the small-unit relationships sailors develop within each detachment and boat crew.

Overall, Britt said he and the squadron's officers and petty officers view their time in the squadron as a once-in-a-lifetime experience in their Navy careers, and strongly appreciate the chance to lead a strong-willed squadron of sailors, all motivated toward a single objective in securing Iraq's waters.

"Their dedication and enthusiasm is truly remarkable," Britt said. "These sailors only know how to tackle every mission and task with a 'can-do' attitude.

Chris Dunphy (AFPS)


Force out of balance, Preston says

We live in an era of persistent conflict, and that's not likely to change any time soon, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston said Wednesday on the final day of the annual Infantry Warfighting Conference in Columbus, Ga.

The current protracted confrontation with forces who use violence to further their political and ideological agendas demands an aggressive, protracted counterinsurgency campaign, Preston said. To do so successfully, balance must be restored to a force that's over-taxed, under-strength and war-weary.

"Right now, the demands exceed our capabilities," Preston said. "With the current pace and tempo, many question our ability to sustain an all-volunteer force."

Aside from the stress inherent to combat, the present state of affairs is taxing military families and non-deployable assets who work overtime to compensate or support operational forces. It also accelerates the wear and tear on combat equipment and takes a toll on garrison infrastructures supporting training and housing for active and Reserve component forces. Ultimately, these stresses compound the strain on the force, Preston said.

The amount of time between deployments is far short of the two-year Army standard, he said. Current resets are insufficient, given the "redeployment, block leave, reset, train up, and gear-up" process that often gets compacted into 12 months.

And when we tell Soldiers it's time to "take a knee," Preston said, they're assigned to the schoolhouse, or NTC or recruiting duty, where they'll work six or seven days a week, 10 and 12-hour days, to train Soldiers or meet the mission.

"TRADOC has been the shock-absorber for the Army, and in some cases with manning at 70 percent," Preston said. "I've done it all, and I can tell you I worked far harder in the schoolhouse than I did in the operational unit."

In spite of all that, Preston was optimistic about the future of the force. With initiatives underway to grow the Army by 22,000, promising retention rates and the completion of modular reorganization and BRAC realignments within sight, the Army may well be balanced in the next few years.

To do so, we must retain good Soldiers, and Soldiers will re-enlist for three reasons, Preston said.

"A command climate that creates an atmosphere where Soldiers want to be part of the team, where they feel that they're part of something bigger than themselves," he said. "Job satisfaction. A Soldier wants to feel satisfied that he's contributing to the cause, no matter what his job is. And he wants his family to have a quality of life ... as good as or better than back home in Hometown, U.S.A."

Bridgett Siter (ANS)


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Magnetron Could Improve Radar Resolution

Researchers funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research have invented a new type of magnetron that could improve radar resolution, reports the AFOSR.  A magnetron is a type of vacuum tube used as the frequency source in microwave ovens, radar systems and other high-power microwave circuits.

According to Dr. Ron Gilgenbach, an AFOSR-sponsored researcher at the University of Michigan, a new class of magnetrons was invented that holds the potential for more compact Department of Defense microwave sources with faster start-up, as well as higher peak and average power.

"This invention should make it possible to develop more compact magnetrons that operate at higher power and higher frequencies," said Gilgenbach.

The magnetron has been vital to military radar systems since World War II. Over time the basic design of the magnetron has not changed much. However, the University of Michigan researchers have revolutionized the design of both conventional and inverted magnetrons by expanding the cathode (negatively charged electrode) and anode (positively charged electrode) area into a new type of magnetron, which permits higher current and a larger area for heat dissipation in a more compact device.

This research has a significant impact on the Air Force's radar capabilities, reports AFOSR. The newly invented magnetron's higher frequencies have the potential to improve radar resolution. Additionally, the more compact packaging of the new magnetron could encourage airborne applications.

"This invention exploits some plasma physics principles that have been applied to this problem as well as an innovative, new geometry to overcome the physical limitations of conventional magnetrons," said Gilgenbach. "The vision is to explore both a high power version of the magnetron invention and a separate higher frequency (mm wave) embodiment."


US army Introduces LUH72A Lakota Medevac Helicopter

The terrain and strategies of wars may change, but some things remain the same. An injured Soldier on the battlefield still feels pain. He still smells blood and hears gunfire.

As the medics patch him up and move him to an area where a helicopter can reach him, he can still feel the awkwardness of laying on a stretcher being carried by four running people in full battle-rattle. As the helicopter approaches, he can hear its blades cutting through the air and feel the sting of dirt on his skin from the hard wind they create.

The name of the game now is speed. Pilots and medics find themselves in a race with death, and the sooner they can get a patient to a hospital, the better the chances of survival. This was the reason for using helicopters as air ambulances in the first place.

While airborne medical evacuations were rare during World War II, they became more common during the Korean War. This was a case of necessity being the mother of invention -- the landscape in Korea was rugged and the roads often impassible. Tactical ambulance vehicles simply couldn't traverse much of the terrain, and when they could, it wasn't a pleasant ride for the wounded. Some would go into shock from being banged around in the vehicle, and the time lost navigating unpredictable roads cost lives. This led to the medical adage: "A man dies in a period of time, not over a distance of miles."

Enter the medevac helicopter. Dubbed "angels of mercy" for evacuating more than 18,000 United Nations casualties during the Korean War, many lives were saved thanks to a short, high-speed trip in a whirlybird to awaiting medical assistance.

Through the years, technology has evolved and things have changed in medicine and avionics. A recent upgrade to the Army's air fleet reflects some of the most advanced technological evolution around, and the bottom line is that it will save lives.

Fort Polk's U.S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment, 5th Aviation Battalion, now has three brand new, fresh-from-the-factory, medevac-configured Lakota UH72A Light Utility Helicopters in its fleet.

Maj. Daniel Moore, commander, USAAAD, and his flight crew made the trip to Columbus, Miss., Sept. 8-10, to pick up the aircraft and fly them to their new home at Fort Polk.

Moore said the new birds are faster than the UH1 Iroquois helicopters, or Hueys as they are called, which are being phased out of Fort Polk's fleet.

"It travels 20-30 knots faster than the Huey and it's more fuel efficient," said Moore. "Over the next two years, we are transitioning to all LUHs to replace the Hueys. The unit is (changing) from being a Huey Detachment to being an LUH company."

The LUH is also a lighter aircraft at 7,900 pounds (versus the 19,000-pound Huey) and thus more fuel-efficient. Moore had high praise for the LUH following his flight from Columbus. "The aircraft is great. It's an all-weather helicopter with autopilot, a glass cockpit and great instrumentation -- such an advanced avionic package makes you feel very comfortable flying," said Moore. "These are configured for medevac operations, so it has racks for medical equipment such as monitors and oxygen, and litter racks for two patients."

The aircraft also has room for one medical attendant, and increased lighting in and around the aircraft to aid in low visibility conditions.

Moore said patients are loaded through the rear cargo door, which is easier than taking them through the side of the aircraft, and hoists have been installed for aerial extractions.

As the detachment awaits the last few LUHs to join their fleet (by early 2010, there will be six LUHs and three Hueys; by the summer 2011, the last two LUHs are due to arrive and the Hueys will be gone), Moore said his unit has the distinction of having both the oldest and newest helicopters at Fort Polk.

"We have the legacy 1969 UH1 Huey, the oldest (operational helicopter) out here (at Polk Airfield), and now we have three LUHs that were probably put together this month," said Moore. "So I've got a Huey from '69 and an LUH from three weeks ago. That's a unique situation."

Jean Dubiel


South Korea: No Plans to Join US Missile Shield

South Korea has no plan to participate in the U.S.-led global ballistic missile defense (BMD) network, an official at the Ministry of National Defense said Tuesday.

Sources say the Lee government wants to cooperate with the U.S. BMD plan, short of fully joining the system, to improve interoperability with the U.S. military after 2012, when South Korea takes over operational control of its forces during wartime from the United States, reports Korea Times.

Currently, South Korea is on track to build an independent theater missile shield that can intercept short- and intermediate-range missiles from North Korea.


Is the U.S. Losing the Pacific?

The trend in the Asia-Pacific region isn't America's friend, warns the Wall Street Journal

An excerpt:

"The Obama administration has curbed the Navy's expansion plans and sent signals that it doesn't believe in expanding missile defense. Beijing has meanwhile poured money into access denial capabilities, including antiship ballistic missiles, cyberwarfare and antisatellite weapons.
"The American Enterprise Institute's Dan Blumenthal estimates that China has added around three submarines to its fleet every year since 1995. The U.S. submarine fleet, by contrast, is shrinking. It's the same story for fighter jets: China is ramping up its fifth-generation technology, while the U.S. has capped the production of stealth F-22 fighters.
"The Iraq and Afghanistan engagements are also sapping personnel normally assigned to PaCom.Little wonder that in its defense white paper projecting out to 2030, Australia predicted "the rise of China, the emergence of India and the beginning of the end of the so-called unipolar moment; the almost two-decade-long period in which the pre-eminence of our principal ally, the United States, was without question."


ThePost-Cold War Arms Race

While the world debates a nuclear weapons free world and implications of President Barack Obama's decision to change Bush's plans for missile defence in Europe, a post-Cold War arms race is gathering momentum, reports InDepthNews Service

An analysis of statements by top U.S. officials and a close look at media reports indicate that this new edition of arms race is different from its predecessor until the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago. Its cornerstone is "strategic deterrence in space and cyberspace" as compared to "mutually assured destruction", though nuclear weapons have yet to be abolished.



Sunday, September 20, 2009

National Guard Joins Texas Rangers in Border Mission

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has asked his state's National Guard to support a special group of Texas Rangers called "Ranger recon teams" at high-traffic and high-crime areas along the Mexican border, state Guard officials said Sept. 11. "The role of the Texas Joint Counter Drug Task Force Team is to support those operations," said Army Col. William Meehan, a public affairs officer with the Texas National Guard. "But then, this is something that we have been doing well for nearly 20 years with our counterdrug operations."

The only difference in this mission from the task force's normal counterdrug operation is that it's supporting the Texas Rangers, who launched this reconnaissance initiative to reinforce law enforcement along the Texas-Mexico border, Meehan said.

The task force, made up of about 200 Guard soldiers and airmen, can provide aviation, communications, security, medical, logistics, observation and planning support to the Rangers.

The Guard members, along with the Texas Rangers and Ranger recon teams, will be supported by Operation Border Star Unified Command, which includes Texas sheriffs, highway patrol strike teams and Department of Public Safety Aviation resources, according to a release from the governor's office. The effort was launched in early August to address the increase in burglaries of rural homes, ranches and hunting camps in remote areas along the border, state officials said.

Perry said the state's proven border security strategy is based on putting boots on the ground and equipping those personnel with the technology, training and funding to stem the flow of contraband across the border.

"Deploying Ranger recon teams to high-traffic, high-crime areas along the border will enhance our efforts," he said.

Mike Smith (AFPS)


New Missile Plan Better Suited Against Iran, Gates Says

The new U.S. missile defense plan will offer better protection than a previous proposal even if intelligence forecasts on Iran prove wrong, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Friday, Sept. 18.

As opposed to earlier plans to build ground-based components in Poland and the Czech Republic, the new sea-based approach is better suited to intelligence on Iranian threats and would provide protection sooner, the secretary said.

Going a step further, Gates -- a former CIA director -- said the new arrangement is preferable even if U.S. intelligence assessments that indicate Iran is more focused on developing short-range missiles over long-range capabilities prove incorrect.

"I probably am more familiar with the risks of over-reliance on intelligence than anybody, because I've seen how often it's wrong," he said. "If the intelligence is wrong, and the Iranians develop a capability sooner than the intelligence is saying, this architecture gives us a better chance of being able to cope with it than the [previous program], just because of the new technologies that are available that give us more flexibility."

The defense secretary appeared before Pentagon reporters with his Czech counterpart, Martin Bartak, following a meeting that included discussion of the new missile defense system in Europe that President Barack Obama announced yesterday.

In December 2006, Gates recommended to then-President George W. Bush that the United States should put advanced radars in the Czech Republic and 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland. That was when intelligence officials gauged the development of Iran's intercontinental ballistic missile as the foremost threat to the United States and its allies.

Now, intelligence reports paint a different picture – that the country is moving faster to develop its shorter-range missiles.

"The original program that I recommended would have had no capability against short- and medium-range missiles until probably 2018," Gates said today. "What the new system provides is some capability beginning in 2011 that will grow steadily each year in terms of its sophistication and its coverage of Europe. The next phase would begin in 2015."

A drawback to the previous plan was that ground-based interceptors designed to deal with no more than five enemy missiles at once were prone to being overwhelmed by a larger salvo fired simultaneously, Gates said.

"What we have seen with the Iranians is that they're producing and deploying significant numbers of short and intermediate missiles, and so [a salvo like that] could overwhelm even when the 10 interceptors were in place," he said, though he added that research will continue on the ground-based system.

After much deliberation, Gates told reporters, his recommendation to Obama was to begin phasing in a missile defense system that puts radars and missiles in place sooner that are more suited to protect against the current threat. Plans are then to continue building on the system to increase its range of defense capabilities.

Deploying the Navy's ships equipped with the Aegis weapons system to the region by 2011 drives the new plan's initial phase. Their Standard Missile 3 interceptor has passed several tests in the past two years, and forward-position Army radar systems will support them.

This will give the military a smaller range of detection and protection, but is enough initially to protect U.S. troops and allies against Iran's shorter-range missiles, officials said.

John Kruzel (AFPS)


Friday, September 18, 2009

General Dynamics Demonstrates Roll-Controlled Guided Mortar

General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems announced today that it has successfully developed and tested a new approach for low-cost guided mortars called the 120mm Roll-Controlled Guided Mortar (RCGM). Under a cooperative research and
development agreement with the U.S. Army TACOM-ARDEC, Picatinny Arsenal,
N.J., General Dynamics successfully tube-launched and guided RCGM prototypes
from a M120 120mm mortar weapon system at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving

The Roll-Controlled Guided Mortar uses standard 120mm M934A1 mortar-round
components, including the warhead and fuzing elements, to reduce costs and
risks in response to an accelerated fielding timeline for this critical operational capability.

Several key enhancements are made to evolve the M934A1 into a precision
mortar, while using existing warheads to maximize its lethality:

* The, the standard fuze (M734A1) is adapted to include an integrated fuze-and-Global-Positioning-System (GPS) guidance, navigation and control (GNC) subassembly while maintaining the current fuze-setting method and function.

* The GNC subassembly incorporates a GPS receiver with a low-cost control system known as the Roll-Controlled Fixed Canard (RCFC) system that allows the mortar to adjust its flight to reach the intended target.

To further reduce costs and speed deployment, the RCGM cartridge maintains
the "look and feel" of the existing M934A1 cartridge, so no major changes in
operating procedures are necessary. The fuze, warhead and LAP production
will occur on existing, operational lines.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

USN to Commit to One LCS Variant in 2010

The Navy announced Sept. 16 it will down select between the two Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) designs in fiscal 2010. The current LCS seaframe construction solicitation will be cancelled and a new solicitation will be issued.

At down select, a single prime contractor and shipyard will be awarded a fixed price incentive contract for up to 10 ships with two ships in fiscal 2010 and options through fiscal 2014.

"This change to increase competition is required so we can build the LCS at an affordable price," said Ray Mabus, secretary of the Navy. "LCS is vital to our Navy's future. It must succeed."

"Both ships meet our operational requirements and we need LCS now to meet the warfighters' needs," said Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations. "Down selecting now will improve affordability and will allow us to build LCS at a realistic cost and not compromise critical warfighting capabilities."

The Navy cancelled the solicitation to procure up to three LCS Flight 0+ ships in fiscal 2010 due to affordability. The service hopes to lower costs by going with a single contractor and a single ship model.

While the Navy is making no public statements indicating which LCS model has rated higher in current operational evaluations, the majority of analysts expect "bad news" for General Dynamics


DefSec Gates Warns of Chinese Threat

China is developing new weapons that could threaten the U.S. military presence in the Pacific, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told an audience of airpower advocates during a speech in suburban Maryland yesterday.  

"We should be concerned less with their potential ability to challenge the U.S. -- fighter-to-fighter or ship-to-ship -- and more with their ability to disrupt our freedom of movement and narrow our strategic options," quotes Gates as saying.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Space & Cyberspace Core Elements of USAF Future

The Air Force's lead for integrating space and cyberspace capabilities spoke at the 2009 Annual Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition at the National Harbor, Oxon Hill, Md., Sept. 15.

Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of the 43,000-member Air Force Space Command, addressed strategic deterrence in space and cyberspace before attendees that included civilians, Airmen, allied foreign military leaders and civilian industry leaders.

"We're really proud of the intercontinental ballistics missiles, space and cyberspace capabilities that we provide to the joint fight," the general said. "We're a team of Airmen, civilians and contractors who enable joint forces to strike with precision, navigate and communicate with certainty and see the battlefield with clarity."

General Kehler spoke to conference participants about the importance of assured access and mission success in the joint fight.

"Space and cyberspace capabilities are, in fact, critical to modern military operations and they provide the U.S. military with an advantage over our adversaries.  It's important that we maintain and sustain that advantage.

General Kehler noted the need to be mindful of requirements and responsive to technological advancements.

"Air Force Space Command professionals contribute to our nation's strategic deterrent and deliver persistent space and cyberspace-based capabilities to America and its warfighting commands around the globe.

"Every single thing we do in Air Force Space Command begins and ends in the joint fight and we are in that fight ... every single day," General Kehler said.

Last month, Air Force Space Command officials activated the 24th Air Force, the Air Force's operational arm to cyberspace.

Even with the business of activating the Air Force's newest numbered air force, the command team has maintained vigilance with regard to the nuclear enterprise.

"Reinvigorating the nuclear enterprise still is the Air Force's number one priority," the general said. "As long as the American people, the Congress and the president ask us to operate, maintain and sustain nuclear forces, then we will focus on our nuclear mission as the number one priority.

"Whether you have one weapon or 10,000 weapons, the mission demands exacting standards, constant attention and careful stewardship.  Perfection is the standard," he said.

Even though the plate for Air Force Space Command remains full, the team is focused on the operational commitments of today and the requirements of tomorrow.

"We must be flexible and adaptable as we go forward.  If flexibility is the key to air and space power, it's even more important in cyberspace," the general said. "As a command we must develop, field and employ capabilities in an increasingly complex and challenging national security environment;"

General Kehler said the Air Force must fuse operations, intelligence acquisitions and engineering into revolutionary operations in order to deliver even more game-changing affects into cyberspace.

"We must differentiate and position ourselves to deliver Air Force capabilities that complement, not duplicate those of the other services, and then we can begin to invent the future and drive advances in technology and warfighting."


KC-X Tanker Acquisition Program Reboots

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced the return of the KC-X program to the Air Force during the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition at the National Harbor, Oxon Hill, Md., Sept. 16.

The announcement sparked applause as KC-X, the Air Force's tanker acquisition program, was delayed after the Government Accountability Office upheld a protest to the source selection.

"I don't need to belabor the importance of getting this done soon and done right, and my office will continue to have a robust oversight role," Secretary Gates said to conference attendees. "I have confidence that the KC-X selection authority is in good hands with the service's leadership team of Secretary (of the Air Force Michael) Donley and (Air Force Chief of Staff) General (Norton) Schwartz ... I depend greatly on their advice and strategic vision to fulfill my duties."

Secretary Donley noted that SecDEF's decision aligns with the Air Force's recapitalization agenda.

"The Air Force is pleased at today's announcement and the confidence Secretary Gates is placing in the Air Force," Secretary Donley said. "Tanker recapitalization remains the Air Force's number one acquisition priority."

Secretary Donley added that a draft request for proposal is close to release and will be presented with ample time for discussion to interested parties with offers.

"The Air Force is looking forward to leading the KC-X acquisition program and working closely with the Office of the Secretary of Defense to a successful conclusion, thus providing the warfighter this critical capability for years to come," Secretary Donley said.


U.S. Hunting al Qaeda More Effectively

U.S. spy agencies are hunting al Qaeda and related groups more effectively because their understanding of Islamic extremists has improved significantly in recent years, the top U.S. spy chief said Tuesday as he released his first blueprint for U.S. intelligence.

The Wall Street Journal quotes Admiral (ret.) Dennis Blair as saying  "what has really made all the nations safer has been the accumulation of knowledge about al Qaeda and its affiliate groups, which enables us to be more aggressive in expanding that knowledge and stopping things before they happen."


Excalibur Artillery Shells Back on Target

Raytheon Missile Systems has resumed deliveries of the Excalibur artillery shell to the US Army, reports the Arizona Star. Deliveries were stopped in 2008 because of "unacceptably high" accuracy problems stemming from a navigation unit that has now been replaced.


Army’s Universal Camouflage Pattern Uniform Provides Poor Cover

The Army's Universal Camouflage Pattern, now under scrutiny by soldiers and Congress, is "significantly" worse at concealing soldiers than the Marine desert digital and MultiCam camouflage patterns, according to a two-year Army camouflage test obtained by Army Times.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

USS Makin Island Reaches New Homeport

U.S. Navy officials report that the eighth and final Wasp Class amphibious carrier, USS Makin Island (LHD 8), arrived at her homeport of San Diego Sept. 14 after spending nearly two months at sea.

LHD 8 is the first U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship to replace steam boilers with gas turbines, and the first Navy surface ship to be equipped with both gas turbines and an Auxiliary Propulsion System (APS).

By using this unique propulsion system in conjunction with operational awareness of the crew, the ship saved approximately $2 million in fuel costs during transit compared to a ship using steam boilers.

Instead of using gas turbines which are less efficient at lower speeds, the ship will be able to use APS for roughly 75 percent of the time the ship is underway. Over the course of Makin Island's lifecycle, the Navy expects to see a savings of more than $250 million. Because the gas turbines will be used infrequently, the Navy expects to also save on maintenance and lifecycle costs.

Makin Island left the Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding (NGSB) yard in Pascagoula, Miss., July 10 on her maiden voyage, manned for the first time by the ship's crew. The ship sailed through the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, Strait of Magellan, and both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans during its transit around South America.

Formal commissioning of USS Makin Island is planned for October 24. Once commissioned, the ship and crew will begin a series of post-delivery tests and trials to thoroughly evaluate the ship's systems and to complete certifications in advance of operational deployment.

Second only to aircraft carriers in size, LHDs are the largest amphibious warships in the world. This powerful class is 844 feet long, can reach speeds of more than 20 knots, and has a displacement of more than 41,000 tons. Wasp-class amphibious assault ships are designed to remain off shore near troubled areas of the world, ready to send forces ashore quickly by helicopters, tilt rotor aircraft and Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft.


Monday, September 14, 2009

USS Ingraham Gets New Close-In Defense Weapon

USS Ingraham (FFG 61) is the first US Navy frigate to receive the new MK38 MOD II 25mm chain gun.

It uses a state-of-the-art electro-optical sight which enables the operators to see tracks more than 10,000 yards out, and uses a laser range-finder to measure the distance to a target.

The gun's mount is controlled in Ingraham's Combat Information Center (CIC) by the Remote Operator Console (ROC). The gunner sits at the ROC and tracks incoming vessels using the video from the mount. "The system is able to auto-track the oncoming vessel until the tactical action officer gives the gunner orders on the deployment of warning shots or direct fire," said the Ingraham's Assistant Combat Systems Officer, Ensign Brandon Gilstrap.

This system enables Ingraham to defend the ship more effectively even with reduced manpower.


Hawker Beechcraft Pushes AT-6 as USAF Counterinsurgency Plane

Hawker Beechcraft Corporation has announced (Sept. 10) the successful first flight of its AT-6 prototype and the program's progression into the next phase of flight test. The AT-6 prototype is a structurally strengthened derivative of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy T-6A/B trainer  aircraft.

Hawker Beechcraft is proposing the AT-6 to fill the newly stated US Air Force requirement for a light attack, armed reconnaissance aircraft -- also referred to as a COunter-Insurgency or COIN aircraft. The company is stressing the AT-6 would meets a wide spectrum of needs at a fraction of the cost of other platforms.

"We are very optimistic about the role the AT-6 will play for the warfighter – both in the U.S. and in partner air forces around the world," said Bill Boisture, HBC chairman and CEO. "This is going to be a great airplane and I am pleased with the rapid pace we are moving through our planned test program. We are almost three weeks ahead of schedule. We believe the AT-6 offers the broadest range capabilities available in the market and that is why we continue to invest in its future today," Boisture said in a Sept. 10 press release.

The AT-6 is designed to be able to quickly transition pilots between basic flight training missions and complex NetCentric light attack and armed reconnaissance missions. The next phase of flight testing will last through October, during which the company will continue flight envelope expansion of the heavily instrumented AT-6 prototype, along with performance and handling qualities assessments with various external store configurations.


National Guard Still on Guard 8 Years After 9/11

Staff Sgt. Michael Wilson stands watch outside Penn Station as part of a New York National Guard task force that has continuously served since the terrorist attacks eight years ago today.

Wilson enlisted in the National Guard because of the attacks that he first learned about as he labored as a 19-year-old landscaper in Albany, N.Y. Just as the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, triggered the transformation of the National Guard from a strategic reserve to an operational force, so have they prompted Wilson to morph from teenager to Soldier.

Now 26, he's been on duty more or less continuously ever since, including a stint in Iraq -- a story shared by many of the 280 remaining members of Joint Task Force Empire Shield, which has swelled to as many as 2,500 during surges.

"We are a full-time, state active-duty force of 280, New York City-centric," said Lt. Col. Greg Dreisbach, commander. "It was formed on 9/11 and has been here ... since. We have some guys that have been here since almost Day 1."

Members of Empire Shield were among first responders to the attacks. Some lost friends. Some served in Empire Shield, then fell serving overseas.

"What we are doing is very important," Spc. Armando Chadilliquen said during a recent visit to the World Trade Center site. "It is very important that we are prepared in case anything happens."

The mission of JTF Empire Shield is to provide homeland security and defense support to civilian authorities as needed, Dreisbach said. The task force works with 53 local, state and federal partners.

Headquartered in Brooklyn at Fort Hamilton - in the shadow of the soaring Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the last bridge across the Hudson before the Atlantic Ocean - the task force has a full operational staff and command and control structure and is designed to absorb a surge of troops in the event of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, or manmade disaster such as another terrorist attack.

"[On] 9/11, we had a cold start," Dreisbach said. "If anything ever happens again, we have a warm start. We can accept up to 1,000 Soldiers and be able to support them for the first 72 hours."

In the meantime, members of JTF Empire Shield train. They perform missions, such as patrolling John F. Kennedy International or La Guardia airports or Penn Station and other mass transit hubs. They join New York State Naval Militia or Coast Guard Reserve colleagues on boats bought with some of the homeland security money released after 9/11 and conduct foot patrols in and around airports or nuclear power facilities.

Each member of the task force still belongs to an Army or Air unit of the New York National Guard and attends weekend drills and annual training to prepare for federal missions. Their state active-duty status is an additional mission.

They've also found time to gather 80 tons of relief supplies for Haiti, palletize it for transport and send it as humanitarian relief to the island nation.

"It's a very diverse mission set," Dreisbach said. "The main thing is that we're trained and ready to carry out the [adjutant general's] intent, whatever that may be."

Wilson said his infantry service in Iraq is an asset in his task force duties. It gave him teamwork, accountability, situational awareness and knowledge of potential threats.

"Combat experience ... gives us a better opportunity to provide support over here," he said. "It gives us a different point of view. ... Whatever goes on in combat, you can apply right here to this mission."

Dreisbach said every visit to Ground Zero is a reminder of why he and his troops serve today. "This is where it all started," he said. "It never loses its [impact]."

Wilson recalled his youthful reaction. "Initially, it was shock, just like everybody else in America. Who would have even thought that the World Trade Center was going to come crashing down? After the initial shock wore off, a little bit of anger, a little bit of determination to go out there and change circumstances.

"It opened up a whole lot of opportunities that National Guard members didn't have. It's heightened our readiness. It's heightened our effectiveness. We're no longer 'weekend warriors.' ... We're out training. ... We're on overseas deployments."

Sgt. Willis Wynne has a year with the task force and an Iraq deployment.
"It's not just overseas where we need to be," he said. "We need to offer a presence back home."

In a city where 9/11 remains fresher and more vivid than in some other parts of the country, task force members say they get a lot of gratitude from the public.

"People come up to us and thank us countless times during the day," said Sgt. Jessica Clark.

"When I joined the National Guard, that's what it was for, to help the community," said Sgt. 1st Class Odessa Covington. "We are doing what a lot of Soldiers raised their right hand to do, to help the community."

Air Force Staff Sgt. Marcus Calliste, a first generation American from Trinidad who has spent six of his last eight years in the National Guard on orders, said: "This is an opportunity to participate in helping out the city, state and country, which I love so much. ... I have family and friends who live in New York, and the opportunity to be a deterrent is definitely a privilege."

"I was angry, and I wanted to be part of the [solution]," Chadilliquen said.

In his native Peru, before he came to the United States at age 26, he helped pick up pieces of people he knew after terrorist bombings. "I'm in the right place," he said. "I'm doing the right job."

Army and Air National Guard members work alongside members of the volunteer New York Guard, the New York State Naval Militia and the Coast Guard in the task force, in addition to the dozens of agency partners.

"We're here every day," Dreisbach said. "We're working with our agency partners. They know us. We know them. You can't get that any other way...

If there ever is an incident in the city, we already have a lot of things worked out. We're already working with them. ... They know Empire Shield.
They know the New York National Guard. They also have an idea about the capabilities that we can bring."

Sometimes the task force joins multi-agency super surges, pouring assets into transit hubs or certain areas of the city in response to indications of a threat, or for an exercise. Sometimes task force members perform random anti-terrorism measures at critical infrastructure, such as the Entergy Indian Point Nuclear Power plant, north of the city.

"There's not any given set time or day," Dreisbach explained during one such recent patrol on the Hudson River near Buchanan, N.Y. "It's very random. It keeps the enemy off guard. They don't know when you're going to be there, when you're not going to be there. It allows the force to be more flexible."

Jim Greenhill (ANS)

Special project oversees orderly drawdown from Iraq

In line with the current agreement to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq by 2011, the Communications and Electronics Command's Life Cycle Management Command has stood up a drawdown Special Project Office, or SPO, to coordinate a successful drawdown of a vast amount of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment fielded in Iraq over the past six years.

"On the materiel side the numbers are just amazing," said Col. Scot MacKenzie, director of the drawdown SPO. "The amount of property we've put over in theater would make any corporation's jaw drop. Seeing what the Army has deployed around the world is just remarkable."

Since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, the Army has been steadily building up equipment in theater to support its mission. However, with the impending withdrawal steadily approaching, the drawdown SPO was stood up to synchronize and coordinate the responsible drawdown of all C4ISR equipment.

The office is still in its fledgling stage, having just been stood up in July, but it has already begun to analyze and prepare for the onset of the drawdown effort. The office is working closely with all key C4ISR stakeholders to accomplish the responsible drawdown of equipment and personnel.

"There has been a huge investment that the Army's made in all of the capabilities and it's been going pretty much in one direction--into theater," MacKenzie said. "Now we have to pull it out."

From the onset of OIF, the CECOM Life Cycle Management Command Logistics and Readiness Center has maintained a well-oiled reset operation infrastructure. The drawdown SPO intends to build on that existing infrastructure and use it to its full advantage and potential.

Analysis of future requirements in other theaters, as well as back in the U.S., will help establish the ultimate home of the C4ISR equipment slated to be withdrawn from Iraq. The equipment will be sent where it is needed, whether for immediate alternate operational requirements such as those in Afghanistan, or returned to the U.S. to be repaired and/or put into a larger pool to meet longer-term Army needs.

"The Army has been in this battle rhythm of deployments and now they see a big potential drawdown and re-posturing and resetting of forces," MacKenzie said. "So as troops and equipment come back, all of that materiel will need to go to different places in the Army for different needs, but it all needs to be reset."

He noted that if all goes as planned and U.S. troops indeed pull out of Iraq by 2011, much of the equipment will be returning home, which creates a number of challenges that will need to be ironed out. But the biggest change from the status quo will be in the size and scope of the amount of equipment to be reset.

"The scale will change so velocity is going to increase. Where you once had one unit coming home, now you might have three," MacKenzie said. "There is just going to be more equipment."

The drawdown SPO serves as the lead to the Responsible Reset Task Force (R2TF) and as the Army Team C4ISR focal point to Department of the Army headquarters, the Army Materiel Command (AMC), the Army Sustainment Command and supporting Army Field Support Brigades.

The AMC, the executive agent for resetting the Army, is standing up the Responsible Reset Task Force, which will be led by Lt. Gen. James Pillsbury, AMC deputy commanding general. The drawdown SPO will work hand-in-hand with the R2TF. It will help integrate the drawdown and make sure that a "responsible drawdown supports responsible reset," MacKenzie said.

The drawdown project will move equipment out of the theater and have it repaired if needed and that is its line of demarcation. The reset effort then repositions it. Both drawdown and reset must be flawlessly synchronized to achieve optimal results.

"I think the Army is going after this remembering [Operation] Desert Storm," MacKenzie said. "They remember how that went and they want to improve upon how we do this, so that's what the whole impetus of what responsible drawdown is all about."

The intent is for the SPO to assist the C4ISR community all the way through drawdown in 2011. However, if there are changes to the mission and/or current political agreement, the SPO will be prepared to support it, MacKenzie said.

"There are a lot of milestones coming up, but it all goes back to the first big milestone that everybody is watching, which is the (Iraqi) elections in January," he said. "And then there is also the security environment. Those are variables we'll shift on and be prepared for. Like any military organization; we'll be ready for anything."

Amy Walker (ANS)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

USS Makin Island to Join 3rd Fleet

The Navy's newest multi-purpose amphibious ship, USS Makin Island (LHD 8), is scheduled to arrive at her homeport in San Diego Monday, Sept. 14. The ship will join the US Navy's 3rd Fleet, responsible for operations in the eastern Pacific.

Makin Island is the final amphibious assault ship built in the LHD-1 Wasp-class, but the first of the class built with gas turbine engines and an electric drive. Steam is not used on board for heating or water production as in previous LHDs. Other significant changes from previous LHD-class ships include the Watermist Fire Suppression Systems, a fiber-optic Machinery Control System (which is also integrated with the Damage Control Systems), the SPQ-9B radar and Cooperative Engagement Capability.

"At high speeds it runs on gas turbine engines and at lower speeds it runs on an electric drive -- just like a hybrid car," says Makin Island Commanding Officer, Capt. Bob Kopas, "Combined with this 'gas saving' propulsion plant is a new computerized machinery control system which is the most advanced in the fleet today. It controls everything from ventilation throughout the ship, to the engines, and ballasting systems."

This advancement results in significant fuel conservation. For instance, during transit from Pascagoula, Miss., to Lima, Peru, the ship consumed 673,148 gallons less in fuel than a steam ship completing the same transit, saving American taxpayers more than $1.6 million.

During her transit from Pascagoula, Miss., Makin Island conducted theater security cooperation activities with Brazil, Chile and Peru, which focused on working closely with partner nation civil and maritime forces - sharing methods and training to build on U.S. and partner nations' already strong relations and interoperability.

Makin Island is scheduled to be formally commissioned Oct. 24 in a ceremony in San Diego.


Office of Naval Research to Present Networking and Simulation Studies

The Naval Research Advisory Committee (NRAC) will brief Sept. 24 the results of two recent studies, Future Naval Use of COTS Networking Infrastructure and Immersive Simulation for Marine Corps Small Unit Training.

The briefings are open to the public and DoD/DoN leaders Sept. 24 from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. at the Pentagon Conference Center, Room B6.

The committee, comprised of senior civilian scientific advisors reporting to the secretary of the Navy, will present its findings and candid views on current issues facing the Navy and Marine Corps to Department of Defense stakeholders.

Future Naval Use of COTS Networking Infrastructure examines emerging networking approaches under development in the commercial world, including associated development and operational practices. The brief suggests strategies for leveraging ongoing civilian investment for Navy needs.

Immersive Simulation for Marine Corps Small Unit Training evaluates concepts in immersive training simulation which could assist Marines in developing complex and intuitive decision-making skills while under physical and emotional stress. The brief will also examine how immersive simulations, like the Infantry Immersion Trainer, may have the potential to reduce the pre-deployment training time typically required for small unit leaders.

NRAC provides objective analyses in the areas of science, research and development for the secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), the chief of naval operations, the commandant of the Marine Corps and the chief of naval research. The permanent committee reports to the SECNAV through the Assistant Secretary to the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition.


Friday, September 11, 2009

US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war

Tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing a vicious civil war that threatens to turn the key Arab peninsula state of Yemen into a terrorist stronghold and to suck the US into another sensitive conflict zone, reports the Daily Telegraph.


Army Progressing on FCS Replacement

The Army's vice chief of staff said Thursday that the service plans to begin replacing its M113 and Bradley armored vehicles with a new infantry carrier vehicle within the coming decade.
Gen. Peter Chiarelli laid out new details of the Army's new modernization strategy at an Association of the United States Army breakfast, focusing on the Ground Combat Vehicle effort, reports Army Times.


US Military Recruiting & Retention High

August was another successful month for armed forces recruiting with all active duty components meeting or exceeding their monthly goals, Pentagon officials said here today. The Army blasted beyond its recruiting goal of 6,100 with 8,285 young men and women enlisting. The service reached 136 percent of goal for the month.

The Marine Corps also exceeded their goal reaching 110 percent. The Marines had 3,393 enlistees with an August goal of 3,073.

Navy and Air Force hit 100 percent of their recruiting goals with 3,289 young men and women enlisting to be sailors and 2,681 to be airmen.

The reserve components also did well, officials said, with all on track to make their fiscal 2009 numbers.

The Air Force Reserve enlisted 827 airmen and a goal of 167, making 495 percent.

The Army Reserve had 1,478 accessions with a goal of 1,208 for 122 percent, while the Navy Reserve enlisted 636 sailors for 100 percent of its goal.

The Army National Guard made 55 percent of its goal of 4,277, enlisting 2,337 soldiers. The Marine Corps Reserve has 433 accessions with a goal of 565 for 77 percent.

Finally, the Air National Guard enlisted 688 airmen and with a goal of 840 for 82 percent.

Reserve components balance enlistments with attrition. Generally, the retention rate in the reserve components has been high. (AFPS)


DARPA Plans Urban Hopper Jumping Recon Robot

Boston Dynamics, developer of advanced dynamic robots such as BigDog and PETMAN, has been awarded a contract by Sandia to develop the next generation of the Precision Urban Hopper, meaning Sandia's hopping robots may soon be in combat.
When fully operational, the four-wheeled hopper robots will navigate autonomously by wheel and jump – with one mighty leg – onto or over obstacles of more than 25 feet, said Jon Salton, Sandia program manager.
"The Precision Urban Hopper is part of a broad effort to bolster the capabilities of troops and special forces engaged in urban combat, giving them new ways to operate unfettered in the urban canyon," Salton said.
The development program, funded by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Department of Defense's advanced technology organization, has a 12-month design phase followed by a six-month build phase, with testing and delivery planned for late 2010.
As part of the ongoing DARPA project, Sandia developed the shoebox-sized, GPS-guided, unmanned ground robots.
The demonstrated hopping capability of the robots allows the small unmanned ground vehicles to overcome as many as 30 obstacles that are 40-60 times their own size. Hopping mobility has been shown to be five times more efficient than hovering when traversing obstacles at heights under 10 meters, which allows longer station-keeping time for the same amount of fuel.

The wheeled robotic platform adapts to the urban environment in real time and provides precision payload deployment to any point of the urban jungle while remaining lightweight and small. Researchers addressed several technical challenges, including appropriate management of shock forces during landing, controlling hop height from varying terrain including concrete, asphalt, sand and vegetation and controlling landings to limit tumbling.
An overall goal of the robots is to decrease the number of casu alties in combat. To that end, the hopping robots will provide enhanced situational awareness for shaping the outcome of the immediate local combat situation, Salton said. Their compact, lightweight design makes them portable, and their semiautonomous capability greatly reduces the workload burden of the operator.
In addition to providing military assistance, the hopping capabilities of the robots could be used in law enforcement, homeland security, search and rescue applications in challenging terrain and in planetary exploration, Salton said.
"We are delighted to win this project and get a chance to work with Sandia on such a novel and potentially useful robot," said Marc Raibert, president and founder of Boston Dynamics. "The program gives us a chance to apply our special brand of advanced controls and stabilization to a system that can help our warfighters in the near future."


Thursday, September 10, 2009

USN Receives AN/AQS-20A & AN/AQS-235 Minehunting/Neutralization Systems

The U.S. Navy took delivery of the next generation of the AN/AQS-20A Minehunting Sonar and the AN/AQS-235 Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) from Raytheon Company at the company's facility in Tewksbury, Mass. Sept. 2.

AN/AQS-20A Minehunting Sonar detects, localizes and identifies bottom, close-tethered and volume mines, and AMNS re-acquires and neutralizes the mines. These 'next-generation' tools represent a significant step forward in outfitting and sustaining tomorrow's mine countermeasures fleet.

"I am particularly pleased with the progress the AN/AQS-20A team has made," said Capt. Paul Siegrist, program manager for Unmanned Maritime Vehicles. "I am looking forward to an aggressive testing schedule leading to a successful operational evaluation."

The AN/AQS-20A Minehunting Sonar is towed underwater at various depths to scan forward, peripherally and below the host vehicle to detect sea mines. The system uses sonar and electro-optical sensors to provide high-resolution images of mines and mine-like objects, as well as high precision location information. It can be towed by a helicopter or the Remote Minehunting System.

AMNS is deployed from the MH-60S multimission helicopter to locate and destroy underwater anti-shipping mines detected by the AN/AQS-20A Minehunting Sonar. The system consists of a helicopter-based control console, as well as a launch and handling system equipped with four unmanned, neutralizer vehicles that destroy mines via remote control from the operator in the helicopter.

"The advancements of the AN/AQS-20A bring our minehunting capabilities to the next level," Siegrist said. "The flexibility and adaptability of the system allows us to effectively deploy from both the MH-60S helicopter and also from the Remote Minehunting System, extending our ability to ensure the safety of the fleet."

Developmental and operational testing of the AN/AQS-20A Minehunting Sonar and AMNS began in 2002. Under current contracts, Raytheon will deliver a total of 20 AN/AQS-20A systems by January 2011 and five AMNSs by December 2009.

Program Executive Office, Littoral and Mine Warfare is an affiliated Program Executive Office of the Naval Sea Systems Command, which designs, delivers and maintains the systems, equipment and weapons needed by the warfighter to dominate the littoral battle space and provide the warfighter 'assured access.' (NNS)