Military News

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Chairman Issues Military Spouse Appreciation Day Message

American Forces Press Service

May 5, 2009 - Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has issued a message to servicemembers and their families around the world, commemorating May 8 as Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Here is the chairman's message:

"Each May, our nation pauses to pay tribute to our past, present and future military spouses. Nothing could be more right, or more honorable, than this. Without our families, those of us in uniform cannot serve. And truly, our spouses serve just as much as we do.

"Despite the strain of nearly eight years of war and numerous critical engagements around the globe, America's military is stronger and more capable than ever. From personal experience, I know that much of that strength comes from our spouses. They are vital to our success. And they make the journey of service – truly one we choose together – so much richer, rewarding, and satisfying.

"Military spouses bear great burdens, but they also know the tremendous difference they are making. That resilience is due not just to the rewards of service – which are great – but also by means of a critical network of support, one that many spouses themselves create.

"Deborah and I have seen and experienced this network ourselves – and believe us – it makes a big difference.

"On behalf of the Joint Chiefs and their families, we are proud to honor this occasion on the eighth of May. The unending service and sacrifice of our military spouses are worthy of both praise and an equally continuous commitment from a grateful nation."

Software Proves Effective in Avoiding Aircraft Crashes

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 5, 2009 - Leading-edge software technology 25 years in the making by numerous Defense Department agencies and NASA has demonstrated a continuous 98 percent effectiveness rate of eliminating aircraft crashes, a NASA test flight director said. The primary development of the software technology began in 1984 by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and the Lockheed Martin aeronautical company, said Mark Skoog, test director for the Automatic Collision Avoidance System Fighter Risk Reduction Program at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. Skoog made the comments April 29 on Pentagon Web Radio's "Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military."

"We based our test program off of mishap history of fighter aircraft at that time. We did an extensive study with Air Force Safety Center, out of Kirtland Air Force Base, to figure out what sort of mishaps we might be able to prevent with this collision avoidance system," Skoog said. "We found out that of all the mishaps that the F-16 had encountered, our system was able to prevent 98 percent of them."

The 98 percent effectiveness rating was gathered from an extensive evaluation of the F-16 system in 1998, he said.

Today, the program combines all of the subject-matter experts responsible for the technology under the same program so they can capture all of the knowledge that has been developed over the past 25 years and make it available to the aviation community, Skoog said.

ACAT systems sense collision threats, such as terrain or other aircraft, and activate an autopilot that can execute an avoidance maneuver. These systems were developed with three overarching requirements.

"Do no harm, do not interfere, and prevent collisions." he explained.

ACAT systems exhibit a high degree of control authority on the aircraft and use the aircraft's full maneuvering capability. Therefore, the biggest challenge is to ensure that ACAT systems operate "nuisance-free" in a way that does not interfere with the normal operations of the aircraft, Skoog said.

"Aircraft are already out there flying, conducting missions today," he said, "and we don't want to put a system on there that would inhibit them from accomplishing the mission."

In addition, ACAT developers aim to design a system that easily can be adapted to other military aircraft in the future.

"We're trying to create a modular software architecture -- somewhat of a plug-and-play capability for aircraft -- so that it can easily be adapted to other platforms and they can leverage the work that we're doing to the maximum extent possible," Skoog said.

Accompanying Skoog on the 13th "Armed with Science" audio webcast were David "Nils" Larsen from NASA, experienced pilot on both Air Force and Navy air frames, and retired Air Force pilot Kevin Prosser.

"We've got a system that we can field, and that's going to save lives," Prosser said. "We're really excited about that, and I look forward to doing some more flight tests with this program and hopefully getting out in the field soon."

Prosser has been flying fighter jets for more than 20 years. He flew F-15s operationally and did flight tests on the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor.

"I was brand new in the F-16," he said. "I think my first high-risk flight test sortie with Mark, ... I had 70 hours in the F-16 at that time. So, [I was] a fairly experienced F-15 pilot, but inexperienced in the F-16. And, I found myself throwing my body at the ground and seeing if it will avoid the ground."

Larsen has been involved with testing for about a year and a half. Also a retired Air Force pilot, he flew U-2s, F-15s, and even did an exchange tour with the Navy, teaching at their test pilot school and flying F-18s.

"The potential for the future in preventing these collisions with the ground and collisions with other airplanes, that's some pretty neat stuff," Larsen said.

ACAT FRRP is part of a tri-party effort including the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Defense Safety Oversight Council, Air Force Research Laboratory, and NASA.

"We have a very broad team," Skoog said. "What has made this a success is the dedication of a lot of people at various organizations."

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Service Exchanges Pull Hydroxycut Diet Supplement from Shelves

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

May 5, 2009 - A recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning to consumers has prompted military exchanges to remove the diet supplement Hydroxycut from store shelves, officials said today. Military exchange officials contacted today confirmed that Hydroxycut products have been withdrawn from stores. The products are used by dieters and body builders.

In a May 1 news release, the FDA warned consumers "to immediately stop using Hydroxycut products." Usage of such products, the release stated, is "associated with a number of serious liver injuries."

Officials at the Dallas -based Army and Air Force Exchange Service directed managers to remove Hydroxycut from store shelves by noon May 2, said Judd Anstey, AAFES public relations manager.

The Marine Corps Exchange Service also removed Hydroxycut products from its stores in response to the FDA warning, said Bryan Driver, a spokesman for Marine Corps Community Services, based at Quantico, Va.

Navy Exchange stores removed Hydroxycut products from shelves on May 1, said Kristine Sturkie, a public affairs specialist for Navy Exchange Service Command at Virginia Beach, Va.

Patrons of Defense Commissary Agency grocery stores needn't worry about Hydroxycut, said Ronald Kelly, chief of DeCA's public affairs directorate based at Fort Lee, Va. "We do not carry the product in our inventory," he said.

The maker of Hydroxycut, the FDA release stated, agreed to pull the diet supplement off the market. The FDA release lists a number of products subject to the consumer warning.

Airline Offers $1 Military Fares

American Forces Press Service

May 5, 2009 - In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, JetBlue is offering active duty military personnel $1 fares for domestic, nonstop flights, for a limited time, departing from the two JetBlue cities nearest to the nation's capital: Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., and Richmond International Airport in Richmond, Va. The airline also will donate $15,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that honors and empowers wounded warriors.

To take advantage of the offer, servicemembers must book between today and May 7, or while seats last, for travel between May 8 and May 31 from Dulles or Richmond to any JetBlue destination in the continental United States served nonstop from those airports. Proof of eligibility is required. The fare is available to active-duty servicemembers only; retirees, reservists and military families are not eligible for this offer.

Nonstop destinations served by JetBlue from Dulles include Boston; Los Angeles/Long Beach and Oakland, Calif.; Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Fla.; and New York/JFK. Nonstop destinations from Richmond include: Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and New York/JFK.

Upon check-in, military travelers must present a valid Department of Defense common access card and official documentation at the JetBlue service counter verifying authorized leave from duty to show proof of active status. Travel booked with this offer is not eligible for online flight check-in or at an airport kiosk. Failure to present these documents will void the reservation, officials said.

Officials emphasized that tickets for the special fare cannot be purchased online or at the airport service counter. Servicemembers are responsible for applicable taxes and fees.

To book the $1 fare, call 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) and select Option 4.

Shipper-Supplied Security is Best Defense Against Pirates, Flournoy Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

May 5, 2009 - The U.S. military will continue its efforts to help thwart acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia, but merchant-ship-supplied security is the best short-term defense, a senior Defense Department official told Capitol Hill legislators here today. "Our goal is to encourage all vessels to take appropriate security measures to protect themselves from pirates," Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, told Senate Armed Services Committee members.

"We will continue to respond when U.S.-flagged vessels and U.S. citizens are attacked by pirates," Flournoy continued. "But when ships have effective on-board security measures in place, the vast majority of attempted pirate attacks can be thwarted without any need for military intervention."

Therefore, the U.S. military's main task with regard to piracy, Flournoy said, is "to help commercial carriers turn their ships into hard targets."

About 78 percent of pirate attacks on merchant vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen were thwarted by the ships' crews, Flournoy pointed out.

More than 33,000 vessels transit the Gulf of Aden area each year, Flournoy said. In 2008, she said, pirates achieved 42 successful attacks out of 122 attempts. And the relatively low instance of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden region, Flournoy said, "does have implications for how we allocate military resources." Military or law enforcement interventions, she noted, played a role in thwarting pirates in only 22 percent of unsuccessful assaults.

"This highlights the fact that the single most effective short-term response to piracy will be working with merchant shipping lines to ensure that the vessels in the region take appropriate security measures," Flournoy said. Such security measures, she said, can be passive or active in nature.

Passive anti-pirate security measures may include maintaining good communications with maritime security authorities, varying routes, avoiding high-risk areas, removal of external ladders, posting look-outs, limiting lighting, rigging barriers and other tactics, she said.

Commercial shipping companies also may opt to adopt active anti-pirate security measures, Flournoy said, such as rigging fire hoses to repel pirates or maintaining professional civilian armed security teams aboard ships.

The U.S. Congress could be engaged to offer tax credits so merchant shipping firms could more easily invest in anti-pirate measures, Flournoy said.

From the Defense Department's viewpoint, Flournoy said, confronting piracy off the coast of Somalia involves components of deterrence, disruption and interdiction, and prosecution. However, she said, combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden region is a challenging endeavor for several reasons:

-- The geographic area is vast; the Somalia-based pirates operate in a region of more than one million square nautical miles, making it difficult for naval or law enforcement authorities to reach the scene of a pirate attack quickly enough to thwart it.

-- The causes of Somali piracy are rooted to the poverty and instability that continues to plague that country.

-- International law recognizes a country's right to arrest pirates and put them on trial. However, some nations still lack a viable system of laws or an effective judicial system to prosecute pirates.

-- Many merchant shipping firms believe, unrealistically, that military forces always will be present to thwart pirate attacks. Consequently, many firms are unwilling to make investments to outfit their vessels with anti-pirate security measures.

Most merchant vessels plying the Gulf of Aden's waters that are prepared and equipped to thwart pirate attacks successfully do so, Navy Vice Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., the Joint Chiefs of Staff's director for strategic plans and policy, told committee members.

"The majority of ships, notably those with high access points and reasonable rates of speed," Winnefeld said, "are able to defend themselves quite well, without any kind of assistance, using the relatively simple passive measures that we've discussed."

Meanwhile, the U.S. military will continue its longer-term efforts to prevent and punish those who commit piracy off Somalia's coast, Flournoy said.

"We will work with allies and regional states to develop their capacity to control the seas and protect their own shipping and we will encourage them to take any steps necessary to prosecute pirates in their own courts," Flournoy said. "And we will work, when possible, with Somali authorities to address the on-shore components of piracy – tracking pirates' investors and safe havens.”

U.S. Sea Supremacy Permits Naval Budget Shifts, Lynn Says

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

May 5, 2009 - The United States' maritime supremacy allows the Defense Department to slow production of sea-based defense systems, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said today at the Navy League's annual Sea-Air-Space Exposition in Oxon Hill, Md. Lynn addressed the group days before the department is slated to submit its budget proposal to Congress. Echoing remarks Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made last month when announcing his budget recommendations, Lynn said the new fiscal breakdown reflects the need to balance traditional and unconventional capabilities.

"The United States stands alone unsurpassed on, above and below the seas," Lynn said. "One consideration as we rebalance the department's priorities is that the military dominance that we enjoy is greater in some areas than in others. We look for ways to strengthen irregular warfare capabilities while maintaining the overwhelming edge we enjoy in conventional capabilities."

In terms of tonnage, the U.S. battle fleet is far larger than any potential combination of adversaries, and no other fleet can match the reach or combat power of a single American carrier battle group, he said.

The defense budget that is slated to reach Congress this week recommends shifting the Navy aircraft carrier program to a five-year build cycle to place it on a more "fiscally sustainable" path. This will result in 10 carriers after 2040, defense officials said.

The department also proposes delaying the Navy "CG-X" next-generation cruiser program to revisit its requirements and acquisition strategy. To allow more time to assess costs and analyze its necessity, Gates also proposed delaying the amphibious ship and sea-basing programs known as the 11th landing platform dock ship and the mobile landing platform ship until fiscal 2011.

Meanwhile, the department plans to use the budget to place greater emphasis on the Navy's ability to conduct nontraditional missions.

"The Navy must be ready for counterinsurgency and other irregular operations, which means dealing with nonstate actors at sea or near shore or with a swarm of speed boats sent by military groups from hostile countries," Lynn said.
Accordingly, Gates proposed improving the Navy's intertheater lift capacity by increasing the charter of joint high-speed vessel ships from two to four until the department's production program begins deliveries in 2011.

The defense secretary recommended buying more littoral combat ships – a key capability for presence, stability and counterinsurgency operations in coastal regions – from two to three ships in fiscal 2010, with the long-term goal of eventually acquiring 55 such ships.

"The requirement is predominance, for speed, it's the ability maneuver in shallow waters," Lynn said. "The ship that best fills this bill is the LCS, which, despite its past development problems, is a versatile ship that can be turned on a dime, go places that are either too shallow or too dangerous.

"And as we've seen off the coast of Somalia, it does not take a big ship to carry out anti-piracy missions," he said, referring to the U.S. Navy-led rescue of an American ship captain kidnapped by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa.

"American people our more aware today of our maritime forces than they have been in a long time," he said. "Piracy off the Horn of Africa and the dedicated actions of our skilled and brave Navy SEALs have reminded us of why we have sea services."

Lynn underscored the role U.S. maritime forces have played in operations since Sept. 11, 2001.

"The first thing is to acknowledge how grateful we are to the men and women of the Marines, the Navy and the Coast Guard since Sept. 11, 2001," he said. "They have been engaged in operations around the world to defeat terrorist groups and to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The progress we've made owes so much to their skill, their dedication and too often, to their sacrifices," he said.