Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Chief

by Airman 1st Class Lauren Pitts
Minot Air Force Base Public Affaris

6/16/2014 - MINOT, N.D.  -- The Medal of Honor: an award reserved for the most noble and selfless acts, and the pinnacle of American heroism. One such hero gave his life for his men and his country, but the true story of his legacy remained a secret for 42 years.

Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger enlisted in the Air Force in 1951. Upon arriving at his first duty station, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Etchberger met and married his wife. With Richard working as a radar technician, the Etchbergers traveled the world from Air Base to Air Base with their children Steve, Rich, and Cory.

"At the height of the Vietnam War in the mid 60's, that's when I remember dad being gone a lot," said Rich Etchberger. "He was spending a lot of time at the radar facility, training to make them more mobile for missions in South East Asia."

During this time period, the U.S. government began discharging Airmen and contracting them with Lockheed Martin as civilians to run the radar sites overseas. Etchberger and his wife arrived at the Pentagon to sign secrecy agreements before he began his mission.

Etchberger was serving as a ground radar superintendent at a top-secret defensive position at Lima Site 85 in Laos, a location that remained classified to the American public for over 40 years.

Despite the secrecy of the location, the North Vietnamese were aware of the American troops. Etchberger and his men were at the site when they were overrun by enemy forces. Under heavy artillery attack, Chief Etchberger's entire crew lay either dead or severely wounded, leaving the chief as the only one able to operate the radio and a weapon.

Chief Etchberger single-handedly directed airstrikes into the area, while simultaneously fighting off enemy fire with an M-16 rifle. The following morning, a rescue aircraft hovered over the chief's location, and lowered down the slings. Etchberger repeatedly exposed himself to the continuous enemy fire to ensure the surviving members of his crew were hoisted to safety. Just as Etchberger was about to board the aircraft, he noticed another troop of his ducking out of fire. He ran to the man, and together they were lifted to the aircraft.

"Just as dad is being lifted up, and the air craft begins to peel away, a Vietnamese soldier empties his AK-47 at the Huey, and only one bullet hit anything," said Cory Etchberger. "And that was dad."

On March 11, 1968, the Etchberger family received a call at their home in Pennsylvania. What they were told and what they believed for most of their lives was that their father was killed in a helicopter crash.

Only eight months after they heard the news, the Etchbergers were called to the White House where their mother was presented with the Air Force Cross. Although her children remained oblivious to their father's cause of death, Mrs. Etchberger kept her husband's mission a secret until her death in 1994.

In 2010, Cory received a call from the White House. On the other end of the line was President Barack Obama, who revealed the true story behind Chief Etchberger's death, and his acts of heroism and valor. The Etchberger brothers traveled to Washington D.C. once more, to witness the Medal of Honor posthumously awarded to their father; the first chief master sergeant to ever receive it.

Chief Etchberger's legacy is the embodiment of the Air Force Core values, and the personification of the Airman's creed. During his time serving his country, Chief Etchberger's sacrifice truly was the epitome of integrity first, service before self, and the promise to never leave an Airman behind.

Total Force Readiness Has Atrophied, Air Force Secretary Says

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2014 – While elements of the Air Force are always prepared to meet the country’s readiness needs, total force readiness has deteriorated, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told the Defense Writers Group here today.

Nearing the six-month mark of her term as the Air Force’s top official, James touched on appropriately balancing the readiness of the force as part of her three top priorities.

“The readiness of today … is just absolutely crucial,” she said. It means having the right training and equipment, she said, and it means having people prepared to step up to the plate no matter what.

“Today, if necessary to go do what the nation would call upon us to do, we’re dealing with the situation in Iraq,” she said. “If we had been together a month ago, you might have been very interested in talking about Ukraine. The point is you never know what is going to happen. The point is you’ve got to be ready. Our readiness in the Air Force, as a total force over the years, has atrophied -- that is to say the full spectrum of our readiness.”

Parts of our Air Force are enormously ready at all times, James said, and those are the ones that would be put forward first.

“But I’m concerned with our entire readiness,” she added. “We need to get that readiness up.”

James said the readiness of tomorrow means the platforms and technologies of tomorrow. “You know we have our three top acquisitions programs,” she said. “We have other programs as well, and we’ve got to appropriately invest in those so that 10, 20, 30 years from now, we remain the world’s best Air Force.”

Getting that balance correct is important, James said, but it is a difficult business, because it all comes down to money and where it will be spent in a tough budget environment.

“In order to pay for some of these priorities we’re trying to reduce some of our aging aircraft like the A-10 [Thunderbolt attack jet, also called Warthog], for example,” she said. “We don’t know whether Congress will agree to this at the end of the day, but we have to make those tough decisions [and] reduce force structure in some areas in order to pay for this.”

James told the defense writers that the other two priorities she remains focused on are taking care of people and maximizing taxpayer dollars.

“People are the foundation of everything that we do,” she said. “And taking care of people means a lot of things. It’s a big portfolio.” It means recruiting, retaining and developing people, James said, and shaping the force so the right people are in the right jobs going forward.

Part of shaping the force, she said, will come by downsizing through both voluntary and involuntary means.

“This has been quite an issue that we have been dealing with,” James said. “It’s on the minds of a lot of our airmen, and so I’ve been talking about this as I’ve been traveling across the Air Force. The goal is to use voluntary as much as possible [and] to use involuntary when we must to get it over with so that we are appropriately shaped in the next 14 [to] 15 months, and then we’re done and move forward.”

James said appropriately balancing the active duty, Reserve and National Guard components also is part of taking care of people.

“As we’re reshaping and downsizing,” she said, “we want to take advantage of the best capabilities of all three of those components and the fourth component as well: our civilians.”

The secretary also said another part of taking care of people is ensuring their dignity and respect in an appropriate climate in the Air Force. “As you could imagine, sexual assault has been something I’ve been tracking on quite a bit as well over the last six months,” she added. “It’ll continue to be a top priority of mine going forward.”

James said that coming from the business world, her third priority is making every dollar count in a “tough” budget environment. This involves keeping programs on schedule and on budget as much as possible, she said, while attacking headquarters spending and getting to an auditability stage for the Air Force’s books.

“We’re also trying to bubble up ideas from the field through what we’re calling the ‘Make Every Dollar Count’ campaign,” James said.

The secretary stressed that her job is to ensure the Air Force is prepared to answer the nation’s call, today and in the future.

“My overall job … is to train, to equip and to organize the Air Force so that we can help the nation respond to whatever contingency we’re asked to respond to in what is still a very, very dangerous world,” James said. “It’s to prepare the Air Force today for that, as well to make sure that we’re on the path to do that 20 and 30 years from now.”

McChord product improvement Airmen create training guide for C-17 aircrews

by Staff Sgt. Russ Jackson
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

6/17/2014 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Editor's Note: This is part five of a five part series on McChord's product improvement section.

The industry of aviation is at an all-time high and with hundreds of thousands of aircraft in the skies every single day, navigation systems must be on the cutting edge of technology. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft have a global mission requiring a comprehensive worldwide navigation database for their flight management systems.

The databases provide C-17 crews with the data they need to navigate the increasingly complex global airspace system. It is imperative that aircrews are proficient in loading theses navigation databases in to jets.

Previously, McChord Field has maintained a contract with civilians whose job was to load current navigation databases into the C-17 during the launch sequence of active missions. Recently, the contract ended and the responsibility to load the navigation databases fell upon the aircrews to do during their preflight checks.

Aircrews arrive at the jet about three hours prior to takeoff, and in addition to their normal preflight checks, they load the navigation databases themselves. It quickly became evident the problem was McChord aircrews were not proficient in loading the databases and they were corrupting them fairly frequently. This resulted in planes taking off late, but McChord maintainers could not understand why.

Col. Craig Gaddis, 62nd Maintenance Group commander, became aware of this issue and requested a quick and accurate resolution. Theoretically, it was a flight crew problem, however maintenance Airmen were being called to the jet during the launch sequence to diagnose the issue. When aircraft launch late, they can lose their mission and their air refueling tankers because of how precisely everything is timed out.

Gaddis enlisted the help of Master Sgt. Dennis Kauffman, 62nd Maintenance Squadron engineering and logistics liaison, from the product improvement section. Kauffman knew other bases were not having this issue and needed to know why McChord aircrews were having such difficulties.

"I started researching and found that other bases didn't have a contractor to load these databases," said Kauffman. "These bases have had their flight crews uploading this navigation database themselves for years."

He discovered aircrews were following a technical order written for those who had already received training on the navigation databases, therefore, the instructions were very brief. McChord aircrews did not have the technical knowledge, background, or the training to do it themselves.

Kauffman linked up with Airmen from maintenance operations and quality assurance and wrote a training plan for the aircrews for everything they needed to know about how to load the systems correctly and efficiently. Within days of implementing the new training plans, aircrews were no longer experiencing load problems, and missions were not delaying for this issue.
"We resolved this issue because we took the time, noticed the problem and created a training guide for the aircrews illustrating how to load these data bases and what not to do," said Kauffman. "We cut down our late departures for this issue nearly down to zero."

Kauffman has led the product improvement section for the last three years and on May 29 he retired after 22 of service to the U.S. Air Force.

CAP provides assistance during RF-A

by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/18/2014 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The skies have roared with the sounds of familiar aircraft during RED FLAG-Alaska, Eielson's premier combat training exercise.

However, a lesser known group of planes with a large impact is the Civil Air Patrol, the Air Force's civilian auxiliary unit which simulates threats during training exercises such as RF-A.

Members from the Fairbanks CAP 9th Composite Operations Squadron and Eielson's 71st Composite Squadron have been attending briefings and working with fighter pilots to assist them with training by simulating low-flying threats during sorties.

"You get a visual picture of what these guys actually do," said Jim Gibertoni, 9th COS member. "Until I flew in RED FLAG, I never realized what the supersonic world consisted of until I got up in the air. It becomes a whole different world."

With the exception of a neutral plane that should not be hit during a flight, the goal of each CAP plane is to make it to a target area without being detected and shot down while participating units try to stop them from reaching the target area.

"This isn't a game up here. The objective is to provide these pilots with a realistic situation to find and shoot down targets," said Gibertoni. "The power and might that are in the hands of fighter pilots is phenomenal. Shows can't grasp exactly what these pilots can do."

At least two CAP members are in the cockpit to fly, navigate and log activity while flying, but a device known as a puck will record when the plane is struck, providing participating pilots with information on their kill-shot accuracy.

"I like being involved with RED FLAG, it's something pretty unique to Alaska," said Caleb Conley, 9th COS member. "I don't have military background so to get a glimpse of what the military can do and realize it's not at all like how Hollywood portrays; it is amazing."

Icemen also have the opportunity to fly as a CAP member, learning a different perspective of how training with CAP is ran.

"CAP provides a unique capability by simulating the 'low and slow flyer.' They are able to replicate civilian and light utility aircraft much better than military airframes," said Maj. Robert Lindblom, 353rd Combat Training Squadron RF-A 14-2 team chief and 71st CS member. "Plus, they reinforce the need for visual identification on unknown aircraft, which prevents civilian and blue on blue casualties."

Aside from RF-A, CAP provides search and rescue and a host of other civil defense services like disaster relief and damage assessment.

Under a cadet program, CAP is open to anyone 12-21 years old while senior members must be at least 18 years old.

"I encourage others to join CAP because it's a fun way to serve your country without much of the stress we experience on active duty," said Lindblom. "Plus, when you're working with younger children in the squadron, you have the chance to shape future leaders."

For more information or to join Eielson's 71st CS, contact Col. John Cartwright, 354th Maintenance Group commander and 71st CS operations officer.

DOD Recovers Remains of 17 From 1952 Aircraft Crash in Alaska

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2014 – The remains of 17 service members have been recovered from an aircraft that was lost in Alaska more than six decades ago, Pentagon officials announced today.

On Nov. 22, 1952, a C-124 Globemaster crashed while en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, from McChord Air Force Base, Washington, with 11 crew members and 41 passengers on board. Adverse weather precluded immediate recovery attempts, officials said. In late November and early December 1952, they added, search parties were unable to locate and recover any of the service members.

On June 9, 2012, an Alaska National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew spotted aircraft wreckage and debris during a training mission over the Colony Glacier, immediately west of Mount Gannett. Three days later, another Alaska Guard team landed at the site to photograph the area and found artifacts at the site that related to the wreckage of the C-124 Globemaster.

Later that month, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Joint Task Force team conducted a recovery operation at the site and recommended that it continue to be monitored for possible future recovery operations. In 2013, additional artifacts were visible, and JPAC conducted further recovery operations.

Defense Department scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used forensic tools and circumstantial evidence in the identification of 17 service members. The remaining personnel have yet to be recovered, officials said, and the crash site will continued to be monitored for possible future recovery.

The remains of the following service members have been recovered and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors:

Army Lt. Col. Lawrence S. Singleton; Army Pvts. James Green Jr. and Leonard A. Kittle; Marine Corps Maj. Earl J. Stearns; Navy Cmdr. Albert J. Seeboth; Air Force Cols. Noel E. Hoblit and Eugene Smith; Air Force Capt. Robert W. Turnbull; Air Force 1st Lts. Donald Sheda and William L. Turner; Air Force Tech. Sgt. Engolf W. Hagen; Air Force Staff Sgt. James H. Ray; Air Force Airman 1st Class Marion E. Hooton; Air Force Airmen 2nd Class Carroll R. Dyer, Thomas S. Lyons and Thomas C. Thigpen; and Air Force Airman 3rd Class Howard E. Martin.

AGE technician wins AMC maintainer of the year award

by Senior Airman Rebecca Blossom
62nd Maintenance Squadron unit public affairs representative

6/17/2014 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Dallas Nickerson, 62nd Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment technician, was awarded Air Mobility Command's civilian maintenance professional of the year award and was recognized by Brig. Gen. Warren Berry, Headquarters Air Mobility Command director of logistics, at an awards ceremony June 12, at the McChord Field collocated club.

The AMC Maintenance Professional of the Year award is given to top performers in the maintenance field with a record of outstanding work and technical expertise. Nickerson, who retired after 20 years of Air Force service and continued on as a civilian maintainer, has been an AGE technician for more than 30 years and has consistently impressed all those around him.

"Whether it's an engine that needs to be rebuilt, a generator that's in dire need of an overhaul, or an Airman who needs help reading an electrical schematic, Mr. Nickerson is right there in the middle of it, said Master Sgt. Michael Applegate, 62nd MXS AGE flight chief.

"He's always on the lookout for equipment to fix or processes to improve. It will be on the shoulders of people like him that will carry the Air Force through upcoming challenges such as force management programs."

This is the second year in a row that Nickerson has been honored as the maintenance professional of the year at the AMC level, and his third consecutive year receiving the 62nd Maintenance Group's Civilian Technician Maintenance Professional of the Year award.

Nickerson has been lauded by his coworkers and superiors as an exceptional mechanic, and has proven his skills on many occasions, making these awards well-earned.

"Due to his overall knowledge and experience, Mr. Nickerson has continuously chosen to head up the largest and most in-depth maintenance at the AGE shop," said Matthew Zubrod, 62nd MXS AGE power production supervisor. "His meticulous approach to troubleshooting has led to the repair of the most elusive of faults on some equipment more than 30 years old."

Mr. Nickerson believes it is his upbringing that motivates him to be the best.

"My mother always had two jobs, and my father was never out of a job," said Nickerson. "My dad is still working today at almost 80 years old, and I have to remind him to get off of the ladder. My whole career, I've always given 110 percent all the time. I find the problems, do the research, and fix them."

While he has shown himself to be an ever-capable technician, Nickerson's favorite part of his job is mentoring the new Airmen in the AGE flight.

"Teaching the Airmen, investing in them, and watching them grow to become awesome mechanics, that's the best part of what I do," said Nickerson. "More and more they start to diagnose problems right the first time, and one day they'll replace us and carry on what it means to be a mechanic through what we teach them."

Staff Sgt. Samuel Coleman, 62nd MXS AGE technician, who has been stationed at McChord for all seven years of his career, says Nickerson has been training him from the very beginning.

"Mr. Nickerson's knowledge and skills in this field helped shape me as an Airman," said Coleman. "I won the 2010 62nd Maintenance Group Professional of the Year award in the Airman category due to the experience I gained working with him. So much of what he taught me went into winning that award, and he carries on this legacy of success with every airman that he mentors."

Warriors of the North host first M.A.C.A. Civil Fly-in

by Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

6/18/2014 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- About a dozen aircraft lined the flightline here with occupants who were not Air Force pilots or crew, but they were here to do official Air Force business. 

The 319th Air Base Wing Safety Office hosted the 2014 Mid-Air Collision Avoidance program, better known as M.A.C.A., June 14.

"The main purpose of the M.A.C.A. program is to raise awareness on how to avoid mid-air collisions or near mid-air collisions by sharing knowledge about air traffic and airfield operating procedures specific to our local airspace here at Grand Forks Air Force Base," said Lt. Col. Rudolf Kuehne, 319th Air Base Wing chief of safety.

The members of the 319th ABW safety office and the 319th Operations Support Squadron aircraft control tower do monthly visits with flying clubs and organizations which share the local airspace and talk about the hazards that may be encountered in the air such as certain species of migratory birds and lower flying aircraft such as crop dusters and helicopters.

According to members of the 319th ABW safety office this is the first time ever a fly-in for the M.A.C.A. program has taken place on Grand Forks AFB.

It was a fact that caused positive reactions by some fly-in participants.

"I think for me the thing I enjoyed the most was simply being able to land on the base," said Catrina Kugler, one of the flying instructors from the University of North Dakota, who attended the event. "We typically have to fly around the base because of air restrictions, so getting a chance to fly and land here was pretty cool."

The fly-in included more than a typical safety briefing and updates about the local airspace as guests were treated to a tour that featured two of the unmanned aircraft vehicles operated by tenant units on Grand Forks AFB.

"My favorite part of the event was being able to see planes like the UAV aircraft up close," said Erik Breault, another UND flying instructor. "I mean most of the time when people see an aircraft like Global Hawk or Predator; it's usually on TV or the Internet. Here we actually got stand right next to one and see how they really look."

The fly-in also provided an opportunity for guests to meet and interact with fellow aviators who had official ties to one another.

Such was the case for Airmen from the Civil Air Patrol.

Three Happy Hooligans, Capt. Daniel Villas, 1st Lt. Eric Jacobs and 2nd Lt. Graham Frost, from the 119th Air National Guard Cadet Squadron in Fargo, North Dakota, got to meet four other CAP members from North Dakota.

Gregory Weber and Kenneth Kudrna from the Rough Rider Composite Squadron in Dickinson, North Dakota, arrived with their squadron commander, Lt. Col. Ray Thompson, who along with retired Master Sgt. Al Vecchio, North Dakota CAP Wing deputy safety officer, met their fellow CAP Airmen from Fargo.

"Even though we and the other four gentlemen may be part of the North Dakota Civil Air Patrol, we may not always know one another, so event like this fly-in definitely provide a great opportunity to put names to faces, which helps develop communication and camaraderie inside the organization," said Villas.

Although many guests enjoyed the interactive aspect and UAV tour spots of the fly-in, it is safe to say that most in attendance were in agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration and other aviation safety organizations stating that local airspaces around the country are becoming more and more saturated.

"The aviation industry is still growing, especially with the global interests in Unmanned Aircraft Systems," said Kuehne.

"Grand Forks Air Force Base is at the forefront of that growth. We hope that this fly-in will result to in more knowledge about how we can effectively travel in the various aircraft operated in our airspace because through awareness, vigilance, and teamwork, we can make the skies in a North Dakota a safer place to fly."

RPAs meet mission goals safe and on time

by Staff Sgt. Steve Stanley
Air Combat Command Public Affairs

6/18/2014 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va., -- Airmen stationed in the continental United States and in deployed locations throughout the world drew on decades of Air Force aviation experience to achieve 65 simultaneous Remotely Piloted Combat Air Patrols last month.

Air Force Airmen have logged more than two million hours flying Remotely Piloted Aircraft. Data now shows that RPAs are operating more safely than general aviation aircraft, according to a study by the National Transportation Safety Board. General aviation is defined as all non-commercial flights. It accounts for 51 percent of total hours flown over the U.S.

Col. James A. Marshall, the former Director of Safety for Headquarters Air Combat Command, said that while his directorate is "never satisfied until the mishap rate is down to zero," he is pleased with the progress that has been made in the area of remotely piloted aircraft.

With a mishap rate of 3.23 losses per 100,000 hours flown, the MQ-1 Predator, RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-9 Reaper aircraft mishap rates are a fraction of accident rates in general aviation aircraft. The NTSB's last review of general aviation found an accident rate of more than 12 per 100,000 hours flown.

"I would rather have our RPAs flying over my house than general aviation," Marshall, a former U-2 command pilot who has been involved in ACC aircraft safety for the better part of a decade, when the RPA program was growing.

Safe operations are essential for successful combat missions. The first remotely piloted aircraft to see combat operations, the MQ-1 Predator, helped the Air Force establish safe procedures which have been applied to other remotely piloted platforms.

As the technology advances, the first generation Predator is being phased out in favor of the MQ-9 Reaper. These advancements in the Reaper include more robust and capable aircraft performance along with greater redundancies in the aircraft to enhance its safety of flight.

"Over time we have learned some things in safety for RPAs that will translate not only for the military aviation but also civilian (aviation)," said Marshall. "Our mishap rates have steadily gone down due to continuous process improvement."

Air Force aviation culture is grounded in a strong safety sense and the idea of continuous improvement. This combination has enabled adjustments to training curricula, upgrades to equipment and changes to flight procedures, while still performing daily missions during more than a decade of combat operations.

"When we have a mishap, we do an investigation and the results go through a safety board consisting of aviation experts, pilots, maintainers and outside subject matter experts, who provide alternative perspectives. From there the safety board makes recommendations on how to prevent future mishaps," Marshall said. "We find out what caused the crash, and in turn, the necessary changes are made to eliminate the reasons for the crash."

RPAs are not only safe compared to general aviation civilian aircraft, but their safety records stand up to some of the Air Force's most reliable current platforms, said Marshall.

Fourth-generation combat aircraft and long-duration reconnaissance platforms saw similar or higher mishap rates during the equivalent time-frame of their development and use. Because the MQ-1, RQ-4 and MQ-9 are the first combat and surveillance aircraft of their time, comparisons to other aircraft in the fleet are difficult. These RPAs have gone through similar testing, fielding and operational experiences as the Air Force's early fourth generation manned fighter aircraft, giving the Air Force an approximation window into assessing safety trends over more than ten years of continuous combat operations.

The early mishap rate for F-16 Fighting Falcons spiked at 3.68 per 100,000 hours flown. F-15 models saw 1.26 mishaps. Their combined mishap rates are generally comparable to the current MQ-9 rate of 1.93. The U-2 Dragon Lady's five year mishap rate is zero, equal to the rate for RQ-4s with a comparable number of total flying hours.

RPAs are among the most mission capable aircraft in the inventory. When called on, MQ-1 and MQ-9 aircraft are able to fly and execute mission requirements more often than almost all manned aircraft in the Air Force fleet. The 432nd Maintenance Group at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. has exceeded Air Combat Command's standard for keeping RPAs mission capable for the eighth year in a row.

ACC's standard MC rate for RPAs is 86 percent. The Predator achieved a 95.4 percent MC rate and the Reaper held a 90.4 percent MC rate April 2013 to April 2014.

The stats are reassuring, but for some it may still be hard to shake the idea that remotely piloted aircraft are still different. Maj. Guy Perrow, Multi-Role Reconnaissance Operations deputy for ACC, acknowledges RPA technology introduces specific technical challenges into flight operations, despite similarities in mission and flight. These challenges are present in all RPA flights, but continental U.S. operations are subject to stricter regulations than general civilian aviation, ensuring the latest advances in military aircraft exceed domestic safety standards.

"It's important to remember that RPA operations over the United States are confined to official training areas," said Perrow. "Civilian aircraft are more numerous and log many times more flight hours over larger portions of the country."

Based on federal laws, RPAs must adhere to the same FAA flight path regulations as civilian aircraft. As U.S. combat operations wind down around the world, it is unlikely the U.S. will see a marked increase in stateside military RPAs flying in commercial airspace.

"We don't currently anticipate a significant increase in RPAs flying over the U.S. following the drawdown in Afghanistan," said Perrow. "Flights will continue to be carried out in DoD air space, or over designated military-use corridors."

Air Force Secretary Outlines Changes for Nuclear Force

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2014 – Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James today outlined new incentives and measures designed to change the culture of the service’s nuclear force.

Following a cheating scandal involving intercontinental ballistic missile launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and the subsequent relief of nine officers, a commander’s retirement and 91 other airmen receiving discipline, James touched on ways the Air Force has begun to address “systemic issues.”

“I do think this is more than a single issue,” she said in remarks at a Defense Writers Group breakfast. “As I’ve said before, I do think we need some holistic fixes for the nuclear force. This is not something that happened in the last year or two, or even 10. It’s probably been happening gradually over the last 25 years.”

The secretary said while there are likely no quick fixes to resolve these issues, there are measures she and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III can implement now.

“Let’s talk money,” James said. “Money is not everything, but money’s important. So right now, in [fiscal year 2014], just in the last few months, we have redirected $50 million -- $50 million, by the way, is the most that the Global Strike Command said they could reasonably spend in [the fiscal year].”

Money should be spent reasonably, she said, so in addition to $50 million, $350 million more will be redirected to the nuclear mission over the next five years. The money will go to sustainment infrastructure and to some of the “people issues,” the secretary added.

There could be more to come, James said, but this is what officials have decided so far.

Another issue being addressed is undermanning in the nuclear force, the secretary told the defense writers.

“When you’re undermanned, that means the existing people have to work harder,” she said. “That impacts morale and it could impact other things as well. We have, right now, already directed 1,100 additional people are going to be inserted into the nuclear force to get those manning levels up.”

They principally will be in the field, she said, and the Air Force is going to 100-percent manning in the eight critical nuclear specialties. Air Force officials have lifted some of the ongoing servicewide manpower reductions to add people back into the nuclear force, she added.

Along with those adjustments, the secretary noted, she has called for elevating the Global Strike Command commander’s position to the four-star level and that the related major general position on the Air Force staff be made a lieutenant general position.

“We want to up the rank of the nuclear forces within the Air Force,” she said. “Rank matters in the military, so that’s another thing that we’re doing.”

Additionally, James said, the testing environment that produced the cheating scandal has been revamped, and the inspections environment will also see changes.

“It had become this zero-defect mentality, where even the smallest of the small kinds of errors could cause an entire failure,” she explained. “That wasn’t a healthy environment.”

In the fall, James said, the Air Force also will introduce a variety of new financial incentives for the nuclear force “to kick it up a notch,” including offering accession bonuses for new officers’ ROTC scholarships and incentive pay.

James also noted 20th Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, has issued a series of directives to the field designed to start to shift the culture.

“Now, you know memos don’t shift culture,” she said. “Leadership and time eventually shifts culture, but this is a start. This is designed to stop the micromanaging, to push down to the lower levels [and encourage] decision-making.”

All of that will help, James said.

“We didn’t get here overnight, and we’re not going to fix it overnight,” she added.

It will take persistent focus, leadership and attention for years to come, she said.

“With all of what I’ve just said, I’m certain that additional resources are probably still in order,” James said. “We’re going to have to talk about those resources as we get into the next [program objective memorandum] cycle.”

James said she believes the U.S. nuclear mission is a national mission for the entire Defense Department, not just the Air Force.

“So I’ll be talking to the deputy [defense] secretary, the secretary of defense [and] the senior leaders of DOD to see what we can do about this,” she said.

Stratcom Chief: U.S. Must Stay Vigilant, Capable to Fight Strategic Threats

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2014 – A strategic attack against the United States is remote but the nation must stay vigilant and capable if it is to address the carefully planned and potentially global threats that are part of today’s evolving security environment, Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney said today.

“Our nation is dealing with a global strategic environment that is complex and dynamic, perhaps more so than at any time in our history,” the commander of U.S. Strategic Command told members of the Air Force Association, the National Defense Industrial Association and the Reserve Officers Association.

He described advances in state and nonstate military capabilities across the domains of air, sea, land, space and cyber.

“Worldwide cyber threats are growing in scale and in sophistication. Nuclear powers are investing in long-term and wide-ranging military modernization programs. Proliferation of weapon and nuclear technologies continues,” the admiral continued.

“Weapons of mass destruction[or WMD,] capabilities and delivery technologies are maturing and becoming more readily available,” Haney added. “No region of the world is immune from potential chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear risks.”

The strategic environment, he said, is increasingly characterized by violent extremist organizations, regional unrest, protracted conflicts, budgetary stresses, competition for natural resources, and the transition and diffusion of power among global and regional actors.

Against this backdrop, Haney said, “U.S. Stratcom’s mission is to partner with other combatant commanders to deter and detect strategic attacks against the United States and our allies, and to defeat those attacks if deterrence fails by providing [President Barack Obama] options.”

The admiral said his command priorities include providing a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent force, partnering with other combatant commands, addressing challenges in space, building cyberspace capability and capacity, and preparing for uncertainty.

Haney said U.S. strategic nuclear capabilities are more than the nuclear Triad.

“Our strategic nuclear capabilities actually include a synthesis of dedicated sensors, assured command and control, the Triad of delivery systems, nuclear weapons and their associated infrastructure, and trained and ready people.”

The Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment, or ITW/AA, network of sensors and processing facilities gives critical early warning and allows Stratcom leadership to choose the best course of action in developing situations, he said.

The on-orbit capability is changing from the Defense Support Program, with a first satellite launch in 1970, to the Space-Based Infrared System, or SBIRS, program that Haney says is “on track to provide continued on-orbit capability.”

He added, “The survivable and endurable segments of these systems, along with the early warning radars, are being recapitalized and are vital to maintaining a credible deterrent.”

On nuclear command, control and communications, the admiral called assured and reliable NC3 critical to nuclear deterrent credibility.

Many NC3 systems need modernization, he said, to optimize current architecture and leverage new technologies so NC3 systems interoperate as the core of a broader national command-and-control system.

“We are working to shift from point-to-point hardwired systems to a networked Internet-protocol-based national C3 architecture,” he said, one that will balance survivability and endurability against a range of threats, deliver capabilities across interdependent national missions, and ultimately give the president more decision time and space.

On the nuclear Triad, Haney said the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review advised that retaining all three Triad legs will best maintain strategic stability at reasonable cost and hedge against potential technical problems. The president’s 2013 U.S. Nuclear Weapons Employment Planning guidance reinforced this view.

Haney said Stratcom executes strategic deterrence and assurance operations with intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, ballistic missile submarines and nuclear-capable heavy bombers.

The whole of the Triad’s strategic deterrence, he said, is greater than the sum of its parts.

- The ICBM force promotes deterrence and stability by fielding a responsive and resilient capability that imposes costs and denies benefits to those who would threaten U.S. security, Haney said. The Minuteman III ICBM, fielded in 1970, is sustainable through 2030 with smart modernization and other investments. The Air Force is studying a range of ICBM concepts that will shape the land-based deterrent force well beyond 2030, he added.

- On ballistic missile submarines, the admiral said recapitalizing the sea-based strategic deterrent force is his top modernization priority and that he will work closely with the Navy.

- The nation relies on the long-range conventional strike capability of heavy bombers but the nuclear capability of B-52 and B-2 bombers provides flexibility, visibility and a quick hedge against technical challenges in other Triad legs, Haney said, adding that maintaining an air-delivered standoff capability is vital to meeting U.S. deterrence commitments and conducting global strike operations in anti-access area-denial environments. Planned sustainment and modernization will ensure a credible nuclear bomber capability through 2040, the admiral said.

Nuclear weapons and their supporting infrastructure underpin the Triad, he added, and all warheads are on average 30 years old.

“While surveillance activities are essential to monitoring the health of our nuclear warheads, life-extension programs are key to sustaining our nuclear arsenal, mitigating age-related effects and improving safety and security features,” Haney said.

DOD and the Department of Energy must continue to work together to keep the multidecade plan for a modern, safe, secure and effective nuclear stockpile on track, he added.

Operating the nuclear deterrence force requires skilled operators, the admiral said.

“It is the professionalism and ability of our men and women in and out of uniform that gives our military the decisive advantage. They do everything from strategic planning to mission execution and maintaining and sustaining nuclear weapons,” Haney observed.

“Earlier this month we successfully test launched two D-5 missiles, marking more than 150 successful test launches,” he added. “This success is made possible by all the highly skilled professionals that are behind our strategic capability.”

The nuclear arsenal is smaller than it has been since the late 1950s, the admiral said, but nuclear weapon systems today remain capable and will serve the United States well into their fourth decade.

The percentage of spending in recent years on nuclear forces has gradually declined to 2.5 percent of 2013 DOD spending, a number that Haney said is near historic lows.

“Our planned investments are significant but are commensurate with the magnitude of the national resource that is our strategic deterrent,” he said, adding that failing to commit to these investments risks degrading the deterrent and stabilizing effect of a strong and capable nuclear force.

Quoting Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Haney said, “‘ … We also have to remember that every day we help prevent war. That’s what we are about. And we do that better than anyone else.’”