Sunday, May 06, 2012

Air Force General Expresses Confidence in F-22

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Amy L. Robinson
Air Combat Command

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va.  – The commander of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command met with reporters this week to discuss the national security imperative for the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, the status of efforts to identify a root cause for unexplained physiological incidents with the aircraft, and risk mitigation efforts since the Raptor’s return to flying operations in September 2011.

Confirming recent media reports of the F-22 deploying to Southwest Asia, Air Force Gen. Mike Hostage emphasized the Raptor’s ability to support combatant commander requirements around the world.

“I won’t comment where it’s deployed to or where it deployed from, but yes, the F-22 is on an operational deployment now. And this is not the first operational deployment,” he said. “If your adversary is so concerned about what your capabilities are they decide not to engage with you, that, to me, is the ultimate use of your military capability. People pay attention to where this airplane goes and what it does. … We need to make sure that it’s a sustained part of our inventory.”

A command-directed F-22 stand-down from May to September 2011 was a prudent measure following reports of potential oxygen system malfunctions, the general said. Since the stand-down, he added, Air Combat Command has implemented risk mitigation measures intended to protect F-22 pilots and maintenance crews and prevent future incidents.

Though he understands there are still concerns about the aircraft, Hostage said, a certain amount of risk always is involved and must be balanced with the requirement for the capability.

“In a peacetime training circumstance, we want to operate at as low of risk is prudent for the level of training we get out of a mission,” he explained. “When we go into combat, risk goes up, but the reason to assume that risk goes up as well.

“We live in a community where risk is part of our lives,” he continued. “If we think the risk has gone to a level where we just can’t accept it, we either reduce that risk or eliminate it. But right now, we believe that risk -- although it’s not as low as we would like it -- is low enough to safely operate the airplane at the current tempo.”

Hostage said he doesn’t expect his airmen to take the risk alone. In an effort to learn more about the aircraft and get a better understanding of what F-22 pilots are dealing with, he said, hesoon will begin flying the Raptor himself.

“I’m asking these guys to assume some risk that’s over and above what everybody else is assuming, and I don’t feel like it’s right that I ask them to do it and then I’m not willing to do it myself -- that’s not fair,” he said. The day officials figure out the problem is the day he will stop flying, he added.

Since the aircraft resumed flying operations in September, the F-22 has flown more than 12,000 sorties and returned to operational capability.

“We’ve taken a very specific, methodical approach to how we return to flying -- the types of missions and the durations of the missions,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles W. Lyon, Air Combat Command’s director of operations, who also participated in the media roundtable. “We’ve been continually increasing the types and durations.”

The Air Force continues to search for the root cause of the unexplained physiological incidents using detailed data-collection methods, which will soon include centrifuge and high-energy testing. Hostage said he believes the command is making significant progress toward an answer, but he emphasized that scientific testing and data collection take time.

“I believe we are making significant progress toward an answer,” Hostage said. “I don’t want to characterize how far or when, because I don’t own the progress of science. But I am confident we’re going to get to a solution.”

Both Lyon and Hostage compared this to the early days of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Although the first F-16 had its first operational flight in 1970, the combat edge aircrew flight equipment, which was optimized for high-G flight, wasn’t fielded until about 1988, Lyon said.

“We didn’t field it slowly because we had fiscal challenges,” he said. “It took us that long to get the understanding over time of what was actually happening.”

Hostage said a similar situation exists with the F-22 regarding the unknown effects of human physiology and technology.

“What we’re looking at is human physiology and the regime this airplane operates in,” he said. “This airplane does things airplanes have never done before in regimes of flight that we’ve never operated in before.”

Hostage said he’s confident a solution for what he calls “the most tactically-capable aircraft in the world” will come.

“This nation needs this airplane – and every one of them,” he said. “I wish I had 10 times as many as I have.”

Panetta: Service Members Must Represent Best of America

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – It is more important than ever that service members exercise judgment in the age of Twitter, You Tube, Flickr, I-Phones and Facebook, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told troops at Fort Benning, Ga., today.

The secretary spoke to the men and women of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. He spoke about how the actions of a very small number of service members have affected crucial operations.

Today, it can take only seconds for a photo to become an international headline, Panetta said.

“And those headlines can impact the mission that we’re engaged in,” the secretary said. “They can put your fellow service members at risk. They can hurt morale. They can damage our standing in the world, and they can cost lives.”

When videos can go viral overnight, the actions of a few can impact the lives of many, Panetta said. For example, he said, once word that soldiers at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, had accidently burned Muslim holy books got out, more than 30 Afghans died in the rioting that followed. The Taliban seized that incident -- and others such as Marines urinating on enemy corpses, and soldiers posing with body parts of suicide bombers -- to recruit Afghans to their side.

“I know that none of you … deliberately acts to hurt your mission or to put your fellow soldiers at risk,” the secretary said. “You are the best. And that’s why I’m here today. To tell you that I need you, that I need your leadership, that I need your courage -- that I need your strength to make sure that we always abide by the highest standards.”

The incidents that occurred in Afghanistan are the work of a tiny percentage of service members, Panetta said.

“I represent 3 million people, 2 million in uniform,” he said. “It’s a very small percentage of people who sometimes make these terrible mistakes.”

Still these incidents concern leaders all the way to the Pentagon and White House. This is because “a few, who lack judgment, lack professionalism, lack leadership can hurt all of us and can hurt all of those men and women who serve this country with distinction,” the secretary said.

Panetta stressed that the incidents concern leaders because “our enemies will seek to turn … these incidents in their favor at the very moment that they are losing the war.”

The 3rd Brigade will deploy again -- the unit deployed to Iraq for four tours -- and the secretary said he needs all service members to live the values of the United States. “Always remember who you are and the great country that you serve and that we are all part of,” he said. “You are part of the best fighting force on the face of the earth. Never forget that.”

Panetta emphasized that the members of the brigade have a responsibility to look after their comrades and to properly represent the American people.

“I know that all of you can meet this challenge,” he said to the gathered troops. “You are the best, and I have the greatest confidence in your ability to make all Americans proud by demonstrating the very finest character, integrity and judgment and willingness to fight.”

The secretary also discussed recent events in Afghanistan, noting last year was a “turning point” there.-

The Taliban, he said, have lost momentum as coalition and Afghan forces have secured many areas in Afghanistan. And despite great efforts, he added, the Taliban and their terrorist allies were not able to recapture a single square acre.

“Al-Qaida’s leadership, including bin Laden, has been decimated,” the secretary said. “We recognized the first-year anniversary taking down bin Laden. Let me tell you, that was due to the military professionalism of soldiers who went in there and did a mission that they do time and time and time again in Afghanistan. It was for that reason that I was confident that that mission would be accomplished.”

Afghan forces have grown in size and capabilities, Panetta said. Today, Afghan forces protect more than 50 percent of the population. Later this month a further tranche of areas will begin the transition process.

“By the end of summer will mean that 80 percent of the Afghan population will be under Afghanistan security and control,” the secretary said.

The Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier this week “sends a clear signal to our enemies and to our partners that we will finish the job right in Afghanistan,” Panetta told the troops.

Service members need to keep their minds in the game, the secretary said.

“If we keep our eye focused on this mission … we will defeat al-Qaida,” Panetta said. “We will deny them the ability to rebuild; we will deny them the safe haven that they used to plan an attack on our country.

“Too much precious blood has been spilled, too much progress has been made to lose sight of the mission now,” he added.

Secretary of the Navy Announces LHA 7 Will Be Named USS Tripoli

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today the selection of USS Tripoli as the name for the Navy’s next large-deck amphibious assault ship (LHA 7).

The USS Tripoli will be the third ship to bear the name Tripoli.  The name commemorates the capture of Derna in 1805 by a small force of U.S. Marines and approximately 370 soldiers from 11 other nationalities.  The battle, later memorialized in the Marines’ Hymn with the line “to the shores of Tripoli”, brought about a successful conclusion to the combined operations of the First Barbary War.  The first USS Tripoli, an escort carrier, fought in the battle of the Atlantic during World War II.  The second, an amphibious assault ship, earned nine battle stars, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and a Navy Unit Commendation for service in Vietnam.

 “USS Tripoli and the proud heritage the name represents will be an inspiration for generations of sailors and Marines who serve aboard and those who come in contact with her, reminding all the freedoms our Navy protects are as vital today as they were centuries ago,” Mabus said.

Like the future USS America (LHA 6), LHA 7 has an increased aviation capacity to include an enlarged hangar deck, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, a significant increase in available stowage for parts and support equipment, and increased aviation fuel capacity.

The LHA 7 will use the same gas turbine propulsion plant, zonal electrical distribution and electric auxiliary systems designed and built for the USS Makin Island, replacing the maintenance intensive steam plants of earlier ships.  This unique auxiliary propulsion system is designed for fuel efficiency.

The LHA 7 will provide a flexible, multi-mission platform with capabilities that span the range of military operations -- from forward deployed crisis response to forcible entry operations.   The ship also will provide forward presence and power projection as an integral part of joint, interagency and multinational maritime expeditionary forces.  The ship will operate for sustained periods in transit to and operations in an amphibious objective area to include:  embarking, transporting, controlling, inserting, sustaining and extracting elements of a marine air-ground task force, and supporting forces by helicopters and tilt rotors supported by Joint Strike Fighters F-35B.

Media may direct queries to the Navy Office of Information at 703-697-5342.

For more news from secretary of the Navy public affairs, visit .

For more information about LHA, visit .

Oceana Rodeo Showcases Motorcycle Safety

By MC3 Antonio P. Turretto Ramos, NAS Oceana Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Military motorcycle riders roared their engines May 4, 2012 during the 'Wake the Base Ride' beginning at Dam Neck Annex and ending at the main gate park of Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana. The group ride marked the beginning of the Motorcycle Rodeo sponsored by the Safety Office at NAS Oceana.

"We get a lot of riders from NAS Oceana, Dam Neck and Norfolk together for this event at the beginning of the riding season to remind these guys to ride safe," said Dave Ruhl, safety specialist and motorcycle safety coordinator for NAS Oceana and organizer of the event. "Every man and woman is important to the Navy. Operational readiness is affected when we lose Sailors. That's what we're here to prevent."

The overall purpose of the Motorcycle Rodeo is to encourage riders of all experience levels to create a positive peer pressure to get the training available through the Navy Safety Office, wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and mentor less seasoned riders.

"I became a CMC because the most important thing to me in the Navy is our Sailors, our people and our families and there's nothing more important than making sure they do this [ride motorcycles] safely. We lose so many Sailors to motorcycle accidents, this requires leadership to be out here and show how important this is," said NAS Oceana Command Master Chief Bill Smalts.

While the motorcycle rodeo is designed to bring riders together to encourage a safe riding environment, it's also fun. The rodeo includes events like the slow-speed race and the cone-weaving race, as well as a bike contest. Many of the riders come just to see all the other bikes, and this year, about 150 riders came out for the rodeo.

"A lot of them [younger riders] I think look up to our experienced riders and those who have been riding for a long time. That causes them to want to ride and they get out here and see that mentorship and that leadership and peer pressure is a big deal," said Smalts.

All Sailors who ride motorcycles must complete the Navy's Basic Rider Course (BRC) to ride on base and out in town.

"If people have the training, then less people will have mishaps. This year we have had a significant drop in motorcycle fatalities compared to 2008," said Lt. Cmdr. Richard Stafford, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106's command motorcycle safety representative as well as the motorcycle mentorship coordinator. "Getting out the word and exposing people to other people that are abiding by the rules and abiding by the training is valuable because it makes mentors available to new riders. Everyone here is doing the right thing. This is a positive use of peer pressure."

Motorcycle safety representatives (MSR)s play an important role at the command level to make sure that service members who ride motorcycles receive the proper rider safety training. MSRs also track and document each rider's progress. Sailor's are subject to disciplinary action if they fail to meet the safety requirements established by the Navy.

Depending on the type of motorcycle the rider chooses, additional training may also be required, as well as refresher courses, every three years. Also available through the Navy Safety Office are the experienced rider course (ERC) and military sport bike rider (MSRC) course.

"The training we provide makes Sailors knowledgeable of the risks, so they can manage those risks and stay safe. I expect Sailors to walk away from my course with a sincere desire to grow old and be able to watch their children grow," said John Gifford, Region Traffic Safety Instructor at NAS Oceana.