KC-135 crew saves F-16 pilot from ejecting over enemy lines

KC-135 crew saves F-16 pilot from ejecting over enemy linesMCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. (AFNS)

A KC-135 Stratotanker crew from McConnell Air Force Base saved an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot from ejecting over Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-held territory in 2015, which could have resulted in the Airman’s captivity or death.

While deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the crew responded to an F-16 fuel emergency and escorted the aircraft from ISIL territory to allied airspace.

“We were in the area of responsibility and were already mated with some A-10 Thunderbolt IIs that were tasked with observing and providing close air support for our allies on the ground,” said Capt. Nathanial Beer, a 384th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “The lead F-16 came up first and then had a pressure disconnect after about 500 pounds of fuel. We were expecting to offload about 2,500 pounds.”

After the F-16 disconnected a second time, the pilot went through his checklists and told the crew he had a fuel system emergency. Over 80 percent of his total fuel capability was trapped and unusable.

The F-16 could only use up to 15 minutes of fuel at a time, so the crew escorted the aircraft to its base while refueling every 15 minutes to avoid an emergency.

“The first thought I had from reading the note from the deployed location was extreme pride for the crew in how they handled the emergency,” said Lt. Col. Eric Hallberg, the 384th ARS commander. “Knowing the risks to their own safety, they put the life of the F-16 pilot first and made what could’ve been an international tragedy a feel-good news story. I’m sure they think it was not a big deal, however, that’s because they never want the glory or fame.”

Even after the crew escorted the F-16 back, they completed the rest of their daily missions, achieving 100 percent success.

“In my thoughts, what motivates them is a higher calling to be the best at the mission and take care of their fellow Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen,” the commander said.

Tankers like the KC-135 have made it possible to extend the range and persistence of Operation Inherent Resolve air operations, enabling coalition aircraft to maintain a 24/7 presence.

GAO denies protest, Air Force proceeds with LRS-B

GAO denies protest, Air Force proceeds with LRS-BWASHINGTON (AFNS)

The Government Accountability Office denied The Boeing Company’s protest of the Long Range Strike Bomber contract award following a comprehensive review of the source selection process. The Air Force was confident that the source selection team followed a deliberate, disciplined and impartial process to determine the best value for the warfighter and the taxpayer.

“We look forward to proceeding with the development and fielding of this critical weapon system. This platform will offer the joint community the required capability needed to meet our national security objectives and the evolving threat environment,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “It is important to ensure affordability in this program and the ability to leverage existing technology as we proceed forward.”

The service plans to procure 100 LRS-B aircraft. The aircraft preserves the president’s options for missions across the full range of military operations from permissive to anti-access/area denial environments. It will serve as the air component of the nuclear triad, providing a visible and flexible nuclear deterrent capability.

“Our Nation needs this capability,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “The current bomber fleet is aging. The technology advantage the U.S. has enjoyed is narrowing. This new bomber will provide unmatched combat power and agility to respond and adapt faster to our potential adversaries.”

More robust US airpower needed, AF leaders tell lawmakers

More robust US airpower needed, AF leaders tell lawmakersWASHINGTON (AFNS)

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and other senior leaders testified before the House Armed Services Committee about readiness and the fiscal year 2017 Air Force budget request Feb. 12.

The panel, which also included Lt. Gen. John Raymond, the deputy chief of staff for operations, and Lt. Gen. John Cooper, the deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering and force protection, testified that with today’s national security challenges, the world needs a strong American joint force. The joint force depends upon Air Force capabilities and requires airpower at the beginning, the middle and the end of every joint operation.

“Since our establishment in 1947, the Air Force remains the world’s first and most agile responder in times of crisis, contingency and conflict,” Goldfein said.

He added that the last 25 years of continuous combat operations and reductions in the total force, combined with budget instability and lower funding, have resulted in one of the smallest, oldest and least ready forces across the full spectrum of operations in Air Force history.

Goldfein also stated the Budget Control Act further degraded readiness while limiting recovery. While the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 provided some readiness recovery and modernization efforts, the Air Force needs permanent relief from BCA with consistent and flexible funding, more manpower and time to recover readiness.

For the past two years, instead of rebuilding readiness for future, high-end conflicts, Airmen have responded to events across the globe leading and in support of the joint force while remaining the world’s greatest Air Force. A return to sequestration would worsen the problem and delay the Air Force goal to return to full-spectrum readiness, Goldfein said

“We are too small and you have seen us trying to build back up capacity so we can do what our nation needs,” Goldfein said.

To improve mission quality, the vice chief of staff said the budget includes a modest upsizing of the total force to address a number of key areas, including critical career fields such as intelligence, cyber, maintenance, and battlefield Airmen. Aircraft maintenance career fields are approximately 4,000 maintainers short. The manpower requested will keep existing aircraft flying at home and abroad.

“We have offered numerous retention incentives to our older maintainers so they will stay and retain that training, that expertise, but we are digging a continuous hole as we go forward,” Cooper said.

According to Goldfein, this budget request prioritizes readiness and modernization over installation support. Today’s Air Force maintains infrastructure that is in an operational excess. There are 500 fewer aircraft now compared to 10 years ago, therefore, a reduction and realignment infrastructure would best support Air Force operational needs by base realignment and closure, he said.

Airmen are educated, innovative, motivated, and willing to ensure the Air Force continues to outwit and outlast opponents and defend the United States from harm, Goldfein said. They assure air superiority so American ground forces can keep their eyes on enemies on the ground rather than concern themselves with enemy airpower overhead.

“This budget request is an investment in the Air Force our nation needs,” Goldfein said. “America expects it; combatant commanders require it; and with your support for this budget request, our Airmen will deliver it.”

Bagram’s ‘Dr. Frankenstein’ finds sweet release in expeditionary confections

Bagram’s ‘Dr. Frankenstein’ finds sweet release in expeditionary confectionsBAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS)

(This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)

He is the Dr. Frankenstein of expeditionary treat making, whipping up delicious concoctions out of care package candy bars and whatever else he can dig up. His laboratory is a tiny office, and his only tools are a little microwave and a mini fridge.

Yet, people don’t run terrified from his newest monster everyone wants a piece.

The story of deployed culinary experimentation began for Dan Johnson, the 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group contract augmentation program manager, at Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan, in 2012. There, he had a coworker from Trinidad who specialized in making unique chocolate treats from whom he learned the tricks of the trade.

“All of what I do is in an expeditionary environment, and that surprises people,” Johnson said. “They think there is no way that I made this over here. But it’s all done in a microwave and a mini fridge in my office. It’s truly Dan’s Gourmet Expeditionary Chocolates.”

This hobby has been his creative outlet for four years in Afghanistan. He makes a batch every month or so to break up the monotony of deployed life, because as Johnson jokes, “It prolongs the inevitable descent into madness that results from writing government contracts every day.”

So where does Johnson find all the ingredients to complete the recipes he has designed? Care packages mailed from family and friends back home.

“People come to me all the time with things they get from their care packages,” Johnson explained. “I have had people bring me Twix and Twinkies, and so I came up with something out of that. Just the other day, someone brought in a bag of PayDays they got in the mail and asked if I could make something. I think I am going to mix it with a chocolate mousse; you can’t go wrong with that.”

While Victor Frankenstein only made a couple monsters, Johnson makes about 60 to 80 culinary confections per batch to distribute throughout the support group. After the batch is served to his adoring fans, he keeps one of each new specimen for himself. However, it is not to eat. Johnson carefully cuts apart the snack, takes photos of it, and transcribes meticulous notes of how it was made. All of this helps him pass on his knowledge to others who want to mimic his recipes.

Without an assistant, like Igor, to train, Johnson takes time out of his day to teach others how to make his concoctions. He has a passion teaching others to share in his experiences.

“I have always wanted to make candy but never had the opportunity to learn,” said Tech. Sgt. Felicia Smith, a 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron executive assistant. “When we first met, he was bringing in a batch of his newest treats and it cheered everyone up because it was so unexpected in a deployed environment. The reaction on people’s faces and the joy it brought them was incredible.

“I tried to make candy before and failed miserably. I was really discouraged,” she added. “It was after Mr. Johnson showed me how to do it, that I really knew what I was doing. There is an art to what he does, and he has inspired me.”

Like every good inventor, Johnson has a go-to “secret recipe” that people request all the time from him the Reeseo. While others across the world have made similar styles of this treat, his Air Force version is one of a kind. First, he takes two double stuffed Oreos and places them around a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup. Then, he uses a special chocolate to be melted over the entire treat. After that, he stamps the Air Force logo into the top. Finally, he finishes it off with powdered sugar to bring out the accent of the stamp. Over the course of his four years making delectable snacks, he has made upwards of 1,000 Reeseos.

Though Johnson has carved out a niche as a confectioner, he does not plan on taking his talents to the business realm.

“I love making these as a hobby, but I would probably come to hate it if I had to do it as a job,” he said. “I will probably keep doing this even after I leave Afghanistan, but it will just be for my family and friends.”

With all the success Johnson has had in creating culinary masterpieces from the bits and pieces of care packages, he has surely earned his place as an honorary mad scientist. And, with how good everyone says his expeditionary treats taste, he surely isn’t in any danger of being run out of town by an angry mob. In fact, it’s actually quite the opposite.

KC-46 refuels fighter jet with hose, drogue system for first time

KC-46 refuels fighter jet with hose, drogue system for first timeEDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS)

An Air Force and Boeing aircrew aboard a KC-46A Pegasus successfully refueled an F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet in flight Feb. 10, marking the program’s first using the tanker’s hose and drogue system.

The flight, which took place in the skies over Washington state, lasted more than four hours and the tanker’s air refueling operator transferred fuel to the F/A-18 at 20,000 feet, according to Boeing officials.

The KC-46 will refuel aircraft using both its boom, and hose and drogue systems. The boom allows the tanker to transfer up to 1,200 gallons of fuel per minute, while the plane’s hose and drogue systems, located on both the plane’s wing and centerline, enables the KC-46 to refuel smaller aircraft such as the F/A-18 with up to 400 gallons of fuel per minute, a Boeing news release said.

F/A-18s are flown by both the Navy and Marine Corps.

The KC-46 refueled an F-16C Fighting Falcon from Edwards Air Force Base using its air refueling boom Jan. 24.

The KC-46 is intended to replace the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet, which has been refueling aircraft for more than 50 years. With more refueling capacity and enhanced capabilities, improved efficiency and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation, the KC-46 will provide aerial refueling support to the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as coalition aircraft.

The 412th Test Wing is the lead developmental test organization for the KC-46 tanker program.

Air Force continues to improve care in the air

Air Force continues to improve care in the airThe Air Force is committed to research and development for advancements in en route patient care.

The Air Mobility Command Surgeon General’s office and researchers across the Air Force, to include the 711th Human Resource Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, have been working together to improve how the Air Force provides care in the air. The AMC/SG is responsible for clinical oversight of the Air Force aeromedical evacuation (AE) system.

“Over the last 15 years, the joint community has made tremendous strides in providing care to our wounded warriors,” said Col. Susan Dukes, the En Route Care Research Division chief for the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Wright Patterson AFB.

“We now have programs of research specific to en route care. It’s very important to clinicians and researchers to capture lessons learned in order to improve our policies and procedures for patient care,” Dukes added.

About every 12 to18 months, AMC conducts a capability based assessment which informs the surgeon general’s office where gaps are across the en route care spectrum. Gaps are categorized in areas such as doctrine, personnel, and facilities, and assist AMC/SG with focusing its research efforts, said Col. Andrea Gooden, the En route Medical Care Division chief for AMC/SG.

Many of the questions asked by researchers require a series of studies to reach an evidence-based approach that informs policy or changes clinical practice, Dukes said.

Researchers are studying the stresses of flight and the various impacts of transport, such as hypoxia and vibration, she said. Findings from these studies will help identify what needs to be done differently while caring for patients in the en route care system compared to care provided to patients in the hospital environment.

Dukes said over the years, another aspect of researched care has been pain control. Research has shown that if severe pain is not controlled early on, it can lead to problems with chronic pain. Controlling severe pain following devastating injuries has also been suggested to protect against the development of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

“The Air Force is trying to look at better ways to manage pain within the en route care system,” Dukes said. “Identifying pain management challenges was the first step. We are now looking at interventions, to include the use of regional anesthesia for our critical care and AE patients. We are also researching diversion and music therapy as non-pharmacological measures for pain control in our non-critical patients.”

She said studies have been completed by other researchers to assess the effectiveness of alternative pain management methods, such as acupuncture.

Another documented research gap is the need to understand the relationship between the time of the injury and the time to transport. A study recently released by researchers at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine revealed evidence suggesting air evacuations of traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients may pose a significant added risk, potentially causing additional damage to already injured brains. Identifying the impact of transport and the best time to transport patients with different disease processes or injuries are questions military researchers have been studying for several years, Dukes said.

This study was looking at the timing of simulated transport with different amounts of oxygen administered using an animal model, Dukes noted. Additional studies are needed before these findings can be applied to policy.

“We are taking it into consideration as we look at how we care for our TBI patients,” Gooden said. “Our flight surgeons evaluate each patient individually as they are validated for movement. We are taking the research seriously, but we really need to replicate in a human model before we change policy.”

The Defense Department is also developing a new electronic health record to be pushed across all services soon. The AMC Surgeon General’s office aims to provide a solution to the disconnect between ground medical capabilities to the AE capability, Gooden said. Currently, there is an electronic record of care received on the ground, but not in the air.

“If you consider where you are taking off from and what agencies are delivering the patient and then subsequently receiving the patients, if they are not all using the same program, it quickly becomes complex,” said Lt. Col. William Thoms, the aeromedical evacuation clinical operations chief for AMC/SG. “When we land to pick up our patients, AE and critical care teams need to be able to receive the data seamlessly to provide further positive outcomes.”

The goal is for the AE crews to be able to telecommute or reach out to communicate to ground sources, he said. This will enable the providers on the ground to give AE personnel definitive and clear guidance on how to take care of any crisis taking place in the air.

How AE Airmen train also plays in an integral role in operational readiness and improved care. AMC/SG recently led a high performance team focused on clinical sustainment training for AE, patient staging and critical care. The results identified research is needed on the use and effectiveness of simulation in clinical training.

“Our number one priority is incorporating simulation into our clinical training requirements,” Gooden said. “We are trying to incorporate and standardize training across the total force: AE, patient staging and critical care elements. Eventually having the ability to cross train the services would benefit every en route care node.”

For instance, the command is hoping to create clinical training centers for excellence which would include en route care research along with the AE, patient staging and critical care disciplines, said Lt. Col. James Speight, the chief of AE clinical training for AMC/SG.

The research lab is looking at using virtual environments, gaming and personalized training to keep AE members proficient.

“We are hoping to understand how much simulation is effective to properly train the critical care, AE and patient staging personnel,” Speight said.

It is a huge undertaking to standardize simulation training across the spectrum, he said.

“There’s an initiative moving forward to incorporate training and networking across the services because, when we look at the en route care system, it’s not just the Air Force,” Speight said. “We have initiatives underway to help provide standardized integrated training and preparation so the entire en route care process can be as safe as possible for our patients.”

The DOD, through many initiatives, has improved the survival rate of wounded warriors since the advent of operations in U.S. Central Command. Continually improving care through the use of evidence-based practice is a key area supporting these improvements. As a result of research and innovative training, care in the air will continue to improve in the future.

F-22 Raptors conduct show of force over South Korea

F-22 Raptors conduct show of force over South KoreaOSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS)

Four U.S. F-22 Raptors conducted a combined formation flight alongside South Korean F-15K Slam Eagles and U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcons here to demonstrate the capabilities of both nations Feb. 17, in response to recent provocative actions by North Korea.

“The F-22 Raptor is the most capable air superiority fighter in the world, and it represents one of many capabilities available for the defense of this great nation. The U.S. maintains an ironclad commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea,” Lt. Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the United Nations Command Korea and U.S. Forces Korea deputy commander and U.S. 7th Air Force commander, told reporters.

Lt. Gen. Lee Wang-keon, the South Korea Air Force Operations Command commander, spoke about the strength of the alliance’s air combat capabilities during his brief remarks.

“The ROK and U.S. combined air forces remain ready to deter North Korean threats, and are postured to defeat them with the strength of our combined air combat capability,” Lee said.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Nicholas Evans, the 36th Fighter Squadron commander, flew alongside the formation, showcasing Osan Air Base’s readiness mission.

“The combined nature of this flyover highlighted the high level of integration and interoperability between our two air forces, developed through decades of combined training,” Evans said.

“Furthermore, the inclusion of F-22s, and a B-52 in January, demonstrated the firm resolve of all (U.S.) forces as we stand united with our counterparts from the ROK air force,” he added.

The mission demonstrated the strength of the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea and the resolve of both nations to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula.