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Archive for the ‘Air Force’ Category

ACC Innovates with Air Force CyberWorx

Friday, September 10th, 2021


When there is a problem that arises within cyberspace or the operational world, Airmen may have ideas to create a better process for the United States Air Force to “accelerate change” in their mission.

Air Force CyberWorx is a Department of Defense cyber mission-focused, operational problem-solving organization that gives Airmen the tools to support Air Force operational problems by collaborating with government, industry and academic experts through structured, human-centered design activities.

“AF CyberWorx can give Airmen the ability to reach industry with unique acquisition methods, building a tidal wave of innovators,” said Lt. Col. Mike Helgeson, CyberWorx acting director. “We are focused on three lines of effort to support the warfighter: operational problem-solving, industry engagement with emerging technology sectors and our innovation education component.”

According to Helgeson, what makes CyberWorx different from other innovation cells in the DoD, is that they help the Airmen and the end user find what is really the problem.

“Every time we start a project, we are laser-focused on the end user, and how they will use this new technology or solution in their environment,” Helgeson said. “Our team then will design around the tactical outcome the user is looking for at the end.”

A couple projects the AF CyberWorx is currently working on include the Cyber Risk Ecosystem and Project Holodeck. The Cyber Risk Ecosystem project started out with a discussion of what operational commanders need to know about cyberspace, as well as how other units use cyber mission enablers. The Cyber Risk Ecosystem develops a commander’s dashboard by utilizing artificial intelligence to ingest applicable information such as flying, medical and cross-domain data points. The AI will utilize this data to aid a fighter wing and squadron commander with system effect analysis, allowing them to change flying availability faster.

The second, Project Holodeck, is a platform to use innovation intelligence by identifying best practices for solutions in development through analyzing performance data and ensuring money is applied to achieve the best portfolio outcome. Holodeck accelerates decision-making by guiding Airmen through development phases more efficiently. The customized innovation program guides experimental activities, generates status reports and makes funding recommendations along the way.

The project develops problem-solvers by moving Airmen to quickly develop and test ideas based on Air Force priorities, leveraging innovation best practices, guiding Airmen with the right process and recommending the right team for each project.

Project Holodeck stretches taxpayer dollars with transparency and enterprise-wide visibility to ensure money and resources are applied to the most promising ideas that have sustainable support.

According to Helgeson, an advantage of CyberWorx being at the U.S. Air Force Academy is that it allows the Air Force to bring operational problems into the education process. The team then takes those problems and aligns them to cadet capstone projects and other engagements letting cadets see both how industry innovates and how to apply those innovations to operational mission needs.

“This program allows cadets to understand the operational Air Force, so they are prepped when they hit the ground after graduation,” Helgeson said. “We want them to go out into the force and have the tools, knowledge and capabilities so we won’t need innovation organizations to innovate; we have developed a culture of innovation in the Air Force for the future.”

The future operating location for CyberWorx is under construction with a ground-breaking ceremony held Aug. 6 at the academy.

The new, 33,000 square-foot facility, will feature cyber-tech classrooms, labs, and a research and design space. Funding for the project was provided by 420 donors who committed $30 million to the project, with $30 million provided by military funding.

By TSgt Carlin Leslie, Air Combat Command Public Affairs

352d Special Operations Wing Deploys to Ukraine

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

VINNYTSIA, Ukraine – Members of the 352d Special Operations Wing and 24th Special Operations Wing deployed to Ukraine for the month of August to demonstrate commitment to the Black Sea region and strengthen relationships and combined capability.

The wing deployed two U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II aircraft to conduct bilateral training with Ukrainian Special Operations Forces and Ukrainian Air Force members.

“We focused on interoperability with our Ukrainian partners through a multitude of training events during the month of August,” said U.S. Air Force 352 SOW mission commander. “We were able to exchange (best) practices during many training events to include mission planning, low-level flight operations, personnel airdrops, field medical practices, aircraft maintenance and physical security.”

Training as partner forces increases lethality and enhances interoperability, allowing U.S. and Ukrainian forces to counter regional strategic competition and coercion. The 352 SOW worked closely with Ukrainian military leaders, ensuring both militaries were given the opportunity to hone their skills and increase readiness.

“No nation can confront today’s challenges alone. We value the close cooperation with European allies and partners to enhance deterrence and counter a range of regional threats,” said Maj. Gen. David Tabor, Special Operations Command Europe commanding general. “Conducting multinational operations in the Black Sea Region ensures stability throughout the region.”

During the training exercise, Tabor, Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Hryhoriy Halahan, Commander of the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukrainian Member of Parliament, members of the U.S. Embassy Kyiv and many other U.S. and Ukrainian military members participated in a low-level flight over Kyiv, Ukraine in a MC-130J.

“We were very happy to be in Ukraine again and during the celebration of Ukrainian Independence,” continued U.S. Air Force 352 SOW Mission Commander. “The 352 SOW recognizes and celebrates a strong history and relationship with our Ukrainian partners that is a critical part of these continued engagements and strengthened partnerships.”

Over the past few years, the 352 SOW has participated in multiple exercises with Ukraine in the Black Sea region, to include Seabreeze and Fiction Urchin.

Story by SSgt Izabella Workman, 352nd Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

38 RQS Trains to Support SpaceX, Boeing

Friday, September 3rd, 2021


Pararescuemen, aircrew flight equipment Airmen and maritime operations specialists assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, conducted rescue training in the Banana River and Atlantic Ocean near Patrick Space Force Base, Aug. 23-27.

The 38th RQS Blue Team performed free fall jumps and equipment drops into water to prepare for potential operations supporting the SpaceX human spaceflight program and Boeing’s spaceflight program as well as other immediate response-force operations.

“When astronauts are doing their launches, we cover down in the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Galindo, 38th RQS pararescueman and Blue Team section chief. “That way, if they have an emergency and they need a bailout, we’re the rescue team on-site who would recover them from their capsule.”

In the event of a malfunction during launch, the capsule will detach itself from the rocket and jettison away from potential explosions or other hazards. The goal is for the capsule to land in an ocean where pararescue jumpers can go in and extract anyone on board.

In order to execute this type of rescue operation, the team needs to be proficient in several areas. For starters, they need to know how to safely land in the ocean with their water gear. Additionally, there are two different boat packages they need to be familiar with: a Rigging Alternate Method Boat, or RAMB, which is a deflated Combat Rubber Raiding Craft that can be dropped by parachute into the water and then inflated upon landing; and a hard duck, which is an inflated CRRC fixed to a wooden base and dropped by parachute as well.

Using these packages, Galindo said their team can load the boats with medical supplies, paddles, boat engines and anything else they would need for their rescue operations. Then, the team can drop them from cargo aircraft and jump into the drop zone immediately after to conduct their rescue mission.

“In October, we’re actually doing two weeks of additional training at Cape Canaveral to learn how to access the SpaceX and Boeing capsules … and then make sure we can get access to the astronauts,” said Capt. Trent Vonich, 38th RQS Blue Team flight commander.

Conducting these training exercises on a routine basis ensures the teams are ready to go at a moment’s notice. This level of proficiency offers a layer of comfort for the astronauts conducting launches off the coast.

“It reassures them that if they do have an emergency, they know there’s a team who is highly trained in these types of rescues,” Galindo said. “It’s important for us to constantly keep current on this type of jump because there’s a lot that goes into it.”

While this training was specifically tailored to support the human spaceflight programs, it doubles as preparation for potential rescue operations in contingency locations.

“The top two locations in which that would occur would be the Arabian Gulf and the South China Sea,” Vonich said. “Adversaries have a number of capabilities that could potentially put one of our aircraft in the water, and we would have to go jump into the gulf or sea and do exactly what we did in today’s training.”

Whether rescuing downed pilots off foreign coasts or supporting rocket launches in the U.S., the 38th RQS could not execute their mission without trusted teamwork.

“It’s a lot of work being a pararescueman,” Galindo said. “I’m surrounded by a bunch of great people who are constantly challenging me. We have those who are always trying to improve themselves, whether mentally or physically, and it just drives me to be a better person and reach my potential.”

SpaceX plans to launch a crew of three Oct. 31, and the team will be prepared to respond if needed.

“Heaven forbid anything goes wrong, we’ll be ready if it does,” Vonich said.

Story and photos by SSgt Devin Boyer, 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Additional photos by SSgt Melanie A. Bulow-Gonterman

Air Force Declares TACP Mobile Communications System ‘Combat Ready’

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. – The U.S. Air Force’s Air Combat Command recently declared the initial operational capability for the tactical air control party mobile communications system block 2 system ‘combat ready’ at the recommendation of the 605th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida.

In the spring of 2020, the 605th TES TACP Element, in conjunction with the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron, Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, conducted the operational utility evaluation, or OUE, of the MCS block 2 on M-1165 armored high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles.

As Air Combat Command’s independent, sole, command and control operational test unit, the 605th TES, tested the system under realistic conditions, using new and experienced Airmen, who will be operating and maintaining the system once fielded.

The OUE validated the operational effectiveness and suitability of MCS block 2, cybersecurity and resiliency, and its impact on TACP and air support operations center tactics, techniques, and procedures. 

M1165 HMMWVs, better known as humvees, are integrated with multi-channel communications equipment through the MCS block 2 system which provides voice, data, and video capabilities to TACP Joint Terminal Attack Controllers while “on-the-move” and “at-the-halt”.

“This new system gives TACPs greater mission flexibility by incorporating additional data link, full motion video, and high frequency radio capabilities while out in the field,” said Master Sgt. Jesus Torres, 605th TES senior enlisted leader and TACP.

JTACS will use MCS Block 2 to perform their close air support and command and control missions.

To achieve IOC, the MCS Block 2 system demonstrated the necessary combat capability for voice and video communications and had sufficient required fielding and logistics support.

“Through early involvement and by building relationships across the acquisition process the 605th TES was instrumental in providing early user feedback,” said Torres.  “During early DoD [Department of Defense] COVID Guidance, the 605th TES TACPs developed risk mitigation measures enabling regression testing to continue during the pandemic which allowed this vital capability be delivered to the warfighter five months ahead of schedule.”

“As our service takes positive steps to mature Agile Combat Employment concepts, through years of being disaggregated and embracing Mission Command, the TACP community is best positioned to inform the larger enterprise on what technology could be beneficial, said Col. Adam Shelton, 505th Test and Training Group commander.  “This IOC declaration will assist in furthering our integration efforts with joint partners in venues such as the Army’s Project Convergence or in tier 1 exercises such as Northern Edge.” 

As of August 2021, the 605th TES continues to accelerate change by conducting operational testing on the MCS Block 3, installed on the U.S. Army’s next-generation Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle as a replacement for the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier family of vehicles.

505th Command and Control Wing (ACC) Public Affairs

Dover AFB Leads Joint, Interagency Survival Training

Friday, August 27th, 2021


Imagine being in a yellow life raft in the middle of the ocean after surviving an aircraft incident. There is an aircraft flying several hundred feet overhead. The best chance of being rescued lies in an ability to use the issued survival equipment to signal the position to the aircraft.

While this situation might seem far-fetched, it is a very real possibility for aircrew members flying out of Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

For this reason, members of the 436th Operational Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape flight partnered with the 3rd Airlift Squadron at Dover AFB, Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Coast Guard Station Indian River Inlet, Delaware, to train local search and rescue procedures during Exercise Castaway.

“The whole idea for Exercise Castaway started with a picture,” said Tech. Sgt. Derreck Day, 436th OSS SERE specialist. “I was conducting a water survival preparation course [that includes] a picture of a 46-man life raft, [where] at 4,000 feet is extremely difficult to spot. Looking at that photo, I thought ‘what is the probability of finding an individual, if not, a whole crew of people in a life raft out in the Atlantic Ocean.’”

The picture Day refers to is a photo taken from a C-17 Globemaster III at an altitude of about 4,000 feet. The raft is nearly impossible to spot with the naked eye. At that altitude, the raft appears to blend in with the ocean waves; an incredible challenge to anyone attempting to locate survivors in the open ocean.

“It’s a photo of the largest life raft we have in our inventory and in that photo you can’t even see the life raft,” Day said. “So looking at that situation, I thought to myself, ‘why not exercise this.’”

During Exercise Castaway, Day and four Airmen from the 436th OSS SERE flight were escorted 5 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean by Coast Guardsmen from Indian River Inlet.

“We got to Coast Guard Station Indian River and by the time we broke through the waves out of the inlet, about 4 and a half miles off shore, the 25 mile buoy was reading 5 foot seas and 17 knot winds,” Day said. “I’m very grateful that the Coast Guard was there to provide over watch in case of an emergency.”

Once in place, the SERE crew then prepared their signaling equipment including the combat survivor evader locator radio, sea dye, flare and life raft canopy. This marked the official start of Exercise Castaway.

Day explained their objective was to go through the issued survival equipment, use it, devise tactics, techniques and procedures, and to relay pertinent information to assist the aircrew in spotting them.

Two aircraft crews participated in the exercise: a C-17 from Dover AFB and a MH-65D Dolphin from CGAS Atlantic City. As the acting on-scene commander, the C-17 crew spotted the life raft and relayed location information to the MH-65D for simulated rescue and hoist practice.

“The scenario for the aircrew aboard the C-17 was for them to respond to a simulated downed aircraft call, provide a search pattern, exercise their on-scene commander checklist and take photographs of what’s happening through their perspective,” Day said. “As they role-play on-scene commander, once they spotted the life raft, they notified Coast Guard Station Atlantic City.”

As the C-17 was spotted in the distance, the crew began their series of signaling attempts to the aircrew aboard the aircraft.

“We came in at 500 feet through several passes while the guys in the raft were trying out different signaling techniques,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Johnson, 3rd Airlift Squadron pilot. “Then we climbed to higher altitudes to see how clear we can see those visuals at different altitudes and capture data on what would be the best altitude to ingress to try and find guys on the ground.”

Spotting the life raft became a challenge on its own due to the high-speed winds and tall waves. It took a couple passes before the aircrew spotted the life raft.

“At first there were no visuals,” Johnson said. “It was just them on the raft and we had to find them. Even at 500 feet, which is pretty close to the ground, we weren’t able to see them until we were right on top of them.”

With each pass over the raft, the aircrew then ascended to higher altitudes to observe the effects altitude had on spotting the life raft. The higher they climbed, it became increasingly difficult to keep track of the life raft.

“There are a lot of lessons learned that I plan on relaying to the aircrew that could find themselves in that situation,” Day said. “It was amazing to see the interaction between all participating agencies and record all the success and failures that happened during the exercise.”

During flight operations, there is always risk involved. For Dover AFB, being prepared in case of a real world incident means readiness and tactful knowledge of basic water survival and search and rescue principles. Knowing how to signal aircraft aiding in rescue while also experiencing the dangers of open water is paramount to survival. The SERE team here is dedicated to ensuring aircrews have the skills needed to give themselves the best chance of survival.

Stories and some photos by Senior Airman Marco A. Gomez, 436th Airlift Wing Public

Some photos by Senior Airman Faith Schaefer

Civil Air Patrol Continues Auxiliary Efforts for the Total Force

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

In 2015, the Air Force Doctrine Volume 2 “Leadership” was updated to include the Civil Air Patrol as an official Air Force auxiliary, and part of the Total Force.

“All Airmen, including the members of the Civil Air Patrol, are directly responsible for acquiring, delivering, supporting, launching and driving Airpower,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. “The Civil Air Patrol has a critical role in attracting and developing innovative individuals who have an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who can help reshape the design of the Air Force in line with the ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’ Action Orders.”

The doctrine lists the active duty Air Force, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, retirees, contractors and other groups supporting the Air Force mission as other parts of the Total Force. When acting on behalf of the Air Force, the Civil Air Patrol is aligned under First Air Force.

Since 2020, the auxiliary has logged more than 365 days of continuous support during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included flying test kits, vaccines and critical protective equipment to hospitals, which was the largest coordinated effort since World War II.

The inclusion of the Civil Air Patrol allows for approximately 59,000 volunteers to support non-combat related Air Force missions within the United States. They also act as ambassadors to the Air Force to communities that may not have consistent military exposure. 

“CAP is in over 1,400 communities across the United States and its territories,” said John Russo, the assistant deputy for the Air Force Auxiliary. “In many cases, CAP may be the closest Air Force-associated unit a person interested in aviation and the military comes in contact with.”

The auxiliary members conduct 90% of the inland search and rescue missions in the U.S. tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and other agencies, and has nearly 7,000 aircrew members and 33,00 responders trained to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s standards.

“The Civil Air Patrol bolsters many of the Air Force homeland operations,” Russo said. “The auxiliary flies Air Force-assigned missions at about 1/40th the cost of an active unit. For example, during every hurricane response, the program saves the Air Force $8 million. They are also recognized by the Air Rescue Coordination Center with about 100 lives saved each year.”

The Civil Air Patrol provides intercept training, light cargo transport and aerial imagery for disaster damage assessments to support local, state and national agencies, along with disaster relief.

Another example of how the Air Force Auxiliary provides support to the United States is its ability to be an avenue for a diversity of cadets and students interested in pursuing aviation and STEM-education and careers.

“Civil Air Patrol has cadets as young as 12 years old, and gives youth the chance to learn more about the military and service to their community,” Russo explained. “The Civil Air Patrol has squadrons located in underserved areas, exposing more diverse youth to the opportunities the Total Force offers.”

The Civil Air Patrol provides an Air Force-style organization with values, structure, and focus on aerospace. For young Americans seeking to learn about service, to give back to their community, and explore more about aviation or the military, the Civil Air Patrol is a great opportunity to prepare them for service in the Air Force, Russo said.

Eastern National Robot Rodeo Showcases EOD Emerging Capabilities

Saturday, August 21st, 2021


Explosive ordnance disposal and bomb squad experts in the Department of Defense and civilian sector tested the latest EOD robotics and emerging capabilities during the Eastern National Robot Rodeo and Capabilities exercise Aug. 2-6.

The Robot Rodeo, in its fifth year, was back after more than a year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, conducted at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division and town of Indian Head, brought together experienced EOD operators and public safety bomb squads to evaluate EOD capabilities in real-world operating environments and provide real-time feedback to industry partners.

“Everyone – sponsors, vendors and participants – was excited about the 2021 ENRR-CAPEX, especially after having to cancel the 2020 event due to the COVID pandemic,” said Dr. John Olive, deputy director of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s EOD Division and Air Force EOD subject matter expert.

The rodeo is extremely important to AFCEC, which is responsible for central procurement of equipment for the Department of the Air Force’s 1,700 Total Force operators at 84 locations around the globe.

“The rodeo showcases technologies under development from various industry vendors and has a direct impact in putting the absolute best tools in the hands of our EOD and public safety bomb squad operators, and international partners,” he said.

While all CE missions are critical to the Department of the Air Force and mission platforms, EOD is perhaps the most dangerous.

“Having these technologies that give our operators the ability to do more standoff investigation, interrogation and mitigation of hazards, keeps our warfighters out of harm’s range and enables them to do things more efficiently,” said Col. John Tryon, AFCEC Detachment 1 commander.

AFCEC in general is always looking to push the envelope and do things smarter and more efficiently, Tryon said, with EOD in particular always being on the cutting edge.

“With new threats it won’t be one or two unexploded ordnance we’ll be dealing with in future, it will be hundreds or thousands of UXOs and we have a limited number of EOD operators. We need technologies that we can leverage, that are force multipliers, so we can achieve the result that we need,” Tryon said.

In addition to the equipment showcase, ENRR included a multi-day, multi-event technical competition to include potential real-world scenarios like a swarm of unmanned aerial systems employing explosive devices, and clearance of a homemade explosive laboratory, while integrating emerging technologies such as advanced radio graphics and multi-shot disruption off from existing robotic platforms.

“Participating multi-agency teams were given one hour to train on new equipment, then given three hours to complete a scenario that challenges that new technology,” Olive said. “Operators provided vendors direct feedback, which shapes future development of that technology in-line with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s accelerate change or lose initiative.”

The rodeo directly allows AFCEC to build relationships with industry partners, public safety bomb squads and various other agencies, Olive added, to shape future tech development and “enable us to better support our nine core mission areas for the Air Force EOD program.”

“Getting military and civilian bomb techs together is vital to the overall success of defeating hazardous devices,” said T.J. Brantley, a member of Plano Police Department’s Bomb Squad in Texas. “You get the opportunity to talk about different tactics and procedures other teams are using. Meeting with vendors and getting hands-on training with the latest and greatest technology available helps us do our job safely. Hands down (Robot Rodeo) was one of the best training opportunities I have been to.”

During the event’s distinguished visitor day, Brig. Gen. Bill Kale, director of Air Force Civil Engineers, said he appreciated the opportunity to meet with industry.

“I think it’s very important, as civil engineers, that we stay on the cutting edge of technology,” Kale said. “We need to make sure that whatever we decide to procure, or what we’re looking at, that we can use it or innovate it to improve our readiness.

“We have quite a challenge ahead of us with near peer competition with some of our adversaries and we need to use every tool in our toolkit to make sure we make it challenging for them to even think about trying to come after the United States or our interests,” Kale said.

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Readiness Directorate was one of four sponsors for the event, but it was a joint effort with Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division and the town of Indian Head as hosts, and the United States Bomb Technicians Association as a core partner.

“We very much appreciate the NSWC hosting ENRR and the opportunity to come together with the different vendors that provide the robots, sensors and different technologies that EOD teams can employ now and in the future, and for them to interact with our Air Force and joint partner warfighters,” Tryon said. “Actually getting some stick time and providing direct feedback with the vendors is valuable for them not only on how to adapt their technologies, but also for us being able to see what we want to add to our arsenal going forward.

By Debbie Aragon, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public Affairs

Special Tactics Airmen augment Haiti earthquake humanitarian relief efforts

Thursday, August 19th, 2021

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla.– Special Tactics Airmen assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing are currently responding to a request to augment humanitarian aid efforts in Haiti following a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Aug. 14.

            The Special Tactics Airmen responding to the relief efforts will be working with Joint Task Force-Haiti under Rear Admiral Keith Davids, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command South. While in country, the ST Airmen will be responsible for conducting various airfield surveys to determine suitability for bringing in humanitarian aid via airlift. Special Tactics teams are also postured and ready to establish airfield operations and conduct air traffic control if necessary.

                            “Our Special Tactics Airmen are trained and ready for a number of humanitarian missions that we may be called upon to accomplish,” said Col. Jason Daniels, 24th Special Operations Wing commander. “Our teams are looking forward to providing assistance to the people of Haiti while working alongside our joint teammates in U.S. Southern Command in support of USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.” 

            In recent years, Special Tactics Airmen have responded to several natural disasters including Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Honduras, Hurricane Michael in Florida and Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.

            Special Tactics Airmen fall under Air Force Special Operations Command and U.S. Special Operations Command and are trained to execute global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery operations across the spectrum of conflict. Special Tactics operators are experts in air-ground integration and have the ability to assess, open, and control major airfields to clandestine dirt strips in any environment.

            More information will be released as it becomes available.

For more information on Air Force Special Tactics visit our website, www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil