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Archive for the ‘Air Force’ Category

Special Air Warfare and the Secret War in Laos: Air Commandos, 1964-1975

Monday, November 7th, 2022

“Special Air Warfare and the Secret War in Laos: Air Commandos, 1964-1975” is a historical monograph written by COL Joseph D. Celeski (US Army, Ret) and published by Air University Press. COL Celeski describes his work thusly:

“During retirement, I was intrigued by the lack of comprehensive historical research devoted to one of the long wars fought by the USAF Air Commandos, the Secret War in Laosa gap in written Special Operation Forces SOF history. It is a story of the growth of the Air Commandos from a detachment-level operation sent to Thailand to the later establishment of the 56th Special Operations Wing. The lack of coverage can in part be attributed to the secrecy surrounding the war and classification restrictions on relevant documentation. Further, many special operators remain reluctant to discuss the details of their involvement in classified operations. Although peeling back the cloak of secrecy can be difficult, it is important to the special operations profession to capture the legacy of the Air Commandos involvement in the Secret War in Laos and provide an open-source history for the Air Commando community. Much of the motivation and desire to complete this work is in their honor and sacrifice in this endeavor. Work on this project began with a two-year research plan to develop an irregular warfare course for use in military schools focused on the dynamics of strategic and operational art in a war, conducted vis-a-vis a covert interagency environment. The preliminary preparation for the course consisted of gathering as many books on the war in Laos as possible over sixty at the time as well as what could be uncovered through online research. Museums with a primary focus on USAF Special Operations and offices of SOF historians provided material and sound advice about how to contact Air Commando veterans who served in Laos. Although research material was gathered from national to local archives as well as major universities and air museums, the two definitivesources for a book of this kind were the Air Force Historical Research Agency, at Maxwell AFB, Alabama and the command history office of the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Florida.”

You can download it for free here.

AF provides Additional Information for Aircrew Considering flying During Their Pregnancy

Monday, November 7th, 2022

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) —  

The Department of the Air Force has developed several products designed to assist aircrew in making the most informed decisions about whether to fly during their pregnancy.

In April 2022, the DAF issued a clarification of policies pertaining to aircrew during pregnancy. Since then, the Department recognized the need to provide aircrew, commanders, and healthcare professionals greater awareness of and transparency around the process for submission and review of waivers to fly during pregnancy.

The Aircrew Voluntary Acceptance of Risk, or AVAR, is a three-part document (including a risk acknowledgment page, an outline of medical risks, and acceptable flight profiles) designed to ensure aircrew have access to the information that will allow them to make the most informed decisions about whether to continue flying during their pregnancy. Additionally, a set of frequently asked questions and answers were developed for additional assistance. Both the AVAR and FAQs may be found on the Air Force Medical Service’s Reproductive Health webpage.

“At the end of the day, we need to balance operational readiness, safety, and our aircrew’s agency, and I’m proud of the progress we’ve made to that end,” said Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones.

Aircrew who want to be considered for crewed flight duty must personally request to continue flying during their pregnancy. The AVAR will help guide discussions with healthcare providers and inform members of both known and potential, but unmeasured, risks to make an informed decision.

To return to flying duties after becoming pregnant, the service member must submit a waiver for review by their flight surgeon, obstetrical care provider, and commander, who must collaborate to determine whether to approve the waiver. All flights must meet approved flight profiles based on the commander’s discretion and safety considerations.

DAF leadership’s intent is that aircrew are confident that the decision of whether to request to fly during pregnancy – or not – will have no impact on their military career. Aircrew who elect not to fly have other options to continue their career progression, such as maintaining currencies in the simulator, instructing academics, supervisor of flying, top-3, and many other training opportunities and duties.

“It was a team effort to develop these options for pregnant aircrew so they can continue carrying out the missions they are trained and ready to perform,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.

As with any medical condition, the DAF will continue to review aircrew pregnancy policy and practices, including an ongoing collection of health and safety data. The service remains focused on identifying, analyzing, and appropriately mitigating flight safety hazards and exposures to facilitate the safe and successful accomplishment of the military mission. A continual review will also drive appropriate modifications to the AVAR to allow aircrew to make the most informed decision on whether to request the continuation of flight duties.

Story by Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Photo by Michelle Gigante

AFSOC Receives Final AC-130J

Friday, November 4th, 2022

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. —  

Air Force Special Operations Command received its 31st and final AC-130J Ghostrider, completing the command’s transition from the legacy AC-130W, AC-130U and AC-130H fleets.

Following a commemoration ceremony at the Lockheed Martin Gunship Modification Facility in Crestview Nov. 2, the final AC-130J was delivered to the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

During the AC-130J Ghostrider Dedication and Delivery Ceremony, Lt. Col. Joe Allen, Gunship Program manager and narrator for the event, briefly discussed the history of nose art and how it became a common way of depicting the name of an airplane. He also explained how pilots would stencil names or call signs on their aircraft, providing a sense of connection and further a feeling of pride for themselves and the crew that kept the airplane flying.

“Aircraft #31 is no different [than previous World War II aircraft] and is being named in honor of Mr. Stan ‘Sluggo’ Siefke who was instrumental in the developments of the precision strike package prior to cutting first metal on the MC-130W,” said Allen. “Sluggo’s impacts on Whiskey and Ghostrider have been nothing short of outstanding and we are honored to have him in attendance today.”

Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, AFSOC Commander, represented the command at the ceremony and spoke about his experience with acquiring and receiving the AC-130J.

Slife recalled that it had been “only a few years back,” when then Col. Slife working at the Pentagon for the Office of Secretary of Defense, began the messaging and formative language that initiated the program that he’s seeing come full circle.

“In the fall of 2009, the Secretary of Defense decided to recapitalize [the AC-130] with C-130Js to build the platforms we see behind us today,” said Slife.

He also spoke about seeing the first J model go into combat in the summer of 2019 while serving as the AFSOC commander.

“The airplane and its predecessors have exceeded all our expectations and kept more Americans alive than any other airplane on the battlefield,” said Slife.

“The future is going to be different than what we have experienced for the last 20 years, but one thing I’m certain of is this airplane will be relevant to whatever the future operating environment brings, so thank you all for delivering such a magnificent capability to today’s warfighters,” he said.

Capt. Katie Tiedemann, 73rd Special Operations Squadron Weapons Systems Officer, shared operational vignettes of the AC-130J during the event. She specifically shared her own experience deployed in Afghanistan when she supported Operation Allies Refuge.

“Over two weeks, my own crew, and two others, continued to employ our aircraft for countless hours, reopening the [Kabul] airport and evacuating 123,000 refugees,” said Tiedemann. “Much of the rest of the story you have seen and heard, but our two crews who flew during the evacuation will be recognized this fall with the MacKay trophy for accomplishing the most meritorious flight of the year.”

Following Capt. Tiedemann’s presentation, William Innes, Deputy Director for Acquisition, United States Special Operations Command, spoke about USSOCOM’s part in navigating the acquisitions process to get the weapons systems from industry to the warfighter.

“When we can see firsthand that it [the acquisition process] works, it delivers the best weapons system the nation can get, it is truly inspirational,” he said.

Vic Torla, Lockheed Martin Vice President of Special Operations Forces Global Logistics Support Services, expressed his gratitude for the partnership between Lockheed Martin and the Air Force.

“A great example of a government and industry partnership to stand up this facility,” said Torla. “A ten-year journey to deliver what is now 30 combat capable aircraft to Special Operations Command.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Gen. Slife along with aircrew stepped onto the new AC-130J and took off for Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., where the final AC-130J will become part of the 27th Special Operations Wing.

He concluded with his gratitude for all who contributed to making the AC-130J the success it is today.

“For the whole team today, for the team that maintained the airplane, that built the airplane, that acquired the airplane, that fly the airplane, that tested the airplane, thank you for what you’ve done.”

The AC-130J is a transport aircraft modified for special forces operations and has been used to support AFSOC in missions around the world. It is a fifth-generation gunship that can provide close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance.

By Capt Alicia Premo

Air Force Special Operations Command

USAF, Navy Integrate for Bomber Task Force MineX

Thursday, November 3rd, 2022

U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers from the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, integrated with U.S. Naval forces over the Indo-Pacific region to conduct a naval mine exercise (MineX) during a Bomber Task Force mission at Andersen Air Force Base, Oct. 24. 

Bomber missions contribute to Joint Force lethality and deter aggression in the Indo-Pacific region by demonstrating the Air Force’s ability to operate anywhere in the world at any time in support of the National Defense Strategy. 

“MineX missions require close coordination and integration between the Navy and the Air Force,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Chris McConnell, 37th Bomb Squadron commander. “As one of the aircraft capable of releasing mines, we have to work with our Navy partners to understand where those munitions need to be placed to meet the desired objectives.”

A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device employed to destroy surface ships or submarines and provide a low-cost battlespace shaping and force protection capability. Mines may also be used to deny an enemy access to specific areas or channel them into specific areas.

Together, a team of 28th Munitions Squadron weapons loaders and Sailors from Navy Munitions Command, Pacific Unit, Guam, armed B-1B Lancers with 21 Mark-62 Quickstrike mines, weighing 500 pounds each.

“Executing a MineX during a Bomber Task Force mission strengthens those ties through necessary integration training across the services to everyone involved in the process,” McConnell said. “From the Navy personnel building and delivering the munitions, to our weapons loaders ensuring they are loaded on aircraft properly, the aircrew and planners will execute the mission and fly alongside our Navy partners and Allies.”

The 37th EBS conducts several joint force exercises during BTF missions to enhance readiness and interoperability in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

By SSgt Hannah Malone, Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

6th Special Operations Squadron is Reassigned, Provides New Support

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. —  

The 6th Special Operations Squadron, previously the 27th Special Operations Group Detachment 1, was officially reassigned here, Oct. 6, 2022.

The 6 SOS is an MC-130J Commando II aircraft flying unit that fulfills the 27th Special Operations Wing’s commitment to the Air Force Special Operations Command’s new deployment model.

“We stood up Det. 1 in an effort to get to the AFSOC we need,” said Lt. Col. Michael Roy, 6th Special Operations Squadron commander. “Now we’ve been reassigned, we’re able to work with the Force Generation and stay fully mission capable.”

The squadron’s mission focuses on utilizing the Commando II aircraft for a variety of low-level air refueling missions for special operations aircraft. It also supports infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces.

As a newly reassigned and relocated squadron, the 6 SOS is ready to grow and become their own established unit.

“It’s extremely humbling,” said Roy. “Being asked to command a newly relocated squadron has been exciting. We have experienced people who know what they’re doing. They’re excited about the future of forming our own heritage and culture at the 27 SOW.”

The relocation of the squadron makes it the last step in fully completing the FORGEN model. As AFSOC turns to the FORGEN model, it seeks to provide Airmen and their families the deployment and training predictability to ensure readiness, continue to develop our force, and maintain resiliency.

“For the past two decades, our mission has required Airmen to endure frequent, often last-minute, deployments,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Terence Taylor, 27th Special Operations Wing commander. “The Force Generation model provides an opportunity to invest equally in Airmen professional development, be more deliberate with training, and improve individual resiliency.”

By Senior Airman Vernon R. Walter III, 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

Nimble, Lightweight Command Posts Guide Tactical Operations at Project Convergence 22

Saturday, October 29th, 2022

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — At Project Convergence 2022, a large-scale, all-service experiment focused on evaluating innovative warfighting capabilities, lightweight command posts are illustrating how the U.S. military will enable nimble tactical operations on future battlefields.

Staffed by Airmen and Soldiers, the command post prototypes, referred to in the exercise as Tactical Operations Centers — Light, are significantly smaller and more agile than previously fielded versions.

The U.S. Air Force provided the equipment that forms the centers — high-powered, ultra-secure servers and commercially compatible computing systems — following three years of iterative research and development with industry partners.

The effort originated from a desire to transform legacy Control and Reporting Centers (CRCs), which have for years served as the Air Force’s mobile command and control (C2) and communications radar centers in theater, while advancing distributed tactical C2 objectives.

While reliable and effective, CRCs are also heavy and large, making rapid relocation difficult.

“We’re just too big and clunky,” said Douglas Lomheim, deputy chief of Ground Battle Management Systems at the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command.

The Air Force’s exploration of viable miniaturized alternatives has yielded multiple potential options for command centers with smaller footprints.

One option undergoing evaluation at Project Convergence 22 is the Modular Detachment Kit, which utilizes scalable, decentralized C2 and sensor nodes and remote voice and data communications to deliver a common operating picture.

The modular nature of the kit means warfighters can select and deploy only the capabilities they need for a specific operational environment, minimizing costs and optimizing transport efficiency.

A smaller, less detectable C2 center is also inherently a more survivable one, Lomheim explained, with the ability to establish a more dispersed setup, further improving operator safety.

The Modular Detachment Kit also leverages new technologies and open architecture framework to support increased data storage and an expanded range of data and communications assets, allowing for easier connection and integration with sister services and multinational partners.

“Anything that’s developed for [joint all-domain command and control] can easily be loaded on here,” Lomheim said, referring to the U.S. Department of Defense’s development of Joint All-Domain Command and Control.

The system’s diverse set of modules, which address various needs for C2, datalink, radio, radar and multi-mission operations capabilities, and ability to track air, land, maritime, space and cyber resources, make it well-equipped for deployment to a challenging, multi-domain environment – the precise type of environment that Project Convergence 22 is replicating.

As part of the experiment, the Tactical Operations Centers — Light are tracking simulated threats as well as real aircraft movements, conducting activities ranging from coordinating with Tactical Air Control Party members in the field to monitoring possible defense maneuvers by the Army’s Patriot Missile System and the Navy’s Aegis Weapon System.

“It’s a brand-new perspective,” said Air National Guardsman Master Sgt. David Joseph, Weapons Director with the 255th Air Control Squadron based in Gulfport, Mississippi.

“We’re kind of in that crawl, walk phase of it, mostly trying to just get a sense of how we’re all going to connect and how we’re actually going to integrate into the systems that we’re all using,” Joseph said, noting that the shift from having roughly 100 personnel manning a CRC to only a handful operating the new command post model has been interesting to see.

The dynamism of the system is also intriguing. “We’re essentially safeguarding both Air Force and Naval assets and airspace management,” said Staff Sgt. Caleb Kennedy of the Air Force’s 20th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Drum, New York.

Through the ongoing Project Convergence 2022 experiment, Joseph, Kennedy and fellow Airmen have worked alongside Army Air Defense Artillery Fire Control Officers and other specialists to amplify situational understanding and practice pairing sensors with the most appropriate shooters, harnessing the system’s potential to deliver improved battlespace awareness, decision advantage and information dominance.

“We’re learning a lot of additional roles, we’re seeing those roles and responsibilities meld together, and actually it’s really enhancing our team efficiency,” Kennedy said, adding that the experience is helping to build participants’ subject matter expertise on air power and execution.

“We’re showing that we’re able to connect in with any system that is provided from our other, sister services,” Kennedy said of the Air Force’s participation in Project Convergence 2022. “Having us here is giving just one more way to expedite battlefield effects and ultimately safe airspace management.”

“The further we go into the future, we’re going to be fighting a war a whole different way than we’re fighting it today,” Joseph said.

“I feel like this exercise here is going to be the baseline for how we go about fighting that war.”

By Maureena Thompson, Army Futures Command

Tactical Medical Augmentation Team Increases Combat Medical Capability

Thursday, October 27th, 2022

PATRICK SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) —  

To find a solution to an identified gap in medical care provided in combat situations, the 920th Rescue Wing’s Aeromedical Staging Squadron developed the Tactical Medical Augmentation Team, an embedded medical team that will bring a new level of patient care directly to the battlefield.

This small, multi-capable, highly skilled, and adaptable team of medical personnel can use the wing’s Personnel Recovery Task Force presentation to move higher levels of medical care further forward to wounded warriors and allow pararescuemen and specialty teams to remain closer to the battlespace.

“This capability increases pararescue’s overall mission effectiveness and serves as a force multiplier for combatant and medical commanders in future conflicts,” said Maj. Alexander Torres, TMAT team officer in charge. “It delivers advanced medical care further forward than previous capabilities.”

The concept takes the previously established models of Air Force pararescue, Critical Care Air Transport Team, U.S. Army Dustoff, British Medical Emergency Response Teams and the previous Tactical Critical Care Evacuation Team missions to build a dynamic medical capability that expands the current capabilities of pararescue. By serving as a medical intermediary between pararescue operators and en-route care system, the TMAT concept uses personnel that are already assigned within the rescue wing and is built specifically to cater to the needs of any rescue mission.

The TMAT, as a proposed embedded military rescue community asset, utilizes the PRTF composition of light-, medium-, and heavy-packages to define capabilities. The total team size of a TMAT-Heavy is comprised of six individuals: one physician, two nurses and three paramedics. A medium team is composed of four members: one physician, one nurse and two paramedics. In the light PRTF model, and for maximum adaptability, the team is composed of two members and can be any combination of physician, nurse and/or paramedic depending on mission requirements.

The TMAT-Heavy can provide prolonged field care for 72-hours, the -medium for 48-hours, and the -light for 24-hours. This provides support options when patients can’t be evacuated and need care until transportation is an option or when geographic challenges prevent immediate transport.

The team physicians will be trained in emergency medicine, critical care, anesthesia, or trauma surgery. The nurses will be emergency or trauma trained with trauma and critical care certifications. The paramedics will have advanced training and certification as flight paramedics, thereby providing them with additional critical care and ventilation skills not seen in standard paramedic training.

The team is capable of being utilized on the wing’s rotor and fixed-wing rescue assets as a force multiplier that does not need to rely on transportation outside of the wing. The PRTFs can utilize the land and water assets such as the wing’s Search and Recovery Tactical Vehicles or inflatable boats. Wherever they can get to patients, not only can they provide care, but they can also get them transported on any asset the PRTF can provide.

“Many patient care teams do not have dedicated platforms to evacuate patients,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Harmon, TMAT non-commissioned officer in charge. “By utilizing organic assets in the PRTF, TMAT is able to rapidly bring a higher level of care further forward to patients allowing pararescue to continue to work tactical problems.”

To validate this concept of medical care, the 920th ASTS created a team of six Airmen that developed a lightweight and adaptable equipment allowance and validated its functionality in various transportation platforms. They then completed training with pararescue Airmen in quarterly unit training assemblies and local-level training events. This evolved into placing TMAT light-, medium-, and heavy-packages into wing-level exercises in Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Hawaii.

A final test of the TMAT’s ability to integrate with the PRTF came during their use in Exercise Balikatan 22, a multinational, joint forces exercise in the Philippines. There they were able to practice these skills within the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility and included a mass casualty exercise, personnel recovery of a downed pilot, and training Filipino pararescuemen in patient assessment and interoperability in a joint environment.

“We believe that TMAT is a valuable asset to the Air Force rescue community,” said Col. Corey Anderson, 920 ASTS commander. “It provides an irreplaceable medical care option that is organic to the PRTF. I’m proud that this team is getting patients the care they need as soon as possible on the battlefield and allowing the pararescue community to stay where they need to be, which is in the fight.”

By Lt. Col. Ian Phillips, 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

CV22 Osprey Recovered in Norway

Saturday, October 22nd, 2022

While participating in a training exercise in Norway, a CV-22B Osprey experienced an inflight emergency, requiring the pilots to land immediately. After six weeks of being grounded on the island of Senja, the 352nd Special Operations Wing’s Osprey was recovered via crane barge, Sept. 27, 2022.

The aircraft is now at a Norwegian military base where 752nd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers will perform repairs to get the aircraft flying once again.

The Norwegian Armed Forces, along with the Norwegian Environmental Protection Office, developed the plans for recovering the Osprey in concurrence with the U.S. Air Force.

“It [was very] demanding,” said Royal Norwegian Air Force Command Sergeant Major Odd Helge Wang. “The challenge [was how] shallow [the area was], and the machine weighs 20 tons.”

Many obstacles stood in the team’s way to recovering the CV-22, including weather delays and the more sensitive hurdle of preventing damage to the local fauna.

“[We’ve brought] 430 tons of equipment in to carry this out, so there will be some wear and tear,” Wang said. “We have tried to do everything as gently as possible.”

Now nestled in a military hangar, the maintenance crews will work to repair the aircraft so it may fly again. When accomplished, the Osprey will return to its home station in the United Kingdom.

“I’m so impressed by all parties involved who came together to make this recovery operation a success,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Westerman, recovery mission commander for the 352nd Special Operations Wing. “This monumental operation wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and dedication from our allies and our Air Commandos, and we are immensely grateful for everything the Norwegians have provided our team during the past weeks.”

By TSgt Westin Warburton, 352nd Special Operations Wing Public Affairs