Friday, May 30, 2008

Blue Ridge Conducting Spring Swing Tour

The amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) steams within sight of Mt. Fuji on its final stop to Shimizu to complete a six-week Spring Swing tour in the Pacific rim area of responsibility. Blue Ridge made port visits to Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines fostering goodwill among PACRIM nations. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Heidi McCormick

USS Carr Completes Caribbean Security Cruise

By Ensign Tim Boston, USS Carr Public Affairs

USS Carr (FFG 52) returned home May 24, after a two-month deployment to the Western Atlantic and Caribbean Sea.

Carr was underway conducting Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) events in the Caribbean, and made port calls in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO) and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"The combination of Theater Security Cooperation and good liberty in the warm tropical sun of the Caribbean has made a very positive impression on Carr Sailors, and I believe the local populations of these countries we visited were glad we did," said Cmdr. Mark V. Metzger, Carr's commanding officer.

Highlights of the deployment included interaction and training with the Barbados Coast Guard, two community relations projects and multiple Navy-to-Navy engagements.

The deployment culminated in Carr's participation in Caribbean Navy Days 2008 in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles with the Colombian, Dutch, British, French, and Trinidadian navies.

Hosted by the Dutch Navy, Dutch Royal Marines and Netherlands Antilles Coast Guard. Caribbean Navy Days consisted of ship tours, aerial and small boat demonstrations, live music from the Dutch Royal Marine Band and local steel drum bands, a seven-mile run around Willemstad and a parade of ships into the Curacao harbor for thousands of tourists and locals to watch.

"I'm always quite impressed by the camaraderie and genuine fellowship between professional naval forces such as these gathered here," said Metzger. "Together we showed the people of Curacao what we bring to the table in defense capabilities, but moreover the strategic importance of our presence here."

In Barbados, Carr participated in several events to improve interoperability with the Barbados Coast Guard. Lt. Chris Locher, Carr's Combat Systems officer, spoke to Barbados Sailors about U.S. Navy visit, board, search and seizure tactics and discussed differences between his experiences in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea and the Barbadian Coast Guard's experiences conducting counter-illicit trafficking missions in the Caribbean.

"It is a great opportunity to share experiences with Sailors who conduct the same types of operations, but have a different perspective," said Locher.

Also in Barbados, Carr Sailors delivered two pallets of Project Handclasp toys and medical supplies to the Needy Children's Charity, a local charity in Bridgetown, Barbados. Project Handclasp, an aid organization that collects and delivers donations from the United States to children in need around the world, provided the supplies for Carr Sailors to deliver and distribute.

In Trinidad, 30 Carr Sailors participated in a community relations project repainting the exterior of the Cocorite Government Primary School, a primary school outside of Port of Spain, Trinidad. The school consists of 160 students, ages five to 15. Although they had the day off from school, many students came to observe the Sailors painting their school.

"My grandfather is from Trinidad and my friend's mother is from here as well," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Christopher Rainer. "I enjoy giving back and showing that America is here to do good [things]. Talking to the locals, I know they appreciate us being here."

Projects, such as those in Barbados and Trinidad, foster goodwill between Sailors and the local community and allow Sailors to interact with locals and leave a positive impression long after they leave.

Carr visited the U.S. Virgin Islands for supplies and liberty, and visited GTMO to refuel, restock provisions, and conduct Force Protection Training in preparation for a Force Protection Initial Assessment Qualification.

AMC stands up first overseas wing

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN) -- Air Mobility Command officials will stand up a new wing June 5 as part of its en route structure in the Pacific.

The 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, will be the first wing AMC officials have established overseas since the command's formation in 1992. Supporting AMC aircraft and crews transiting the Pacific, the wing becomes the headquarters for the existing 715th Air Mobility Operations Group at Hickam AFB and the new 515th AMOG at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

"This new wing will provide an enhanced level of control for our en route structure in the Pacific, which includes critical locations for getting people, cargo and patients to and from war zones," said Col. Richard A. McClain, who is appointed to be the 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing commander and currently serves as the 615th Contingency Response Wing vice commander at Travis AFB, Calif. "The strategic locations of our en route bases maximize the distance our mobility fleet can travel without air refueling. At the same time, we provide maintenance and aerial port servicing, as well as allowing aircrews the opportunity to get the appropriate crew rest."

"This wing standup demonstrates that AMC's en route structure is a flexible organization, shaped by the needs of our nation's security," said Maj. Gen. James A. Hawkins, 18th Air Force commander. "We're always looking for opportunities to make our system more responsive and efficient. This is one more example of adjusting the system to meet the combatant commander's needs."

The en route system serves as a critical link in supporting the warfighter.

"We couldn't perform our global mission without our air mobility people and infrastructure in the theater," said General Hawkins. "Our mobility aircraft transiting from their home base across the Pacific need these locations to refuel and be serviced before and after long missions."

About 1,800 personnel are assigned to the new wing. More than half will stay with the 715th AMOG and its three squadrons, supporting flights transiting Hickam AFB; Andersen AFB, Guam; and Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. The new 515th AMOG at Yokota will have operational control over the three squadrons at Osan AB, Korea; Kadena AB, Japan; and Yokota AB.

Stryker Brigade Returns

About 4000 soldiers with the Fourth Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Second Infantry Division are coming home.

If you would like to view this story with a popup media player click here Stryker Brigade Returns

KC-135: 50 years of refueling the fleet

by Staff Sgt. Matthew Bates, Air Force Print News

In an effort to modernize its aging tanker fleet, the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to build the KC-45 aerial refueling aircraft in February. The new tanker is set to augment and eventually replace the KC-135 Stratotanker, currently the oldest airframe still in use by the Air Force.

The first KC-135 was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, Calif., in June of 1957 and the last one was delivered to the Air Force in 1965. This makes the average KC-135 nearly 50 years old.

Though loyal to the aircraft, those within the KC-135 community recognize the need to invest in a new tanker, not because the aircraft is not capable, but because of its age.

"It's a great airplane and it's good at what it does," said Col. Peter Nezamis, commander of the Illinois Air National Guard's 126th Air Refueling Wing at Scott AFB. "The fact that it's still flying is a testament to that. But it's old ... real old."

With this advanced age come increased problems. Fuel lines leak, gear struts break, corrosion is rampant and replacement parts are becoming hard to come by. Most of the suppliers have either gone out of business or have gone on to build parts for newer aircraft.

"The parts for this aircraft are dwindling and becoming more and more costly to procure," Colonel Nezamis said. "And when we can't procure them, we have to manufacture them ourselves."

The aircraft themselves are on a set schedule that determines when they are sent to the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB for a complete overhaul. The tankers receive new paint and any other identified repairs, which include replacing the boom "rudderevator," horizontal stabilizer terminal fittings and fuel bladders.

"Nobody envisioned that this aircraft would be around for so long," said Gaddis Gann, chief engineer at the center. "The KC-135 was designed and built in the 1950s era of 'throw-away' aircraft. Durability was not a major concern, and manufacturers adopted assembly techniques, such as lapping two pieces of metal without sealant, that made the aircraft corrosion prone."

These overhauls at Tinker AFB are becoming more important by the day. Workers at the ALC have to keep the KC-135 in operation for at least another 30 years.

"We're starting to see things break now that typically don't or haven't before," Mr. Gann said.

Even the inspection process has increased, as pilots and maintainers now check items that were unnecessary to check during the airplane's youth.

"When I started flying the KC-135 in the early 80s, our inspections were maybe one page long," said Col. Jeffery Glass, commander of the 507th ARW at Tinker AFB. "Now, we have five pages of inspections that have to be done on the airplane because of its increased age."

The KC-135's mission for more than 50 years is to provide the core aerial refueling capability for the Air Force and to ensure the accomplishment of its primary missions of Global Reach and Global Power.

Still, because of required maintenance due to the aircraft's age, the KC-135 is becoming less and less available to the fleet.

"You have to look at reliability rates as one thing, but then you have to look at the rates of availability for the airplane," Colonel Glass said. "And that keeps dropping."

At the 507th ARW alone, the wing only has five or six of its 12 KC-135s available to fly on any given day due to scheduled and unscheduled maintenance.

The aircraft was designed primarily to be an aerial refueler. Today, though, the Stratotanker is seeing increased use as a cargo hauler and is flying numerous missions in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

All of this also is combining to place additional stress on the airplane.

"We're pushing an airplane that's made of metal and is fatigued and old, and getting older, and things just start breaking down," Colonel Glass said. "The KC-135 has done its job and it has done it well. But anytime you get to the point where you have a 50-year-old airplane, you don't know what's going to break next."

This, he added, is one reason the KC-45 is a necessary addition to the tanker fleet.

"Without a follow-on tanker for the KC-135, if something happens where the KC-135 has to be grounded, we can't fight a war," he said. "If we don't have refuelers, we can't keep our planes in the air."

This is a fact Air Force officials recognized when deciding to introduce a new tanker.

"Recapitalization of our Air Force's jet tanker inventory is long overdue," said Gen. Duncan McNabb, Air Force vice chief of staff. "Air refuelers are a single point of failure in modern military operations. Across the spectrum of what we do, we absolutely rely on the capabilities they give to us."

The KC-135 is anticipated to stay in the fleet until 2040, and the KC-45 is expected to join the Air Force in 2013.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

USS Alabama Returns from Sea Trials

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW/NAC) Eric J. Rowley, Fleet Public Affairs Center, Det. Northwest

The Ohio-class nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine USS Alabama (SSBN-731) is being moved "dead-stick" in the sound by a flotilla of tug boats with Mount Rainer in background. U.S. Navy photographed by Mr. Anthony Madina

USS Alabama (SSBN 731) returned to Naval Base Kitsap, Bangor, May 14, after successfully completing their first at-sea period in two-and-a-half years, recertifying the ship during their sea trials.

The eight days at sea tested every aspect of the ship's integrity after their refueling overhaul and a Trident II (D5) missile system conversion from the older Trident I (C4) missile system.

"Everything went great, the crew preformed admirably and we got through the sea trials with no big issues," said Master Chief Missile Technician (SS) John Sutton, Alabama chief of the boat. "When we did have problems, the crew was quick to fix them. We got out there and got sea trials completed and got back in on schedule and on time with no issues, ready to go and fully certified."

This sea trial also marked 1,000 dives for Alabama.

Before their sea trials, the crew worked many long days preparing the ship for their first underway by doing fast cruises, where the crew stays tied to the pier but drills like they are actually at sea.

"Sea trials went great," said Cmdr. Todd Massidda, USS Alabama commanding officer. "We completed all things we needed to do to get the ship recertified to get back to an operational status and officially close out the shipyard period within two days of getting back. This was one of the most efficient sea trials to date. This was also a good sense of accomplishment for the crew, which was also needed."

During the sea trials they recertified the hull at test depth, their weapons systems, propulsion systems and also worked on their crew proficiency and training.

"Everybody was pretty excited. There were a lot of guys who have been here for two-plus years and had only been to sea with another boat," said Ensign Abe Cook, Alabama supply officer. "I think for a lot of people it was exciting to see their work, which could be very painful and time consuming, was turned into the boat going out and having a very successful run. It showed these guys their two years of hard work were not lost."

Alabama will undergo more system upgrades and certifications to be ready for a full patrol in about one year.

"This was an extremely intense evolution, there were hundreds and hundreds of man hours of work that needed to be completed in a short period of time." said Missile Technician 1st Class (SS) Jonathan Vannoy, Alabama missile technician leading petty officer. "Our hard work paid off. Our system performed exactly as it was designed to."

CSG 7 Hones ASW Skills in USWEX

By Lt. Ron Flanders, Carrier Strike Group 7 Public Affairs

USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- The ships of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 7 commenced an undersea warfare exercise (USWEX) in the waters of the Hawaiian operating area, May 27.

Participating in the exercise are the strike group's flagship, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76); the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), and the ships of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, the guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73), USS Gridley (DDG 101) and USS Howard (DDG 83) and the guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43). Also participating are two nuclear-powered fast attack submarines.

The exercise is the final test for the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, which deployed May 19, before it heads to the Western Pacific and 7th Fleet area of responsibility. USWEXs are held around Hawaii several times a year for commanders to assess the undersea warfare capabilities of deploying strike groups.

"This is a great opportunity to train on our own 'home field' before we head west," said Rear Adm. James P. Wisecup, commander, Carrier Strike Group 7. "Several nations in the areas we're headed have very quiet, diesel-electric submarines that could potentially be adversaries, and it is my responsibility to prepare these Sailors to deal with that threat. The American people expect nothing less than the best-trained Navy in the world."

Capt. William Nault, commodore of DESRON 7, explained the USWEX provides an invaluable opportunity to train his ships' crews to in a realistic, warlike scenario. "We're trying to catch, track and prosecute multiple submarines, and they're trying to find us. We also have to maintain our protection of the carrier. It is a very challenging scenario."

Mid-frequency active sonar remains the Navy's best tool for finding and tracking these very quiet, diesel-electric submarines. The Navy, in conjunction with regulators, has developed 29 protective measures, including marine mammal monitoring and safety zones where the units either power down or shut down active sonar to minimize potential harm to marine mammals.

The exercise includes the use of mid-frequency active sonar, under restrictions imposed by the federal district court in Honolulu. Those restrictions differ from the 29 protective measures the Navy and regulators developed, and from the ones imposed by California federal courts for the strike group's recent certification exercise in Southern California.

Adm. Robert F. Willard, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, said the 29 protective measures "apply good margins of safety against any potential for harming any animal. Anything in excess of that is unnecessary and imposes unacceptable limits on our training."

Nonetheless, the exercise is a welcome opportunity for the strike group, because anti-submarine warfare (ASW) is the top warfighting priority for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and is a very perishable skill that is not easily mastered.

"Great sonar operators are trained over many years, and their abilities are as much about art as science," said Wisecup. "Trainers ashore and simulators will only get you so far; the rest is based on experience. And to get that experience you just have to go out there and practice it against a tough adversary."

"Only in a real ocean environment against a thinking enemy can we improve our proficiency to fight submarines," said Cmdr. David Haas, Thach commanding officer.

"USWEX is absolutely critical for my crew," said Cmdr. Gregory Gombert, Gridley commanding officer. "It places my sonar operators and anti-submarine tacticians in an environment that mirrors the tough conditions in the 7th Fleet and 5th Fleet operating areas. Once USWEX is over, the Gridley team will be prepared for just about anything," added Gombert.

Confidence also prevails among the strike group's watchstanders, who relish the prospect of squaring off against two of the world's most sophisticated submarines.

"I'm excited," said Sonar Technician Surface 3rd Class Alexander Avila, a sonar operator aboard Thach. "I want to see where our sonar capabilities stand against them, as a team. I would also like to test myself to see where my strengths and weaknesses are."

Joining the six ships in their battle against the submarines will be the helicopters of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 4 of Carrier Air Wing 14, embarked aboard Ronald Reagan, and helicopters from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49, embarked aboard Chancellorsville and Thach, HSL 43, embarked aboard Howard, and HSL 37, embarked aboard Gridley.

Kitty Hawk departs Japan for last time

The aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) departs Yokosuka, Japan for the final time. Kitty Hawk, the oldest carrier in the U.S. Navy and the only conventional-powered aircraft carrier, will be replaced this summer by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kyle D. Gahlau)

Seven countries hone fighter pilot skills during Maple Flag

by Capt. Brooke Brander, 33rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Chester Johnson, from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., performs a post flight inspection on an F-15 Strike Eagle during a Maple Flag exercise at Cold Lake, Canada. Maple Flag 41 is a four-week international air combat exercise held annually at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada. The exercise provides Canadian and allied aircrew with realistic training in a modern simulated air combat environment, and it emphasizes air operations involving large package coalition forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

COLD LAKE, Alberta, Canada (AFPN) -- Fighter pilots from seven different countries, including the United States, participate in Maple Flag 41May 5-16 and May 19-30 at Cold Lake in Alberta, Canada.

"Ask any U.S. fighter pilot and he'll tell you the best part about flying here is the unrestricted air space," said Maj. Derrick Johnson, Maple Flag project officer from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Roughly 3,000 servicemembers are participating in this year's exercise, according to the 4 Wing Public Affairs. The exercise is divided into two periods;

"Four Wing Cold Lake is proud to host Exercise Maple Flag 41, one of the largest coalition exercises in the world," said Capt. John Pulchny, 4 Wing public affairs officer. "With its vast and unrestricted air space and its cutting-edge technology and training assets, the wing is a leading center for coalition training."

Four Wing is Canada's largest fighter wing. Its mission is to train, deploy and support tactical fighter forces to meet Canada's defense and security requirements -- domestically, continentally and internationally.

Maple Flag nearly mirrors Red Flag training at Nellis AFB. One of Red Flag's aggressor units is participating in this year's Maple Flag.

"From the 64th Aggressor Squadron flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the 65th Aggressor Squadron flying the F-15 Eagles -- that aggressor forces provide a huge training opportunity for Maple Flag participants," Major Johnson said.

This year's participants include forces from the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Netherlands, New Zealand and the Republic of Singapore.

The Blue Force, or "good guys," control the pace of the training based on its training objectives. The aggressors' job is to match that level of difficulty, and its Major Johnson's mission to ensure both sides are on the same wavelength. In other words, if one were to put a numerical value on the difficulty of a certain flying scenario, say a rating of four for the Blue team, then the major ensures the threat level presented by the aggressors is also a four, as is the surface-to-air missile threat. All must be equal.
"The difficulty level for fighter pilots increases each day," Major Johnson said. "We usually start with a very vanilla-type of threat. But as the exercise progresses, we try to make the complexity more difficult, based on training objectives. By the time the last training day rolls around, each pilot will see a much more robust threat, from the air and the ground. "

And, it's not just the fighter pilots who receive all the training.

"This is my second Maple Flag, the first being with the 27th Fighter Wing from Cannon Air Force Base in 2006," said Maj. Michael Shetler, 33rd Maintenance Operation Squadron commander at Eglin AFB, Fla. "How we do the job is the same at home or deployed. Exercises like Maple Flag teach our maintainers how to pack-up and deploy and how to work with other military services and host nations."

Taking part in the exercise are F-15s Eagles from Eglin AFB, an E-3 Sentry from the 965th Airborne Air Control Squadron, Tinker AFB, Okla.; eight F-16s from the 64th Aggressor Squadron from Nellis, and three EA-6B Prowlers from VAQ-137 Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, Wash.

"Exercises, like Maple Flag, Red Flag Alaska and Red Flag Nellis, allow us to train like we fight today; as coalition partners. The training and relationships developed during exercises like this lay the foundation for future interoperability during the real deal," said Col. Jeff Gustafson, 33rd Fighter Wing vice commander from Eglin AFB.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Possible New Blue Angel Frequency Discovered

Paul Sisul in Chicago, Illinois may have uncovered a new Blue Angel frequency during the recent Peoria Prairie Airshow last month. During the Sunday performance their know 255.200 MHz was used by the Diamond formation. This frequency was reported by several other field reporters at this event. But the new frequency was heard by Paul during the Saturday performance -- 250.975 MHz for the Diamond formation.

Since I only have one report for this frequency, I will hold it in the tentative category until I get some additional field reports of its use. So Milcom airshow fans, plug in 250.975 MHz and let me know what you hear.

BTW - 250.975 MHz is one of my spectrum holes, so Paul you get a double thanks. Thanks for passing along this new potential frequency for the BA boyz and sharing it with my Milcom blog readers.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Celebrating Our 2nd Year Anniversary of this Blog

It doesn't seem like it, but tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of this blog, the Milcom Monitoring Post and its sister blog the Btown Monitoring Post. On Wednsesday of this week it is the 2nd anniversary of Gayle's Shortwave Central Blog.

Gayle and I would like to thank all who have contributed to the effort to make these blogs the best in the world of radio. No one else even gets close in reader traffic or news content.

We would also like to take a second on this Memorial Day weekend to honor all those who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. We would like to honor the service of those who have given the ultimate price for this country, and to all the military families. These are the folks who are always in our thoughts and prayers and we will never forget and will always honor.

So on this fantastic weekend, the official start of summer, let's celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the Monitoring Post Radio Blogs - Milcom Monitoring Post, Btown Monitoring Post, and the Shortwave Central. Again thanks to all who have made these blogs possible with your stories, frequencies, and laissez les bons temps rouler.

Airshow Report - Jones Beach NY

Photo of the USAF Heritage Flight over NYC 2006. Photo courtesy of Victoria Arocho and the Jones beach airshow website (

Steve Hines, on Long Island, attended the Jones Beach NY Airshow this weekend and passed along this great report on the Milcom newsgroup.

118.8000 Republic Tower
122.7750 Skytypers
123.1500 Show Discrete
123.4750 Golden Knights
128.2500 Air Boss
139.8125 Blue Angels Bravo Comm Cart FM mode
155.5050 New York State Troopers
157.0750 USCG Jones Beach - Marine Channel 81 FM mode
159.3900 Jones Beach State Park
159.4200 Jones Beach State Park Police
237.8000 Blue Angels Solos (behind crowd)
275.3500 Blue Angels Diamond (behind crowd)
284.2500 Blue Angels Show Box
287.5000 106 Rescue Wing
305.5000 Blue Angels Fat Albert
346.5000 Blue Angels Start Up
376.0250 F-22 Demo

Show Simulcast on WHLI 1100 AM

And Dan Myers added the following two freqs to the report (also via Milcom)

The 106th Rescue Wing used 251.900 MHz(secondary) for their air-to-ground rescue demo and also did checks on 282.800 MHz.

Thanks to Steve and Dan for the reports they filed via the Milcom newsgroup on the network of radio newsgroups.

Screaming Eagles Frequency Confirmed

My good friend Joe Cobb over in Nashville has confirmed the one known 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles air-to-ground frequency of 44.200 MHz FM mode.

Thanks Joe for sharing that frequency with the readers of this blog.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tinker AFB TBird Airshow Report

Mike in Oklahoma attended a TBird practice show yesterday at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, and heard the team on their new 143.700 MHz (AM mode) frequency.

This again confirms what this blog first reported back in April (see below)

Remember we need your field reports for any and all airshows this season. Even if it is in our airshow guide, your reports of known frequencies are important to us. All teams (military and civilian acts) and show reports are welcomed.

Thanks to Mike Millican for sharing his airshow frequency.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Navy Sails into 21st New York Fleet Week

The guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) steams up the Hudson River during the parade of ships for the 21st Fleet Week New York 2008. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Danals.

NEW YORK (NNS) -- The 21st Fleet Week celebration in New York City began May 21, with the traditional Parade of Ships.

The five U.S. Navy ships participating in the Fleet Week commemoration are the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), guided-missile cruisers USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) and USS Monterey (CG 61), and the guided-missile destroyers USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) and USS Nitze (DDG 94). Kearsarge and Leyte Gulf arrived in Manhattan at Pier 88 and 90 respectively, and Monterey, Nitze and The Sullivans moored at the Stapleton Piers on Staten Island.

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter and three Canadian navy vessels joined the U.S. Navy ships at the Parade of Ships and will also be participating in Fleet Week events.

Hosted nearly every year since 1984, Fleet Week New York is the city's celebration of the sea services. This event also provides an opportunity for the citizens of New York City and the surrounding rri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see, first-hand, the latest capabilities of today's maritime services.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what the Navy does," said Michael Padovano, a New York native and father of an embarked Marine aboard Kearsarge. "I can't wait to hug my son, but I'm also curious to see the ship and see how the crew lives. I never had the privilege to serve, so I'm very interested."

While in New York, nearly 4,000 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen will participate in Memorial Day parades in all five boroughs; volunteer with local community outreach organizations; and experience the sights, sounds and hospitality of New York City.

"It's great to be back in New York for Fleet Week," said Vice Adm. Evan M. Chanik, Jr., director, Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Center of Excellence for Second Fleet. "This is a great opportunity for the sea services to show the great citizens of New York City their Navy, their Marine Corps and their Coast Guard, and allow them the opportunity to meet the great people who provide a wonderful service to our country."

Public visitations of the U.S. Navy ships will commence May 22 and conclude May 27. Additionally, there will be a number of exhibits showing off the technology of our maritime services and the skilled expertise of service members.

Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) spell out "I Love NY" while pulling into New York City during the parade of ships for the 21st Fleet Week New York 2008. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Danals.

T-45C Goshawk Crashes

From Naval Air Station, Meridian Public Affairs

MERIDIAN, Miss. (NNS) -- At approximately 8:23 p.m. May 20, a T-45C Goshawk from Training Air Wing 1, based on board Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss., crashed just south of the runway on Navy property while on a routine training mission.

Both pilots, assigned to Training Squadron 7, ejected safely but sustained minor injuries. They were transported to Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian for evaluation and were released on May 21.

An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the mishap.

48-year-old KC-135 retires

by Master Sgt. Burke Baker, 151st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

A KC-135 E model Stratotanker, tail number 0327 (60-0327), is received by 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group members April 24 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The 48-year-old aircraft was delivered for long term storage at the 2,600 acre facility after serving with the 151st Air Refueling Wing of the Utah Air National Guard for more than 20 years. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Burke Baker)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFPN) -- One of only two remaining KC-135 E model Stratotankers of the Utah Air National Guard was delivered to its final resting place April 24 to officials of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The aircraft touched down onto the Arizona flightline, its maintenance and service records were signed over to a 309th AMARG official, and the aircraft was prepped for induction into what has to be considered aircraft heaven, otherwise known as the "boneyard."

The "boneyard" is a 2,600 acre facility that got its start in 1946 storing World War II bombers and cargo planes, and has since grown into a modern, high-tech industrial organization managing an inventory of more than 4,460 aircraft, 29 aerospace vehicles and 350,000 line items of aircraft production tooling. The group's services include aircraft storage and disposition, parts reclamation and restoration to flight-level maintenance.

However, the fact that these aircraft will be stored provides little solace for those who flew them.
"This day may not mean much to some, but I have personally been flying that aircraft since 1983," said Col. Kelvin Findlay, the Utah Air National Guard's 151st Air Refueling Wing commander. "You become attached to an aircraft with such an impressive track record. It literally becomes a friend."

Tail number 60-0327 rolled off the Boeing assembly plant in 1960, originally serving the active Air Force and then the 191st Air Refueling Squadron of the Utah Air National Guard.

"The E-model modification was a far-sighted and cost-effective decision by the Air National Guard," said Col. Ron Blunck, the 151st Maintenance Group commander who served as both an enlisted crew chief and later a master navigator aboard the KC-135. "The E-model's performance was a vast leap forward from the A-model, and was a workhorse for the ANG for over 20 years. We could carry heavier fuel loads, and could stop on very short runways with the reverse thrust. The E-model was a very capable aircraft and would still be viable today, but the engines are no longer supportable."

It was this configuration that the Utah Air National Guard flew for more than 20 years, supporting the Cold War, operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, operations Deny Flight, Decisive Endeavor and Joint Forge in the Balkans, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After long service with the Guard and Reserve, the E-model variants of the KC-135 aircraft's days have come to a close. In October of 2005, officials of the 151st ARW received the first of its eight KC-135R aircraft . The re-engined aircraft uses the same airframe as it's A-model predecessors, but can offload more fuel, is more fuel efficient and much quieter than the KC-135E.

"Our maintainers received our R-models with mixed feelings, having to say good-bye to some good old friends," Colonel Blunck said. "I have nearly 4,000 hours in the E-model and I will always have many fond memories of the aircraft."

Though a contract has just recently been awarded to produce the KC-45A, the Air Force's newest long-range refueling and cargo platform, the KC-135R may soar into the wild blue yonder through the year 2025.

Military better prepared than ever for disaster relief

by John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service

The Defense Department and U.S. military are better prepared than ever to aid disaster-relief efforts, and have improved measures for tracking military families affected by catastrophe, a top Pentagon official here said May 21.

Among other services, department entities are poised to assist with evacuations, emergency transportation and search-and-rescue missions as the nation braces for the hurricane season that starts June 1, said Paul McHale, the assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' security affairs.

"Today, the Department of Defense -- active, Reserve and National Guard -- is better prepared to assist civil authorities than at any other time in our nation's history," Mr. McHale said at a Hurricane Awareness Day news conference at the Federal Emergency Management Agency here.

The department understands its role in catastrophic relief and has worked with FEMA to put in place a wide range of missions to support a national response, Mr. McHale said. In the event of disaster, the Pentagon is prepared to coordinate FEMA logistics on military bases, to deploy emergency communications rapidly, and to deliver ready-made meals, water and power generators.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff praised the increased role the Defense Department has assumed over recent years.

"(The people of the Defense Department) have been phenomenal partners over the last couple of years and have become really fully integrated with our planning system and our approach in a way that was not the case previously," he said.

Pentagon officials have more closely integrated its planning with the National Guard Bureau, U.S. Northern Command, and state adjutants general, Mr. McHale said. Guardsmen are ready to deploy to Gulf Coast and East Coast states -- where hurricanes are most likely to hit -- and military forces are prepared to protect constitutional rights and provide law enforcement if either system breaks down in the wake of a disaster.

"Our men and women in military uniform are well prepared to provide substantial life-saving assistance to FEMA," Mr. McHale said. "And with a sense of urgency, we will do so if called upon during the 2008 hurricane season."

DOD officials also are working with the U.S. Northern Command staff to implement a system to track and account for troops and military families evacuated or displaced as a result of natural or man-made calamity. The effort has been spurred on by the chaos that occurred in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, Mr. McHale said.

"A number of days passed before we had full accountability for all military personnel and their family members," Mr. McHale said of the post-Katrina confusion. "(With the new system,) we will know who's safe and perhaps who is in jeopardy."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ships Parade Through Seattle for Great White Fleet Centennial

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW) Maebel Ysog Tinoko, Fleet Public Affairs Center, Det. Northwest

A Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) hovers over the surface of Elliot Bay behind the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) during a parade of ships in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt's Great White Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Beckjord)

The Navy and the city of Seattle celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Great White Fleet's visit to the Puget Sound, May 20.

Hundreds of Sailors, dignitaries, Navy officials and guests gathered on the Bell Harbor Rooftop Plaza at Pier 66 to watch USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and USS Preble (DDG 88), accompanied by a Navy hovercraft, in a traditional parade of ships through Seattle's Elliott Bay.

"It's truly a pleasure to be here today; this ceremony is a special tribute to the history of the U.S. Navy," said Bill Larson, president of the Seattle Council of the Navy League of the United States. "I want to recognize all the people in uniform present here today for their service to our nation."

In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States, sent a portion of the Atlantic fleet from Hampton Roads, Va., on a world tour to test naval readiness, establish global presence and generate international goodwill.

For one Sailor, the ceremony and parade of ships was a fitting way to commemorate the Great White Fleet centennial.

"This is how we remember our naval history, and the city continues to honor the traditions of the Navy," said Navy Counselor 1st Class (SW/AW) Erika Lamar, Navy Recruiting District Seattle. "I am excited about the Great White Fleet festivities that are happening in Seattle."

In recognition of the Great White Fleet's visit, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and Larson presented a golden key to the city to Navy officials.

"Our city welcomes the Navy to the city," added Nickels. "I would like to say thank you to all the men and women who serve for our country to protect our city, our state and our nation."

In an official message, Secretary of the Navy, Donald C.Winter said that Theodore Roosevelt's idea to send a fleet of 16 U.S. battleships on a world tour was a dramatic gesture aimed at audiences both at home and abroad.

"To the world, the message was that the United States had arrived as a significant world power, outward-looking, and filled with goodwill towards every nation," said Winter. "To the public of this great country, the message was that you have a Navy to be proud of, and that the strength of the U.S. Navy is a primary source of our status as a nation of influence and power."

The centennial celebration of the Great White Fleet's visit to the Puget Sound coincided with Bremerton's Armed Forces Day parade May 17. In addition to USS Kentucky (SSBN 737) and Bremerton's Great White Fleet commemoration, six other crews from submarines homeported in the Northwest sharing names with battleships of the Great White Fleet participated in celebrations in various Washington cities: USS Connecticut (SSN 22) in Bellingham, USS Ohio (SSGN 726) in Port Angeles, USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) in Port Townsend, USS Maine (SSBN 741) in Tacoma and USS Alabama (SSBN 731) in Seattle.

The Seattle Great White Fleet celebration will continue with a gala May 21, aboard the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship Rushmore, pierside in Seattle.

Naval historical file photo of the Great White Fleet. In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States, sent a portion of the Atlantic fleet on a world tour to test naval readiness, establish global presence and generate international goodwill. U.S. Navy photo

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blue Angels Performing at Annapolis

A complete list of all the known military airshow frequencies can be found online at the Monitoring Times website. Our annual MT Airshow Guide is now available for download in PDF format at And the best part of all this is it is free, a service for the monitoring community from the staff of Monitoring Times magazine.

Milcom frequency alert: Locals report the following frequencies in use during practice sessions by the Blue Angels: 237.800 255.200 284.250 MHz (AM mode)

Possible Annapolis EDACS Trunk Radio system (this needs to be confirmed if still in use): 138.1250 (LCN1) 142.1000 (LCN2) 142.6000 (LCN3) 143.7000 (LCN4)

And here is the 380-400 MHz trunk radio system (P25 only): 386.3125c 386.5875c 388.0250 388.3875c MHz (P25 digital only)

Field reports are most welcomed at the email address in the masthead.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, will perform a variety of high-speed, aerobatic precision-maneuvers above the Severn River Wednesday, May 21 during the Naval Academy’s Commissioning Week. Viewing areas for the show will include Ingram Field, portions of Farragut Field and Hospital Point on the Naval Academy grounds. These events are free and open to the public.

On Wednesday, May 21, the Blue Angels performance and flight demonstration will begin at 2 p.m. and will be narrated from Ingram Field. The show’s narration can be heard from Ingram Field, or spectators from other viewing areas can tune-in to WNAV 1430AM to hear the broadcast of the narration.

For decades, the Blue Angels have performed for thousands of spectators during Commissioning Week. This year, two Naval Academy graduates are part of the Blue Angels team. Lt. Frank Weisser, Class of 2000, is the pilot for No. 7 and narrator and Lt. Cmdr. Mark E. Lambert, Class of 1996, is the Blue Angels’ Flight Surgeon.
The Blue Angels flight demonstration exhibits the choreographed refinements of Navy-trained flying skills. The presentation includes four-plane, graceful, acrobatic maneuvers referred to as diamond maneuvers. All jets perform maneuvers together in the well-known delta formation.

Vehicles with Department of Defense decals or handicapped stickers are permitted on Academy grounds. Vehicles displaying Friends of the Naval Academy (FONA) passes will not be permitted to park on Naval Academy grounds during the Blue Angels visit. Pedestrians are invited to walk through Gate 1, 3 or 8 and must show a valid, government-issued ID. All bags are subject to search.

All non-authorized vehicles, buses, recreational vehicles and spectators must park at the blue side of the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and ride the free daily shuttle between the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and the Academy. Shuttle buses are not wheelchair accessible.

Handicapped visitors will be permitted to park on Academy grounds with a valid handicap plates or placards and after a vehicle inspection at Gate 8. Visitors must park at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium or in-town. During the Blue Angels Flight Rehearsal and Flight Demonstration the shuttle route on the Yard will be limited to stopping at Alumni Hall from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

***Please Note the Following Important Vehicular and Marine Restrictions***

*All times listed are dependent upon weather
Naval Academy Gate Closures for Vehicular Access

Naval Academy Gate 1 and 3 will be closed to vehicular traffic (except for emergency vehicles) on Wednesday, May 21 from 11 a.m. until the completion of the flight demonstration rehearsal (approximately 4 p.m.). Gate 8 will be open during these same times only to USNA staff and faculty, vehicles with DoD stickers, shuttle buses and cars displaying handicapped plates or placards. Gates 1, 3 and 8 will remain open for pedestrian access. Please note that all times are approximate and dependent upon weather.

Visitor Restrictions
• Coolers and elaborate picnicking are not permitted on Naval Academy grounds at any time.
• Guests are permitted to bring folding outdoor chairs or blankets to sit on.
• Guests are permitted to bring backpacks, diaper bags and purses. All bags are subject to search.
• Dogs are not permitted to attend events during Commissioning Week.

Bridge and Water Restrictions

The Naval Academy Police, Maryland State Police, U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Natural Resources Police will enforce the following vehicular and marine safety zones and boating traffic restrictions during scheduled low-level flight operations during practices and performances by the Blue Angels:

Naval Academy Bridge (Md. Rt. 450) Closures

The Naval Academy Bridge (Md. Rt. 450) will be closed to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic at the times listed below. Vehicles entering and leaving Annapolis should use Rowe Boulevard or other alternate routes.

WEDNESDAY, May 21, 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.*

Severn River: Marine Restrictions

At the times listed below, boat traffic and anchoring will be restricted from the following areas on the Severn River and its tributaries. The southern boundary will be established by Naval Academy Yard Patrol craft, which will mark a line drawn from the quick flashing light at the south end of the Naval Academy seawall to Greenbury Point. The northern boundary is marked by the U.S. Rt. 50 Severn River Bridge. Both boundaries will be patrolled by the Coast Guard, Department of Natural Resources Police, Coast Guard Auxiliary and Annapolis Police and Fire Rescue boats.

Anchoring Restrictions:
WEDNESDAY, May 21, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.*

Boating Restrictions:
WEDNESDAY, May 21, 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.*

Mariners are urged to transit the area with caution while the Naval Academy Yard Patrol craft are anchored in position. The portion of the Severn River defined by the boundaries below will be closed to all boating traffic during the times listed below.

During periods of restricted boating on the Severn, shoreline residents' boats moored to a permanent dock in the affected area may remain secured to their docks. However, by order of the commander, 5th Coast Guard District, a special local regulation has been issued which closes the river to all other boats -- either underway, anchored or on mooring buoys -- during practices and performances by the Blue Angels. [Please call Coast Guard Activities Baltimore at (410) 576-2674 for additional details.]

Temporary Flight Restrictions:
An FAA waiver has been granted for the following times. This information is for all local pilots:
“Due to high performance aerial demonstrations by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the area surrounding the U.S. Naval Academy (38’ 59 12 N, 076’ 28 48 W) BAL 153/13.8 NM is closed from surface to 15,000 ft. MSL out to a five nautical mile radius as follows:”

WEDNESDAY, May 21, 10:30 a.m.- 4 p.m.

A notice to Airmen (NOTAM) will be issued on or about May 19th stating the information above. Questions regarding the NOTAM should be directed to the Naval Academy Operaions Department at (410) 293-7136.

On Wednesday, May 21, the Blue Angels flight demonstration will be preceded and followed by several other events for the public’s enjoyment. At 1 p.m., the Navy Band will perform on Ingram Field. At 4 p.m., Monte Maxwell will perform an organ concert in the main chapel. These events are also free and open to the public.

Milcom Airshow Report Fort Smith Arkansas

The US Air Force Thunderbirds performed at Fort Smith, Arkansas, on May 17-18 and one of our milcom field reporters, Mark Shadwick, files the following frequency report. Thanks a million Mark, we appreciate you sharing your airshow experience with all our Milcom Monitoring Post readers.

Victor 1 143.700 Diamond
Victor 2 150.150
Uniform 1 235.250 Solos
Uniform 2 322.950
Maintenance 413.275 DCS431
ComCart Music and Announcer 216.7275
ComCart Retransmit V1&U1 216.9800

Victor 1 and Uniform 1 were used during perfomance. During Fridays practice 5 and 6 came in early and chatted on the ground on Victor 2 and Uniform 2.

Golden Knights 123.475
F15 West 384.550
Heritage Flight 136.675
UH-60 Blackhawk "Voodoo" 30.400 CTCSS 151.4 Hz PL tone

Air Boss 118.300
Discreet 123.150

188th FSANG A-10's Command Post 268.100
F-16's Tulsa Air National Guard 141.900

Super Hornet was there, but did not hear them on any of the published freqs except for the AirBoss freq.

Very nice report Mark. If you have an airshow report you would like to share, please pass it along at the email address in the masthead. You can remain anonymous if you so chose, but please let me know that in your report.

US Navy Ships Head to New York for Fleet Week

Blog editor note: There will be an audio feed of the arrival of the fleet on the website at

NORFOLK (NNS) -- A flotilla of U.S. Navy ships and thousands of Sailors and Marines set sail May 19 from Norfolk, to participate in the 21st Fleet Week New York, which will take place May 21 - 28.

The ships heading up the East Coast for the Fleet Week commemoration are the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), guided-missile cruisers USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) and USS Monterey (CG 61), and the guided-missile destroyers USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) and USS Nitze (DDG 94).

The ships will parade into New York Harbor Wednesday morning, May 21. Following the parade, Kearsarge and Leyte Gulf will berth in Manhattan, and Monterey, The Sullivans, and Nitze will berth at Staten Island.

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter will also participate in Fleet Week, and three Canadian navy vessels will join Wednesday's Parade of Ships.

Hosted nearly every year since 1984, Fleet Week New York is the city's celebration of the sea services. This event also provides an opportunity for the citizens of New York City and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see, first-hand, the latest capabilities of today's maritime services.

In addition to public visitations of participating ships, May 22 – 27, there will be a number of exhibits showing off the technology of our maritime services and the skilled expertise of our service members. More information is available on the official Fleet Week New York Web site at

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

USS Ronald Reagan Departs on Third Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Bill Larned, USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs

Aviation Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class William Sum's son is held by his grandfather before the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan departings Naval Air Station North Island. The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is currently on a scheduled deployment. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac.

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and embarked staffs and squadrons departed from San Diego May 19, for a scheduled Western Pacific deployment, as hundreds of friends and family members gathered pierside, waving banners and shouting farewells.

"This crew is ready and excited. Walking around the mess decks, you can feel the crew's energy. We are ready to go. I could not be more impressed with the performance of this crew. We are ready for any mission that presents itself," said Ronald Reagan Commanding Officer Capt. Kenneth Norton, who assumed command May 2.

The ship is the nation's newest aircraft carrier and flagship of Carrier Strike Group 7 (CSG-7), commanded by Rear Adm. James P. Wisecup.

The strike group includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur (DDG-73), USS Howard (DDG-83), and USS Gridley (DDG-101) and the guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG-43). The strike group will support the Maritime Strategy in the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation.

"The more than 7,000 Sailors of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike group are excited to go across the horizon and do the nation's business. It's bittersweet, because we miss our families. You can never get used to leaving them. But we are excited and ready to carry out the mission," Wisecup said.

"Our families are the most important component of our readiness. They have made all of Ronald Reagan's success possible. We cannot wait to get back home with them," said Norton.

The Ronald Reagan CSG is comprised of: Commander, Carrier Strike Group 7, Carrier Air Wing 14, Destroyer Squadron 7, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), the guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73), USS Gridley (DDG 101) and USS Howard (DDG 83), the guided missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) and the fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (TAOE 7).

The squadrons of CVW-14 include the "Redcocks" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, the "Fist of the Fleet" of VFA-25, the "Stingers" of VFA-113, the "Eagles" of VFA-115, the "Black Eagles" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113, the "Cougars" of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 139, the "Providers" of Carrier Logistics Support 30, and the "Black Knights" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 4.

Ronald Reagan was commissioned in July 2003, making it the ninth and newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The ship is named after the 40th U.S. president, and carries the motto of "Peace through Strength," a recurrent theme during the Reagan presidency.

Sailors man the rails aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group departs on a scheduled deployment. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Brossard.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Army Helos Expand Capability with Boxer

By Private 1st Class Gisell Martinez, USS Boxer (LHD 4) Public Affairs

USS BOXER, At sea (NNS) -- The Army's 1-226th Aviation Regiment conducted deck landing qualifications (DLQ) aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4), May 13, while the ship was off the coast of Guatemala for Continuing Promise (CP) 2008.

The Regiment conducted the DLQs to ensure they are qualified to land their helicopters aboard a Navy ship should they need to refuel during a natural disaster.

In September of 2007, the 1-226th was responding to Hurricane Felix, which hit the coasts of Honduras and Guatemala. When their helicopters were short on fuel, they had to create various "stand-alone" fueling stations, which required additional manpower and coordination, taking away from the primary mission. The regiment was not able to fly to the nearby Navy ships right off the coast because they were not qualified to land on their flight decks.

"We never get the opportunity to do this," said Army Lt. Col. Todd Conyers, the 1-226th's commanding officer. "For the Army to have the capability and the chance to train with the Marine Corps and the Navy is an honor."

According to Conyers, the 1-226th's primary mission in the U.S. Southern Command's area of focus is anti-narcotics, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. He said qualifying aboard Boxer allows them greater flexibility to be able to respond to all of their mission responsibilities.

Throughout the training, the 1-226th conducted DLQs with four AH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crews and two CH-47 Chinook helicopter crews which included two medical evacuation drills.

"Now we can do joint operations with Navy and Marines to make our mission more effective and efficient aboard a Navy ship," added Conyers. "It's an honor for the 1-226th to be a part of joint operations and we look forward to doing it again."

The 1-226th working with Boxer allows for greater reach around the globe for future missions like Continuing Promise, Boxer's humanitarian civic assistance mission with Guatemala, El Salvador and Peru.

Boxer's mission exemplifies the U.S. maritime strategy which emphasizes deploying forces to build confidence and trust among nations through collective maritime security efforts that focus on common threats and mutual interests.

Embarked units and organizations aboard Boxer for CP include Amphibious Squadron 5, Fleet Surgical Team 5, U.S. Public Health Service, Project Hope, Project Handclasp, Navy Seabee Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 764, Tactical Air Control Squadron 11, Special Marine Air Ground Task Force 24, Helicopter Sea Combat Support Squadron 23, Assault Craft Unit 1, Fleet Survey Team and Beach Master Unit 1.

USS North Carolina Arrives at New Home

By Lt. James Stockman, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Southeastern Connecticut welcomed USS North Carolina (SSN 777), the Navy's newest nuclear-powered submarine, as it arrived at its new homeport May 16.

North Carolina, the fourth of the Virginia-class fast-attack submarines, joined its sister ships USS Virginia (SSN 774), USS Texas (SSN 775), USS Hawaii (SSN 776) and 12 other fast-attack submarines homeported at Naval Submarine Base New London.

"North Carolina's arrival at Submarine Squadron Four comes at an important time for the submarine force. One of the most significant events within the submarine force for 2008 is the Operational Evaluation program milestone for the Virginia-class," said Capt. Rick Breckenridge, Submarine Squadron 4 commodore.

"This year-long event tests every mission area of this new class and evaluates whether the designers and builders delivered the warfighting requirements required by the Navy. While USS Virginia has been conducting the bulk of this mission evaluation, USS North Carolina will quickly join this demanding real-world mission tasking."

Family members, General Dynamics Electric Boat representatives and Submarine Group 2 and Submarine Squadron 4 personnel welcomed North Carolina to its new homeport.

For one spectator, however, the boat's arrival had a deeper significance. Doug Bennett, a North Carolina native and 24-year submarine veteran, waved a small American flag as North Carolina transited up the Thames River.

"I spent many a day running on the decks of the battleship (North Carolina) while growing up in North Carolina," said Bennett. "I never thought that I would see the day when a submarine would be named North Carolina."

North Carolina was built by General Dynamics Electric Boat Division in Groton, Conn., and Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va., and was commissioned in Wilmington, N.C. on May 3.

As the Navy's next-generation attack submarine, the Virginia-class will provide the U.S. Navy with the capabilities it requires to maintain the nation's undersea supremacy well into the 21st century. North Carolina will have improved stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities and Special Warfare enhancements that will enable it to meet the Navy's multi-mission requirements.

Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group Makes the Grade During COMPTUEX

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW/AW) Jeremy Freehling, USS Theodore Roosevelt Public Affairs

USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, At Sea (NNS) -- The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG) completed a three week-long Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) May 16.

Commander Strike Force Training Atlantic (CSFTL) embarked TR for COMPTUEX, providing the mission, assisting in problem-solving techniques, and evaluating the strike group's performance. CSFTL prepared the geo-political environment and the various battle problem scenarios that the strike group had to overcome.

"Our objective was to build as realistic an environment as possible, that would test every possible scenario the strike group might face while deployed," said Capt. John Rodriguez, CSFTL strike warfare officer. "We wanted to challenge the strike group on all levels with each battle problem that was presented, and allow the warfare commanders the opportunity to learn from each other after the event had ended."

Each battle problem varied in degrees of difficulty, and tested TRCSG in different ways. Each problem involved surface, sub and air defense scenarios that tested the communication and teamwork of all the Sailors in the strike group. As the battle problems progressed, they became longer and the time allowed to react and make decisions decreased.

COMPTUEX also dealt with different political structures and how to properly handle them without escalation. With every problem, intelligence and communication data was presented to TRCSG, but it was the responsibility of the commanders and Sailors to interpret the information and make the appropriate decisions.

"As COMPTUEX progressed, we provided less and less intelligence to the strike group, and the battle problem evolved, based on the warfare commander's decisions," said Cmdr. Bill Seaman, CSFTL maritime operations officer.

During the exercise, CSFTL noted that TRCSG responded efficiently and effectively to the events presented to them.

"Hats off to the officers and Sailors of TRCSG for the effort they have put forth when presented with these battle problems," said Cmdr. Kyle Ketchum, CSFTL air defense officer. "Everyone has worked together to get the most out of the events and learn from their mistakes."

"During COMPTUEX, every Sailor demonstrated great teamwork and support for each other in successfully completing the tasks at hand," said Rear Adm. Frank Pandolfe, commander, TRCSG. "Everyone in the strike group showed fantastic leadership qualities along with communication skills that contributed to the successful completion of each battle problem. We shined in every area, particularly the integration of the air wing with the carrier. Everyone involved was thoroughly impressed with how we do business."

Both CSFTL and the strike group realize that having an exercise such as COMPTUEX is one of the few ways to test the warfighting capabilities of a strike group.

"The members of CSFTL may not know everything, but we have seen everything," said Rear. Adm. Don Quinn, CSFTL commander. "We put this knowledge to the test when creating this exercise. TRCSG has been successful during this exercise because of the positive attitude and teamwork they have demonstrated over the past few weeks."

Each prior event's lessons and mistakes were taken into account and applied to assess future missions. Throughout the exercise, intelligence and communication within the strike group was vital.

"COMPTUEX helped strengthen us in every area," said Pandolfe. "The exercise was creative, demanding, and required a superb effort by both CSFTL and TRCSG, to accomplish what we did. As a result we are now a stronger and sharper group, and we can use these skills in the future."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Peleliu ESG Underway Following Port Visit to Pearl Harbor

Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Allen Cameron and Aviation Support Equipment Technician 1st Class Juan Mejia lower the National Ensign aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) for the ship's departure from Pearl Harbor. Peleliu is currently in Pearl Harbor for a scheduled port visit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Shannon K. Cassidy)

USS PELELIU, At Sea (NNS) -- The San Diego-based Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group (PELESG) departed Naval Station Pearl Harbor, May 12, following a two-day port visit that served as the first leg of the 2008 deployment.

"Hawaii is always a favorite port call for Sailors and Marines on deployment," said Capt. Jon Padfield, the commander of Amphibious Squadron 3. "We enjoy bringing young Sailors and Marines to historic places such as Pearl Harbor and are always welcomed by the warm hospitality of the wonderful people here."

While in Hawaii, many Sailors and Marines from the PELESG took advantage of the ship's and Naval Station Pearl Harbor's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) discounted ticket program for tours and attractions all over the island -- including luaus and golf. Other Sailors and Marines visited the historic USS Arizona Memorial as well as the Battleship Missouri Memorial.

The PELESG is led by Commander, Amphibious Squadron (COMPHIBRON) 3 and includes the flag ship, USS Peleliu (LHA 5), the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), the amphibious ships USS Dubuque (LPD 8) and USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), the guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Halsey (DDG 97) and USS Benfold (DDG 65).

The PELESG departed Naval Station San Diego, May 4, for a regularly scheduled deployment in support of U.S. national security objectives.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

GW Sailors Transit the Strait of Magellan to Arrive in the Pacific

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tanner Lange, USS George Washington Public Affairs

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) (GW) navigated the Strait of Magellan, May 9-10, completing the Atlantic Ocean portion of their Partnership of the Americas (POA) 2008 deployment.

The Strait of Magellan, named after the Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, is a navigable sea route immediately south of mainland Chile and is a natural passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Magellan made passage through the strait in 1520 while searching for a quicker route to the Spice Islands by sailing west.

During the two-day transit, the Sailors of GW's navigation department played a major role by maintaining the ship's course and monitoring water depth through the 570-kilometer passage.

"The past two days have been very important for us, helping GW make a safe and accurate transit through the Strait of Magellan," said Senior Chief Quartermaster (SW/AW) David Tokarski. "There are a lot of challenges that can arise when passing through narrow waters like these and it takes extra effort to make sure all readings are reported and plotted accurately to keep the ship continuing on its designated path."

The Strait of Magellan transit also served as a valuable training tool for qualifying junior quartermasters in different aspects of their rate and has provided some Sailors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"As a quartermaster, I look forward to missions and challenges that enable me to perform my rate at its highest level," said Quartermaster 3rd Class (SW/AW) Brandon Chandler. "This was an extensive detail in the time it takes to travel the Strait. I feel like I have learned a lot and I will never forget this experience."

"It's not just navigation department helping the ship through the Strait," Tokarski said. "All departments work together and have important responsibilities to make the exercise a total team effort. That's why we call it Team GW."

Since it is not prudent to navigate the strait at night, GW anchored late in the day May 9 just off the coast of Punta Arenas, Chile. Punta Arenas is considered the world's southernmost city, with more than 102,000 residents.

As the ship resumed its transit May 10, hundreds of GW and embarked Carrier Air Wing 17 Sailors roamed the flight deck and hangar bay to snap a few photographs of the snow-capped mountains overlooking parts of the strait.

"It was cold, but I was able to get some amazing pictures," said Information Systems Technician Seaman Armando Clanton of Combat Systems Department's CS3 division. "I never thought I'd be in this part of the world or see anything like this."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Prototype UAV tested at Northern Edge

by Marine Sgt. Rocky Smith, Northern Edge 2008 Public Affairs

Red Jensen prepares to launch the prototype of the Arcturus unmanned aerial vehicle May 7 during Northern Edge 2008, at a test site in the Pacific Alaska Range Complex. The UAV is a brainchild of the Air Force Research Laboratory and is designed for a myriad of aerial reconnaissance, monitoring and communications duties. Mr. Jensen is the chief pilot for the Arcturus UAV. (U.S. Marine photo/Sgt. Rocky Smith)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFPN) -- Thanks to technology advances in small, unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, servicemembers on the ground may be able to get an inside track on what lies ahead, literally.

The Air Force Research Laboratory tested the Arcturus unmanned aerial vehhicle prototype May 7 at Northern Edge 2008 in the Pacific Alaska Range Complex.

The significant fact with this launch and testing is the new ability to follow movement on the ground, recognize changes on the landscape, and work autonomously, officials said.

"We've done complete tracking of target vehicles where the aircraft is controlled by the tracking algorithm, we don't have to do any man-in-the-loop intervention," said Capt. Samuel Hart, the unmanned services program manager at the Air Force Research Laboratory. "We tell it to track the vehicle and it auto-tracks and follows it around corners, turns, behind trees and things like that."

The main goal is to capture real-time images whether it be live video or snapshots and take those for targeting, tracking and geolocation, said the captain.

"They can also use it for battle damage assessment, if there is a bomb drop," he said. "we can go back and see what kind of effect it had, if they were on target or if they missed."

The new technology will give servicemembers a bird's eye view of the battle space.

NORAD, USNORTHCOM open integrated command center

by Army Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen, NORAD/USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFPN) -- North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command unveiled their new integrated command center in a ceremony May 13 attended by dignitaries from both Canada and the U.S.

The command center opening coincided with NORAD's 50-year anniversary of the partnership between Canada and the U.S. in defending North America from air and space threats.

"This is really the culmination of a lot of great effort," said NORAD and USNORTHCOM commander Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., "by people who have taken this idea of unity of effort, of integration of capabilities, and brought them together in this room as a symbol of a true integrated approach to both warning and defense of our homelands."

NORAD and USNORTHCOM have shared a commander and a headquarters building since 2002, when USNORTHCOM was established. Sharing a command center with integrated land, air, space, missile warning, maritime and cyber domains brings the commands' missions together in a way "that creates great synergy," General Renuart said.

"Our command center will be a huge improvement in our ability to integrate situational awareness, to begin to respond to a major event in either of our countries, and then to take the national capabilities that respond to disasters, both man-made and natural, and bring relief to our citizens in our communities," the general said. "So this is really a weapons system for the future."

Canadians greatly value their defense partnership with the U.S., said Canadian Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay. "In fact, we're constantly revisiting and constantly upgrading our participation, our ability, to continue this strong relationship that we have enjoyed now for 50 years. The opening of NORAD and NORTHCOM's new command and control center, especially now in the context of this ongoing 50-year anniversary celebration, is truly something that we value.

"NORAD remains the cornerstone of Canadian-American continental defense partnership," he said. "This new command and control center is certainly evidence of that. It will maintain constant links with Canada Command, Canada's domestic military operations command, and it will help NORAD meet the challenges of the future by allowing for effective, efficient communications between Canada Command, NORAD and USNORTHCOM. These links, and the work of the personnel who staff the command center, contribute to the defense of the continent every day."

The new command center, said U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, "enhances the collaboration between Canada and the U.S. (and has) a key role in defending the U.S. and Canada in the near and far future.

"It embodies our nations' shared commitment to protecting the North American continent from any and all threats," he said. "Additionally, this center will be able to connect and coordinate with other command centers around the nation with improved communication processes, thus allowing us to respond more quickly to any threat."

Attendees included members of the Parliament of Canada Rick Casson and Anthony Rota, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs Paul McHale, U.S. Fleet Forces Command commander Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Canada Command commander Lt. Gen. M.J. Dumais and Canadian air force commander Lt. Gen. Angus Watt.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Breaking News - Monitoring the Earthquake in China

I have two links for HF frequencies that may have quake related traffic and broadcasts.

HF Ute, Military, Ham and Diplo frequencies

Shortwave Broadcast

More as we get it.


Guard Answers Calls in Weather-Battered States

Milcom editor blog note: National Guard frequencies listed at the bottom of this article.

By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Special to American Forces Press Service

National Guard members in four states were called out by their governors to assist civil authorities today after tornadoes crossed the southwestern United States on May 10 and flooding on the Delaware coast left communities in need of emergency assistance.

Since May 7, the National Weather Service has confirmed at least 42 tornadoes in the southern plains and the southeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the nation, with the strongest tornado recorded May 10 as an F-4. It developed from a super-cell storm that tracked through three states.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency reported that Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina were affected by severe weather during the weekend, with at least 22 confirmed deaths, many homes destroyed and thousands of people without power. The Guard also is responding to flooded areas in Delaware after heavy rains on Mother's Day.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Brad Henry called out the National Guard to assist emergency responders after five confirmed tornadoes touched down in the state. At least 25 Army Guard members are providing security support in the town of Picher after an F-4 tornado churned up a 63-mile swath of damage from Oklahoma to Missouri.

Soldiers reportedly are assisting local law enforcement in securing the area, which includes routes in and out of the town four miles south of the state's border with Kansas. An Army Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew is flying aerial assessment missions for the governor.

In Arkansas, where at least two tornadoes touched down and tracked through the central part of the state the evening of May 10, homes were destroyed in the town of Stuttgart.

"We've deployed 50 Guardsmen from the Guard's 875th Engineer Battalion," said Air Force Maj. Keith Moore, a National Guard spokesman. Moore said the soldiers traveled from their station in Jonesboro and are providing security support at traffic control points and conducting patrols to prevent looting.

The soldiers are working two shifts during an around-the-clock operation and are expected to be on station through May 14. The Army Guard is flying Gov. Michael Beebe and emergency management agency personnel on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter out of Camp Robinson to assess damaged areas.

"This is one of the key roles of the Guard, being a dual-mission force, that we are here to support our local communities [and] respond to the governor," Moore said.

After severe storms and tornadoes swept through southwestern Missouri, nearly 20 Army Guard soldiers deployed on state active duty to support Gov. Matt Blunt in his emergency response efforts for the towns of Newtonia and Grany. The soldiers are assisting local law enforcement agencies with security. Eight soldiers and two military vehicles deployed to each town.

In Delaware, tidal flooding and heavy rains led to Guard members deploying in six light medium tactical vehicles and one 2.5-ton truck to assist in flood evacuations at South Bowers Beach, Kitts Hummock Beach, Woodland Beach and Slaughter Beach.

"The LMTVs can carry up to 15 people and have a high ground clearance, which allows them operate in up to 4 feet of water," said Lt. Col. Len Gratteri, Delaware National Guard spokesman. Gratteri said the state's Guard members are deployed from the 262nd Maintenance Company, the 261st Signal Brigade and the 72nd Troop Command.

The Delaware Guard is coordinating emergency assistance through the state's emergency management agency with its Joint Operations and Emergency Operations Centers. A shelter area is also set up in Kent County.

HF National Guard Frequencies

Statewide (ALE/USB) 4867.0 4924.5 5847.0 5878.5 7648.5 8047.0 9121.0 10816.5 12057.0 12087.0 13568.0 13722.0 14350.0 14653.0 16338.5 17458.5 20906.0 kHz

1-114VN (ALE/USB) 6910.0 7817.0 9065.0 10151.5 kHz
UHF (AM mode): 244.000 261.300 265.500 265.700 280.900 MHz

Statewide (ALE/USB) 5817.0 6766.0 8038.5 8047.0 13722.0 14653.0 20906.0 12087.0 13568.0 14653.0 kHz

Statewide (ALE/USB) 4001.5 4776.0 4924.5 4950.0 5282.0 8047.0 8168.5 9143.0 10816.5 13722.0 14653.0 20906.0 kHz

UHF (AM mode): 232.500 239.500 241.800 242.400 244.500 302.300 347.600 370.100 MHz

Statewide (ALE/USB) 4927.5 4972.5 8047.0 9081.5 9121.0 13722.0 14653.0 20906.0 kHz

UHF (AM mode) 226.600 226.700 229.300 229.400 231.100 234.500 242.500 261.300 267.100 267.200 267.300 277.500 321.600 367.400 368.800 387.900 MHz

New technology proves to be dynamite during JEFX 08

An F-22 Raptor refuels behind a KC-10 Extender April 17 while at 26,000 feet above Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The F-22 is assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (ACCNS) -- F-22 Raptor pilots using an experimental version of a Tactical Targeting Network Technology, or TTNT, were able to send and receive information such as command and control messaging, imagery, airspace updates and even free text messages using a cockpit touch-screen color display during the Air Force Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 2008, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., held April 15 to 25.

Although the download methods are not operational nor planned for operational use, the test demonstrated the F-22's utility for potential information-sharing technologies.

The JEFX 08-3 combined real-world air and ground forces, simulation and technology insertions as a venue for meeting command and control objectives. The transferring of real-time intelligence data between other aircraft and the air operations center was part of the joint experiment in a warfighting environment.

Numerous Army, Navy and Air Force weapon systems participated along with the F-22s.

"JEFX gave us a chance to show we can offload information from the F-22 and how it can enhance the coalition and joint forces," said Col. James Firth, the deputy director of requirements for Air Combat Command.

While the primary mission for the F-22 is to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances, JEFX highlighted the potential for it to be used to connect all aircraft together to provide the best air picture to ground stations using the TTNT.

TTNT is part of a wider Department of Defense technology effort to find, fix, track, target, engage and assess surface targets using a network-centric capability. The system made it possible for the F-22 to share imagery and information to other aircraft and people on the ground in real time.

TTNT is "a higher capacity and more rapid information tool, basically a wireless Internet," said Col. Jim Firth, the ACC deputy director of requirements. "We were able to essentially strap that on in a way that we probably wouldn't do operationally, but it still was a great stepping stone to show how we could off board information."

The system is only one of several potential systems the Air Force is considering for a new offloading information capability, Colonel Firth said. The new capability, which is anticipated to be in use regularly by 2015, won't be limited to just the F-22.

The Air Force is already using fighters and bombers for providing some level of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance purpose, but such platforms currently lack the ability to send certain information, such as large images, back to a base from the aircraft.

In fact, every fighter and bomber aircraft in the Air Force inventory is an ISR platform, said Lt. Col. Daryl Sassaman, the Global Cyberspace Integration Center Modernization and Innovation division chief.

"Fighters and bombers are closer to the fight," he said. Such aircraft are typically in a position to take an image of an emerging target.

Fighters and bombers used for non-traditional ISR, or NTISR, include the B-52 Stratofortress, B-1B Lancer, F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Although such aircraft should remain focused on their primary missions, "if they are in an area of opportunity where they can take an image or relay information (sensor data)," they are a great enabler, Colonel Sassaman said.

Traditional ISR platforms don't necessarily operate in threatening environments, an area where NTISR can be most valuable, he said The F-22's combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability and integrated avionics, can provide an additional level of ISR capabilities in an environment where U.S. armed forces are denied access.

"There are environments where there's advanced defensive systems that the enemy has where (only) the F-22 can go in and operate," Colonel Firth said. "And, by virtue of being there, it can collect information that's of great value to a lot of other users."

That makes the F-22 not just an air-to-air platform but an air-to-air platform that can also conduct a vast array of ISR and attack capabilities, he said.

However, the focus for future technologies is not just on any single aircraft but rather on combining the information sharing capabilities from multiple platforms to create an overall perspective, Colonel Firth said.

"Nowadays a lot of platforms have great sensors that have the ability to pick up good information in the battle space," he said, "and we really want all those platforms to be able to share so that you basically collect and combine the best information that everybody has to offer."

Because this technology is emerging, DOD leaders are working with the Air Force and other services to determine the best and most cost-effective way to meet airborne networking future requirements.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

New wings to secure A-10 longevity

by Tech. Sgt. Russell Wicke, Air Combat Command Public Affairs

A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., fly a training mission over the Barry Goldwater Range in Arizona. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jesse Shipps)

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (AFPN) -- New wings are the answer to Air Force concerns on the aging A-10 Thunderbolt II, an airframe flying since 1975.

Air Force officials awarded a contract to Boeing last year requiring 242 new A-10 wings constructed and delivered to depots for installment on the thin-skinned airframes by 2011.

Not all 356 of the Air Force's A-10s require new wings because more than 100 airframes were constructed in the 1980s with "thick skin," giving them a stronger structure, said Master Sgt. Steven Grimes, A-10 maintenance liaison for Air Combat Command.

Those aircraft are rated for 16,000 flying hours, which is estimated to keep them airworthy sometime into 2030, according to Sergeant Grimes. The original thin-skinned A-10s were designed for 8,000 hours and were extended beyond that in the 1990s with depot repairs.

Based on the rate flying hours accumulate, the extension is expected to expire in 2011, which is when the new wings are scheduled to be installed. The new wings will extend the thin-skinned A-10 fleet to 16,000 hours, keeping them flying until about 2030.

Replacing the wings saves the Air Force "a great deal of money over a long period of time," said Lt. Col. Ralph Hansen, ACC A-10 program element monitor and pilot. The value of the Boeing contract is more than $1 billion between 2007 and 2018. Colonel Hansen said that equates to about $4 million per aircraft, a price far below what it would cost to recapitalize the A-10.

"You can't buy a business jet for that price," he said.

Maintaining the old wings would require repeated removal, inspection and installation of beef-up straps at A-10 depots, said Tony Mizar, an A-10 depot mechanic and maintenance scheduler.

According to Sergeant Grimes, continually repairing old wings, as opposed to replacing them, would cost approximately $1.3 billion more than the Boeing contract.

The A-10 was designed and produced by Fairchild Republic, which discontinued aircraft production in 1984. This created complications in reproduction of the wings because there are limited extant engineer drawings, said Sergeant Grimes.

For this reason Boeing engineers have developed a three-phase process for the contract, said Jennifer Hogan, Boeing spokeswoman. The first phase is in progress now. It involves modeling the wing and scanning it to duplicate the 3-D model of existing wings. Colonel Hansen said the new wing will be no different from the current wings and will be transparent to pilots and maintainers. The one exception is "incorporation of reliability, maintainability and (production) improvements learned over the years," said Ms. Hogan.

The second phase is manufacture and assembly, and the third phase, set for 2011, is full-rate production and installation on the aircraft.

Wing installations will occur during regularly scheduled depot inductions which will preserve the mission capable rates, said 1st Lt. Nancy Dias, A-10 wing replacement program manager. The wings will fly 10,000 hours, or approximately 25 years, without inspection.

The A-10 is a valuable asset to the Air Force and Army because of its unique capabilities, said Colonel Hansen. It can deliver precision guided weapons at high altitudes, as well as surgical close air support at low altitudes. It's also the only fighter wielding the renowned 30mm cannon, capable of firing about 65 rounds a second. Colonel Hansen said the 30mm Gatling gun is the commanders' weapon of choice because it can be used much closer to friendly forces than bombs, and it is four times more powerful than the 20mm cannon (on other fighters).

A-10s also are undergoing modernization. The old airframe is midway through a major upgrade to a more capable A-10C by loading it with newer capabilities. It boasts the latest technology of smart weapons: GPS guided bombs, and all weather capability.

Furthermore, the sturdy airframe design enables the A-10 to operate from austere airfields and take battle damage without degrading capability.

Examples of its survivability include self-sealing fuel cells protected by foam, manual flight control systems that back up hydraulic controls, armor and a ballistic tub surrounding the cockpit.

"I've seen A-10s with very large holes in them that have survived just fine," said Colonel Hansen.