Thursday, January 31, 2008

NRO Spy Satellite Returning to Earth 1/31/2008 Update

NORAD Operations Center (USAF Photo)

According to an online article dated January 29 ( the U.S. military is developing contingency plans to deal with the possibility that a large spy satellite expected to fall to Earth in late February or early March could hit North America.

Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, who heads of U.S. Northern Command, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the size of the satellite suggests that some number of pieces will not burn up as the orbiting vehicle re-enters the Earth's atmosphere and will hit the ground.

A U.S. official confirmed that the spy satellite is designated by the military as US 193 (Actually that is an error - it is USA 193-LVH). It was launched in December 2006 but almost immediately lost power and cannot be controlled. It carried a sophisticated and secret imaging sensor but the satellite's central computer failed shortly after launch. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified as secret.

The US media has been a dissappointment in reporting this story. For instance, this morning the Fox News Fox and Friends anchors were wearing hardhats during their reporting of this story and basically had most the story completely wrong. Fortunately their guest, a former NASA astronaut, set the record straight.

On the latest JSR Stop Press (, Jonathan reports the following:

"The NRO's experimental USA 193 surveillance satellite, which was reported to be crippled soon after its launch on a Delta II in Dec 2006 into a 351 x 365 km x 58 deg orbit, is approaching reentry. Orbital data from independent observers show that the satellite's trajectory has slowly decayed since launch due to friction with the atmosphere; by Jan 22 it was in a 275 x 279 km x 58 deg orbit dropping about 1 km a day, and the decrease in height will soon accelerate catastrophically. The satellite is thought to have been intended to test prototype instruments for future spy satellites, possibly including a radar sensor; it was reportedly developed by Lockheed Martin (LM-Sunnyvale has experience in recon satellites, but LM-Denver is involved in the Space Radar area; both groups could be involved). Reports of 'dangerous material' on board the satellite may refer to hydrazine orbit adjust propellant; mass of the spacecraft is probably around 2000 to 3000 kg. It's fairly rare for satellite payloads of this mass to have an uncontrolled reentry -only one or two a year - but empty rocket stages as heavy as this come down about once every three weeks, so the media attention accorded this particular event seems over enthusiastic to me.

On the SEESAT-L newsgroup, the dean of the visual satellite trackers Ted Molzcan wrote:

"Aviation Week and Space Technology has reported on a classified satellite which entered safe-hold mode just 7 seconds after reaching orbit, and never came out of safe-hold; I suspect this was in reference to USA 193:

"Entry into safe-hold so soon after reaching orbit may have precluded deployment of the solar-panels. Perhaps they generated some power in their stowed position, but insufficient to maintain the charge on the batteries.

"The late Ivan Artner and other radio monitors heard it transmit a strong signal on 2249.5 MHz for about 1.5 days after launch, after which it fell silent. On his final reception, Ivan experienced three signal dropouts of several millisecond duration, which may have been a sign of trouble with the transmitter or the power supply. All this seems consistent with failure to deploy solar
panels, and subsequent rapid battery run-down."

Another good story on USA 193 can be found on the SatTrackCam Leiden station (b)log at

My original story on USA 193/NROL 21 failure can be found at and the link at is my initial report on the launch. My story of USA 193 returning to earth appeared at

Milcom blog fact check: In the past 50 years of monitoring space, 17,000 manmade objects have re-entered the Earth's atmosphere.

Happy Anniversary US Space Program

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first US space satellite Explorer 1.

In 1957 an "International Geophysical Year" (IGY) was organized, later extended to 1958, and both the Soviet Union and the USA announced their intention to launch that year artificial Earth satellites. The USSR was first, sending off its first "Sputnik" ("satellite") on October 4, followed by Sputnik II on November 3. However the official US entry, the Vanguard satellite, went up in flames in a launch failure in December. The US then authorized a back-up spacecraft mission, initiated unofficially a few years earlier by Wernher Von Braun. Von Braun had built large missiles for the US Army and had all the hardware ready, but until then was given no permission to launch a satellite.

The spacecraft, named Explorer 1, was launched 31 January 1958 and was designed and built by a group of scientists from the University of Iowa, led by James Van Allen. That group had been previously credited with the first observation of auroral electrons from a rocket; incidentally, the idea of the IGY itself started in 1950 at a dinner party at Van Allen's home (at the time, near Washington).

Unlike the orbits of the Sputniks, that of Explorer 1 was quite elliptical and it rose to an altitude of about 2500 kilometers. Furthermore, since it had been decided to omit the spacecraft's tape recorder on the first flight, data could only be collected when Explorer 1 was within range of a tracking station, for at most a few minutes each time. The data were puzzling. At low points of the orbit the number of energetic particles was near the expected value, but at the high portions of the orbit none were counted at all.

Story courtesy of

Arizona Air Guard to watch over Super Bowl

by Capt. Gabe Johnson, 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Note: Frequency information below for our Valley of the Sun friends.

TUCSON, Ariz. (AFPN) -- Pilots assigned to the 162nd Fighter Wing's Alert Detachment at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., will fly air patrols and air defense deterrence missions in support of the Super Bowl XLII Feb. 3 in Glendale, Ariz.

Arizona's Air Guardsmen are teaming up with the North American Aerospace Defense Command in a consolidated effort with federal, state and local agencies to provide security for the National Football League's championship game held at 73,719-seat University of Phoenix Stadium.

"We have the best jobs in the world," said Lt. Col. Moon Milham, the alert detachment commander. "We get to defend our country and our way of life, and we get to do it from the cockpit of a high performance fighter jet."

Colonel Milham, a 21-year F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, and his team of aircrew and aircraft maintainers are well-seasoned in the area of homeland defense having provided a 24/7365 rapid response force in support of Operation Noble Eagle, the U.S. air defense mission which began in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The pilots will fly about 8 a.m. Feb. 1 over the Phoenix metropolitan area and Nogales to make a visual show of capability to the general population and the aviation community in order to deter threats, and to reassure the public of their safety.

"Over the Phoenix area, we'll have two F-16s flying in low formation at a medium speed just to let everyone know we are on the job," Colonel Milham said.

It's extremely rare that F-16s would fly at 2,000 feet over the city; therefore the pilots are coordinating with Phoenix approach and local airports to ensure the sorties do not interfere with normal flight activity in the area, the colonel said.

The jets will make approaches at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Sky Harbor Airport, Goodyear, Glendale, Deer Valley and Scottsdale, and then press south near Nogales to demonstrate U.S. air defense capability near the border.

During the Super Bowl, an undisclosed number of F-16s will perform air patrols to enforce the Federal Aviation Administration's temporary flight restriction over the area.

According to the FAA, only approved military, law enforcement and emergency medical flights will be authorized within two nautical miles of the stadium between 1 and 3 p.m.

Within 10 nautical miles of the stadium, between 3 and 10:30 p.m., authorization extends to regularly-scheduled commercial passenger, private charter and all-cargo flights that meet or exceed approved security programs. From 10 to 30 nautical miles, all other aircraft arriving or departing local airfields will be authorized to pass through, but will be required to maintain constant radio communication with air traffic control.

"We won't be as visible to people on the ground during the game on Sunday, but we'll be up there," Colonel Milham said.

Milcom Monitoring Post Logbook

NORAD Frequencies:
West Sector - McChord AFB
Callsign Bigfoot

121.500 Civilian Emergency
138.000 CAP Air-to-Air
138.025 CAP Air-to-Air
138.225 CAP Air-to-Air
139.925 CAP Air-to-Air
148.125 Air Defense Alert Nationwide
225.000 Refueling
228.800 Tactical All Sectors Channel 1 [Autocat Tac-1]
228.900 Tactical
234.600 Tactical
235.900 CAP Tactical
238.400 Tactical
239.700 Tactical
243.000 Military Emergency/Calling
252.000 CAP Primary (Phoenix area)
254.200 Tactical
256.600 Tactical
260.800 Tactical Secondary
262.400 Tactical
262.800 Tactical
264.900 Tactical
265.400 CAP/GCI Primary
267.000 Tactical
270.200 Tactical
271.000 CAP (Phoenix area)
274.400 Tactical
275.000 Tactical
276.400 Tactical
276.650 Tactical
277.600 Tactical
279.400 Tactical
282.600 Tactical (usually Socal/Pac NW)
285.900 Tactical
288.400 CAP (San Fran area)
292.700 Tactical
293.600 CAP (SoCal area)
295.800 CAP (Phoenix Area Refueling)
298.300 Tactical
300.125 Tactical
320.600 Tactical
320.900 Tactical
321.300 Tactical
324.000 Tactical Refueling
328.000 Tactical
335.950 Tactical (AWACS)
336.600 Tactical
341.800 Tactical
346.200 Tactical
348.200 Tactical
351.500 Tactical
355.200 Tactical
359.800 Tactical
360.400 Tactical
363.300 Tactical (tentative)
364.200 AICC Nationwide
364.300 Tactical Refueling
369.000 Tactical
374.000 Tactical
377.000 Tactical
386.000 Tactical
387.800 C2 tactical
390.200 Tactical

Some other frequencies to watch at nationwide special events:
228.150 231.750 235.950 239.550 243.475 245.050 247.050 251.725 256.100 257.450 262.850 265.975 267.475 270.150 270.950 274.075 277.350 279.175 283.050 284.800 288.550 289.500 290.000 291.000 305.550 327.450 349.550 369.275 377.700

NORAD listing copyright Teak Publishing 2008. Redistribution in any form is prohibited without permission.

USS Connecticut Arrives Home to Naval Base Kitsap,

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

The crew of the fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) pulls into their new homeport at Naval Base Kitsap, after completing a six-month deployment. Connecticut arrives from Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn. as part of the Navy emphasis on Pacific Fleet operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric J. Rowley)

USS Connecticut (SSN 22) arrived at Naval Base (NB) Kitsap Bremerton Jan. 29, officially changing its home port from Groton, Conn., after a six-month deployment.

Connecticut left Groton July 25 for a six-month deployment around the world conducting real world operations and visiting many ports before arriving to its new home in Bremerton.

"We had a successful deployment," said Lt. j.g. James Foster, Connecticut supply officer. "We got to visit lots of interesting places and do missions of national importance. So, we were able to serve our country the best we could."

The half-hour ceremony left friends and families waiting in blistery cold weather to give their Sailors a warm welcome to their new homes.

"We are all excited to be here in the Pacific Northwest," said Cmdr. Daniel Christofferson, Connecticut commanding officer. "Our welcome to Kitsap County was amazing. There was a great outpouring of people who came here to support us."

Connecticut's arrival to NB Kitsap, Bremerton puts all three of the Navy's Seawolf class submarines permanently stationed in the Northwest Region. The other two are USS Seawolf (SSN 21) and USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23).

"It's wonderful to be home," said Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (SS) Josh Hunt, Connecticut's first kiss winner. "The welcome was rather impressive. We weren't expecting all this. There are a lot of people here."

The change of homeport port is in line with the submarine force's enhanced emphasis on Pacific Fleet operations, with 60 percent of the Navy's submarines intended for permanent stationing in the Pacific fleet theater.

"It's great to be back here," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SS) Dane Weatherford, Connecticut corpsman. "The welcome was good. It's good to see family and friends out here."

Seawolf arrived in July 2007 and Jimmy Carter arrived in November 2005. All three submarines are assigned to Submarine Development Squadron 5, headquartered at NB Kitsap, Bangor.

"Having him home feels like a ton of weight has been lifted off my shoulders," said Andrea Bartholomeus, wife of Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SS) Dewey Bartholomeus. "We are really happy to have him home. Things are more complete now."

Attack submarines are designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships, project power ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles and special operation forces, carry out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, support Aircraft Carrier and Expeditionary Strike Battle Groups, and engage in mine warfare.

"It's a great relief to have him home after having been separated for a long time," said Aimee Henderson, wife of Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SS) Joseph Henderson. "It's nice to see all the Navy personnel from other commands here to welcome the Connecticut and to see they are excited to have us here."

Abe Lincoln Underway in Socal Op Areas

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James Evans and Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (AW/SW) Patrick Bonafede, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs

Milcom MP Note: For my SoCal readers the Abe Lincoln is underway in the SoCal Op Areas. The activity beiong reported on some newsgroups is not the USS Nimitz CSG. They are headed towards WestPac.

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- The Honorable Donald C. Winter, Secretary of the Navy, and several reporters visited the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (CSG) Jan. 26 to observe how the Navy conducts Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) training using mid-frequency, active sonar while protecting marine life.

The strike group is off the coast of Southern California conducting the training under the terms of a preliminary injunction that was partially and temporarily stayed in federal district court.

Winter and the media representatives visited command and control suites on the aircraft carrier and on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Momsen (DDG 92), and flew an ASW mission with Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 2 "Golden Falcons."

The strike group was participating in a Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) to prepare it for an overseas deployment.

"It is incredibly important for me to stay current on what is happening and see the changes that are implemented," Winter said. "It has helped establish a perspective for me that I can use in terms of future briefs, testimony and discussions with the press."

Members of the press observed the Navy's protective measures to preserve marine life while staging meaningful exercises in the area.

"I think this is a great opportunity to be able to actually demonstrate to the press something outside of the courtroom," Winter said. "This puts into context what it means to be able to provide proper protection for marine mammals and other elements of the environment at the same time we are conducting what really are some complex and demanding exercises."

Before the helicopter flight with the "Golden Falcons," Winter and the press were invited to the squadron ready room where a pre-flight brief was held, which also allowed time for the press to ask pilots and aircrew questions about marine life and ASW missions.

"Part of our mission is to report any activity, even if that may be marine life," said Cmdr. Terence Hoeft, HS-2 executive officer. "If we are going to use sonar, it is required that we start looking for any marine life 10 minutes prior to dipping. If we see marine life, we report it to the controlling unit and tell them the location, direction and type of marine life."

Hoeft said the controlling unit takes that information and shares it with other ships. He assured the press in an event any kind of mammal breaches while sonar activities are going on, it is required that the helicopter crew take action to protect it.

"We have to stop if any mammal is spotted 200 meters from the sonar dome," Hoeft said. "At that point we will go passive on the sonar dome."

On board Momsen, Winter and visitors were given the rare opportunity to watch the glow of consoles in the ship's bridge, Combat Information Center, and Sonar Control suites as Sailors relayed information about a sighting and the ship reduced active sonar output to maintain a safe buffer zone.

"What we simulated today was powering down our sonar as we closed within 1,000 meters of a whale," said Lt. Cmdr. Marc Deltete, Momsen's operations officer. "When that happens we power down to 6 decibels, a 75 percent reduction in strength and range."

Deltete said ASW is a core mission that the strike group must be able to practice to do well.

"It's a science but it's also an art and if we don't have an opportunity to practice it we'll stagnate," he said. "At the same time, we have to strike a balance between our training and the environmental requirements of operating in this area."

Before departing the strike group, Winter delivered a universal message for the Sailors he had met. "Thank you for your service and I would like to thank your families for their support," he said. "God bless you all."

Lincoln, Momsen, HS-2 and other elements of CSG 9 are conducting JTFEX as their final exercise in preparation for an overseas deployment in March.

Miami Returns From Deployment

By Lt. James Stockman, Commander Submarine Force Public Affiars

The nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Miami (SSN 755) steams through the Arabian Sea along with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6), and the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64). Miami is underway on a scheduled deployment as part of the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). Enterprise and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 are deployed in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kiona M. Mckissack)

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- USS Miami (SSN 755) returned to Naval Submarine Base New London, Jan. 29, after completing a six-month deployment.

Miami completed a wide range of joint requirements supporting national security and Maritime Security Operations in the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility while attached to the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group.

"We successfully accomplished a variety of valuable missions," said Cmdr. Rich Bryant, Miami's commanding officer. "The crew made it all happen and they deserve all the credit."

Miami traveled more than 22,000 nautical miles, visited four continents, made six port calls and traveled south of the equator during their deployment.

"Miami has one of the highest morale and motivated crews on the New London waterfront," said Capt. Rick Breckenridge, submarine squadron 4 commodore. "Cmdr. Bryant treats his crew with respect and they have responded with tremendous dedication and effort."

That kind of enthusiasm helped Miami earn Submarine Squadron 4's Battle Efficiency "E" award while on this deployment. The Battle "E" is awarded annually to commands that display the maximum condition of readiness, and for their capability to perform their wartime responsibilities.

With stealth, persistence, agility and firepower, fast-attack submarines like Miami are multi-mission capable –able to deploy and support special forces operations, disrupt and destroy an adversary's military and economic operations at sea, provide early strike from close proximity and ensure undersea superiority.

USS Ponce Returns from Gulf

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas Spinelli, USS Ponce Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- USS Ponce (LPD-15) returned from a six-month Persian Gulf deployment, Jan. 27.

Over the course of her deployment, Ponce provided transport for members of the 22 Marine Expeditionary Unit, supported the coalition presence and security operations in the Central Persian Gulf, and conducted Maritime Security Operations in the region.

While operating in the Gulf, Ponce performed a variety of missions in the 5th Fleet area of operations (AOR). The first stop was the port of Ash Shuayba, Kuwait. Ponce was the first ship in over a year to use the terminal. The crew delivered Marines ashore along with needed gear for their sustainment training.

Upon leaving Kuwait Ponce conducted interaction patrols in the Central and Southern Persian Gulf in support of Operation Sea Dragon. During this operation, Ponce's visit, board, search and seizure team conducted approaches on more than 100 fishing and cargo dhows in order to gather information, build trust, render assistance if needed, and reassure local mariners that coalition forces were present to deter piracy and other illegal activities in the area.

For Ponce Sailors and Marines, liberty ports were a mission in the Persian Gulf. The ship stopped in Bahrain, Dubai and Jebel Ali with the purpose of building a spirit of cooperation with those countries.

Sailors donated their liberty reaching out to special needs children at a school in Dubai, others spent time at a building project in Jebel Ali called "City of Hope".

Projects like these were intended not only to help the community, but to fulfill service members' roles as U.S. ambassadors.

The crew also worked hard on personal accomplishments with 101 Sailors attaining their enlisted surface warfare specialist pins and several crew members spending their limited off-duty hours taking college courses.

After completion of her duties, Ponce left the 5th Fleet AOR and made her way back into the Mediterranean for a liberty visit to Malta and Rota, Spain, before arriving at her homeport in Norfolk.

Ponce deployed as part of the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

American spy sat out of control and returning to Earth - Update

An aerial view shows the Delta II lifting off at Vandenberg Air Force Base of NROL 21. Photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Freeland, USAF.

Here is the story on a failed US Milsat dominating the news coverage this morning courtesy of the UK Daily Mail - link at

A 10-ton American spy satellite has lost power and could hit the Earth in the next few weeks, government officials said today.

The satellite, which no longer can be controlled, could contain hazardous materials, and it is unknown where on the planet it might come down, they said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified as secret. It was not clear how long ago the satellite lost power, or under what circumstances.

Appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, when asked about the situation after it was disclosed by other officials.

"Numerous satellites over the years have come out of orbit and fallen harmlessly. We are looking at potential options to mitigate any possible damage this satellite may cause."

He would not comment on whether it is possible for the satellite to perhaps be shot down by a missile. He said it would be inappropriate to discuss any specifics at this time.

A senior government official said that lawmakers and other nations are being kept apprised of the situation.

The spacecraft contains hydrazine - which is rocket fuel - according to a government official who was not authorized to speak publicly but spoke on condition of anonymity.

Hydrazine, a colorless liquid with an ammonia-like odor, is a toxic chemical and can cause harm to anyone who contacts it.

An uncontrolled re-entry could risk exposure of U.S. secrets, said John Pike, a defense and intelligence expert.

Spy satellites typically are disposed of through a controlled re-entry into the ocean so that no one else can access the spacecraft, he said.

Pike also said it is not likely the threat from the satellite could be eliminated by shooting it down with a missile, because that would create debris that would then re-enter the atmosphere and burn up or hit the ground.

Pike, director of the defense research group, estimated that the spacecraft weighs about 10 tons and was the size of a small bus.

He said the satellite would create 10 times less debris than the Columbia space shuttle crash in 2003. Satellites have natural decay periods, and it is possible this one died as long as a year ago and is just now getting ready to re-enter the atmosphere, he said.

Jeffrey Richelson, a senior fellow with the National Security Archive, said the spacecraft likely is a photo reconnaissance satellite.

Such eyes in the sky are used to gather visual information from space about adversarial governments and terror groups, including construction at suspected nuclear sites or militant training camps.

The satellites also can be used to survey damage from hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters.

The largest uncontrolled re-entry by a NASA spacecraft was Skylab, the 78-ton (79.25-metric ton) abandoned space station that fell from orbit in 1979.

Its debris dropped harmlessly into the Indian Ocean and across a remote section of western Australia.

In 2000, NASA engineers successfully directed a safe de-orbit of the 17-ton (17.27-metric ton) Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, using rockets aboard the satellite to bring it down in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean.

In 2002, officials believe debris from a 7,000-pound (3175.18-kilogram) science satellite smacked into the Earth's atmosphere and rained down over the Persian Gulf, a few thousand miles from where they first predicted it would plummet.

Milcom Blog Note: The Milcom Monitoring Post is working towards IDing which NRO recon bird this is. Some on the Seesat newsgroup think this milsat may be USA 193 (NROL 21) - 2006-056C - 29651, launched on December 16, 2006, at 2100 UTC onboard a Delta 2 (Delta 7920-10C) from the Western Test Range Vandenberg (SLC-2W). The orbit observed soon after launch (380 km x 353 km, 58.5 degress inclination) fits the profile that this may have been an experimental radar recon satellite mission manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

Soon after launch my good friend John Locker in the UK reported that this satellite failed within hours of its launch and the solar arrays never deployed. On January 22, 2008, the Dean of Visual Satellite observers - Mr. Ted Molczan - made the following post to the Seesat newsgroup:->

Using Alan Pickup's Satevo program, I estimate 06057A (aka USA 193) will decay about 2008 Mar24, +/- 2 weeks.

USA 193 5.0 2.5 0.0 4.3 v
1 29651U 06057A 08022.26928906 .00106843 00000-0 21608-3 0 00
2 29651 58.4898 160.3690 0008009 84.4119 275.7892 15.98955224 06
Arc 2008 Jan 20.22 - 22.28, WRMS residuals = 0.016 deg

The evidence would strongly indicate that USA 193 is the failed mission described in press reports.

My original story on USA 193/NROL 21 failure can be found at and the link at is my initial report on the launch.

The link below is the launch release on USA 193/NROL-21 from the Aerospace Corp website.

Marco Langbroek has posted a small diagram showing how USA 193 is increasingly losing altitude over time the past year on his blog at

USS Blue Ridge Arrives in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (NNS) -- USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship, anchored out in Victoria Harbour Jan. 28, as part of a scheduled port visit.

"Right now, we are anchored at what I like to call the Jewel of the East. Specifically for me, (Hong Kong) is the crown jewel of all liberty ports. It is my eighth time here," said Commanding Officer, Capt. David A. Lausman during a press conference on Blue Ridge's flight deck. "Hong Kong is a wonderful city, a very famous city, (with) historical significance – something that is not lost on our crew."

In addition to spending quality time in the bustling international city of activity, experiencing the diverse culture, Sailors will also take part in one of Blue Ridge's favorite pastimes - community relations projects.

"The only regret is that we could not get enough of them," said Lausman.

Blue Ridge and embarked 7th Fleet Staff Sailors have volunteered to conduct four community relations projects. Sailors visiting the Ronald McDonald House, Tao Fung Shan Christian Center, Chi Pinehill Village, and Fu Nang Society for the Disabled will help with minor upkeep or preservation tasks, along with spending time with tenants.

Sailors will also be able to enjoy much of Hong Kong thanks to in-house Navy programs such as Morale, Welfare, and Recreation, which is providing the crew with information, transportation, and discounts on trips, tours, and events.

"This is one of the most sought after and most enjoyable ports of call for Sailors to relax and just to meet people of another country," said Lausman. "They love it every time we come here."

Blue Ridge serves as the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, and is permanently forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. It serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Commander, Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious force.

Guided-Missile Destroyer Dewey Christened

By Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (NNS) -- Under gray skies providing a slight, cold drizzle, Deborah Mullen stepped before the massive 9,200-ton guided-missile destroyer and, with all the grit her slight frame could muster, gave it a good whack, just under the "bullnose."

The ship's freshly painted gray hull gave up only a hollow "clunk" as the bottle she gripped with both hands in baseball-bat fashion glanced off its edge.

Laughing, she took another more determined swing, and this time the christening bottle of champagne broke, wetting the bow of the Navy's newest Arleigh Burke class ship, Dewey (DDG 105), Jan. 26 in a ceremony before a crowd of about 1,000 at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems Ingalls Operations here.

"There are actually no words to describe today. Having been a Navy wife for all these years, having my sons serve, being a sponsor of a ship is probably the greatest honor I have ever had," said Mullen, wife of Adm. Mike G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mullen's service as the ship's sponsor puts her in the same company as presidents' wives and descendents of war heroes in a tradition that dates back to 1797. Secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter invited her to serve as the ship's sponsor last year while her husband was serving as chief of naval operations.

Before the ceremonial bottle breaking, the chairman and his wife extolled the need for readiness in the force. The admiral called readiness the warrior's response to the nation's call.

"It's practice, training, it's an undaunted commitment to develop skills that produce efficiency," he said.

Deborah, however, added family readiness to the equation.

"I believe family readiness ... is integral to military readiness," she said. "And we need to make sure that our military families are given the support, resources, and education to succeed, to become resilient families ready to face the challenges and opportunities of the military lifestyle."

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England called Deborah "a champion for those in uniform and dynamic family advocate." England named the ship when he served as the Secretary of the Navy in May 2004, and said that Winter made the right choice for its sponsor.

"The saying goes that the hardest job in the Navy is that of a Navy wife. And Deb has given 37 years to our Navy, and she and Mike together have met every challenge," England said. "Our Navy and our nation are better for her contributions."

During the admiral's tenure as chief of naval operations, his wife worked to enhance the Navy ombudsman program by creating training programs, said Capt. John Kirby, the chairman's spokesman. She also was critical in creating a network of family and spouse support programs, such as Navy's FamilyLine, an online spouse-support network.

"Mrs. Mullen has been a champion of military families for decades and has worked very, very hard to make sure that their sacrifices and their hard work and their efforts are both recognized and supported," Kirby said.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Deborah helped man the phones at Task Force Navy Family, reaching out to affected Navy families, including retirees.

Kirby called Mullen's selection as sponsor a "very fitting tribute to the depth to which she cares."

"Mrs. Mullen cares to her very marrow about the people who serve and the people who wait and worry for those who serve -- the families who are providing all the love and support for those who are going into harm's way," Kirby said.

At the ceremony, Mullen was flanked by her two sons, John and Michael, who both are Navy officers, one in aviation and the other in surface warfare. Also with her were long-time friends Emmy White and Laurie Armstrong, who served as her matrons-of-honor. Another matron-select, Lori Tamulevich, could not be present for the ceremony.

The christening signifies that the ship is seaworthy, but it is still about a year away from being operational as a destroyer. While the outside is painted and pristine, with colorful signal flags adorning the ship from bow to stern, the inside is a literal web of wires – 1.5 million feet worth – and the floors are planked with plywood. The unfinished steel walls are covered with hand-scrawled numbers and directions for placement. Computer systems and equipment are covered and protected.

The ship was put in the water Jan. 18. Northrop Grumman officials said they hope to have all of its power working in June. Its crew will then be brought in and the ship will be put through a battery of performance tests before being commissioned and turned over to the crew for sailing to its home port of San Diego.

The ships here are put together like "Lego blocks" as described by Northrop Grumman officials. Each is built in one of its cavernous bays on the sprawling 800,000-acre shipyard on the Pascagoula River at the Mississippi Sound. After the sections are built individually, they are moved and pieced together by huge transporters and cranes capable of hauling hundreds of tons.

In all, there are about 3.5 million pieces to the ship and more than 2,000 workers will be involved in building a destroyer over five years. Northrop Grumman has more than 11,000 employees at the yard in Pascagoula. The yard suffered about $1 billion worth of damage from Hurricane Katrina. It is now back to about 85 percent of its capacity, officials said. Eight other ships are under construction here.

Designated the DDG 105, the new destroyer honors Adm. George Dewey, most famous for leading his squadron of warships into Manila Bay on April 30, 1898, and destroying the Spanish fleet in only two hours without a single American loss. A popular hero of his day, Dewey was commissioned admiral of the Navy, a rank created for him, in March 1903.

Two previous ships have carried his name. The first was a destroyer that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor and went on to receive 13 battle stars for World War II service. This newest destroyer is the 55th of 62 Arleigh Burke class destroyers. It has a crew of about 360.

USS Vicksburg Returns from Gulf

By Ensign Drew Perciballi, USS Vicksburg Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- USS Vicksburg (CG 69) and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light (HSL) 42 Detachment 5 returned from a six-month Persian Gulf deployment, Jan. 25.

Over the course of her deployment, Vicksburg served as air defense commander for the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group, area commander for Commander Task Force (CTF) 158 in the Northern Persian Gulf, supported the coalition presence and security operations in the Central Persian Gulf, hosted both the secretary of the Navy and secretary of defense, and conducted Maritime Security Operations in the region. Also, Capt. John C. Nygaard relieved Capt. Charles C. Swicker as Vicksburg's commanding officer.

Vicksburg enjoyed several port visits throughout the deployment, including being the first U.S. Navy ship to visit La Spezia, Italy in over three years. During the six-day port visit, Sailors enjoyed trips to Florence, Genova, Pisa, and Cinque Terre. In addition to Italy, Vicksburg visited Souda Bay, Crete, where the crew enjoyed tours of ancient ruins and crystal clear beaches.

While operating in the Persian Gulf, Vicksburg visited Manama, Bahrain on four separate occasions and also benefited from a liberty visit to Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates.

Upon completion of her duties in the Persian Gulf, Vicksburg made a quick stop in Salalah, Oman prior to transiting the Suez Canal.

Limassol, Cyprus and Valletta, Malta were the next stops for Vicksburg, as she voyaged across the Mediterranean Sea and the 6th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).

Vicksburg traveled over 31,500 miles and passed through several major choke points, including eight Strait of Hormuz transits.

While deployed to the 5th fleet AOR, Vicksburg was called on to perform a variety of missions. In support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Vicksburg served as the area commander for CTF 158 at the Al Basrah Oil Terminal, a vital structure in Iraq's improving economy. On station, Vicksburg conducted 26 visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) evolutions, numerous security patrols, and conducted 76 small boat transfers, during a combined six-week period.

Showing versatility, Vicksburg seamlessly integrated into the Enterprise Strike Group, relieving USS Gettysburg (CG 64) as air defense commander and "shotgun" escort ship, allowing the Mayport-based Gettysburg made a port visit.

The crew worked successfully towards personal accomplishments, with over 50 Sailors attaining their enlisted surface warfare specialist pins.

Vicksburg also successfully completed two unit level training assessment - sustainment evolutions while transiting to and from homeport.

Vicksburg was tasked to assume duties as a surface action group commander for the returning ships in the Kearsarge Strike Group.

NAVELSG Sailors Depart for Peacetime Mission in Antarctica

Sailors assigned to Navy Cargo Handling Battalion One (NCHB-1) conduct cargo handling operations off the Military Sealift Command ice strengthen container ship MV American Tern (T-AK 4729) for the annual resupply mission for Operation Deep Freeze at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Feb. 4-12. For more than 50 years the National Science Foundation has relied on the highly skilled Navy Cargo Handlers to ensure safe delivery of life-sustaining cargo for its research scientists and residents at McMurdo Station. Around the clock, in two 12-hours shifts, the Sailors off-load and load a cargo ship in Antarctica during the summer month of February, which provides continuous sunlight on the continent. (U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Vincent Clifton)

By Lt. Penny Cockerell, Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Public Affairs

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (NNS) -- Nearly 60 Sailors from the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) active-duty battalion Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) 1, left Williamsburg, Jan. 18, for a peacetime mission.

The Navy cargo handlers will arrive in Antarctica in a few days to deliver a one-year supply of food, equipment and medicine for researchers living year-round on the coldest and windiest continent in the world.

NCHB 1 is the only Navy detachment supporting the National Science Foundation research at the South Pole. Their supplies will support U.S. polar scientists who have discovered Martian meteors and dinosaur bones buried in the glaciers, among other finds.

Despite working 12-hour shifts in the harshest conditions, Sailors compete for the chance to go.

"I've gotten to do a lot of traveling and Antarctica is certainly something not many Oklahomans get to see," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW) Angela Kerr.

The Navy has supported expeditions to Antarctica for more than a half century. Their specialized training and equipment continue to make them well-suited for the job.

Each year, a tanker and a container ship from the Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) make the difficult journey through icy waters to McMurdo. These ships carry 100 percent of the fuel and more than 70 percent of the supplies and scientific equipment that the station needs to operate. MSC has participated in Operation Deep Freeze every year since McMurdo was established in 1955.

"We can get the cargo there, but without the cargo handling battalion, it wouldn't get offloaded," said Rick Appling from MSC's Sealift Logistics Command Pacific. "Those Sailors are an absolutely critical node in the operation."

Offloading these life-sustaining supplies to McMurdo Station is critical – and there is only a small window of time during Antarctica's round-the-clock sunlight to accomplish the mission. If it doesn't get done, the entire Antarctica mission would be forced to shut down.

The United States established its largest permanent antarctic base at McMurdo Station, which is a collection of metal huts that are dug into the volcanic rock, accessible by sea only during a brief summer period.

"Every cargo handler desires and dreams of making this mission, so we pick the best and the brightest," said Lt. Cmdr. Paul Melvey, executive officer for NCHB 1. "We're honored to have had this opportunity for more than 50 years to support scientific research that ultimately affects everyone on the earth."

The Navy cargo handlers will arrive at Ross Island, Antarctica, on or about Jan. 29 and make port at McMurdo Station, the southern-most navigable harbor in the world.

Once there, Navy cargo handlers will meet MSC dry cargo ship, MV American Tern (T-AK 4729), to offload 20 million pounds of fresh supplies to support the scientists and researchers living year-round in the brutal environment. Cargo handlers will work around the clock for seven to 10 days in the continuous sunlight of the Antarctic summer.

The highly-trained group combats fatigue, crushing workloads and summertime temperatures that can plunge, in a blowing storm, to 50 degrees below zero.

Once the fresh supplies are offloaded, the previous year's trash is hauled aboard the ships. By international agreement, researchers must save and export all waste to preserve the pristine polar environment.

The return shipment includes ice core samples that will provide scientists studying global climate change with information about the composition of the atmosphere hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Essex Underway After Successful Winter Availability

Engineman 3rd Class Donald Jones releases a mooring line as the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) prepares to get underway from Sasebo, Japan for a scheduled two-month deployment as the lead ship in the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon Myrick (Released)

The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) departed Sasebo, Japan for Spring Patrol, Jan 24.

With a crew of more than 1,100 Sailors, Essex will join with the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and amphibious transport dock USS Juneau (LPD 10).

Essex will embark more than 1,300 Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), including the 31st MEU Air Combat Element (ACE) and Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2nd Battalion 4th Marines.

The combined Navy – Marine Corps team of the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group (ESX ESG) is deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations (AOR) and will perform various joint and combined exercises during the spring patrol.

Essex departs Sasebo after a successful winter availability period where the ship received various upgrades and improvements. Crews replaced various radar antennae and worked on the ship's ballasting system, distilling units and the steam system.

During the winter availability, Essex Sailors completed more than 5,700 man hours towards material readiness and ship up-keep. More than 2.4 million dollars in depot level maintenance was completed to prepare Essex for spring patrol.

Additionally, Sailors were able to complete professional team training in combat warfare areas and training for new computer systems installed during the previous availability.

The security department completed training for sentries and reaction force members, improving Essex's security team knowledge and proficiency.

Also during the holiday period, Essex Sailors were invited to their sister ship, JS Kurama, to participate in a mochi-pounding ceremony, helping enhance host nation relations and strengthen bonds between partnership navy Sailors. Kurama also presented Essex with Japanese traditional Kadomatsu to display on the quarterdeck during the holiday season. Essex hosted ship tours for 100 Kurama sailors, 40 Japanese Ground Self Defense Force members, 10 Ship Repair Facility employees and 60 Department of Defense high school and elementary school students.

After more than a month in port some Essex Sailors were ready to get back to sea.

"I'm excited to get underway," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Francine Garcia. "I'm a boatswain's mate, getting underway is what we do."

Essex normally does two patrols each year in the 7th Fleet AOR, working closely with strategic partner countries to strengthen ties and maintain proficiency performing combined operations with regional partner navies.

Essex is the only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship and serves Task Force 76 the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

USS Philadelphia Returns After Highly Successful Deployment

By Lt. James Stockman, USS Philadelphia Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- The fast-attack submarine USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) returned home to friends and family at Naval Submarine Base New London, Jan. 24, after a successful six-month deployment as part of the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Carrier Strike Group (CSG).

Philadelphia played a crucial role as the only submarine assigned to the CSG. Philadelphia brought stealth, endurance, mobility, agility and persistence while executing multi-mission tasking in direct support of the war on terrorism.

"The crew did an outstanding job and performed all missions superbly," said Cmdr. Jeff Jablon, Philadelphia's commanding officer. "They achieved success at everything they did."

Equipped with the latest technology, Philadelphia delivered time-sensitive information to national and military decision makers, contributing significantly to the nation's security.

Primarily deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations, Philadelphia conducted operations in support of U.S. Central Command objectives. Philadelphia's crew of highly trained submarine warriors achieved excellence while executing tasking under demanding circumstances.

"The superb job that Philadelphia did in accomplishing all mission tasking during deployment is a clear example as to why they were selected as our squadron's Battle E winner," said Capt. Emil Casciano, Submarine Squadron 2 commodore.

The crew also visited Toulon, France; Rota, Spain and Aquaba, Jordan.

With stealth, persistence, agility and firepower, fast-attack submarines like Philadelphia are multi-mission capable – able to deploy and support special forces operations, disrupt and destroy an adversary's military and economic operations at sea, provide early strike from close proximity and ensure undersea superiority.

Randolph, Civil Air Patrol kick off new support program

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- A new pilot program between the Air Force and Civil Air Patrol officials was kicked off with a meeting and orientation tour Jan. 28 at Randolph Air Force Base.

"The new program called Volunteer Support to the Air Force will provide greater opportunities for citizens through the CAP while enhancing the Air Force capabilities as part of the Air Force's Continuum of Service," said Craig Duehring, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and Reserve affairs.

Continuum of Service is a Department of Defense initiative that seeks to provide opportunities for service along a continuum from active duty military members to civilian volunteers. The initiative recognizes people are the key ingredient to the sustained success of our Air Force and focuses on eliminating the barriers that allow people to continue to serve as their personal situations change over the course of their career.

Randolph AFB along with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, are the only two bases testing the new program.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for Randolph (officials) and the Air Force to leverage the many volunteer capabilities of the Civil Air Patrol," said Col. Richard Clark, the 12th Flying Training Wing commander. "This initiative will enhance the Air Force mission as the CAP professionals bring experience, knowledge and enthusiasm to the many missions of Randolph AFB."

CAP officials are scheduled to get a mission briefing, visit the 560th Flying Training Squadron, tour the 99th Flying Training Squadron's Tuskegee Airman Hall and see a static display review of Randolph AFB aircraft.

The CAP, the official auxiliary of the Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with nearly 57,000 members nationwide that performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by Air Force Rescue Coordination Center officials.

RAF activates unmanned aerial vehicle squadron at Creech

by 2nd Lt. Jennifer Richard, 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFPN) -- Royal Air Force officials activated an unmanned aerial vehicle squadron Jan. 23 in the Reaper Hangar at Creech Air Force Base.

Number 39th Squadron is the RAF's first unmanned aerial vehicle squadron, although RAF has been operating UAVs at Creech AFB since 2004 as part of the Joint Predator Task Force.

Air Marshal Iain McNicholl, the RAF Operations Air Command deputy commander in chief, presided over the unveiling ceremony and RAF chaplain Pardre Lee blessed the new squadron.

The 39th Squadron's mission is to provide persistent intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance as well as offensive support to operational theaters, said Squadron Leader Nigel Meadows, the unit commander.

Prior to the squadron's activation, members of the RAF were completely embedded into 432nd Wing operations in all aspects of combat, training, maintenance and mission support activities. They have also assisted in standing up the MQ-9 Reaper training at the 42nd Attack Squadron since early 2007.

"We are very happy about the support we have received from the 432nd Wing at Creech," Squadron Leader Meadows said. "The camaraderie in the squadrons that we operate with and within is immense."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Aviation Modernization Program to Field Lakota, Modify Current Helos

BY J.D. Leipold
A Kiowa helicopter crew searches for possible enemy activity along the Zaghytun Chay river in northern Iraq, Nov. 20. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Samuel Bendet)

WASHINGTON (Army News Service) - The Army's $14.6-billion aviation modernization program includes fielding the Lakota UH-72A, along with a number of modifications to existing helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Army leaders from Program Executive Office Aviation and Training and Doctrine Command offered their latest updates on the Army's fleet of helicopters as well as its unmanned aircraft systems program at the Association of the United States Army's aviation symposium and exposition here last week.

Panel discussions focused on modifications to the UH-60M Black Hawk, UH-72A Lakota, CH-47F Chinook, AH-64D Apache Longbow, UH-58D Kiowa Warrior and the Shadow UAV under a modernization program that began in 2004 and continues through 2011.

UH-72A Lakota

Since the Army took delivery of its first UH-72A Lakota, a light utility helicopter, in November 2006, its builder, EADS North America, has churned a total of 18 operationally-ready units either on-time or ahead-of-schedule. EADS NA will ramp up production rates from two to three per month by March.

Fielding of the initial helos happened in record time with the first unit built in less than 11 months following the award of the EADS NA contract. Plans are to acquire 345 by 2017. The majority will go to the National Guard; the remaining will go to Training and Doctrine Command National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.

The Lakota is a commercial aircraft designed to conduct general support tasks in non-combat environments such as civil search and rescue, evacuation, counter-drug and limited civil command and control operations through Homeland Security.

"We've had great success in bringing the Lakota capability to the Army, the National Guard and the Reserve component," said Col. Thurgood. "It's a commercial platform, the only piece of military equipment is the communication addition that gives us the ability to speak with our military counterparts in secure mode and to speak with homeland defense agencies, the police, fire and civil authorities."

The colonel said the Army has approved several modifications - medevac, supply and service battalion configuration and for VIP. The Lakota is also being configured for use as an observer/controller unit and in an opposing forces configuration.

UH-60M Black Hawk

The Sikorsky-built "M" model is the latest of the 20-plus-year-old Black Hawk line of medium-lift helicopters capable of assault, medevac, command and control, aerial sustainment and search and rescue. Delivery of the first of 30 was made to the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Campbell, Ky., beginning last month.

While the M class has tremendous capabilities over the L class, the Army has even more technical enhancements in development. An upgrade program will include fly-by-wire flights controls, the Common Avionics Architecture System and full-authority digital engine control.

"Fly-by-wire is going to give us level-one handling qualities which means our aviators are going to put their input into the pedal and the cyclic and collective are going to take care of themselves," said Col. Theresa Barton, capabilities manager-lift at TRADOC. "This will reduce the pilots' workload so they can concentrate on the task and mission which means situational awareness will be much higher."

Barton said fly-by-wire technology allows for removal of mechanical flight controls which reduce aircraft weight, simultaneously increasing reliability and survivability particularly in brown-out conditions.

"It's very difficult to describe the precision hover capability you have with a flight-by-wire system of level one handling and qualities," added Col. Neil Thurgood, project manager, utility helicopter at PEO Aviation. "With this platform a young captain or major can control the fight and have situational awareness with less concentration on keeping control of the aircraft especially in sand and dust situations."

The Army owns 1,668 Black Hawks and expects the addition of the "M" class to the fleet will bring the total number of Black Hawks to 1,931, which will be a combination of L and M classes. Thurgood said approximately 300 UH-60s are in the fight on terror on a daily basis.

CH-47F Chinook

Since 1961, the Chinook has been the heavy-lift workhorse of the Army and will continue in that capacity until around 2030, officials said, with significant upgrades through the recapitalization of Comanche program money which will make the aircraft more reliable, less costly to operate and open up joint digital connectivity requirements to the future combat force.

"Today, there are two types of F models, the new and the renew," said Col. Newman Shufflebarger, project manager, cargo helicopters PEO Aviation. "We're going to build about 113 new and about 339 will be renewed. Transmissions, rotor blades and hubs will be harvested, but everything else will be new such as the new machined airframe, digital map display and the CAAS (common avionics architecture system) advanced digital cockpit which gives us near level one flight-handling characteristics like fly-by-wire."

Col. Barton added: "When you look at the difference between a D and F model, the first thing to start with is the monolithic airframe that will reduce corrosion and vibration and that means we'll reduce the maintenance man hours on this aircraft significantly."

The Army presently manages 452 D and F model Chinooks of which 407 are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

AH-64D Apache Longbow

With more than 800 in service, the Army's premiere attack helicopter, the AH-64D Apache Longbow tank-killer will be going through what is referred to as block III improvements in 2008 which includes increasing digitization, incorporation of the joint tactical radio system, enhanced engines and drive systems, a new composite rotor blade and will have the capability to control unmanned aerial vehicles.

Builder Lockheed Martin has developed a new targeting and night-vision system for the bird which uses second-generation long-wave infrared sensors with improved range and resolution. Called Arrowhead, the system has a targeting FLIR (forward looking infrared) with three fields of view, a dual field-of-view pilotage FLIR, a CCD television camera, electronic zoom, target tracker and auto boresight. Arrowhead will be outfitted on 704 Apaches by 2011.

"It's more than just a helicopter," said Col. Mark Hayes, Apache capabilities reconnaissance/attack at TRADOC. "This block III Apache's open-system architecture will enable its own lethal capability by firing every suite of weapons we ask it to fire today to include the future weapons that are in development such as the joint air-ground missile."

The block III Apache will also enable the ground maneuver commander to understand the field and to decide and execute. It also will have littoral capabilities for Soldiers and Marines to use in ground operations as well as maritime mode to understand and see beyond the limits of a ground force fight.

While the block III Apache hasn't been field tested according to Col. Derek Paquette, project manager, Apache attack helicopter program, PEO Aviation, the model in simulation is 2.5 times more lethal and 10 times more survivable than previous models.

OH-58D Kiowa Warrior (Armed Scout Helicopter)

"The Kiowa Warrior faces some obsolescence issues and it has some force protection and cost challenges ahead, but the Army made the decision to fund safety enhancements, address obsolescence and keep this aircraft in the fight to 2018 or beyond because the warfighter demands it," said Col. Hayes.

Upgrades to the Kiowa built by Bell Helicopter will include the cockpit display system, incorporation of weight reduction initiatives to allow the warfighter more time on-station, addition of a full-authority digital engine control, cockpit airbags and enhanced survivability seats. Thus far, 199 Kiowas have been modified under the safety enhancement program.

Kiowa will eventually be replaced by the ARH-70A Arapaho which is still being developed. Eventually, there will be 512 ARH-70As in the active Army and in four National Guard battalions currently equipped with the AH-64A.

Last Jump: XVIII Airborne Corps Heads Out Door

BY Sgt. Jeremy D. Crisp

Col. Ron S. Gallimore, XVIII Airborne Corps assistant chief of staff for the Army National Guard and paratrooper since 1973, gives a safety briefing to Corps' Soldiers Jan. 15. This was the last pre-deployment jump for the Corps as it heads to Baghdad to take over its role as Multi-National Corps-Iraq. "

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Army News Service, Jan. 23, 2008) -- The XVIII Airborne Corps Special Troops Battalion performed its last pre-deployment jump Jan. 15 at Sicily drop zone on Fort Bragg - heading out the door of a C-130 high-performance aircraft before heading to Baghdad.

Sixty-two paratroopers participated in the jump, to include a number from the 270th Signal Company, all deploying to take on various roles in, or as, the Multi-National Corps-Iraq. Some of these Soldiers have already left to begin their deployment, with others on the way over the next month.

But this jump was a little more special for one Soldier, because where a deployment begins, some things come to an end.

Veteran of 83 jumps, Col. Ron S. Gallimore, had to get a letter from the secretary of Defense to keep from being forced to retire at the age of 60 - an age he will hit while deployed with the Corps.

Gallimore, a master parachutist and the XVIII Airborne Corps assistant chief of staff for the National Guard, said he won't have the time to jump upon redeployment before he will retire, "So this looks like it will be my last jump," he said.

He added that being around paratroopers is one of the reasons he joined the Army well over 30 years ago.

"It's magic," Gallimore said. "Being able to be around young paratroopers makes me want to get up in the morning."

Although the last jump before deployment for Gallimore and the Corps, it proved to be a first of sorts for some.

As Gallimore patrolled the line during manifest call, he asked the ranks, "How many of you, will this be your sixth jump?"

Scores of hands popped up, indicating their first jump after graduating airborne school.

For some, it was only their seventh jump, including Pvt. Mary Shannon Whitley, a medic with the Corps' Surgeons office.

"I feel good about our last jump," Whitley said while waiting for the plane at Green Ramp on Pope Air Force Base.

She said she was looking forward to getting the deployment started, and this was one piece of that.

Two days after the successful jump, scores of Soldiers headed out the door on their way to Baghdad as the advance party for the Corps deployment. Others left a week prior, with the remainder leaving before the middle of February.

Nimitz Gets Underway for WestPac Deployment

USS Nimitz (CVN 68) departed San Diego Jan. 24 with commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11 on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.

Nimitz is deploying under the Navy's Fleet Response Plan (FRP) and will operate in the Western Pacific Ocean in support of U.S. commitments in the region while the forward-deployed USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) undergoes scheduled maintenance in Yokosuka, Japan.

FRP was designed to allow the United States the ability to rapidly respond with flexible and sustainable forces to any global commitment on short notice.

"Our mission will be to ensure security and stability in the region," said Capt. Michael Manazir, Nimitz' commanding officer. "While operating in the Western Pacific, we will also participate in exercises and coordinate with our partner nations in the region."

The Nimitz CSG, commanded by Rear Adm. Terry Blake, is comprised of CSG 11, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Nimitz; its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 11; embarked Destroyer Squadron 23; the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59); the guided-missile destroyers USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), USS Higgins (DDG 76), and USS Chafee (DDG 90); Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49 "Scorpions," (HSL) 37 "Easy Riders"; and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11.

CVW-11's squadrons include the "Tophatters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, the "Black Aces" of VFA-41, the "Sunliners" of VFA-81, the "Wallbangers" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 117, the "Red Devils" of Marine Corps Strike Fighter Squadron 232, the "Black Ravens" of Electronic Warfare Squadron 135, the "Providers" of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron 30 and the "Indians" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6.

During the past few months, Nimitz conducted several training exercises off the coast of California and is fully prepared to deploy in support of FRP. Nimitz returned from a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf and the Western Pacific Ocean in Sept. 2007.

During the 2007 deployment, Nimitz supported Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, conducted Maritime Security Operations and participated in joint and coalition exercises and operations with many countries and U.S. military services.

"The quick turnaround between deployments has made the preparation for this deployment much easier," said Manazir. "The entire ship has what I call 'muscle memory' and we can lean on our experience from the last deployment. The crew is absolutely prepared and I couldn't be more proud of all their hard work."

Nimitz was commissioned in 1975, making it the first Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The ship is named for World War II Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz.

From Land to Sea: Stennis Accomplishes Major Milestone

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathen E. Davis, USS John C. Stennis Public Affairs

BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) returned to the water for the first time Jan. 18, since entering dry dock at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) in September 2007.

PSNS workers began flooding Dry Dock No. 6, Jan. 16 in preparation for undocking the ship and moving it back into the water.

Stennis' Commanding Officer, Capt. Brad Johanson, was impressed with how his Sailors, working alongside civilian contractors, managed the work schedule, especially during the holiday season.

"Stennis has been packed with work, and our undocking this week as scheduled is testimony to the fact that the Stennis team can get the job done, no matter how tough the mission is," said Johanson.

The process started when PSNS began flooding the dry dock. PSNS and ship's force conducted integrity checks on connected systems and tanks, as well as watertight integrity of all compartments below the waterline.

"A lot was at stake for the ship's safety as we put water back under the hull," explained Lt. Cmdr. Kirk Knox, Stennis' damage control assistant. "During the flooding and undocking, we have to reevaluate the integrity of the system to make sure there are no voids that would cause leaking within the ship."

With such an important evolution as flooding the dry dock, operational risk management was on everyone's mind.

PSNS and Stennis created a checklist of events to establish consistency with their workers to make the flooding and undocking a success.

"We go through a prerequisite list that is signed off by different entities to make sure we are ready to commence flooding of the dry dock," said Knox.

Once final checks were completed, Stennis moved out of the dry dock and moored to Pier Bravo at Naval Station Kitsap-Bremerton.

"I'm happy Stennis will be back in the water and floating like she's supposed to – she'll be a ship again," expressed Knox.

Even after the undocking, the maintenance period is scheduled to last until March.

During docking-planned incremental availability (DPIA), civilian employees from PSNS and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, contractors from various local organizations and an estimated 600 Stennis Sailors renovated potable water tanks, main engineering spaces, aircraft support equipment, combat and self defense systems, berthing spaces and a multitude of other work centers during the dry-dock period.

According to Cmdr. Timothy Pfannenstein, Stennis' ship's force work package officer, Stennis entered the dry dock to have easy access entering the tanks from the bottom of the ship.

"Tanks get corroded. This is why we paint them, to stop the corrosion," said Pfannenstein.

Stennis has a projected budget of $240 million, with 400,000 man-hours of work for DPIA in order to improve the ship's functions, habitability, and combat capabilities.

"Habitability is important for all us on the ship," said Pfannenstein.

Pfannenstein explained berthing and living spaces are being modernized and work is being conducted to improve sanitization in heads. Restrooms are referred to as heads on Navy ships.

"Heads are being redone, they are being completely gutted to add new toilets, sinks and shower enclosures," said Pfannenstein.

Contractors are also helping with habitability for Sailors by upgrading and improving living conditions.

"From top to bottom, the contractors are working on lighting and electrical set ups, installation of bunks, decking, and painting," said Pfannenstein. "It has been completely redone."

Numerous combat systems have been upgraded with state-of-the-art systems to effectively operate in a more network centric environment, improving communications with aircraft and interoperability with other ships in the strike group.

The work accomplished by ship's forces includes painting 554 spaces and retiling 169 decks ranging from 300 square feet to 4,000 square feet. They have also cleaned out 295 vents, removed and refurbished about 200 watertight doors and completed more than 400 lagging jobs up to this point. The Stennis and PSNS team will be busy throughout the next three months.

Johanson explained the next phase of shipyard maintenance will be intense, so Stennis can get ready to operate at sea again.

"This includes proficiency training and lots of wrap up on our maintenance duties. It will be a busy time, but a time culminating in our readiness for sea," said Johanson.

Stennis commenced DPIA Sept. 28, 2007, when it entered the dry dock at PSNS, after returning from a successful deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet's area of operations in late August 2007.

Alaska's F-22s prepare for IOC

by Airman 1st Class David Carbajal, 3rd Wing Public Affairs

A 90th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief signal an F-22A Raptor laden with concrete bombs to begin its departure for a training mission. For the first time at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, a mock bomb drop over Alaska, Jan. 16, provides integral training for both fighters and maintainers in preparation to declare its initial operation capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Garrett Hothan)

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFPN) -- Airmen in the 90th Fighter Squadron are completing steps to declare initial operational capability, with the overall goal of declaring full operational capability.

The 90th FS and 90th Aircraft Maintenance Unit exercised a mock bomb drop over the Alaska training range Jan. 16.

"This was an excellent opportunity for both our pilots and maintainers to experience real-world operations," said Lt. Col. Mike Shower, the 90th FS commander.

The 90th AMU Airmen produced the concrete-filled mock bomb and loaded it into an F-22A Raptor.

After launching the Raptor, the pilots dropped the munitions as if they were in a real-life scenario.

This completed task is an essential one to declare IOC, said Colonel Shower.
Declaring IOC is the official "ready for war" statement.

"This means that the Air Force asks who is ready to deploy, we have the ability to answer the call," said Colonel Shower.

Other beneficial training opportunities will occur during Red Flag-Alaska and Northern Edge exercises.

"These are key events to insure our pilots, many of whom are new to the Raptor, have seen large composite force missions similar to what they'd experience in combat," said Colonel Shower.

"These exercises will also help balance the time lost by some additional, unforeseen mission requirements," he said.

The added alert mission isn't the only obstacle for the 90th FS and AMU.

"Here at Elmendorf, the lack of facilities combined with the cold temperatures and arctic weather make it more challenging than at other operational bases," the commander said.

Several tasks must be completed before the declaration can be made.

"Aside from the bomb drops, we have to deploy Airmen and equipment off base, deploy jets off station, sit alert and participate in the OREs (operational readiness exercises)," said Capt. Megan Rogers, the 90th AMU officer in charge.

"We're planning a WSEP (weapons system evaluation program) at Tyndall (Air Force Base, Fla.) early next month to mark off that task on our check list," she added.
The unit has plans on deploying eight aircraft, equipment and several personnel for two weeks during this WSEP TDY.

The unit hopes to fulfill all of the requirements to declare IOC in August.

Governor Bids Farewell to Deploying NY Guard

BY Eric Durr

LATHAM, N.Y. -- More than 1,400 New York Army National Guard Citizen-Soldiers bound for Afghanistan formally bid farewell to their friends and family Jan. 16 at deployment ceremonies held across the state.

In Syracuse, at a farewell ceremony at the headquarters of the 27th Brigade Combat Team, Gov. Eliot Spitzer praised the Soldiers and invoked the words of former president and New York governor, Theodore Roosevelt.

Roosevelt often said that the credit belonged to "the man who was actually in the arena," Spitzer said.

"These men and women have chosen to enter the most difficult and dangerous arena of all," the governor said. "They have chosen to put their lives and personal safety on the line so their fellow citizens can be protected.

"The enemies the 27th Brigade will face do not understand freedom and liberty as Americans do, and want to take us back in time hundreds of years," Spitzer said. "There is no finer calling than to prevent that and to protect the American way of life."

While the Soldiers are deployed the state will watch out for their families, the governor promised. He also promised to do all he could to get a law enacted that would grant State University of New York tuition to any veteran from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Major General Joseph Taluto, the Adjutant General and commander of the New York Army National Guard, urged the Soldiers to do their jobs and watch out for each other.

"Focus on your mission, never compromise your standards and watch out for each other every day," Taluto said.

Although the Governor and Adjutant General attended the Syracuse ceremony at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, nine ceremonies were held across the state ranging from 35 Soldiers saying goodbye at the Connecticut Avenue Army to 130 Soldiers of the 1st Battalion 69th Infantry bidding farewell at Suffolk County Community College Sports Center. Other farewells occurred in Rochester, New York City, Ithaca and at Camp Smith in the Hudson Valley.

Because the deploying members of the brigade come from all over New York State, the decision was made to have ceremonies in the places the soldiers are coming from, said 27 BCT Public Affairs Officer, Lt. Col. Paul Fanning.

Col. Brian Balfe, the 27th BCT commander, evoked the history of the brigade and urged his Soldiers to follow in the footsteps of the 27th Division of World War I and II. He also praised the brigade Soldiers for never faltering during the ten month train-up that brought them to the deployment.

"Everything we have done in the 27th and will do here forward will be done as a team," Balfe said.

Staff Sgt. James Hudson, a computer repair specialist in the brigade headquarters said he was ready to go, do the job and come home. He wasn't looking forward to leaving his family, but he was ready to do an important job.

Staff Sergeant Mathew Storm, a member of the brigade logistics section, received a coin from Gov. Spitzer. He said it was exciting to meet the governor face-to-face and good of him to come see the brigade's Soldiers off.

"It shows he cares about the National Guard," Storm said.

The 27th BCT will head to their mobilization station at Fort Bragg, N.C., prior to deploying for duties in Afghanistan.

The Soldiers will be responsible for assisting in training the Afghan National Army and assisting the Afghan government. Another portion of the brigade task force will train at Fort Riley, Kan., to prepare for duties as embedded training teams alongside Afghan forces.

Nearly 300 Soldiers of the 27th Brigade were already called to federal active duty in the fall of 2007 for this mission. A total of 1,700 New York National Guard troops are being deployed for Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VII in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, making this mission and this deployment the largest in New York during the support to the war on terror.

The total active duty deployment time for the troops is expected to be one year and will include about two months of training at bases in the U.S. and 10 months duty in theater.

In addition to the 27th Brigade Headquarters, Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VII will include personnel from the 106th Regional Training Institute, the 2nd Squadron 101st Cavalry, the 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry, the 69th Infantry Battalion and the 427th Forward Support Battalion.

More than 6,000 members of the New York Army National Guard have been called to federal active duty for service mostly in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003. Deployment levels peaked in 2004, when more than 3,500 troops assigned to nearly a dozen different units were on duty. About 600 New York National Guard Soldiers are presently serving on active duty.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wizards Return Home to NAS Whidbey

By Lt.j.g. Vidal De Jesus, Electronic Attack Squadron 133 Public Affairs

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. (NNS) -- The "Wizards" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133 returned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, Jan. 21, after a six-month combat deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Wizards left NAS Whidbey Island in July and immediately made their presence felt, with every Sailor contributing many long hours to the effort. The squadron flew night and day supporting U.S. and coalition forces in the global war on terrorism.

"There were some rough spots," said Lt. Cmdr. Peter Fey. "Our guys were hitting on all cylinders for a good while there. Whenever there was a cry for more Prowler support, they (our Sailors) came out and answered the call. You can't train that."

Along with the normal challenges of being forward deployed, there was the weather. The average temperature when the Wizards arrived in July was more than 100 degrees and when they departed it was 20. But, the severe weather swing didn't adversely affect the Sailors from VAQ-133.

"I just did my job and I'd do it again if I had to," said Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 2nd Class (AW) Mark Becker.

But what every Sailor really cherished was returning home to their loved ones. With a sea bag on their backs, a rose in one hand and open arms, Sailors greeted well wishers who showed up in display of their appreciation, despite the frigid weather.

"This is great. This is what it's all about," said Yeoman 3rd class Eric Shroyer.

With the deployment complete, the Wizards look forward to well deserved time off before they begin training to do it all over again.

For many, this may seem daunting, but as Lt. Philip Bush said, "This is what we do and I wouldn't want it any other way."

USS Port Royal Visits Bahrain

By Ensign Cassidy Rasmussen, USS Port Royal Public Affairs

MINA SALMAN, Bahrain (NNS) -- USS Port Royal (CG 73) departed Mina Salman pier, Bahrain, Jan. 15 after an eight-day visit.

Sailors from Port Royal spent time reaching out to their neighbors on the pier, lending their technical expertise to train with the crew of the Bahraini ship RBNS Sabha (FFG 90).

Electronics technicians, engineers and gunner's mates on board Sabha welcomed their U.S. counterparts to train on their radar, electrical switchboards and torpedo launchers.

"It was a great feeling," said Gunner's Mate 1st Class Iva Schroyer. "It was an excellent opportunity to interact with a different culture. I saw that the way they do things isn't that much different from how we go about our own business."

While in Bahrain, Port Royal also hosted Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT)/5th Fleet, and Rear Adm. Scott Swift, deputy commander, NAVCENT/5th Fleet.

Port Royal is part of the Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), which is operating in the Persian Gulf to provide support for U.S. and coalition forces in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO). Tarawa ESG is in the AOO to provide support to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Operations in the 5th Fleet AOO are focused on reassuring regional partners of the coalition's commitment to help set conditions for security and stability. U.S. forces maintain a naval and air presence in the region that deters destabilizing activities, while safeguarding the region's vital links to the global economy.