Pure Pursuit Intelligence Center, as a service to Military and Air Defense Communities.

Military budget cuts: New strategy shift under way

As Defense Secretary Leon Panetta prepares his recommendations for Pentagon budget cuts, he is likely to reduce the military's resources for future, large-scale counterinsurgency operations of the sort that were ballyhooed just a few years ago in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The boom in "COIN," as these operations are known, has proved to be something of a bubble. Budget pressures have curbed the appetite for the ambitious, "protect-the-population" missions that were promoted with such enthusiasm by Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Stanley McChrystal. The focus increasingly is on raids by the tighter, more kinetic Special Operations Forces, which are seen as the big success story of these wars, to the extent success can be claimed.

"It's not going to be likely that we will deploy 150,000 troops to an area the way we did in Afghanistan and Iraq," said one top Pentagon official, explaining the rationale for Panetta's budget review.

Panetta has been signaling for several months that the Army and Marines, which have carried the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be cut in his 2013 budget. His final recommendations won't be finished until year-end, but the Army and the Marines are already planning force reductions, recognizing that new and prolonged large-scale counterinsurgency missions aren't likely anytime soon.

A second big theme of Panetta's review is an emphasis on Asia -- and on countering China's growing military power there. President Obama last month announced that he will send 2,500 Marines to Australia to convey the message: "We are here to stay." And he underlined, if anyone missed the point, that defense cuts "will not -- I repeat, will not -- come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific."

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Massive 30,000 pound bomb enters US Air Force service

Boeing has just delivered the largest conventional bomb in the US arsenal to the Air Force. The new bombs weigh 30,000 pounds, and are designed to destroy bunkers buried deep underground.

The size of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator is evident from this unofficial photograph.
The size of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator is evident from this unofficial photograph.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The military has ordered 20 of the bombs for the tidy sum of $314 million. The bombs are guided by GPS and can be dropped by the B-52 Stratofortress bomber or the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

The deployment of such heavy ordnance on traditional bomber platforms is a curious juxtaposition in an age of drones and precision strikes conducted with lightweight ordinance. However, defense officials have stressed the need to maintain hard-hitting heavy ordnance in the US arsenal.

While over the past two decades, the US has shifted focus to fighting loosely organized insurgent enemies, threats from large nations with sophisticated military capability, or even from terrorists hiding in deep subterranean complexes remains a possibility.

The bombs carry more than 5,300 pounds of explosives and are more than 20 feet long. Dubbed the "Massive Ordnance Penetrator" they are believed to be substantially more effective than the current bunker busting munitions in the arsenal.

Because of national security concerns, the Pentagon will not permit Boeing to comment about the program, although the existence of the program has been publicly acknowledged for some time. The bombs have been built and assembled at Boeing's Phantom Works facilities in St. Louis. Boeing works on a number of top secret projects in those facilities.

No photos of the bomb have been officially released, although illustrations and unofficial photographs have been widely circulated. Images depict the bomb with sophisticated GPS guidance equipment at the rear, along with air brakes and fins to arrest the fall of the bomb and steer it, insuring that it drops precisely onto the target in the configuration that allows maximum penetration into the earth.

It is believed that such bombs could conceivably be effective against hardened targets (underground bunkers) in countries such as Iran or North Korea, which are suspected to be developing clandestine and potentially threatening top-secret weapons projects.

Belgian firm unveils new Top Gun flight simulator

A Belgian company has unveiled the ultimate fighter jet training tool, a fully immersive 360-degree flight simulator designed to reproduce reality exactly as a pilot sees it.

The dome is the first flight simulator to give trainee pilots a full unobstructed 360 degree view of the world as they conduct virtual missions, said Barco , a maker of high-definition projectors and displays.

"It's not an improvement, it's a new generation of simulators," Geert Matthys, research and development manager at the company, said.

"If a pilot has a cockpit where he can see 360 degrees, he also needs to be trained in a system which supplies 360 degrees, all deviation from real life can be dangerous," said Matthys.

The simulator can be used in a series, with several pilots working together to play out complex training missions such as mid-air refueling.

"For the first application there will be eight systems positioned next to each other and they will do mission training with each other," said project manager Kathy Verledens.

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Japan grounds F-15s after fuel tank falls off

TOKYO: Japan has grounded its F-15 fighters for the second time in three months after a fuel tank and parts of a mock missile fell off a jet on a training mission, officials said on Saturday.

Japan Air Self-Defence Force officials said that the flight suspension involves all missions except emergency scrambles and will last until the safety of Japan’s 202 F-15 fighters has been confirmed.

No one was injured in Friday’s incident near Komatsu base in western Japan and the pilot landed safely. In July, Japan’s F-15s were grounded after one of the jets crashed into the East China Sea. Though presumed dead, the pilot of that jet is still listed as missing, and the cause of the accident has not been announced.

The latest incident comes as Tokyo is moving ahead to replace its aging fighters.

The 350-pound (155-kilogram) tank, which was empty, and parts of the dummy missile detached and fell from the plane as it was nearing the field for landing. The debris fell on 10 locations, including a sewage plant.

"We take this accident very seriously," General Shigeru Iwasaki, the head of Japan’s air forces, said at a news conference late Friday. He said the cause was under investigation.

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US troops aid Mexico in drug war

MEXICO CITY — When a young corporal in the Mexican marines was ambushed by drug cartel gunmen in the state of Tamaulipas, his first thoughts were for his pregnant wife and unborn child.

But within a split second, he was focused on combat, as his unit took defensive positions around their convoy to return fire.

They managed to shoot dead four attackers while only suffering two injuries.

The victory — one of many by Mexico’s marines — was helped largely by U.S.-supplied equipment and training with the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado.

“We have learned from American officers who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said the corporal, who asked that his name not be used as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

“The Americans suffer from similar types of ambushes in their wars, and have learned how to respond to them in a tight, disciplined way. We apply those techniques to our fight here.”

Extensive training of the Mexican marines is one of several ways in which the U.S. military machine has quietly escalated its role in Mexico’s ultra-violent drug war in the last two years.

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Terrorist plot? Mile-high romance? FBI cracks airline security mystery.

In the moments before the F-16 fighter jets were summoned, the crew of Frontier Airlines Flight 623 feared that a passenger's frequent and unusually long trips to the aircraft lavatory on Sept. 11 were a sign that a potential terrorist plot was underway.

Later, when the plane had landed in Detroit, reports suggested that the peculiar bathroom breaks had been a reckless tryst between two passengers determined to “make out.” In the cold light of Sept. 12, however, the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed the rather mundane truth: It was simply a single man having an off-color day.

IN PICTURES: 9/11 memorials around the world The story of Flight 623 from Denver to Detroit – as well as another Sunday flight in which airline crew requested fighter-jet escorts – was different sort of reminder of 9/11 on its 10-year anniversary. As New York and Washington held memorial services, the two airline incidents marked a return, for one day at least, to the weeks when the fear of fresh terrorist attacks changed how Americans saw the everyday world around them.

There was some reason for the vigilance. On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that there was a "credible threat" for an attack over the Sept. 11 weekend. But reports suggested that threat centered around a truck bomb in New York or Washington.

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For 2nd time, NASA delays launch of twin spacecraft to moon, rocket concerns bump it to Sat.

Space agency officials said Friday they need time to analyze data from the core engine of the unmanned Delta II rocket. As the rocket was drained of propellants following Thursday's failed launch attempt, an engine heater indicated it had exceeded a red-line limit, spokesman George Diller said.

High wind halted the countdown Thursday, and NASA aimed for Friday. Then late Thursday night, NASA bumped the launch to Saturday. Liftoff time is 8:29 a.m. Forecasters put the odds of favorable weather at 60 percent.

The near identical twin satellites are named Grail-A and Grail-B. Grail stands for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory.

Scientists will measure the entire gravity field of the moon by keeping precise track of the distance between the two probes as they chase one another around Earth's closest neighbor. They hope to figure out what's beneath the moon's surface, all the way down to the core.

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Air Force slammed for damage to crucial aerostat radar on Pakistan border

IAF's capabilities to monitor low-level flying enemy aircraft have taken a hit as one of its two aerostat radars deployed along the Pakistan border was damaged in an accident in 2009 due to "failure" of its three officers and is likely to be operational only by next year.

A CAG report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday said a Court of Inquiry to investigate the causes of the accident involving the Rs338 crore aerostat "held three officers responsible for their failure in adequate supervision" of the maintenance activities.

"All the three officers were awarded severe displeasure for six months as they failed to carry out their responsibilities which led to the accident of the aerostat costing Rs338 crore," the report said.

India had procured the two aerostat radars at a cost of Rs676 crore in 2007 to meet its low level surveillance requirement against enemy aircraft and drones.

Slamming the Air Force for the mishap, the CAG said the repair of the damaged system is estimated to cost Rs302 crore.

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Pilot: Air Force One was 'a sitting duck' on tarmac during 9/11

"September 11 literally was just a normal day for us," says Colonel Mark Tillman, remembering that morning.

Millions of Americans can say that. But only one can say his job that day was flying the president of the United States as the pilot of Air Force One.

Tillman found out about 9/11 as many of us did, by watching the news. But in his case, it was aboard Air Force One as it was parked in Sarasota, Florida, where President George W. Bush was reading to a second-grade class at a nearby elementary school.

"The plane was getting ready to go and then when I was actually on the aircraft, the radio operator called me and said 'Hey you need to come upstairs right away; take a good look what I have on the television right now.'"

He watched the unfolding horror on a television on the president's plane.

It was after the second plane hit that they knew something was terribly wrong.

"It was at that point that we realized that something was occurring, was going wrong. At that point also, our radios to all the different agencies started coming alive," he recalls.

"We got word that there were about nine aircraft that had been hijacked, that's what we were passed from the Secret Service channels and everything else. We were trying to figure out exactly whether we were about to be under attack, whether we were a part of it."

"No one really knew, so the plan for us was get the plane moving as quick as possible because sitting on the Sarasota tarmac I was just a big target, a 747...We are a sitting duck."

So Tillman awaited his passenger, President Bush, who quickly arrived and wanted to immediately fly back to Washington.

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Black Hawks boost Ct.'s Sikorsky in post-9/11 wars

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- America's wars since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 have been a boon for the maker of Black Hawk helicopters, a workhorse the U.S. military has relied on heavily to strike targets and ferry troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sales at Stratford, Conn.-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. have more than doubled to $6.7 billion since 2005, boosting the economy of a state that has historically had broad defense interests. George Washington nicknamed Connecticut the Provision State during the Revolutionary War for supplying food and cannons to his soldiers.

Since 2001, the Black Hawk's ability to handle several jobs - such as ferrying soldiers and hunting down enemy troops - has made it one of the military's primary tools in unfamiliar countries where it must cover large expanses of desert and rugged mountains. The two wars have marked the longest-ever campaigns for the helicopter, which has evolved with technological advances to keep sand out of the engine and keep pace with the military's demands.

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Air Force beats Ateneo, forces playoff

MANILA, Philippines – Air Force relied on the career game of guest player Jennifer Manzano to defeat the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) Lady Eagles in 4 sets and force a play-off for the last Final 4 slot in the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference.

Air Force won the game with scores of 25-20, 25-19, 20-25, and 25-19 to create a 3-way tie with Ateneo and Philippine Navy.

The 3 teams have identical 2-3 records after the quarterfinals.

By virtue of their superior quotient, Navy is now in the semifinals while Ateneo and Air Force will face each other anew on Thursday to dispute the last Final 4 slot.

Manzano scored 32 points, tying San Sebastian’s Lauren Ford for most points scored in the conference.

The Air Women had to come from behind to win the first set, as Ateneo posted an 8-1 lead behind the brilliant serving of Aerieal Patnongon.

Air Force used its defense to get back in the game, with Liza de Ramos frustrating the Lady Eagles with her blocking.

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LA Air Force Base Gets Solar Panels and Electric Vehicles, Too

Solar powered military installations are nothing new but there is a twist to the solar arrays being installed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, because LA AFB is also booting out its old gas guzzling general purpose vehicles in favor of a fleet of electric vehicles, making it the first federal facility of any kind to replace an entire fleet with EV’s. The base will be used as a proving ground for new energy efficient vehicle-to-grid technologies that can squeeze the maximum renewable energy potential from both photovoltaic cells and the electric vehicles, too.

Electric Vehicles for LA AFB

The new EV program is relatively modest, with no tactical or emergency vehicles making the switch (the Air Force is testing fighter jet biofuel under another program, by the way). The base will replace about forty sedans, light duty trucks and shuttle buses with all-electric EVs as well as well as hybrid electric and extended-range EVs. However, the program is serving as a study guide and model that could affect tens of thousands of vehicles in the Department of Defense’s fleets, so its impact could be enormous. Part of the assessment involves costs, of course, and DoD will be looking at the cost of installing charging stations and related infrastructure, and analyzing lifecycle costs of electric vehicles relative to conventional vehicles.

Electric Vehicles and Solar Power

There has been a mushrooming trend of pairing EV charging stations with solar installations, so it’s fair to assume that LA AFB’s solar power plans include EV charging. However, the base also has something a little more sophisticated in mind, a demonstration of V2G (vehicle-to-grid) potential. The idea behind V2G is that electric vehicles spend long stretches of time just sitting around parked, with all that energy in their batteries going unused. In the case of solar-charged EV’s, that’s clean energy going unused. Grid-connected, solar-charged EV’s would provide significant financial benefits to the owner, who could defray the cost of both the solar installation and the EV by selling excess energy to the grid.

Microgrids and V2G Technology

The Department of Defense is also testing smart microgrid technology, including a solar powered microgrid, at military bases. This program is designed to help the DoD achieve energy security by removing its facilities from dependence on the grid. V2G technology comes into play because it could help a facility get the maximum energy potential from its microgrid.

Microgrids, Solar Panels and V2G for All…Not

The Department of Defense has established the position that clean, renewable energy is a matter of national defense that covers the civilian world, not just energy-independent military bases, but the majority party in Congress is not interested investing in new technology for domestic use (heck, they won’t even fund disaster relief here-and-now, let alone investing in our future). Microgrids and locally generated renewable energy sure would have come in handy for at least some of the scores of communities struggling to recover from Hurricane Irene, which are still without power days after the storm.

Solar powered military installations are nothing new but there is a twist to the solar arrays being installed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, because LA AFB is also booting out its old gas guzzling general purpose vehicles in favor of a fleet of electric vehicles, making it the first federal facility of any kind to replace an entire fleet with EV’s. The base will be used as a proving ground for new energy efficient vehicle-to-grid technologies that can squeeze the maximum renewable energy potential from both photovoltaic cells and the electric vehicles, too.

Electric Vehicles for LA AFB

The new EV program is relatively modest, with no tactical or emergency vehicles making the switch (the Air Force is testing fighter jet biofuel under another program, by the way). The base will replace about forty sedans, light duty trucks and shuttle buses with all-electric EVs as well as well as hybrid electric and extended-range EVs. However, the program is serving as a study guide and model that could affect tens of thousands of vehicles in the Department of Defense’s fleets, so its impact could be enormous. Part of the assessment involves costs, of course, and DoD will be looking at the cost of installing charging stations and related infrastructure, and analyzing lifecycle costs of electric vehicles relative to conventional vehicles.

Electric Vehicles and Solar Power

There has been a mushrooming trend of pairing EV charging stations with solar installations, so it’s fair to assume that LA AFB’s solar power plans include EV charging. However, the base also has something a little more sophisticated in mind, a demonstration of V2G (vehicle-to-grid) potential. The idea behind V2G is that electric vehicles spend long stretches of time just sitting around parked, with all that energy in their batteries going unused. In the case of solar-charged EV’s, that’s clean energy going unused. Grid-connected, solar-charged EV’s would provide significant financial benefits to the owner, who could defray the cost of both the solar installation and the EV by selling excess energy to the grid.

Microgrids and V2G Technology

The Department of Defense is also testing smart microgrid technology, including a solar powered microgrid, at military bases. This program is designed to help the DoD achieve energy security by removing its facilities from dependence on the grid. V2G technology comes into play because it could help a facility get the maximum energy potential from its microgrid.

Microgrids, Solar Panels and V2G for All…Not

The Department of Defense has established the position that clean, renewable energy is a matter of national defense that covers the civilian world, not just energy-independent military bases, but the majority party in Congress is not interested investing in new technology for domestic use (heck, they won’t even fund disaster relief here-and-now, let alone investing in our future). Microgrids and locally generated renewable energy sure would have come in handy for at least some of the scores of communities struggling to recover from Hurricane Irene, which are still without power days after the storm.

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Boeing and Bell Helicopter to provide Air Force training and flight simulators for V-22 Osprey tiltrotor

PATUXENT RIVER, Md., 1 Sept. 2011. U.S. Air Force leaders are ordering three CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft training simulators, and upgrades for three existing simulators, from the Bell Boeing V-22 Program at Patuxent River, Md., under terms of a $34 million contract announced Wednesday. The Bell Boeing V-22 Program is an alliance between Bell Helicopter-Textron (NYSE:TXT) and The Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA).

The Air Force currently uses the CV-22 simulators at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., using a CV-22 cabin part task trainer (CPTT). The current contract calls for Bell-Boeing to upgrade that device and two additional fuselage aircrew and maintenance trainers. Company engineers will install two new cabin operational flight trainers (COFTs) at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Work should be finished by mid-2014.

The CPTT provides V-22 emergency egress, cargo loading, cargo air delivery, virtual fast ropers, combined real and virtual hoist operations, medevac configuration, lighting, communications, night vision, emergency procedures, and refueling training. The new COFTs will include all these capabilities.

The improved simulators are intended to increase the reality of mission rehearsal and allow the COFTs and CV-22 aircrew trainers located at the same bases to be networked together. The wing trainer helps users practice maintenance.

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German Islamist terrorist confesses and blames fake jihad rape video for inspiring his crime

In an emotional confession to a Frankfurt court as his murder trial began on Wednesday, Arid Uka said he had become radicalised by online extremist propaganda before carrying out a lone gun attack US Air Force bus in March.

“What I did was wrong, but I cannot undo what I did,” he said.

Uka blamed a video purporting to show American servicemen raping a young Muslim girl for prompting him to try and stop other US soldiers from getting to Afghanistan.

“I thought what I saw in that video, these people would do in Afghanistan,” he told the court.

But the rape footage, billed as an authentic video entitled “what was done to our sisters,” turned out to be a fake using footage scene from the 2007 anti-Iraq war film “Redacted,” directed by Hollywood’s Brian de Palma.

“That is the irony of this case,” said Jens Joerg Hoffman, Uka’s defence lawyer. “It was an American film from a leading director that was so believable that it looked real.”

Uka is charged with two counts of murder and three of attempted murder in connection with the attack. He faces a possible life sentence.

The attack, at Frankfurt airport on March 2 2011, fuelled fears about the growing danger of the “lone wolf” terrorists, isolated individuals who are self-radicalised, unaffiliated with any organisation and are undetected until they strike.

According to the prosecution indictment, Uka went to the airport armed with a pistol, extra ammunition and two knives. Inside the arrivals terminal, he spotted two American servicemen who had just arrived and followed them to their US Air Force bus.

Sixteen servicemen, including the driver, were on or near the bus, and Uka approached one of the men for a cigarette.

After confirming they were US Air Force personnel en route to Afghanistan, he then “turned around, put the magazine that had been concealed in his backpack into his pistol, and cocked the weapon,” according the indictment.

Uka is alleged to have first shot unarmed Senior Airman Nicholas J Alden, a 25-year-old from South Carolina, in the back of the head. He is accused of then boarding the vehicle shouting “Allahu Akbar” - Arabic for “God is great” - and shot and killed the driver, 21-year-old Airman 1st Class Zachary R Cuddeback of Virginia, before firing at others.

He wounded two others - one victim has lost sight in one eye permanently - before his gun jammed and he fled, prosecutors said. He was then chased down and caught by police officers.

American airmen are expected to testify at the trial. At least one relative of the victims - Airman Cuddeback’s mother - has joined the trial as a co-plaintiff

Although Germany has suffered scores of terrorist attacks in past decades, largely from leftist groups like the Red Army Faction, the airport attack was the first by a suspected Islamic extremist to succeed.

Since the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks there have been about a half-dozen other jihadist plots that were either thwarted or failed - including a 2007 plan to kill Americans at the US Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base that was uncovered by German authorities acting on a tip from a US intelligence sources.

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U.S. Air Force Chooses HP as Key Technology Provider

PALO ALTO, Calif., Aug 29, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- HP (NYSE:HPQ) today announced that the U.S. Air Force (USAF) has selected it to provide new workstations and desktop PCs as a part of its enterprise IT purchase program.

The award will add to the USAF's 900,000 units of HP products deployed in the past five years throughout the United States, Europe and Asia Pacific and is part of the USAF CCS (client, computer and servers) Quantum Enterprise Buy (QEB). In compliance with USAF requirements, HP will include customized agency configurations that meet strict standards and tests for memory, audio, video and other specifications.

The Air Force Information Technology Commodity Council (AF ITCC), composed of top USAF officials, selects vendors for the QEB by evaluating the performance quality of their enterprise computing products in harsh environments. HP has consistently proven to be a "Best Value" vendor through the assessment.

USAF facilities worldwide will use an array of HP platforms, including HP Workstations and HP Compaq 6005 Business Pro PCs that combine high performance, energy efficiency and security features.

"For more than 60 years, the U.S. military and federal government has relied on HP for state-of-the-art technology products and solutions," said Stephen DiFranco, senior vice president and general manager, Personal Systems Group, HP. "We are proud of our strong performance record and look forward to providing the USAF with premier technology that aides in the management of the forces protecting our nation."

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United pilots to use iPad for navigation

United Airlines said Tuesday it was replacing the hefty flight manuals and chart books its pilots have long used with 11,000 iPads carrying the same data.

The 1.5 pound (0.7 kilogram) iPad will take the place of about 38 pounds (17 kilograms) of paper instructions, data and charts pilots have long used to help guide them, parent company United Continental Holdings said.

The popular tablet computer will carry the Mobile FliteDeck software app from Jeppesen, a Boeing subsidiary which provides navigation tools for air, sea and land.

"The paperless flight deck represents the next generation of flying," said Captain Fred Abbott, United's senior vice president of flight operations.

"The introduction of iPads ensures our pilots have essential and real-time information at their fingertips at all times throughout the flight."

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First Account by C-17 Pilot flying the Navy Seals back to Dover AFB

I had an unforgettable day yesterday and wanted to share it with you.

I know we've all sat around and discussed in detail why we do what we do and if we will be willing to continue to do what we do day in and day out regardless of deployments, retirement decisions, job opportunities, missed birthdays, missed holidays, etc. This is something I wanted to share and you were the people that came to mind. It's another reason I continue to serve. I guess because many others do and sacrifice a lot more, some even their lives.

My crew was alerted yesterday to find that our mission had changed. We were now a backup to a high priority mission originating from Afghanistan. When I asked where we would be going the answer was "back to the states". Later I learned our destination was Dover.

I was the aircraft commander for one of two C-17s that transferred the Chinook helicopter crash soldiers back home. The crew that started this mission in Afghanistan would end up running out of crew duty day and need another crew to continue the soldier's journey. We just happened to be available. After being alerted and going through our normal sequence, I found myself at the foot of the aircraft steps.

Before I took my first step upward I noticed a transfer case close to the door. I had only seen one in pictures. The American Flag was tucked smartly, folded and secured on top. I paused at the bottom of the stairs, took a deep breath and continued up with my mind and eyes focusing on making it to the next ladder leading to the cockpit. However, as I entered, I couldn't help but notice the remaining nineteen transfer cases in the cargo compartment. The entire cargo compartment was filled with identical transfer cases with American Flags. I made my way up to the cockpit and received a briefing from the previous aircraft commander. After the briefing we exchanged a handshake and the other pilot was on his way.

I felt a need to ensure the crew focused on their normal duties. I instructed the other two pilots to began the preflight. I went back down into the cargo compartment to see what needed to be done and find the paperwork I needed to sign. The cargo compartment was now filled with numerous people from the mortuary affairs squadron. They were busy adjusting, resetting and overall preparing the cases for their continued flight. Before they began I asked who was in charge because I knew there was paperwork I needed to sign. I finally found a Staff Sergeant who was working an issue with the paperwork. After it was complete, he brought it up to the cockpit for me to review and sign.

There are moments in life I will never forget. For me, it's the days my son and daughter were born. Another occurred five months ago when I had to deliver the unthinkable news to a mother that her son was killed in Afghanistan and although I didn't anticipate another day like that this soon, yesterday was another. I looked at the paperwork I was signing and realized the magnitude of the day. I glanced over the paperwork and signed. In a way, I felt I had taken ownership of these fallen soldiers. It was now my duty to ensure they make it home.

After confirming the preflight was complete and the aircraft was fueled, I went outside to start my walk-around. As I walked down the steps, a bus had parked in front of the aircraft and unloaded eleven passengers. The passengers were fellow SEAL team members who were escorting the fallen back to the states. I stood at the front of the aircraft and watched them board. Every one of them walked off the bus with focus in their eyes and determination in their steps; just as I imagine they do when they go on a mission. I made eye contact with the lead SEAL, nodded my head in respect and he nodded back.

Finishing my walk-around, I stopped at the bottom of the stairs. I looked up into the cargo compartment; two American Flags and one SEAL Team Six flag hung from the top of the cargo compartment. Three of twenty transfer cases visible; one with an American Flag and two with Afghan flags. I looked up at my aircraft and saw, "United States Air Force" painted on the side and I stood trying to take it all in. I wanted to make certain that I never forget these images. That I never forget the faces of the SEALS, the smell of the cargo compartment or the sun slowly rising over the landscape. It's important that I don't forget. We need to honor the dead, honor the sacrifice of the fallen.

I understand my role in getting these fallen soldiers home is insignificant compared to the lives they lived and the things they did for our country. Most of it we will never know. All I know is every American should see what I've seen. Every American should see the bus loads of families as they exit the freeway headed for Dover AFB to reunite with their fallen or witness the amount of time, effort, people and equipment that go into ensuring our fallen have a honorable return.

The very next day we took the same aircraft back overseas. We had leveled the aircraft at our cruise altitude and I walked down to the cargo compartment (to check on the passengers). No more American Flags hung from the ceiling. All the transfer cases were gone.

Instead I watched a father lay with his son, cradled on his chest, on the same spot that only yesterday held a fallen soldier. I watched a young girl, clutching a teddy bear, sleeping quietly where the fallen had laid. I realized so many Americans have no idea where the fallen lay.

I'm honored to be one that does.

Russian, U.S. Pilots To Conduct Joint Military Exercises

Russian Air Force Commander Aleksandr Zelin said today that Russian and U.S. military pilots will participate in joint exercises, reportedly the first time that has ever happened.

Zelin said U.S.-Russian drills will be held in Russia in 2012 and then in the United States in 2013.

Zelin confirmed Russian pilots would be flying "either MiG-29SMT or Su-35" warplanes in the U.S.-based exercises.

He did not say how many warplanes would take part.

Russia and NATO conducted a simulated hijacking exercise in June aimed at tracking a plane through both sides' airspace and eventually forcing a plane to land.

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Air Force Special Operators Welcome New Cargo Planes

Air Force special operators have been flying C-130 aircraft for more than 40 years. Now, finally, the fleet is being upgraded to the digital J-model. The Air Force all told is buying 122 C-130Js, of which 85 are slated to replace Air Force Special Operation Command’s MC-130 fleets, beginning with the MC-130E and MC-130P tankers. That number also includes 16 MC-130Js that will be converted to AC-130J gunships. From the outside, apart from the six-bladed propeller, it is difficult to tell a J-model from the previous four-bladed variants that Lockheed Martin Corp. has been building for more than half a century. Though the airframe itself is largely unchanged from when the first production Hercules rolled off the assembly line in 1956, the MC-130J’s mission systems are radically different — enough to merit establishing a new squadron to bring the airplane into the fold. “This is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us to field a new aircraft and a new capability,” said Lt. Col. Paul Pendleton, commander of the 522nd Special Operations Squadron. The unit was created in April as the first MC-130J Combat Shadow II squadron. “Being on the leading edge of that is very exciting,” he said.

The first MC-130J aircraft is due to arrive later this month at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. The C-130J is in full-rate production at Lockheed Martin’s plant in Marietta, Ga., where close to 8,000 workers are assembling 36 aircraft per year.

The MC-130J is the newest variant of the Super Hercules line. When the special operations community sought to modernize its tankers, which are designed to refuel helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes, engineers at Lockheed Martin took the Marine Corps’ KC-130J and worked with special operations personnel to customize it.

The MC-130J will refuel helicopters and the tilt-rotor CV-22 Osprey via a hose-and-drogue system. On the tarmac, the plane can also transfer fuel to ground vehicles — a capability that the marines use frequently, said Jim Grant, vice president of business development for air mobility and special operations programs at Lockheed Martin.

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Entire U.S. Stealth Fighter Fleet Grounded

In past few decades, the U.S. Air Force has spent untold billions researching and developing a family of stealth fighter jets that are supposed to be generations ahead of any dogfighters in the sky..

But after building more than 170 F-22 Raptors and a handful of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, not a single one is available for service. The Air Force currently has zero flyable stealth fighters. None..

The vaunted F-22 has been grounded with a possible faulty oxygen system since May. Production of the last few Raptors is even on hold, because the jets can’t fly from the factory..

Last week, test flights for the newer F-35 were suspended, too, because of a valve problem in the plane’s integrated power package. It’s the third time this year that JSFs have been forbidden to fly. Ground tests have resumed, and flight tests may resume as early as next week. Then again, they may not..

Yesterday, the U.S. military committed to spending another $535 million to buy 38 more Joint Strike Fighters — a family of stealth jets that are supposed to become the multipurpose, affordable workhorses of tomorrow’s fleet. Ninety percent of America’s combat aviation power is eventually supposed to come from the jets’ three variants. But the jets have been anything but cheap. The current cost for the JSF program is $382 billion and rising for more than 2,400 aircraft. No wonder just about every major deficit reduction plan scales back the JSF effort in some way.

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