Air Force & FAA, etc.

FAA explores UAS operations

by 1st Lt. Kevin Milgram
432nd Wing Public Affairs
7/30/2009 – CREECH AFB, Nev. (ACCNS) — Five representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration paid a visit to the 432d Wing to familiarize themselves with MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper operations July 22. [Why would the FAA need to familiarize itself with systems that are supposed to be used in war, supposedly wars half the world away?]

Ms. Robin Badger, staff manager and second-in-charge of the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Center at Salt Lake City, Utah, was especially interested in learning about how UAS [UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS] may affect air traffic control operations.

The 432d Operations Group deputy commander, Lt. Col. James Clark, hosted the FAA representatives in an effort to familiarize them with unmanned aircraft systems’ abilities to comply with U.S. airspace and air traffic control procedures.

Colonel Clark articulated the fact that the Predator and Reaper, from takeoff to landing, are always piloted by a highly trained crew.

“It’s kind of unfortunate that the term ‘unmanned’ is used when referring to our remotely piloted aircraft because they aren’t unmanned at all,” said Colonel Clark.

Lt. Col. Geoff Barnes, 11th Reconnaissance Squadron director of operations, reiterated Colonel Clark’s message to the FAA representatives.

“It’s not a drone,” said Colonel Barnes. “It’s 100 percent under control at all times.”

The Predator and Reaper have strobe lights, transponders and comparable radio capabilities to any traditional aircraft according to Colonel Clark.

“To air traffic control, it will look and sound just like an aircraft with a pilot onboard,” said Colonel Clark.

According to Colonel Barnes, in the rare instance a Predator or Reaper loses satellite link, the aircraft will follow a pre-programmed flight path. This flight path, as part of the emergency mission plan, is constantly updated by the pilot.

“In a lost link situation,” said Colonel Barnes, “the aircraft will behave predictably and its flight characteristics will be just like any other aircraft.”

Ms. Badger was very interested to gain more knowledge on Predator and Reaper operations.

“It was a very enjoyable trip,” said Ms. Badger. “It was especially interesting to hear about the future impact of the UAS mission and how it may affect air traffic control operations.”

Colonel Clark was happy to host the FAA representatives and show them Creech AFB operations.

“I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to show the FAA representatives our capacity to successfully integrate into the air traffic control structure,” said Colonel Clark.

[Emphasis and commentary SCMLA.]



Air Forces Central chosen to provide enhanced support to area of responsibility

8/5/2009 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Air Force officials here Aug. 5 designated U.S. Air Forces Central Command as its new dedicated, forward-based Air Force component supporting the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Air Force officials temporarily redesignated 9th Air Force/U.S. Air Forces Central as AFCENT and activated a new 9th Air Force to enhance continuity and focus on priority missions in the CENTCOM AOR.

“We want to download some of the (stateside) responsibilities so our three-star (commander) … can focus on the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff during testimony to the House Armed Services Committee May 19.

The temporary placement of the three-star AFCENT commander and a small staff of no more than 50 personnel in a forward location allows the commander to focus exclusively on the planning and execution of air, cyber and space operations in the CENTCOM AOR. [Cyber operations?]

“The operations tempo is as high as it’s ever been and as our commitments accelerate in Afghanistan, we need 100 percent focus,” General Schwartz said. “This was in keeping with the best military judgment of Air Force leaders as well as coordinated with and favored by [CENTCOM commander] Army Gen. (David) Petraeus.”

The new 9th Air Force, commanded by a two-star general, will retain oversight of six stateside wings and one direct reporting unit. It will remain at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., as a numbered air force subordinate to Air Combat Command.

The details of AFCENT’s configuration, including the exact composition of the command element, the nature of the overseas assignments for AFCENT personnel and the proposal’s projected cost, are being assessed.

“When contingency operations subside, the Air Force will reset to the peacetime configuration of 9th Air Force/AFCENT at Shaw AFB. [In other words, there is further centralization of power at the moment until things “calm down” which is not likely to happen, especially if US special forces and/or Israel draws Iran into this mess.]”

[Emphasis and commentary SCMLA.]





EOD Airmen help keep community safe

by Tech. Sgt. Gloria Wilson
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

8/6/2009 – CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) — Airmen from the Cannon Air Force Base Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight responded to a bomb scare in July in Clovis, N.M., and they used their training and skills to defuse the situation.

The suspected bomb turned out to be a training aid once owned by a now-deceased Albuquerque, N.M., arson investigator, but it took EOD Airmen to make that determination.

The EOD Airmen partnered with New Mexico law enforcement officials to handle the situation, in accordance with an agreement in place since 1986.

“We have a memorandum of understanding with local counties sheriff’s departments and we are part of their improvised explosive device response teams,” said Master Sgt. Warren Downing, the EOD Flight chief. “There are procedures in place for off-base agencies to request our assistance.”

EOD flight members respond to both on- and off-base calls, and respond to situations throughout New Mexico and parts of the Texas Panhandle.

“The ability to call on Cannon’s EOD makes a big difference and we are fortunate enough to have them,” said Curry County Sheriff Matt Murray. “The response time is cut drastically since the State of New Mexico’s bomb unit is not in the local area. With Cannon’s EOD unit here, man-hours and potentially lives are saved.”

Although the latest incident wasn’t a real bomb, it provided EOD Airmen an opportunity to hone their skills and work with local law enforcement officials.

“We received outstanding support from the sheriff’s department downtown,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Barry, the EOD team chief for the incident. “This great working relationship makes our job easier.”

Sherriff Murray said if an incident requires EOD response, they turn over control of the scene to the Airmen, then assist the Air Force officials as necessary.

Other situations Cannon AFB EOD Flight members have responded to off-base include a bank robbery and a house that was feared to be booby trapped. But EOD Flight Airmen’s interaction with civilian law enforcement officials isn’t limited to real-world events.

“We’ve conducted IED awareness training with law enforcement officials, given capability briefings and have even brought the SWAT team on base to train in a simulated methamphetamine lab scenario,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Kredell, an EOD Flight member.

“When we responded last week, (local law enforcement officials) were ready to let us do what we are trained to do,” said Staff Sgt. David Olson, an EOD Flight member. “We got there, gathered info, discussed possibilities and implemented our plan of action.”

While Cannon EOD Flight members agreed that responding to local incidents is important because it’s within their area of responsibility, they also agreed that it’s not the only reason.

“We have friends and family in the community and we live and work here; there’s a ripple effect to that,” Sergeant Kredell said. “Also, we’ve worked with the schools here and there’s an obligation we feel to make them safe. But mainly, whether it’s here within our community or elsewhere like the counties in Texas also in our (area of responsibility), we care because our job is to protect personnel and property and it’s an undertaking we do well.”


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