Monday, February 8, 2010

More stupidity

I was assigned to a USAF Special Operations unit. Special Ops in the Air Force have two mission; one of course is special operations but the other mission is air rescue. Rescue pilots in the USAF wear a pair of green feet on their name tags to signify the "Jolly Green Giant", the nickname of the first major rescue helicopter. There was a time that no rescue pilot upon entering the officer's club ever had to buy a drink. We have fallen very far from that nobler time...

From the Air Force Association magazine: R.I.P. CSAR-X: The Air Force on Tuesday pounded another nail in the coffin of its now-cancelled CSAR-X program, by “terminating for convenience” its $712 million contract with Boeing from 2006 for the system development and demonstration phase of the HH-47 rescue helicopter. “This contract termination is a result of the CSAR-X program cancellation directed by the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics,” the Air Force wrote in its brief statement, which appeared in the June 2 list of new Pentagon contracts. Why the need for this step, if the CSAR-X program is already history? Well, Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Karen Platt told the Daily Report yesterday that, technically speaking, the stop-work order from Nov. 22, 2006, had still been in effect for the contract that Boeing received from the Air Force for HH-47 work on Nov. 9, 2006, when it won the original CSAR-X competition over Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky. That stop-work order was never lifted as the CSAR-X program remained bogged down in legal protests and the Air Force’s efforts to resolve them up until Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ April 6 announcement that he was killing the program. But just because the original CSAR-X contract is now officially toast doesn’t mean that the need for a new rescue platform has gone away, and the Air Force leadership is working to convince Defense Secretary Robert Gates that a new USAF rescue bird would not be a single-service platform for an inherently joint mission, as Gates maintains.


Anonymous said...


While you are correct that this is a very stupid decision. AF Rescue is not part of AF Spec Ops. At times in its history it has been part of AFSOC 03-06, or its predecessor, 23 AF, it has always been chopped to the air component command. Fundamentally, all AFSOC assets do not work for the air commander in any theater, they work for the SOF commander.

So, the debate has always been, can you better take care of Rescue forces by putting them in the same command with "like" AFSOF, or put them in the command where all the rest of the air component's forces come from - Air Combat Command (ACC).

The answer seems to have settled on ACC, where Rescue forces have flourished tactically, with a Weapons School squadron and globally recognized as the finest rotary wing tactics manual in the world.

Money-wise, being in AFSOC was a disaster. Not entirely AFSOC's fault, but in their first year of owning CSAR cut $652M from CSAR's recap budget and added it to CV-22. Partly, this was due to the OSD rules placed on the programs, but also because AFSOC had a sum total of 7 CSAR officers on its staff, with the highest rank being Lt Col for the three years it owned Rescue.

ACC has 54 positions with several O-6 positions. The problem with ACC is that as an institution, it has no idea how to command and control this kind of air power. All ACC processes are setup for conventional large scale mobilization and war. . . despite having A-10s, other fighters, ASOGs, and AF Rescue deeply involved in the current fighting, they don't get how to command or employ these assets to their best effect. E.g. every sortie is still put on the ATO and controlled centrally by the CAOC, decentralized execution has completely disappeared within the AF. The war is being fought at the Company and Battalion level in the Army, but the air component is planning AND EXECUTING at the three-star level. Wing/Grp/Sq CC's only generate sorties, they have no planning or execution say at all. Other than whether the Burger King has fresh french fries.

So, yes, this is stupid, but the problems the AF faces here go much much deeper and are much more difficult to solve. We have lost our warrior ethos, in service of satisfying the many tribes within the AF who, in the absence of a clear and direct connection to the mission, have devolved into a series of self-serving stovepipes.

Sorry, its not a good time for the AF.

The times w

Bob Baylor said...

I normally don't publish anonymous commnents but felt yours were worthy. I did not mean AF Rescue was part of Spec Ops, merely I was point out that Spec Ops also conducted rescue missions (or at least they did when I was in).

My other point was the AF is still very much in the hands of people that drive pointy-nosed aircraft who don't give nearly the consideration due to the rotary winged aircraft.