Pentagon Grounds F-35B Due to Faulty Fuel Lines


The F-35 Lighting II is not the only aircraft facing problems. The F-35B used by the Marine Corps are grounded after a fuel line detached and caused a propulsion system leak that led to an aborted take-off.

The F-35B is the most complicated design in the Pentagon’s F-35 program. It is capable of short take-offs and vertical landings. The test flights of the fifth generation jet plane conducted by the Marine Corps were immediately suspended after the incident.

The Pentagon’s investigation revealed a quality discrepancy resulting in a crimped line in the plane’s fueldraulic system was at fault. The propulsion system was made by Pratt & Whitney unit of the United Technologies Corp. (UTX).

Initially, the faulty fuel lines were planned to be sent to Europe, but in order to save time and money, it will be scanned in the U.S. The components will undergo a CT scan in order to detect the flaws.

Replacement fuel lines are already available and Marine Corps test flying are likely to resume soon.

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U.S. Marine Corps Receives 100th H-1 Helicopter from Bell Helicopter

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Bell Helicopter delivered the 100th unit of H-1 Helicopters for the U.S. Marine Corps during a ceremony at Amarillo Assembly Center. A Textron Inc. Company, Bell Helicopter is in contract to make 349 helicopters for the H-1 Helicopter program of the Marine Corps. The H-1 Helicopter program is made up of UH-1Y utility helicopter and the AH-1Z attack helicopter.

John Garrison, president and CEO of Bell Helicopter said: “We are deeply proud to be the marine corp’s partner in these aircraft. They are among the most advanced, capable and affordable attack and utility helicopters serving today.”

The UH-1 Helicopters have a strong lineage of military service that started in the Army back in 1958. Popularly known as the “Huey,” the Marines Corps first use these during the Vietnam War in 1963, as the UH-1E. The Huey helicopters are also the foundation for the AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopters.

Bell Helicopters has the help of major supplier to make the H-1 helicopters. Northrop Grumman supplies the integrated avionics suite while Thales provides the helmet mounted sight and display system. Lockheed Martin Orlando supplies the AH-1Z target sight system (TSS), FLIR Inc. with the UH-1Y BRITE Star II forward-looking infrared sensor, the UH-1Y cabin structure is provided by L-3 Crestview Aerospace, and the T700 engines are from General Electric Aviation.

Apart from the U.S. Marine Corps, Bell Helicopter is also planning to supply their helicopters to foreign military.

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Marines Finally Establish First F-35 Squadron

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The Pentagon’s most expensive and highly-criticized weapons program finally showed progress as the Marine Corps established the first squadron of the F-35b jet fighters. The F-35b’s new operational squadron is stationed at an airbase in Yuma, Arizona.

Three F-35b jets have already arrived at the base with 13 more units will come over next year. According to the base spokesperson, the service built a new hangar for the planes as well as a high-end flight stimulator for the pilots and maintenance facilities. The new squadron will start its initial flights by December or early next year.

A ceremony was held for the unveiling of the new squadron. It was attended by top Pentagon and Lockheed executives as well as Arizona Sen. John McCain who sits at the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The F-35 is the replacement for the aging fleet of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier jets. Lockheed Martin is building three variants of the jet fighter for the U.S. Military and other countries. The F-35b model has STOVL capabilities.

“This squadron will be the first, not only in the Marine Corps or the United States, but the first in the world to bring a fifth-generation, multi-role, (short takeoff vertical landing) stealth fighter … into an operational status,” Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos said during his speech at the unveiling ceremony.

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Victims of WWII Plane Crash Finally Identified


After 68 years, the remains of seven U.S. servicemen who went unaccounted for after their aircraft crashed on an island in Vanuatu during World War II were finally identified and returned to their families. Vanuatu was a former French-British Condominium located east of northern Australia, it is now known as Republic of Vanuatu.

On April 22, 1944, a team of seven marines were conducting a night training mission aboard a PBJ-1 patrol bomber, the military variant of the North American B-25 Mitchell. It crashes over the island of Espirito Santo and the wreckage nor the crew were found at the time. After one year, the crew were presumed dead. But in 1994, a group of citizens notified the U.S. that an aircraft wreckage had been found in an extremely rugged terrain with an elevation of about 2,600 feet. Some human remains were transferred to the U.S. Defense Department and a survey team from Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command travelled to Vanuatu in 1999. After a specialized a specialized mountain training, recovery missions begun in 2000 and only ended last year.

With circumstantial evidence and mitochondrial-DNA matched with their family members, six of the marines were identified early this year. They were interred individually at the Arlington National Memorial though no announcements had been made. Now that all seven members are identified, they were all buried as a group in a single casket representing the crew last Thursday.

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U.S. Drones Still At Libya, Can Help Find Benghazi Attackers

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Last year, U.S. Predator drones ruled the skies of Libya. The war has officially ended last October, but the drones have stayed put and continue to fly in Libyan airspace.

“Yes, we have been flying CAPs since the war ended,” says Army Lt. Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. (CAPs is a military acronym for “combat air patrols,” a term of art that typically refers to several planes flying at once for a particular mission.) The drone flights were done for surveillance purposes and the new Libyan government had given their consent.

Last year, Predator drones were deployed in Libya for surveillance missions and mission attacks on Gadhafi loyalists. From April to October 2011, drones carried out 145 strikes on ex-regime targets, doubling the drone strikes launched in Pakistan for the whole year. Pakistan was thought of to be the epicenter of U.S. drone strikes.

With the attacks of U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, the U.S. drones maybe called for more proactive missions. It can be called to assist in spotting the instigators of attacks last Tuesday.

President Obama had already stated that the U.S. will work with the Libyan government to bring justice to the killers of the attack. A team of about 50 marines is already being shipped to Libya in response to the attacks, but their mission remains unclear. However, U.S. predator drones will be on hand to assist the military in this intense situation.

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F-35 Training For US Marines to Start Soon

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US Marine Corps pilots will start flight training for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. This progress with the development of F-35 emphasize the service’ confidence with the JSF program.

Lockheed Martin had delivered 10 units of the F-35B model at the air base. The model can take off from shorter runways and has the capability to land like helicopters. Preliminary orientation flights had been conducted by test pilots in May, but the flights had been limited in scope and speed. For instance, vertical landings had not been tested. Most pilot training are confined in classrooms and simulators. The military needs to extensively train the pilots and maintainers to fly and repair the aircraft before it can enter service operations. The leaders of the Marine Corps are anxious to get the F-35 into service as it needs to replace the aging Harrier jump jets and the F/A18 fighters. The F-35 program had been restructured three times and had suffered delays in production and training.

The progress in the F-35 training will allow pilots to finally take the aircraft to the skies and be a step closer for the $396 billion program to be useful for the military.

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K-MAX Unmanned Helicopter Arrives

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After a decade of sending vulnerable, manpower-intensive, fuel-guzzling ground convoys to resupply troops at far-flung combat outposts in Iraq and Afghanistan—and seeing those convoys consistently ambushed, blown up or just delayed—the U.S. Marine Corps had had enough. So, on Dec. 17, 2011, the Corps for the first time delivered supplies to troops using a remotely piloted helicopter.

Dispatched from Camp Dwyer to deliver supplies to Marines at Combat Outpost Payne in Helmand province, the flight delivered 3,500 lb. of food and other supplies, and took about 90 min. to complete, according to officials. But more than the supply drop itself, the flight ranks as a significant moment in a wartime technology boom that has made battlefield advances in unmanned technologies seem almost commonplace.

The Marines have been working on unmanned cargo for several years, and the Corps and the Army have been testing options since at least early 2008. The platform that won all of the Marine competitions and is now flying in Afghanistan is Kaman’s manned dual-rotor ­K-MAX helicopter, which was outfitted by Lockheed Martin with mission management and control systems for less than $47 million under a 2010 award. After years of testing and then charging its way through a five-day Quick Reaction Assessment (QRA) for the U.S. Navy’s Cargo Unmanned Aircraft Systems program, two unmanned helos were sent to Afghanistan in October 2011.

According to the Navy, which shares a U.S. military department with the Marines, during the QRA in the U.S. the ­K-MAX was able to exceed the Navy and Marines’ requirement to deliver 6,000 lb. of cargo per day over a five-day period, lugging a total of 33,400 lb. of cargo and topping out at about 3,500 lb. delivered in a single mission. Plus, with its four-hook carousel, K-MAX also can supply multiple locations in one flight.

Maj. Kyle O’Connor, the officer in charge of the unmanned mission in Afghanistan, says that while K-MAX is now considered operational, the Corps is still in a “demonstration phase to test the true capabilities of this aircraft and how well it can perform its job in a combat environment.” The Marines will continue to collect data through midyear, and once they analyze how effectively the aircraft performed its mission they will make the decision whether to make it a program of record. Operationally, it appears as if most of the K-MAX’s missions will be flown at night and at high altitudes to stay above the range of small-arms fire, according to Navy information.

While it made it to the finish line first, the K-MAX certainly will not be the last unmanned aircraft to deliver supplies to troops in the field. In early assessments, the Navy looked at Boeing’s A160 Hummingbird for Afghanistan, although the K-MAX’s ability to carry heavier loads up to 360 km (224 mi.) eventually won the day. The Hummingbird, however, remains a viable option. And in August 2011 the Army awarded the Lockheed Martin/Kaman team a $47 million deal while officials wrap up a larger study on a full range of unmanned cargo options.

The Army also has said that it is using a “hybrid-type acquisition approach” in developing a vertical-takeoff-and-landing Unmanned Aerial System (VTOL-UAS) program that will include a cargo role. The deployment will help the service build a program of record for a VTUAV, which will be a full and open competition for to all bidders.

Finally, another company interested is Textron’s AAI. Steve Reid, senior vice president and general manager of AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems, says the company has signed a license agreement with Carter Aviation for a manned, four-person rotary-winged asset that Textron is converting into an unmanned vehicle the company believes “would do the cargo mission that’s being talked about” quite nicely. The Navy has also been busy with other unmanned options, including awarding Northrop Grumman a contract in September to supply 28 MQ-8C Fire Scout VTOL-UAS’s (based on Bell’s 407 helicopter airframe), which the company has touted for its cargo-lugging capabilities.

Elsewhere, the Office of Naval Research has unveiled the Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System, a five-year, $98 million effort to develop sensors and control technologies for aircraft. Says Mary “Missy” Cummings, program officer for AACUS, “We want to turn any helicopter into a logistics machine.”


SecDef says smaller military will be ‘cutting edge’

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To avoid creating a hollow force, the Defense Department is not going to protect force structure at the expense of needed training and gear, top Pentagon officials said Thursday.

“The military will be smaller and leaner, but it will be agile, flexible, ready and technologically advanced; it will be cutting edge,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon as he unveiled more details ahead of the fiscal 2013 budget proposal.

Panetta addressed the media along with Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs chairman. Together, they unveiled some of the details from the Pentagon’s new five-year spending plan. The full 2013 budget release is planned for Feb. 13, when President Obama sends his budget request to Congress.

DoD’s plans revealed no sacrificial lambs: all three variants of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are safe; the Navy will maintain 11 aircraft carriers; and the Army’s major vehicle programs are intact.

Instead, to reduce projected spending by $487 billion over the next 10 years, the Pentagon is eliminating what it describes as “poorly performing programs,” while slowing down the production of others. Panetta also said DoD has identified an additional $60 billion in efficiencies.

The first tranche of the spending cuts — $259 billion — will come over the next five years.

These targets conform to the initial spending caps outlined in the Budget Control Act Congress passed by Congress in August.

However, they do not take into account the possibility of sequestration, which would initiate an additional $500 billion cut beginning in January 2013 if Congress does not find an alternative way to reduce the country’s deficit.

Panetta said he hopes that when members of Congress sees what it takes to make this first round of cuts, they will be convinced they need to act in order to avoid sequestration.

Vice Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld, who appeared with Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter after Panetta and Dempsey spoke, said DoD had arrived at its budget in a “very healthy way,” crafting strategy before making spending choices.

“Sequestration would reverse that,” he said.

DoD leaders also emphasized that the spending plan should be viewed as a complete package and that changes in one area could adversely affect others.

There is little room for modification to this plan while maintaining the quality of the force and providing troops with the capabilities they need, Panetta said.

In a message most likely for lawmakers, Carter said, “It is a carefully balanced package and therefore can’t be changed or modified piece by piece.”

The five-year plan reflects the new strategic guidance, released Jan. 5, by shifting focus toward the Asia-Pacific region, while maintaining influence in the Middle East.

In 2013, the Pentagon is requesting $525 billion for its base budget, with an additional $88.4 billion for overseas contingency operations. It projects the Defense Department will need $567 billion for its base budget in 2017.

The 2013 base budget represents the first budget to decline in nominal terms since 1998, down from 2012’s $531 billion.

The topline number is directly shaped by the Budget Control Act’s cap on security spending, which is set at $686 billion for 2013. That has to cover funding for the Defense Department as well as the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Veterans Affairs Department.

Panetta reminded reporters that it was a bipartisan Congress that mandated these defense cuts.

The budget document describes the investment choices as “hard but manageable” and places the budget in a historical context, saying that after every major conflict, the U.S. has experienced “significant budget drawdowns.”

The description of reductions, however, had little impact on stock prices, as Wall Street met the news calmly. Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics all saw their stock prices decline by less than 1 percent, while Lockheed Martin and Raytheon saw increases of less than 1 percent. Market analysts had predicted that stock pricing had already assumed significant defense cuts.


With the end of war in Iraq and the beginning of a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, there will be further reductions to the ground forces.

Panetta announced the Army will be reduced from 547,000 active-duty soldiers to 490,000, while the Marine Corps will be cut to 182,000.

“I’m confident 490,000 is the right number for 2017,” Dempsey said, reminding reporters that this was the number for active duty soldiers and does not include the National Guard and Reserve.

However, “it might not be the right number for 2020,” he added.

The Army also plans to remove at least eight brigade combat teams from its existing force structure.

“Even with these reductions, the Army and Marine Corps will be larger than they were in 2001,” according to the document titled “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices,” which outlines the investment decisions discussed by Panetta and Dempsey.

These reductions in force size do require a corresponding reduction in the military’s facilities resources.

Therefore, the president will request that Congress authorize use of the Base Realignment and Closure process with a goal of identifying savings “that can be reinvested in higher priorities as soon as possible.”

“The best approach to reducing that infrastructure politically on Capitol Hill is to work it through the BRAC process,” Panetta said.

The Pentagon did not tie any savings to potential base closures, because those require congressional authorization.

“If we tied savings to it before Congress authorized it, and they didn’t authorize it, it would undermine our whole budget,” Panetta said.

As for overseas basing, the Pentagon says the Army and Marine Corps will sustain force structure in the Pacific, while “maintaining persistent presence” in the Middle East.


The Pentagon has budgeted to forward station littoral combat ships in Singapore and patrol craft in Bahrain.

It has also provided funding for a new “afloat forward staging base that can be dedicated to support missions in areas where ground-based access is not available, such as counter-mine operations.”

The Army will reduce its current footprint in Europe by two heavy brigades, while establishing and maintaining a new rotational presence in Europe.

With the Defense Department shifting its focus to the Asia-Pacific region, the Air Force will maintain the current strategic bomber fleet and will also fund a new bomber program, according to the document.

By doing so, the Pentagon has decided to protect all three legs of the nuclear triad. However, the Navy will have to delay its Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine replacement by two years.

Carter described the submarine’s original schedule as “aggressive, bordering on optimistic.”

The Navy and Marines will also retain their air-power assets, with the sea services retaining all 11 aircraft carriers, 10 carrier air wings, and all of the amphibious assault ships.

All three F-35 Joint Strike Fighter variants are safe, but the Pentagon has decided to slow down procurement to allow for more testing.

Panetta said the Air Force would also continue with its plans to purchase next generation KC-46 tanker aircraft.

DoD will also invest in new air-to-air missiles, new radars for tactical aircraft and ships, more electronic warfare and communications capabilities.

The Navy will build a new “prompt strike option” from submarines and will add cruise missile capacity to its Virginia-class boats.

The Air Force will lose six tactical fighter squadrons and a training squadron, while the Navy loses seven Ticonderoga-class cruisers, one of which has missile defense capability, but which needs a lot of repairs, the budget document says.

One big-deck amphibious ship and a submarine will be delayed. Two smaller amphibious dock landing ships will be decommissioned and their replacements delayed.

The Navy also loses eight joint high speed vessels and two littoral combat ships.

The Air Force is losing the Block 30 version of the Global Hawk, but other variants, namely the Navy’s RQ-4N and Air Force’s Block 40, are safe.

Carter explained that the Block 30 version was supposed to replace Lockheed Martin’s U-2 spy plane but it priced itself out of the niche for taking pictures in the air, Carter said.

“That’s a disappointment for us, but that’s the fate of things that become too expensive in a resource-constrained environment,” he added.

Air mobility takes a hit with 27 C-5A Galaxy airlifters being retired along with 65 older C-130s. The entire C-27 fleet of 38 cargo aircraft is also being scrapped by the Air Force.

However, there will also be investment in advance unmanned aircraft, and the Air Force will gain the capability to operate 65 Predator/Reaper patrols and surge to 85 when needed. Today, the Air Force can fly 61 orbits continuously.

For the Army, the Pentagon has curtailed the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, a floating missile defense sensor.

The Joint-Air-to-Ground-Missile’s funding has been reduced, with money kept in the budget to find a lower cost alternative.

The Army will cancel its effort to recapitalize its Humvee fleet and will instead focus resources on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

F-35B Aircraft is the Latest Addition to Marine Corps Fleet


On January 11, 2012, excitement surrounds the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida as the Marine Corps welcomes the newest member to its fleet. The F-35B is a variation of the Joint Strike Figther. It is a tactical fixed-wing aircraft that will replace the aging jets of the Marine Corps. The Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 which is the F-35 training squadron of 2d Marine Aircraft Wing based at Eglin AFB is the first squadron to receive the F-35B. The aircraft will be used for pilot and technician training.

According to Maj. Gen. Jon M. Davis, commanding general of 2d MAW, “The Marine Corps has to be ready to fight across the spectrum of war; a force that is most ready when the nation is least ready. The F-35B gives us the capability to do just that.”

The F-35B has a short take-off and vertical landing capabilities. It will reduce maintenance cost while helping the marine ensure its tactical dominance needed to dissuade potential adversaries and protect the nation’s interest. The aircraft will replace the Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA-6B Prowler.

Commanding Officer of VMFAT-501, Lt. Col. James B. Wellons added praise to the F-35B, “The STOVL capability of the F-35B will enable us to deploy with the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and ensure these fifth-generation capabilities are available when needed. Our mission is to conduct F-35B operations in coordination with our joint and coalition partners at Eglin Air Force Base in order to attain our annual pilot training requirement.”

The F-35B completed 250 vertical landings this year. It includes 72 vertical landings and shoirt takeoffs on the USS Wasp in October.


Widows try to clear names of Osprey pilots

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It’s been be 11 years since a V-22 Osprey plunged to the earth in Marana, Ariz., killing its two pilots and the 17 other Marines aboard, and a Jacksonville military widow believes she may finally be close to setting the history books straight regarding the tragedy.

The doomed flight of April 8, 2000, began as a night training exercise near Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, with two V-22s conducting non-combat maneuvers. Though the aircraft was still in early stages of use by the military and by the crews aboard, the flight went smoothly, up until the point that the following Osprey, codenamed Nighthawk 72, attempted to land at the nearby Marana Airport. With the lead Osprey descending quickly from much higher than planned, the following aircraft found itself in rotor stall, its pilots apparently unable to control its final descent. Veering right, the Osprey crashed into the ground in a fiery explosion.

Though the event was an unthinkable tragedy for the loved ones of all aboard, another moment of horror was in store for the widows of the V-22‘s pilots, Maj. Brooks Gruber and Lt. Col. John Brow, when results of an investigation into the incident were made public several months later. While the Judge Advocate General Manual Report was more nuanced, a press release from the Marine Corps summarizing the findings announced that a combination of human and other factors had caused the crash, with the chain of events leading to the Osprey’s fate involving deviations from the scheduled flight plan and the rapid rate of descent.

In the release, then-Marine commandant Gen. James L. Jones issued a statement backing the findings.

“The tragedy is that these were all good Marines joined in a challenging mission,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the pilots’ drive to accomplish that mission appears to have been the fatal factor.”

Immediately, media reports broadcast to the world that pilot error had caused the fatal crash, a conclusion that widows Connie Gruber and Trish Brow instantly and vehemently contested.

“It was a rude awakening for me, and I knew right then and there that whatever information released to the media to imply this accusation was false; and I intended from that day forward to do whatever necessary to protect my husband’s professional reputation and guarantee him the honor he and his comrades so deserved,” Gruber told The Daily News.

She appeared on 60 Minutes soon after the crash, saying that Maj. Gruber had been pulled into the role of test pilot, operating an aircraft about which much still was unknown. She has since reaffirmed her belief in a variety of media interviews that her husband was not to blame. In 2009, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), who promised to assist Gruber after meeting her at a memorial service soon after the crash, introduced a House resolution absolving the pilots of guilt for the record and blaming the crash instead on Vortex Ring State, a stalled condition to which the Osprey was particularly prone and for which the pilots were not adequately trained.

While the resolution died in committee, new voices have surfaced in recent months to give credence to these claims. Between June and July, Jones received letters from each of the three Marine investigators who had been responsible for establishing findings from the Marana crash. For the cause, the reports were heartening.

Then-Lt. Col. Michael Morgan, the lead investigator, wrote to Jones that no ambiguity should remain in records of the incident.

“In my opinion … John Brown and Brooks Gruber performed as model wingmen on this mission. They were doing exactly what is expected of wingmen on a tactical flight,” he wrote.

In summary, Morgan said he looked forward to the day when Defense officials accurately recognized the pilots’ sacrifice.

Then-Lt. Col. Ronald Radich wrote to say the crash had served to highlight the hazards of VRS, then a little-known phenomenon, even in the aviation community.

But for the sacrifice of the 19 Marines, he wrote, “the highly adverse effects of V-22 VRS would have continued to remain dominant … For the price the crew and passengers paid to discover this, it would be morally wrong to place the blame on the pilots of Nighthawk 72.”

Phillip Stackhouse, then a captain, wrote to say that blame was never intended to be set at the feet of the aircraft’s pilots.

“For any record that reflects the mishap was a result of pilot error, it should be corrected,” he said. “For any publication that reflects the mishap was a result of pilot error, it should be corrected and recanted.”

Stackhouse, now a military defense attorney in Jacksonville, told The Daily News the point had been clear from the conclusion of the investigation.

“From my perspective, it was never my intent with the command investigation to place blame on the pilots with the mishap,” he said.

Though Navy Secretary Ray Mabus issued a clarification for Maj. Gruber’s file stating that “no single action by any single pilot would necessarily have caused the mishap; it was not necessarily pilot error,” Jones said the wording does not satisfy.

“The family would like one of two things: an amendment or addendum to the JAGMAN report or a public declaration from the commandant of the Marine Corps or secretary of the Navy stating that the two pilots were not at fault,” he said.

Jones is now working to gain support for a new legislative effort to establish the pilots’ innocence.

For Gruber, the new support may mean some light at the end of a decade-long tunnel for her, her 11-year-old daughter Brooke and the Brow family, as well as a chance to see the pilots’ legacy rightly honored.

“I’m very optimistic,” she said. “After all this time, it is time that it be corrected. We’re not going to give up at this point.

“We’ve been involved too long now to just let it go.”

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