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San Francisco, CA — It was 1986 when a young Sammy Holmes first witnessed the Blue Angels soaring above Andrews Air Force Base in his native Maryland.
“It was a childhood dream of mine” to work with the Navy’s premier flight demonstration squad, he said. Holmes gets to wear the traditional blue-and-gold garb donned by members of the Blue Angels, but he realizes his job is one that Fleet Week air show attendees will likely overlook.
As part of maintenance control, Holmes, 33, directs and manages maintenance on the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft. In layman’s terms, he acts as the trainer in the corner, assuring that his fighter is in peak condition before answering the bell for the next round.
“The maintenance team has a very vital role,” said Holmes, who has spent five years in the Navy. “The public is usually not aware of the maintenance aspect of flying. However, everybody in our command, as well as our officers, they understand the vital role we play in making sure that they are able to fly their show, and they are very grateful for that.”
But despite accomplishing his boyhood dream, the future looked uncertain after Holmes graduated from high school.
“I was pretty unsure about what I wanted to do with myself,” he said. “I had a couple of dead-end jobs and finally landed myself a position working at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.”
After a six-year stint there, Holmes opted for a “change” and decided to continue his education in aviation.
“I felt that the Navy was the best career path for me to do that with,” he said. “I have been blessed in my Navy career in a very short time to make it to this level of perfection.”
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U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss has written to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stating the Pentagon should cease additional purchases of the F-18E/F fighter and focus its limited dollars on buying Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters.
Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia outlined his case in letter last Thursday, urging the Defense Secretary to “fully commit to the expeditious fielding” of the F-35 and “forgo procuring additional fourth generation aircraft such as the F-18E/F.”
The non-stealth Boeing F-18 fighter is of “limited to no value in any future threat scenario and will only drain scarce budgetary resources from systems designed to keep us ahead of our adversaries,” said Chambliss, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Navy and Pentagon last September signed a $5.3 billion contract for an additional 124 F-18s.
Chambliss’ letter is the second in a week from a Republican lawmaker telling the Pentagon to more vigorously defend its No. 1 weapons program at a time of tightening budgets.
Texas Senator John Cornyn wrote Aug. 24 that the Pentagon’s “failure to sufficiently defend” the $382 billion program is leading to calls in Congress to curtail it.
Chicago-based Boeing monitors the F-35’s progress and can supply more F-18 Super Hornets or F-15 Strike Eagles if needed, Dennis Muilenburg, head of Boeing’s defense unit, said in an interview last December.
“We know our customers have significant challenges right now on how they fit the capability they need into a limited budget,” Muilenburg said. “If there’s a desire to increase the size of the Super Hornet fleet, we are well prepared and equipped to do that.”
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NASCAR driver Carl Edwards couldn’t have asked for a more properly suited birthday present. The driver of the #99 Aflac Ford had little time to celebrate his 32nd birthday last Monday after rain postponed Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen by a day. But Tuesday turned into a delayed birthday reward appropriate for a man who loves speed and thrills.
As part of a promotion for the September races at Richmond International Raceway, the track staff arranged for Edwards and a small media contingent to pay a visit to the Nimitz class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. However, the group would not make a casual gangplank entry onto a vessel at dock but instead reach the ship by means that many Navy personnel aboard had never experienced.
The Eisenhower set sail out of the Norfolk on Monday morning and by Tuesday the vessel was well underway running training missions in the Atlantic Ocean, 200 miles south-southwest of the coast. So RIR and the US Navy arranged for Edwards and company to fly out of Norfolk on a C2 Greyhound transport and make a tailhook landing aboard the flight deck. With the assistance of arresting cables, the plane quickly decelerated on the 1000 foot deck, going from 105 mph to a dead stop in two seconds.
But that was only the beginning of the fun for Edwards.
He exited the transport, traversed the narrow corridors and nearly vertical stairways of the craft to meet up with the Eisenhower’s top officers. Captain Marcus Hitchcock provided Edwards with a warm welcome then gave a quick rundown of his vessel’s current mission- training F-18 pilots to land and take off from an aircraft carrier in preparation of deployment overseas. “It’s day and night,” Hitchcock said. “We go to about 2 a.m. every morning.”
Edwards was then suited up in safety gear and escorted back the flight deck where he stood scant feet away as F-18s made tailhook landings and takeoffs via catapult launch.
On the open ocean, a steady stiff wind blows across the flight deck, trip hazards are everywhere and there is no railing to prevent someone from accidently falling, or as everyone was warned, being blown off the deck, by wind or jet turbulence. The result of which would be a 100 foot plunge to the ocean below.
Though known for his adventurous spirit, even Edwards was daunted by, not only the level of speed, but the dangers each of the sailors face in everyday life.
“They let me go up there and stand right next to the F-18s while they were landing and taking off,” an amazed Edwards said.
The experience also gave Edwards a different perspective on his own sport. “I guess in a lot of ways right now I feel like a race fan,” he said. “I saw Top Gun when I was a kid and thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life.
“I watch the Discovery Channel and the History Channel and watch shows about these aircraft carriers,” he said. “To stand there right next to the catapult launch and to stand next to the arresting cables and stuff and to see it happen, it’s got to be what the fans feel like when they stand next to the fence and seeing NASCAR for the first time.”
Because the Eisenhower is currently in and out of port on training missions there is the possibility it will be docked in time for the races at RIR.
“A lot of these guys will be out there at Richmond, which will be really cool to know that while we’re out there driving they’re experiencing our sport the same way I’m experiencing their lives,” Edwards said.
Edwards then returned below decks to the cavernous #2 hanger bay where he spent the majority of his day signing autographs and talking with each of a long line of sailors.
“It’s crazy,” Edwards said. “People have all sorts of NASCAR stuff. I saw a couple of #99 hats and I met people from all over the country. There were folks from Missouri. One guy, his sister went to the prom with my brother, so I’m almost related to guy here, that’s crazy.”
But overall, Edwards felt surprised at the level of interest in NASCAR among the Eisenhower’s crew. “It’s amazing how many of these folks follow our sport and love NASCAR.”
Nicholas Deweese easily fell into that category. In 2009, the E-6 out of Chesapeake, Va. was named the second biggest NASCAR fan in the country by the Official NASCAR Members Club. Though an avid Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, Deweese was just as happy with Edwards’ visit. “NASCAR is NASCAR,” he said. “We get a driver out here it doesn’t matter who it is.”
But even Deweese was not above a little traditional NASCAR digging. “It’s better than Kyle Busch, that’s for sure.” Deweese still holds a grudge from the 2009 race at RIR where Busch spun out Earnhardt on the final laps.
Though he holds no official NASCAR title, Mechanicsville’s Jeremy Jackson considered himself of even higher standing than Deweese. MMC Select Jackson is a nuclear mechanic that has served aboard the Eisenhower since January of 2009.
“I’m probably the world’s biggest NASCAR fan,” he said. “I’m a Jeff Gordon fan but when I was told Carl Edwards, I was giggling like a kid at Christmas…Jeff Gordon’s my favorite driver but just anybody could have come out here and I’d just be tickled pink.”
The 2002 graduate of Lee-Davis High School got his chance to talk with Edwards and have a wooden storage case autographed. “It’s awesome that they’d come out here,” Jackson said. “We have some distinguished visitors come out and stuff like that, but he is by far the coolest that’s come out here.”
Jackson tried to relate just how important visits, not only by Edwards, but also the contingent following him, are to the military. “It lets you know, out of his busy schedule and all of you taking time out of your schedule, to come out here and visit and you get to see the ship under way,” Jackson said. “See how we kind of do things under way. It means a lot to me personally. Some people really don’t approve of the military but to have you all come out here, it reminds us that people still care.”
Though the level of speed and excitement of aircraft carrier life may be the same in NASCAR, Edwards said there is really no comparison between the two. “What we do is fun,” he said. “We go out and race. We do it in weather that’s nice. We have rules and all these things. These guys are out here and they’re ready for anything. This is real. It’s a hostile environment for a number of reasons. There are a lot of similarities but this is serious, there’s a lot on the line.”
In the mess hall, Edwards was presented with a cake and the complimentary singing of ‘Happy Birthday,’ by crew members.
Edwards visit then wrapped up with his biggest thrill of the day; a catapult launch of the C2 for the trip back to Norfolk. The steam powered catapult accelerated the transport plane from zero to 128 mph in three seconds.
“They told me that plane was 53,000 pounds at take off,” Edward said. “Fifty-three thousand pounds they accelerated like that! I deal with a lot of speed and acceleration but nothing like that, that was crazy.”
Back on the ground in Norfolk with his delayed birthday surprise complete, Edwards was left with a great appreciation for the men and women who serve in the military. “It’s just spectacular what these sailors are out here doing,” he said. “They’re sacrificing and putting themselves in a very high risk environment for our country and it’s an honor that they had us here today. It’s really amazing to see.
“When I’m sitting in my racecar this week (at Michigan), I’ll be thinking about these guys watching from an aircraft carrier,” he said. “That’s pretty cool.”
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For the dozen lawmakers tasked with producing a deficit-cutting plan, the threatened “doomsday” defense cuts hit close to home.
The six Republicans and six Democrats represent states where the biggest military contractors — Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics Corp., Raytheon Co. and Boeing Co. — build missiles, aircraft, jet fighters and tanks while employing tens of thousands of workers.
The potential for $500 billion more in defense cuts could force the Pentagon to cancel or scale back multibillion-dollar weapons programs. That could translate into significant layoffs in a fragile economy, generate millions less in tax revenues for local governments and upend lucrative company contracts with foreign nations.
The cuts could hammer Everett, Washington, where some of the 30,000 Boeing employees are working on giant airborne refueling tankers for the Air Force, or Amarillo, Texas, where 1,100 Bell Helicopter Textron workers assemble the fuselage, wings, engines and transmissions for the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
Billions in defense cuts would be a blow to the hundreds working on upgrades to the Abrams tank for General Dynamics in Lima, Ohio, or the employees of BAE Systems in Pennsylvania.
For committee members such as Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., the threat of Pentagon cuts is an incentive to come up with $1.5 trillion in savings over a decade. Failure would have brutal implications for hundreds of thousands workers back home and raise the potential of political peril for the committee’s 12.
“I think we all have very good reasons to try to prevent” the automatic cuts, Toomey told reporters last week when pressed about the impact on Pennsylvania’s defense industry. “That is not the optimal outcome here, the much better outcome would be a successful product from this committee.”
The panel has until Thanksgiving to come up with recommendations. If they deadlock or if Congress rejects their proposal, $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board cuts kick in. Up to $500 billion would hit the Pentagon.
Those cuts, starting in 2013, would be in addition to the $350 billion, 10-year reduction already dictated by the debt-limit bill approved by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama this month.
Not surprisingly, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has described the automatic cuts as the “doomsday mechanism.” He’s warned that the prospect of nearly $1 trillion in reductions over a decade would seriously undermine the military’s ability to protect the United States.
For the Pentagon, “we’re talking about cuts of such magnitude that everything is reduced to some degree,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a think tank. “At that rate, you’re eliminating the next generation of weapons.”
Committee members will face competing pressures as they try to produce a deficit-reducing plan.
As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a possible successor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton if Obama wins a second term, Sen. John Kerry is certain to be protective of the budget for the State Department.
Yet the Massachusetts Democrat, who recently said he would seek a sixth term in 2014, represents a state that was fifth in the nation with $8.37 billion in defense contracts this year, behind Virginia, California, Texas and Connecticut, according to data on the federal government’s website USAspending.gov.
In Tewksbury and Andover, Mass., deep defense cuts could have serious ramifications for thousands of Raytheon employees working on the Patriot, the air and missile defense system. It was heralded for its effectiveness during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and is now sold to close to a dozen nations, including South Korea, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates.
Whatever decisions Kerry and the committee make will affect Massachusetts-based Raytheon, which was fourth in defense contracts this year at $7.3 billion, behind Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics. Raytheon also has operations in Arizona, home to another committee member, Republican Sen. Jon Kyl.
“While some will argue there is peril in serving on this committee, we believe there is far greater peril in leaving these issues unaddressed,” Kerry said in a joint statement with Murray and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., after they were selected by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
In February, Murray celebrated when the Air Force ended a decade-long saga of delays and missteps and awarded one of the biggest defense contracts ever, a $35 billion deal to build nearly 200 air refueling tankers, to Boeing, a mainstay in her home state.
Boeing was fourth on the list of donors to Murray from 2007-2012, with its political action committee, individual employees and family members contributing $102,610.
Michigan is home to two committee members, Republican Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton, and General Dynamics work on the Abrams tank. The state is struggling with a 10.5 percent unemployment rate, which is above the national average.
Already facing the prospect of $350 billion in defense cuts over 10 years, the Pentagon could look to scale back some projects, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy aircraft that has been plagued by cost overruns and delays.
Lockheed Martin, in conjunction with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, is building 2,400 of the next generation fighter jet for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as working with eight foreign countries. But the cost of the program has jumped from $233 billion to $385 billion; some estimates suggest that it could top out at $1 trillion over 50 years.
Questioned about the defense cuts, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen recently said that “programs that can’t meet schedule, that can’t meet cost … requirements are very much in jeopardy and will be very much under scrutiny.”
The Joint Strike Fighter is being built in Fort Worth, Texas, and Palmdale and El Segundo, Calif. Those are the states of committee members Reps. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Xavier Becerra, D-Calif. Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems also have operations in Pennsylvania.
The Pentagon could decide to scrap the program or scale it back while upgrading the existing F-15 and F-18 aircraft, a troubling prospect for lawmakers from the states that benefit from F-35 production.
In the military world, however, reducing the number could make it more costly.
“The problem when you cut back in numbers is you increase the number for one, you increase the cost for one,” said Laicie Olson, a senior policy analyst with Council for a Livable World and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. “Sometimes it’s almost better to buy more.”
Boeing, in a statement, said it has been “anticipating flattening defense budgets for some time.” Company spokesman Daniel C. Beck said that while Boeing is trying to improve production and efficiency, it’s moving into new markets such as cybersecurity and energy management.
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Two Marines who were aboard an F/A-18 Hornet were plucked from the water, Thursday, after spending hours in the Pacific Ocean.
The F/A-18 Hornet crashed while flying with another jet that reported it missing around 10:15 p.m., Wednesday and noted debris in the water. The two men ejected safely from their crashing jet fighter. The F/A-18 aircraft was based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
The Navy and U.S. Coast Guard began an air and sea search that included dropping a flare to illuminate the area. Before dawn Thursday, the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Edisto heard the Marines yelling for help and blowing a rescue whistle about 35 miles off the coast and about 85 miles southwest of San Diego.
“They were just basically floating in the water,” Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Henry G. Dunphy said.
A helicopter lowered a rescue swimmer, who plucked the Marines from the water about 2:30 a.m., Dunphy said.It was unclear what survival gear the Marines might have had, and what conditions they faced in the water.
The men were in serious but stable condition at Naval Medical Center San Diego. Their names and details of their injuries were not immediately released.
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Lockheed Martin will try and sell the F-16 aircraft to the Czech Republic when the current lease for Gripen fighters expire in 2015.
The Defence Ministry asked France, the United States, Sweden and the Eurofighter consortium in December for a preliminary bid of supersonic fighters for the Czech military. Lockheed is the second arms maker to publicly announce its interest in the tender, after the Swedish Saab that would like the Czech Republic to keep Gripens, Ekonom.cz writes.
The server wrote that the concern would probably again offer F-16s that are used, for instance, in the neighbouring Poland, in Belgium and Denmark. However, they would probably not succeed in the tender.
“If we sought a new quality, we would definitely not speak about F-16,” the server quotes Czech fighter wing commander Jaroslav Mika as saying recently.
Lockheed might also offer its new stealth aircraft F-35.But they are still being developed and on top of that, they would be too expensive for the Czech Republic, the server writes.
Five companies bid for the order in 1999 preliminarily: U.S. McDonnell-Douglas/Boeing (F/A-18 plane) and Lockheed Martin (F-16), French Dassault Aviation (Mirage 2000-5), EADS (Eurofighter) consortium and the British-Swedish BAE Systems/Saab consortium (Jas-39 Gripen).
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A Spanish F/A-18 from Aviano AB, Italy
Two Spanish Hornets flew the country’s first mission in Libya along with a 707 tanker on Monday.
The Defense Ministry confirmed that Spanish F/A-18s joined the military operation in Libya on Monday. Two F-18 fighters and a Boeing-707 refueling aircraft took off at midday from Decimomannu airbase in southern Italy.
The official announcement from the minister of defense states that these aircraft will perform the first air-patrol mission as part of the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.
Spain has deployed four F-18s and the refueling plane to assist in enforcing the no-fly zone in Libya which was approved Thursday, authorizing the use of force to protect the civilian population from attacks by troops loyal to strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
The Spanish F/A-18 Hornets will operate under the command of the international coalition, currently led by U.S. Gen. Carter Ham.
The F/A-18 has proven to be an ideal component of the carrier based tactical aviation equation over its 15 years of operational experience. The only F/A-18 characteristic found to be marginally adequate by battle group commanders, outside experts, and even the men who fly the Hornet, is its range when flown on certain strike mission profiles.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will appear Tuesday before the lower house of Parliament to request authorization for Spain’s armed forces to take part in the Libyan mission. The requirement for the operation to get the green light from Parliament is stated in Spain’s National Defense Law, which nonetheless says that for reasons of urgency, the operation could begin without formal approval.
Source: Original Article from Fox News Latino
Aircraft Information from FAS, photo via Google images
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Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) is honoring Naval Aviation’s 100 years of flight in 2011 by participating in the Heritage Paint Project to create living history on Navy aircraft. For the Centennial of Naval Aviation (CoNA) celebration, painters at the military maintenance depot are meticulously applying vintage paint schemes covering several eras of Naval Aviation to selected aircraft not scheduled for deployment.
Fleet Readiness Center Southeast aircraft painters apply a coat of Blue Gray over Light Gull Gray paint, a standard color scheme used by the Navy into 1943, to an S-3B Viking in October 2010.
In October 2010, FRCSE painters completed their first heritage color scheme on an S-3B Viking during a major maintenance event.
The S-3 squadrons trace their early roots back to the carrier-based torpedo squadrons that fiercely fought in the Pacific theater during World War II, according to Centennial of Naval Aviation Project Director and Historian Capt. Richard Dann.
“During the early days of WWII, Naval aircraft received a camouflage of Blue Gray over Light Gull Gray,” he said. “This was the standard scheme for aircraft into 1943. During WWII, paint schemes went through four major changes.”
When he traveled to Jacksonville to accept the Viking in November 2010, VX-30 Commanding Officer Cmdr. John Rousseau said the squadron wanted to participate in the centennial and “pay tribute to our heritage.”
“We chose a paint scheme from 1942 to commemorate the Battle of Midway, the turning point of the war in the Pacific,” said Rousseau.
FRCSE painted its second aircraft, an F/A-18 Hornet, in January to represent mid-WWII, from late 1943 to late 1944.
FRCSE painters applied Sea Blue paint to the top of the Hornet and Intermediate Blue to the fuselage sides, vertical stabilizers, the LEX (leading edge extension) fences and the bottom portion of the wing outside the fold line. They painted the bottom with Insignia White.
F/A-18 Hornet Pilot Cmdr. Mitch Conover delivered the aircraft to the “Flying Eagles” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 122 in Lemoore, Calif., Jan. 13.
VFA-122 Maintenance Office Cmdr. Frank Bennett, responsible for 110 aircraft said of the Hornet with its heritage paint scheme, “The entire NAS Lemoore flight line likes it.”
“It looks a lot better than the artist’s rendition,” he said. “We are doing an acceptance inspection right now. We are painting on additional WWII markings, insignias from the USS Hornet (CV-12) for the kick-off celebration of the CoNA in San Diego next month.”
On Jan. 19, a P-3C Orion receives a vintage paint scheme used on large patrol aircraft from about 1957 to 1963. Aircraft painters at Fleet Readiness Center Southeast are painting the aircraft for Patrol Squadron (VP) 9, based in Hawaii in honor of the 100th anniversary of Naval Aviation. (U.S. Navy photo by Vic Pitts/Released)
On Jan. 28, Fleet Readiness Center Southeast in Jacksonville, Fla., completes a heritage paint scheme on a P-3C Orion for Patrol Squadron (VP) 9 attached to Marine Corps Base Hawaii. The squadron chose to honor the VP-6 “Blue Sharks” by using the defunct squadron’s insignia on the modern aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo by Vic Pitts/Released)