Wright-Patt experiment narrows planes in future test flights

Published: Sunday, February 04, 2018 @ 6:00 AM


            The AT-6 Wolverine. CONTRIBUTED
The AT-6 Wolverine. CONTRIBUTED

An Air Force experiment that pitted four light attack planes against one another over the skies of New Mexico has narrowed to two, the service branch said.

The Textron AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer Defense & Security’s A-29 Super Tuscano, both propeller-driven aircraft, will fly at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., between May and July this year.

The Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office at Wright-Patterson is overseeing the $6 million experiment.

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Textron AirLand’s Scorpion jet and L3’s and Air Tractor’s AT-802L Longsword also had been evaluated last summer at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., but will not be part of the next stage of the evaluation, the Air Force said.

Plans to test the planes in combat during the experiment were dropped. “At this time, we believe we have the right information to move forward with light attack, without conducting a combat demonstration,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, an Air Force spokeswoman, said in an email to this news outlet.

The experiments were meant to determine the cost to buy, operate and maintain the plane, if it can be mass produced quickly, and exported to other countries.

RELATED: Wright-Patt to oversee light-attack plane tests in New Mexico

“Will the U.S.A.F. get any?” asked Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with Virginia-based Teal Group. “It would make the U.S. unique, as a wealthy country operating a plane commonly found in countries where the threats are as low as the budgets. You can’t rule that out. On the other hand, not including a combat testing phase seems to indicate a relatively low priority for this.”

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The Air Force has searched for a low cost alternative to flying expensive fighter and attack aircraft in lower threat environments for a potential buy in the future.

“If all we’re doing is making circles in the air and waiting for a call to drop weapons, you won’t have to do it at tens of thousands of dollars per hour operating costs,” Ravi Penmetsa, a Wright-Patterson-based project official, said in an interview last year.

In the next step of the experiment, the Air Force will evaluate maintenance and logistics demands, weapons and sensors, training scenarios, and ability to operate jointly with other countries, among a list of test goals.

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Senate defense bill has $66M less for Wright-Patt project than House

Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 5:43 PM
Updated: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 5:43 PM

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

The Senate Armed Services Committee has set aside $116 million for a National Air and Space Intelligence Center complex expansion at Wright-Patterson, millions less than a House version in a defense bill, but a spokeswoman says U.S. Sen. Rob Portman will advocate for the full amount.

The $182 million project would vastly expand NASIC, add new computer labs and equipment and relieve overcrowding as the agency has grown to more than 3,000 workers over the past 15 years, authorities have said. The secretive intelligence agency provides assessments of air, space and cyber threats to national political and military leaders.

“This is important for the political and national security work done at NASIC and good for the base,” Portman said.

In a House version of the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, the authorization bill combined what had been two years of funding for the project — $116 million one year, and $66 million for the next — into one year.

Portman spokeswoman Emily Benavides said Friday while the Senate version wasn’t expected to impact construction, the senator would advocate for the full amount when it takes up the issue in June.

RELATED: Massive project could be one of the largest in Wright-Patt history

The Air Force had initially asked for the funding in two separate amounts over different years.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, whose district includes Wright-Patterson, had advocated for the funding in one year in the House legislation.

The House Armed Services Committee member said in an interview sit was a “big win” for the base “which gives us the assurance this is a project that will go forward.”

As national decision makers and others have demanded more intelligence, NASIC’s workforce has increased by about 1,500 employees, or 100 a year between 2000 and 2015, according to the agency.

The building would bring employees in six different locations into one facility. An expansion would add 900 seats to house intelligence analysts and engineers and add labs.

NASIC expects the Army Corps of Engineers to award a final contact by 2020 with a 2½-year construction schedule. Total funding in future years will determine the size of the expansion, however the Air Force has said NASIC has a deficit of 255,000-square-feet, she said.

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Air Force could have more say in Wright-Patterson hospital’s future under bill

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 2:49 PM

Emergency room sign at Wright-Patterson Medical Center STAFF FILE PHOTO
Emergency room sign at Wright-Patterson Medical Center STAFF FILE PHOTO

An Ohio congressman has added an amendment to a defense policy bill that would give military services like the Air Force more of a say in the potential closure or cuts in services at medical facilities, a spokesman says.

U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, added the amendment as part of the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House on Thursday in a 351-66 vote.

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The amendment would require a description of the criteria used to close any military hospital or cut services, and allow input from the military branch.

The Defense Health Agency evaluates health services throughout the Department of Defense, including Wright-Patterson Medical Center, which in prior years was under pressure to increase the use of inpatient beds.

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Military base water safety questions remain as fight for study continues

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 5:29 PM
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 3:30 PM


            Congressman Mike Turner
Congressman Mike Turner

A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers have called on the U.S. EPA leader to release a chemical pollution study that reportedly shows lower threshold levels for groundwater contamination that could impact more than a hundred military bases, including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, but the head of the agency said he doesn’t have the authority to release the study.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, in his own letter this month, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers from California to Massachusetts in a separate letter, urged EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to release the study after Politico, citing newly released emails, reported the White House and the EPA had sought to block the public release of the U.S. Health and Human Services report because “it would cause a public relations nightmare.”

But in a response to Turner’s letter and the other congressional leaders, Pruitt wrote this week the Health and Human Services agency had the right to release the research findings, but “the EPA does not have the authority to release this study.”

Turner now has urged HHS Secretary Alex Azar to release the report.

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Chemical substances known as perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have been found in the groundwater at Wright-Patterson and near a Dayton firefighting training site on McFadden Avenue. The material, commonly found in many household items, also was found in an old formula of firefighting foam sprayed at both sites.

Authorities say the water in the Dayton distribution system is safe to drink, and the substances have not been found in water delivered to consumers.

“Administrator Pruitt’s letter made it clear that the EPA is not currently blocking the release of the study on PFAS, although it did not indicate whether it had sought to block this release previously,” Turner said in a statement.

“The release of this study is a public health and safety issue for every community with a military installation, including mine,” Turner, whose district includes Wright-Patterson, wrote to Azar. The EPA has set a lifetime health advisory exposure level of 70 parts per trillion.

“If this study finds, as reported, that this is no longer an accurate level of safety for our water, Congress and our constituents need to know immediately so we can begin to address it,” Turner added.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said in a statement Wednesaday to this news outlet: “Keeping information from people about the health and safety of their water is disgraceful. The EPA and HHS must release this report immediately and work with the Air Force and the city of Dayton to ensure the water is safe.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement Wednesday: “(It’s) important to ensure EPA’s health advisories are up to date and reflect the best available science and information. The EPA and HHS should release this report immediately to ensure that the men and women serving our country, as well as our communities supporting them, are drinking clean, safe water.”

The EPA was part of a national leadership summit Tuesday that sought to address PFAS concerns around the nation. The federal agency reportedly barred some members of the press while Pruitt was speaking.

RELATED: Dayton faces two potential groundwater threats

In a May 18 letter, 13 House representatives on both sides of the political aisle from California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington state, had asked Pruitt to release the report. The lawmakers noted studies have linked the substances to cancer, thyroid disease, increased cholesterol, and fertility issues, among health concerns.

The group also sent a letter to Azar, according to U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, who was among those who co-signed the document.

“It’s a little hard for me that (Pruitt) won’t act to have the report released when he seems to have the authority to block the report,” he said Wednesday, referring to published reports. State policy makers especially could use the data to set contamination threshold levels, Kildee said.

“It ought to be out there,” he said. “We’ve seen this happen too many times.”

His district includes Flint, which has faced an ongoing drinking water crisis related to lead contamination.

The Department of Defense has identified 126 military installations that showed the chemical substances in excess of the EPA’s lifetime exposure advisory threshold where the firefighting foam was sprayed, lawmakers said.

The Health and Human Services study, known as the Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “concluded that PFOS and PFOA can cause human harm at a much lower level of exposure than previously acknowledged by EPA,” the lawmakers said.

City of Dayton officials have urged Wright-Patterson to take more aggressive action to prevent tainted groundwater migrating off base and potentially threatening groundwater pumping wells along the Mad River. Base authorities say they have installed monitoring wells to track where a contamination plume is headed and have pointed to the city’s firefighting training site as a possible source of contamination.

As a precaution, the city of Dayton closed several production wells along the Mad River.

Wright-Patterson built a $2.7 million groundwater treatment plant to reopen two drinking water production wells that had been closed because they had exceeded health advisory levels.

Brown’s office said the senator will offer an amendment to an upcoming defense bill for the Air Force to reimburse the city of Dayton for costs incurred with dealing with tracking and dealing with the potential contamination.

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Remembering the fallen: Roll call event Wednesday at AF museum

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 1:00 PM


            Taps was played May 26, 2016, by bugler Tech. Sgt. Cheryl Przytula, Air Force Band of Flight, during the 2016 Roll Call Memorial Service in the outdoor Memorial Park at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This year’s ceremony is at 9 a.m. May 23 and is open to the public. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ted Pitts)
Taps was played May 26, 2016, by bugler Tech. Sgt. Cheryl Przytula, Air Force Band of Flight, during the 2016 Roll Call Memorial Service in the outdoor Memorial Park at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This year’s ceremony is at 9 a.m. May 23 and is open to the public. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ted Pitts)

An annual memorial roll call reciting the names of 2,800 fallen service members from the region is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 23, in Memorial Park on the grounds of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Gold Star family member Catherine Beers-Conrad, an Air Force veteran whose father, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jack Beers, was killed in action in Vietnam, will speak at the ceremony.

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Gold Star family member Alejandron Villalva, who had a relative who died as a prisoner of war in Germany, will be a keynote speaker, organizers said.

The ceremony honors fallen service members since World War II in a 10-county region.

The 711th Human Performance Wing and 88th Air Base Wing will co-sponsor the public ceremony.

If inclement weather occurs, the gathering will take place at the Prairies Chapel and Religious Education Facility, 682 Chapel Lane.

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