Updates | Cherry Point

A-6 Intruder Association Unveils New Havelock Tribute

May 20, 2019

 
A-6 Intruder Association unveils new Havelock tribute. ACT. MCAS Cherry Point

On Friday, May 17, commanders, pilots, aircraft maintainers from both the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as tech reps, family members and interested civilians gathered at the Havelock Tourist and Event center to listen to guest speakers and see the unveiling of a 9-foot granite tribute erected in honor of the A-6 Intruder – a brawny, workhorse attack aircraft that has seen conflicts from Vietnam to the Gulf War. >>>read more

 

Marine Pilots Lack Airspace, Ordnance to Realistically Train for a Pacific Flight

May 13, 2019

 
Marine pilots training in the Pacific have inadequate flight training facilities. allies for Cherry Point.

By Todd South – Marine Corps Times 

Marine pilots training for missions in the Pacific don’t have adequate airspace and lack realistic electronic warfare threats, according to a new report.

And that’s not all.

These aviators don’t have moving targets, don’t have dedicated drone flight space and can’t use one of their most effective weapons before they first enter combat.

All of those findings and more from a recent government audit released to the public on April 17 led to one overarching conclusion: “Aviation units do not receive realistic training.”

The defense inspector general’s audit covered training ranges for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps under the Indo-Pacific Command.

One detail shows a direct connection to where these problems could hit pilots in combat.

A Harrier pilot told inspectors that there was not enough ordnance for training. Specifically, that the last time MAG-13 pilots had been able to use the joint direct attack munition, or JDAM, in training was in March 2016.

“He stated that as a result, there was a good chance that Marines would arrive in a combat environment never having trained with the JDAM,” per the report.

The same pilot added that the simulators used do not replicate the missile well and weren’t effective for realistic training. Training problems for Marine pilots were not isolated to one location or one type of aircraft.

Aviators who fly the new F-35B jet fighter, the aging AV-8 Harrier, the AH-1 Cobra and even unmanned drones reported training troubles.

“We are proactively working with the Office of the Secretary of Defense to address training shortfalls at Marine Corps ranges, including Yuma, (Arizona),” Capt. Joseph Butterfield, Headquarters Marine Corps public affairs, wrote in an email response.

The report included Marine Aircraft Groups 24, 12, 36 and 13. Those are spread out from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, across the Pacific to Japan and South Korea.

At the Fallon Range Training Complex, a naval air station in Nevada, weapons and tactics instructors, some with multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, told investigators that “airspace, release headings and impact areas” at the training site were “too restrictive to use the preferred standoff weapons that are required to defeat a near-peer threat.”

Aviators reported low fidelity electronic warfare training tools at FRTC, Yuma and the closest site for pilots in Okinawa to even train with the admittedly substandard EW tools was Iwakuni, on mainland Japan.

“Many of the ranges in our sample did not have the advanced electronic warfare systems needed to accurately replicate near-peer threats; therefore, training against electronic warfare systems at those ranges in our sample was not realistic,” inspectors wrote.

Even the surface-to-air threats at that range were dated, having been developed and fielded in the 1960s and 1970s.

An F-35 pilot at Yuma also reported that airspace restrictions prevented pilots from shooting stand off weapons. Restrictions also meant he could not fly in a fighting formation of four planes at a time. Pilots had to use simulators to do such basic tasks.

The Yuma site also can’t replicate “double-digit threats,” a key to air battle training for modern competitors.

A direct example, the Russian Pantsir long-range air defense system, which includes truck mounted surface-to-air missiles, was listed as one such threat that Marine pilots cannot train for at Yuma.

Even rotary wing pilots said that Yuma urban training complexes were so standard that after one or two runs pilots training became predictable.

It “does not provide a realistic training environment for helicopter gunnery operations,” according to the report.

Drone operators noted that they did not have any dedicated airspace at Yuma, having to share the skies with manned aircraft, which limited them in training.

A Harrier pilot also shared that the aircraft’s main weapon, a laser-guided rocket, could not be used to hit moving targets at the site because of a lack of moving targets to shoot.

The targets are remote-operated vehicles that tow a target sled. The report did not define why those items were unavailable or missing from training.

The assistant secretary of defense for sustainment told inspectors upon receiving the audit that the Pentagon would develop “a strategic plan to identify and address inadequacies at training ranges.”

Inspectors traveled from February to May 2018 to Arizona, California,

Alaska, Japan, Hawaii and South Korea to evaluate how well the ranges met training standards for realistic combat preparation, especially near-peer competitors.

 

 

Troubling Air Range Issues Demand Attention

May 13, 2019

 
Article discussing antiquated flight training facilities for US military. Allies for Cherry Point.

For a couple of years now, the topline strategy coming out of the Pentagon has called for a renewed emphasis on big nation state threats like Russia and China.

We’ve heard dire warnings from smart people who say the U.S. is rapidly losing its technological edge and that war with near-peer rivals would be much harder and more costly than we’d like.

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made improving “lethality” one of the top military buzzwords.

That’s why we were somewhat stunned to read a recent investigation report on the training ranges used by fighter jet pilots. The investigators found many training facilities are completely antiquated and unable to adequately prepare today’s units for a conventional war.

The investigation by the Defense Department Inspector General focused on ranges used to train for operations in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

For example, a Navy range in Nevada is still using 50-year-old surface-to-air simulators and electronic warfare simulators that do not “replicate the threats pilots would face in combat,” according to the report.

At a joint range up in Alaska, the electronic warfare simulators replicate Soviet missile systems from the 1980s and are so out of date that they do prepare pilots for today’s near-peer threats.

A U.S. Air Force training range in Japan features simulated surface-to-air threats “from the 1960s and 1970s,” according to the report.

Pilots complain that their training becomes “repetitive and predictable” after just a few runs.

“As a result,” the report concluded, “the aviation units in the USINDOPACOM area of responsibility could not train as they would fight.”

The IG blames these range problems on financial woes caused by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, ongoing counter-terrorism operations across the globe and the fluctuating budgets Congress imposed on the services during the past decade.

But at some point, the Pentagon also must take ownership of this problem.

It is not an effective use of scarce defense dollars to buy dozens of the most advanced aircraft in the world every year if the U.S. military cannot provide facilities for pilots to train on them and learn real-world warfighting skills.

This is just another example of how the politics of defense spending is eroding readiness. At one end are pressures to boost pay, mostly through targeted bonuses, and to increase the size of the force. At the other are the constant calls to ratchet up the purchase of high-tech weaponry and equipment.

So, what gets squeezed in the middle is the actual process of training the force we have to use the weapons systems we’ve already purchased.

Readiness is inherently complex and involves thousands of interrelated factors. It’s hard to hold the Pentagon leadership totally accountable for something that is essentially impossible to measure precisely.

This is especially true when most top leaders hold their top jobs only for a few years before moving on, creating a perverse incentive to kick the can down the road.

But finding Soviet-era missile systems at a training range used by F-22s and F-35s reflects a staggering level of negligence.

The inability of aviation forces to train as they fight increases the risk that they will be unable to accom- plish their mission and that attrition of pilots and aircraft will rise unnecessarily in an actual battle.

The problem has now been clearly identified. We are waiting to hear how it will be corrected.

(From the Editors – Marine Corps Times)

 

Military Protection Act Deserves Fair Shake

May 11, 2019

 
Senate Bill 377 will protect NC military bases from wind turbine obstruction. Allies for Cherry Point

Can you define economic development in two words? Cut through the academic mumbo-jumbo … and economic development is “more jobs.”

One strategy is to retain existing jobs and leverage your assets to make more jobs. That’s hard work. Another strategy is to attract and recruit employers who vow to create new jobs. That’s even harder work. Much harder, in fact.

View North Carolina Senate Bill 377 from an economic development perspective. To set the stage: The primary sponsors of this bill include Sen. Harry Brown of Jacksonville in Onslow County and Sen. Norman Sanderson of Arapahoe in Pamlico County. Both are Republicans.

Sen. Brown’s district includes Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Air Station New River. Sen. Sanderson’s district includes Carteret and Craven counties. The major employer for residents in both of these counties is MCAS Cherry Point in Havelock.

S.B. 377 is being referred to as the “Military Base Protection Act.” It seeks to “prohibit construction, operation or expansion of wind energy facilities in areas of the state where impacts of vertical obstruction have been determined to be significantly high, with a high risk for degrading safety and the military’s ability to perform aviation training.”

Sen. Brown correctly notes that the “U.S. Department of Defense is the second largest sector of North Carolina’s economy,” trailing only agriculture. The military accounts for 12% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce has calculated that the military provides 10% of all jobs statewide, with an annual economic impact of $66 billion. North Carolina ranks fourth in the nation in terms of the number of active duty military personnel and reservists. It’s an incredible reality … and one, pray tell, that is vastly under appreciated across much of the Old North State.

The North Carolina Military Affairs Commission (NCMAC) was established in 2013, and its primary goals are to “protect North Carolina’s existing military installations and missions and to expand defense related economic development in North Carolina.”

Achieving the first goal involves supporting all North Carolina’s existing military installations, infrastructure, training ranges and low level routes and ensuring they are protected “from encroachment or other initiatives that could degrade the military mission.” It is critical to “identify potential threats or problems and resolve them before they encroach on installations or adversely affect military training and other missions,” NCMAC contends.

Encroachment will be a major determining factor in the next BRAC, which would reactivate the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. (BRAC is not a true acronym, but the term is well understood in military circles.) BRAC will take an act of Congress, and military experts expect that day will come. As a result of BRAC, a military facility could lose possible additional assignments, have part of its mission reduced, have some of its responsibilities transferred to another facility … or face outright closure.

Sen. Brown has said that North Carolina’s military installations “are only as valuable as their ability to ensure the readiness of our service members, which is premised on their ability to train.” When that ability to train is diminished by commercial development and “incompatible use of the surrounding environs, our bases lose their value to the armed services they support,” he added.

“Why does it matter whether one of our installations loses value to the Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force?” Sen. Brown asked. “That loss in value will be reflected in BRAC decision-making. All that matters to a BRAC commission is whether the military can continue to do its job at its current location. If an installation reports that its ability to train has been compromised, a BRAC commission will find somewhere else in the country for it to train.”

“The loss of any single installation in North Carolina would be devastating for its host community and county,” Sen. Brown commented. Eastern North Carolina would suffer acutely, and it “would reverberate across the state as a whole.”

There is no economic development project out there that can replace the loss of a military base, Sen. Brown remarked, and the devastation would “be felt for generations in the future.”

The sustainability of military bases within North Carolina is clearly the responsibility of the state legislature, according to Sen. Brown. “We would be utterly negligent if we didn’t approach this with a BRAC mindset,” he asserted.

The “BRAC mindset” that Sen. Brown describes is essentially an attitude that is embraced throughout eastern North Carolina — to do whatever it takes to ensure we continue to hear the “sound of freedom” in our skies … and to spread the word that we would willingly accept “more of it.”

By proactively defending our bases, we also lay down an aggressive offensive strategy, one that is designed to accomplish NCMAC’s second goal.

That is to leverage our military assets to prove that eastern North Carolina is worthy of receiving “mission growth.” This is a place where people are both willing and able to greet, welcome, accommodate, embrace and nurture more warriors and their families. Oorah!

Mike Wagoner is a retired chamber of commerce executive and a public relations counselor. maw04@twc.com     Blog: wagnabbit.blogspot.com

 

Thank You to CarolinaEast Health System for Continued Support

April 26, 2019

 

Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow has initiated our Partnership Campaign as we continue to develop relationships with businesses and individuals in our area.  We are grateful for the ongoing partnership we have had with CarolinaEast Health System for the past several years.  They have been a leader in the health care industry and have set a true example of what it means to be a community partner.  We are looking forward to having them join us at our 4th Annual Brews and Bites community event on Friday, May 3 from 5pm – 9pm in New Bern.  The information below provides valuable insight to CarolinaEast’s invaluable connection to MCAS Cherry Point and FRC East.