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08 Apr 20. US Army accelerates virtualization of training, recruitment. The Army has moved its recruiting efforts completely online to support social distancing efforts recommended to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have been positioning ourselves in the world of the digital market for about 20 months,” Maj. Gen. Frank Muth told reporters at an April 6 briefing. “So we made the call very early to transition from being physically in the recruiting stations to going 100% virtual. We made the call on the 15th of March.”
“Minor stumbling blocks,” Muth said, include getting the authority to process applicants via video teleconferencing apps. Now, recruiters can watch potential new recruits sign documents to verify their swearing in.
The Army has also suspended shipping new recruits to basic training starting April 6. Gen. Paul Funk II, the commanding general for Training and Doctrine Command, said the move does not affect the 54,000 soldiers already in Army training centers.
Funk said the pause, set to last two weeks, wouldn’t necessarily impact readiness because April and May typically have the lowest volume of recruits to ship out for training. Only 219 recruits were expected to ship by April 19, he said.
Additionally, the 10-week basic training has been altered, aggregating the academic class work to the first two weeks to maintain social distancing and controlled monitoring. Recruits still do physical training in the morning. Once they present no symptoms and test negative after the two weeks, they move to the eight-week collective training team building.
“There will be very few areas where we would have to use face coverings as a routine,” Funk said. DOD issued guidance April 6 directing personnel to wear face coverings on DOD installations, facilities, and property.
Officials said they are directing classes be executed outdoors if possible, and when indoors, maintain the six-feet between instructors and trainees. Face masks are used when that isn’t possible.
Those who present symptoms are separated and monitored. Funk said there were about 102 total cases of COVID-19 out of 54,000 on the training base. So far 12 of those recruits who have become ill with COVID-19 have recovered.
“Social distancing has caused us to actually re-look at every bit of our capacity to be able to bring in as many people as we can,” Funk said, who mentioned that maintaining the bubbles was an added strain. “Right now it’s not impacting readiness…it’s really about getting the transportation in place to move them, which we’ve been rehearsing for a number of weeks now.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)
08 Apr 20. Flight Test Squadron Keeps Global Vigilance Mission On Track. Though much of the workforce has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing it requires, the 412th Test Wing’s flight test squadrons at Edwards Air Force Base, California, are working through the challenges to accomplish their missions.
The 452nd Flight Test Squadron has worked through the challenges of teleworking and modified work schedules to keep its fleet of RQ-4 Global Hawks flying and meeting mission requirements.
The 452nd is also the combined test force for the Global Vigilance combined task force, said Air Force Maj. Marc Nichols, 452nd FLTS assistant director of operations. “Here, we’re involved with testing systems and avionics upgrades,” he added. “We also engage in foreign military sales testing; we hope to deliver an aircraft to [South Korea] this week.”
The Global Hawk is a remotely piloted, high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft. With a wingspan of more than 130 feet, the aircraft is able to attain a flight ceiling of 60,000 feet. Its main mission is to provide intelligence, communications, surveillance and reconnaissance using a multitude of sensors to combatant commands worldwide, Nichols said.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant that the 452nd FLTS had to devise plans to ensure team members were as safe as possible yet still be able to complete their test missions. The 452nd’s unique mission allows the unit to execute missions with personnel being separate from each other, noted EmmaLee Shenberger, a test conductor and operations engineer with the 452nd FLTS.
“The mission setup for the Global Hawk is unique in the sense that the 452nd has the ability to execute missions in a modular fashion,” Shenberger explained. “At the 452nd, we are already accustomed to executing missions in an ‘isolated’ arrangement, simply because the mission personnel are not all collocated during a Global Hawk flight. With this capability, the 452nd is able to execute missions with all required flight personnel participating while also maintaining the appropriate separation deemed mandatory during this pandemic.”
The Global Hawk combined task force team understands the importance to keep their missions going and showed no hesitation when it came time to be flexible and adapt to recent changes, Shenberger added.
“By ‘hustling’ our personnel and preparing them for teleworking, our squadron stayed competitive,” she said. “We were and are still prepared for what could happen next, while also continuing our contribution and work for the warfighter.”
“Although with this transition there have been few growing pains,” she continued, “we are patient with each other, we have kept faith, and work to communicate with each other to the best of our abilities, and we trust each other. We have trust in each other knowing that we all share the same objective, and that is to support the warfighter.”
Despite the challenges, the team has been able to execute its missions, ensuring that the warfighter and allied nations are able to use systems and equipment such as the Global Hawk.
“It’s definitely been a challenge,” Nichols said. “We were poised to start executing with as much telework as possible when we first realized it was becoming a threat to the Southern California area. We moved people into a telework posture, but we’re able to maintain our mission set, so we were able to launch this [Global Hawk] aircraft last week and complete the testing that was required before we were going to send it back to Beale Air Force Base.”
During that time, the team also was able to complete testing on a separate program that is under engineering review.
“We were all ready to proceed with what needed to happen in order to keep as few people in the office, and as much social distancing as required while at the same time executing the missions with as much mitigation as possible,” Nichols said. Other safety measures included sanitation procedures between pilots and sensor operators when handing off control of the aircraft at the Mission Control Element.
Nichols said that Edwards Air Force Base leaders have been outstanding in terms of being able to help the squadron accomplish its mission while keeping their people safe.
“They said people are the priority,” she said. “Test is still very important, obviously, but all the way down from Air Force Materiel Command and Air Force Test Center level leadership to the wing and down to the squadron commanders; they’ve given the commanders leeway to make their decisions with the posture of ‘Keep everybody safe, but keep getting the mission done.’ The adversaries are out there — it’s not just the virus, but people are going to be watching to see how the 412th Test Wing executes in the midst of all this, I think we’ll have them on their back foot.”
“It makes us feel good,” she continued. “It’s nice that we’re able to keep on doing the mission. COVID-19 is a complex situation that we’re all trying to deal with, and I’m just happy knowing that our adversaries know that we’re still out there competing with them.” (Source: US DoD)
06 Apr 20. COVID-19: US Army Stops Bringing New Recruits To Basic Training. There are enough young privates already in the pipeline, Gen. Paul Funk said, to keep Army units fully manned for months to come.
As of today, the Army has temporarily stopped bringing in new recruits for basic training, the four-star chief of Training & Doctrine Command (TRADOC) told reporters this afternoon. The pause will last at least two weeks, Gen. Paul Funk said.
The Army had already curtailed field exercises and assemblies for troops in operational units. Last month, Defense Secretary Mark Esper reportedly rejected an earlier proposal to stop shipping new recruits to basic training.
Training for privates already in the pipeline continues, Funk and his subordinates said, with additional precautions to keep young soldiers at least six feet apart from each other and their instructors for their first 14 days in the Army while they’re watched for COVID-19 symptoms. With 54,000 soldiers currently at some stage of basic training, advanced individual training, or mid-career courses, Funk said, the system should produce a steady flow of graduates to meet Army units’ manpower needs for some months to come, although he gave no details on what specialties might run short when.
“We are still training every day to fight and win our nation’s wars as our nation expects us to do,” Funk told reporters. (Two attended the briefing in person at the Pentagon but most, myself included, participated over a conference call). April and May are historically the Army’s lowest months for new recruits in any case — “we only had about 219 left to ship between now and the 19th of April,” he said – so it was an ideal time to pause the intake process. The Army will build up its counter-coronavirus defenses at training facilities, monitor public health conditions in both individual volunteers and every county in the country, and reassess two weeks from now.
The Army has already shut down recruiting offices nationwide and moved entirely to online recruiting. The move to social media actually began in 2018, after the Army failed to meet recruiting goals and demographic studies suggested the recruiting-age population was more responsive to virtual appeals, explained Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, who heads US Army Recruiting Command (USAREC). Now the service has gotten legal authority to get 90 percent of the enlistment contract process done online, Muth said, with only a few final steps requiring face-to-face contact.
Under the new procedure, Muth went on, once a young person has signed up, their recruiter keep taps on them by phone, asking whether they’ve been self-isolating, whether they have any symptoms, and so on. If the recruit reports they’re healthy at every point – check-ins are required two weeks, three days, two days, and one day before their scheduled ship-out date – they’ll be picked up and taken to a Military Entrance Facility (MEF), where they’ll be questioned again and have their temperatures taken. Only then will they take Army-provided transportation to their assigned training base.
On arrival, recruits go through another screening, said Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, who commands the Center for Initial Military Training. Even when they begin training, he says, they now spend the first two weeks in social-distancing mode. The Army has reorganized the standard 10-week basic training program – some specialties, like infantry, go longer – to move as much of the classroom instruction as possible to the first two weeks, with group training and field activities only starting afterward. That way the new recruits spend their first 14 days doing individual physical exercises and attending classes – held outdoors whenever weather permits – while either remaining six feet apart from each other and their instructors, or wearing face masks. Those precautions aren’t always possible in the more hands-on training that follows, but the Army hopes any carriers will show symptoms before the two weeks are up.
This whole system, however, depends on taking temperatures, asking recruits how they feel, and watching for visible symptoms. But many carriers of the coronavirus remain entirely asymptomatic, even when they become contagious. They may look healthy and feel fine, but research suggests they’re actually capable of spreading the virus in the tiny drops of spittle that people spray in normal speech. (Stopping those droplets is the main benefit of wearing masks).
The only way to detect these silent carriers is to test for the presence of antibodies to the virus – but the US is suffering a nationwide shortage of test kits. Army labs and contractors, among many others, are struggling to fill the gap.
Of the roughly 100,000 troops in TRADOC — 54,000 trainees, 46,000 instructors and staff — only 102 have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, Gen. Funk said, and 12 of them have already recovered. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
06 Apr 20. Collins to deliver Tactical Combat Training Increment II for F-35. Collins Aerospace is to be contracted to deliver its Tactical Combat Training Systems Increment II (TCTS II) programme for the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO). The intended award, disclosed by the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) programme management authority on 3 April, will be made to Lockheed Martin as the prime contractor for the F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), which will sub-contract delivery of the ground-based training system to Collins Aerospace. NAVAIR did not disclose when the award will be made nor the value of the intended contract. TCTS II is an open-architecture live, virtual, and constructive (LVC) system that enables the rapid adaptation of new missions and threats into the F-35 training pipeline, and allows coalition forces to train in real-world environments with active threats. (Source: Jane’s)
06 Apr 20. Army Orders Pause in Shipment of Trainees to Initial Military Training. The Army will temporarily halt the movement of soldiers to basic combat training because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command said.
“This conditions-based pause allows leaders to further focus on setting conditions to restart movement in a safer manner,” Army Gen. Paul E. Funk II said.
This is not a pause in training for the 54,000 soldiers who are currently at Army training centers, he added. We are still training every day to fight and win our nation’s wars as our nation expects us to do.”
Army Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command
In addition to Funk, Army Maj. Gen. Frank M. Muth, commander of the Army Recruiting Command; Army Maj. Gen. Lonnie G. Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training; and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Edward W. Mitchell, also with the Center for Initial Military Training, spoke at a Pentagon news conference today regarding the impact of COVID-19 on recruiting and accessions.
Regarding soldiers who are now training, drill sergeants have been strictly enforcing social distance-enabled training, Funk said. Also, trainees are regularly screened for COVID-19 as they continue to train.
During the pause, commanders will ensure they are following the correct and most current procedures and capabilities to screen and test recruits, he said.
For each new basic combat training cycle, there will be a two-week monitoring period before trainees start their normal, eight-week period of instruction, Funk said.
The command has applied lessons learned from U.S. forces in Italy and Korea, as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he mentioned.
“We are still training every day to fight and win our nation’s wars as our nation expects us to do,” Funk said.
Leaders also talked about the precautions being taken before trainees go to training bases.
Muth noted that all recruiters are now doing virtual recruiting over social media instead of having face-to-face contact.
Hibbard said the prospective trainees are screened for COVID-19 at all military entrance processing stations as well as when they arrive at the training base reception battalion. From there, they are moved into the two-week controlled monitoring.
Monitoring, he added, means asking the soldiers questions about their health and taking their temperatures. After the 14 days, collective training starts, but with social distancing. (Source: US DoD)
06 Apr 20. CENTCOM to order tank gunnery training devices. US Central Command (CENTCOM) will order Advanced In-bore Marksmanship Training Enhancement Systems for Tanks (AIMTEST) systems that are compatible with both 73 mm and 120 mm guns, according to a notification posted on the US government’s System for Award Management (SAM) website on 3 April.
Made by the American Apex Corporation, the AIMTEST is fitted into the breach of a tank’s main gun, enabling it to fire .50 cal rounds that replicate the performance of real ammunition at a fraction of the cost.
The SAM notification said the AIMTESTs for 120mm guns would replicate high-explosive anti-tank tracer (HEAT-T) rounds out to 2,000m and the ones for 73mm guns would replicate HEAT-T rounds out to 1,500m. (Source: Jane’s)
05 Apr 20. Red Hawk jet passes CDR for ground-based training elements. Boeing and the US Air Force (USAF) have successfully concluded the critical design review (CDR) for the ground-based elements of the T-7A Red Hawk jet trainer, it was disclosed on 6 April.
The T-7A Ground Based Training Systems (GBTS) CDR was a five-day conclusion to 18 months of development work on the systems, and its completion paves the way for manufacturing to begin on the ground-based elements of the USAF’s aircrew training system, Boeing told Jane’s .
“The review analysed the T-7A’s ability to conduct live, virtual and constructive training exercises, through dynamic motion-enabled trainer cockpits; high-resolution projection systems; digital debrief stations and simulated avionics as well as egress training that will better prepare pilots for escaping an aircraft during an emergency,” Boeing said.
As the manufacturer noted, the CDR was held virtually between the Air Force System Program Office (SPO) out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFB) in Ohio, and the Boeing T-7A Red Hawk programme office in St Louis, Missouri. The Air Force Air Education Training Command (AETC) at Edwards AFB in California, Headquarters Air Force, Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Contracting Management Agency also participated.
Developed in partnership with Saab, the Red Hawk was selected under the T-X Advanced Pilot Training Program (ATP) to replace the USAF’s Northrop T-38 Talon that has been in service since the 1960s.
With two Production Representative Jets (PRJs) currently flying out of St Louis, more than 160 developmental test flights have been accrued to date. In addition to the pair of PRJs, the current engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the contract covers the five further aircraft and seven simulators. Previously, Boeing’s partner, Saab, declined to say when the first EMD aircraft will fly, noting that “this is very sensitive information for the USAF”. (Source: Jane’s)
03 Apr 20. 412th Test Wing at Edwards AFB restarts flight operations. The 412th Test Wing assigned to the Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) has resumed flight operations after the announcement made by the department of Defense (DoD)-wide Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Charlie. The announcement comes after a brief adjustment to modify procedures. According to Grady Fontana of 412th Test Wing Public Affairs, access to the AFB was limited to mission-essential personnel to contain the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, during HPCON C.
In support of test missions, the 411th Flight Test Squadron, 461st Flight Test Squadron, and the 418th Flight Test Squadron are scheduled to fly different sorties. All these Squadrons are part of the 412th Operations Group, 412th Test Wing.
During resumed operations, Team Edwards sorties included flights on the B-52, C-17, and testing of the F-22 with an F-16 target for a developmental test. Operational tests were conducted by mission partners at the Joint Operational Test Team flying F-35. The 412th Test Wing Commander colonel Matthew Higer said: “Team Edwards has made amazing and agile progress the last few days at getting the installation postured toward our ‘new-normal’ test-and-evaluation steady-state in the long fight against Covid-19.
“Our National Defense Strategy requirement to compete, deter, and win against peer competitors, in all warfighting domains, does not go into standby or otherwise pause while we are effectively in combat operations against Covid-19.”
Procedures implemented at the Ridley Mission Control Center on Edwards were reviewed before the operations resumed.
The new sanitisation procedures have been designed to mitigate the health risk to Team Edwards personnel.
Air Force Test Center commander Major General Christopher Azzano said: “My priority, as the Test Center commander, is protecting and preserving the force and its people against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am very focused on maintaining unit readiness across all of our test enterprise sites, including Edwards AFB, Eglin AFB, and Arnold Engineering Development Complex.”
Edwards AFB continues to perform its wartime mission despite reduction in manning levels. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
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