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A small but critical defect has 'crash landed' Apache readiness, according to a top Army general
More than a year after the Army ordered the inspection of a critical safety part in every AH-64 Apache aircraft in the service's fleet, soldiers have spent the equivalent of nine months in extra man-hours retrofitting the airframe so far, a task that has "crash landed" back on combat readiness, a top Army official said on Monday.
On Monday, the head of Army Forces Command revealed that soldiers had sunk an eye-popping 6,672 man hours working their way through the 653 AH-64s in the Army's fleet with the hopes of completing the retrofit by December 2019.
As a result of the undertaking, "readiness has suffered," Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson said at the Army Aviation Association of America in Nashville, Tennessee, adding that the fleet-wide retrofit "put the enterprise in a proverbial tailspin, which crash landed on the backs of our soldiers and our units."
In February 2018, Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) guidance previously obtained by Task & Purpose expanded more rigorous inspections of each Apache's strap pack nut (the component that keeps the rotor blades from separating from the airframe) from "severe coastal" to "all AH-64 aircraft, regardless of location," suggesting an underlying mechanical issue.
A month later, the Pentagon temporarily ceased accepting deliveries of the AH-64E 'Echo' Apache from Boeing due to a "critical" safety issue over the copter's strap pack nut, as Defense News first reported in April 2018.
But part of the problem, according to one Apache aviator who spoke to Task & Purpose on the condition of anonymity, is that Boeing's solution to the strap pack issue — the so-called "mega-nut" furnished to the Army last year — has since been recalled, leaving Army personnel to rely on using legacy strap pack nuts with retention collars as a temporary solution.
"There is a total lack of faith in Boeing's commitment to keeping the aircraft safe, and while we were encouraged by [Chief of Staff Gen. Mark] Milley's decision to stop receiving AH-64s from Boeing during the strap pack fiasco, many of us felt the Army didn't go far enough," the aviator told Task & Purpose.
The Army is currently retrofitting Apaches at a rate of two battalions a month, the service previously announced, with airframes operating near coastal areas being first to receive the new mega nut, since salt water has a greater effect. But as the Apache aviator previously told Task & Purpose, the delays aren't just hurting readiness, but overall morale as well.
"The Army is continuing to fly the fleet of AH-64s, accepting the risk, knowing the issue, and using increased inspections and distilled water rinses to mitigate the risk," the aviator told Task & Purpose. "The pilots aren't a fan of that tactic."
SEE ALSO: Confessions Of An Apache Pilot: What It's Like To Fly The Military's Most Heavily Armed Attack Helicopter
WATCH NEXT: An Apache Tests a High-Energy Laser
The Marine lieutenant colonel who was removed from command of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May is accused of lying to investigators looking into allegations of misconduct, according to a copy of his charge sheet provided to Task & Purpose on Monday.
President Donald Trump just can't stop telling stories about former Defense Secretary James Mattis. This time, the president claims Mattis said U.S. troops were so perilously low on ammunition that it would be better to hold off launching a military operation.
"You know, when I came here, three years ago almost, Gen. Mattis told me, 'Sir, we're very low on ammunition,'" Trump recalled on Monday at the White House. "I said, 'That's a horrible thing to say.' I'm not blaming him. I'm not blaming anybody. But that's what he told me because we were in a position with a certain country, I won't say which one; we may have had conflict. And he said to me: 'Sir, if you could, delay it because we're very low on ammunition.'
"And I said: You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general," Trump continued. "No president should ever, ever hear that statement: 'We're low on ammunition.'"
This 400-pound feral hog is one of more than 1,200 that have invaded a Texas Air Force base since 2016
At least one Air Force base is waging a slow battle against feral hogs — and way, way more than 30-50 of them.
A Texas trapper announced on Monday that his company had removed roughly 1,200 feral hogs from Joint Base San Antonio property at the behest of the service since 2016.
In a move that could see President Donald Trump set foot on North Korean soil again, Kim Jong Un has invited the U.S. leader to Pyongyang, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday, as the North's Foreign Ministry said it expected stalled nuclear talks to resume "in a few weeks."
A letter from Kim, the second Trump received from the North Korean leader last month, was passed to the U.S. president during the third week of August and came ahead of the North's launch of short-range projectiles on Sept. 10, the South's Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple people familiar with the matter.
In the letter, Kim expressed his willingness to meet the U.S. leader for another summit — a stance that echoed Trump's own remarks just days earlier.
Constant deployments broke the Air Force's B-1 fleet. Now the service is facing a major bomber shortfall
On April 14, 2018, two B-1B Lancer bombers fired off payloads of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles against weapons storage plants in western Syria, part of a shock-and-awe response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his citizens that also included strikes from Navy destroyers and submarines.
In all, the two bombers fired 19 JASSMs, successfully eliminating their targets. But the moment would ultimately be one of the last — and certainly most publicized — strategic strikes for the aircraft before operations began to wind down for the entire fleet.
A few months after the Syria strike, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray called the bombers back home. Ray had crunched the data, and determined the non-nuclear B-1 was pushing its capabilities limit. Between 2006 and 2016, the B-1 was the sole bomber tasked continuously in the Middle East. The assignment was spread over three Lancer squadrons that spent one year at home, then six month deployed — back and forth for a decade.
The constant deployments broke the B-1 fleet. It's no longer a question of if, but when the Air Force and Congress will send the aircraft to the Boneyard. But Air Force officials are still arguing the B-1 has value to offer, especially since it's all the service really has until newer bombers hit the flight line in the mid-2020s.