Medal of Honor Citation – John William Finn

For extraordinary heroism, distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station, Kanoehe Bay, on 7 December 1941, Lieutenant Finn promptly secured and manned a 50-caliber machine gun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machine-gun strafing fire.

Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy’s fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention.

Following first-aid treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

John William Finn (July 23, 1909 – May 27, 2010) was a United States Navy Chief Petty Officer who received the United States military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II. As a chief aviation ordnanceman stationed at Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay, he earned the medal by manning a machine gun from an exposed position throughout the attack, despite being repeatedly wounded. He continued to serve in the Navy until his 1956 retirement, eventually rising to the commissioned officer rank of lieutenant. In his later years he made many appearances at events celebrating veterans. At the time of his death, Finn was the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient and the last living recipient from the attack on Pearl Harbor.

EADS poised to win Air Force tanker contest, analyst says

AL – George Talbot

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. will win the U.S. Air Force tanker contract over rival Boeing Co., according to a leading defense analyst.

Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va., said EADS has emerged as the clear favorite for the coveted deal, based on the Air Force’s internal analysis of the two competing bids.

“Boeing has lost this competition,” Thompson said, citing conversations with Boeing executives. “The only question now is whether they choose to protest the award, and I’m not sure they will.”

Neither Boeing nor EADS would comment Sunday…

Thompson said Boeing executives concluded last week – after getting a look at the Air Force’s technical analysis of the two competing planes – that they were beaten.

The Air Force sent the confidential analysis, known as an Integrated Fleet Aerial Refueling Assessment, to each of the companies in mid-November. But it mistakenly included a disk containing the Boeing analysis in the package shipped to EADS, and vice versa.

Both companies acknowledged that they received the errant disks and said they notified the Air Force as soon as they became aware of the mistake.

The Air Force called the mix-up a “clerical error” and said it took steps to ensure that neither side was put at a disadvantage. One of those steps, according to the Air Force, was to release the Boeing analysis to EADS and the EADS analysis to Boeing.

“We gave both competitors equal access to the information,” Air Force spokesman Col. Les Kodlick said. “We view that as leveling the playing field.”

Thompson, who has advocated for Boeing in the tanker contest, said Friday that he spoke to Boeing officials close to the competition. He said that, after reviewing the data, they concluded that EADS held a substantial edge in the Air Force’s assessment.

“Basically they saw how they stacked up in the warfighting effectiveness analysis, and they did not stack up well,” Thompson said. “The Air Force continues to favor the larger plane” offered by EADS.

The IFARA analysis is based on a complex computer modeling program that measures the effectiveness of each plane in a series of battlefield scenarios. The score could weigh heavily in a tight competition between two aircraft that offer different features…

Related: Analyst: Boeing’s hopes fading for tanker win

EADS/Northrop Grumman KC-45

The Northrop Grumman/EADS KC-45 is a proposed aerial refueling tanker aircraft based on the Airbus A330 MRTT (KC-30), a derivative of the civil A330-200. The United States Air Force had ordered 179 KC-45As in the first stage of replacing the aging KC-135 tankers currently in service. However, the contest was reopened in July 2008, after Boeing’s protest of the award was upheld. In response to the new contest, on March 8, 2010, Northrop Grumman announced it was abandoning its bid for the new contract, with its CEO stating that the revised bid requirement favored Boeing. On April 20, 2010, EADS announced it was re-entering the competition and intended to enter a bid with the KC-45.

EADS North America prepares to build KC-45 tanker production facility in Mobile, Alabama

FAA Quietly Makes VFR Changes in D.C.

Aviation Week – By Bill Garvey

The rules for flying VFR in the Washington, D.C., area changed yesterday. If you plan to operate there but didn’t know about the alterations, you’re not alone. A sampling survey of flight schools and local pilots revealed widespread ignorance of the modifications.

First, it seems Notam FDC 0/8326, which impacts airspace within 30 nm of the Washington VOR/DME, was issued without fanfare Nov. 18 and went unnoticed by many. Second, when queried about the changes contained within the 2,000-word document thick with governmentese, a briefer cited internal rules that discouraged doing that very thing. Rather, he admonished the caller to read the revised Notam in its entirety and simply abide by it.

Staffers at the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, meanwhile, compared the new Notam and its predecessor word for word, and zeroed in on the changes, which were admittedly modest. But that it took such concentrated action to illuminate operational requirements did suggest to many involved that FAA’s system for issuing and disseminating Notams bears further review.

Navy’s LCS dual-buy plan clears hurdle

AL Live – By Dan Murtaugh, Press-Register

The U.S. Navy’s plan to award lucrative shallow-water warship contracts to shipyards in both Mobile and Wisconsin cleared an important hurdle Thursday, military analysts said, when U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor introduced legislation to approve the purchases.

Analysts said the bill, which has been sent to the House Armed Services Committee, gives the dual-buy plan a clearer path to congressional approval before the Dec. 14 deadline imposed by the Navy.

If Congress signs off, Mobile’s Austal USA and a team led by Lockheed Martin Corp. will each get contracts to build 10 littoral combat ships, estimated to be worth about $5 billion each.

Austal officials have said jobs will double at the 1,800-worker Mobile River shipyard, if they win the work.

If Congress does not assent, the Navy will go back to a plan that picks one shipyard and one ship design.

The legislation represents a significant turnaround for Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, a past critic of the LCS program. Taylor lost re-election to Republican Steven Palazzo and leaves office in January.

Taylor said his opposition had been based on cost overruns and delivery delays, but the new bids by Austal and Lockheed seem to alleviate those problems. Taylor said he’s seen the new prices, but can’t release them.

“It’s not the original $220 million the Navy had hoped these ships would be, but both prices are a heck of a lot better than the over-$700 million they had crept toward,” he said.

Taylor, chairman of the Seapower Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee since 2006, said he would like to set the LCS program on a clear path before he leaves Congress. He said the program could help the Navy reach its long-term ship target.

“It’s a way to take a huge step toward a 313-ship Navy,” he said…

VMM-561 activates ‘Osprey’ squadron at Miramar

By Cpl. Steven H. Posy  , Marine Corps Air Station Miramar

Marine Medium Tiltrotor squadron 561 became the first MV-22 “Osprey” squadron on the West Coast to begin from scratch during a squadron activation ceremony held here Dec. 2, 2010.

A crowd of Marines and spectators gathered at the ceremony as Lt. Col. Warren J. Curry, the VMM-561 commanding officer, took control of the new squadron.

“These Marines are making history today and are a part something special,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Conant, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing commanding general. “They are part of a great legacy.”

The ceremony commenced with a performance by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Marching Band, followed by words from Curry.

“We started from scratch, and 18 months later we stand up ready to deploy,” said Curry. “Today starts the day to become a cohesive and disciplined unit ready to serve our corps.”

VMM-561 represented the legacy of the squadron by parking a vintage UH-34 “Sea Horse” helicopter, along with an Osprey, behind a formation of Marines on the flight line.

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 561 flew the UH-34 during the Vietnam era.

Now the MV-22, with its tilt-rotor platform, currently serves the Marine Corps in combat operations in Afghanistan.The Osprey represents a new era of aviation and the future of the medium-lift airframe.

From flying Marines in the early 60s to conducting operations in Operations Iraqi and Enduring freedom, VMM-561 carries its history into the 21st century.

X-37B Prepared For Expanded Orbital Test

Aviation Week – By Guy Norris

The U.S. Air Force says the second planned mission of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) will “expand the operating envelope” of the autonomous space vehicle, potentially increasing the orbital cross-range and capability of landing in stronger crosswinds.

Richard McKinney, Air Force undersecretary for space programs, says the second test X-37B—OTV-2—is being prepared in Boeing’s California space facilities for transfer “soon” to Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. From there it will be launched on an Atlas V in the March-April 2011 time period.

Lt. Col. Troy Giese, X-37B program manager from the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (Afrco), which manages the X-37B program, says OTV-2’s mission will focus on “expanding the operating envelope of what its capabilities are. This time, we put more restrictions on landing winds and on orbiting cross-range. We picked an orbit that was well within its ability to get back to Vandenberg Air Force Base,” he adds. The next flight may have a more exaggerated orbit to test the cross-range recovery characteristics and may end up with an attempted recovery in more marginal weather.

McKinney and Giese commented on the Air Force plans for OTV-2 following the successful autonomous landing and recovery of OTV-1 at Vandenberg in the early hours of Dec. 3 after a 244-day mission.

But the landing, which was the first successful runway recovery of an autonomous space vehicle since the 1988 demonstration launch and landing of the former Soviet Union’s Buran unmanned space shuttle, was not without incident. McKinney says the vehicle’s left main landing gear tire blew out on touchdown—a mishap not easily spotted in initial photos released by the Air Force. However program officials say the fact the X-37B continued to roll down the runway centerline without deviation following the blowout of the 300-psi. dinner-plate-size tire is a testament to the integrity of its control system.

Shreds of ruptured tire caused some damage to the belly of the vehicle, which also was pitted in several places by unidentified space debris. “Where it came from we don’t know,” McKinney says, adding that initial inspections have revealed damage in “about seven” places to the thermal protection tiles and vehicle body. However, McKinney says evidence of impacts and tire burst does not diminish the overall performance of the vehicle or its test accomplishments over an almost eight-month space mission. “The purpose of this particular mission was the vehicle,” he adds.

Stressing the use of the OTV as a test platform, McKinney downplays the possible role of the X-37B itself as a reusable vehicle for responsive space roles. “It’s a test vehicle. We want to be able to put objects in to space and test them out, and exercise them.” As such, OTV “does not replace the other [responsive space] capabilities such as TacSat, but it gives us another dimension. We have the ability to research technologies, do experiments in space and return them to Earth. That’s a capability that’s been severely limited in the past. We have a very serious and important business in providing national security space capability, and our ability to examine those technologies before deployment is a big sought-after capability.”

OTV-1 primarily was aimed at checking out vehicle systems and design features, with a secondary emphasis on the more advanced sensor technology likely to feature more prominently in follow-up missions. Vehicle technology test targets for OTV-1 included advanced guidance, navigation and control; thermal protection systems; avionics; high-temperature structures and seals; conformal reusable insulation, and lightweight electromechanical flight systems. Giese says the flight also was a successful test of the vehicle’s ability to open its payload doors and deploy a solar array that provided onboard power for the duration of the mission.

On command, the X-37B autonomously folded the array, closed the doors (which contain radiator panels to dissipate heat into space), commenced a reentry burn, and performed a series of S-turns to bleed off energy like the space shuttle during its descent through the atmosphere. The entire flight profile in the “end game” was autonomous, Giese says, adding that, by design, “there was no way to take over the vehicle, although the 30th Space Wing [at Vandenberg] do have a way to terminate the flight.”

X-37B Had Seven Collisions in Space

USAF welcomes home X-37B space plane

Nimitz leaves for maintenance, may not return

SignonSanDiego – By Jeanette Steele

No. 68 has left the bay.

The Navy aircraft carrier Nimitz, which bears the familiar number 68 on its tower, departed San Diego Monday morning, bound for a year of maintenance work in Washington state. Its 2,800-sailor crew called San Diego home for almost a decade.

“Before we go, I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to say thank you very much to all the folks in San Diego that took care of our sailors, welcomed them into the community — but also took care of our families, especially when we were gone on deployment,” said Capt. Paul Monger, the ship’s skipper.

The $4 billion flat-top leaves a question mark in its place at Coronado’s North Island Naval Air Station.

The Navy has not revealed whether the Nimitz will return to San Diego in a year – restoring the city to its status as a three-carrier port – or stay in the Puget Sound region.

A decision is expected soon.

A spokesman for Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, said the congresswoman has been talking to top Navy brass about keeping the carrier in San Diego for the long term.

Likewise, Joe Kasper, spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, said, “There is good reason to keep the Nimitz in San Diego and that’s the case that Congressman Hunter intends to make should any type of serious consideration be given to moving the carrier.”

But Washington state’s congressional delegation is expected to lobby to retain the Nimitz, as well. Bremerton, Wash., businesses have already put up “Welcome USS Nimitz” signs, according to the Kitsap Sun.

It’s a major economic issue for San Diego, as a carrier brings with it $203 million yearly in sailor salaries, plus $4 million in annual utility spending. On top of that, Navy families pour cash into the region’s restaurants and shopping malls.

The Navy estimated that the carrier Carl Vinson brought $417 million in annual economic impact when it arrived in San Diego in April.

About 700 Nimitz families are expected to move to Washington with their sailors, a ship’s spokesman said. An additional 600 families will stay behind in San Diego, tethered here by jobs or the school ties of their children.

The uncertainty of the eventual home port prompted Lara Swearengin, 27, to move her family north to follow her husband.

If she knew where the ship would end up, it might make sense to spend the year in Lakeside, where she has family, and avoid moving her 6-year-old daughter and 19-month-old son twice.

“It was kind of iffy, but in the end it did not make sense to stay here,” she said.

San Diego’s skyline will be light on aircraft carrier profiles for the next few months.

The Carl Vinson left for a six-month deployment last week. The city’s other local carrier, the Ronald Reagan, will be in the region until early next year, when its turn for deployment comes up.

The Nimitz, the second-oldest of the Navy’s 11 carriers and the first of its class, will be getting the equivalent of a tuneup.

Built in 1975, the Nimitz is more than halfway through its 50-year life expectancy.

At Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, the ship will receive major upgrades to its potable water circuit, navigation system, electrical-load centers and numerous other components, said spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Steve Ruh.

It’s not glamorous work. But Monger described it as the equivalent of overhauling a classic 1970s car: It can still compete with newer models if it gets some time in the shop and tender loving care.

Swearengin was at the pier Monday morning with her toddler, Wesley, to see her husband off.

She said she’s not looking forward to the Pacific Northwest’s frigid temperatures. But, being an outdoorswoman, she grinned when she mentioned the opportunities for fishing and camping there.

Being present to witness the Nimitz steaming out of the bay was important to her.

“To watch the boat pull out when we leave San Diego – it’s just part of the completion, of the finality of it,” she said.

Pearl Harbor Raid, 7 December 1941
Overview and Special Image Selection

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