Entries in F-16 (2)


Air Force Asks for New Search of F-16 Pilot Troy Gilbert’s Remains in Iraq

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Air Force has agreed to a family’s plea that the Pentagon renew the search for the body of Major Troy Gilbert, whose F-16 fighter jet crashed in Iraq in 2006 as he came to the rescue of troops pinned down by enemy fire. His full remains were never recovered.

Gilbert’s remains were shown on an insurgent video taken at the crash site, but when American troops arrived at the wreckage they did not find his body.

A small amount of tissue found on the plane’s canopy was positively identified through DNA testing as belonging to Gilbert and was enough to classify him as “killed in action.”

It was that small set of remains that was interred at Arlington National Cemetery, and in the years since Gilbert’s family has held out hope that the search would continue for the rest of his remains.

When the last of the American troops left Iraq last December, the family was shocked to learn that no searches were being conducted for the rest of Gilbert’s remains because he is listed as killed in action, “body accounted for.”

Frustrated with that news, Gilbert’s family went public last week, requesting that the Air Force change Gilbert’s status to “unaccounted for” so that the Pentagon could reopen the search for his remains.

Gilbert’s mother, Kaye, told WFAA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Dallas, Texas, “My son is partially in the ground in Arlington, one or two inches maybe, but 99 percent is still in the ground over there, please, please help us get him home.”

An Air Force official said Thursday that Air Force Secretary Michael Donley agreed with the family that the search for the rest of Gilbert’s remains should resume.

According to the official, Donley sent a letter to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy requesting an “exception to policy” so that the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) could “assume a proactive pursuit of Major Gilbert’s remains and to bring the fullest possible accounting of his remains.”

Donley’s request must still be approved by the Under Secretary.

In a statement, Donley said the Air Force will work with the Defense Department and DPMO “to keep his case active and pursue information leading to the recovery of his subsequent remains.”

Donley added, “We honor the ultimate sacrifice Major Gilbert made for our nation. His family deserves nothing less than our best effort to recover his remains and return them to his loved ones.”

Gilbert’s family was notified of Donley’s action on Thursday and was overjoyed at the development.

“Our family is ecstatic!” Rhonda Jimmerson, Gilbert’s sister, told ABC News. “Mountains have moved and we’re very very happy that the military has agreed to continue the search for Troy.”

When his plane crashed in November 2006, Gilbert was coming to the rescue of American special operations forces down by Iraqi insurgents.

During his strafing runs, he flew his aircraft extremely low to the ground in an effort to avoid injuring civilians who were nearby. On his second pass the plane crashed after the tail end of his plane hit the ground.

For his heroic act, Gilbert was  posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The $77 Billion Fighter Jets That Have Never Gone to War

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker(WASHINGTON) -- More than five years and nearly $80 billion after the world's most expensive fighter jets joined the U.S. military fleet, the high-tech F-22 Raptor has yet to see combat -- despite the U.S. Air Forces' involvement in three simultaneous major combat operations.

When the U.S. led an international effort to secure a no-fly zone over Libya last month, the F-22, the jet the Air Force said "cannot be matched," was not involved. The Air Force said the $143 million-a-pop planes simply weren't necessary to take out Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses.

"If this was a requirement, it would've been used," Air Force spokesperson Maj. Chad Steffey told ABC News. "We had all the assets that we needed in Europe already... It simply wasn't an operational requirement."

In fact, though the Air Force has more than 160 F-22s, Steffey said that they have not been an "operational requirement" in any major theater of combat for the U.S., from Iraq to Afghanistan, since the first of the planes went combat ready in December 2005.

Not a single one of the planes -- which cost U.S. government $77.4 billion for a total of 187 planes from Lockheed Martin according to recent report by the Government Accountability Office -- has used what Lockheed Martin's website called a "revolutionary leap in lethality" in defense of U.S. interests. And though Congress cut all funding for new Raptors in 2009, Lockheed Martin is still receiving hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to make upgrades.

The closest an F-22 has come to combat was in 2007 when a pair of Raptors intercepted and monitored two Russian bombers that were on patrol in airspace near Alaska, according to a report by Air Force Magazine.

Both the Air Force and Lockheed Martin said the reason the planes have yet to fire on any enemies is because they're designed to dominate the air against rival, sophisticated air forces or air defenses, not a small, poorly armed third-world militaries and insurgent groups.

The planes' natural enemy, therefore, is one that the program's biggest critic, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said as of now does not exist.

"The F-22 is clearly a capability we do need -- a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios -- specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2009 while advocating that Congress ditch further funding for the Raptor from the budget. "[But] the F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict."

Dozens of supporters of the F-22 program in the House and the Senate wrote letters to President Obama ahead of the 2009 budget decision, arguing a full force of F-22s would be needed to meet the future challenge of other nations like China and Russia that are also developing fifth generation fighters and new, high-tech air defense systems. Gates dismissed these claims and said the U.S. next generation fighters, both the F-22 and the newer F-35, would greatly outnumber any adversaries for the next 15 years at least.

Jeff Babione, the vice president and project manager for the F-22 program at Lockheed Martin, said China and Russia's fighter programs were a consideration in the F-22's development, but also said the F-22 could find a home in strike missions against rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.

"[The F-22s] are in an area where they would be solely or more suited for a sophisticated adversary like North Korea," Babione told ABC News. "In particular, its ability to penetrate highly defended locations -- such as North Korea -- only the Raptor would be able to get in there and prosecute the missions."

Another reason Gates argued against continuing the F-22 fighter is that he said he wanted to put some of that money into the newer F-35 jet fighter. That plane, which is also in development by Lockheed Martin, "will be the backbone of America's tactical aviation fleet for decades to come if -- and this is a big if -- money is not drained away to spend on other aircraft that our military leadership considers of lower priority or excess to our needs," Gates said in 2009.

"The F-35 is 10 to 15 years newer than the F-22, carries a much larger suite of weapons, and is superior in a number of areas – most importantly, air-to-ground missions such as destroying sophisticated enemy air defenses," he said.

The F-35, at a smaller price tag per plane than the F-22, is designed to replace the F-16 -- which incidentally was involved in operations in Libya -- and "will complement the F-22," according to Lockheed Martin and the GAO report. According to Lockheed, the F-35 is better suited for current combat operations since it has a superior air-to-surface attack capability, but can work in tandem with the F-22.

While the F-35 has experienced its own serious development issues, the first planes are scheduled to be delivered to the Air Force this spring, Lockheed told ABC News earlier this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio