Noble Eagle Mission In Jeopardy Without More F-22A, F-35 Buys

February 2nd, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Noble Eagle Mission In Jeopardy Without More F-22A, F-35 Buys

Inside The Air Force
February 1, 2008
Pg. 1

The Air National Guard’s ability to fly combat air patrols over the United States and around the globe could be at risk if the Air Force is not allowed to buy a greater number of F-22A Raptors and F-35 Lighting II fighters, the ANG’s top general tells Inside the Air Force.
While a Virginia Air National Guard wing is flying Raptors in an associate arrangement with the active-duty 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, VA, and 20 F-22As are slated for delivery to the Hawaii Guard by 2011, the Pentagon’s current buy of 183 Raptors will not be enough to provide the militia force with enough jets to adequately replace its fleet of F-16 Falcons and F-15 Eagles, which are “structurally breaking,” Lt. Gen. Craig McKinley, director of the ANG, said during a Jan. 28 interview at the Pentagon.
The current Air Force procurement situation is “not a pretty picture,” said the three-star. “The fifth-generation fighter lines are all compressed and constrained. We don’t know how many F-22s we’re going to have, we don’t know what the buy of the F-35 looks like. We know the fighters we fly today -- the F-16 and the F-15 -- have been deemed legacy fighters so we’re not going to spend much money on them as we move them towards retirement.”
Since the active-duty Air Force will have top priority in receiving new jets, the ANG could be left without new airplanes if Raptor lines are not kept open and significant numbers of F-35s are not bought, worries McKinley.
“We have to participate in recapitalization, our fleet age is older than the [active] Air Force’s,” he said. “We rely on the expertise of our maintenance people to make sure we are safe, and we fly a good number of hours, but we are finding ourselves spending more time maintaining old aircraft and we don’t necessarily have a recapitalization strategy for the Air National Guard that I’m comfortable with.
“The Air Force will have to flesh out its fleet first, and then if we don’t get an extension of that line there won’t be any other opportunities for [ANG] units to modernize in the F-22,” added the three-star. “On the F-35 side of the street, that aircraft is still in development. What are the numbers going to be? How many of them are we going to be able to buy?”
McKinley is quick to point out that almost the entire Noble Eagle mission since Sept. 11, 2001, has been flown by Air National Guard aircraft.
“Now we’ve been supported magnificently by our Air Force . . .but the preponderance of the day-to-day lines of alert are being done by Air National Guard units across the country,” he said. “I don’t know what [we’ll] do if those airplanes aren’t sustainable. I don’t know how we support the combatant commander at [U.S. Northern Command] and [North American Aerospace Defense Command] to do those missions without an adequate recapitalization of our fighters,” he said.
To address this, the Guard is working hand-in-hand with the active-duty Air Force as it plans new mission sets and basing plans laid out on the service’s “road map” that Air Force Chief of Staff T. Michael Moseley shared on Dec. 5, 2007, to the Guard’s Adjutants General, according to McKinley.
Gen. Moseley’s road map identifies dozens of active-duty, ANG and Reserve bases where the service’s next generation of aircraft might be based. The plan will try to capitalize on Total Force Integration efforts, creating “innovative organizational arrangements” among active-duty, ANG and Reserve units (ITAF, Jan. 25, p7).
As such, Moseley’s plan will become the Guard’s plan because the Air Force purchases and equips its force in bulk.
“The new missions that are on the books for the Air Force are missions that we will either associate with or have stand-alone units,” explained the Guard chief. “It’s really a strategy that combines our states and territories and their political delegations with the necessity to recapitalize our entire Air Force.
“What ever happens to our Air Force will trickle down to us. But it was wonderful to be brought into the master plan to see really how critical a juncture we are at,” he said. “We are going to have to all participate together to get the kinds of monies needed to re-equip an Air Force, a Guard and a Reserve that have been starved for new development and modernization since the early ’90s.”
Despite the fact that ANG planners are unsure how many F-22As and F-35s they will receive, the Guard is prepared to conduct environmental impact studies and facilities modifications needed for the basing of stealth jets at its bases, said the general.
In addition to this, several states have begun talking with Moseley and Army Lt. Gen. Steven Blum -- National Guard Bureau chief -- about their Guard units acquiring F-22s to fly homeland defense missions, added McKinley.
“Those are states that have traditionally over the years been responsible for air sovereignty over the United States and they have been very busy since Sept. 11, 2001,” he said. “We call it a four-corners strategy, but it’s too early to say which states would acquire these airplanes. The F-22 is such a great aircraft that, while you don’t need the stealth to defend the homeland, you need the speed and the capabilities that the avionics, radar and weapons systems bring to you so that you can defend more of the continental United States from any potential adversary.”
While McKinley remains mum on which guard bases could receive Raptors, the Air Force road map lists Atlantic City International Airport, NJ; Barnes Air National Guard Base, MA; Fresno Air Terminal, CA; Great Falls IAP, MT; Jacksonville IAP, FL; Klamath Falls IAP, OR; Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, LA; and Portland IAP, OR, as possible homes for the F-22A.
These and other Guard bases also are being considered as possible sites for the F-35, according to the plan.
The general called the opportunity for the ANG to acquire the F-22A in support of Operation Noble Eagle missions a “growth area” for the militia force, but warns that “if we don’t get the [F-22A] line extended then we probably won’t have that opportunity and will continue to fly old airplanes for a long time,” he said. Flying these older jets could prove disastrous for the Air Force’s ability to provide air supremacy, he added.
November’s mid-air breakup of a Missouri ANG F-15 sent a signal “to all of us throughout the Guard and the active component that this recapitalization is not only necessary, it’s vital to protect the aircrew who fly these airplanes and to have a strategy to deter future competitors, not just during the global war on terror but into the out-years when we may really have a peer competitor,” said McKinley.
The Guard’s F-16s -- which have been flying overtime Noble Eagle missions since the grounding of F-15s after the Missouri Eagle crash -- are in “similar straights” as the Eagles, developing bulkhead cracks and other stress-related issues as they approach the end of their planned service lives, according to the general. This means that it is critical for the Air Force to purchase enough F-35s to replace the ANG’s F-16s, he said.
While McKinley is deeply concerned with the status of his fighters, the Guard’s mobility fleet is doing considerably better, according to the general.
“We are into some newer model C-130s, we’re getting totally equipped with the KC-135R, not a new aircraft but modified and very capable,” he said.
The general also is optimistic about receiving more C-17 Globemaster III airlifters and adequate numbers of next generation tankers (KC-X) as well as a replacement for its combat search and rescue (CSAR) HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters with the CSAR-X platform.
“I honestly think that our modernization will keep pace with the Air Force modernization, as they get a new helicopter, we should be in line to get new equipment in that mission set too,” said McKinley of the CSAR-X platform which will “provide a lot of bang for the buck” as they see dual use by guard units. The militia units also can use the new helicopter to rescue stranded civilians when performing state missions and conduct combat rescue missions for the Air Force.
He added that ANG units should receive some brand-new tankers to augment its fleet of newer KC-135R-model Stratotankers, albeit not as many as the active-duty Air Force.
Despite this, the general still worries that the long lead-time required to field new aircraft, combined with the cost of fighting two wars and the current tight procurement budget will severely cripple the Guard.
“I am looking for any way I can to convince people that the required force is vital to the security of the nation over the next 15 to 20 years,” said McKinley. However, “it takes a quarter of a century to bring an F-22 from a thought to reality. If we don’t start [re-equipping] today, the Air National Guard that we have in 2025 will not be equipped . . . so we’ve got to start, and if we don’t, it’s on our watch.
“All we can do is try to make the compelling argument, but you also have to know that the competing interests right now; the finite fiscal budget, the war on terror and the drains on our budget are such that, this may not be, this will be difficult, this will be hard to do, but we cannot walk away from it,” said the general.
--John Reed
February 4th, 2008  
A Can of Man
Why don't they just stamp out a few more F-15s from the factory?

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