Air Force Fleet Experiencing Pains of Age
Air Force Fleet Experiencing
Pains of Age
By Jim Garamone,
American Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. -- (AFIS) February 11, 2005
--Today's Air Force is a deployed
force, the service chief of staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee Feb.
U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty
Officer Johnny Bivera
Gen. John Jumper told the committee that the Air Force has
30,000 airmen deployed around the world.
In the U.S. Central Command area, the service has 14 bases
that are still open and active. Airmen continue to patrol American skies as part
of Operation Noble Eagle.
Jumper said the service continues to mature the Air
Expeditionary Force concept begun in 1997. "We now have 270,000 out of 360,000
active duty members in the AEF deployment cycle," he said. "As a matter of fact,
we have about a hundred people from the air staff in the Pentagon deployed today,
taking advantage of their skills."
The Air Force is also helping on the ground in Iraq. There
are about 2,000 airmen on convoy duty with the U.S. Army today. They are "driving
trucks with the Army through some of the most dangerous regions and dealing with
the [improvised explosive devices] right alongside their Army colleagues."
He said that while airmen are doing well, the operations
tempo is putting stress on the force. "The Air Force is putting the full weight
of its air mobility, its special operations, its close-air support, its
surveillance activity … in support of our grand operations in Iraq and in
Afghanistan," he said.
At the same time, aircraft based in other areas of the world
help assure stability.
The Air Force reserve components are playing huge roles in
the worldwide operations. "About 55 percent of our 170,000 airlift sorties and
our 36,000 air refueling sorties last year -- more than half of those were flown
by Air Force -- are Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve," he said.
Air Force mobility forces showed their capability during
relief operations following the Dec. 26 tsunami in South Asia.
unmanned aerial vehicles, the FA-22 Raptor and the Joint Strike Fighter are all
systems needed to maintain aerial dominance in the years to come. Developing
better worldwide command and control systems and integrating information and
intelligence seamlessly across the command spectrum is also part of the Air
Force mission, he said.
The Air Force has the oldest fleet aerial fleet ever. The
average age of the aircraft in the service is 23 years, according to most recent
statistics. Some aircraft – such as the B-52 bombers and the KC-135 tankers –
average more than 40 years old. The F-15 fighter fleet – today's air superiority
fighter – is more than 18 years old. The F-16 fighter fleet averages more than
12 years. Even the F-117 Stealth fighter fleet is more than 17 years old.
"The need to begin recapitalization on some of these assets
to us is very important and we will continue to pursue that … as we look out
toward the future," Jumper said.
Jumper said that recruiting and retention on the active duty
side "is right where we want it to be." The service actually ended fiscal 2004
over its end- strength numbers. "When stop-loss came off, people did not leave
at the rates that we had expected," he said.
Air Force recruiting figures are high. "We've actually shut
down recruiting for the first three months of this year so that we can stabilize
at the proper end strength by the end of this fiscal year," he said. "On the Air
National Guard and Air Force Reserve side, right now they are about 2 percent
below their targets in both the officer and enlisted." However, Jumper expects
to make recruiting and retention goals in those important components with no
Gen. John Jumper, USAF