By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Sept. 28, 2006) -- The Air Force has changed direction in its effort to fulfill its legal requirements to organize, train and equip a flying force.
During the Air Force Association's 2006 Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition here Sept. 27, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley explained how the Air Force has undertaken new initiatives to continue providing air power to the joint fight.
"We have a responsibility to the nation to provide for the common defense," he said. "And we have undertaken a host of initiatives that are transforming the way this Air Force sees itself and presents forces. Our efforts focus on improving our ability to provide global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, global mobility and global strike for the nation of the future."
According to Title Ten of U.S. Code, the Air Force is responsible for, among other things, organizing, supplying and equipping a force to fulfill the current and future operational requirements of the unified and specified combatant commands. General Moseley said the Air Force has undertaken several initiatives to support those requirements.
As part of an Air Force organizational initiative, the Air Expeditionary Force Center merged under the Air Force Personnel Center to create synergies that help the Air Force better serve combatant commanders, General Moseley said.
Another organizational change involves a reduction in Air Force Specialty Codes. The reduction will merge many career fields, forcing Airmen to pick up new skill, and making them more valuable when they deploy. General Moseley said he believes the Air Force can reduce the number of AFSCs from 263 to about 100.
In addition to organizational changes, General Moseley said the Air Force has put a new emphasis on ensuring Airmen are equipped with the right skills to fight in the 21st century.
"Any air force is a collection of professional airmen, and our success hinges on the training we give these people," General Moseley said. "We must educate and train each and every one of them because we depend on their resourcefulness, imagination, creativity, adaptability, and versatility. We are emphasizing integrated training scenarios that challenge Airmen to use all of the tools, tactics, techniques and procedures available to them in the domains of air, space, and cyberspace"
As part of a training initiative, the Air Force has modified basic training to put greater emphasis on warfighting skills, General Moseley said.
"Our future capabilities depend on building better joint and coalition Airmen," he said. "We have extended basic military training so we could now focus more than ever on these expeditionary skills. We have also expanded the technical schools."
The general also said there is talk of a new battlefield training school which will offer one-stop instruction on ground combat skills for combat rescue, pararescue, special tactics, combat controllers, terminal air controllers, special operations, weather and combat communications.
Training opportunities also have been made for those already in the Air Force. At Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, the Air Force has created a single air, space and mobility warfare center, and a single Air Force weapons school that merges and crosses all the warfighting domains, General Moseley said.
"We also have created the Joint Air-to-Ground Operations Group at Nellis, to include a much more robust Air Warrior program to improve joint operations with our ground forces," he said. "We have combined the conventional and special operations training and developed an urban close air support concept of operations."
The Air Force also has expanded the joint aggressor program at Nellis AFB and at Eielson AFB, Alaska. An additional squadron of F-15 Eagles at Nellis AFB, and a planned additional F-16 Fighting Falcon squadron at Eielson AFB beginning next year, will work with an expanded Joint Red Flag program that includes Red Flag Nellis and Red Flag Alaska.
"(This) gives us a team of professional threat exploiters, analysts and adversaries to fight as a single air, space and cyberspace component," General Moseley said. "The emphasis is on equipping and training our Airmen as we expect them to fight."
While the Air Force is required to organize and train Airmen, it also is required to provide those Airmen with the right tools to do their jobs. General Moseley said the Air Force has not forgotten that requirement.
"We will never forget that we must properly equip Airmen with robust, cutting edge capabilities and technologies as we look out into the 21st century," he said.
The general said the Air Force is, through retirement and acquisition efforts, shaping itself into a fundamentally different service than it has been in the past.
Over the next ten years, the Air Force will have 10 percent fewer fighters and about five percent fewer airlift platforms. At the same time, the service will, among other things, experience a 20 percent increase in combat rescue capability, a 30 percent increase in long-range strike capability, a 10 percent increase in refueling capability and a 20 percent increase in new ISR platforms, General Moseley said.
"We absolutely have to make these changes to be prepared for any eventuality," he said.
Today, the Air Force is maxing out its aircraft capability and the increase translates directly into decreased combat effectiveness, General Moseley said.
"We are investing in new aircraft, spacecraft and cyberspace systems, and equipment to expand these capabilities and really do some amazing things in the future," he said. "This recapitalization and modernization is both critical and monumental."
The effort, he said, involves replacing the 117 aircraft lost in combat contingencies and training since September 11, 2001 and if allowed, retiring some 953 aircraft over the next five years. It also involves purchasing new capability to replace the old.
"We cannot afford to replace these aircraft 1 for 1," General Moseley said, "But we can actually upgrade the inventory with these new systems. Selectively modifying and modernizing legacy aircraft is also in our glide path to retain these aircraft and their operational relevance."
General Moseley said the Air Force issued the draft request for proposal for the KC-135 Stratotanker replacement on Sept. 25. He said he hopes to get source selection for the tanker in July 2007. The general also said he is optimistic the Congress will authorize full funding for the Joint Cargo Aircraft and will approve multi-year procurement for the F-22 Raptor.