Speaking to Pentagon reporters via teleconference from the US Central Command Air Forces Combined Air and Space Operations Center Friday, CENTAF chief Lt. Gen. Gary North emphasized the intense pace of activity in the CENTCOM theater of operations. From the Horn of Africa to Afghanistan, North said that coalition aircrews are performing an average of 74 close air support sorties per day—about 50 over Iraq and 24 over Afghanistan. He also credited the nontraditional use of the targeting pods in fighter aircraft to provide spot intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance capability a major new tool in combating insurgents. Replete with data, North noted that so far this year, the air mobility component has airlifted approximately 697,000 troops and 117,000 tons of supplies and dispensed 78 million gallons of gas.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.