One person you wouldn’t expect to be losing sleep over the current F-15 grounding is US Transportation Command boss Gen. Norton Schwartz. But Schwartz told a Capitol Hill audience Thursday that the F-15 situation is a “stark reminder” that a key aircraft being grounded can cause huge problems for the entire US military. Schwartz is worried that USAF’s elderly fleet of some 500 KC-135 aerial refuelers will find a way to break that can’t be fixed, stranding the Air Force with just 59 KC-10s. USAF expects to award a contract for the first new replacement tankers, the KC-X program, in February, but at the planned rate of about 12 to 18 new tankers per year, replacement of the entire KC-135 fleet will take about 40 years.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.