The operation to secure American airspace, largely flown by Air National Guard forces, is still going strong. NORAD spokesman Michael Kucharek says that since 9/11, ONE aircrews—fighters, tankers, and AWACS aircraft—have flown more than 40,000 sorties and responded to more than 2,100 events by scrambling fighters or diverting airborne patrols. This third leg of the War on Terror Triad—the other two are Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq—gets little attention these days, but the implications for USAF equipment and optempo is big. Also—small point—these aircraft would be of great value in event of another 9/11 type attack.
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.