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.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.