Reportedly for the first time, airmen from Australia, Britain, Canada, and the US are flying operational sorties as part of the same crew in the same aircraft. This history is being made in an E-3 AWACS air-surveillance aircraft from the 552nd Air Control Wing, Tinker AFB, Okla., that is currently operating in Southwest Asia with the 965th Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron. Gary Boyd, historian with the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing that runs the forward air base from which AWACS aircraft operate, believes this is a first. He said, “I don’t know of any other time when four coalition members have flown operational sorties on the same aircraft.” The Tinker-based 552nd ACW has coalition airmen assigned to it under various exchange programs. They are “an integral part of our units,” said Lt. Col. Andreas Forstner, 965th EAACS commander. He continued, “The experience they bring is balanced by the experience they gain from our operations and airmen; it’s a mutually beneficial system.” That feeling is indeed mutual. “Not that we do things better, we just sometimes do things different, and I think both us and our US counterparts gain a lot of advantage from the different approaches,” said Royal Air Force Flt. Lt. Matt Brunton, currently the lone British officer with the 965th. He came over from a RAF AWACS unit. (380th AEW report by TSgt. Denise Johnson)
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.