At a Senate Appropriations defense panel hearing last week, Gen. Craig McKinley, National Guard Bureau Chief, acknowledged that increasing budgetary pressures over the next five years will lead to a “budgetary crisis” in equipping the National Guard. In fact, he declared, “We may already be there with the Air National Guard.” McKinley, was responding to questioning by Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), co-chair of the National Guard Caucus, who himself called the Air Guard’s equipment situation “dire.” In Bond’s view, “If you call it the Air Guard, you ought to have aircraft.” A major concern is that most of ANG’s F-16s are Block 30 vintage, which, as McKinley noted, “are very capable today, but without a significant amount of modernization money, will become less relevant and potentially less safe to fly over a period of time.”
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.