The Air National Guard has more or less recovered from the shape-shifting imposed by BRAC 2005, the country’s top air guardsman said Wednesday at AFA’s Air & Space Conference, and is now standing up and expanding a host of new capabilities at locations across the country. Lt. Gen. Craig McKinley highlighted the just-announced RC-12 Liberty training unit at Mississippi’s 186th Air Refueling Wing (replacing its BRAC-ed KC-135s) as an example of an in-demand capability needed in the current fight. He said the intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance missions will be a big part of the Air Guard’s future as old iron gets moved or retired and replaced with new missions, such as the unmanned aerial vehicle units at March ARB, Calif., Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. and Syracuse, N.Y. “That’s where we’re headed,” McKinley said. He noted that as of today about 33 percent of current MQ-1 Predator operations are handled by Air Guardsmen and the number will grow. The Air Guard is also responsible for 40 to 50 percent of RC-26 operations, initially focused on counterdrug missions but also increasingly used for US disaster relief support and to aid special operations forces in the war on terror.
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.