Senior Defense Department mobility officials on Wednesday asked Congress to lower the statutory minimum fleet size of the nation’s strategic airlifters from 316 to 301. This move would allow the Air Force to retire 32 C-5A Galaxies as its remaining new-build C-17s enter service. “We humbly ask the committee and Congress to support the President’s vision by repealing the 316 strategic airlift floor and enabling us to manage the fleet to ensure we continue to meet combatant command requirements,” Air Mobility Command boss Gen. Raymond Johns told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s seapower panel in written testimony. Johns argued that, based on the most recent mobility capabilities and requirements study, a total fleet of 222 C-17s, 52 C-5Ms, and 27 C-5As is fully capable of meeting the highest projected demand of hauling 32.7 million ton-miles per day. Gen. Duncan McNabb, head of US Transportation Command, asserted that the cut would pose no operational risk and would spare DOD from having to spend roughly $1.2 billion between Fiscal 2012 and Fiscal 2016 to maintain the extra aircraft. “I hate to have folks working on stuff that I don’t need. Manpower is absolutely critical,” McNabb told the legislators. (Johns’ prepared remarks) (McNabb’s written statement)
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.