As the Air Force’s mobility fleet inches up in age with every passing day, new demands are making the need for recapitalization even more stark, Gen. Arthur Lichte, Air Mobility Command boss, told defense reporters Sept. 3 in Washington, D.C. (See above) Lichte singled out the KC-135 fleet, noting that many of these tankers are more than 50 years old, with the average age around 47 years. “Quite frankly, it’s unconscionable that we’re asking people to fly in combat in 50-year-old airplanes,” he said. “We have got to get through and modernize our fleet.” Lichte said the age of the fleet makes him think about the wide-ranging effect a defect could have on the mobility force, noting that the Air Force bought more than 700 aircraft between 1956 and 1964, a large portion of which still serve. Maintainers at depots are tackling corrosion problems and taking off parts of aircraft that were never designed to be removed, particularly with the older KC-135s, he said. “If something happens, there’s a good possibility it will affect the entire fleet,” he said.
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.