Covering transportation for all of the Department of Defense is a demanding job—as at any given moment, one crisis can compound into multiple crises, according to US Transportation Command boss USAF Gen. Duncan McNabb. This year, everything broke open in March—as the President traveled to South America, a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami rocked Japan, operations over Libya popped up, and combat operations were ramping up in Afghanistan. McNabb and others dubbed it “March Madness,” he told the crowd at AFA’s Air & Space Conference Wednesday. “It was the first time that every combatant commander had a priority one mission that I could remember,” he said. For the Japanese relief operation, McNabb said airlifters were on standby to take emergency supplies to deal with the Fukushima nuclear plant recovery operation, and TRANSCOM had to go to commercial partners to manage the voluntary evacuation. “Spring break is an amazing time to ask for commercial lift,” McNabb quipped. The earthquake occurred on Friday, March 11, but by the following Monday the first commercial aircraft were taking off from Japan with evacuees. “These airplanes weren’t sitting around, but when we called, they figured out other ways to take care of their customers,” McNabb said. By Tuesday the evacuation air bridge, of mostly commercial aircraft, was full up.
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.