Lt. Gen. Bud Wyatt, Air National Guard director, last week called for careful deliberation when the Air Force considers stripping Air Guard units of flying missions, since those flying units also possess dual-use equipment, such as firefighting vehicles, that are crucial for helping local communities deal with disasters. In written testimony prepared for the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel, Wyatt stated that an F-16 wing, for example, “contains not only F-16 fighter aircraft, but fire trucks, forklifts, portable light carts, emergency medical equipment—including ambulances—air traffic control equipment, explosives ordinance equipment, etc., as well as well trained experts.” These assets are “all extremely valuable in response to civil emergencies,” he noted. If an F-16 wing converts to a non-flying mission, or even a remotely piloted aircraft mission, “much of this dual-use equipment may leave” with the F-16s, stated Wyatt. Accordingly, “we need to ensure our citizens are not left without essential disaster response capabilities” as the Air Force proceeds with its recapitalization and modernization plans, he wrote for the July 27 hearing. (Wyatt’s prepared testimony)
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.