Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard, said May 5 during a House Armed Services airland panel hearing that “to date, there are no firm plans” to mitigate ANG’s looming fighter gap. The Air Guard, which handles the bulk of the homeland air sovereignty alert mission, will lose 80 percent of its F-16 fleet to age in less than eight years. Wyatt told the lawmakers that, currently, “the bulk of the Air National Guard recapitalization in the F-35 occurs in the out years, approaching 2022 and thereafter; most of our units age out in the 2017 to 2018 timeframe.” And, Wyatt, pointed out that barring an accelerated replacement program, “You can expect more safety issues, failed inspections, less combat capability, and mission gaps.” Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), panel chairman, asked Wyatt to provide the new plan anticipated with DOD’s release of its 2010 budget, which happened on May 7. However, the publicly released documents and briefings offered no new information addressing the Air Guard’s dilemma. On May 5, Wyatt said he believes USAF “has the capability” to rework its F-35 beddown plan to include earlier fielding to the Air Guard. He acknowledged, though, that “the numbers are extremely critical, and the rate of production is extremely critical.” Wyatt still has not ruled out buying modernized legacy fighters. (Wyatt’s written testimony)
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.