Adm. James Winnefeld, who has led both US Northern Command and NORAD since May, said Thursday he’s received assurances from Air Force leadership that there will be enough fighter tails to effectively execute the air sovereignty alert mission for the foreseeable future. During a meeting with reporters in Washington, D.C., Winnefeld said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz has told him the Air Force “takes this mission very seriously and they are going to make sure there are adequate airplanes to fly.” Winnefeld said he does have “some concerns” about the future viability of the Air National Guard’s fighter fleet, in particular F-16 Block 30 aircraft that are reaching the end of their service lives. “I am watching that as closely as I reasonably can as a combatant commander,” he said. Some analysis indicates a service life extension program may be affordable for some F-16s, until F-35s come on in large numbers, he said.
Oct. 20, 2021