“Our Biggest Concern”

The Air Force’s total flying hours per year “has stayed about the same” since 1992, but the fleet today is “31 percent smaller” in size and “41 percent older,” Gen. Duncan McNabb, Vice Chief of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee April 1. The net effect is that USAF will age out its platforms “even more rapidly,” making recapitalization even more important. “We will continue to do everything that we can to make sure that we fully support this global war on terrorism,” McNabb said. “But it is at the expense of tomorrow, if we don’t recapitalize. And that is probably our biggest concern.” An example of the enormous wear on USAF platforms is the use of C-17 transports in intratheater roles in the Middle East and Near East, the general said. “It’s not necessarily the flying hours; it’s the cycles,” he said. “The wear is three times the amount that you would have on a typical airplane that’s coming from the States, going across to Ramstein [AB, Germany,] going into theater and coming back out,” he said. USAF has been stationing some C-17s in the region to move cargo by air that would typically go by more vulnerable truck convoys, thereby reducing risks to ground forces.