Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told members of the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that he expects the Pentagon’s strategic review to be complete by year’s end. That review is likely to outline the fate of the Air National Guard’s newest airlifter, the C-27J, which embarked on its first deployment to Afghanistan this summer. The service already has purchased 21 aircraft, with plans to purchase 17 more. However, that appears to be under debate as service leaders grapple with fiscal uncertainties. Schwartz said the “decision is not final” over whether to put the remaining C-27Js on the chopping block, but he added that such a move “would be extremely painful to me personally.” He explained that he made a “commitment” to retired Gen. George Casey, former Army Chief of Staff, “that I would not do this deal with him and then back out.” The C-27J was originally an Army program, but was later transferred to the Air Force. “That was two years ago, so I’ve got personal skin in this,” said Schwartz. But, Schwartz also said that budget constraints are forcing the Air Force to look at reducing entire fleets, “not a few here and a few there.” (Schwartz written 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.