Reduced Strategic Airlift Fleet Sufficient

The Air Force’s proposal to retire its remaining 27 C-5A transports, while maintaining 52 newly upgraded C-5Ms and 223 C-17s, would leave a strategic airlift fleet “sufficient to satisfy the demand,” said Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. Briefing reporters in the Pentagon last week, Schwartz said he is comfortable with that fleet size, given the broader force adjustments that the Pentagon intends to make, such as retaining fewer Army brigade combat teams, to match the Obama Administration’s new strategic guidance. “The combatant commanders concerned in this instance are [comfortable] as well,” noted Schwartz. The new strategic guidance “recognizes that we do not need to retain the airlift capacity to support two large, simultaneous, and rapidly developing ground campaigns,” states a Pentagon document outlining the proposed force adjustments. “When faced with competing demands, we can prioritize and phase movements,” it adds. In addition to the strategic airlift cuts, the Air Force aims to retire 65 of its oldest C-130s, leaving “an inventory of 318 modernized C-130s,” said Schwartz. He said that force would be “sufficient to provide the intra-theater support.” (Schwartz transcript)