Rusty USAF Pilots Need Workup for Syria

The Syrian air defense threat is strenuous, and if the Air Force was tasked to establish a no-fly zone there, it would represent a risk to rusty pilots, USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters on June 17. Syria has “better, more updated” air defense equipment—both aircraft and ground-based systems—than USAF faced in Libya or Iraq, Welsh said after an AFA-sponsored Air Force breakfast speech in Arlington, Va. “They actually operate it. They turn it on, they train with it” and USAF assumes the Syrians are consequently “better trained” in using their gear than its last three adversaries. Sequester, however, has grounded 33 squadrons and many pilots have lost or are losing their proficiency. “If we were ordered to go do” a no-fly zone, “we’d go do it,” but the US would be “accepting the risk of those people not being as current. For me, that’s a risk we don’t want to be accepting,” he said. USAF also would like to have some spinup time to get forces back in fighting trim, Welsh said. Asked if USAF is busy planning for such a tasking, he said no, explaining that planning is done by regional commanders-in-chief. Gen. Phillip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, told reporters in Brussels, Belgium, on June 4 that NATO hasn’t been directed by the North Atlantic Council to undertake any planning for a Syrian no-fly zone.