Just over a year ago, the Air Force was ready to take advantage of the “orderly transition” following the Afghanistan force structure drawdown and take care of the three Rs,—“regroup, reset, and retrain,” said Assistant Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Stephen Hoog during a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event in Arlington, Va., on Wednesday. Instead, the Crimea Crisis broke out, followed by the ISIS offensive in June 2014, and then the Ebola scare in Africa later that summer, all of which USAF forces responded to. This has thrown demand predictions out the window in many missions. Hoog said USAF flew 19,959 CAS sorties in US Central Command operations during 2014 alone supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. “Our airmen and key partners are responding to all these events,” Hoog said, but they are doing so with “significant challenges.” These events also have impacted construction of the Fiscal 2016 budget and the program objective memorandum. Last year, “everyone was asking for more Air Force, but with the expectation that the Air Force would bring its own checkbook as well,” added Hoog. This attitude has changed somewhat, as reflected in the 2016 budget. Hoog said now there is a growing realization that US airpower is vital to the way America fights and how it projects influence in the world.
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.