Strategic Risk

Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, commander of Air Force Special Operation Command, told attendees at AFA’s Air & Space Conference Sept. 15 that his command is facing a steep challenge in recapitalizing its small but in-demand fleet of aircraft in the years ahead. Wurster said a “time of strategic risk” is looming as the commandretires its MH-53 helicopters and brings on its CV-22 tiltrotor platforms at a slow pace, leaving its 17 MC-130H covert infiltration/extraction aircraft increasingly heavily taxed during this phase and “not enough” to meet demands. AFSOC has been the beneficiary of much investment over the past several years, particularly manpower. Now, several recapitalization programs are gearing up at a very critical time when the command is heavily engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, Wurster said. “We have the nose up, but we’re not climbing yet,” he said of AFSOC’s recapitalization plan. The command intends to acquire 37 MC-130Js—modified KC-130J tankers—to replace its 44-year-old MC-130Es and beef up the fixed-wing insertion fleet. The command also wants the AC-27J “Stinger II” gunship, which will help offload the demand being placed on older AC-130H and AC-130U gunships. Wurster said AFSOC plans to acquire 16 of them over the next six to seven years. The command doesn’t expect to fully field its 50 CV-22s until Fiscal 2017, he noted.