Editor’s Note: Some would say the “State of the Air Force” depends largely on who you talk to. Some say morale is at an all-time low. Others say the Air Force is at its smallest (and weakest?) since World War II. General Welsh recently said morale is pretty darn good. The rate of sorties against Daesh and other ne’er-do-wells worldwide are picking up, and for those on the pointy end, business is pretty good. While you can’t argue numbers as far as manning and resources, the truth is…the state of the Air Force is all of the above.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III discussed the State of the Air Force during a press conference at the Pentagon March 7.
James acknowledged a lot has happened since the last State of the Air Force address in August 2015.
“In October, Russia launched its first airstrikes in Syria. In November, [Daesh] terrorists attacked Paris again, as well as Lebanon, Mali, and here at home in San Bernadino. In January, China landed an aircraft on a newly built runway in the South China Sea … and then a few weeks ago, North Korea tested a nuclear weapon,” she said.
James added in Afghanistan, the Taliban, al-Qaida, [Daesh] and other anti-government groups, continue to conduct attacks, undermine security, and create challenges to the people and government of Afghanistan.
“Your Air Force has been extremely busy and extremely effective,” James said. “In the past year, coalition forces upped the ante against [Daesh], flying more than 55,000 sorties in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.”
However, the service’s persistent effort takes a toll on aircraft, readiness and Airmen. James said the service’s Airmen are high demand, low density, using one career field to highlight the strain on the force.
“In the maintenance arena, because we have aging platforms … the maintenance needs are going up,” James said. “We have thousands of maintainers in the force, but we actually need more maintainers going forward.”
Welsh agreed, adding maintenance professionals are working hard and retention could be a challenge.
“With six fleets of airplanes now over 50 years old, 21 or so fleets over 25 years old, it just gets tougher to keep them flying and we see that all over the Air Force,” he said.
The original article in its entirety can be viewed here.
(Featured photo by U.S. Air Force/Scott M. Ash)