01/09/07 — Lt. Gen. Carrol Chandler shares facts, figures on future of Air Force

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Lt. Gen. Carrol Chandler shares facts, figures on future of Air Force

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on January 9, 2007 1:54 PM

A top Air Force general described the branch's plans for the future at a luncheon Monday sponsored by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Committee.

Lt. Gen. Carrol Chandler, deputy chief of staff for air and space operations at the Pentagon, told a gathering of business and military officials that the Air Force is moving toward becoming a smaller, more efficient force that planners say will be better able to meet the demands of 21st century warfare.

"If we don't, we run the risk of becoming irrelevant," he said.

Chandler said the chief goals of the service are to prosecute the global war on terrorism, provide for airmen and their families and develop new aircraft that will keep America and its allies in control of the skies around the world.

Air Force leaders are looking at the next generation of aircraft and support equipment to enable the force to maintain its position as the world's leading air power, Chandler said.

Chandler pointed to the Air Force units spread around the globe and briefly described the missions of each. He emphasized the role of reserves in national defense and noted that 77 percent of reserve units have been deployed in some fashion since the terrorist attacks on the U.S. in September 2001.

He said the Army, Navy and Marine Corps look with envy on how "seamlessly" the Air Force has been able to incorporate its reserve units into active fighting forces.

"It speaks highly of the operations of the Guard and reserves and the employers' support," Chandler said.

Chandler noted the support roles the Air Force plays in conjunction with the other branches of the military and said that the Air Force's efficiency boosts the fighting capabilities of each. The Air Force has been called upon to provide a number of special services to the other branches that help keep fewer troops tied up with non-combat roles and more in the field, he noted. As an example, he said the Air Force has been called upon to provide interrogators to work for the Army and that Army leaders have indicated they are pleased with the results.

He said Air Force commanders are happy to be able to help the other branches when called upon but are aware that they cannot permit the force to become spread too thin. He also said quickly trained Air Force personnel do a great job, but cannot possibly function at the same level as someone with extensive training in the field. The loss of personnel to these other assignments also could interfere with the Air Force's ability to rotate deployed units. He called the situation "a sensitive issue in Washington," but added that "if we can help, we will. We're all in this together."

Chandler went over the Air Force's plans to replace aging aircraft but noted that the F-15E Strike Eagle -- the backbone of the 4th Fighter Wing -- will likely stay in operation for at least another decade, perhaps two. Upgrades in computer systems and other modifications can be expected, he said, but the jet will remain an important part of the Air Force arsenal for the foreseeable future.

"It's going to be with us for 15 to 20 years," Chandler said.

He also discussed plans to develop a new tanker and said officials should decide this year what company will be given the contract to build the new plane.

Chandler talked briefly about the Air Force's venture into cyberspace and its charge to keep abreast of technological developments. The goal is to be able to take the new technology and apply it to combat situations, he said.