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Modernizing equipment to fight the 'Long War'.

Remarks to the Capitol Hill Club, Washington, D.C., June 14, 2006

It's good to be here today to talk about the (Defense) Department's transformational efforts. I recently spent a lot of time working with our sister services on the Quadrennial Defense Review. One of many concerns that all of us had: How Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines would continue to contribute to the Joint team with aging equipment. So, I'd like to share some thoughts on that this morning.

First, I have to tell you that I'm a proud Air Force parent. I just got back from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. where I watched my eldest child, Capt. Lisa M. Corley, graduate from our Weapon's School, the Air Force's premier tactical training center, this past weekend. And all young Captain Corley could talk about was how excited she was to see her Air Force in the news because of the air strike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.

So, not only am I proud of my daughter, but I'm proud of the nation's sons and daughters that made that mission possible. Not just the pilot who pushed the "pickle" button and those that trained him to be able to accomplish his critical mission ... but also the intelligence troops who got extremely timely and perishable information to the right individuals ... and our tanker aircraft that allowed his F-16 to remain airborne ... and the decision makers who diverted the aircraft from flying a counter-lED mission ... and the maintenance professionals who made sure that F-16 got airborne ... and the weapons troops that loaded the bombs on the airplane ... and our satellite operators who made sure the GPS (Global Positioning System) constellation was running that guided the second bomb to impact ... and our strategic airlifters that made sure the first bomb's laser guidance kit got to the theater, I'm proud of them all.

Now some of you are probably saying, "Yeah John, we get it. We get that it was a great Air Force success story." And if that's what you're hearing, then it's my fault for not telling this right. My point is that it's easy for us to focus our attention on the headline, "Air Force F-16 airstrike kills Zarqawi." But that headline misses so many of the details that we forget it takes those maintainers, intelligence troops, cargo and tanker aircraft to get the job done. And we certainly forget that the Global War on Terror is a Joint Team effort. It wasn't just Airmen that made the mission against Zarqawi go so well--it was Soldiers, Sailors and Marines working with Airmen. And let's not forget our coalition and interagency partners. So, while the headline is an easy thing to grasp, it's the details that are often very important.

I'd like to spend some time going over some Air Force details with you. While going through them, the headline I want you to focus on you have heard many times ... this is going to be a "Long War." And that we need to maintain our forces to fight that "Long War," which includes modernizing our equipment.

During the QDR that was a theme that was on all of our minds. As we tried to work our way through this business of transforming the (Defense) Department to meet the threats of this new millennium, one thing really stood out: Like the Zarqawi mission, everything we do in the Department is interdependent today. All of the services not only work along side one another, but also depend on one another. I sat in testimony yesterday before the House Armed Services Committee with Gen. Richard Cody, the Army Vice Chief of Staff. He and I got to become pretty good friends during the QDR. One of the things that we often discussed was the fact that the Army is making procurement decisions based on capabilities that they are counting on America's Air Force providing. Honestly, we have to think that way. We can no longer afford to have four services with equipment that is redundant. As we think of some of these Air Force details and the "Long War" headline, we have to make sure that America's Air Force is ready to do its missions as a critical part of the Joint Team staying ready to meet the nation's taskings.

So far, the Air Force has been engaged in Southwest Asia for more than 15 years. It's been that long since Operation Desert Storm in January of 1991. To put that in context, back then, I had a full head of hair and was a lieutenant colonel taking my F-15 squadron to war. Lisa M. Corley was a bright and shiny 11-year old. The Air Force enforced the U.N.'s southern and northern no-fly zones from the end of Desert Storm until Operation Iraqi Freedom. During that time we conducted Operation Desert Fox inside the no-fly zone. We also flew an air campaign over Bosnia and another over Kosovo. Of course we are now engaged Operation Iraqi Freedom and we have been flying missions over Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom almost a year longer than American participation in World War II, just to put that in perspective.

So what are the details? Right now, we have flown more than 239,000 sorties over Iraq since March of 2003 when Iraqi Freedom began. That's over 80 percent of the 294,000 sorties flown by all our Joint and coalition partners. And we have flown 144,000 of the 184,000 sorties flown over Afghanistan ... that's almost 80 percent of those as well. Every single day, Airmen fly more than 200 sorties over those countries. They fly strike missions like the one that killed Zarqawi. And Predators with pilots in Las Vegas, Nev., provide real-time information to ground troops. And Global Hawk unmanned vehicles fly 24-hour missions over Afghanistan providing intelligence information to ground commanders. And C-130s flown by active-duty, guard and reserve pilots are performing 100 intratheater airlift missions per day reducing the number of convoys subjected to IEDs.

While our Airmen fight the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, others will defend our homeland--4,000 Airmen will make sure that almost 50 fighters, tankers and AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft are on 24/7 alert. They will contribute to the 44,000 missions already flown over the U.S. since 9/11 as part of Operation Noble Eagle.

When we think in terms of numbers of people, we have more than 179,000 Airmen in GWOT operations everyday--118,000 are deployed in place doing critical missions like strategic mobility, space and missile operations as well as C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) taskings.

Today, 47,000 Airmen from our Global Mobility force will deliver 58 offloads, 2,500 passengers and 1,000 short tons. There will be 234 tanker sorties flown in support of OIF and OEF. That's "one departure every two minutes, every day, 365 days a year."

Today we will also fly 13 medical evacuation missions with 50 wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen brought to places like Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) here in Washington, D.C.

This is in addition to 145 C4ISR sorties, including those unmanned Predator and Global Hawk missions. Right now we have 100-plus operational satellites that are being operated by 3,500 Airmen. They will fly 425 space missions by the end of the day. We have ICBMs scattered across a landmass the size of Pennsylvania--6,600 Airmen, including the 2,000 guarding them, will ensure that this missile fleet continues to provide strategic deterrence.

While fully engaged in these GWOT operations, the Air Force continues to provide the nation with emergency response capabilities. Last year during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, while destruction of infrastructure stifled ground transportation, Airmen continued to reach flooded areas and bring relief. The Air Force flew more than 5,000 sorties, airlifting more than 30,000 passengers and 16,000 tons of cargo and accomplishing 5,500 search and rescue saves. In fact, yesterday we flew two Air Force Reserve WC-130J Hurricane Hunter missions into Tropical Storm Alberto.

And our humanitarian efforts don't stop here in the U.S. Last year we flew 10 million pounds of relief supplies to Pakistan on 51 C-130s and 45 C-17s after the earthquake there, including a C-17 that landed with supplies with 48 hours of that disaster.

Those are a lot of details. So, how do they relate to that headline of the "Long War?" I think that we have to be prepared to fight the long war. And by we, I mean the interdependent Joint Team. To do that, we need to make sure that we have the right equipment for America's Air Force over Iraq and Afghanistan, back here at home and in places like Indonesia. That decision of what is right ... what the Air Force needs ... was not made in a vacuum. The requirements were brought to light in the (Defense) Department's QDR discussions. It was debated between the services, the combatant commanders and our civilian leadership. I think it's important to stress that this is not an Air Force wish list.

Let's look at some of the details of our inventory. In 1973, when Mrs. Corley's young son John graduated from the Air Force Academy, the average age of our aircraft was about 8 years. Back then, not only did I have hair, but I didn't wear glasses. Today, the average age of our aircraft is almost 24 years and growing older. Our KC-135 fleet averages 45 years old and was bought during the Eisenhower administration. If we make all of the aircraft purchases the (Defense) Department has asked for in the President's budget, the average age of the force will continue to grow. Now I know that the age of an aircraft may not be a perfect metric, but it does give you an idea of the issue. And that 24-year average age includes our newest aircraft like the F-22A Raptor that became operational this past December.

As an aside, we have 12 F-22s along with F-15s and F-18s that are flying in a joint exercise in Alaska flying against 40 simulated modern enemy aircraft. Over several simulated air battles, the Raptors have achieved a very impressive 108:0 kill ratio. On the other hand, the F-15s and F-18s have only achieved a 10:1 kill ratio. Put another way, although the F-22s represent only 25 percent of Blue Forces, they are achieving nearly 50 percent of the Blue kills.

That's a great success story for how our newer equipment is not only providing the combatant commander with a better capability with fewer aircraft, but it also highlights some of the limitations of our older legacy systems.

I think it's useful to look at our inventory as part of three portfolios: Strike, Mobility and C4ISR. Let me talk about some of the details from each of those portfolios. As I do that, it's important to keep in mind that the Joint Team needs capabilities from all of the portfolios. I have said that we could bankrupt the nation buying Predators to give streaming video to every troop on the ground in Iraq, so making sure that we achieve a balance is crucial.


The ability to bring kinetic effects like the Zarqawi attack, rapidly, anywhere on the globe to include non-permissive environments.

* B-52: Aasking for support in the 2007 President's budget to retire 18 attrition aircraft in 2007 and 20 in 2008. The combatant commanders support this reduction. I'd like to point out that these numbers are a result of the QDR.

* F-22 and F-35: On track for the Air Force, the Joint Team and our coalition partners.


* C-17: If l had more money ... I would love to buy more ... but trying to achieve that balance.

* C-130E: My concern is that we have 29 grounded right now and will have another four by the end of the fiscal year. They are at the end of their useful life with 45,000 baseline flying hours. It will cost $27 million to fix the wings on these aircraft. I'd rather we spend the money to buy new C-130J's at $65 million or Joint Cargo Aircraft at $27 million. That aircraft will have a great intratheater capability to help relieve even more convoys from lED exposure in addition to being a very capable emergency relief platform.

* KC-135E: Our tankers are the backbone of our ability to project power. Right now, 43 will be grounded by the end of this fiscal year. It costs us $45 million per aircraft to keep them on the books. I don't think we can afford to keep them while their replacement won't begin flying until 2011 or 2012. I have said that our last KC-135 pilot has not been born, but even with the KC-X replacement, the really sad story is ... neither has his mother. This aircraft will be 80 years old when it finally retires.


* Predator: Working to provide the right number to the combatant commanders ... again ... looking to achieve a balance.

* U-2: Don't want to divest this until Global Hawk reaches a higher capability.

I spent a lot of time in a lot of details, so in closing let's zoom back out to our headline of fighting the "Long War." The Air Force needs to remain ready to contribute to the interdependent Joint Team. We cannot afford to keep all of our legacy aircraft and still provide the combatant commander with what they need to win this war. We cannot afford to have 45-year-old tanker aircraft sitting on the ramp while our 20-year-old fighter force needs to get gas to perform strike missions over Iraq and Afghanistan and man combat air patrols back in the in the U.S.

We cannot afford to pass up an opportunity for a great new capability like the JCA while we fund C-130Es that are at the end of their service life. And we cannot afford to continue to send our nation's sons and daughters into combat in bombers designed in the 1940's while we have the ability to buy new strike aircraft that achieve 108:0 kill ratios.

Thank you.

Gen. John D.W. Corley, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff
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Author:Corley, John D.W.
Publication:Air Force Speeches
Date:Jun 14, 2006
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