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Roche: good upkeep may be enough to keep Air Force flying.

The Air Force will continue to struggle to keep the fleet in war-ready shape, despite advances in logistics and maintenance, said James Roche, outgoing Air Force secretary.

"We can get better at maintenance, but don't think the aging aircraft won't catch up with us at some point," Roche told a Defense Department conference prior to his resignation. "These aircraft will one day overwhelm maintainers."

Upgrading the fleet is critical to the U.S. national security, Roche noted, because many potential foes increasingly are taking advantage of available technology to bolster their air power.

Roche said that these "'a la carte" aircraft combine the best elements of various systems, such as a Russian warplane equipped with an Israeli jammer and a French fire control system. "Things you thought would help are attractors for enemy systems."

The design of new systems should concentrate on prevention and awareness of breakdown, Roche said, as well as the use of interchangeable parts among systems to facilitate repair.

"We don't need large overseas bases, permanently stationed forward," he added.

To keep its edge in the future, the Air Force will require logistics networks to be connected to the troops.

"Logistics does not exist in a vacuum. To truly support our forces, we need to understand our battle strategy," he said. "We cannot afford to be blinded or stove-piped by a specialty function or a specific area ... Only through professional development and training can we continue educating our young logisticians on understanding their part in the fight and the significant strategic contribution they make to joint and coalition operations."

In a clear indication of the tighter connection between the services' maintenance and supply efforts, logistics readiness centers have become akin to air operations centers. Last year, Roche said, personnel at logistics centers in the Middle East tracked the maintenance status of Marine, Army and Navy aircraft as well as coordinating the delivery of fuel and material to troops.

"That coordination ... has resulted in a 98 percent mission capable rate and well over 125,000 sorties," Roche said.
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Author:Pappalardo, Joe
Publication:National Defense
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:340
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