Air Force Transformation in Europe Aiding Terror War
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 23, 2005 The transformation taking place throughout the Defense Department started early for U.S. Air Forces in Europe, which began reshaping and repositioning its assets 15 years ago and is now better prepared to support the war on terror, the command's top officer said today.
Air Force Gen. Robert H. "Doc" Foglesong said USAFE began returning much of its force structure to the United States after the Cold War ended and it became evident that the United States no longer had to prepare to face off against the Soviet Union at the Fulda Gap.
The command's leaders recognized that USAFE's long-standing mission was changing, and that "we were going to be in the enabling business as much as we were going to be in the kinetic warfighting business," Foglesong said during a joint interview with the Pentagon Channel and the American Forces Press Service.
In response, the command's leadership began a series of sweeping changes. USAFE cut its fighter aircraft fleet from more than 700 in the 1990s to fewer than 200 today, converting some wings to suit the support missions they were being tasked to carry out. USAFE also introduced refueling and tactical airlift wings.
"We converted some of our 'iron' from kinetic kinds of things we were going to use in the Cold War to support mechanisms," Foglesong said.
At the same time, USAFE began changing the way it positioned its assets. In the 1990s, the command had 25 main operating bases. Today, it has just five, and is putting more emphasis on smaller, forward-operating sites and cooperative support locations.
"Our footprint started changing about a decade and a half ago, and we actually have just continued to refine it over the last three or four years," Foglesong said.
These changes helped pave the way for USAFE's transformation into a rapidly deployable expeditionary force that's playing a major role in the war on terror, he said.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the launch of the global war on terror helped speed up changes already taking place throughout the command. "It caused us all to recognize that we had to change even faster than we thought we were doing," Foglesong said.
The command beefed up its intelligence and long-haul communications capabilities, and new emphasis went into supporting the movement of troops and supplies to or through Europe, he said.
"What we have to be able to do is help open up the logistics supply line (by) mechanizing our bases to accept more long-haul strategic lift that comes into the continent," Foglesong said. "Our ability to help with the logistics flow is enhanced by the ... fact that we've been able to mechanize our bases to accept, do maintenance on, refuel and then posture these aircraft to go on to wherever our combat commanders need them."