Air Force Ready If Called Upon for Iraq, James Says
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 18, 2014 The Air Force is fully engaged in planning efforts to provide options for the situation in Iraq and is ready to provide its capabilities if necessary, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said here today.
Speaking to the Defense Writers Group, the Air Force’s top official acknowledged the importance of the situation in Iraq.
“It is certainly a very serious and fluid situation, to say the least,” James said. “Our top leaders from the president to the [defense] secretary [and] Joint Chiefs of Staff -- everybody is very, very focused on this.”
The president, she said, has asked his national security team to provide options, including military options, for the situation.
“Military planners, of course, are always planning for a variety of contingencies,” James said, “so that planning is ongoing.”
The secretary discussed the capabilities the Air Force could bring to what she called “such an illustrative situation,” noting that the service always is involved in airlift and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
“We have strike capabilities should those be called for,” she said. “The refueling of other aircraft is crucial -- we have that in the Air Force -- and then command and control. These are the types of capabilities that the Air Force brings to the table, and when you talk about those capabilities and you talk about this part of the world, we have some of those assets stationed in the Middle East.”
Assets in the Middle East, she said, include F-15E Strike Eagle F-16 Fighting Falcons and F-22 Raptor fighter jets; KC-135 Stratotanker air refuelers; A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jets; B-1 Lancer bombers; C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft; and unmanned aerial systems.
“So we have a variety of assets already over there in the regular order,” James said. “And, of course, we have others which could be moved within a matter of a fairly short period of time should that be asked of us. The Air Force is fully engaged in the planning efforts, and we are standing by with our sister services. … But, of course, no decisions have been made.”
James said the ongoing situation in Iraq is an important military situation, but that it has other ramifications.
“That is what the president is doing,” she said. “He’s trying to bring in all of those factors to make a decision.”
(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS)