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Air Force Redesigns Contingency Forces

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 1998 – Air Force will establish 10 air expeditionary forces that will enable it to provide more lethal fighting organizations to regional unified commands and to reduce operations tempo for airmen.

Acting Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters and Gen. Michael Ryan, Air Force chief of staff, called the Expeditionary Aerospace Force model the service's blueprint for the 21st century. During an Aug. 4 Pentagon news conference, they said the model will transform the Air Force from a Cold War force based on containing the Soviets to one focused on countering the full spectrum of conflict.

The basis of the Expeditionary Aerospace Force is the air expeditionary force, which will have 175 aircraft --from F-15 air superiority fighters to A-10 close-air support aircraft to KC-10 air refuelers. Some aircraft will be deployed forward, while others, such as F-117 and B-2 stealth aircraft, will be on call.

The structure of the air expeditionary forces will be permanent, meaning commanders will integrate geographically separate wings, groups and squadrons. The units will train together and be able to perform missions, depending on the aircraft mix, across the spectrum of contingencies.

Currently, air expeditionary forces are formed ad hoc. While all are trained to a level of expertise, the units have not necessarily worked together before. Making the force permanent will allow airmen to get used to each other before an operation.

Peters and Ryan said the structure will be in place by Jan. 1, 2000.

The Air Force has experimented with air expeditionary forces before, most recently to counter Iraq earlier this year. Ryan and Peters said the Expeditionary Aerospace Force model will create rapidly deployable, responsive forces that are lighter and more lethal then current forces.

Further, they said, the model greatly integrates the Air Force's active and reserve components. Reserve component personnel already provide much of the muscle in the Air Force. "If they can give their employers a 15-month notice that they will be on active duty, we can integrate them more fully into operations," Ryan said. With more personnel and aircraft available from the reserves, deployments for everyone can be shortened.

Peters said the other services are pleased with the Air Force proposal. "They had some concern early on whether this would include strategic airlift, but they seem pleased with the initiative," he said after the news conference. "The [commanders in chief] are pleased and believe this will provide them with top-notch air capability."

Air expeditionary forces will handle missions below two major contingencies, Ryan said. "Once we reach that level, all bets are off," he said. If two major contingencies occur, the Air Force will revert to current doctrine. But, Ryan said, once the Expeditionary Aerospace Force matures, he believes it will be used for major theater wars as well.

At least two of the 10 air expeditionary forces will be on call at any time, Ryan said. Because a new force comes on every 45 days as another stands down, each force serves a 90-day on-call rotation only once every 15 months. Members in the units will know exactly when their rotations are.

"This will give our airmen some stability, and they will be able to make plans," Peters said. "We ask a lot of our people and we owe them every effort to make their lives easier."

Part of the Expeditionary Aerospace Force is to find 5,000 more support personnel. Ryan said the Air Force will find these 5,000 airmen by contracting out jobs and shifting airmen into career fields that deploy most often.

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