The long-awaited Mobility Capabilities Study will call for just 180 C-17s, a level that Gen. Norton Schwartz, head of US Transportation Command, agrees with. Schwartz told reporters in Washington today that 222 C-17s is “more organic capability than is required” for the Air Force’s airlift fleet. Schwartz said the 222 level—strongly urged by his predecessor, retired Gen. John Handy and recently endorsed by the Senate—is not needed because TRANSCOM believes planned C-5 upgrades, in combination with robust outsourcing to airlines, will provide enough airlift capability. Schwartz acknowledged that it will take two years for USAF will know if the modernized and re-engined C-5 actually work as advertised. “There is some risk in this strategy,” he admitted. Success with the C-5 upgrade is the “key assumption” in the MCS, he said.
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.