Not Ideal, but Doable

The Air Force’s impending fighter gap has raised red flags within the Air National Guard and Congress, but Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, head of NORAD and US Northern Command, believes the projected recapitalization plan for the service’s legacy fighter airframes should maintain a sufficient capability to preserve the air sovereignty alert (ASA) mission that protects the US homeland from air threats. “I’m not worried, but I am vigilant” not to let the issue drop off the table, he told reporters yesterday after a Capitol Hill speech. Renuart said he is in dialogue with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Air Force leadership to make certain that he retains “basic capability” to meet potential air threats. “So far, they’re being supportive,” he said. The ASA mission still requires a “very well trained, capable fighter pilot” who can get to the target quickly and radars and sensors that can identify and track both aircraft and maritime assets. Renuart said he’s been carful not to ask for dedicated fighters for the ASA mission, since he’s able to fill his needs with assets, predominantly ANG fighters, that are used in a variety of roles. He acknowledged, however, that from now until Fiscal 2013 will be the tricky part of the ASA equation as everyone waits on F-35 production rates to rev up. (For more on the concerns over the future viability of the ASA mission, read Waiting for the Plan as well as Air Sovereignty Alert at Risk.)