Prepositioned Materiel Could Save USAFE Hundreds of Flight Hours In Event of Crisis

Members of the 204th Airlift Squadron offload cargo pallets from a C-17 in perpetration from exercise Swift Response 18 on June 5 at Ramstein AB, Germany. Air Force Photo by SrA John Linzmeier

RAMSTEIN AB, Germany—A large portion of European Deterrence Initiative funds are going toward the prepositioning of equipment throughout the theater, which in turn is helping the command rebuild its war reserve materiel that was largely depleted after US forces drew down at the end of the Cold War.

The Fiscal 2018 budget request includes $4.8 billion for EDI—a $1.4 billion increase from Fiscal 2017 funds and almost four times more than what was funded when the initiative was first announced in 2014. The Air Force’s share of those funds is roughly $1 billion, and of that about $800 million will go toward what the service is calling the European Contingency Air Operations Set.

ECAOS, which builds off US Army efforts to preposition materiel for ground forces, is essentially a “base in a box,” and includes everything necessary to rapidly generate sorties and maintain air superiority in the event of a crisis, said Melvin Harris, US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa EDI chief. That includes prepositioned equipment necessary to quickly build what Harris calls “horizontal infrastructure,” such as runways and ramps, as well as war reserve materiel.

The idea, said Harris, is to ensure USAF can quickly respond in the event of a crisis where a “near-peer adversary, like Russia, throws a lot of forces into theater.” He said, “There is a capacity constraint to strategic airlift. You can only get so much on a C-17, and if we can preposition that equipment in theater it postures us right for contingency.”

Of the $800 million set aside for ECAOS, roughly 40 percent will go toward what is known as DABS, or the deployable airbase systems facilities, equipment, and vehicles. DABS are very large kits that include everything from fuel trucks and Humvees to mess tents or specialized hospital tents where expeditionary medical personnel can conduct surgery if necessary to riot control gear for security forces.

The service won’t say exactly how many of these kits it plans to procure, or where they will be based, but officials did say it would take roughly 100 C-17 flights to transport the same amount of war reserve materiel included in just one kit.

Harris said there will be “multiple DAB sets” at “regionalized locations” throughout the theater.

“The planning factors behind the infrastructure storage is multimodal,” he said. “We want to make sure we have access to rail, road, and air capabilities to deliver assets if need be.”

The Air Force already has started procuring the kits, with the goal of getting them all in place by Fiscal 2024.

Lt. Col. Gregory Orbino, who oversees EDI-funded military construction p?rojects as the Europe deputy branch chief, said design work will begin this year on a large expansion of a storage facility in Luxembourg, which USAF has typically used to store its war reserve materiel.

“We’re using that as our first test case if you will,” said Orbino, who noted the Luxembourg location will serve as a collection point for DABS kits and materiel.