“Unacceptable” Fighter Gap Looms

During Wednesday’s House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee hearing on the future of DOD’s air sovereignty alert (ASA) mission, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) called the fighter gap facing the Air National Guard, which bears the brunt of this mission, “simply unacceptable.” She said that ongoing failure to “adequately study legitimate options for resourcing the mission” has put ASA in “a virtual reality” realm rather than “a real case situation.” She pointed to the Tucson-based 162nd Fighter Wing, an Air Guard unit with one of the best F-16 maintenance records for ASA units, but which she said would have no flyable aircraft in just six years. “Tucson is just the tip of the iceberg,” she declared. Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, ANG director, confirmed Giffords’ analysis saying that eight of the 11 ANG F-16 units conducting ASA missions, have aircraft that reach the end of their service lives between 2015 and 2017. Wyatt said the Air Guard had made “some progress” in working with Air Combat Command to ” push forward or accelerate the fielding of the F-35 and F-22 into Air National Guard units.” (That work includes formalizing mission statement documents.) Still, he added, “The only plan that I’ve seen that’s been published to date has the Air National Guard getting into these weapons systems, as you say, about 10 years late to need.” (Wyatt’s written testimony)