Vanguards of the Airspace

The Air National Guard’s ability to protect US airspace is “sufficient” for now, said ANG Director Lt. Gen. Bud Wyatt last week. However, the nation must be prepared for the next step in air sovereignty alert by the time the Air Guard’s F-16 Block 30 aircraft reach the end of their service lives at the end of the decade, he told the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land forces panel. This could mean extending those Block 30s’ service lives, replacing them with newer F-16 Block 40 and Block 50 airframes, or transitioning to the F-35 strike fighter, he said. Future aircraft assigned the ASA mission need not be stealthy, but will require features like advanced electronically scanned array radar, integrated sensors, advanced communications, and electronic warfare protection, said Wyatt. Otherwise “there could be a time in the future when we will not be able to adequately protect ourselves,” he said during the April 1 oversight hearing. Despite that, Wyatt said he has “great faith” that the Air Guard “will be able to meet” the ASA mission years ahead based on the fighter recapitalization plans laid out in USAF’s Fiscal 2012 budget request. (See also Still Some Wiggle Room) (Wyatt prepared remarks)