Defense

March 25, 2013

Congress reviews reserve forces equipment needs

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Col. Bob Thompson
Washington, D.C.

Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, chief of Air Force Reserve, joined other Reserve and National Guard senior leaders on Capitol Hill March 19 to testify and answer questions. Jackson, who also commands Air Force Reserve Command, and the other senior leaders spoke about the need to update and replace their combat-worn equipment.

Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, chief of Air Force Reserve, joined other Reserve and National Guard senior leaders on Capitol Hill March 19 to testify and answer questions.

The Air Force and Army reserve component flag officers went before the House ,Armed Services Committee’s Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee led by Chairman Michael Turner, R-Ohio, and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.

Jackson, who also commands Air Force Reserve Command, and the other senior leaders spoke about the need to update and replace their combat-worn equipment. They were questioned about modernization and equipping strategies, new initiatives, program changes, and potential impacts from the Budget Control Act’s initial $487 billion in DOD cuts and Sequestration’s additional $600 billion in cuts to defense programs.

“The majority of our Citizen airmen serve part-time, making us a highly efficient and effective force,” Jackson told the committee.

“The money from this committee is the primary way we upgrade our combat equipment and aircraft,” he said. “This funding has resulted in better targeting, self protection and communication capabilities for our combat forces in Afghanistan and previously in Iraq.”

The funding is called the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation.

Congress allocates this special funding separately from the President’s Budget Request. The lawmakers funded the Air Force Reserve’s equipment upgrades with $75 million last year and $70 million in 2011.

This year’s Reserve and National Guard equipment upgrades have been disrupted by the looming Sequestration budget cuts and the lack of a fiscal 2012 defense appropriation.

“More than 20 years of sustained combat operations have taken their toll,” Jackson said. “Procurement funding for the Air Force Reserve is more important than ever.”

By using ideas from recently deployed Airmen and buying off-the-shelf technology, the Air Force Reserve gets new equipment that saves lives and leads to successful combat operations worldwide.

The special funding enabled Air Force Reserve Command to install the “Smart Multi-Function Color Display” in 15 of its combat search-and-rescue helicopters.

This high-tech communication upgrade gives aircrews enhanced data links, situational awareness and survivor information while airborne. The system shares critical information while the crews are en route to rescue sites, resulting in reduced mission launch times, upgraded threat awareness and reduced flight crew workload.

“In less than 20 months, 331 wounded warriors’ lives were saved in Afghanistan by the quicker response times and safer evacuations,” Jackson said. “This is a direct result of equipment upgrades from this outstanding program.”

These equipment upgrades also enable the Air Force Reserve to better support Homeland Defense missions.

Last year, AFRC’s 910th Airlift Wing at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, replaced its unique aerial spray systems.

The wing flies the only fixed-wing aircraft in the Department of Defense with this special capability to control disease vectors, eliminate insect populations and disperse oil spills.

The unit responds to national disasters and emergencies such as the 2010 oil spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico.

The goal of Air Force Reserve’s modernization efforts is to ensure that all combat aircraft and capabilities work interchangeably with Regular Air Force and Air National Guard counterparts. To meet future challenges, the Air Force works as a “Total Force” team and maintains readiness for combat or humanitarian relief operations worldwide.

“The Reserve Component can now be mobilized to respond to national security needs here at home,” said Jackson. “Dual-use capabilities such as airlift, aeromedical evacuation and personnel recovery are equally valuable, both in-theater and for homeland support.”

The top updates for the Air Force Reserve include engine fuel control systems for C-130 cargo aircraft and LITENING pods for F-16 fighter aircraft. In the past, advanced targeting pods allowed for strikes against moving targets and have been the No. 1 success story for modernizing the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard’s jets.

LITENING targeting pod were a resounding success during the opening days of combat against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Air Force reservists were asked to stay in country longer than expected because they were the only units flying and maintaining F-16 fighter aircraft with this state-of-the-art avionics upgrade.

The targeting pods enhance communication during missions by connecting pilots directly with Airmen on the ground, providing a faster and more accurate response time.




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