Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James took the stage Oct. 28, at the Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium to address the Air Force’s priority to maintain mission readiness and promote modernization in the coming years.
With increasing global threats, James reiterated her emphasis on the Air Force maintaining its global readiness. Air Mobility Command, assigned with enabling rapid aerial transportation missions, has been in the forefront of mobility efforts to support the current fight in Mosul, Iraq.
AMC professionals and capabilities enabled delivery of critical supplies, equipment, and ensured repairs of an airfield called Q-West, near Mosul. Additionally, they also supplied ground forces in northern Iraq via a robust airdrop capability.
“Da’esh tried to make sure that we could never go back to Q-West, detonating explosives and digging trenches in the runway to make it unusable for our aircraft,” said James. “The logistics team had to move 1.9 million pounds of supplies and equipment to repair the field. What Da’esh spent two years destroying, our Airmen were able to rebuild in three weeks.”
Supporting combat and humanitarian missions abroad remains a primary focus, not only for AMC, but for the Air Force as a whole. These efforts can only be continued through modernizing our fleet to make sure we maintain air dominance.
“We need to invest in our modernization programs without sacrificing our readiness to operate effectively today.” said James. “We have to continue to repeat it to our Congress. This is not an either/or proposition. We need both readiness today, and we need to modernize for our future.”
With the introduction of the KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker due to be delivered to McConnell and Altus Air Force Bases in 2017, modernization efforts have already begun for the Air Force.
“The KC-46 is one of what we call the ‘Big 3’ modernization programs,” said the secretary. “This is just a piece of the whole modernization picture. We are doing this across the entire enterprise. We have the future fighter, the F-35, and the future bomber, the B-21, which round out our ‘Big 3.’”
Ensuring modernization, while maintaining readiness, has been an essential priority for James as she continues to work toward a more effective Air Force.
“Across the Total Force, with our allies and partners around the world, and with our industry partners, when we all come together, this mobility community creates unique capabilities that transform the fight.” said James. “These bonds we have built have been the foundation of success the Air Force, and the Joint Force, have relied on for generations. It is essential today, and will be even more critical in the years to come.”