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Posted: 5/6/2002 11:54:23 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/6/2002 11:57:53 AM EDT by warlord]
Los Angeles Times: War on Terrorism Puts a Load on Air Force's Cargo Fleet [url]http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-000031962may05.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dworld[/url] War on Terrorism Puts a Load on Air Force's Cargo Fleet By JOHN HENDREN TIMES STAFF WRITER May 5 2002 KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Although hamstrung by its lowest cargo capacity in decades, the Air Force has managed to operate a supply bridge to Afghanistan that has proved invaluable to the U.S.-led campaign here. But as the Bush administration lays the groundwork for expanding the war on terrorism to Iraq, military strategists say the Pentagon's diminished, aging and stressed cargo fleet will be hard-pressed to support such an invasion. "If we had two contingencies that were similarly remote as the war in Afghanistan, we would be stretched to the breaking point," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute think tank in Arlington, Va. "There aren't enough aircraft." The Pentagon promises that it will get the job done somehow, but any new mission would leave an already strapped cargo fleet cutting back on missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere. During two weeks in November, all of the nation's C-17s, the new backbone of the Pentagon's cargo fleet, were flying war-related missions. Air Force officials say future demands could force them to activate emergency agreements allowing them to seize planes from commercial carriers. And it's not just cargo planes. With as many as one in three of the nation's aging refueling tankers undergoing repairs at any time, some U.S. cargo and fighter jets have been relying on British and Turkish allies for midair refueling. "This entire process, from 9/11 to where we sit today, has been a dramatic stress" on cargo capacity, said Gen. John W. Handy, the commander in chief of the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. The shortage of aircraft has its ironies. In 1990, the Pentagon--headed by then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney--cut the number of C-17s the Air Force had planned to buy from 210 to 120 amid a lessened Soviet threat. Because of the enormous time lag in producing such planes, only 84 have been delivered to the Air Force. As Vice President Cheney now helps run the war on terrorism, with its far-flung logistical demands, Pentagon chief Donald H. Rumsfeld has an acronym for items such as the C-17: LDHD--low density, high demand. "It's kind of a euphemism meaning we didn't buy the right things," Rumsfeld said recently in a general assessment of Pentagon budgeting. In most wars, U.S. troops and their armored vehicles, helicopters and base-building equipment get to where they're going by sea, then by rail or road. -- continued --
Link Posted: 5/6/2002 11:55:58 AM EDT
That wasn't possible in landlocked Afghanistan, governed by a hostile militia, its roads controlled by bandits and rival warlords, and its rail lines not only damaged by bombing but constructed in a different gauge than those of neighboring countries. For most of the war, the only option was the air lanes. "We came in by pure air," Col.Frank Wiercinski, the 101st Airborne Division commander in charge of the military base here in Kandahar, said in a recent interview. "Everything that we eat, everything that we drank ... and all our equipment came in by air." From Oct. 7 to March 26, Air Force carriers hauled 142,888 tons of cargo to the theater of the Afghan war. On some days, more than a dozen flights arrived from Frankfurt, Germany, and elsewhere into Kandahar, which is to become a humanitarian aid hub as well as a military airstrip. The Afghan airlift is the third-largest in history after the fabled Berlin airlift of 1948-49 and Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in 1990-91. The crunch will come when, as expected, the United States expands the anti-terrorism campaign to another front. Nearly everyone agrees that there aren't enough cargo planes to support two fronts at the level of the Afghan airlift. The United States has 126 massive C-5 cargo carriers. Because of its size and weight, however, the C-5 has never landed on the short and heavily patched runways in Afghanistan. It will face similar constraints in other prospective theaters of the war on terrorism. The Pentagon also has the 84 new C-17s, modern aircraft built at Boeing's Long Beach plant that can carry perhaps four jeeps, or a helicopter and a water-purification system--about half the load of a C-5. In addition to its 1990 order of 120 C-17s at about $237 million apiece, the Air Force is negotiating with Boeing to buy an additional 60. That's still short of the 220 new C-17s that Transportation Command chief Handy says he needs. "If Al Qaeda's the worst we're going to face, maybe 180 [C-17s] is enough," analyst Thompson said. But if the United States invades Iraq, he added, "maybe 220 aircraft will not be enough." One option is to use standby contracts with commercial carriers--from FedEx Corp. to passenger airlines--to fill the gap. "If I can't fly you on [a] military airplane, I will then try to find a commercial contract that will meet your requirement," Maj. Gen. William Welser III, the No. 2 official at the U.S. Transportation Command, said in a recent interview. Meanwhile, planes are now sent to Afghanistan as fast as Boeing can supply them. Another major limitation for the airlift effort is the availability of refueling tankers. The lack of a land bridge and the difficulty in getting approval to use local airspace--planes returning from Kyrgyzstan to Germany deliberately skirt Iranian and Russian territory--have made the hazardous practice of midair refueling increasingly necessary. -- continued --
Link Posted: 5/6/2002 11:56:58 AM EDT
The Air Force has 59 massive KC-10 and 546 KC-135 midair refueling tankers, while the Marines and Navy have a combined tanker fleet of fewer than 200. While that might sound like a lot, it took eight to nine refueling jets--sometimes two at a time--to fuel a single B-2 bomber making the 48-hour trek from U.S. soil to Afghanistan early in the war. Even in peacetime, on an average day 300 to 350 missions use Air Force tankers. That number increases any time there is an earthquake, hurricane or other natural disaster, all of which take the Air Force planes that respond out of regular service. During wartime, "I automatically come up with shortages," said Welser. "We could use more tankers if we're going to continue to do just our day-to-day mission, much less the kind of missions we're involved in now." If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives. For information about reprinting this article, go to www.lats.com/rights.
Link Posted: 5/6/2002 12:05:34 PM EDT
It's inevitable that we are now reaping the rewards that we bought with all of the defense cuts after the wall fell. I think that maybe this war will teach us that there will always be 'the next enemy' and that the military should be maintained at a constant level instead of the build-up, strip down cylce which has shifted from adminstartion to administartion.
Link Posted: 5/6/2002 3:22:13 PM EDT
Link Posted: 5/6/2002 3:23:21 PM EDT
Armed_Scientist: Yep, all of those defense bugdet cuts that we suffered in the previous administration, is now coming home to roust. My question is what happened to all that money that was cut from the defense budget and spent on social welfare programs; and what results do we have to show for it? It happens every few years, the Republicans build up the military only to have the Democrats later come in and reduce it. This type of whipsawing he military will have its price
Link Posted: 5/6/2002 3:36:46 PM EDT
You know.. this is what happened to us and the Brits before and after WWI and it has happened now; because of the "end" of the Cold War. No one should be surprised. History just repeating itself. (By the way) Divide the price of that Boeing C17 by 11 and thats what it would of cost in 1946 dollars.
Link Posted: 5/6/2002 3:45:07 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist: I think that maybe this war will teach us that there will always be 'the next enemy' and that the military should be maintained at a constant level instead of the build-up, strip down cylce which has shifted from adminstartion to administartion.
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No, this will not happen. The last war is always the 'last' war. Always our fighting men pay for this idiocy.
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