The United States Air Force is at a critical crossroads. At no point before in its 62 year history has it faced such fundamental changes in its makeup, mission and future. Lack of funding, aging weapons systems, incompetent civilian leaders making conflicting decisions, changes in the conflicts we are fighting, and the stress of long lasting ongoing operations are raising troubling questions about how the USAF will exist in the future.
Volumes can be written about all facets of this discussion. I will try to boil it down to a bit smaller equation. It will take me a few posts to do so, but if you have any interest in this key component of our defense forces, you might be interested.
First, a very basic lesson on how the USAF is organized these days.
The active duty Air Force consists of major Commands. Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, AF Special Operations Command, and Air Education and Training Command are the ones I will concentrate on. They control the vast majority of aircraft and crews used operationally.
Air Combat Command controls offensive, combat oriented aircraft. Fighters, bombers, attack aircraft, and command and control aircraft fall under their control.
Air Mobility Command controls transport aircraft.
Special Operations Command controls aircraft designated for use in special operations, duh....
Air Education and Training Command controls aircraft and operations that train USAF personnel, be it pilots, maintainers, or others.
In addition ...
The Air Force Reserve Command controls various units kept in 'reserve' status. These units consist of personnel and aircraft that can be used to bolster active duty units as needed.
The Air National Guard consists of units organized as units controlled by their individual states. They are part of the individual states' defense and service structure, and are nominally controlled by each governor. ANG units can be called to active duty service (federalized) by the federal government as needed for national defense.
Prior to the Gulf War, active duty units, reserve units, and Air Guard units pretty much kept to themselves. Reserves and Air Guard units were truly 'weekend warriors', using hand me down aircraft and equipment after it was deemed unneeded by the active duty forces.
Extensive requirements of the Gulf War caused this seperation of forces to end. Reserves and guard units augmented active duty forces as never before, and set a standard that continues today. Reserves and Guards now provide a large percentage of Air Force assetts under the Total Force concept.
Is that boring enough for you? Stay tuned ....