In September of 1982, 1 wrote my first article for AIR FORCE Magazine as Chief of Staff. The Air Force was celebrating its thirty-fifth birthday that year. From a modest beginning in 1947, we have developed into a powerful and effective force. We were fortunate, because we had the heritage of earlier air pioneers to guide us. Their daring, dedication, and innovation served us well as we laid our foundations. We also listened to people like the famous scientist, Theodore von Kármán. Von Kármán once said, "The men in charge of the future Air Force should always remember . . . that a constant inquisitive attitude toward science and a ceaseless and swift adaptation to new developments can maintain the security of this nation through world air supremacy." We've certainly followed his advice and have built an Air Force that is, without a doubt, the best in the world.
This will be my last article for the magazine as Chief. This year the Air Force is thirty-nine—growing older and getting better. In my 1982 article, I said that people are the key to whatever improvements we make. In the last four years, Air Force people have shown time and again that this is true. They can handle any situation with class—whether it's putting bombs inside a circle the size of a manhole cover, as in the recent Gunsmoke '85 competition, saving the life of a new baby by transporting a medical team in bad weather, or turning in the best flying safety record in Air Force history-1.49 accidents per 100,000 flying hours in 1985. I'm impressed by the caliber of the entire Air Force family—military and civilian.
We need to keep our quality people and must continue working hard to be sure they get the pay and benefits they deserve. We received one of the largest pay raises in our history in 1982. Since then, our yearly pay raises have kept pace with inflation. However, there is still a wide gap between military and private-sector wages, so we will continue to pursue more equitable pay. We've picked up additional benefits, including larger PCS reimbursements, higher per diem, and space-available dental care for dependents. Right now, we're working on a dental insurance plan for spouses and children of active-duty members, which we plan to have available by early 1987. Quality-of-life improvements for our people will always be a major goal.
Progress in Force Modernization
Our efforts to modernize both our strategic and tactical forces also illustrate the good things that are happening. First, our strategic modernization efforts have achieved considerable success. Our first new bomber in thirty years, the B-1B, was delivered to Strategic Air Command in June 1985. Adding 100 B-1Bs to the inventory will greatly enhance our manned penetration capability in the near term, while the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB)—the second part of our two-bomber program—will be the penetrator of the future. It will allow us to operate well into the next century against the most sophisticated air defenses the Soviets can put up against us. Plans are for the ATB to be operational in the early 1990s. Finally, air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) became operational in December 1982, and today we have five B-52 squadrons fitted with these missiles. This combined force of B-1Bs, ATBs, and B-52s equipped with ALCMs will help to ensure that deterrence is strong well into the future.
In the area of ICBM modernization, we've made good progress as well. Our decision to deploy 100 Peacekeeper missiles, based on Scowcroft Commission recommendations, has been slowed by congressional action; we are presently capped at fifty missiles. But we are still committed to full deployment of 100 Peacekeepers. The system is vital to our deterrent posture because it puts Soviet hard targets at risk. The second part of our ICBM modernization effort, the small ICBM, is running smoothly. SICBM is in research and development and is expected to be operational in the early 1990s.
To tie together all the parts of the Strategic Modernization Program, we are developing a Strategic Forces Roadmap. The roadmap will include alternatives for a more survivable basing mode for a second fifty Peacekeeper missiles, a thorough look at variations in missiles and basing modes for the small ICBM, and an examination of future strategic bomber force structure needs. Our goal is to ensure a maximum triad capability that at the same time is consistent with reduced levels of strategic arms and with eventual transition to a strategy based on strategic defense, if research proves that this is the best way to go.
Reaching for Forty Wings
Modernization and expansion of our tactical forces is also well under way. The Tactical Fighter Roadmap is our guide in procuring the right mix and numbers of aircraft. In the last four years, we've taken delivery of more than 850 fighter and attack airplanes. We're planning to reach forty wing-equivalents by FY '91 while maintaining an acceptable average aircraft age. In addition, our FY '86 budget request included funds for the first eight F-15Es, the Dual-Role Fighter. This airplane will give us badly needed long-range surface at tack capability and be able to meet the air-to-air threat.
Three important tactical programs deserve special mention—AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile), LANTI RN (Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night system), and the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF). AMRAAM, which is in full-scale development, will greatly increase our capability in the air-to-air role. LANTIRN will be employed on the F-15E and F-16C/D and will allow us to conduct low-altitude operations at night and in adverse weather. The first navigation pod is planned for delivery in April 1987. The targeting pod is now in IOT&E, with a planned delivery date of April 1988. Finally, to ensure air superiority over a Soviet threat that gets tougher every year, we're continuing development of the ATF.
Good things are also happening with our projection forces. By the end of this decade, we'll nearly double the airlift capability we had in 1980. The increase will result from additional spares and aircraft (C-SB, KC-10, and Civil Reserve Air Fleet [CRAF] Enhancement). In December 1982, we awarded a contract for fifty C-513s. The first aircraft was delivered last December, and deliveries will be completed in FY '89. Our buy of sixty KC-10s is fully funded and will be completed in FY '87. And the CRAF Enhancement program, in which we are modifying nineteen civilian Boeing 747 passenger planes to be able to carry cargo, is nearly complete.
But the C-17 is the key to our future force projection capability. For the first time, we'll have the ability to deliver outsize Army equipment directly to where it's needed—at austere airfields near the front. Furthermore, the C-17 is the affordable solution. It will provide the capability of reaching our 66,000,000 ton-mile-per-day goal at a savings of about $16 billion over thirty years and will require about 15,000 fewer people than the next best option.
Emphasis on Joint Approaches
Another good thing happening in the Air Force is increased emphasis on joint cooperation. Army Chief of Staff Gen. John Wickham and I kicked off this effort in May 1984 when we signed a Memorandum of Agreement on the Joint Force Development Process. Starting with thirty-one initiatives, the process has expanded to include four more. As of this date, fourteen initiatives have been implemented, four are closed, and seventeen are ongoing. The Navy has also come on board and is now actively involved in five initiatives. They have representatives in the Joint Assessment and Initiative Office—the focal point for the Joint Force Development Process—and staff officer exchanges between the services have become standard procedure.
These initiatives have helped us eliminate duplication and fill voids. Substantial cost savings have resulted as well. For example, a near-term cost avoidance of $600 million was achieved by restructuring the JSTARS program with the Army. By working together, we reduced two platforms and two radar systems to a single platform (the C-18) and a single radar system.
Cooperation among the services has extended to our efforts in space. A significant milestone was the establishment last September of the Unified Space Command, which will ensure the coordination of all space assets in support of national objectives and in concert with other military forces.
I think we'll see more and more emphasis on working, training, and planning together. The Air Force will continue to push these efforts among all the services as the best way to achieve the most affordable and effective combined combat capability.
Good budgets have allowed us to build a much stronger defense—a more confident posture for deterrence. But fiscal austerity seems to be the name of the game—at least for the next several years. We have already cut about forty programs and stretched many others to meet lower-than-expected budget targets. I don't expect the ghost of the 1 970s—a time when we couldn't do our job adequately because of limited funds—to return, but keeping up momentum is going to be much tougher. But as President John Kennedy once said, "There is no discount price on defense. The free world must be prepared at all times to face the perils of war." We live in a dangerous world, and the challenges we face are growing, not fading away. I don't think this point will be forgotten by the American people.
Today's Air Force is stronger than ever. The last four years have been good ones, and it has been a privilege for me to be a part of them. The people in the Air Force today are the best I've seen, and working with and for them has been the most rewarding part of my thirty-six-year military career. You can bet that the years ahead will be even more challenging than those behind us. But I believe as the Air Force grows older, we'll discover that "the best is yet to be."
Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag