The Air Force has taken enormous strides during the past
decade, and Air Training Command has been in the forefront—enhancing readiness
through top-quality, highly trained people. As the Air Force moves toward the
new challenges of the twenty-first century, Air Training Command continues to
provide the foundation for its success.
A decade ago, all indicators pointed toward a less capable
Air Force—declining defense budgets, aging weapon systems, and dwindling
numbers of young people to man the force. All services missed their recruiting
goals in 1979, and pilot retention was alarmingly low. New problems were
constantly arising to challenge the quality and capability of America's armed
Now, just ten years later, our Air Force is better prepared
than ever to carry out its vital mission.
The turnaround occurred because of a renewed commitment by
the American people to a strong defense and the hard work and innovation of
blue-suiters from the flight lines to the Pentagon. The cornerstone of this
recovery is also the cornerstone of today's Air Force readiness: high-quality
ATC is proud of its contributions to the Air Force's
success, but it is not resting on its laurels. By continuing a tradition of
superb recruiting, ATC continues to attract the nation's best young people. By
constantly refining its training techniques, ATC continues to provide the
world's best aerospace training. On this solid foundation will be built the Air
Force of our future.
ATC today is a command of change and challenge. From its
basic structure to its teaching methods, the entire command is permeated by
One of the most noticeable changes is the plan to close two
of ATC's thirteen installations. The President's Commission on Base
Realignments and Closures marked Chanute AFB, Ill., and Mather AFB, Calif., for
closure, with their missions to be relocated. Planning is under way to relocate
Chanute's technical training, one sixth of the total Air Force load, to ATC's
other technical training centers and to relocate Mather's navigator-training
mission to Beale AFB, Calif. By early 1990, the Command will begin the
systematic transfer of training courses, which will ensure that the last
graduates at Chanute and Mather receive the same high-quality training
provided to their predecessors.
Another change is the diminished number of airmen carrying
out maintenance on ATC flight lines. Over the past year, aircraft maintenance
activities at Reese AFB, Tex., Laughlin AFB, Tex., and Williams AFB, Ariz.,
have begun conversion to either contract or in-house civilian maintenance,
joining the previously contracted flight lines of Sheppard AFB, Tex., Vance
AFB, Okla., and Columbus AFB, Miss. Only one more command base remains to be
converted—Mather. That conversion should begin in early 1990.
Change in the Air
The heart of ATC's modernization was the USAF Trainer Master
Plan, released in April 1988. In February 1989, the plan was updated with the
Department of Defense's 1989 Aircraft Trainer Master Plan. This plan included a
report on progress by the Air Force and Navy toward a joint-service acquisition
schedule for trainer aircraft and related systems. The core of joint
acquisition is the joint specification of requirements. Air Force and Navy
experts are currently developing documentation for the Primary Aircraft
Training System. The goal is to meet both services' near- and long-term needs
with maximum opportunities for joint procurement of training systems.
Delivery of the DoD master plan to Congress represented a
renewed commitment to Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) and to
modernization of the trainer aircraft fleet. A major step in converting the
plan from paper to hardware occurred in August, when Air Force Systems Command
requested proposals from aerospace industries for the Tanker/Transport Training
System (TTTS). Source selection is ongoing and is scheduled to be completed in
March 1990. Current plans call for the purchase of 211 off-the-shelf business
aircraft (modified for Air Force needs), up to fourteen simulators,
courseware, and other related training devices. Students are scheduled to begin
SUPT in late 1992 at Reese AFB, Tex.
Delivery of the TTTS is critical for two reasons. We need
the aircraft in order to begin dual-track SUPT. Equally important, the TTTS
will relieve pressure on the aging T-38 fleet by reducing the number of sorties
that the 1950s-vintage aircraft must fly. That relief is vital if the T-38s are
to continue to serve as an advanced trainer into the twenty-first century.
Even that won't be enough to keep the current trainer fleet
flying as long as needed. The T-37 Tweet and the T-38 Talon are undergoing
modifications to extend their lives. This year, Air Force Logistics Command
awarded a contract to provide kits for the T-37 Service Life Extension Program
(SLEP). The program will replace two fatigue-critical components of the Tweets:
the forward wing spar lower cap and the "302" fittings, where the
wing attaches to the fuselage. The horizontal stabilizer, the wing center
carry-through structure, and the banjo fittings in the tail will be inspected
and, if necessary, replaced. With these modifications, along with changes to
our inspection program, the T-37's life can be safely extended. SLEP combines
with the ongoing Pacer Classic program for the Talon.
Along with equipment changes, ATC has taken a hard look at
how it trains. During 1989, the Command conducted Broad Area Reviews on both
flying training and technical training. Experts throughout the Air Force looked
at everything from training philosophy to facilities and developed more than
100 initiatives to improve training.
The Diminishing Pool
One of the greatest challenges facing ATC is to recruit
top-quality young people, and this challenge grows more demanding each year.
Last year, the Air Force delivered 43,000 high-quality enlistees to achieve its
recruiting goals. But there is reason for concern. America's labor pool is
shrinking, and the competition from schools and industry for America's best and
brightest is intense. Increased recruiting goals in 1990 bring a magnified
challenge, but it is one that ATC's recruiters—2,555 volunteers—will tackle
and, with the support of America's people, achieve.
As the 1990s loom, the nation and the Air Force face a world
changing faster than at any time since the end of World War II. ATC, in its
current climate of change, is out in front as it restructures to meet the
needs—many of which have yet to be determined—of tomorrow's Air Force.
Lt. Gen. Robert C.
Oaks, USAF is Commander of Air Training Command.
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