We're going back to my favorite whipping post to start off this morning. The F-35, or "flying turd', never fails to surprise me with how bad it is.
Now it appears that the plane can't hold up to hard use, and according to some senior officers, the training fleet at Eglin AFB is "on life support
". Quite durable for a plane that just went online in 2011.
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- One of the busiest F-35 Joint Strike Fighter training units is hoping the U.S. Air Force can help relieve some of the pressures of training student pilots with ineffective resources.
The 33rd Fighter Wing, the leading training wing for F-35 student pilots, hopes it will receive additional F-35A aircraft, along with considerable upgrades to its existing fleet, to keep up with training demands, said Col. Paul Moga, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing here.
"Right now, production is king. We've got to find ways to solve this aircrew crisis, and our contribution to that is getting our students through the training program as quickly as possible," Moga said, referring to the service's ongoing pilot shortage.
Military.com sat down with Moga, head of the F-35A Lightning II flying program, during a trip accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to the base.
Moga said the unit has found smarter ways inside the existing structure of the 33rd to get more quality sorties into the curriculum despite limitations.
"We're the first Air Force wing to start doing what we call 'hot swaps,'" Moga said.
The term refers to different student/instructor pairs swapping out for back-to-back flights in a single aircraft in order to save time and execute more sorties.
But lately it's not enough.
"We are at the end of our rope as far as finding creative ways to generate more sorties in the same amount of daylight with the same aircraft, because you run the risk [of overunning the fleet and breaking it]," Moga said.
The 33rd maintains 25 F-35As. The U.S. Navy, which also has a presence on the base and sends pilots through the training pipeline here, keeps 8 F-35Cs on station.
The wing is authorized to have 59 aircraft.
"It stresses the system. Every single day we are maximum-performing in regards to the amount of student training that we do," Moga said.
The sustainment of F-35s at Eglin is crucial to that training mission.
Although the F-35 is the Pentagon's newest and most advanced aircraft to date, the oldest of the fleet resides at the Florida base. Moga said the planes, part of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s earliest low rate initial production batches, need the additional work.
"Everybody's aware that that fleet is on life support right now, and they need to kind of crank up the machine a little bit if they plan on extending the utility of this fleet another five or 10 years," said Moga, who also oversees the maintenance training units here.
The fifth-generation stealth plane arrived here in 2011 and made the 33rd Fighter Wing the first U.S. F-35 training unit. The first class of student pilots started training in 2013.
Shifting gears - we'll take a look at what has become the backbone of our military forces of late - the National Guard. For decades that's been the 'reserves', there if needed, but usually only for emergencies. Those personnel knew they'd be out a couple of weeks a year, training every month, but for the most part remaining civilians 90% of the time.
Until we went to war. Many units served overseas; some of them for months or even years at a time. Deployments, however, were always planned well in advance so that those civilians could have their affairs in order before reporting for duty with Uncle Sam. That policy is about to change
The director of the Army National Guard outlined a new strategy Wednesday that will mean more training days and an increased possibility of short-notice deployments for Guard soldiers.
As part of National Guard 4.0, the Guard has begun a transformation aimed at better meeting the needs of the operational Army, Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy told an audience at an Association of the United States Army Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast.
The new strategy will mean Guard soldiers may not always be notified about upcoming mobilizations months or even years in advance, Kadavy said.
"Maybe you are not going to get a notification of sourcing two years ahead of time," he said, describing the process of how the Guard notifies soldiers that their unit might be needed for a deployment.
"If you are at contingency plans, that notification of sourcing might be you are mobilized tomorrow, move to your home station; four days later, we want you at the mob station," he continued. "It's a very short deployment timeline, and you've got to meet a combatant commander's timeline."
This is the fourth transformation of the National Guard since the adoption of the all-volunteer force in the early 1970s, Kadavy said. With guidance from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, this effort is designed to bring the Guard up to a higher level of readiness so it can be more responsive to contingencies in the future.
"As part of the Army's operational force, we are decreasing mobilization times in order to meet the needs of the time ... as well as potential contingencies," he said. "With a smaller Army, our country needs a more prompt response from our citizen soldiers."
The National Guard makes up about 39 percent of the Army combat force. That's eight of the Army's 18 divisions or 27 of the Army's 58 brigade combat teams, Kadavy said.
Currently, about 20,200 Guard soldiers are mobilized for missions around the world.
I suppose that in some way, the deployment change could be seen as carrying on the traditions of our militia forefathers, "ready at a minute's notice", but I believe modern society has evolved beyond that. Just try to imagine a civilian family...Mom or Dad comes home from work one day and gets notice that they'll be heading overseas for six months in just three day's time. It's not a good situation.
But of course, those Reservists will likely need to travel even further for their deployments. Remember when it was possible to find a military facility within easy reach of your hometown? Saint Reagan of Santa Barbara started to change all that with many rounds of BRAC, or Base Re-alignment And Closure committees. That committee has never gone away
, and they're making noise about closing more bases.
NORFOLK -- After years of resisting, Congress may consider a proposal to allow military base closings -- but under restrictive rules that give communities veto power, U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman said Thursday.
Wittman, a Westmoreland County Republican and senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said during a Navy League luncheon at The Main hotel that he would support a proposal that addresses the military's concern that it's wasting money by keeping unneeded facilities .
Hampton Roads federal lawmakers and community leaders have been skittish for years about any talk of closing military facilities -- particularly in a region where 40 percent of the economy is tied to defense and other federal spending. In 2005, a Base Realignment and Closure Commission or BRAC -- appointed to select facilities to shut down -- led to the closing of the Army's Fort Monroe and consideration of a recommendation to close Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach.
Wittman said the plan, which could be an amendment to the 2019 defense spending bill, would be limited to small bases or "tangential facilities" identified by the Pentagon.
"They would have to say that it's excess inventory and we don't need it," Wittman said. "And the localities would have to say that it's OK to do that.
"I'd be very amenable to that. It brings everybody to the table to discuss excess capacity," added Wittman, who is chairman of the committee's Seapower and Force Projection Subcommittee.
"My concern is this: I do think we need to shed ourselves of facilities and do it the right way. Remember, if we get rid of facilities in strategically centered locations -- that is, population centers -- you will never ever get them back."
Many communities depend on their military bases for their livelihoods. Believe it or not, even in this commonwealth - when Fort Devens closed down (central mass) and the Weymouth Naval Air Station (south of boston) closed, it took those communities decades to recover from the blow. But of course, those bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, and even England, Germany, Korea, and Japan....they never seem to close, do they?