Tags: Air | Force | Readiness | Rates | Off | Sharply

Air Force Readiness Rates Off Sharply

Wednesday, 19 September 2001 12:00 AM

In 1991, 90 percent of the Air Force's "first-to-combat" forces -- fighters, bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and air-lifters -- were in the top two readiness categories.

Now, the Air Force -- including Air National Guard -- is 40 percent smaller and just 68 percent of its forces are in the top two readiness tiers, according to the latest numbers compiled by the Pentagon's Air Staff.

Combined, the two statistics mean that today's Air Force has just over 40 percent the combat readiness held by the force that went to war over Baghdad in 1991.

Air Force readiness rates were at historic highs during 1991 and immediately thereafter because of an intense effort to prepare aircraft and pilots for combat. Overall readiness has steadily declined since then to the current level.

In wartime, however, "everything changes. Even to compare last months readiness rates with this month's doesn't work There is no comparison, we will get it done," Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Donna Nicholas told UPI Wednesday.

Air Force officials contend comparing combat effectiveness between the current force and the force of a decade ago is a fruitless exercise because today's force has better weapons. Where once an aircraft would need several bombs "on target" to assure a kill, the proliferation of smaller precision munitions mean more targets can be destroyed by each aircraft.

"The missions are different, the capabilities have grown and changed," said Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Cheryl Law.

Adding to the burden, the Air Force this week picked up an enhanced mission protecting the continental United States.

"A reasonable fraction (of forces) are tied down with homeland defense," said an Air Staff source.

The readiness rates are based on four measures and are reported monthly to the air staff by roughly 300 unit commanders, according to Air Force sources. The readiness rates are based on an assessment of personnel, equipment supplies on hand, equipment condition and training.

Each category is given a rating by commanders, and usually the single lowest rating is the one reported, although commanders can skew the rating up and down with cause.

"You can have the best people and equipment, but if they aren't trained, they are not ready," the source told United Press International.

Strategic mobility -- the ability to move troops and equipment long distances -- has long been a point of particular concern.

The source said with the possibility of a larger conventional war looming on the horizon, the Air Force is trying to find ways to rapidly expand its ranks. One of the options includes accepting "lateral accessions" -- that is, training commercial pilots that may have been laid off by airlines to fly combat aircraft. Many of those pilots got their flight training in the military.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued the first of a series of deployment orders Wednesday, sending about 100 warplanes to undisclosed "forward locations," possibly in preparation for a strike against Afghanistan, where terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

The Taliban, Afghanistan's ruling, fundamentalist Islamic militia, is currently deciding whether to hand over Bin Laden.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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In 1991, 90 percent of the Air Force's first-to-combat forces -- fighters, bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and air-lifters -- were in the top two readiness categories. Now, the Air Force -- including Air National Guard -- is 40 percent smaller and just 68 percent of its...
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2001-00-19
Wednesday, 19 September 2001 12:00 AM
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