ACC commander praises 552nd ACW's professionalism

  • Published
  • By April McDonald
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Air Combat Command's top leader took time to meet with Airmen of the 552nd Air Control Wing last week.

"I needed to come out and see the Airmen, and see what I can do to help them," Gen. "Hawk" Carlisle said last week, following his first visit to Tinker Air Force Base since taking over as commander of ACC last November.

After his visit April 21-22, General Carlisle admitted how impressed he was with the 552nd ACW and the professionals who carry out its important global mission.

"(The E-3 'Sentry' Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft) AWACS is engaged everywhere in the world," he said. "They're usually the first ones there in any kind of challenging environment and they're the last ones to leave. They're critical to our success."

General Carlisle added that being able to command and control aircraft is essential to the nation's ability to quickly and effectively react to world events.

"The first two things you have to do in any campaign anywhere are to be able to command and control and you have to gain and maintain air superiority," he said. "Both of those functions require the E-3."

Though AWACS have been deployed continuously to the Middle East for the last 24 years, the fleet still faces the challenge of operating in a fiscally constrained environment.

General Carlisle said he's the last person in the world who wants to lose any AWACS, but if the Budget Control Act remains in effect, it will happen.\

"We have to balance across the Air Force in everything we do," he said. "And in many areas I'm responsible for - command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, bombers and fighters -- I don't have enough resources in any of those areas. I have to take some assets out of every one to balance and give the most capability I can with the amount of money Congress gives us."

Right now, any decision on reducing the AWACS fleet has been delayed until 2019. General Carlisle said if the BCA law is changed or if world events change, there are opportunities for leaders to revisit that issue.

"It's not that we want to do it," he said. "But we have to balance. Every area in the Air Force under the BCA takes a cut, every single area."

The general said leaders must still make other "incredibly difficult decisions that will affect families." Those decisions include the size of the Air Force and the size of the civilian workforce that supports it.

Other decisions like future procurement programs and current platforms also need to be decided. Though the Air Force is the smallest it's ever been, General Carlisle said he would rather have less capacity than a hollow force.

"I want whatever I have to be trained, ready and modernized to be the best force we can have for the amount of resources the American people give us," he said.