Proposed FY15 Budget drives force structure changes at Tinker
By Kenneth LaFayette, Tinker Public Affairs
/ Published March 12, 2014
TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The Air Force on March 10 announced multiple changes to associate units at Tinker as a result of the President's proposed Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Budget.
The proposed actions include reductions in the 552nd Air Control Wing, inactivation of the Air Force Reserve Command's 513th Air Control Group, additions to the 507th Air Refueling Wing and a new mission for the 137th Air Refueling Wing. The proposal would also fund bed-down projects for future KC-46A maintenance by the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex.
The 552nd Air Control Wing, home to approximately 4,600 Airmen, would lose seven E-3 "Sentry" Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft in fiscal 2015, bringing the total number of E-3's at Tinker to 20.
"The SECAF and CSAF are having to make very difficult decisions in an austere fiscal environment to ensure our Air Force is ready to meet the threats of the future and to fight and win America's wars." said Col. Jay Bickley, 552nd ACW commander. "Decreasing the number of E-3s by seven to allow for recapitalization in other areas is one of those tough decisions."
Though AWACS capacity is reduced, the Air Force assures future command and control relevancy in contested environments by retaining modernization funding for the remaining AWACS fleet, continuing to field the E-3G variant and enhancing the electronic protection capability of the E-3 radar. The Air Force also plans to fund the stand-up of the E-3G Organic Software Depot Maintenance Facility at Tinker.
The E-3 aircraft provides all-weather surveillance and communications to commanders of U.S. and NATO air defense forces and is used to detect, identify, and track fixed-wing aircraft, maritime surface vessels, and to direct friendly aircraft against the enemy before they release ordnance against friendly forces.
In addition to the reduction of E-3 aircraft, the Air Force would also inactivate the 513th ACG, an AWACS reserve associate unit. The unit has approximately 345 Airmen who support and operate the E-3 AWACS and is the Air Force Reserve Command's only AWACS unit.
"We understand the Air Force has to make tough choices in an extremely difficult fiscal environment. The inactivation of the 513th ACG is part of these tough choices," said Col. David Robertson, 513th Air Control Group commander.
"We currently have 345 citizen Airmen in our unit who support and operate the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System. These citizen airmen have extended America's global power worldwide for over 15 years. Most of them work and live in the local Oklahoma communities and have for most of their career. Pending the proposal being enacted into law, we will continue to perform our command and control mission while staying committed and focused on the future of our Airmen."
Proposed plans are to adjust the reserve mission at Tinker by adding four KC-135s to the 507th Air Refueling Wing. The increase of four KC-135R's would bring the 507th ARW aircraft to 12, where they were before they lost four aircraft during 2013 Department of Defense force structure changes.
"Our team looks forward to the possibility of more KC-135 'iron' on our ramp. The increase in aircraft will enhance our daily air refueling and alert mission capability," said Col. Brian S. Davis, 507th Air Control Wing commander. "The Air Force Reserve and this unit are very efficient and that will ultimately help as the Air Force maintains a smaller yet more capable force for today and the future."
Tinker has been selected as the future home for depot maintenance on the Air Force's KC-46A tanker. The budget proposal includes approximately $120 million to support military construction projects and potential land acquisition.
"Although the first aircraft isn't scheduled to arrive here until 2018, we are already working fervently to make room for this new mission," Tinker officials said. "This addition to the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex is essential for us to meet the future needs of our primary customers - the warfighters."
"Just as the KC-135 depot maintenance was the foundation for Tinker's overall growth as a National Defense Asset the past five decades, maintenance on the KC-46A will be the cornerstone for the next 50 years," Tinker officials said.
According to Air Force officials, "In addition to the aircraft-driven force structure changes, the Air Force will continue to reorganize and realign missions to gain additional savings and efficiencies in the months to come."
Details on those changes will be announced as they become available.