Air Combat Command
Air Combat Command (ACC), established 1 June 1992, with headquarters at Langley AFB, Va., operates Air Force bombers and CONUS-based, combat-coded fighter and attack aircraft. Organizes, trains, equips and maintains combat-ready forces for rapid deployment and employment while ensuring strategic air defense forces are ready to meet the challenges of peacetime air sovereignty and wartime air defense.
As the U.S. military continues to rely heavily on air power in its combat missions abroad, a shortage of maintainers needed to keep Air Force planes flying is preventing the force from completing its training mission. “We’re not able to produce the sorties at home for training for our pilots," Lt. General John Cooper said in an exclusive interview with VOA 29 November 2016. Cooper, who is in charge of managing maintenance manpower, said the Air Force had been “living on the edge" with its maintainer numbers and hit a 3,800 maintainer shortage in 2015 due to a series of shrinking budgets from Congress. “We were driven to the force structure that we were at last year and growing from sequestration. There’s no doubt about it. That’s in the history books," he said. A training increase was approved this year that added about 500 maintainers, but there's still a shortage of about 3,300.
The U.S. Air Force says a shortage of fighter pilots has become so dire that it is struggling to satisfy combat requirements abroad. “We have too few squadrons to meet the combatant commanders’ needs," Major General Scott Vander Hamm, the general in charge of fixing the fighter pilot crisis, said in an exclusive interview with VOA 28 November 2016. The Air Force is currently authorized to have 3,500 fighter pilots, but it is 725 fighter pilots short. And with fewer pilots, the number of fighter pilot squadrons have also dropped, from 134 squadrons in 1986 to 55 in 2016. As a greater percentage of the force has needed to be deployed over the past 10 years, readiness -- the ability to accomplish missions at home and abroad -- has dropped 20 percent.
The participation of ACC units and personnel in a variety of operations throughout the world has consistently illustrated the command's motto: "Global Power for America." In Southwest Asia, ACC provided active duty and reserve component forces for Operations Desert Storm and Southern Watch to deter Iraqi aggression. In October 1994, ACC also demonstrated its ability to react quickly to the buildup of Iraqi troops near the border of Kuwait. In addition, ACC, from its inception, has provided indispensable support to counter-drug operations, including Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), reconnaissance and fighter aircraft, and radar and connectivity assets.
In keeping with its global responsibilities, ACC initiated a series of "Global Power" missions in 1993. ACC's bomber wings are required to perform out-of-CONUS training flights to demonstrate the capability to perform their "quick reaction" worldwide mission. On one of the global power missions, two B-1B aircraft of the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, set a B-1 flying time record on the first leg of their round-the-world flight, 11-13 August 1993. The following year, two B-52s from the 2d Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, circumnavigated the globe in 47.2 hours, the longest jet aircraft flight in history.
Since its activation in June 1992, Air Combat Command has found itself in an almost constant state of flux. While on the one hand losing its ICBMs, nearly all its tankers, and a part of its training mission, ACC has gained the combat rescue and theater airlift missions. At the same time, sweeping changes in our nation's military policy have imposed on ACC not only force structure reductions but a requirement for much greater flexibility than ever before. ACC's forces remain "on call" to perform a variety of missions including support to international peace-keeping operations, to humanitarian needs at home and abroad, and protection of the nation's interests around the globe.
The U.S. Air Force's Air Combat Command, with headquarters at Langley AFB, Va., is the primary provider of air combat forces to America's Unified Combatant Commands. ACC operates fighter, bomber, reconnaissance, battle-management, rescue and theater airlift aircraft, as well as command, control, communications and intelligence systems.
As a force provider, ACC organizes, trains, equips, and maintains combat-ready forces for rapid deployment and employment while ensuring strategic air defense forces are ready to meet the challenges of peacetime air sovereignty and wartime air defense. ACC provides nuclear forces for U.S. Strategic Command, theater air forces for the five geographical, unified commands -- U.S. Atlantic Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. Southern Command, U.S. European Command -- and air defense forces for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. ACC also operates certain air mobility forces in support of U.S. Transportation Command. ACC prepares combat air forces to globally implement national policy.
Air Combat Command resources include four numbered air forces: 1st Air Force, 8th Air Force, 9th Air Force, 12th Air Force, and one direct reporting unit.