Air Force Weighs ISR, Tanker Consortiums

Air Force Weighs ISR, Tanker Consortiums

The Air Force is considering several new consortium arrangements with European partners as a way to pool resources for a collective advantage, lower operating costs and decrease travel time for U.S. platforms, service officials said.

An intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR) consortium and a tanker consortium are among the arrangements being considered, said Heidi Grant, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs.

“We’re looking at more consortium operations,” she said.

An ISR or tanker consortium would involve a handful of countries teaming up to collectively use and benefit from strategically positioned tanker or ISR aircraft. These arrangements would allow countries the benefit of tanker and ISR technologies without having the same expense, maintenance or travel burdens were they to position and use the asset themselves.

One example of a consortium is the joint maintenance and operation of three C-17s in Hungary which began in 2009, Grant said. Called a strategic airlift capability, the consortium involves 12 countries: Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and the U.S.

Citing this example, Grant said consortiums, foreign military sales and strategic partnerships with allies are likely to figure more prominently in coming years as the Air Force gets smaller and budgets decrease.

“As we become the smallest [U.S.] Air Force in history, we will still be the most capable Air Force in the world. My concern is will we have the capacity to respond to all of these contingency and humanitarian relief operations? If not, who is going to be there do to aerial refueling or ISR?” Grant said.

“When we are seeing challenges they are global security challenges. Global security challenges require global partnerships,” she added.

A European-based ISR consortium would involve making arrangements above and beyond what NATO already stipulates, Grant explained.

At the same time the Air Force continues to emphasize Foreign Military Sales as a way to strengthen partner capacity and, in some cases, support the U.S. industrial base by bringing in production dollars.

For example, 26 countries currently operate F-16s and 70 countries operate C-130s, Grant said. Also, the U.S. is now working on finalizing the sale of 84 F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia – a deal that constitutes the largest single FMS case in the history of the U.S.

– Kris Osborn can be reached at

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Oh great so now we have to beg Estonia, Hungary, Bulgaria, or Poland for a C-17 if we are short one or two. obama you have really given the once greatest military in the world some hope and change. Thanks for nothing.

Yeah, I have my doubts too! Maybe great for a number of smaller countries to consolidate there resources. Yet, I have my misgivings if it is in the interests of the US Military.

No actually, the NATO C-17 nations usage of the three aircraft is based on their contruibutions to the program. So some of the nations have a few hundred hours while others have a few thousand. They can and do coordinate their loads to maximize utility — and that includes the USA. The NATO C-17s are frequest visitors to Ramstein AB. We (USA) can task the C-17s based on our hours or barter with another nation or in necessary, buy another nation’s hours. Its actually a very good deal for all concerned.

Better than having to ask Viktor Bout for a lift.

With recent Putins decision to with Grieme well have more troops in Europe again,he is trying to get back in cold war era it seems ‚so its good we have troops ready.

Sell the C-17 if you want still like the C-5 better for our heavier lift purposes.

Thank you for adding some vision and wisdom to these discussions. Another lesson here is the encouragement that develops among other nations as we seek to share the burden.

NO need to thank Obama, this program was organised and approved under George Bush.
The US is really only there as the small Nato states dont have the capability to manage this on their own.
And with more than 210 C-17s the US wouldnt hardly notice 3 more.

Oh wow man.

With that one simple sentence you just demonstrated how little you actually understand magical flying things.

The C-17 is one of the best engineered & manufactured aircraft in the history of the known universe.

In a perfect world that is filled with perfectly long and pristine airfields that are visible from your perfectly comfortable armchair the C-5 is an awesome tool for moving stuff.

Those of us who live in reality understand how totally bad-ass the ’17 is.

I got to ride in the cockpit of a C-17 from Ramstein AB to PSAB Saudi Arabia in the spring of 97, and it has very comfortable seating up front but the jump seats are painful. We had a stop in Bahrain and the pilot needed to get turned around and get to PSAB. The ground crews were not getting the job done so the pilot put the reverse thrusters on backed the plane up while the ground crew stood there looking dumb founded that the plane was moving backwards without them, got turned around and we left. Like to see a C-5 try that. It might work but it wasn’t designed to do that the C-17 was. Plus you can’t put an Abrams tank in a C-5.

The C5 certainly CAN move an Abrams. Good grief.….…

As an ex-USAF crew chief I know that the aircraft manufacturers & contractors paint an overly rosey picture and exhalt the great abilities of thier air vehicle(s)! But they always come up short. I’ve always believed in the actual abilities of an aero vehicle. I believe it when the aircraft actually does it…not until then. BTW, a C-5 can haul an Abrams tank…saw it done in Germany quite a few times. Drive on, at 60+ tons, secure it and fly to where ever…then drive it off. Fire when ready!


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