The Air Force will spend some of its big boost in European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) funding on improving European airfields, particularly eastern ones, to help generate air combat power.
Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc; commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Africa and Allied Air Command; said April 5 improving airfields with better runways, ramps and fuel and weapons storage would create a better airfield environment to generate sorties. Gorenc said airfields in the Baltics, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria are in particular need of development.
The Defense Department proposed a 333 percent boost for the ERI in its fiscal year 2017 budget request. Congress appropriated $789 million for ERI in 2015, DoD requested $3.4 billion for FY ’17. Of the $3.4 billion, $217 million is for the improved infrastructure. DoD said in its budget request the boost is to reassure its European allies of their bond in the wake of Russian aggression.
Gorenc said the Air Force would also spend its additional ERI funding on continuous “heel-to-toe” training and extending the F-15C presence at the United Kingdom’s Lakenheath air force base. Lakenheath is home to the Air Force’s only F-15 unit in Europe and also hosts F-15Es. The ERI request, according to DoD’s budget justification document, would retain 20 F-35Cs at Lakenheath.
Gorenc views the 2015 summer inaugural F-22 deployment to Europe as the first step in a long process of introducing fifth-generation capability to the European theater. The Air Force in August 2015 deployed four F-22s, one C-17 and approximately 60 airmen to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to train with allied air forces and services for a few weeks. With heavy demand for the F-22, Gorenc saw the short deployment as a significant victory.
Gorenc’s remarks came at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington.