Commentary: Airworthiness, combat-readiness propel Air Force forward

By Mike Moore
309th Aircraft Maintenance Group, Deputy Director
March 22, 2012

Our Air Force has been fully engaged in combat operations since Jan. 17, 1991 at 2:38 a.m. local (Baghdad) time and hasn't stopped since; over 21 years and counting. At the tip of the spear supporting those combat operations today are the men and women of the various maintenance groups from the Total Force.

These expert teams generate the aircraft and systems vital for the U.S. to maintain air dominance over battlefields around the globe. Closer to home, the men and women of the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group remain focused on an equally vital mission -- "Delivering Airworthy, Combat-Ready Aircraft."

Every state in our country remains fully committed as America's Airmen from all over are deployed worldwide and are producing combat sorties supporting our friends and allies. Whether it's a 2-ship of A-10s flying a close air support mission or a C-130 delivering vital resupply through hostile airspace, our Airmen only care about two things when it comes to their aircraft: Is it airworthy and is it combat-ready?

These two basic ideas -- airworthiness and combat-readiness -- drive every action on flightlines around the world. They focus the maintenance tempo and ensure that our pilots fly every sortie in safe, reliable aircraft with all systems operational and ready to go.

So, what's so special about airworthiness? Simply put, "airworthiness" embodies all aspects of keeping an aircraft safely in the air. Our Air Force doesn't have a corner on airworthiness as we share this common focus with our commercial carrier counterparts around the world.

Our colleagues in companies like Delta and American strive to ensure a smooth, safe ride for all passengers in a fairly benign environment. U.S. Air Force aircraft, however, fly at higher speeds, land in tougher places and pull way more g's than our commercial counterparts will ever deal with as "routine." This tough environment makes our standard of airworthiness much more difficult to maintain day in, day out.

This second idea, combat-readiness, remains a feature unique to those executing a military mission and relies on both offensive and defensive systems. Daily survival flying over hostile territory requires defensive combat systems to operate at peak performance. Hitting the right target at the right time requires offensive systems to also deliver for our aircrews. Although the plane would be able to fly safely, our Air Force maintainers will not jeopardize a pilot's chance of returning home safely if an aircraft's combat-readiness is less than top-shelf.

Our leaders and technicians in the 309th AMXG execute the crucial responsibility of maintaining and upgrading our aging weapon systems so our Air Force can retain its air dominance. Each day, our highly skilled mechanics install new capabilities to A-10s and F-16s. They work to maintain our nation's fleet of C-130s, F-22s and T-38s to keep them safe and reliable, whether at home or abroad.

To deliver on our mission, we need to constantly instill a rigorous adherence to technical data and maintain high levels of proficiency throughout our work force. We need to constantly focus on the same details that matter to our Airmen in the field and send to them aircraft that are only one sortie away from deploying for war. Having been one of those Airmen deployed to flightlines around the world, I know that only airworthy, combat-ready aircraft make the flying schedule.

In the 309th AMXG, that's our mission.