Much of the U.S. military’s fleet of refueling aircraft is old — the newest KC-135 Stratotanker, for instance, was built in 1965. And sealift ships available to the U.S. military are also nearing the time when they’ll be expected to retire.
“When I look at the capabilities that Transcom has, [when] I look at the sealift, our ships are 46 years old,” said Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, the commander of U.S. Transportation Command, during a discussion today with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The reserve fleet, she said, even includes steam ships.
“You can’t even find engineers that work on steam ships,” she said. “We have to keep 60-, 70-year-old engineers around to keep running them. We must recapitalize that.”
Refueler aircraft and sealift ships are important components of the U.S. Transportation Command’s mission, and both must be recapitalized sooner rather than later if Transcom is going to continue to be as effective as it is.
Van Ovost said one way to get newer ships into the sealift fleet, at least in the short term is through the purchase of used vessels. It’s something the Navy is working on now.
“In our discussions with the Navy, there is a strategy out there to begin to purchase used ships, which essentially was our strategy almost 30 years ago,” she said. “It’s to purchase some used ships and get them into the fleet because our fleet is old.”