TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The Air Force wants to stop flying continuous anti-terror air patrols over parts of the United States and instead leave fighters on "strip alert," ready to launch in emergencies.
In an Associated Press interview Friday, Air Force Secretary James Roche said the Air Force is consulting with the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and with the White House's Office of Homeland Security to determine a long-term plan for domestic air defense.
The air patrols, which responded to the multiple suicide hijackings on Sept. 11, are tying up about 265 airplanes -- mostly fighters, tankers and radar planes -- and about 12,000 airmen, Roche said.
That compares with 14,000 Air Force personnel committed to the war in Afghanistan, he said, making the Air Force the only service with a large-scale commitment to both fronts in the war on terror.
Pentagon officials made it known last month that the domestic air defense mission had become too burdensome, stealing from necessary air crew training for other missions. But Roche's comments were the first to spell out a potential solution.
Roche said he would prefer an adjustment that would place Air Force fighter jets on "strip alert" at certain bases around the country.
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