WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — 'Flying into the Future' is our exclusive, up-close look at the work happening behind the gates at Robins Air Force Base. We're showing you the changes on the horizon and how those can impact the entire Central Georgia region Monday, July 1 at 5:30 p.m. on 13WMAZ.
The 23,000 men and women who work here each belong to different units that together make up "Team Robins."
You will hear from the commanders of some of those major units, including the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, the 78th Air Base Wing, Air Force Reserve Command, JSTARS and the 21st Century Partnership -- an organization dedicated to keeping Robins flying high.
Robins is one of three major depots in the entire Air Force. The others are Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma and Hill Air Force Base in Utah. Depots are responsible for maintenance and repairs of all the major aircraft and weapons systems used by our nation's war fighters. Leading that work here at Robins is the Air Logistics Complex Commander General John Kubinec.
"It's been a pretty monumental three years if you look at some of the changes that have happened and the new workload, I would argue it's probably the biggest new workload we've had in the last two decades here at Robins," Kubinec said.
Here's a little bit of what you can expect from the rest of the special.
Q: Why do you think Robins is getting all this new work?
Kubinec: "Well there's a few reasons. I think first and foremost, there's an acknowledgement of how great our workforce is. If you look at our secret sauce, it's how great our workforce is. The patriotic Americans from middle Georgia that come to work at Robins every day, and they do their job, and they do it very, very well. The second thing is there's a need for our work more than any other time in our Air Force that I've seen."
Q: What are some of the new programs you have?
Kubinec: "I think I'm most excited about the Global Hawk. If you think about it, we're the only depot in the Department of Defense that can fly an unmanned aircraft and do depot level work on it. If you think about the future of warfare and where that future lies, it will certainly lie in the unmanned aircraft world. And when you think about the Global Hawk and what it does, the smoother the wings and the better flight dynamics that aircraft has, the quicker it can get on station, and the longer it can loiter on station, and that's what the Global Hawk is all about as an intel platform. So the work we're doing is not just cosmetic here. It's really about operational efficiency and effectiveness, and we look to do some modification work on the Global Hawk next, and then whatever the long-term 'sustainment' depot strategy for the Global Hawk is, we'll be doing that in the following years as well."
Q: What about bringing the C-130s here too?
Kubinec: "That's right. We started our Navy work last year. We have our first Navy aircraft in our functional test area right now. So it's flying right now and as soon as that checks out, we'll send it back to the fleet, and we're excited about that work. We have the next one here already. Over the next five years we'll start transitioning that work from Utah to here, but we're doing it smartly. We're doing it in a way that maximizes our capacity for C-130 work here at Robins.
But let me talk about capacity just for a minute here, because it ties into all these new workloads. There is just so much work out there. There is really, quite frankly, more work than we can even do that our Air Force has for us, and as we think about how we maximize capacity here at Robins to be able to bring in more work. Things like the Middle Georgia Regional Airport and the old Boeing facility becomes crucially important, because I was doing commodity work in aircraft hangars here, and I was able to do that because there wasn't the demand for those hangars. As I'm looking into the future and the work we're being asked to do, I have to have every square inch of hangar space available for us to put aircraft in. That is why being able to move those commodities out of airplane hangars and over to the new Boeing facility is so important for us, because it allows me to do more aircraft work. I'm also re-configuring our factory. We've spend $25 million over the last two years to change our footprint around to optimize our space. For instance, there are some spaces I can only do fighter aircraft F-15s in. So I need to do F-15s in that space and free up other space that I could do C-130s in. We're almost there. By fiscal year '20 we will have that project done. We will still be in a position where there will be work out there that we could do that we won't have space for. You could say it's a good problem to have, but it's a problem and we need to address it, and I'm working on a couple different ways for how we do that, but there's a lot of work to be had out there, and I keep telling people in Washington that we have the workforce here. The workforce is here. If we had some more facilities, we could do some more work, and that's something that I'll be working on over my last year here."
Q: Is the biggest barrier facilities then?
Kubinec: "It will be soon. It's not there today, because I still have to make sure my house is in order before I can tell anybody that I need more space. But by '20 my house will be in order. I will have optimized every square-inch of hangar space I have here on the base, and then the point will be: if we want to do more work, we're going to need some more hangars, and that's what we'll be working with with our congressional delegation, with Air Force leadership, and with this community on how we get that."
Q: There's already so much here at the base, is there room for more hangars?
Kubinec: "There's room. That's the great thing about Robins. We have the room on the ramp, we have room inside the fence, and we have the workforce, which is the most important thing. We showed in '1200 in 12' that if we put out the call, we can get the workforce."
Tune in to 13WMAZ on Monday, July 1 at 5:30 p.m. for the full 'Flying into the Future' special.