JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Maryland — The Air Force projects its muscle through fighter jets, bombers and drones. But without tankers, those aircraft are short on flight time. And without airlift support, the pilots, crew and maintenance units needed to keep them flying stay stateside.

That connection is what Air Mobility Commander Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II wants lawmakers to remember. And it’s why the service is working to upgrade its C-5 Galaxy fleet and keep its C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in key condition.

“Just a few years ago, we had 112 C-5s. Today, we have 56,” Everhart told congressional staffers during a demonstration day here March 31. The presentation included a tour a C-5, plus two C-17s and a C-130 Hercules. Sequestration resulted “in moving eight C-5s into backup aircraft inventory … which means we still have the aircraft but lost all manning and funding to operate them,” he said.

Now Everhart wants them back, and he’s making it his top priority.

“I need them back because there’s real world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” he said.

“Those eight C-5Ms? I was going to buy them back within a two-year period,” Everhart said. With budget caps in place and without an appropriations bill, “that’s been delayed twice … in two budget cycles.”

AMC hopes to make up for lost time in part by upgrading the largest airlifter in the Air Force’s inventory.

Read more of this story at Military.com.