Air Force Behind The 8-Ball

Stealth fighters are touching down in Virginia as the Air Force rushes more than 600 planes home for some much needed relief. The homecomings are occasions to celebrate, but beneath the scenes of joy are real problems, CBS News Correspondent David Martin reports.

Many aircraft - the U-2 spy plane for instance - are badly overworked. There are simply not enough planes and not enough crews to meet all the demands.

The J-Stars ground surveillance plane is another aircraft in great demand. With most of the J-Stars fleet devoted to Kosovo, training back here at Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia came to a virtual standstill.

"We sent our best over there. So most of our instructors were over there supporting the conflict," said Col. Marc Lindsley. "So back here we weren't able to do any training. There were times when we had absolutely no instructors back here or airplanes to do any training."

Lindsley could still train new crews in simulators, but with the actual planes flying non-stop missions to track Serb convoys, the students could not get in-flight training.

"It puts us way behind. We have to work a lot harder to get ahead and to stay ahead," said Lt. Col. Marc Giannini. Two months behind, for an aircraft so essential to military operations that only the president has the authority to control its movements.

"We also have to be able to have our folks ready to be able to respond to the next contingency that comes down the road, so we can't have our students sitting around basically waiting to begin their training," said Col. Lindsley.

The next contingency might be an Iraqi thrust into Kuwait, which is what these students are training for. Lindsley can only hope it doesn't happen any time soon. "We need a break here right now in the short term to go ahead and get completely caught up," he said.

Returning aircrews will get time off, but after that they'll have to work harder than ever just to catch up.

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