Air Force Special Operations Command is considering moving elements from Japan and Britain to Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, the AFSOC commander told reporters Wednesday.

The move would affect AFSOC units at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa and RAF Mildenhall in England, said Lt. Gen. Michael W. Wooley.

“Secretary Gates has tasked [SOCOM Commander] Gen. (Bryan) Brown to flesh out the plan, so we are right now working on how we would do that if given the authority,” Wooley said.

AFSOC is slated to take control of Cannon on Oct. 1, said Wooley, who called the base a “must-have.”

Wooley said AFSOC is expected to grow from 13,000 to about 15,000 personnel over the next five years and it looks to add 24 transport aircraft to accommodate the growing special operations community.

“With all of our growth, new personnel, new airplanes, we could not put all that stuff at [Hurlburt Field, Fla.], so we need to open a second base,” he said.

One major advantage of Cannon is that the base has its own range, Wooley said.

“To have an air-ground capability that belongs to special ops is going to be huge for us,” he said.

A European Command spokesman said Thursday that the Stuttgart, Germany-based command has not received any formal notification of a planned move for the England-based 352nd Special Operations Group.

“We have nothing on that at all,” said EUCOM spokesman Maj. John Dorrian. “There is a formal notification process when something like this happens, and that hasn’t happened yet.”

At RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom, 352nd spokesman Master Sgt. Dennis Brewer released a statement Thursday on the possible move.

“U.S. Special Operations Command, like the rest of the Department of Defense, is reviewing Special Operations forces stationing as part of the Department of Defense’s global posture strategy,” the statement read. “DOD will release any information concerning changes to SOF stationing when all of the necessary decisions have been made and are complete.”

Rumors of a potential move for the 352nd have been circulating at RAF Mildenhall for months, if not years, with Spain and Italy mentioned as potential relocation sites.

Last summer the unit made an unplanned deployment to the Middle East during the war between Israel and Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. Col. Brad Webb, 352nd commander, led the air and ground mission for Joint Task Force Lebanon during the majority of the unit’s roughly four- month deployment.

The unit is about to undergo a period of transition as it deactivates its fleet of five HM-53 Pave Low helicopters this fall and prepares to take on a contingent of CV-22 Osprey vertical lift fixed-wing aircraft.

The roughly 1,000-troop unit is currently supporting other Europe-based special operations forces in the Trans-Sahara region of Africa.

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