Michael Donley, Air Force Secretary, wrote this second of four op-eds on the future of the Air Force exclusively for Breaking Defense. Today’s piece grapples with just how small the Air Force’s force structure can get while the service can still accomplish its missions.We will run an op-ed early each morning through Friday. The Editor.
Like all of our military services, the US Air Force has been through an extraordinary decade of change. Airmen have moved unprecedented amounts of personnel and equipment to remote theaters of operation; built global command, control, and intelligence operations; provided 24/7 close air support to ground forces; and introduced new technologies, including Remotely Piloted Aircraft [RPAs, aka UAVs]. Keep reading →
The Air Force provides the essential capabilities that make America’s joint operations possible and has been involved in nearly every military operation overseas since 1991. As the Pentagon delves into the details of the 2014 budget, getting the Air Force budget right is critical to ensure that the nation can count on its indispensable role in a time of shrinking resources.
Our adherence to the idea of a joint force has led to a roughly equal cut of spending among the services. This is not the optimum allocation of scarce resources in coming years if our national strategy is to maintain global presence and communications, as well as to fight cost-effectively and be capable of defeating modernized militaries. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: State governors are complaining to Congress about Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s offer to give the Air National Guard two dozen C-130 aircraft and add back almost 1,200 jobs, saying it isn’t enough.
The president’s budget originally proposed cutting 5,100 Air Guard jobs; last week, Panetta offered to restore 1,179 (by the governors’ count) and even to give the Guard two dozen C-130J aircraft being retired from the regular active duty force. But on Friday the governors officially said “not good enough” in letters not only to Panetta but to key lawmakers, asking them to overrule the Pentagon. Keep reading →
PENTAGON: One of the longest-running debates between the Air Force and the Army centers on close air support. Historically, the Air Force hates supplying CAS and doesn’t like buying or maintaining the planes that do it. But the white scarf boys wouldn’t let the Army do the job either, since it involved fixed-wing aircraft and shooting and that’s what the Air Force does.
So when the Air Force announced it was scrapping a large chunk of the current A-10 Warthog fleet and the pilots who go with it — five squadrons worth — the Pentagon’s back channels quickly filled with disgusted comments about how “there goes the Air Force again.” Every time they need to cut money from the budget the first thing they do is cut the A-10s, which have provided superb close air support ever since they started flying in the mid-70s, critics said. Two things make the A-10 especially fine at CAS: its amazing 30mmm cannon which can destroy a tank with ease; and the titanium bucket within which the pilot sits. The armored aircraft provides pilots with great protection, allowing them to be almost cavalier as they operate in dangerously kinetic environments. Keep reading →
Washington: A relatively small unmanned aircraft struck a C-130 cargo plane over Afghanistan, injuring no one but raising questions anew about whether drones can fly safely in American airspace.
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The U.S. military faces a readiness crisis.
A recent Congressional hearing generated headlines about the Navy’s surface fleet falling into disrepair. But that was news four years ago. Across all the services, long-standing readiness problems are worsening; breakdowns are happening more frequently. Keep reading →
The C-130J, originally foisted by Congress on an Air Force that didn’t really want it, has since become a staple of the U.S. and many foreign air forces. The House Appropriations Committee approved $1.1 billion for 11 Js in its version of the 2012 spending bill compared to $988.2 billion approved by their Senate colleagues. One of the fun parts of attending the big air shows is the rare chance to hop on a plane and get a close-up view of its capabilities. Enjoy the ride and get a glimpse of what this plane can do. What you can’t really see is the high and tight takeoff or feel how stable the aircraft is in flight.