Friday, May 8, 2009

Air Force Searching for Direction

It's hardly news, but the U.S. Air Force is searching for a raison d'etre. It has barely asked for any money for new programs for the FY2010 budget. Most of its new money is needed to help shut down current production lines for the F-22 and C-17. You know something is wrong with the fighter jocks who run the Air Force can't come up with reasons why they need new expensive equipment. But the fact is the Air Force hasn't been used much in Afghanistan, and can only get so much budgetary support from harping on a potential big war with China down the road.
The Air Force needs to take a page from the Marine Corps' book and reinvent itself. Over time the USMC has gone from shipboard security to amphibious landing specialists to jungle fighting specialists now to counterinsurgency specialists (you could argue for a few more specialties over time in the list as well). 
How can the Air Force remain relevant? Off the top of my head I'd say it has to become much more agile, ready to deploy anywhere much faster, with smaller and more adaptable planes, including drones. At the same time they should become more fuel efficient, able to linger over targets for longer periods of time, gathering intelligence and potentially acting on it as well. Those capabilities would allow it to remain useful and crucial in large and small wars alike. 

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