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Speaking of the Decline of Airpower

June 9, 2009
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A follow up to the last post-Strategypage discusses how the USAF is starting to doubt their own manned future, specifically concerning their newest warplane, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter:

Many air force generals admit that the F-35 is probably the last manned fighter. But some believe that the F-35 will be facing stiff competition from pilotless fighters before F-35 production is scheduled to end in 2034.
 UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) are not particularly popular with many U.S. Air Force leaders, but that is not the case in many other countries. Air force generals around the world see the unpiloted jet fighter as a way to break the monopoly the U.S. Air Force has had on air supremacy for the last sixty years. Most Americans don’t even think of this long domination of the air, but potential enemies of the United States are well aware of it, and that domination has a profound effect on how those nations do their military planning. In effect, if you think about going to war with the United States, you take for granted that American aircraft will control the skies above. Robotic jet fighters could change that.

Perhaps this is why it bothers the air generals that the ground troops, Army and Marines, have so much control over their own UAVs. Perhaps someday soon the ground pounders might get the idea they no longer need a separate service too often distracted over things like Strategic Bombing to bother with them.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Heretic permalink
    June 11, 2009 11:46 am

    Alex.? Does this mean you were deployed to the south Atlantic in ’82?

    As for the USMC “need” to be its own service … unfortunately, they do need to be their own service because of “how” they fight (I speak here of MAGTF). The other services do not “do” MAGTF as practiced by the USMC … and consequently wouldn’t have the institutional support culture necessary to maintain that rather unique (for American services) bond that all USMC marines share which makes them as effective as they are.

  2. Alex. permalink
    June 10, 2009 11:48 pm

    The same thing is more or less being said about the RAF (Although to my knowledge the army has little interest in absorbing RAF equipment only the budget!).

    I know i’m probably running into a minefield by saying this but do the USMC need to be a seperate service?! USN could easily operate USMC in a similar way to their British counterparts (difference being is that the USMC is an armed force in it’s own right [with it’s own Artillery, armour and Aerial assets as opposed to a small number of commando trained amphibious light infantry this side of the pond])

    PS: Naturally i have a huge chip on my shoulder regarding the above; Former Royal Marines Commando[1977-1999], currently an Aerospace Engineer.

  3. June 9, 2009 2:27 pm

    The F-35 will be a completely different ground attack aircraft than the A-10. It’s a logical refinement of the air/ground attack concept that became possible in the 90’s. I have serious criticism about the concept, but I don’t expect it to become a full failure.

    Mike; I actually planned to write about the robotic or not question on my own and kept some notes for a blog post. I finally wrote it and scheduled it for tomorrow (0001 CET). As often, my take on it is 100% unorthodox (and I actually dropped hints about it as early as January 2008). I’ve got a very different explanation for why air forces don’t like drones.
    Yet, I cannot answer the question itself and I doubt that anybody could do it today. The next generation is simply too far away due to the long life cycles.

    By the way; I strongly advise against taking strategypage seriously. The writers of strategypage don’t deserve it. That page is barely worth a look to see whether maybe I’ve missed something. I always check on anything of interest that I find there because they have written too much propaganda and BS in the past.

  4. Heretic permalink
    June 9, 2009 12:24 pm

    Yeah … well … the USAF is still deluding itself with thinking that an absurdly high tech F-35A will be able to replace the decidedly low tech A-10C when it comes to moving mud and flying through (and coming back safely from!) enemy fire.

    Keep dreaming flyboys … keep on dreamin’ …

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