Gates Saves the Air Force
It wasn’t long ago some were asking the unthinkable-“Do we still need an Air Force“? The Secretary of Defense has rebuffed such a notion over the past year by restoring relevancy to the aging and shrinking force. Here’s David Axe:
In April 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the Air Force wasn’t doing enough to help win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It’s been like pulling teeth,” Gates said of the Air Force’s reluctance to invest more in the Reaper and Predator aerial drones that have proved so useful for finding and killing insurgents. At the time, the Air Force was still hoping to buy 381 F-22 stealth fighters — 200 more than the Pentagon was willing to fund — plus as many as 100 smaller F-35s, per year.
Just two months later, Gates fired the Air Force’s two top officials. In retrospect, it’s clear Gates was removing the biggest obstacles to revamping the Air Force, to better support “Irregular Warfare” (IW) against insurgents and other “asymmetric” threats. In April this year, Gates promised major budgetary shifts to give IW proponents “a place at the table” when it came to divvying up U.S. defense spending.
In quick succession, Gates ended F-22 production, slowed buys of F-35s, boosted the status and production rates on drones, and plowed $700 million into three new, inexpensive airplane types for IW. The results, for the world’s biggest and most capable Air Force, have been dramatic.
Make no mistake though in thinking such a force is good only for attacking low tech foes. As we often argue, with new Hybrid Wars, COIN is the New Conventional, as high tech precision weapons and new sensors can be carried by light fighters and UAVs as well as on the declining number of high performance jets in service today.