Thursday, March 13, 2008

Air Force needs new planes.

From The Economist

The Air Force, after years of maintaining older airplanes without buying new ones, says it must be allowed to modernize or America risks losing air dominance around the world.

This year, for example, the Air Force is asking for $18 billion in "unfunded requirements." That's money the service seeks for new airplanes like the stealthy F-22 Raptor, which lists for about $143 million each. These are replacing the stock of F-15 Eagles, one of which broke apart over Missouri last fall.

At the same time, peer competitors such as China – though Air Force officers never speak that word publicly – are designing top-of-the-line airplanes with new capabilities.

"We used to enjoy a pretty decided advantage over anybody else on the planet, but not so much anymore," Colonel Forester says.

Comment: The F-15 is now 30 years old and it should be on its way to being decommissioned. On November 2, 2007 a Missouri Air National Guardsman, Major Stephen Stilwell, found out how after years of hard stress, the F-15 he was flying over the Gulf of Mexico, suddenly came apart. The Air Force ordered 442 of these older F-15 models grounded until January of this year. Knowing that China or Russia may start to test American primacy around the world, would it not be prudent to replace America’s signature fighter with the F-22?

A recent Gallup poll showed that 47% of Americans felt that American national defense was not strong enough (41% felt it was just about right while 10% felt that is was stronger than it should be). Although our military intervention in Iraq is unpopular with most Americans, it seems that most Americans also understand that our military may need a much needed hardware and personnel overhaul after the strains of Iraq and Afghanistan. The big political question is, how do you pay for such an expensive overhaul?

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