- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
Col. Michael Pietrucha argues that the F-35 is leading the Air Force into a disastrous situation in which that service will be irrelevant to most American military operations. The F-35, he says, is hugely expensive, but "offers little improvement over its predecessors." It and the higher-end F-22 are preparing the Air Force for the conflicts that are most worrisome, he worries, but not for those that are most likely. If current trends continue, he warns, the combat Air Force soon will consist of "a short-range, long-runway fleet shorn of EW/SEAD support."
He proposes an alternative force that consists of the F-35s already purchased, plus revamped versions of the F-16 and F-15 that borrow sensors and systems from the F-35, and some saved A-10s, plus a new "light combat" aircraft. This would result in a mix of capabilities that would enable the Air Force to be expeditionary and also carry out CAS missions, which I am sure soldiers and Marines would appreciate.
Interestingly, he urges the Air Force to study the example of the Army in the cancellation of the Comanche attack and scout helicopter in 2004. This made me think of another Army decision, the smart one made in the 1980s to not get involved in the V-22 Osprey. The Marine Corps went ahead and pursued the V-22 and, as far as I can see, wrecked Marine Corps aviation in the process.
The Army’s Comanche cancellation reminded me of one of my favorite strategic lessons, that the most important strategic decisions often are about what not to do. These also can be the hardest decisions.
John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.| The Complex |