Best Defense

Short legs, short arms: Refuelers may be the weakest link in American air power

A new article by Peter Singer and Cmdr. Greg Knepper warns that aerial refueling tankers are becoming the greatest point of vulnerability in the projection of American air power.

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A new article by Peter Singer and Cmdr. Greg Knepper warns that aerial refueling tankers are becoming the greatest point of vulnerability in the projection of American air power.

“Advanced threat systems continue to expand operating ranges, widening contested air space and posing a greater threat to bases,” they write. “The combination of our current and planned aircraft’s range limitations and advanced threat systems may prove to be a key challenge to U.S. success in any future operating environment.”

But I don’t think we should look for multi-mission drones to fill the gap. Sure, drone refuelers. And drone strike planes. But combining them might drive costs through the roof.

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Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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