Skip to comments.Will the Air Force of the Future Be Capable of Flying?
Posted on 01/12/2013 12:10:30 PM PST by SkyPilot
Among the most difficult challenges facing the Air Force is the need to modernize, writes Michael Donley, the Secretary of the Air Force.
Despite major engagements in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, and Libya since the end of the Cold War, the Air Force currently operates the oldest fleet it has ever had. Sadly, sequestration threatens the future of modernization plans, drives up operations and maintenance costs, and prevents the United States from building the Air Force that the country needs in the future.
The Air Force fleet is often described as geriatric or decrepit. It is becoming inadequate to support U.S. national security interests, too. Since 2001, the number of Air Force fighters has fallen by about 25 percent. The Air Force has 372 fewer F-16s, 263 fewer F-15s, and 52 fewer F-117s than were in the inventory in 2001, and no modern strategic bombers. The bulk of the bomber fleet comprises B-52s, which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary since it was first commissioned.
In The Heritage Foundations America at Risk video, General Dave Deptula mentions that the average age of the F-15 C & D models is approaching 30 years. In 2007, an F-15 broke in half during a training mission in St. Louis, Missouri. As a result of this incident, the whole F-15 program was grounded for months. One can hardly imagine what the consequences would be of such an incident during war.
The Air Force, however, does not operate only planes. It oversees and is responsible for modernizing U.S. satellite constellations (including the launch infrastructure), providing everything from early missile warning to navigation and intelligence. Just like other military services, the Air Force needs to maintain secure and resilient command and control infrastructure. The nation depends on these critical capabilities and on preserving their viability...
(Excerpt) Read more at blog.heritage.org ...
Watch the video at the link. He lays out, in 3 minutes and 21 seconds, the foundation of how bad things are.
Our military is being systematically destroyed, and our President either does not care or that is his goal. It is either one or the other.
I have it on good authority that this week, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff flat out told the Deputy Secretary of Defense that Sequestration will cut so fast and so deeply that the Air Force will have to shut down almost all maintenance and will not even be able to keep the aged fleet it still does possess in the air.
According to Secretary Donley, the Air Force will have to shed $54 billion from its budget over the next five years under the Budget Control Act. Sequestration would likely increase this amount further. The Heritage Foundation identified $150 billion in annualized savings that would replace the sequestration cuts. Stopping sequestration should now be the first priority of Congress in order to preserve the nations capacity to keep the peace and sustain its commitment to allies around the world.
I consider it a national tragedy that we are spending hundreds upon hundreds of billions of dollars on Food Stamps, Section 8 housing, and Social Security Disability (which is loaded with fraud), and this nation's military is teetering on disaster.
The latest "Fiscal Cliff" deal spooned out $200 billion alone to extend unemployment benefits (yet again). This nation has spent over $750 billion (that is 3/4 of a trillion dollars) since 2008 - paying people not to work.
Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time, but this is obscene.
Shame on this nation, and her "leaders."
Will they all be flying Drones from remote locations in nondescript warehouses???
First NASA and now the USAF?
Believe me...this isn’t because the pResident doesn’t care. He cares. This is his mission in life. He is the enemy of the people of the United States.
“Our military is being systematically destroyed, and ... that is his goal.”
Yes, it is.
here’s an idea... QUIT GIVING AWAY OUR TECHNOLOGY!!! then we wouldn’t constantly need to be upgrading our weapons to stay ahead.
The Navy and Marine Corps are in the same “boat”.
Which creates a higher percentage of commies: the USAF, or the Democrat Party?
one single advance in technology can keep a civilization ahead of the rest of the world for centuries, IF we DONT GIVE THE TECHNOLOGY AWAY!
you mean the drones which can have their command structure overriden and be commandeered at will by our enemy? those drones?
yea... we have a few ... lucky us
Maybe we can pay the Russians to fly us to our targets — you know, like NASA.
Good point. As a retired flyboy I agree we’re all in this together and it doesn’t look good.
Still the USAF and Navy have been back burnered as opposed to the ground forces as the focus for the past 12 years has been fighting guerrillas. God forbid we have to face China in a full up war. We could wind up repeating Pearl Harbor, Hickam and Clark Fields all at once.
Not very many communists in the USAF...
As a side note, the USA produced about 14,000 P-51's during WWII. The 1945 cost was $50,985 per copy, which is equal to about $640,000 in 2012 dollars. Do you think they US Government and Defense establishment could even come close to duplicating such a feat today, even with all the advanced technology we supposedly now possess?
sad and dangerous for ALL the services AND this country.
weak and weaker, dumb and dumber. Every drawdown has led to inability to meet the need for a country to adequately defend itself when aggressors attack. Guess this must be part of obummer’s radical transformation...
Thanks. Just wondering.
Plus Obama is reducing the nuclear weapons arsenal. His goal is to reduce the total number of US nuclear weapons to 150 on the way to zero. Don’t be surprised if there is soon an executive order (perhaps secret one) eliminating the US nuclear weapons capability.
Nonetheless, you cannot take an airframe designed for 4,000 hourz of flight time and stress and then extend it to 8,000 to 12,000 hours of flight time without serious consequences. Using these aircraft for 30 to 60 yearrs is nothing short of astonishing, but you are not going to win air battles with them for much longer. The consequences will catch up sooner than later.
There really was something about that WWII generation. They were building ships in just a few days.
I saw a program on restoring a Sherman tank on one of the educational channels. They had the original manuals and even some of the old parts which were still new in their containers. After taking the engine out, rebuilding it and putting it back in they were amazed that during the war they could replace an engine in two hours, out in the field.
I have the history of my Father’s outfit, which was a combat engineers battalion. Reading of the jobs they did, I was truly in awe of what they were able to do in such short times. Jobs which now would take months or even more were done in just a couple of days, then they were on the next job immediately.
The P-51 I mentioned, had its first working model a mere 102 days after the contract was issued!
Look at the Hoover Dam project of the 1930’s. In today’s money, the whole project would have cost about $600 million, and was finished in about 4 years. Could we repeat that today?? Even with our increases in private productivity, computers, design? No way!
We have a massive, bloated Government - the most expensive and complicated probably ever seen on the face of the Earth. The complexity and inefficiency has been baked into the pie over the last 50 years. It didn’t start in 2008, although it really has accelerated since then.
Patriots like Gen. Deptula worry about how we are going to fight a war with and replace 30 year old airplanes - when new ones will cost exponentially higher. I tell you - it won’t happen, at least not on our present course.
The foundation was already weak - Obama is nonetheless happy to give it a good kick so that you will really see it start to crumble.
Possibly . . . but its primary mission will be Islamic outreach.
Everyone and their brother can make a drone. Which helps drive down the cost. Drones are the future. You can have remote controlled drones or autonomous drones.
You can even make drones if they are comprised by the enemy, will explode in their disassembly room.
“a new generation of fighters would likely cost close to $1 billion per copy.”
You are grossly exagerrating. The F-35 is in some reports costing about $112 million per aircraft. Some reports have the F-22 costing upwards of $412 millon per aircraft. These numbers are alarming, and they should be. However, readers should understand WHY the costs are so unbelieveably high.
First, the cost of an individual aircraft is mostly determined by the initial research and development costs for the first prototype aircraft, their engines and avionics, and their weapons systems. The production costs for each airframe is only a small fraction of the individual aircraft’s cost. If the development cost for the first X model o r experimental model and the first Y development models were to be something like $50 billion, then you have to take that $50 billion and divide it by the total number of the aircraft produced to find the R&D cost portion of each aircraft’s cost. If you produce 100 aircraft in the production run, each airdraft’s R&D cost alone before production and other sosts are added would be $500 million per aircraft. Increase you production run to 1,000 aircraft, the R&D cost per aircraft drops to $50 million. Increase production to 2,000 aircraft, the R&D cost per aircraft drops to $25 million.
The principal reason why the F-22 Raptor is so incredibly expensive is because the Democrats reduced the production run of the aircraft to a couple of hundred, instead of the original design and plans for many hundreds to replace the aging F-15 Eagles. If the original production run for the F-22 Raptor had been maintained, an individual F-22 would have cost less than half of the current high price tag.
Readers may ask why the R&D costs are so astronomically high? The answer is very simple. Besides the fact that the systems are vastly more complex and therefore inherently more eexpensive, there is also the lack of other R&D programs available to share the costs. During World War II and the post-war years preceding the 1970s, there were many competing aircraft manufacturers sharing the costs across many aircraft R&D programs with new generations of combat aircraft emerging every few years to te about ten years. Then the number of aircraft under R&D dramatically shrank and the number of competing aircraft manufacturers dramtically sharnk to only a few. Consequently, any new aircraft design must bear the full cost of the development of new technologies, whereas the past R&D costs had been sahred across multiple aircraft designs. In other words, the efforts to reduce costs by reducing the number of combat aircraft types has resulted in greatly increasing the share of R&D costs for the few remaining aircraft designs remaining. The buyer has to pay far more per aircraft for a few aircraft types and small production runs than when theere were many combat aircraft types with many hundreds or thousands of the aircraft produced. The fewer the aircraft you design and build, the more expensive they will cost and the fewer of them you can afford to produce. In this respect, it works a lot like the Democrats increasing taxes and thereby constantly reducing the business activity and tax revvenues received.
Same thing with the Empire State Building.
They built it in a very short time which I can’t recall off hand. Also under budget.
Also saw a program about it’s construction. They said it was actually built better than modern buildings. They used a type of hot bolts which would shrink and form an extremely strong bond when they cooled.
Ive been in military contracting for 35 years. Every vehicle Ive worked on could have been purchased for half the eventual cost. The contracts are laden with pork; detailing what technology youll use or who youll buy it from because that company is in some congressmans district. The contracts contain expensive requirements for small business and minority set-asides; another gimme for the politically connected. The Green requirements can double procurement cost and actually hurt the product in the field; cant use lead solder or cadmium plating, or use processes that are deemed harmful by (fill-in-the-blank.) Also, the military never settles in on a specific set of criteria, they change monthly due to military politics. (This is a fighter jet, but somebody else wants a bomber. Its designed to fly at Mach 2, but somebody else wants it to go slow so it can also (fill-in-the-blank.)) Lastly, Congress gives you a contract for 500 units over 5 years, but gives you only one year of funding at a time. Therefore you cant set up an automated production line. Each item is hand crafted because you cant amortize the cost of tooling over one year. These are just some of the cost drivers. We havent even gotten to absurd testing or outrageous Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) requirements.
One product started with a 400 pound block of aluminum and got machined down to just 11 pounds. The obvious answer was to build the thing in smaller sections. I asked the chief engineer why it wasnt done that way. He said, Because its in the contract that the Navy will approve every drawing. That process takes months. So, we produced the minimum number of drawings. (The assembly cost thousands when it should have cost hundreds.) But the engineer was right. There was no other way to stay on schedule.
These are the reasons we pay so much for everything the military buys.
Your proposal is exactly what causes the cost per aircraft to increase and the number of affordable airframes to decrease. China, Russia, and others are gaining invaluable time to catch-up with the U.S. air capabilities. This is time which could prove to be far more expensive to remedy than all of the costs to date.
I have to wonder if the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and others are copying these same production design limitations like the Russians did with the Tu-4 Bull?
I have to wonder if the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and others are copying these same production design limitations like the Russians did with the Tu-4 Bull?
The Russians copied an F4 (I believe) but a model designed for carrier use. They copied the landing hook even though they had no use for it. Ive seen and read about other copied technology and they copy everything because they have no idea why the engineering strangeness is there. The thing they dont have is the political problems. (At least not the same political problems.) Therefore if they decide theyre going to build 500 duplicate F4s over a five year period they can tool a production line and invest in the special design jigs and tools that will make it efficient as opposed to hand building everything. They arent worried about getting funding next year. Also, their air force isnt fighting with the Marines to redesign the copy to a different mission than it was intended for.
There’s an international aspect to cancelling the F-35. Many of our military allies have contributed to the program, and put off acquiring current generation fighters and strike craft in the hopes of leapfrogging to the next-generation F-35. Cancelling that would not only be a slap in the face diplomatically, but would also leave them without any potential replacements.
You are badly mistaken. It is just that kind of thinking which cost the United States a lot of American lives in the early months of the Second World Wa. The U.S. Government compromised and rejected the B-17 in favor of the already obsolescent B-18 Bolo. As a consequence of this foolish decision, Boeing nearly went bankrupt trying to keep the B-17 program alive with the com[any’s own investment monies, and the Army air Corps was woefully too short of B-17 bombers until 1943. If Boeing had gone bankrupt in its patriotic effort to keep the B-17 program alive, the U.S. Army air forces would have been deprived of the B-17 and B-29 bomber forces in the Second World War. There would have then been no B-36, B-47, B-52, B-57, or later bombers and missiles.
Now you want to counsel being a a day late and a dollor short and repeat the same mistake made by Roosevelt’s Administration. For less than the price of the current F-22 Raptor, you could have had two to four times the number of aircraft by contracting for more aircraft and using less wasteful contracting methods. Then you complain about the high costs you caused to occur in the first place. having crippled and downsizeed the industry, you then declare contrary to all evidence that the technology is too expensive and not getting any better. Nothing could be further from the truth. You simply won’t agree to pay for what is sitting right in front of your nose. The technological impreovements available to us in the next two decades are so extraordinary, everything produced between 1935 and now pales to insignificance. But those revolutionary technologies will not be incorporated into aircraft without the foresight and wisdom to imp0lement them wisely and with cost effectiveness. There is no reason why an advanced fighter aircraft cannot be produced in a production run of 1,000 aircraft at a cost $5 million to $12 million per aircraft using proper contracting methods comparable to WWII.
Likewise today, the efforts to save money is having the exact opposite effect. What is lacking here is comptenece and will, not technology.
You bring up much truth; however, there is much more that barely gets discussed and that is the 'minority' set asides and preferred contracts which in and of itself is nothing more than an affirmative action reparations scam.
I believe that small businesses should get a shot with competing large contractors; however, what we have now is more like a government race based charity system than it is a competitive bid market place.
And the U.S. taxpayers are giving Egypt 20 F-16s free!!
and the reductions begin
That should never happen. The U.S. officials for doing it should be sanctioned. In fact, the provision of this weaponry to be used to commit genocide could be good reason to bring war crimes charges against the U.S. officials responsible for the weeapons transfer as was done at the Nuremberg Tribunal.
Don’t worry, we will still have TSA
... and continue, ever since the Reagan Administration.
Which Air Force won’t fly?
The Air Force, Air Force, the Navy Air Force, the Marine Air Force or the Army Air Force.
Air Air Corps all over again and a Navy Air branch, which supports the Marines.
All very much smaller.
Lots of good points and good discussion. Where’s our next John Boyd? Our enemy in Afghanistan just took out a huge chunk of our super-sophisticated Harrier fleet with twenty guys with wire cutters. I don’t care if an airplane costs a billion dollars a copy if it can stay in the air for a month and shoot down every flying object within 5,000 miles and never be shot down. I haven’t looked at the mathematical geography concerned with this, but I’m pretty sure we could rule the air around the planet with fewer than a hundred of them. Until then, it’s always a matter of trade offs.
At least back then we had manufacturing ability. China would smoke us now.