Friday, January 30, 2009

Missing In Action

Defense Secretary Gates this week told Congress that DOD’s acquisition system is suffering from an inordinate number of vacant positions.

As reported in the Air Force Association’s daily report, Gates yesterday told the Senate Armed Services Committee that over the past eight years, there has been “difficulty in bringing in qualified senior acquisition officials” and that during that time, the average vacancies in key service acquisition slots has ranged “from 13 percent in the Army to 43 percent in the Air Force.”

DOD needs to fill these seats – the acquisition system is challenged enough with constantly changing budgets, requirements, and Congressional interference. Seems we fiddle while Rome burns.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Americans for Airpower

You wouldn’t think it possible, given the number of unfair and misguided floggings administered to USAF by, among others, Robert Gates, Gordon England, John Young, the New York Times, and various “Boots on the Ground” cheerleaders. However, we now see that, through it all, the US Air Force has managed to retain a strong reputation for skill and capability among the American people. Note, for example, this item published in AIR FORCE Magazine’s Jan. 22 “Daily Report.”

A 2008 Gallup poll that recently made its way onto the Internet via shows that the American public views the Air Force and Marine Corps as the "most prestigious" of the services. However, according to the Gallup Panel Military Perceptions Study, the Air Force gained ground over the past year, rising to 30 percent in 2008 from 25 percent in 2007, while the Marine Corps slipped, dropping from 53 percent in 2007 to 49 percent this past year. In this category, the Army and Navy were not even close. Next question: Which branch is most important to national defense? The Army leads the way here, receiving 38 percent (a drop of one percentage point from 2007), followed by the Air Force (26 percent, down two points from 2007) and the Marine Corps (22 percent, up two points from 2007). Asked which service they would prefer to join if they were 18-years-old, the public chose the Air Force overwhelmingly. As to which branch a parent or grandparent would recommend, again the Air Force came up trumps.

A surprise, no? Has the American public not heard of the sin of “next-war-it is,” as propounded by the SECDEF? Are our citizens unaware that it is the Army and the Marine Corps, and they alone, who are doing all of the “fighting and dying” in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is it somehow escaping their attention that we, as a nation, have “overinvested” in conventional airpower, and that we need to get rid of our “overmatch” in this area so that we can do more in the way of “irregular warfare” around the world? It looks, instead, like they still have some sort of innate awareness that airpower matters, and should be preserved.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Coming Soon: Red UAVs

Everyone's wild about lethal UAVs, right? This may be true for the simple reason that they are all ours--armed Reapers and armed Predators. What happens, though, when the bad guys get these things? This delicate subject of so-called “red UAVs” came up today in AIR FORCE Magazine's online Daily Report. Tagged "Preparing for the Inevitable," the short piece reports that the Air Warfare Center at Nellis AFB, Nev., is now developing the means to oppose enemy UAVs, when the dread day arrives. Here's the money quote, from Lt. Gen. Norman Seip:

"When, in the future, we encounter a near-peer or asymmetric threat, or a terrorist organization that has [UAV] capability, we're going to certainly need to be working toward active techniques so that we can counter those capabilities."

Seip oversees the 432nd Wing at Creech AFB, Nev., which is the operator of the service's MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper. Clearly, this is an issue of some importance to the Air Force. There has actually been quite a lot of analytical work done on this matter, though it rarely sees the light of day in Washington. And we note that Army, Navy, and Marine Corps--who fought so hard to keep the Air Force from gaining executive agency over UAVs--don't seem to be doing anything here. Or have we missed something?

Reuben and the "Raptorski"

Longtime Russian (and Soviet) military affairs writer Reuben F. Johnson, writing in the Weekly Standard online, attempts to take the measure of Russia's quest for a "fifth generation" fighter. In the story, Johnson leaves no doubt that he believes Russia is hot on the trail of its own Raptorski--designated T-50.

"Metal is being cut at the KNAAPO plant" and the plan is now for the aircraft to fly in 2009 or 2010 at the latest, said a source knowledgeable of the program.

Maybe. We've heard such things before. And Johnson soils himself with this gratuitous--and cockeyed--remark: "[T]he US Air Force ... has long sought to use the specter of such a program to justify increased procurement of the F 22A and funding for the F 35." Really? We thought the Air Force was talking mostly about the proliferation of double-digit Russian-made SAMs and Gen. 4.5+ fighters. Johnson doesn't attempt to describe the aircraft's putative capabilities relative to the F-22A. Any additional information welcome.