Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Light Fighter?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Weekly Standard blogger John Noonan highlighted the Air Force's need for a new light fighter to eventually replace some of the duties of the aging A-10 Warthog. The A-10 has long been an extraordinarily useful part of the fleet as an effective "tank-killer" and other strong points, but they are unquestionably old.

The writer notes a couple of airframes such as the T-6 Texan or the Brazilian Super Tucano that -- once properly outfitted -- can at least partially duplicate the A-10, then spotlights the Stavatti-made SM-27 from a Hawaii-based company.

The writer opines that its speed, looks and loiter-ability make it the best choice, but that its $10 million pricetag knock it to the back of the line, since the budget is likely $5 million for a new counter insurgency dedicated fighter.

Read the entire item here, then be sure to click here for a look at the concept manned/unmanned follow-on SM-47.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

China and Afghanistan

Three op-eds to bring to your attention. The first is by Randy Schriver, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, East Asia … and senior country director for China in DOD. He points out trends he sees in the People's Liberation Army - and their development of a first-rate military. [Yes - that's their formal name … and they swear an oath, life our military does … except theirs it to protect the Communist Party … and not their Constitution … and their Air Force is called: The People's Liberation Army Air Force - go figure]. Mr. Schriver's observations are measured … and I think balanced. See this link on our Education and Opinion page:

Secondly, I commend to you two op-eds on Afghanistan. The first is by Bing West, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, combat reporter, and Marine. He reports on the ground and has both policy and operational experience. He should be read and digested. You can find a link to his piece on our website at:

The second piece on Afghanistan that caught my interest was written by David Miliband, Foreign Secretary in the UK [SECSTATE equivalent]. In his piece he outlines three steps he believes necessary to rebuild Afghanistan. A link to his piece can be found at:

For your consideration,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thoughts from Afghanistan


My name is Dr. Barnstuble and I just returned from Afghanistan serving with a PRT unit. I find your stats kind of interesting and I agree with a lot, but from what I saw the AF may be supporting a lot of the mission there but is not sacrificing as much as your average marine or army individual. I don't know if we should be--is ground combat part of our mission--but from what I saw I can tell you we have it good.

My unit was made up of 1/2 army and 1/2 AF. We were 1 of 6 AF PRT's, so about 300 AF members total. We went on convoys daily, were deployed 9months in country, 3 months CST training under GO#1 living in tents.
Sure, there are >5,000 AF members in country but lets see the stats on WHERE in country they are! How many are stationed at BAF and KAF? How many go out on convoys where the risk is greatest? How many interact with the locals and form relationships which is the key to a COIN war.

I was apart of the 755 AEF group, and the latest figures I had was roughly 1700 Airmen were attached to that group. Out of that group, only 300 where on a PRT going out regularly. There are others, like medics filling ILO taskings going out and dangerous combat controllers, but even out of the 1700 in the 755th, most do not regularly go out.
Most AF billets are in relatively safe conditions compared to the Army and Marines. Most billets are 6 months with no CST. At BAF there is Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, gyms, movie theater, a nice hospital, etc. The same with KAF. Now look at the firebases scattered all throughout that country. There are army guys using piss tubes and burning there crap.
They eat MRE's daily and are in very remote areas. Treadmills, yeah right. BAF, KAF, and Kabul have them but I can tell you no one in the entire province of Zabul had a functioning one.

The AF has over 20,000 airmen deployed. It is amazing to me though that out of the 20-25,000 deployed there are 5,800 in Afghanistan and 1,700 in the 755th and less than that going out. The math: 1700/20,000 = 8.5 % and less than that that are doing equivalent army/marine type things.

I am an airman and I have seen both types of deployments. I don't think the AF's mission is to drive MRAPs and shoot 50 cals, but my only point is that we have it pretty good comparatively speaking. So, I would not be too proud of our numbers of troops "on the ground" when there are still over 100,000 troops in Iraq and now probably >50,000 in Afghanistan with the AF's footprint and risk small in comparison to the other branches. I served with those Romanian troops in Zabul province.
They were out everyday, driving less armored vehicles than us, taking as many casualties as the Army guys, and doing a damn good job. I would venture to say those 1,000 Romanian soldiers went out more than our AF in Afghanistan. I bet that those 1,000 Romanians had more risk than the 5,800 Airman over there. The UK troops are getting hammered in the worst province over there. How many UK troops have you heard recently die? It is every week you hear of some. How many AF folks? Not as many. The same is true with Canada. They have a small footprint but they have one of the highest casualties per capita in that place. More than the AF for sure. It is because they are in the second roughest province--Kandahar.

So, while I agree NATO needs to help more from its contributing countries, we should look deeper at our numbers, our locations, our types of deployments before bashing some NATO countries. Before I deployed, I was in a room of deployers of about 50 from my base. Out of that, about 5 were actually going to where the 2 wars were and only 1 going longer than 6 months. Have the same meeting in the Army and see where the hands are? Everyone is 12months and the vast majority are going where the wars are.

Just some thoughts from a physician who just got back.

Brent Barnstuble, CPT, USAF

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Troops on the ground and a STEM Study

We hear a lot about Afghanistan ... and GEN McChrystal is developing a new strategy and might ask for more troops. We thought it might be useful to point out how many are there now ... and from which countries. According to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), there are presently 64,500 allied troops in Afghanistan ... with the US providing 29,950 -- less than half of the total. There are 42 nations which are providing troops. The nations with the largest number of troops are:

UK -- 9,000
Germany -- 4,050
France -- 3,160
Canada -- 2,800
Italy -- 2,795
Poland -- 2,000
Netherlands -- 1,770
Australia -- 1,090
Romania -- 1,025

It is important to note that the United State Air Force has 5800 Airmen on the ground in Afghanistan - more than any other country except for the UK. Plus the Air Force has thousands supporting the effort at AF Space Command, flying RPAs from Nevada, flying missions from Diego Garcia, flying tanker missions from the Gulf, and supporting the operation with lift on an hourly basis.

Additionally, a significant task is to train the Afghan National Army. Presently, there are 91,000 trained out of an authorized strength of 134,000. You can find more details about this data at:

Secondly, we had an Executive Committee meeting this past weekend and among the discussion topics was the state of STEM Education [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] in the US today. One expert on the subject opined that US citizens received less than 50% of all STEM PhDs in this country. That prompted me to do a bit of research ... and the "opiner" is not too far off. The seminal study in this area is done by University of Chicago ... and is based on data from 2005-2006 year. The entire document is over 19 Megs ... so I cut it and put the one page executive summary ... plus all the tables and graphs mentioned in the Executive Summary ... into one document on our website ( A few observations:

56% of all science and engineering doctorates were awarded to US citizens -- however, only 32 % of engineering doctorates went to US citizens
Of those non-US citizens who earned doctorates, China (4,774) had the most; India second (1,742); then S. Korea (1,648); Taiwan (718); Canada (561)
51% of all research doctorates awarded to US citizens went to women
54% of those who graduated with employment ... planned to teach in universities
The point of above is we are approaching the time when we will be short of STEM graduates in this country. The aerospace industry is especially affected ... as one -- repeat one -- single aerospace company told me they hire over 5% of all undergraduate engineers the nation produces. It is also important to notice where the bulk of the non-citizen doctorates will reside in the future ... Nuff said.

Finally, the AF Memorial Foundation had produced a limited edition holiday ornament - that was selling fast. The Foundation also has a range of holiday cards. We plan to have a different ornament and card - both featuring the Air Force Memorial -- every year. We will offer past years' ornaments until we run out and every year we plan to add to the holiday card selection that features the Air Force Memorial. You can find information on our website at:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Gen McPeak in WSJ: Why we need the F-22

General Merrill McPeak, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, weighed in with a Sunday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that establishes the need for airpower generally and the F-22 Raptor in particular. While the decision to terminate the program early has already been made, at least in one vote in Congress, the article stands as a excellent reminder of the dangers of misplaced thinking about the lack of near-peer threats.

Here are a couple of his quotes:
In an argument they seem to think makes sense, critics say the aircraft has no worthy opponent—as if we want to create forces that do have peer competitors.

Our guys on the ground had hard work to do, but when they looked up, they saw only friendly skies. For the life of me, I can’t understand why we should wish to change this.

Here is the entire article.

Russia Aims for Modernized Air Fleet by 2020

A Russian general outlined Russian plans to dramatically upgrade their Air Force for a mix of 70 percent new aircraft by 2020. The plan calls for a mix of the fifth generation fighters now in development, with upgraded 4th++ generation aircraft rounding out the numbers. A fifth generation bomber is also on the drawing board.

Read the entire article here.

The U.S. Air Force and Navy aging fighter fleets are also facing a considerable gap in upcoming years, as older fourth generation planes age out and the fifth generation F-35 comes online. Some members of Congress have also mentioned the purchase of newer fourth generation aircraft to partially mitigate the growing problem.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

UAS Symposium: USAF Academic Outreach

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Air Force is discussing Unmanned Aerial Systems (AUS) at the University of North Dakota today as part of a three-day Symposium. UAS is a growing part of the Air Force budget and daily operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gen Stephen Lorenz, Commander, Air Education and Training Command is headlining along with political leaders from the state: Gov. John Hoeven, Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, and Congressman Earl Pomeroy.

Major topics include: National Airspace System Integration, UAS Integrated Lifecycle Management, UAS Training, Airborne Networks, Small UAS Development, Artificial Intelligence, and USAF UAS Flight Plan for the next four decades.

For more, visit and click "events" -- or just click here.

UAS will also be among our current topics at next month's Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition. This year's largest-ever Expo floor will certainly include UAS-related displays of the top technology. Learn more or register here.

Don’t Change TRICARE Commitment

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

With the national healthcare debate often the top topic in media and politics, the Air Force Association is urging that, whatever happens, it should not in any way diminish the TRICARE coverage that is an earned benefit of our men and women who serve.

“TRICARE is an important earned benefit for members of the Armed Forces and retirees, not just another health care insurance plan,” said Joe Sutter, Chairman of the Board for AFA. “TRICARE coverage should not be diminished in any way by changes to Medicare or a national health care program.”

“Under no circumstances should TRICARE benefits be taxed,” said Mike Dunn, President of AFA. “TRICARE is part of the special national commitment we make to those that are serving and have served. It is an earned benefit, and should not be folded into any national public option plan.”

Read the AFA statement here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

CQ highlights AFA's growing CyberPatriot competition

AFA's high school CyberPatriot competition has been dramatically expanded since it's first year. CQ Politics writes of the growing importance of the cybersecurity field and getting some of the best and brightest involved in this career early.

The Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot Defense Competition, for example, has signed up more than 200 teams from 44 states, Japan and South Korea. Their goal, said Sanford Schlitt, vice president of the association’s Aerospace Education Board, was to recruit two to three schools in each of 25 to 30 states.

Learn more about AFA's rapidly growing CyberPatriot competition here.

Read the article here.

UK keeps eye on F-35 delivery

The looming fighter gap is not only a concern for the US Air Force and US Navy. Similarly, the UK is keeping an eye on the expected delivery of their F-35s for their growing carrier fleet.

The British Daily Star reports some back and forth from officials on the topic here, including a quote from AFA.

Douglas Birkey of the Air Force Association in America said: “Customers such as the United Kingdom are on very tight schedules because their current equipment is rapidly ageing out. They need the F-35 as backfill.”