Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Barbarians At the Gates

I'm feeling a little like a Roman this morning... specifically a Roman in the time of the Visigoths, at empire's end.  Three items from AFA's Daily Report...
Coming Home One Last Time: When a lone KC-135 returned home to Grand Forks AFB, N.D., earlier this month after a stint in Southwest Asia, it completed the last-ever Stratotanker deployment for the 319th Air Refueling Wing. After flying KC-135s for 50 years, the wing is converting to operating RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft, courtesy of BRAC 2005. "It's sad to be marking the end of more than 50 years of history. but it will be okay. We are ushering in the future of aviation," said Lt. Col. Noel Bradford, 905th Air Refueling Squadron commander. This unit is the last of Grand Forks' four flying squadrons to drawdown in preparation for inactivation. The 905th's KC-135s began departing Grand Forks for good in August. The last KC-135 is scheduled to leave the base in December. (Grand Forks report by A1C Rachel Waller) (USAF photo from the Grand Forks report)
"...marking the end... of history."  Sad, indeed.  Related:
Get it Right: Perhaps, the biggest "secret" of the Air Force's KC-X tanker contest is that the KC-X could end up being the only new aerial refueling aircraft that USAF ends up getting, writes Rebecca Grant, president of IRIS Independent Research, in her new white paper, "Nine Secrets of the Tanker War." The chances of fully replacing the aged tanker fleet via a second and third phase of recapitalization dubbed KC-Y and KC-Z, respectively, "aren't too good," given factors like the Air Force's track record in recent times for restocking its aircraft types in inadequate numbers, she contends. "In that case," she asserts, "it's essential to get KC-X right." Among the other "secrets": the KC-X program will be good for the US aerospace industry, no matter if Boeing or EADS North America wins; the losing bidder will not go under; and fuel offload matters. Above all, "The time for KC-X is now," writes Grant, who is also director of AFA's Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies and a frequent contributor to Air Force Magazine. (IRIS release)
"...given factors like the Air Force's track record in recent times for restocking its aircraft types in inadequate numbers..."  Oh, you mean only buying 187 F-22s to replace our 630 F-15s?  Or limiting the B-2 fleet to 20 aircraft?  Like that?

And then there's this...
Britain Abandons F-35 STOVL Variant: Britain is reducing its planned buy of Lockheed Martin F-35 strike fighters and will forgo the F-35B short takeoff variant in favor of procuring solely the F-35C naval model, state the findings of that nation's new strategic defense and security review released Tuesday. Neither the review nor British government officials discussing it on Tuesday specified the reduced inventory size. Previously Britain had plans to acquire up to 138 F-35s. Abandoning the F-35B is tied to the decision to install catapult and arrestor gear on one of the Royal Navy's two future aircraft carriers to enable longer range power projection. That "will allow us to switch to the more capable [F-35C] carrier variant," reads the review. With this move, Britain will operate "a single" F-35 model, "instead of different land and naval variants," reads the document. A spokeswoman with the British embassy in Washington, D.C., confirmed to the Daily Report that both the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy will operate the F-35C. Stay tuned for more SDSR coverage. (SDSR full text; caution; large file.) (British MOD release) (See also BBC report)
Barbarians at the gates and here we are with a rapidly diminishing means of defending ourselves; the hits just keep on comin'.  Reading the Beeb's article on the UK defense cuts is a sobering experience and is a harbinger of things to come here in the US.  Well, not "to come."  It's been going on for a long time now.


  1. The problem with the F-35 et. al. is the Lockheed management of the program, specifically the cost control or lack thereof. Like the F-22 before it they have allowed the cost for a consumable piece of equipment to go into the stratosphere resulting in reduced buy's by partner countries. If they are not careful the Marines will be forced to bail alltogher on thier model and go with nothing but Helo's for their CAS support.

    As for the Decom of the KC-135's for UAV's that is a trend being repeated many times over. UAV's of all stripes are the only aircraft type's being bought in large quantity anymore buy all branches. I watched my Son's (SN#1) old ANG squadron here at the Willow Grove JRB turned over the same way, it was a net loss as the squadron moved to Creech AFB in Nevada (he wound up in Indiana).

    And finally on getting KC-X right, I don't know if we can anymore. That program has become so fouled with politics that I fear the resulting compromise will be so ugly it will make grown men cry. On both sides of the Atlantic!!

    BT: Jimmy T sends.

  2. Agreed on most all counts, Jimmy.

  3. Ah, for the days, those heady days of 1960, when SAC had three thousand bombers, and TAC had I don't know how many thousand fighters.

    I do know that tankers are the most efficient force multiplier. 50 years for the -135 at El Forke Grande? I guess I was there right in the middle of that half-century.

  4. Gordon: Ah, but we don't have an enemy that merits that sort of force structure. Or so I read. Not that we couldn't have one, and right soon, too.

  5. We probably didn't then, either, Buck. I've read some pretty convincing evidence that our number of delivery vehicles, and targets, was based on the number of warheads we had. Back in 1950, there were only about 200 targets in the USSR, and amazingly enough, we had 200 bombs.

    I'm worried about the future, also. It's going to be a very different world when we don't have the ability to project power. Our fickle allies in Europe are going to be unpleasantly surprised by that world.


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