In Israel many eyebrows were raised as the eyes below them read a statement made last week by US air force chief of staff Gen Mark Welsh.
While touring Japan, the general said the air force is in fact not ready for possible action in Syria, because of the effects of sequestration on the readiness of air force combat squadrons.
The high ranking officer pointed out that sequestration trade-offs, such as grounding tactical combat squadrons earlier this year, affected readiness and the service’s ability to perform the full spectrum of combat missions.
The air force commander added that if the President decides to take action, the air force and the services will carry out their assigned missions – but “we are not going to be as ready as we would like”, Welsh says.
He added that any air campaign against Syria would involve two capabilities in particular — F-16s equipped for air defense suppression, and F-22s. Squadrons of both were grounded due to sequestration.
Israel has not officially reacted to this surprising statement for two reasons – the US is Israel’s biggest ally, and Jerusalem is trying to keep out of the Syrian mess.
However, unofficially the statement surprised many Israelis in the defence establishment. The following sentence represents in the most accurate reaction: “Not ready? The enemy in this case is an almost grounded air force with mostly obsolete air defences.”
Judging by the results of some “shadow” air raids against targets in Syria in recent years – that, according to the foreign press, were performed by the Israeli air force (IAF) – a US operation in Syria will not require much greater readiness of the US air force.
The IAF has trained in recent years with the US service, and has a good idea of its capabilities.
So, the official mouths in Jerusalem are being kept shut, but the eyebrows can’t be controlled.