Pierre Sprey’s ideal US airpower fleet

Pierre Sprey — father of the A-10, co-father of the F-16 and ardent F-22/F-35 critic — has teamed up with ex-Vietnam fighter jock Col Robert Dilger to propose a fascinating vision for an “effectiveness-based” airpower fleet. (Read more here, pp 159-162)

  • 4,000 smaller, more agile A-10s = $60 billion

  • 2,500 turboprops as forward air controllers = $3 billion
  • 100 new tankers = $28 billion
  • 1,000 dirt-strip C-123-like airlifters = $30 billion
  • 1,100 smaller, faster F-16s = $44 billion
  • 183 F-22s already purchased

  • 200 F-35s redesignated as A-35s “to meet commitments to allies” = $50 billion

I also recommend checking out ELP’s dream airpower fleet here.


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11 Responses to Pierre Sprey’s ideal US airpower fleet

  1. John S. 26 November, 2008 at 5:19 pm #

    Woud M. Sprey at least acquiesce to the installation of a radar set into these 1,100 smaller, faster F-16s?

  2. Stephen Trimble 26 November, 2008 at 5:22 pm #

    According to the article linked above, Sprey and Dilger say this: “Electronics will be cutting edge, all-passive with 360-degree infrared and radar warning gear.”

    In other words, no radar.

  3. Dave 27 November, 2008 at 4:30 am #

    Spey is off his meds again. This guy needs to learn to let go of Korea… it’s been a little while since the F-86 was a cutting edge warplane.

  4. SMSgt Mac 27 November, 2008 at 5:51 am #

    Yawn,,,,Another Wheeler-Sprey production again eh? I note on just a quick look:
    1. they don’t even know how many F-117s were shot down in Operation Allied Force (they claim two), I hope this isn’t a draft so they can’t fix it before its out.
    2. they comment on the relatively small number of strike sorties flown by the B-2 in OAF (about 3% BTW) without pointing out they struck 30% of the target sets ( I still have the 509th DCO brief), were the only system in the sky at least once, and were the only ones dropping bombs in all weather –all while Weasely Clark and a weak-kneed NATO was holding back targets and…
    3. They make a big deal out of A-10s flying tons of sorties in Desert Storm without pointing out how attrition shot up the farther they operated from the FEBA/FLOT/whatever today’s name is.

    Groundpounder and short-range meat servo influence seems to be dripping off this one. Somebody tell these guys if ain’t LO you are a target.

    Honestly, the longer I do this work the more I believe Sprey was just a lucky functionary standing in the right place when somebody said “A-10″ at the DoD. The man makes no sense whatever. CSBA and even CSIS have to be laughing their tails off.

    • picard578 26 October, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

      1. One F-117 was shot down and a second F-117 was mission killed (made it back to base but never flew again). How many were shot at but not hit?
      3. A-10s also had *the* greatest effect on Iraqi Army operations out of all aircraft utilized. Thus even if they had greater attrition (losses per-sortie were higher than the F-16s but lower than the F-117s), they also produced more effect.

      If you ain’t LO you’re a target… if you are LO you are a target.

  5. Stephen Trimble 27 November, 2008 at 12:35 pm #

    In my own discussions with Winslow Wheeler, Pierre Sprey and Jim Stevenson, I know they believe there is strong evidence that a second F-117 was severely damaged in Operation Allied Force. There have been several reports about this, but nothing has ever been confirmed, to my knowledge.

  6. sferrin 27 November, 2008 at 5:53 pm #

    Hard evidence that Sprey and the rest of that rocking-chair group are past due for the retirement home.

  7. Magnus 28 November, 2008 at 10:57 am #

    Talking about the F-35, I found this:

    ‘Independent’ DOD Assessment Finds JSF Underfunded By $15 Billion
    Inside the Air Force, Nov. 28, 2008 — Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England has directed the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to all but disregard a recent assessment by a highly esteemed team of military cost estimators that concludes the Joint Strike Fighter program requires two additional years of testing and development — and a staggering $15 billion more than is currently programmed over the next six years.

    From: http://www.insidedefense.com/

  8. Mike Wheatley 28 November, 2008 at 9:55 pm #

    A facinating read. I would certainly exhort you to read it all, as a summary here cannot do justice (one way or the other!) to it. (The same being true of that RAND report.)

    Which isn’t to say I agree with it. Some parts I regard as factually inaccurate, and others as logically flawed, but there is much there to provoke analysis.

    In an effects-bases analysis, it is easy to show that close air support aircraft have an impact, but much harder to show that strategic bombers have a desireable effect. Which is not to say that bombers are useless, but it does make it hard to justify the large funding bias in favour of the bomber.

    The more damming assesment though, is their picture of a military that passes responsibility for “grand strategy” to an unqualified civilian leadership, that in turn seems to care more about job creation than about military effectiveness. I really hope they are massively overstating how endemic this.

  9. alloycowboy 30 November, 2008 at 10:13 pm #

    The F-16 was basically an airplane designed on slide rules and first generation computers. It was a great airplane for its time but lacks the modern technology required in future conflicts to keep them from being blown out of the sky. Sure you could throw a lot of modern avionics at a rehashed version of the F-16 but by doing so you quickly bloat the airplane. If they are going to suggest an alternative to the F-35 at least suggest the F-18E which can at least absorb the avionics upgrades required. But their again an upgraded F-18E would still lack the stealth, range, speed and maneuverability of the new F-35. So why buy an inferior airplane?

  10. John Knowles 5 September, 2013 at 2:28 pm #


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