Gates vs Tacair: Long overdue reform or reckless gamble?


Let’s think about this. Since Monday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has called for checking F-22 production, trimming F/A-18E/F orders, retiring hundreds of F-15s and F-16s, and — egads! — equating fighters with the likes of unmanned Predators and Reapers.

Gates wants to fundamentally change thepreeminence of the tactical fighter community on the Pentagon prioritylist, which has somehow managed to sustain five active production lines throughout most of the last decade in the USA alone.

Some are no doubt applauding Gates’ proposals as a long-overdue course correction. Others will think it is a risky — and perhaps unprecedented — gamble with the nation’s future security. Of course, many in Congress will view the debate purely as a jobs issue.

Here’s our magazine’s news feature for next week about Gates’ proposals for tacair. We wanted to be careful to avoid hyperbole, but at the same time not ignore a potentially historic call for the structural reform of the world’s largest tactical fighter fleet.


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4 Responses to Gates vs Tacair: Long overdue reform or reckless gamble?

  1. Dave 9 April, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    I don’t think this is as big a shift as many would have us believe. The F-35 project is still the single largest defense program in history- and it’s not like we’re not getting F-22s and F/A-18s. Nor is recognizing the reality that unmanned aircraft are legitimate tactical aircraft a downgrade in the status of airpower… Reapers and Predators are some of the most in demand assets in the AOR by ground forces.

    Fact is as UCASs evolve they will eventually gain more and more capabilities and will probably one day replace the vast majority of manned tacair platforms. I liken it to the knights in the middle ages. Though remembered as a glamorous and dominant force, armored knights on horse back were a relatively short lived phenomenon- eventually they ended up fighting on the ground before being consigned to history- who’s to say the fighter pilot isn’t the same thing. Flying his aircraft, then moving to controlling those aircraft from the ground, and then having the aircraft doing their own thing autonomously.

    I know many are going to claim that the end of the F-22 means the end of air superiority. I doubt that’s the case. From everything I heard from the pilots who’ve flown the F-35- Beesley and Tomlinson, and from what Gen. Davis told me- the F-35 should be more then adequate for any foreseeable fight. Granted the Raptor is better at air to air.

    Realistically, we’re not going to fight China or Russia. That would be a disaster on a monumental scale… nor are either of those nations really looking for a fight with us realistically speaking.

    Gate’s plan provides a force adequate for conventional warfighting in the air- it may not have the sheer level of margin to beat the worst technically feasible threat given unlimited (enemy)resources with zero losses, but it should be adequate- it is also useful for the 4th gen type fight that will probably be the norm in the coming years which is equally important. For the ground and at sea- I do believe killing the FCS vehicles is the right move as was producing the DDG-51 over the Zumwalt. We have to live within our means and that means making some sacrifices…

  2. Mike 10 April, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    As much as I’m a fan of TacAir (for the sheer coolness factor) I suspect Gates is probably right. In fact, I would have gone much further in cutting carrier battle groups from 11 back to six.

    The Marines US Army have made a huge investment in MRAPs that are performing beautifully – so why go off developing a new, lightly armed patrol vehicle (HUMVEE II) when the money could be better applied elsewhere?

    I think Gates is asking a lot of the right questions.

  3. Weaponhead 10 April, 2009 at 3:24 pm #

    Taking money from programs that have tangible products (F-22 and F/A-18) at known costs and known performace to accelerate and over-sold under-performing program with major cost growth and schedule slips is sending the message to industry that you don’t need to perform.

    Buying only 21 B-2s, 187 F-22s after sinking their huge developments development costs is just insane. Now we are asking why there are so few airplanes in the Air Force. Essentially they haven’t bought any for 10 years.

    Now we are switching horses again to the “affordable” F-35. The F-35 is now expected to cost $80M to $100M each. Many people are questioning is it really capable offighting the high end threat and obtain air dominance (with only a few F-22s in inventory). At the same time the list of problems on F-35 is growing and they have barely started flight testing (about 2% complete). So what do we do? We double-down on the F-35 and will buy more LRIP aircraft that will never be combat capable.

    At the same time we are driving other TACAIR suppliers out of business so that Lockheed will be the only company capable of suppling future designs. Is this good for the country?

    In a few years when still more problems arise and more cost growth occurs and we realize that F-35 can’t do the job we are going to realize just how myopic this descision was.

  4. Alpharetta Auto Repair 23 July, 2010 at 7:16 am #

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