I’ve kind of played both sides of the F-22 Raptor field. I’ve been critical of the desire to purchase large numbers of the advanced air dominance fighters, mostly because of the great cost and the fact that we don’t need any of them to fight our current crop of enemies. But I’ve also made sure to remind people that the plane itself really is quite a machine and that today’s enemies aren’t the only potential enemies out there.
Word is that some morons somewhere decided that early retirement of all the U-2s, F-117s, and nearly half the B-52s in the Air Force is worth it if it frees up some cash for additional F-22s.
Remember, this is the same Air Force that tired everything it could to retire the A-10s early. What is it about these guys that drives them to retire the most effective planes in the inventory for expensive new fighters?
Now, when it comes to the U-2 and the F-117, I’m not too up in arms. The U-2 is being supplanted by the UAV, particularly the Global Hawk, and this is a good thing. And the F-117 (which is really an A-117 though no one will admit it) will have its role as the stealthy tip of the spear taken up by the F-22 (assuming they ever get the ground attack scenario up to snuff) and (you guessed it) UAVs.
But the B-52 early retirement should trouble us. Though the operating environment for B-52s is rather limited, we currently are faced with a lot of environments (mid- to low-tech enemy nations) that match up rather nicely. The B-52 is sort of the battleship of the Air Force, and despite constant announcements of its demise, it’s always there standing tall when the mission is on the line. Drastic cuts in the number of available Stratoforts would seriously weaken this nation’s military capability.
Side Note: Yes, it’s a bit weird to whine about the “early retirement” of these ancient warbirds. That incongruity aside, though, we all know that the B-52 is a crucial part of our national defense.
If the B-52 cannot physically get it done any longer, we should be looking at a B-747 type of JDAM platform. Cruise missiles and one-use UAVs are often offered as heavy bomber replacements. But the expense limits this approach, and limited numbers or reluctance to use the weapons in large numbers negates the capability to replace heavy bombers.
Oh, and expect to see a steady stream of stories highlighting the maintenance overload the B-52 fleet is putting on the Air Force. It will be intended to help justify the decision. Morons.
See B-52s Axed for More Raptors at Defense Tech.