The United States Air Force has had a pretty eventful 2017. They've been hard at work delivering ordinance to the Taliban — in fact, they gave the Taliban an up-close view of what the MOAB can do. Even the F-22 Raptor's gotten in on the action. But just like the Army and Navy, the Air Force has its problems, like a pilot shortage that continues to get worse and ongoing usage of old airframes. So, what should the Air Force resolve to do better in the New Year?
5. Ditch OA-X and just buy more Warthogs
Let's face it, there are some planes that can only be properly replaced by a newer version of that plane. The C-130 Hercules has done that twice (from the C-130E to the C-130H to the C-130J). The A-10 is clearly such a plane, and is far better than the contenders trying to replace it.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 39th Air Base Wing, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, shoots off flares during a mission, Nov. 29, 2017. The A-10 can employ a wide variety of conventional munitions, including general purpose bombs, cluster bomb units, laser-guided bombs, joint direct attack munitions and more. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)
4. Re-open some cargo plane production lines
The C-17 Globemaster III and the C-5 Galaxy can haul a lot of stuff. That being said, there are only 78 C-5s (out of 126 built) and 213 C-17s (to replace 285 C-141 Starlifters) on inventory. They are good planes, but they can't be in two places at once. Addressing this shortfall of airframes would make for a more efficient force.
A C-17 Globemaster III lands while a F-16 Fighting Falcon is readied for takeoff. The aircraft and their crews provide air support as needed for the war on terror. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John E. Lasky)
3. Rebuild the air-superiority fleet
There have been some recent air-to-air incidents involving the United States Military over Syria. The Air Force's air-superiority force is down to 106 F-15C Eagles and 159 F-22 Raptors. We know that multi-role planes, like the F-16 and F-35, can handle air-to-air face-offs, but perhaps 2018 is the year to safely secure air superiority.
An Air Force F-22 Raptor executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is participating in Northern Edge 2009, a joint exercise focusing on detecting and tracking units at sea, in the air and on land. (U.S. Navy photo by Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Ronald Dejarnett)
2. Counter Russia's treaty violations by bulking up the bomber force
Russia's cheating on the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty has become blatant enough that America has begun its own ground-launched cruise missile program. But there are other options to address Russian cheating. A good one is bulking up America's bomber force. Re-starting B-1 and B-2 production while upping the B-21 Raider buy to 295 (matching the production total of the G and H models of the B-52) would be an excellent response.
A two ship of B-1B Lancers assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, fly in formation over New Mexico during a training mission on Feb. 24, 2010. Dyess will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first B-1B bomber arriving at the base with the Dyess Big Country Airfest and Open House on May 1, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)
1. Expand the pilot training pipeline
The Air Force is short by two thousand pilots, and that shortage is only getting worse. It's time to train more pilots — lots more pilots. Additionally, to increase retention, the Air Force should let pilots be pilots. For instance, if they decide to do a little stunt flying, as long as nothing's damaged and nobody's hurt, give them a pass. Hell, it worked out well in the case of Richard Ira Bong.
A T-38 Talon participates in the 2004 Lackland Airfest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)