Going For Broke

The Air Force is at a critical point in maintaining air, space, and cyberspace dominance and must field new aircraft or risk being outclassed in future conflict and becoming irrelevant, said Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of Air Material Command, Feb. 27. “Soon we could be flying against aircraft and air defense systems that our older aircraft were not intended to fly against,” Carlson said during a visit to Air University at Maxwell AFB, Ala. “And if we don’t have the freedom to operate in hostile territories, we risk fighting the next conflict on our home territory.” Carlson said the Air Force has remained in an almost constant state of “war” for more than 17 years and this has taken its toll. For example, required maintenance on the F-15 has skyrocketed from 600 hours to 700 hours more than official estimates, he said. “We’re getting into unknown territory because we’ve been flying airframes longer than expected,” he said. “We didn’t build these aircraft to last this long, and we didn’t expect to see corrosion of this magnitude.” At those rates, maintenance costs on the F-15 fleet “are going to kill us,” if the airframes stay in service for more than 40 years as projected, the general said. In February, the final tranche of F-15 A-D models came off of a major grounding caused by a structural issue that led to the mid-air breakup of an F-15C last November. While the Air Force faces these issues, potential adversaries such as China are pressing ahead with military modernization. “There are others out there who are trying to build up their airpower so they can exert their will over us,” Carlson said. He added that he will be working to “reinvigorate”” the acquisition process to flow with the lifespan of airframes from cradle to grave. (Maxwell report by SSgt. Jason Lake)