Free the Air Force 839!

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, offering a “little preview” of the Quadrennial Defense Review to be released next week, told AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando today that the Air Force will press Congress for permission to retire old aircraft in very large numbers—amounting to 25 percent of all USAF fighters and 10 percent of its overall aircraft inventory. The aircraft in question are “less operationally useful” than USAF requires, said Wynne, and the service wants to save the money needed to overhaul and modify them, since the payback would be only “a marginal gain” in combat power. Wynne noted that lawmakers over the years have barred the retirement of an astounding 839 airplanes. (Wynne was too kind to say it, but the reason for this is the desire of politicians to keep airplanes, bases, and jobs in their districts.) He wants relief from this onerous oversight; no other service labors under such a burden. Wynne said he needs “the freedom to manage the fleet” in the most cost- and operationally-effective manner. “We are going to a smaller and more capable force,” he explained.