Gates Has a Big Problem

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he has "a big problem" with the House Armed Services Committee addition of 12 F-22 Raptors to the 2010 defense budget. He told reporters at the Pentagon June 18 that the reason is "because it continues the F-22 program, which is contrary to the recommendations I made to the President." However, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), who as chairman of the committee's air and land forces panel put forth the additional Raptors, says we need them to provide "breathing room" to keep F-22 production going while debate continues on national strategy as the Pentagon works through the Quadrennial Defense Review. For Gates that debate is obviously over. In a direct slap at the professional opinion expressed recently by Air Combat Command boss Gen. John Corley that the current national military strategy requires more than 187 F-22 fighters, Gates told the reporters: "Frankly, to be blunt about it, the notion that not buying 60 more F-22s imperils the national security of the United States I find completely nonsense." With that statement, Gates not only derides Corley's judgment but also that of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, who has acknowledged the fiscal constraints that make a smaller F-22 force necessary, but who has stated publicly that the current military requirement is for 243 Raptors. Asked when he would recommend a presidential veto, Gates said, “I’m not going to go that far at this point.” Abercrombie, however, meeting with reporters, openly ridiculed the notion of a veto, claiming that President Obama would be uncharacteristically foolhardy to veto a defense bill over the issue of a few airplanes. Abercrombie added that, in any event, a veto would be met in a flash with an override by huge supermajorities in each chamber. (Gates press briefing transcript)

Dual Tanker Default

The Pentagon’s consistent failure to implement or at least articulate a plan to replace aged aerial tankers makes the notion of a dual tanker buy a reasonable course of action, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) said Thursday. After “eight or nine...

Barksdale Gets AFGSC

The Air Force announced Thursday afternoon that it had settled on Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana as the permanent site for the headquarters of its new Air Force Global Strike Command. The service had tapped Barksdale in April as its preferred location for the new command, which will comprise the service's force of nuclear-capable bombers and ICBMs, pending the outcome of the required environmental assessment. That decision sparked much dismay among folks in Nebraska, who thought Offutt Air Force Base, the former home to Strategic Air Command, would be the logical choice. According to the Air Force's June 18 statement, it will activate the new command at Barksdale on Aug. 7. The service already has selected Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz to lead the command.

The QDR is PR

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) has little patience with being told by defense officials that various procurement issues will be worked out in the Quadrennial Defense Review. Asked for his assessment of the QDR’s value and its reliability in mapping defense...

Export F-22 Still Open

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s air and land forces panel believes that the possibility of an export model of the F-22 coming to fruition remains “on the table,” but many of the factors, including the prohibitive Obey amendment, remain up in the air. “Yes, we’re taking a look at it,” Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) told defense reporters in Washington Thursday, because foreign sales “offers some very interesting possibilities for perhaps bringing down the cost per airplane.” However, an F-22 export version would require significant changes and the sales environment has changed. “The guarantees that these foreign sales are available to us are not necessarily as solid as they were before,” he explained. Abercrombie noted that Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) had added an amendment to the committee's version of the Fiscal 2010 defense bill that would require a report from the Pentagon on the potential for sales of the aircraft to Japan—now the most likely customer for the fighter. The amendment, which carries a 30-day ticking clock after the defense bill becomes public law, would require details on the cost of developing an export version, its feasibility and timeframe, the strategic implications, impact of foreign sales on the US industrial base, and any changes to the law needed to proceed with the sale.

Still Waiting for Answers

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), chairman of the air and land forces panel in the House Armed Services Committee, told defense reporters Thursday that he is still concerned about the Air National Guard portion of the Air Force’s “fighter gap.” He...

Tired of Holding Breath

While senior Air Force officials may want to close the door on talk of buying upgraded fourth-generation fighters to sustain the Air National Guard, which faces the aging-out of its fighter force that covers the air sovereignty alert mission, some lawmakers are trying to keep it open. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), two of the leading critics of the Air Force’s plan to retire 254 legacy fighters next year, added an amendment to the House Armed Services Committee's version of the 2010 defense bill that would require DOD to submit a report on the feasibility of purchasing 4.5-generation fighters to sustain the Air Guard. In introducing the amendment, Giffords declared, "Without a shred of analysis being provided to Congress or any evidence that shows current plans meet current reality, the Air Force dismissed the idea of providing real life aircraft to real life airmen." She added, “Instead, we have been asked, once again, to hold our breath and wait.” (Giffords-LoBiondo amendment) (And you may want to read an article Giffords penned in Politico)

GPS Sats Still Flying

Several alarmist headlines heralded a problem with the Global Positioning Satellite (a GPS IIR version) launched in March that they claimed could extend to the next series of GPS sats, the GPS IIF, the first of which is now slated...

A Gold Medal for WASPs

Both the House and Senate have now passed the legislation that would provide a single Congressional Gold Medal to the women who served in World War II as the Women Air Service Pilots, or WASP. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) sponsored the Senate bill (S. 614) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) the House version (HR 2014). In floor remarks before the House vote on June 16, Ros-Lehtinen said the measure "honors a special sisterhood of women, most of them in their 80s, who share a unique place in American history. These women have been mothers and grandmothers, teachers and office workers, nurses, business owners, photographers, and dancers. One was even a nun. But before that they were pilots for the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. They are heroines." She noted that of the 1,102 WASPs, more than 300 are still alive. Once presented, the Gold Medal is to be displayed by the Smithsonian Institution. (Floor remarks from the June 16 Congressional Record) (For background on this famous group, read Air Force Magazine's The WASPs)

Air Sorties from SWA

Air Sorties in War on Terrorism, Southwest AsiaJune 15, 2009 Sortie Type OIF OEF OIF/OEF Total YTD ISR 23 22 45 6,748 CAS/Armed Recon 21 78 99 16,083 Airlift 140 140 22,671 Air refueling 54 54 7,483 Total 338 52,985...