Reliving Desert Storm

Re-running Operation Desert Storm with today’s Air Force would gut homeland air defense and an entire theatre’s worth of combat air assets, yet still come up short, said USAF Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Stephen Hoog. “At the beginning of Desert Storm we had 134 combat squadrons,” said Hoog during an AFA-sponsored Air Force breakfast on Nov. 6. At the outset of combat operations in Afghanistan USAF numbered 88 combat squadrons and “today we’re at 55 and we’re about ready to ramp on down as we trade capacity off to try to recapitalize,” said Hoog. “If we actually tried to replay Desert Storm all over again … you [would have to] take out our homeland defense squadrons … and the next thing you know you have to decimate—completely strip out Asia or strip out Europe, and you’re still short,” he said. The combat air force is small enough now that planners assume reserve component flying units will deploy on combat or global presence rotations at a ratio of five-to-one, said Hoog. “Now, we’re much more effective with GPS weapons and things like that, but at the end of the day, numbers matter,” he stressed. “We’re engaged in so many places now … that the ability for us to swing is getting harder and harder.”