The New-Old Fighter Option

Is there a need to purchase new versions of old fighters to provide a “bridging strategy” to address the fighter gap (see above) facing the Air National Guard’s air sovereignty alert mission? That’s the question Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (R-Ariz.) pressed Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, Air National Guard director, to answer during the April 22 hearing of the House Armed Services readiness panel. “Certainly, there are fourth-generation, 4.5-generation options out there,” Wyatt replied. There are service life extensions as well, and each has advantages and disadvantages. Those options are available, if necessary, he said, “in the physically constrained situation that we’re in.” However, he cautioned against going with a “separate platform”—4th-gen fighters when 5th-gen are coming on board—for the ASA mission since the Air Guard must also deploy overseas with their aircraft. And, he said, there’s the issue of whether new 4th-gen aircraft will be able to handle “rising threats,” whether unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles, or “use your imagination” that could be used to attack this country. In Wyatt’s view, the decision on the right platform “should be driven by the importance of the mission.” And, he said, “the decision needs to be made where does air defense and defense of the country range on the scale of priorities.”