What Fighter Gap?

Whether or not there will be a fighter gap—for the Air Force, Navy, and Air National Guard—is a matter for the just-commenced Quadrennial Defense Review, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the House Armed Services Committee May 13. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) specifically questioned Gates about the air sovereignty alert mission fighter gap facing the Air Guard, given there is a “lack of a plan … to address the problem.” But, Gates responded that if you look at the issue from a threat basis rather than a capabilities or force structure basis, there is no gap. And, Adm. Michael Mullen, JCS Chairman, testifying at the same hearing, explained, “We do have challenges, obviously, in strike-fighter shortfalls.” However, he continued, “What it doesn’t mean is that eight years from now or 20 years from now, we’re going to be doing it [the mission] exactly the same way we’re doing it now.” That said, Mullen acknowledged that the “need to meet” the ASA requirement “is one we all recognize for the future.” That being said, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) did not hesitate to point out that, “even under the most optimistic projections,” without a timely infusion of replacement aircraft, the Air Guard “would be forced to close 13 fighter wings by 2017.”