Letter to the editor: We need to stop underfunding the Air Force


I would like to expand a little on my letter of Feb. 17 where I talked about underfunding the Air Force. The Air and Space Forces Association annually host a symposium where the leadership of the Air Force talk about our Air and Space Forces. The latest was held from Sept. 19-21, and I would like to highlight one of the speakers because it emphasizes the point of my previous letter. Gen. Mark Kelly, the Air Combat Command commander, in his address on Sept. 21, talked about how the Air Force's ability to deter through conventional forces is at risk. "By any measure, we have departed the era of conventional overmatch," Kelly said. "When you have conventional overmatch, strategic risk is low. But that's not where we've arrived in terms of conventional deterrence." That sure concerns me, I don't know about you. We have always relied on our technology and numbers to deter our enemies, but we are fast losing that with adversaries (my comment). He went on to say the Air Force needs 60 fighter squadrons to meet all the responsibilities it's carrying with regard to homeland defense, overseas contingencies, overseas presence and crisis response but only has 48 squadrons of what he termed "multirole" fighters. The shortages are felt mostly in Pacific Air Forces (China is in this area of responsibility), which needs 13 squadrons but fields only 11, and in crisis response forces, which are five squadrons short of requirements, Kelly said.

There's also an insufficient number of squadrons transitioning to new aircraft. Kelly said eight squadrons should be in that process but only three are. "If there is an insufficient number in conversion, that either means your fighter force is getting smaller, getting older, becoming less capable, or all three," he said. The age of the fighter fleet was 9.7 years in 1991, but is 28.8 years now, he noted. (Tankers, bombers and some other airframes could easily double that number - my comment). Readiness is also taking a dive, Kelly said, with fighter pilot flying hours hovering around 9.7 hours a month, versus 22.3 just before Desert Storm.

And he is just talking about the fighter force, just think of all the other airframes. I'll say it again, we need to stop underfunding the Air Force and start building it back up to what it was.


President, Swamp Fox Chapter

Air and Space Forces Association