June 9, 2008

It Kind Of Sucks To Be The Air Force Right Now

First, you lose some nuclear weapons. Well, not really "lose" so much as "can't account for their location for several hours while they're moved unaccountably and without orders 2,000 miles away from where they're supposed to be." That's not really "lost," is it? Jeez, they eventually found the warheads, after all!

Then, a $1.2 billion B-2 bomber stalls on takeoff resulting in what airlines antiseptically call a "major asset loss." Yikes. (The video is super-scary. The pilots ejected safely.)

Then, you get shown up in the national media as behind the eight-ball in your best bid for expanding your scope of authority into outer space. Seriously, when the government thinks NASA is more efficient than you, that's a damning indictment.

And then, your top brass get sacked in a really nasty Pentagon power play. They get replaced with transport pilots, not fighter jocks.

All the while, you're trying desperately to explain why risky and expensive manned aviation is still a necessity in an era of increasing reliance on relatively inexpensive drone aircraft manned by "Nintendo Aviators" in Tampa and Las Vegas.

The last straw is when your very existence becomes a subject of debate in the Presidential election. Will "Abolish the Air Force" become a campaign mantra? Can, and more importantly, will, a Navy aviator have to rescue the USAF? Because the thing is, getting rid of the Air Force would hardly be the end of U.S. military aviation. The Air Force split off from the Army in 1947; before that it had been the U.S. Army Air Force. There's no reason I can think of that pilots wearing green instead of blue couldn't do the same missions (bombing, transport, reconnaissance, and air-interception, in that order of importance) that are being done now. My buddy the Army infantryman once said "I have a lot of respect for what those guys in the Air Force do. It's a lot like serving in the military."
Yes, there's specialized training involved, especially for air combat missions. But the Army provides plenty of specialized and elite training anyway. Ask a Green Beret or an Airborne Ranger if the Army can provide specialized elite training. If you dare.

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