The authorities and the US military leadership do not pay due attention to the development of the country's Air Force. This was stated by the director of government relations of the Air Force Association (AFA), retired aviation colonel Keith Zugel.

Washington ignores the needs of the Air Force, the US Congress is more concerned with building new ships than aircraft. At the same time, leading positions in the leadership of the defense department are occupied by people from the ground forces, and they also form the Pentagon's policy and its budget, according to an article by Zugel, published in Defense News.

“The US Department of the Air Force, which is responsible for training and equipping the two branches of the Armed Forces - the Air Force and the Space Force - has been experiencing a lack of funding for decades, leading to a significant deterioration in their combat readiness and insufficient modernization. While the US Air Force has abandoned the forthcoming modernization to cover the costs of ongoing operations, China and Russia have made great strides towards achieving parity of power, ”said a senior AFA official.

The Air Force leadership has long insisted that their troops need investment, but their requests are largely ignored, Keith Zugel said.

“The US Air Force is outdated, too small in numbers, and unprepared to face future global threats. Meanwhile, China and Russia have stepped up investment in technology and are making breakthroughs in weapons such as hypersonic weapons, ”he said.

Finance and aircraft

According to Keith Zugel, the leadership of the Air Force faces problems when trying to change the organizational structure, purchase the necessary aircraft or write off the machines that have exhausted their service life.

“Over the past couple of years, the US Air Force has requested funding to increase its strength by 23% to 386 squadrons. Congress approved the request but was unable to provide adequate funding, ”the AFA functionary recalled in his article.

  • US Air Force F-22 fighter squadron
  • Reuters
  • © Mike Segar

In 2018, the US Air Force released a policy document titled The Air Force We Need. It indicated the need to increase the number of combat squadrons from 312 to 386 until 2030 due to the possibility of a conflict with a "major force" - Russia or China.

In addition, the document proposed to create an additional five new squadrons of bomber aviation to the existing nine.

In April 2019, Heather Wilson, then the US Air Force Secretary, said the US Air Force was "too small to carry out missions at the level the country expects."

In his article, Keith Zugel notes that if the US Congress is increasing funding for the Air Force fleet, it is not in the areas where it is needed.

“In order to secure funding for the acquisition of new aircraft, it is necessary to abandon obsolete models, the content of which depletes resources, they were designed to fight in the past and are not able to penetrate modern defenses. Nevertheless, Congress continues to force the Air Force to keep in service with obsolete aircraft equipment or even purchase even more fighters of older models, ”he notes.

Such statements, not without reason, indicate serious miscalculations on the part of the Pentagon, including in the issue of providing the US Air Force with modern aircraft, Andrey Koshkin, a full member of the Academy of Military Sciences, said in an interview with RT.

“The United States has relied onmultifunctional fighter of the fifth generation F-35, which today has not met their expectations. Now the call is ringingto the fact that the entire line of aircraft of the US Air Force needs to be updated and thus increase the capabilities and potential of the country. The turmoil that grips the entire US political system today has spilled over into the air force's capacity building process. Now this has affected those areas that need serious modernization, ”the expert noted.

In an interview with RT, military expert Yuri Knutov explained that calls for a radical renewal of the aircraft fleet in the United States appear, among other things, due to the need to create powerful orders for the American military-industrial complex.

“It is more profitable to order a batch of new aircraft, and small orders for repairs are of little interest, ” the expert noted, explaining that American aircraft corporations are interested in selling new, more expensive technological packages than in maintaining old equipment in combat readiness. 

The AFA representative's fears about building up their potential by Russia and China are not groundless, Yury Knutov noted. Already now we can say that the Russian aviation industry has technologies that can compete with the American ones, the expert explained. 

“In engine building, we are now even overtaking the Americans in some directions, for example, we are making super-maneuverable aircraft engines ... Our experience in aviation, what we use in Syria and sell, what is in demand, shows that we are not inferior to the Americans in a number of characteristics, and even surpass them, ”the expert explained.

System problem

Recall that the problem of updating the US Air Force fleet was already announced by a high-ranking representative of this type of armed forces in mid-July. The head of the Air Force's purchasing department, Will Roper, said on July 14 that in order to maintain production of military aircraft, the government would have to nationalize aviation enterprises.

Now in the United States, two companies produce fighters - Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The fourth generation F-15 Eagle and F / A-18 fighters are manufactured by Boeing, while Lockheed Martin is producing the fifth generation F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

  • Tests of the F-35B Lightning II
  • Reuters
  • © Michael D. Jackson

At the same time, the F-35 program has been repeatedly criticized for its high cost and "raw" quality of the aircraft produced. So, when flying at supersonic speeds at extremely high altitudes in versions B and C of the F-35 fighter, tail antennas, keel can be destroyed, and the radio-absorbing coating can be damaged.

In addition to problems with the renewal of the aircraft fleet, the United States Air Force has a shortage of pilots. In March 2020, in a written appeal to the House of Representatives Committee on Armed Forces, representatives of the Air Force reported that the American air force lacks 2.1 thousand pilots before reaching the goal of completing the flight personnel of 21 thousand people.

The statement noted that many military pilots are leaving the Air Force to pursue higher-paying positions in private airlines. At the same time, the shortage of flight personnel is growing - for comparison, in 2016 this figure was 1.5 thousand people.

The system of the US military-industrial complex and the provision of military equipment suffers due to the fact that some types of troops and departments are trying to take as much money from the military budget as possible, leaving colleagues with nothing, explained Andrei Koshkin.

“Sometimes the price of a product rises several times and becomes extremely expensive both for the internal arms market and for the external one. This has led to the fact that the US aircraft fleet is experiencing problems today, ”the expert noted.

Fears of representatives of the US Air Force that the fleet of their aircraft is outdated and that Washington may concede competition in the skies to Moscow and Beijing are well founded, since Russian Su-57 fighters will soon enter the Russian Air Force and the international arms market with the help of which some countries will be able to strengthen their positions in the world, added Andrey Koshkin.

“If the United States is unable to modernize its aircraft fleet, then it will simply lose its dominance in the world,” the political scientist concluded.