Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Lions Led by Over-Educated Donkeys?

This is a FLASH OVERRIDE sort of post on the Air Force.

I read recently that the Air Force is thinking about letting non-officers be pilots to help with a pilot shortage as officer pilots leave the service too rapidly. This was good news, I thought, to keep pilots who want to fly planes and not fly desks carrying out their leadership duties that take away from flying time. Non-officer pilots could just fly. Which would encourage them to remain in the Air Force.

The Air Force long resisted this move, preferring their pilots to be officers and gentlemen. But while I thought this decision was progress, it turns out that the good decision was just the result of being hit by the reality stick so badly that it was the last option available to Air Force leadership.

This judgment by Strategypage scares the Hell out of me:

The U.S. Air Force has lost its way.

That's the first sentence. The explanations that follow should scare everyone. It's not that any of the information is really news. But all the things they describe are part of a single dangerous trend that is leading the Air Force to figuratively fly into a mountain.

The Air Force has gotten really good at dropping smart bombs that hit enemies and not friendly ground troops. That's good. Really good.

But this effort has been against enemies with no hope of challenging the Air Force for control of the skies.

As America pivots to focusing on conventional warfare against potential enemies with serious air forces, we find that our Air Force that has known nothing but aerial dominance since 1944 has become an organization whose leaders have forgotten that the basic mission of the Air Force is to fly and to fight.

I've been aware of the pilot retention problem. I've been aware of the strange senior leadership reluctance to embrace close air support for ground troops. I've been aware and worried about the decline of flying hours for pilots, but felt reassured that simulations were making up for this. I was aware that the Air Force Red Flag program had evolved from air-to-air combat into a broader air power exercise, but assumed I didn't know enough to worry about that change resulting in inferior pilot skills rather than increasing the capability of the air force total system that I thought still provided our country with the best air force in the world.

Now I'm not so sure about that superiority and somebody better intervene and turn the Air Force back into a combat organization rather than a corporation with a small department of oddball trigger pullers sent off to exotic locations in distant parts of the globe who come back with uncomfortable attitudes about "fighting" things called "enemies."

Because potential enemies who don't want to be under those planes dropping smart bombs are practicing hard to deny the Air Force that has come to assume the air supremacy it fought for so long ago is a God-given constant. Is our Air Force system broken?

We need the Air Force to control our skies and rain death down on enemies. Now that aircraft can fire plentiful precision weapons that almost always do more damage to enemies than friendly forces, it is vitally important that our planes be the ones that rain down death on enemies.

UPDATE: More on the pilot shortage:

The military’s fighter pilot shortfall is reaching alarming proportions — and a new report from the Government Accountability Office shows just how bad the problem has become.

The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are each short about a 25 percent of the fighter pilots they need in crucial areas, according to the GAO report released Wednesday, titled “DOD Needs to Reevaluate Fighter Pilot Workforce Requirements.”

To be fair to the Air Force, the problem is broader than their issues.

Also, a shortage in fighter pilots in crucial areas is not the same as a total shortage.