The USAF plans to divest entire fleets, including the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane and U-2 Dragon Lady spyplanes and “focus on the multi-role aircraft that can deliver a variety of capabilities combatant commanders require”
The Air Force is going to shrink over the next five years. This is the result of the structure changes annouced on Mar. 10, follwing the FY15 President’s Budget announced on Mar. 4.
The plan is going to axe some 500 aircraft across the inventories of all three components, reshaping the Air Force as “a smaller and more capable force [...] that can defeat more technologically advanced adversaries” according to SecDef Chuck Hagel.
The reduction will affect squadrons based in 25 States and the District of Columbia; units based abroad will suffer minor cuts, in order to maintain a significant overseas presence. Nevertheless, Osan airbase in South Korea, will lose its A-10s, while RAF Lakenheath, in UK, will probably have to give away a whole squadron.
“In addition to fleet divestment, we made the tough choice to reduce a number of tactical fighters, command and control, electronic attack and intra-theater airlift assets so we could rebalance the Air Force at a size that can be supported by expected funding levels. Without those cuts, we will not be able to start recovering to required readiness levels,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III in a press release.
Congress will probably alter the adjustment plan a little bit. Still, regardless of the money the lawmakers will commit to keep this or that plane and squadron alive, the U.S. Air Force will substantially shrink.
It will remain the most powerful aerial armada in the world, but not as large and powerful as it was years ago. Not a good thing, considered the opposite trends of the Chinese and Russian air arms.
Lockheed said that ”The Air Force uses this to authorize the Incremental Modernization capability efforts such as Increment 3.1, Increment 3.2A and Increment 3.2B”
“F-22 modernization provides upgrades that ensures the Raptor maintains air dominance against an ever advancing threat – with capabilities such as advanced weapons, multi-spectral sensors, advanced networking technology and advanced anti-jamming technology.”
Image credit: U.S. Air Force
Under increment 3.1 upgrade the fleet of radar evading 5th generation planes will get synthetic aperture radar (SAR) with ground mapping capability as well as the ability to carry eight 113kg (250lb) Small diameter bombs, in 2014; the increment 3.2A will see additional electronic protection measures and upgrades to the Link-16 data link system and its ability to work with the jets sensor suite.
In 2017, increment 3.2B will see the software and hardware upgrade to allow the Raptor to use the AIM-120D and AIM-9X missile systems, although a limited ability will be added before this date.
The following is an interesting ’60s propaganda movie about the Convair B-58 Hustler whose purpose was to raise the awareness of the Americans about the U.S. Air Force operations (“jet noise is the sound of freedom” kind of message) and, above all, to scare the Soviets with footage of the Strategic Air Command‘s first supersonic bomber capable of Mach 2.
On Jun. 16, 2012 at 05.48 AM local (12.48 GMT), 469 days after it was launched, the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California at the end of the longest space mission only after the Discovery shuttle program.
The venicle glided powerless to landing on Vandenberg’s runway, located some 150 miles to the northwest of Los Angeles,.
The X-37B OTV-2, one of two unmanned, reusable space planes, about a fourhty the size of the shuttle, was launched atop an Atlas 5 rocket on Mar. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to conduct on-orbit experiments and checkout of the vehicle itself.
However, since it is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project since 2004, secrecy surrounds the scope and details of the long OTV-2 journey around the planet.
According to Spaceflight Now, speculations about the real purposes of the the test bed “has ranged from secret flyby surveillance of China’s orbital station to the weaponization of space.”
According to the the Air Force: “the X-37B’s advanced thermal protection and solar power systems, and environmental modeling and range safety technologies are just some of the technologies being tested. Each mission helps us continue to advance the state-of-the-art in these areas” said Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre, the X-37B program manager.
The following photo shows a B-52H Stratofortress from the 96th Bomb Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., generating a rainbow-colored condensation cloud on take off on a training flight, on Apr 18.
I found it a bit funny that the most famous nuclear bomber in the U.S. Air Force inventory created one of the most easily recognizable peace sign.
However, it must be said that its mission has changed in half a century: from a nuclear role of strategic deterrence, the B-52 is currently used for a wide variety of conventional missions ranging from the BAI (Battlefield Area Interdiction) to CAS (Close Air Support), to TASMO (Tactical Air Support to Maritime Operations) using GPS and Laser-guided bombs, cruise missiles and aerial mines.
Image credit: U.S. Air Force
The long-range, heavy bomber, designed during the Cold War, will keep flying through 2040 although the Air Force’s youngest B-52, Tail No. 1040, the last of 744 Stratofortress planes to be manufactured and delivered to the USAF in 1962, will hit an important milestone this year, when it turns 50 years old.