Despite suffering from a chronically underfunded modernization budget, the Air Force is pressing ahead with experimentation on yet another new aircraft. It’s a propeller-driven “light fighter” that could be used to attack irregular forces such as ISIS from so-called permissive airspace, meaning airspace where there are no threats. This is a bad idea, because as the head of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command has said, permissive airspace is becoming a thing of the past. It certainly will be by the time the new plane becomes operational after 2020. Besides, the Air Force already has plenty of planes for supporting friendly forces on the ground engaged in counter-terror or counter-insurgency operations. What it needs is more stealthy fighters that can cope with the growing air threat posed by near-peer adversaries like Russia and China. That’s where the Air Force should be spending its scarce modernization dollars. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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