With the U.S. political culture appearing to have turned decisively against “boots on the ground” in overseas military actions, the future belongs to air power. However, air dominance is not a birthright. Among other things, it requires robust, disciplined investment in new technologies aimed at sustaining command of the air. Since there always seems to be some gadfly in the room claiming drones can do anything, it might be worthwhile for the Air Force to follow a practice the Army embraced after Vietnam and articulate what its Big Five weapons-development programs are to assure future military success. By simplifying the story and constantly repeating it, the service could fashion a protected core of programs that politicians understand need to be funded come hell or high water. The logical candidates for inclusion on any Big Five list include the F-35A fighter, a next-generation tanker, a new heavy bomber, an advanced sensor aircraft, and a new trainer. I have written a commentary on the Air Force’s Big Five programs for Forbes here.
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