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Think tank Report: US Air Force Readiness Hits ‘Very Weak’ Level

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As geopolitical tensions rise, a recent report from a US-based think tank reveals alarming findings about the readiness of the US Air Force.

With capabilities described as “very weak,” concerns loom over the force’s ability to handle potential conflicts with near-peer competitors like China. This article delves into the key issues identified by the Heritage Foundation report and explores the efforts the Air Force is making to address these challenges.

 

Declining Air Force Capabilities: A Cause for Concern

 

The Heritage Foundation’s report, based on 2023 data, highlights a troubling trend of declining Air Force capabilities, earning the lowest rating on the think tank’s scale. Lagging mission-capable rates, inadequate aircrew training, and questionable deployability emerge as critical factors contributing to this decline.

 

Flying Hours Shortage: Impact on Aircrew Preparedness

 

Senior research fellow John Venable points out a significant shortfall in flying time for aircrew preparation. The historical standard of 200 flying hours per year and three sorties per week has not been met, raising concerns about the readiness of Air Force personnel for potential near-peer combat situations.

 

Organizational Challenges: Squadron Consolidation and Staffing Issues

 

Venable emphasizes the need for three Active-Duty squadrons to deploy two forward, highlighting how the Air Force’s consolidation efforts and changes in deployment strategies have led to organizational challenges. The breakdown of the three-squadron wing structure from the Cold War era poses difficulties in meeting staffing requirements.

 

Overall State of Readiness: A Downward Spiral

 

Venable asserts that the Air Force’s overall state of readiness is on a “downward spiral,” leaving no fighter squadron adequately prepared to confront a peer competitor. Despite the force’s awareness of these challenges, the urgency to address them remains paramount.

 

Aging Fleet and Modernization Efforts

 

The article explores the challenges posed by an aging fighter jet inventory, notably the fourth-generation fighters with an average age exceeding 30 years. Efforts to extend the operational life of F-16s and the delayed deployment of F-35As contribute to the complexity of maintaining a robust fleet.

 

Air Force Secretary’s Concerns and Modernization Initiatives

 

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall’s expressed concerns and the comprehensive review initiated in September 2023 are discussed. The introduction of the Force Generation model (AFFORGEN) and plans for creating “Air Task Forces” aim to optimize the Air Force, with ongoing developments expected to be unveiled at the upcoming AFA Warfare Symposium.

 

Future Planning and Long-Term Solutions

 

The article concludes by outlining the Air Force’s long-term planning efforts. Lt. Gen. Richard Moore’s two-phase process involves projecting the force’s needs for the next three decades, addressing priorities outlined by Kendall. This forward-looking approach aims to ensure the Air Force remains capable of meeting evolving threats and surpassing potential adversaries.

 

In summary, the challenges faced by the US Air Force underscore the need for strategic and timely interventions to bolster its readiness and maintain a competitive edge on the global stage.

Saeed Minhas
Saeed Minhas
Saeed Minhas is an accomplished journalist with extensive experience in the field. He has held prominent positions such as Editor at Daily Times and Daily Duniya. Currently, he serves as the Chief Editor (National) at The Think Tank Journal

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