Anybody have any idea what the U.S. Air Force will look like in 2010?
It's 2008 that matters. After that, we will likely see a whiplash against the 'foreign militarism' (which is to say fruitless pursuit of a
solution for Iraq with no sign of a /serious search for/ UBL).
In terms of force structure, it all depends on how badly the powers that be want to ramrod the F-35 through SDD and into production. If the GAO/CBO
have their way, we won't buy a single airframe until ALL THREE variants have completed service testing. If Congress and the Air Farce are
victorious, we will have the F-35A in service by 2010-2011 and the F-35B and C will cascade on from that (no matter how well or badly they do in
IOTE/OPEVAL) just to maintain critical mass on the production economics.
Should the JSF be cleared for early production, you will see nearly all F-16Cs start to cascade down as active units give their blk.40/.50 to the
Guard and things like CCIP and the Sniper + AGP-68V(9) upgrade program go byebye. The F-22 will also be capped at about 120-150 jets (less the amount
needed for the 'wing fix' anyway). And the Saudis and JASDF will go elsewhere (probably to the Flubber and F-35 respectively) for their new
generation Air Superiority followon.
If that fails to happen (say we cannot use American tax dollars to guarantee overseas pricing and/or someone wakes up in time to prevent VLO from
being whored to the world), then the F-22 may be a production reprieve and actually come closer to the 450 jets, MINIMUM required.
While it is likely that the F-16E will be purchased in small numbers and the USAF will actually begin to OBEY THE LAW which _requires_ 1/3rd of all
strike assets to be _Unmanned_ by 2010.
Of course being lying sacks of excrement interested only in their own golf-cart careers, the Blue Suit Conspiracy has never let anything as minor as
following Congressional mandates effect their budgeting process.
What intrigues me is the state of the F-15C. Once the F-22A enters service, is it gone for good?
Relative to the F-15C upgrade aka 'Golden Eagle'; a lot will depend on how they are used. Homeland Defense is clearly a joke and has been since the
early 1980's. On 9/11, the F-15s came 1150nm south from Otis at sub-Mach, rather lackadaisically while the reality remains that a single PAC-3
battery (where once we had 20 NIKEs) could have likely saved at least the second buildings occupants, no problem.
Similarly, defensive CMD is more about sensor look angles and refined coherency against clutter when searching for ISAR maps but frankly, I don't
think MP-RTIP level technology for an APG-63V(3) is going to be nearly ready in time (Brick-Tile-Button) for a _cheap_ upgrade and as missileers,
it's likely going to be wiser to go with a full buy of AIM-120D and then layer the cross track look into an aerostat (JLENS) or limited F-22 type
force. Even an E-2D with the APS-18 antenna should be easier on the pocket book than a major frontend upgrade of 200-250 Eagles. Frankly, assuming
progress continues to be steady, ATL and THEL will be the driving CM _and_ ATBM defenders by 2015 (dollars per shot plus fast reengage) anyway.
OCA, well, since the mid-90's whenever the call goes out for penetrating air to air, it's always to the Blk.50 Viper community. Smaller baseline
signature plus a working towed decoy, a high speed modem and a suppress-on-contact (HARM) capability just beats Rodan all to pieces for total depth of
engagement sphere and 'hot pursuit' options especially. Though total volume remains less, a recent APG-68 will also equal or better an older
APG-63. I doubt this will get any better with Eagle being in such a state of physical decay (and largely unable to drop IAM as the Raptor can), the
only real question then being whether the F-35 will assume the mantle of _battlespace_ (A2A and DEAD) dominance as a close escort or if the F-16 will
simply leave the old Weasel mission behind to become a 180-220nm HSARM shooter while the stealth assets try to avoid direct terminal threats with
My bet is on the latter.
Lastly, the real power is all in the brass. Golden Eagle was Roche's idea back when everybody still wanted the 380 airframe Raptor purchase. He
knew it wouldn't happen (apparently) but couldn't convince anyone so the update was 'officially not sponsored by the USAF'. 180 jet production
cap later, Mike Moseley is on the stick and it's suddenly an option whose 'roadmap is being finalized'. Aka: Hurry up and wait for a new
administration with a best and worst case solution.
I think that that air defenses are about to take such a monumental jump in lethality (most of it Eurotrash and PRC origined) that even the notion of a
'Shotgun' or HAVCAP close-in conventional escort on the friendly side of a fence or support jammer is going to be highly questionable. That alone
will kill the F-15 as a primary A2A platform. As a strike asset, the advent of small munitions (GBU-38/39 and VSM) will obviate even the F-15E as a
heavyweight interdictor while again, the lack of PDF and HARM capability limits either platforms ability to penetrate to the depth that an F-16 or 18
can penetrate. With similar numbers, from both the Albino and Mudhen sides of the fence, the money just won't be there for an upgrade to be
considered a wise business case by Raytheon or HuNor. If DEWS and high performance autonomous S2A fires come about, cheap UCAVs will have to follow,
no matter what is felt about JSF. And that puts the F-15 in a postion of 'two of everything = twice the loser' on a maintenance tail basis of
supporting a decrepit jet for homeland Anti-Airliner Defense and Expeditionary CMD. Both of which can be done better/cheaper with S2A systems. As
such, I see
GE as a Bombcat equivalent, 'political', Lipstick The Pig move to appease the Ego Drivers until it's too late.