The KC will replace less than half of the current tanker fleet and will leave the Air Force with over aging KCs that still need to be recapitalized. Modernization efforts are also underway for the B The jet was designed in the s, and the current fleet entered service in the s. The FY budget funded the re-engineering of this fleet, and the aircraft will remain in the inventory through The available open-source readiness indicators, coupled with Air Staff responses to direct requests for information, bring clarity and support to that assessment.
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Even though things have improved, there are enough facts and ancillary evidence to conclude that the substance of their statements still applies in Overcoming the effects of previous years of overtasking in low-threat contingency operations, as well as the lack of full-spectrum, high-threat training, is a task that clearly will require many years.
Full-spectrum operations include continued support of counterterrorism CT operations, the seamless conduct of nuclear deterrence operations, and readiness for potential conflict with a near-peer competitor. Taken together, they dictate the number of sorties and flight hours that units have available for aircrew training.
At its height at the close of , that shortfall grew to more than 4, highly skilled aircraft maintainers. By the close of FY , the maintenance shortfall in both manning and qualifications had been reduced significantly, and by the end of FY , the gaps for all four qualification levels had reached or exceeded historical norms, removing maintenance manning as a primary reason for low sortie rates. See Table 6. Another area of concern is pilot manning levels. Although the Air Force stopped breaking the numbers down into Active, Guard, and Reserve numbers, the total pilot shortfall appears to remain at 9 percent.
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In , the Air Force graduated 1, pilots. The projections for forecast increases to 1,, rising to 1, in Those projected numbers rely on a graduation rate of nearly percent for every pilot training class, and the service is already close to that mark. In , the graduation rate was 93 percent; in , it was 98 percent; and in , it was 97 percent. The Air Force is still suffering a pilot shortage, but it has done an excellent job of emphasizing operational manning at the cost of placing experienced fighter pilots at staffs and schools. Operational fighter pilot manning in every major fighter weapons system increased by an average of 8 percent in See Table 7.
While pilot manning levels are improving, those numbers say little about the qualifications of the pilots within those weapons systems. Because squadrons have a mix of experience and talent levels, it will take several years of robust training for any operational fighter squadron to become ready for a high-end fight. The associated training requires sortie rates averaging above three sorties a week or more and flying hours averaging more than hours per year.
Despite having made great strides in sortie production since , the Air Force is still falling short of those thresholds because of its low fighter mission-capable rates. See Table 8. USAF leadership has not increased the flying hour budget for FY because of an assessment that the Air Force is flying at the maximum executable levels.
No matter what the rationale may be, even with robust manpower and funding, flying hours and sortie rates are still short of the levels required for a rapid increase in readiness levels across the fighter force. The sortie rate for the average Air Force fighter pilot was said to have risen to Fighter pilots actually received an average of The average line fighter pilot assigned to a combat-coded operational unit received a healthy rate of See Chart The current state of overall Air Force readiness includes many intangibles, but the things like averages for fighter pilot sortie rates and hours per month that can be measured all point to a readiness level that did not increase markedly between and The first five months of have shown an improvement in both sortie rates and hours, but the same was true in , and flying hours fell to below levels by the end of With that in mind, any assessment of will have to wait until the end of the year.
The classified nature of deployed space assets and their capabilities makes any assessment of this mission area challenging. This array allows the Air Force and its sister services to find, fix, and target virtually any terrestrial or sea-based threat anywhere, anytime. Because of U. Adversaries will capture and hold the initiative by leveraging surprise and every asymmetric advantage that they possess while denying those warfighting elements to their opponents. Since Operation Desert Storm, the world and every American near-peer competitor therein have watched the United States employ satellite-enabled precision targeting to profound effect on the battlefield.
That ability depends almost entirely on the kinetic end of the strike system: precision-guided munitions. China and Russia are investing heavily in ground-based anti-satellite ASAT missiles; orbital ASAT programs that can deliver a kinetic blow; or co-orbital robotic interference to alter signals, mask denial efforts, or even pull adversary satellites out of orbit. Until the Air Force shortens that time span or diversifies its ability to find, fix, and destroy targets with precision, space will remain both a dominant and an incredibly vulnerable domain for the U. Air Force. One of the key elements of combat power in the U.
Air Force is its fleet of fighter aircraft. In responding to major combat engagements since World War II, the Air Force has deployed an average of 28 fighter squadrons, based on an average of 18 aircraft per fighter squadron. That equates to a requirement of active component fighter aircraft to execute one MRC. Based on government force-sizing documents that count fighter aircraft, squadrons, or wings, an average of 55 squadrons aircraft is required to field a force capable of executing two MRCs rounded up to 1, fighter aircraft to simplify the numbers.
This Index looks for 1, active fighter aircraft to account for the 20 percent reserve necessary when considering availability for deployment and the risk of employing percent of fighters at any one time. While the active fighter and bomber assets available would likely prove adequate to fight a single regional conflict, when coupled with the low mission capability rates of those aircraft see Table 10 , the global sourcing needed to field the required combat fighter force assets would leave the rest of the world uncovered.
However, with new F and KC aircraft continuing to roll off their respective production lines, this score is now trending upward. Fighter pilots should receive an average of three or more sorties a week and hours per year to develop the skill sets needed to survive in combat. Whether they can or will be sustained for the length of time it will take to recover from the ongoing readiness shortfall is therefore open to question.
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Although it could eventually win a single major regional contingency in any theater, if the Air Force had to go to war today, its attrition rates would be significantly higher than those sustained by a ready, well-trained force. Download Assessment.
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Vital Interests An Assessment of U. Military Strength. Capacity Fifteen years of trading capacity for readiness funding to further modernization has meant serious reductions in the bottom-line number of available fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift platforms. Download Chart Download Table The force required to fight, fuel, and resupply a war with China across the vast expanse of the Pacific would need to be much larger than the force that was employed in Desert Storm.
Download Table Capability The risk assumed with capacity has placed an ever-growing burden on the capability of Air Force assets. Download Table Another area of concern is pilot manning levels.
Download Table While pilot manning levels are improving, those numbers say little about the qualifications of the pilots within those weapons systems. Download Table Download Chart The average line fighter pilot assigned to a combat-coded operational unit received a healthy rate of Space The classified nature of deployed space assets and their capabilities makes any assessment of this mission area challenging. Scoring the U. Two-MRC Level: 1, fighter aircraft.
This was found to be an important problem during early tests. The FA, like the Have Blue before it, is unstable about all three axes and requires a fly-by-wire system in order to be able to fly at all. The fly-by-wire system is similar to that in the F, and is quadruply redundant.
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There are four independent channels which each control the same function. The signals from each of the channels are constantly being compared with each other, and if one signal is found to differ from the other three, its channel is assumed to have failed and is automatically shutdown. In the unlikely event that all four channels manage to fail at the same time, the aircraft cannot be flown and the pilot would be forced to eject.
Since the aircraft cannot use any sort of radar navigation system, the fly-by-wire system relies on information about airspeed and angle of attack from four individual static pitot probes of diamond section with pyramid-like tips mounted in the extreme nose. Each of the four-sided pitot heads have tiny holes on each facet, and differential readings from each hole provide air speed, pitch and yaw information to the flight control system.
The design of these four nose sensors, plus the requirement that they not produce any unwanted radar reflections, was one of the more difficult engineering problems the Lockheed team had to solve. The FA also differed from the Have Blue in having a weapons bay. Since external hard points for bombs or fuel tanks are taboo for a stealth attack aircraft, all stores must be carried internally. The weapons bay is located in the belly on the centerline. It has two wells, each covered by an inboard-opening door. The outer edges of the weapons bay doors have serrated edges that are designed to reduce the radar reflection from the joint between the doors and the fuselage belly.
The weapons bay can accompany up to pounds of ordinance pounds in each well. The GBU Paveway II laser-guided bomb consists of a special nose and tail section attached to a standard pound Mk 84 high-explosive bomb. The tail section of the bomb consists of a set of folding aerodynamic surfaces which permit the bomb to glide, whereas the nose section includes a laser light seeker, guidance electronics, and control fins. The GBU Paveway III is a more advanced version of the Paveway II with a larger tail surface and a more efficient guidance system which permits it to be used at lower altitudes and at greater distances from the target.
The BLU deep-penetration bomb has a forged casing of hardened steel which permits it to pierce more six feet of reinforced concrete before exploding. When dropped on softer targets, theBLU can bury itself deep into the ground before exploding, destroying its target by sending earthquake-like shock waves rippling through the ground. The FA canal so carry up to two Mark 61 nuclear weapons, although the aircraft does not actually have an assigned nuclear mission. For long-range ferry flights, fuel tanks can be installed in the weapons bays in the place of bombs.
The FA has no air-to-air capability, or at least none that has been announced to the general public. It has no radar, it does not carry an internal cannon, and is not equipped to carry or launch air-to-air missiles.
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The FA can in principle launch an infrared homer, provided the missile can be dropped from an extendable rack so that its seeker could acquire the target before launch. The FA cannot rely on radar for navigation, weapons aiming, or weapons delivery because the transmission of a radar signal would tend to give away the location of the aircraft and hence defeat the whole purpose of stealth. Both systems are built by Texas Instruments. The FLIR is mounted in a recess just ahead of the cockpit front windshield. It is located in a steerable turret containing a dual field of view sensor.
When not in use, the FLIR is rotated degrees to keep prevent debris damaging the sensor. The DLIR sensor system is located in a recess mounted underneath the forward fuselage and to the right of the nose landing gear well. The edges of the recesses are serrated, with fasteners covered with RAM putty. The DLIR is provided with a bore-sighted laser for illuminating the target for attack by laser-guided weapons. The spot size of the laser on the ground is about inches, and the spot is stabilized in position by the IRADS.
This system uses an electrostatically-suspended gyro as the primary means of guidance. As the aircraft approaches the target, the pilot monitors the view presented by the FLIR on the heads-up display screen. When the specific target is identified, the pilot switches to the narrow view on the FLIR, and locks the screen of the display onto the target.