Two years ago, when I proposed disbanding the Air Force, it nearly got me fired from my job at Aviation Week, which is increasingly a lobby arm of the air service. Turned out I wasn’t alone: there was a similar debate raging in the U.K. military establishment. Now Paul Kane, a former Marine and Harvard fellow, is sounding the same refrain in The New York Times:
[T]he Army, Navy and Marine Corps are at war, but the Air Force is not. This is not the fault of the Air Force: it is simply not structured to be in the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Army, Marine and Navy personnel have borne the brunt of deployments, commonly serving multiple tours, the Air Force’s operational tempo remains comparatively comfortable. In 2007, only about 5 percent of the troops in Iraq were airmen.
Yes, air power is a critical component of America’s arsenal. But the Army, Navy and Marines already maintain air wings within their expeditionary units. The Air Force is increasingly a redundancy in structure and spending.
Update #1: Air Force boss Norton Schwartz responds:
In [Iraq and Afghanistan], 45 airmen have been killed in combat and more than 500 wounded. The Air Force routinely responds rapidly to urgent calls from ground forces in dire circumstances — with the unrivaled combat precision and reliability airmen routinely bring to bear.
Our airmen prove their worth and commitment in distinctive service that prevents war and reduces the cost of conflict in American blood and treasure. We have done so faithfully in every conflict since our inception.
Update #2: “Oh no, not this again,” Bill Sweetman writes over at Ares:
Like others who take the anti-Air Force view, Kane simply ignores difficult issues: Whose job is space launch? Do the Navy and Army retain separate ISR forces? Which service has been responsible for virtually all the endurance UAVs in-theater, and why is that the case?
(Photo: David Axe)