Want more fodder on the danger posed by operating with an increasingly old aircraft fleet, read this May 27 article filed from Iraq by David Wood of the Baltimore Sun. Wood paints a vivid picture of the tenuous state of the Air Force’s aging aircraft fleet, opening with a recap of the flight of a Kennedy-era C-130 that landed with a load of ground troops just as one of its engines flamed out. That’s not all. Earlier in the flight, the aircraft’s flight computer crashed, there was a radar malfunction, the navigator lost audio, and the air conditioning conked out. Wood writes that it’s USAF crews that keep these aircraft flying. However, Wood lays the blame for this antique fleet on “fundamental miscalculations” that forced the Air Force to hold onto older aircraft because newer aircraft cost more than expected. Nowhere does Wood note that it is Congress that has continued to prohibit USAF from retiring its older, increasingly maintenance-costly aircraft.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.