Let’s Talk Cargo Tails

The budgetary wisdom expressed by Robert Gates, who appears certain to become the new defense chief, should encourage those in and out of the Air Force who think the Pentagon has, among other things, shorted the airlift fleet. Just this week, Air Force Reserve Command chief Lt. Gen. John Bradley told a Capitol Hill seminar that he is worried about the nation’s strategic airlift capability. He said both the C-17 and C-5 are very capable, but the Pentagon’s mysteriously derived magic number of C-17 tails (it was 180, but Congress just added 10) is too few, compared to 280 now-retired C-141s. Bradley said, “I worry about not having as many tails when we go to war, so frankly, more airplanes would be helpful.” (Congress has told the Pentagon to redo its mobility study, using the old airlift formula.)