Orlando, Fla.—Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs Heidi Grant and the air attaches joining her here at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium on Thursday emphasized two themes: the US Air Force will shrink in size, but retain its capability, and this will demand closer and more creative cooperation with allies. “The demand for partnership is growing, not shrinking,” said Grant in her introductory remarks during a panel discussion on partnerships. Col. Bernhard Altersberger, Germany’s air attaché to the United States, said exercising and procurement cooperation are crucial in the coming years, as countries scale back defense investments. Nations must collaborate with capabilities to get forces to crises faster, especially enablers like airlift and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets, he said. The United States and European allies “have to synchronize the defense planning process,” said Altersberger. New approaches to procurement must get past parochial interests in order to succeed, said others on the panel. Col. Anton den Drijver, Dutch air attaché in the United States, said procurement priorities may be prone to nationalist influence, but that equipment interoperability like with F-16s has ensured the effectiveness of NATO allies and the alliance’s partners.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.