?Within the factors under its control, airpower is being highly effective in the anti-ISIS fight, said Air Combat Command boss Gen. Hawk Carlisle on Monday. “We’re taking a serious toll on their morale and capability,” said Carlisle at an AFA-sponsored Air Force breakfast in Arlington, Va. Since last fall, there have been “about 4,200 strikes [and] 14,000 weapons have been dropped. We’ve taken about 13,000 enemy fighters off the battlefield … and despite what has been [said], we have regained territory, about 25 percent” of what ISIS had previously held in Iraq, he said. The air action has been “simply the most precise,” with the “lowest civilian casualties in history,” he said. Moreover, although it has not been “highly publicized,” said Carlisle, “we’ve also taken out their cash cows.” Airstrikes have eliminated “about 90 percent” of ISIS-controlled “oil-collection and -refining capacity,” which was its biggest source of income, he said. “We’ve done some significant work” eliminating ISIS’ ability “to finance what they’re trying to do.” All that said, Carlisle asserted that the Iraqi-Syrian battlefield is the “most complicated, most complex” fight ever, and it’s an “extreme” challenge to determine “who’s fighting who, who’s a good guy, and who’s a bad guy.” In fact, he said, more than 50 percent of the time, initial reports identifying an enemy group have been wrong. “Think what would have happened if we’d acted on those first reports,” said Carlisle. Airpower is not the only force at play, though, and must be taken in context of the diplomatic, coalition and “all-of-government” aspects of the conflict, he said. Given those boundaries, “our airpower is doing everything we can do and [airmen are] being amazingly successful,” he said.
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.