Expanded efforts in building the capacity of smaller sized air forces in Central American partner nations is one area that Gen. Douglas Fraser, US Southern Command head, highlighted in his address at AFA’s Air & Space Conference Wednesday. He said these nations could benefit by enhanced capabilities in the following four areas, in descending order of importance: light ISR, light lift, rotary lift, and light attack. Light ISR could be in the form of an aircraft like the MC-12W Liberty or it could be a podded capability, said Fraser. Light lift will be a “key factor” for the nations, maybe in the form of an aircraft like the Cessna Caravan, he noted. Some nations may already possess aircraft in these classes, but they are generally older assets and it’s increasingly hard to get spare parts for them and keep them flying, 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.