The Air Force would be able to implement a no-fly zone over Syria if asked to, and continue the anti-ISIS fight at “pace,” the service’s top civilian said. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, speaking Monday at a Center for a New American Security event in Washington, D.C., said it would be difficult to set up a no-fly zone. But “difficult is what the military does. It will be complex. But, if asked, we will do it as part of the coalition.” There are no plans for a no-fly zone, though some lawmakers and other officials have called for setting one up to help the humanitarian crisis inside Syria. As far back as 2013, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to amend the 2013 defense bill, directing the Defense Secretary to develop plans for implementing a no-fly zone over Syria. There’s also been talk of establishing “safety” or “exclusion” zones, which would be located within Syria but would not cover the entire country. Speaking last year at the G20 summit in Turkey, President Barack Obama said those calling for the no-fly zone are “well meaning,” but said at the time it was not an option for the US. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command, told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing in March that he too opposed a no-fly zone over Syria. However, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said during the third debate this month that she supported instituting an? NFZ over Syria, saying it would “save lives and hasten the end of the conflict.”
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.