While it’s “the right thing to do” for top Air Force leaders to explore a possible cheap-to-buy-and-operate cost close air support aircraft for “permissive environments,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle isn’t so sure such a program would be a good investment. “I wonder,” Carlisle told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday, whether “in five-seven-ten years … will there be any such thing?” as a “permissive environment.” He said that Russia’s loss of multiple helicopters? in Syria to unsophisticated weapons is an indication of “where we’re going.” State-sponsored terrorists, he said, “have access to state-sponsored weapons,” and a low-tech CAS airplane might arrive just in time to be irrelevant. He also said he “doesn’t have the money to spare from other priorities” at the moment to invest in a new fleet of CAS aircraft, relatively inexpensive though they might be.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.