Maintaining order and security across Iraq’s largest province, Anbar, which includes the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, was a difficult task for the Marines of Multi National Force-West several years ago, says Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the unit’s former commander. But the arrival of MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft in late 2007 made a difference in being able to cover the more than 50,000 square miles of desert, Kelly told reporters during a meeting yesterday in Washington, D.C. “I could dominate that place, because I had, frankly, V-22s which are an amazing, amazing capability,” he said and added, “I couldn’t do what I did with just helicopters.” Kelly, who served three tours in Iraq and is now deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif., also said intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance forces were critical in helping to turn the tide in the once-restive Iraqi province. Tracking the insurgent cells that produced and laid improvised explosive devices with overhead assets like F/A-18 Hornets and unmanned aerial vehicles helped to crack the cells, proving more valuable than just striking the insurgents each time they appeared, 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.