Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, having arrived on European soil, praised NATO for its joint efforts in Libya, but said that operation also demonstrated capability gaps that need to be addressed. Speaking Tuesday at the Carnegie Europe Center in Brussels on the eve of his first meeting with NATO defense ministers, Panetta said the Libya engagement highlighted “significant shortages of well-trained specialists, supplies and munitions, aerial refueling tankers, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms.” Without the United States contributing such capabilities, “the Libya operation would not have gotten off the ground or been sustained,” he said. In Afghanistan, continued Panetta, the International Security Assistance Force “still lacks trainers and continues to seek contributions to trust funds established to sustain the Afghan national security forces.” ISR and airlift shortfalls also have “plagued the [Afghanistan] mission since the beginning,” he added. (Panetta’s Carnegie speech transcript) (See also AFPS report by Cheryl Pellerin.)
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.