Still Waiting for Answers

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), chairman of the air and land forces panel in the House Armed Services Committee, told defense reporters Thursday that he is still concerned about the Air National Guard portion of the Air Force’s “fighter gap.” He said the Air Force still has not answered critical questions about timing between the loss of the Air Guard’s legacy fighters and transition to new fighters needed to cover the air sovereignty alert mission. Abercrombie said he has not received the “exact answer” as to “how long can these planes fly before you’re in a danger period.” However, he acknowledged that Congress needs some “dispassionate understanding” of what’s possible and what would be needed to offset a projected ASA gap. Some have proposed purchasing new, upgraded fourth-generation fighters—the 4.5-generation alternative—to sustain the Air Guard in its ASA mission while it awaits its quota of new 5th-gen fighters. (See below) Abercrombie does not rule that out. In fact, he said, “We may do that too; it’s not necessarily a question of either or, it might be both.” In his view, it’s a policy decision. He said that procurement decisions need to be driven by policy and not shoehorned to fit a prescribed budget.