- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2012


With all due respect to the former secretaries of the Air Force, the number of aerial vehicles should no longer be measured by what is referred to as “aircraft” in the narrow sense used in F. Whitten Peters and Michael W. Wynne’s recent op-ed (“Wanted: New planes,” Web, June 1). Rather, it ought to be measured in the broader context of aerial vehicles to include those remotely piloted as well as the man-in-the-cockpit types.

Given the broader view, the Air Force may still be in a deficit position with respect to the mission it is charged to execute in the interest of our country’s national security. That is surely the concerning issue our former leaders are highlighting, and it is significant.

The Air Force mission has to do with preparation and execution. Whether we are adequately equipped and prepared for that mission is not a matter of arithmetic but more the calculus of innovation, adaptation and application. As a former Air Force programmer, I used to say (along with my colleagues), “When the money runs out, we get to think.” One wonders how much better off we would be if we really thought through the potential of technology within the constraints of a shrinking budget without the political and cultural bias exclusively toward manned cockpits. Could “aircraft piloted remotely” complement and even enhance our capabilities at more reasonable cost levels? Is the Air Force leadership strong enough to take the gloves off and “get at the future” without the cultural imperative of manned cockpits? Finally, can we define ourselves by capabilities instead of the number of aircraft in the narrow context the former secretaries of the Air Force used?

By nature, the Air Force has always been the force of the future. Now that the money is running out, the challenge for our planner will be to become unshackled from arithmetic and get to thinking with a much broader horizon in view.


U.S. Air Force, retired

Charleston, S.C.

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