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Maintaining Military Air Superiority

May 22, 2007
Op-Ed and Speech

In 1938 domestic needs were great in America. The New Deal was failing and the Depression had deepened. Against that competition, the P-51 fighter plane was considered so insignificant and so costly it was not funded that year. Then came the war.

When WWII started, a typical U.S. bombing run averaged a 20 percent casualty rate on our side, to the point that we suspended bombing runs until we could build enough P-51 fighters to accompany them. It took us a long time to obtain superiority over the sky in Europe.

The technology of today has made this world so much smaller and faster that we cannot afford to make the same mistake this country did in 1938. But we are headed down that path. We cannot predict future combat, but decisions we make today impact what kind of military and diplomatic options we'll have years from now.

Our Current Air Fleet is Old

This country has maintained air superiority since the Korean War, but we take it for granted. We now have the oldest fleet in the history of this country. Our newest plane, the F-16, is 30 years old, often older than many pilots who fly it. We have C-130 cargo planes that cannot fly if they actually have any cargo. Some F-15s are so old they are limited as to speed and altitude. We have KC-135s that generals in the field will not accept because the age of the plane makes it impossible to protect. That our Air Force has protected and defended us so well, in light of current equipment, is remarkable and deserving of our thanks.

The Air Force has asked for the ability to recapitalize – to retire over 1,000 excess old planes and put those resources into new technology. This Congress has failed to allow them to do so on many of those planes. We could save billions and have better aircraft.

The World Has Closed the Gap

While we have been playing around in America, others have not been sitting still. The Chinese have increased their military budget 200 percent since 1990. Their Jian-10 is a sleek new fighter aircraft designed to narrow the gap between us and them, to give them numerical compatibility and technical equality to the U.S. Air Force. The Russians have a new Sukov fighter aircraft that they have already fielded which is technologically close to what we have. Even third world countries like India are catching up fast.

We Must Build New and More Fighters

We cannot afford to wait for the future. We must maintain superiority in the air. It is key to our security. This country needs to build the fifth generation of fighters, the F-22, in numbers greater than we've currently authorized. We need to put money directly into the new F-35s, and do it now. The F-35 is our future and the key to our security and air superiority for decades to come. It will be a huge asset for our Air Force, as well as the Navy and Marines.

This country should be producing 200 planes a year. Instead, in our budget for next year, we're scheduled to produce six. We are gambling with the future of this country. We've taken air superiority for granted and are forgetting the lessons of the past. We cannot make the same mistakes we did in 1938. We need to put money into the building of the F-22 and the F-35 for the future of this country, and give our military the resources and equipment they deserve and need to do their job.


This piece by Congressman Rob Bishop appeared in the Ogden Standard Examiner Newspaper in March 2007