Warplanes: December 18, 2001


One big loser in the Afghan war is the U.S. Air force. The zoomies are mightily upset that the airdales (naval aviators) are getting all the work in "the only war we've got." Even if the USAF had bases in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, there were serious problems in getting the ten tons of fuel and bombs needed for each sortie. Flying it in is unlikely, and the rail connections are long and shabby. You have to use the Russian railroads to get stuff into Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. President Putin of Russia just sacked the Minister of Railways because the lad was under investigation for corruption (that ministry has long been one of the most corrupt, a tradition dating back to Czarist days.) While the air force did do important work with their heavy bombers (B-52s, B-1s and B-2s), and these aircraft dropped over 70 percent of the bombs, most of the aircraft over Afghanistan were navy. This performance will hurt the air force in future budget battles, and help the navy to get more ships, especially a new class of aircraft carriers. The air force is also hurting itself, as it is playing down the performance of the B-1 bomber, which has dropped about a third of the bombs over Afghanistan. The air force wants to retire a third of its B-1s to free up more money to build new F-22 and F-35 fighters. As capable as these new aircraft are, they dont have the range or the carrying capacity of the B-1. The B-1 is expensive to operate, more expensive than the B-52. The B-1 is a hot rod with a lot of expensive electronics. But the remarkable success of heavy bombers dropping new GPS smart bombs makes bombers more valuable than high performance fighters.


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