That’s a good question, and one that two authors at War on the Rocks, one a retired Army general, put bluntly to the Air Force.
The stunning success of the Air Force in dominating its domain since the 1991 Gulf War has created two looming problems for the service leadership: The Air Force no longer has any substantive experience in how to fight and win in a highly contested environment, and its current airmen have never experienced serious losses of people and machines in air combat. The very profession of arms in air combat — “to fly, fight, and win” in Air Force parlance — may be at risk. The Air Force’s immense success resulting from the courage, skill, and technological superiority of American airmen has now perversely made the service much less ready to fight the next big war.
I’m going to say, candidly, right now that the answer is “no,” the Air Force is not ready. They do not have the recent memory, as the Army and Marine Corps do, of sustained combat operations in the face of sometimes heavy casualties.
Conversations this afternoon in the van on the way home, which included two very experienced retired Air Force pilots, reveal that some in the Blue Yonder service understand what the problem is. Yet, many zoomies I run into on a daily basis don’t get it, or if they do they hide it well. Someone wearing that uniform needs to jerk a half-hitch in their collective ass.
What say you?