With Christmas getting ever closer, we're working our way through the armed services, figuring out what to get them for Christmas. We've covered the Navy and the Army so far. Now, we take a look at the United States Air Force. Yeah, if you believe the rumors, they already have it all – "five star hotels and per diem out the ass" as Dos Gringos once put it. Even still, they definitely deserve something under the tree.
8. More C-17s and C-5s
Let's face it, there are never enough transport aircraft around — especially ones that can carry a lot of cargo. The United States initially produced the C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft during Vietnam, and then restarted production in the 1980s. It's time to order another batch — and a few more C-17 Globemaster III while we're at it.
A C-5 Galaxy offloads an 81-foot boat for the US Navy at Coronado Naval Base, California. (Photo by SSgt. Angel Gallardo)
7. Faster procurement of KC-46 tankers
The KC-135s are old — no, make that ancient. The plane first flew during the Eisenhower Administration. Worse, the first effort to field a replacement in 2002 got derailed, thanks to Senator John McCain. An Air Force fact sheet notes there are 407 KC-135s in service. A one-for-one replacement with KC-46s sounds like a good start.
Boeing KC-46 Tanker program first test aircraft (EMD1) flies with an aerial refueling boom installed on its fifth flight. (Image from Boeing)
6. New ground-launched cruise missiles
Russia has been cheating on the INF Treaty — the thing is pretty much a dead letter. So, it's time to get the Air Force back into the ground-launched cruise missile business. Heck, maybe they can re-construct the old Gryphon launchers and equip 'em with new Tomahawks until the new cruise missiles come online.
A BGM-109G Gryphon is launched. (Photo from DoD)
5. More strategic bombers
Presently, the Air Force only has 76 B-52s, 62 B-1Bs, and 20 B-2s in service. Now, these are capable planes, but they can be spread very thin very easily. Since Russia is cheating on arms control treaties, America ought to make a lot of strategic bombers. A combination of restarting the B-1B production line to build 240 more, upping the B-21 buy to 295 (the same combined total of B-52G and B-52H production), and building a new version of the FB-111 would fit the bill nicely.
(Photo from USAF)
4. New versions of JSTARS and RIVET on a younger airframe
The RC-135 and E-8 JSTARS have both done well, but the 707 airframe is older than dirt. Fitting these systems on a new airframe would do wonders for reducing maintenance expenses.
RC-135V/W Rivet Joint. (Photo from USAF)
3. More F-22 Raptors
With the growing proliferation of the Su-27/30/33/35 family and fifth-generation fighters developing in Russia and China, the 2009 decision to halt F-22 production at 187 airframes looks more and more like a mistake. To make matters worse, according to an assessment by the Heritage Foundation, a number of F-22s are unavailable due to re-fits.
An F-22 Raptor on the flightline at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania, last year (Photo from USAF)
2. More active fighter squadrons
During Operation Desert Storm, the Air Force had 70 active-duty fighter squadrons. Today, the combined total of active, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve fighter squadrons is 55, of which 32 are active-duty. So, more squadrons should be high on the list.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sean Sweeney)
1. More pilots
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the 77th Fighter Squadron adjusts in his cockpit before takeoff, Oct. 5, 2011, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. Crew chiefs with the 77th FS launched several F-16s to help pilots prepare for real world missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kenny Holston)
What else would you put under the Air Force's Christmas Tree? Let us know in the comments.