Image: U.S. Air Force
Peter Layton, War on the Rocks: The Looming Air Superiority Train Wreck
America is on track to lose air supremacy in contingencies involving near-peer air combat. Even as soon as next year, achieving air superiority in a war with China within a politically and operationally effective time frame might be doubtful. In a 2025 war, American aircraft losses are expected to be severe. In a 2030 war, the U.S. Air Force, after assessing currently funded improvement programs, now expects to no longer be able to win the air superiority battle.
This downward progression in U.S. airpower has been matched in terminology. After the Cold War, the buzzword was “air dominance.” In the last decade, “air supremacy” became more common and covered situations when the opposing air force was rendered ineffective. Today, the objective is “air superiority,” when the air threat is manageable at certain times and places. In the words the Air Force uses, we can see the service’s way of thinking about projecting airpower has changed from a period when own aircraft losses were unimaginable to one in which losses would hopefully be limited to an acceptable level. And 15 years hence, meeting even this low bar will be doubtful.
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WNU Editor: The U.S. will be the dominant air power for a long time .... but yes .... if the F-35 is a "lemon" and if countries like Russia and China expand and modernize their air fleets .... that dominance may come to an end sooner rather than later.