P-8 Poseidon: Big, turbulent shifts are underway in the U.S. military as those in charge try to rebalance future capability wants against accessible combat capacity today. For instance, a reduction and reshuffling of types are planned across the U.S. Air Force’s tactical jet fleet in the decade to come, and both the U.S. Navy and the Air Force are pivoting to what comes next in terms of tactical airpower in the form of their Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) initiatives. Yet long-range combat aviation is arguably under the most pressure. A new target of building 149 B-21 Raiders is taking shape, held up by the hope that what’s left of the B-1 fleet will stay solvent long enough to be replaced by some of those new stealth bombers. At the same time, the B-52 is slated to soldier on for decades to come, hopefully with new engines, but even that initiative is hitting financial headwinds.
Even if these plans come to fruition, there will still likely be a long-range strike deficit as adversaries enhance their anti-access capabilities. As such, it’s fairly clear that the Department of Defense (DoD), as a whole, isn’t nearly as well equipped as it needs to be today should it get into a shooting match where long-range airpower becomes absolutely essential, such as during a war in the Pacific, and it will likely still struggle to meet demands in the decades to come. Read more