There is no doubt that cuts are needed in many aspects within the Department of Defense, but the Air Force’s move to eliminate all but one single ship demo team is indicative of many of the USAF’s problems today. The “all or nothing” mentality where its the 100% solution or nothing, at the sacrifice of everything else, is a losing strategy when it comes to procurement, and in this case to public outreach. It is understandable that the demo teams need to be thinned down, but eliminating everything but a handful of F-22 demos and the Thunderbirds schedule is throwing the baby out with the bath water. The USAF needs to look at how to creatively do more with less, not much less with less. There is a glaring solution to the USAF’s air show participation woes that will provide minimal impact on the industry or the USAF’s interaction with the people who fund their endeavours, while at the same time offering even more savings. In many ways it will even make the current air show performance lineup more interesting than it was in 2011.
Its simple, transition the Thunderbirds immediately to the T-38 Talon. They operate a squadron of eight jets, switching out their cutting edge (YES! The Thunderbirds fly some of the most advanced Falcons in the fleet, as to why is a total mystery to me!) Block 52+ F-16Cs for the Talon would cut their operating budget relating to flying by at least 1/2! Send the freshly reworked F-16s to the air national guard or reserve for real service. Take a portion of the resulting savings and fund one F-16 Viper demo team and one A-10 Warthog demo team. In the end it would still SAVE MORE than what has already been cut by deleting all the single ship demo teams aside from the F-22.
Having a single demonstration team for each mainline fighter, aside from the F-15, would give a realistic picture of what the USAF is all about and it would be a responsible use of tax dollars. Throwing every dime left into a gold-plated Thuderbirds and F-22 display program is ridiculous. Under my plan the same amount of aircraft types would be displayed, the F-15E being replaced by the T-38 Talon, as before the ACC’s devastating announcement was released. Further, the T-Birds could use the T-38’s to their advantage in many ways. They all have two seats, so incentive rides will be a cost-effective no brainer and type conversion would be non-existent as every pilot who flys with the T-Birds will already be proficient in the T-38.
If the USAF is planning on taking a sledgehammer to it’s budget, metaphorically destroying the house to save a single room, instead of taking a scalpel and creativity carving out efficiencies with as minimal impact as possible, then they are in for a long and brutal road. This rough road will most likely end in a tiny force structure. One that may have highly capable airframes but not enough of them to make a real difference.
Save the demo teams! My plan does just that and will SAVE the tax payer MORE money.
1. ) Transition the Thunderbirds to the T-38, redistribute their F-16s.
2.) Disband one A-10 and one F-16 demonstration team.
3.) Retain the F-22 demonstration team
4.) Disband the F-15E demonstration team
Net loss of demonstration teams under USAF’s plan: 5
Net loss of demonstration teams under my plan: 3
Loss of demonstrated types in inventory currently: 2
Loss of demonstrated types in inventory under my plan: 1.
Wake up USAF, you are getting this one all wrong.
Check this video out. Its from decades ago but is as relevant as ever. Fast forward to about 1:15 and listen to the dialogue!