Gates Dismisses Fighter Gap

Gates Dismisses Fighter Gap

Yesterday, speaking at the Air Force’s annual convention, Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula warned of the erosion of America’s air dominance as more advanced aircraft and missiles proliferate.

Today, addressing the same audience, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the notion of a “fighter gap” is nonsense. Instead, the “more compelling gap” is the “deep chasm” that exists between ever more capable U.S. aircraft and that of other nations that will ensure U.S. air supremacy “far into the future.”

The U.S. air fleet is projected to have more than 1,000 F-22s and F-35s before China even fields a fully operational fight-generation fighter, Gates said, and that lead will only grow well into the 2020s. DoD will spend $6.5 billion on upgrades to the F-22 fleet over the next few years so the advanced fighter will be “fully mission-capable.” He said the objective is to equip the first F-35 training squadron by 2011 and achieve initial operating capability for the Marines and Air Force in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

The alleged fighter gap is based on “dated” assumptions about requirements and risk. “The definition of the requirement should be un-tethered from the current force structure and instead be defined by what I needed to defeat potential adversaries in plausible scenarios,” he said. That is an allusion to the two major war force planning construct that has long been used by the services to justify maintaining certain force levels. The QDR is expected to do away with that construct and replace it with one that envisions fighting a single major conventional war while simultaneously waging one or more irregular wars.

Gates said the disparity between U.S. airpower and that of other nations is even greater when pilot quality and logistics support are factored in. “Last year the U.S. Air Force devoted one and a half million hours to flight training — not counting ongoing operations — and conducted roughly 35,000 aerial refueling missions. The Russian Air Force, by comparison, conducted some 30 refueling sorties.”

There was a point of agreement on future threats between Deptula and the SecDef. Gates warned of the “anti-access” challenge posed by Chinese investments in anti-satellite weapons, ballistic missiles, anti-air and anti-ship weaponry. China’s weapons modernization “could threaten” U.S. power projection in the Pacific by putting forward air bases and carrier strike groups at risk.

With China, “we should be concerned less with their potential ability to challenge the U.S. symmetrically — fighter to fighter or ship to ship — and more with their ability to disrupt our freedom of movement and narrow our strategic options,” Gates said.

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I especially appreciate his last statement about China. We’ve proven in the last 20 years that we can wipe the map with anyone head to head. So what do they do? Something simpler and lower tech to get around our advantages. Its a hell of a lot cheaper to keep a carrier from crossing the pacific than it is to duel with all the planes on board, or to screw with our satellites and computers.

“and more with their ability to disrupt our freedom of movement and narrow our strategic options,” Gates said.

And, of course, Chicomm airpower will have nothing whatsoever to do with that.

Gates bowing to osbama political objectives to ignore the military has become an embarrassment and is downright dangerous. I do not understand why Gates stayed on other than perhaps he enjoys the cocktail circuit…

Ah, the truth shall set ye free. Bravo Sir, BRAVO! It’s a great day to be an American.

(SLUMP).….wha?! Huh? Oh, sorry passed out, someone who works at the Pentagon telling the truth and my brain’s propoganda defense mechanisms didn’t know what to do so they just powered me down.…


What a load of nonsense.Growing gap in capability? We don’t know what the Chinese are working on and upgraded Flanker series aircraft outclass our non-upgraded F-15s. Things could change rapidly in the next 20 years and we must be prepared for that. Plus the PAK-FA is still in development and advanced SAM systems are being sold everywhere.

The F-35 should not be viewed as a replacement for F-15s. Only F-16s, “regular” Hornets, and our Harriers. Unless current plans change the first production batch of F-35s will only be able to carry four AIM-120s internally anyway. And they really need the AIM-9X once the enemy gets close, considering they don’t possess the super-maneuverability of aircraft with TVC.

The man would probably integrate them back into the Army if he could.

Simply put all of the money the AF wants to spend hundreds on “5th generation” fighters is a waste, since the numbers we will have under lower plans will be more than enough to deal with current or potential aggressors.
Of course, soon enough in this thread, if not already, we will see fantastical claims of capabilities that the Chinese and the Russians will soon have of whole fleets by the hundreds or thousands of 5th gen aircraft. Of course, their 5th gen aircraft are necessarily a LOT cheaper than ours, otherwise we wouldn’t have to worry about these magical fleets of hundreds and thousands of Russian 5th gen planes. Which means of course, that as has been the case, companies like Lockheed and Northrup, and their enablers in the USAF are soaking the taxpayers for overpriced aircraft that are useless in today’s fight and will be obsolete before the next fight without hundreds of billions of dollars more thrown down the rabbit hole.

Two different discussion about the fighter gap. The fighter gap against peer competitors isn’t there in the near term, and few are arguing anything else.
The Navy fighter gap is quite real with the CBO reporting a shortage of 243 aircraft by 2018 due to the delays of JSF (As reported on DODBuzz in May). Even with a significant reduction in the number of CVNs as well as an on schedule JSF from here on out the fighter gap will still exist. The options to remedy this gap is to extend the service life of the F/A-18s, buy more F/A-18s, or accept a reduced operational capability from 2013–2022.

Soonergrunt you couldn’t be any more wrong. That money is not a waste and the numbers are not enough according to USAF requirements. 390 Raptors was their minimum in order to maintain a decisive advantage over any enemy in the next decades.

Cutting the overall size of the force as is being done in the Navy by reducing the number of carriers is not the right solution to their fighter gap, nor the solution to anything. The F-22 and F-35 are by no means obsolete. Drain on the taxpayer? Look at areas other than defense and you will see much worse.

Cutting overall numbers and canceling key programs when no alternatives offering the same level of capability are available is NOT defense reform. Getting more for our money should not mean getting less new equipment, and should not justify an overall reduction in funding to the military.

Ya know it does make sense. Everyone raises the SU-27 series as an imminent threat but the US has almost as many F-22’s as their are SU’s in service worldwide. Add into the fact the networked way that the US fights, and this fighter gap is beginning to sound like nonsense. One thing I always like to point to is the fact that by itself the USAF is more powerful than the rest of NATO combined. Add the Navy/USMC to the mix and it gets ridiculous. Same goes for China. Spend money on ground forces.

I wouldn’t mind so much if I had any faith that the corrupt traitor Obama would keep up the R&D funds while we enjoy this modernization holiday. After 5–10 years of watching Obama payoff his corrupt fellow travelers I expect America to wake up and reconstitute. Sadly, Obama is also gutting R&D as he sells off the seedcorn for more union bribe money. What a disgraceful weasel.


I have been writing a piece about the numbers of aircraft built since WWII and this is from my research.

According to Wikipedia, and Defense Magazine, and Aviation Week & Space Technology ( Yes, the older magazine only publication ) these are the production numbers of late model MIGs and Sukhoi fighter interceptor aircraft.

Sukhoi-27…680 (initial order plus 16 variants)
Su-30 MKIs (Indian variants)…140
Sukhoi 30 variants…50

Of course this does not include the intangibles like training and force projection and as someone earlier mentioned “networked” battle management systems.

It also does not include the quality control problems plaguing the Fulcrums.

It just means that there are large numbers of “aggressor” aircraft to consider.

It also doesn’t include one of the biggest factors in determining the outcome of air combat, the missiles themselves. Advanced air to air missiles can more than makeup for some of the shortcomings of the platforms they are fired from.


Daniel Russ

Russ, not valid…

Many of the Mig-29’s and SU-27 are already out of service due to different issues. Ukraine is recently on record as having to deactivate the majority of its force and at the breakup of the Soviet Union it had the biggest air force in Europe. Most of the SU-30 variants are split between the Indians and Chinese with the Russians having a few. The SU-35 is yet to enter production.

I fear that in future conflicts there will be pilot losses that would have been preventable by superior aircraft. Yet the government will just have to tell the families of those lost that 5th generation aircraft were “too expensive” for their tastes.

Gates reminds me of Robert Strange McNamara and the “Wiz Kids”. He has all the answers even if they don’t make any sense.

The ANG is quickly running out of aircraft with no plan to fix it (even with F-35), they Navy will be 200+ short by 2017, the USAF shortfall is 600+. Most of the F-35s Gates refers to will be LRIP aircraft without full funtionality, and with very limited weapons clearance. These test aircraft basically are operationally obsolete and used for training purposes only. So the gap is actually bigger.

And now that he has nice compliant Air Force leadership, it’s probably up to the Navy to pick up the ball where it is being dropped (but I wouldn’t bet on it).


Fair enough.

But add to the numbers 370 upgraded MIG-31 Foxhounds.

Daniel Russ


The featured planes in the video on your landing page are tagged as the Eurofighter. I believe the aircraft in this video are Mirage 2000s.

Am I wrong?


Daniel Russ


Why not? The families of my men on the ground had to hear that for years. “Sorry, the lives of those troops weren’t worth a replacement for a humvee with scrap iron doors.”

When in our history did it become okay to lose 20 soldiers a week but losing a single pilot once or twice a year is a national tragedy?

Gates is a liar!

The fighter gap is VERY real. We do not have enough aircraft TODAY to fulfill our all our commitments and the GAP between how many aircraft we need to be able to do so & how many we have is WIDENING every year.

We won’t have 1,000 F-22 & F-35s until 2021 (assuming the current F-35 delivery schedule does not slip). And even then those F-22s & F-35s will be spead across several squadrons fulfilling several comitments, not to mention that at any given time ~1/4 of each will not be available.

The F-22 & F-35 are BOTH needed in order to maintain our technical advantage. Our legacy F-15s, F-16s & F/A-18s have already been surpassed by threat fighters.

And the numbers have NOTHING to do with fighting Russia or China!

TB once we got past the bureaucracy production on armored HMMWVs and later MRAPs was ramped up fast, as were Strykers. The Army had a limited budget to work with before the war (as did all branches) so HMMWV development wasn’t the top priority.

Besides for the bureaucracy involved, Army leaders wanted to maintain a very high level of mobility and were thus resistant to the idea of such a large number of armored HMMWVs and MRAPs at first. They must consider future conflicts into their planning as well. Luckily the M-ATV, newer model HMMWVs like the M1151 and M1152, and eventually the JLTV will should provide a good compromise between mobility and protection, when it comes to our such general-purpose vehicles.

The statements from the SecDef gates indicate a renewed sense of urgency in recaptilizing the US nuclear deterrent forces (Air Force and Navy). The Air Force nuclear forces have been in dissarray for a long time (the fall of the wall meant no enemy to fight)! The US Navy has decommissioned or redesignated many Ohio class ballistic missile submarines. These assets are STRATEGIC OPTIONS, not tactical forces. The SecDef may be alluding to an infusion of cash to these forces to modernize and upgrade. The elimination of the land based missile defense system could mean an offensive capability is now the main deterrent.

pfcem — what are you talking about?! What type of “threat aircraft” do you think has “surpassed” our current inventory??

Winning in the air isn’t just about statitics and numbers, it’s about pilot training, missile systems, avionics, targeting systems, etc. Working in the field I can tell you we’re WAY ahead of any of the “threats” you’re citing.

For those of you that agree with Gates; ask yourselves how this Politician knows better then the Air Force what is needed. Politicians knew there were WMDs, in Iraq, right? All the posers here are attempting to confuse these issues

A: If there’s a “deep chasm” TODAY, then why are we still continuing F-35? Shouldn’t we ditch F-35 and just buy more F-16 and F-15?

B: “The U.S. air fleet is projected to have more than 1,000 F-22s and F-35s before China even fields a fully operational fight-generation fighter, Gates said…”

Oh, give me a DAMN break. I see now that we’re conflating F-22 and F-35 to hide the fact that less than one-fifth of that 1000-a/c fleet are actually F-22. Or maybe Gates is suggesting that the F-35 is the exact equivalent of an F-22? (Although I’m sure that will be the spin we see in a few months when the F-35 buy gets cut.)

Good Morning Folks,

It looks like Lt. General Deptula can see $ million in post military income based on his insider influence at the dod evaporating into thin air, breaks my heat.

The only thing I disagree with Sec. Gates on is China developing an aircraft carrier and battle group. Sec. Gates don’t listen to you Admirals but read some of the current literature on China’s military industrial complex. The consensus on China obtaining an aircraft carrier this century is to by one. The only country to have an inventory of used super carriers is the United States and it is unlikely that the Hawk, Sara, Commie, Ranger, Indy, JFK or any other moth balled U.S. super carrier will be sold to China or anyone else.

Byron Skinner

Of course no one can say whey we or China want war, except the Cold war loonies who think all foreigners are evil. A bigger problem is that China is indirectly funding our high rates of military spending, the highest since the end of WW II.

I love Gates. Very glad he stayed on because there aren’t enough people with his dedication to the well being of our country no matter what.

It would be difficult for the US to have a shooting war with our biggest trading partner, and one that owns almost 60% of our bonds (meaning, they own most of “money” that we print to pay our mortgages).

Also, it would destroy their economy as well.

In fact they could wreak much more havoc and damage on us just by deciding over a month’s time to trade in Euros versus dollars. It would hurt them certainly, but it would also finish off what last year’s speculative bubble almost did to the value of a dollar.

A decade ago, when an EP-3 Aries maritime patrol plane impacted with a J-8 Finback interceptor, it did not precipitate a war. Why? Because China needs us to buy their goods and we need them to manufacture them.


Daniel Russ

U.S. military is now completely dependant upon the smooth functioning of command and control networks and satellite relays. Good luck with that.

Gates is being just, too, nice to a used car salesman: Deptula.
The AF has always beeing hawking high tech (and coutnry club life style) over the grunts.

AF may have had a pint, during the Cold War: but thank God neither side ever had to really get off their asses.

Good thing, Gates has figured it out, even if Deptula hasn’t.

Asemmtric warfare is a real boots ont eh gournd kind of thing, and the only air support that has ever proven effective is rotary wing, which we already don’t have enough of.

Not unless Osama has a fleet of Migs we don’t know about.

Is that persen in the plane nakid.

Gates has figured it out? His idea of one airframe for all roles is just as bad as McNamara’s F-111. Deptula knows what the USAF needs and isn’t going to shut up just because of the new administrations view towards the military.

Rotary wing aircraft are not the only sort of effective CAS. Look at the success of the A-10 for example. Faster aircraft can be used to deliver effective precision guided support too, the problem is target identification which can be further improved through various ways.

His idea of one airframe for all roles is just as bad as McNamara’s F-111.

Recon, having the F-35 replace the whole fleet was dreamed up long before Gates came on board.

Are all of you talking about the same subject? There appears to be two discussions going on here. One reasonable discussion providing facts and discourse, and another bellicose expression of disdain for President Obama and anything associated with his being. Frankly, I believe the latter presenters need to keep their comments within there ideological discussions at the Legion bar where it belongs.

Throw the number around. Show that the USAF does not need new fighters. And mean while, while you are throwing around the numbers, why don’t you throw around some numbers of aging, and falling apart aircraft due to the over use, and lack of maintenance? And, while you are still at that, lets take a look at what China is making, Iran is making, and Russia is making, and lets think again about those numbers.

But in Danielruss’s and soonergrunts case, they are so enthralled with numbers, they are both blind and ignorant to future air threats, and lost capability that will never be replaced, like the capability and dominance we have now.

True, the USA out matches all peer advisories, But will the USA outmatch the same peer countries tomorrow? Not likely. And when we send in those C-17s in full of soldiers to take the next hostile airfield, the question should be asked by all those peace fools like danny boy and sooner guy is do we have the aircraft to escort those planes in so those planes do not get shot down on their way to drop those soldiers. Not quote the obsolete numbers on paper.

My question for Robert Gates, and the Obamamessiah is, can we try you idiots for treason for endangering lives of the people in the country because of the over frugality of defense spending?

gimletfirsttofight:I support a strong defense but we are talking about sexy fighters and we are forgetting not so sexy but necessary items like satellites ‚jammers,and a lot of accessories that we are actually missing only in the AF,not talking about things like nuclear warheads replacements,next generation SSNB,and others.All our society are under the myth of the Battle of England (me too),but reading another people I am asking myself ;We really need that fighters or we need more other things?I am not trying to tell you wrong ‚i am only asking.

Sure the Chinese and Russian fighters are cheaper, but the American engineers and combat system designers whose labour makes up a major part of the non recurring effort of defence projects is not comparable. No Chinese or Russian engineer makes the same salary as an American engineer. So who’s getting better bang for their buck? Cheaper does not always mean inferior! That said the F-22 is in a class of its own (even considering the huge costs), are the decision makers who axe the F-22 thinking “what value do I put on the winning?” is the bullet more valuable than the target?

What about this;
Scenario 1 — if an outlaw in the Wild West had a bounty of $10,000 and it was guaranteed to cost you $20,000 to claim, would you try to catch him? — Even if you were guaranteed success.
Scenario 2 — same outlaw and bounty, but this time it would cost you $2500 to claim and you had 85% chance of claiming it. Would you try to catch him now?

Scenario 1 — 2000 F-22’s
Scenario 2 — 187 F-22’s and F-35’s mix as planned

Just my thoughts?!?

Remember boys, Peace through Superior Firepower. The F-22, F-35, and NGB are all part of that. We should be letting USAF leaders decide what numbers of those they need, not damn politicians. We should make sure the USAF doesn’t try to remove attack aircraft like the A-10, yet we shouldn’t try and determine what numbers of F-22s and F-35s they need.

And saying “we cannot afford it” is no excuse to halting F-22 production. We can certainly afford it! The government has been spending billions on far less useful “stimulus” projects, so if they need to add less than $2 billion to the defense budget in order to maintain low rate production of the F-22, so be it.

Fixing the procurement mess we have does not mean halting production of things we need for potential future conflicts. It means getting all of the things we need (which includes new fighters, bombers, and ships) at lower prices, without sacrificing capability.

Actually we need the F-35 more than ever without sufficient numbers of F-22s. 4th generation aircraft no longer cut it against opponents armed with advanced 4.5 generation Flanker and Fulcrum variants.

Two things here. Fighter gap that Gates is referring to, and I agree, is capability. We are far out in front. We do not need the costly F-35 with it’s PBL that will not work.

The GAP is the number of aircraft . Legacy F-18’s are nearing a limit that has been raised many times. How do we know when it’s too many flight hours? AirFforce proved it with the F-15, fly till the wings come off in flight and pull back a couple hours.

Jim, I’m sorry I didn’t read your post. But after your opening comment, about Obama, I realized anything you had to say would be totally meaningless. I do want to thank you for showing us how ignorant you are, at the very beginnig of your post, so we don’t have to waste time reading your drivel.

Jim, I’m sorry I didn’t read your post. But after your opening comment, about Obama, I realized anything you had to say would be totally meaningless. I do want to thank you for showing us how ignorant you are, at the very beginnig of your post, so we don’t have to waste time reading your drivel.

Seriously? The Mig-31 is a modern fighter in your estimation? You’re completely out of your mind. It’s an avionics upgraded suite stuck into the antiquated MiG-25 airframe. It’s a pure interceptor left over from the pre-ICBM days when catching nuclear bombers was the big thing.


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