Pictured are two F-15A Eagles from the 199th Fighter Squadron of the Hawaii Air National Guard.
An F-15C of the 110th Fighter Squadron of the Missouri Air National Guard fires an AIM-9X Sidewinder over the Gulf of Mexico. The age of F-15As and 'Cs has led to some unforeseen problems, highlighted by an incident in 2002 when an Eagle broke up in flight killing the pilot.
USAF planners have been frustrated in their efforts to free-up resources as they wished to retire 1,000 older aircraft, including the 26-year-old F-117A. However, politicians in Congress did not want to pay for future projects by sacrificing the force level of the current USAF. As a result, the type's retirement has been delayed until December 2008.
One of the most pressing requirements facing the USAF is the renewal of its tanker fleet, especially the KC-135Es. With an average age of 48 years, 41 of these aircraft have already been grounded. A deal was agreed with Boeing in 2001 to lease 100 KC-767s, but this decision was overturned and the way ahead has still not been decided.
Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III is a type that is proving well-suited to the post-Cold War world with it being required to operate into many austere and space limited airfields. This C-17 demonstrates its rough field capabilities at Fort Irwin, California.
Despite the lack of potential enemy next generation fighters being developed that could seriously threaten current US fighters, huge sums of money have, and are, being spent on the F-22 and F-35. The author argues that other areas of the USAF's inventory are in more need of upgrade or replacement.
Stratofortress сумел сохраниться на передовой линии столько лет только благодаря постоянной модернизации. На фотографии - бомбардировщик B-52H, базировавшийся на ВВБ Барксдейл и использовавшийся для испытаний подвесного контейнера Litening, предоставляющего возможности по обзору, сопровождению и подсветке целей.
Boeing's B-52H Stratofortress is a classic example of a long-serving type that is still providing a useful capability to the USAF. Indeed, despite already being 45 years old, the type is scheduled to remain in service until 2040!
USAF C-130E and 'H Hercules are also starting to feel their age with some aircraft having been grounded by centre wing box fatigue problems. Part of the shortfall is being alleviated by deliveries of new C-130Js, though to replace the whole fleet of older Hercules would be extremely expensive. Pictured is a C-130H of the 133rd Airlift Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard.
Some critics point to the Boeing YAL-1A Airborne Laser as a programme that is more technologically advanced than is needed in the post-Cold War world. Such advanced technology takes a long time to develop and certainly does not come cheap.