After 26 years of continuous combat deployments, major combat operations, and surges, the United States Air Force’s level of readiness is below the hollow force levels of the late 1970s. The effect has been to reduce an Air Force once capable of two simultaneous major regional conflicts to one that could effectively muster a win in one region at the cost of its remaining global combat capability. High-end, fourth-generation fighters, coupled with healthy sortie rates, flying time, and realistic training scenarios, made the latter half of the 1980s a model for readiness. An assessment of today’s Air Force in each of those three areas reveals a marked decline in capability. Senior Air Force leaders need to convey the real level of readiness to Congress and the Trump Administration in a way that will get this service the funding and support that it needs to regain absolute air dominance.
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