6.29 Policy Paper Release: Accelerating 5th-Generation Airpower: Bringing Capability and Capacity to the Merge 

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies invites you to watch our listen to the rollout of our newest policy paper: Accelerating 5th-Generation Airpower: Bringing Capability and Capacity to the Merge by Lt Gen Joseph Guastella, USAF (Ret.), former Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Mitchell Institute Senior Fellow; Douglas Birkey, Mitchell Institute Executive Director; and Eric Gunzinger, former F-35 Program Manager for Flight Simulation Test and Evaluation. Gen Jeffrey Harrigian, USAF (Ret.), former Commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe; Commander, U.S. Air Forces Africa; and Commander, Allied Air Command, also offered remarks.

Today, the United States faces a fighter aviation modernization crisis that, left unchecked, will undermine every facet of joint force operations. The challenge is particularly acute in the U.S. Air Force. The F-35 is a key element necessary to restore capability and capacity to the Air Force’s fighter force, which is now the smallest and oldest in the service’s history. This report assesses the scale and scope of the Air Force fighter capacity challenge and then explores options for resetting the force. The most immediate solution requires fielding F-35s at scale with TR-3 and Block 4 hardware and software upgrades—and we will speak directly to recent challenges in developing these technologies. This report provides recommendations to meet the Air Force’s fighter modernization schedule, performance, and budget targets. Doing so will require a total Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force, and contractor effort—it is not a solution the Air Force can achieve on its own.

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