Mitchell Institute Releases New Study: Arsenal of Airpower

ARLINGTON, Va (February 22, 2018) — The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to announce the release of its latest research study, Arsenal of Airpower: USAF Aircraft Inventory 1950-2016, by Col James C. Ruehrmund, USAF (Ret.) and Dr. Christopher J. Bowie—a new and expanded edition of one of Mitchell’s most popular publications, which focuses on the evolution of the Air Force’s inventory from 1950 to the present.

First published in 2010, Arsenal of Airpower is an authoritative resource on airpower and US Air Force history, collecting data on the service’s Total Active Inventory (TAI) of aircraft going back to 1950, all in one place. The database, as well as key insights and analysis from Ruehrmund and Bowie, will prove a critical resource for policy makers, researchers, academics, and others “concerned with analyzing key trends in the evolving force structure of the world’s most powerful air force,” Mitchell’s Dean, Lt Gen David Deptula, USAF (Ret.), writes in the report’s foreword. In addition to the printed report, the Mitchell Institute has also made the Excel data tables used by the authors available on its website. Mitchell plans to update these figures annually.

Ruehrmund and Bowie note how historical trends in TAI have followed shifts in policy and strategy over the decades, and how these patterns inform future procurement choices. From the early days of the independent Air Force, through the Cold War, and into the “Reagan Buildup” of the 1980s, the force posture trends of the service reveal the inventiveness of past planners when faced with growing costs and limited resources, how “off board” improvements such as refueling and advanced weapons helped improve the effectiveness of USAF’s aircraft over time, and show how the pursuit of new technologies (such as stealth) gave the service the needed margin to maintain operational effectiveness over aircraft service lives. As the 21st century progresses, however, the USAF’s present force structure, primarily obtained during the 1980s, is nearing the end of its life, and the average age of aircraft is continuing to climb upward. By examining how policymakers and planners dealt with similar decision points in the past in this report, the authors note, the Air Force’s current leadership can gain perspective on the choices and options they face.

The Mitchell Institute’s research studies serve as an authoritative avenue for innovative, in-depth, insightful, and effective ideas and solutions for strengthening and enhancing aerospace power’s role in securing America’s interests.

For more information on Mitchell research studies and other publications, contact Mitchell’s Director of Publications Marc V. Schanz at or visit our website, at

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