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June 7, 2008
Gates ousts Air Force leaders: why?
Did Secretary of Defense Gates kowtow to China? This is not an unreasonable question to ask if you look beyond the immediate rationalizations for the firings of Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley.
The ostensible reasons given for their sudden departures relate to two recent incidents involving nuclear weapons security and safety. Neither of which presented any direct danger of detonation, radiation release, or the loss of a weapon, although the transportation of several warheads on a B-52 over U.S. territory could have result in a "broken arrow" - an accident involving a nuclear weapon - should the plane have crashed enroute. An article published yesterday by the Wall Street Journal states that:
The immediate trigger for the resignations of Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Gen. Michael Moseley, its chief of staff, was the March disclosure that the Air Force had accidentally sent four ballistic-missile fuses to Taiwan 18 months earlier, a discovery that infuriated Chinese officials.When the Chinese became 'infuriated' SecDef Gates became 'livid' and ordered a high-level investigation into the incident that was headed by Navy Adm. Kirkland Donald. Now, there are no admirals in the Air Force, so there was at least some finite probability of inter-service rivalry creeping into the "investigation." And it was the recommendation of Adm. Donald that the top two Air Force officials be canned. How convenient. Convenient for Mr. Gates, who's been trying to find a way around the Air Force's wish to acquire additional F-22 Raptors.
The biggest source of tension has been the Air Force's insistence on buying hundreds of expensive, state-of-the-art F-22 fighter jets, made by Lockheed Martin Corp., despite opposition from Mr. Gates, who has argued that the planes aren't needed for prosecuting America's current wars. The U.S. hasn't deployed F-22s in Iraq or Afghanistan. [...] Advocates of the F-22, which costs at least $140 million apiece, say the U.S. needs to be prepared to fight conventional wars against big powers such as China and Russia. Air Force officials say that, because of the lead time required to build advanced jets, it makes sense to buy them now to ensure they're available when needed. That argument rankles Mr. Gates and his top aides, who have privately belittled it as "next-war-itis."There is nothing in the air today that comes even close to matching the F-22. In terms of stealth, maneuverability, supercruise -- the capacity to fly at 1.5 mach without the use of fuel-guzzling afterburner, an ultra-sophisticated avionics suite, as well as the F-22s capacity to house ordnance internally so as to not degrade its stealthiness, nothing compares. It is a truly on the cutting edge. The U.S. has refused to sell any to the Japanese even though that would lower the per unit price by amortizing the F-22 tooling over a larger number of aircraft. And at one time the complaint was that the generals were always fighting the last war. Now Gates is concerned that they have "next-war-itis." What does he know that we don't?