The aggravation of relations between the US and North Korea revived in the foreign press discussion about the condition of the military air forces of the United States: do Americans planes, pilots and bombs to bomb North Korea in case of war. The brunt of air strikes from the air will fall on the B-1 bombers, B-2 and B-52. Tactical nuclear strikes are also likely at the worst scenario will be performed with aircraft of the U.S. air force as an Intercontinental ballistic missile launches can be perceived by Russia and China as threats to their own safety and aggravate the situation to the limit.
Military Times has published statistics on the state of the bombers. According to the edition of 75 aircraft B-52 33 ready for combat missions, of 62 aircraft B-1 is only 25, and of the 20 aircraft B-2 — only seven or eight ready to just fly.
Former Deputy chief of staff of the reconnaissance aircraft of the U.S. air force, Lieutenant General David Deptula (David Deptula) said that today’s air force is the smallest and most ineffective in the history of the United States and the crisis in relations with the DPRK at least sheds light on it.
B-2, designed to deliver nuclear strikes in January 2017 has been used in a conventional role against ISIS (an organization banned in Russia — approx. ed.) in Libya. The two aircraft were in the air for 34 hours and used 15 refueling air tankers.
But mostly B-2 try not to use to machines that already for 20 years, has not developed a resource and not to distract them from the learning process of the pilots. Of the 20 aircraft B-2 two machines are constantly in for scheduled maintenance, two-car — long-term modernization, one is used for testing. Of the remaining 16 cars, only half ready to fly here and now and, according to the BBC, only four direct combat missions.
On GUAM in 2016 during training missions was based three B-2, but there is only one hangar for a full service B-2. That is, in the event of an attack on North Korea’s nuclear bombers have to fly from their base in Missouri. Today, GUAM is officially no B-2.
As for B-1, based on GUAM just six cars. In July the island hosted a rotation of squadrons, and the statistics proved that the previous unit was able to maintain 74% combat readiness B-1, that is, in the event of an unexpected order from only take off four aircraft. It is worth noting that B-1 no longer has nuclear warheads and their application in the DPRK so it will not irritate Russia and China.
You can also say that from may this year B-1 on GUAM actively do training flights to Korea, including a night where at the site of South Korea fulfills the bombing. In August last year for the first time in the history of GUAM held a joint training flights of all air shock of the Trinity: in the exercise simultaneously took part B-1, B-2 and B-52.
Not everything went smoothly with the pilots. According to the BBC, to 1 October 2017 the military-air forces of the USA will miss one thousand pilots, and maybe more. And the shortage is felt not only among the fighter pilots, but this applies to pilots of bombers.
The BBC believe that the main reason for the outflow and shortage of the best conditions in civil aviation. The air force has offered pilots bonuses up to 35 thousand dollars annually and up to 455 thousand in total for 13 years, but this has not remedied the situation. Another reason is the transfer of the pilots in the unit working with drones. In this direction also there is a shortage of drone operators. In this case the transfer of pilots is carried out in an order that does not like people who used to fly themselves, and not to sit at the remote controls.
In 2015 conducted a survey of why pilots are leaving the U.S. air force. As it turned out — finances are not the only reason. 37% questioned said they do not accept the “additional duties”. These responsibilities (61 additional obligation in the official list) included not only paperwork, but the courses on first aid, online training or, for example, maintenance of websites on the Internet. In 2016, the Pentagon even had to issue a special instruction on the prevention of non-core download drivers.
In July, Boeing published its forecast for the number of required pilots for commercial airlines. According to the projections, by 2036, with growth in the number of aircraft in operation and with the growth of air transportation world will need 637 thousand new pilots. Of them 117 thousand is the need of North America. Today, the drivers quit and retire faster than industry can join new. Civil companies are forced to cut flights and lose money. Therefore, the struggle for military pilots who already have a large number of departures, will escalate and they will be offered the best conditions to stabilize the market. The request will come not only from airlines in the United States, but also from Asian countries who are willing to pay pilots a lot of money.
In this problem, the air force is not limited to just a shortage of pilots. The low percentage of combat-ready bombers is explained by the fact that in addition to the pilots of the U.S. air force does not have enough technicians and staff. Their missing number is estimated at 3,500. Another problem is the age of machinery. The average age of aircraft in the U.S. air force for 28 years. While in commercial aviation, the average is only 10 years old. Military aircraft are aging and fewer people are willing to maintain them in efficient condition.
And finally, rises and trivial question of the sufficiency of bombs and rockets for the war. During recent fighting against ISIS in Syria, Iraq, Libya and against the Taliban in Afghanistan and against terrorists in Somalia and Yemen, Americans spent $ 56 thousand units of high-precision “smart” weapons (ammunition with a laser and infrared-guided, JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), Hellfire missiles, etc.). Over the past three years, these numbers are even higher. In the year of the Pentagon’s overall spending on these types of ammunition about two billion dollars.
Major General U.S. air force James Martin (James Martin) said that the current military campaign cause difficulties in the provision of air force munitions. For 2018, the air force would like to fill more than 39 thousand units of high-precision and smart weapons, and requests the BBC about the urgent need to increase the budget for the purchase of these weapons sound like for at least two years.
And that is without considering possible military action against North Korea. The chief of staff of the air force, the U.S. General mark Welsh (Mark Welsh) warned that the bombs are being spent faster than they buy.
In the end, last year Lockheed Martin announced an increase in the production of Hellfire missiles from 500 to 650 per month and four times increased the production of bombs Paveway II laser-guided. The Boeing company plans to increase production of bombs GBU-39 in the following year five times (from thousands to five thousand). In 2015, Boeing has produced eight million units of JDAM, and in 2018 will produce a minimum of 36 500 units. Arsenals actively replenished and increased, but it is difficult to say whether there is enough current reserves to the campaign against the DPRK.