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Study Shows Air Force Capacity Limitations in Responding to Potential Future Challenges

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The Rand Corporation said that the U.S. Air Force faces capacity limitations in responding to the potential demands and challenges posed by different future security scenarios.

Researchers from the Rand Corporation described in a report entitled “Is the USAF Flying Force Large Enough?” four hypothetical future scenarios that the Air Force could face, namely: a scenario similar to the Cold War and characterized by a prolonged conflict like the Vietnam War; another Cold War scenario but this time characterized by a short conflict like the Kosovo War; a peace enforcement scenario similar to the one faced by the U.S. in the 1990s; and a scenario in which global counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations is predominant, much like what the U.S. military is facing today.

The Rand Corporation reported that under all four scenarios, the USAF, with its fleet of aircraft from fiscal year 2017, would experience a shortfall in one class of aircraft or another, with the peace enforcement scenario being the “most stressful to capacity.”

In addition, the Rand Corporation found that none of the USAF classes of aircraft performed robustly across all four scenarios, with fighter aircraft coming the closest, performing well in three out of four hypothetical futures.

The researchers went on to note that protracted military operations are a cause of the Air Force’s capacity limitations and recommended that military and political leadership explore “more force structure, develop alternative force presentation models that may more efficiently use existing forces” and become “more aware of the risks and costs of prolonged operations.”