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The Air Force and Technology

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Lake analyzes the organizational culture of the Air Force and how it thinks about war, resulting in an organization that is focused on acquiring high-performance aircraft that extensively use cutting-edge technology. This chapter explores how the Air Force’s culture, priorities, and ideas about war are expressed through its aircraft, particularly tactical aircraft. By exploring tactical aircraft procurement, with particular attention paid to the F-22A and the F-35 programs, and how the Air Force is incorporating remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs [“drones”]) into the airfleet, Lake shows how the attempt to maintain technological superiority has resulted in an organization very vulnerable to overstretch.

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  • DOI: 10.1057/978-1-349-78681-7_4
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  1. 1.

    The reality is that those numbers overstate aircraft numbers by counting RPAs, (“drones”) as part of the aircraft inventory. While they are literally “aircraft,” for operational purposes a unit of four RPAs is the same as one piloted aircraft, as discussed later in the chapter.

  2. 2.

    The Air Force uses the term “Remotely Piloted Aircraft” to refer to these vehicles, not the more common “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” or popular “drones.”

  3. 3.

    See Chap. 5 for the discussion of the U.S. Navy and technology.

  4. 4.

    While early theorists like Trenchard, Douhet, and Mitchell emphasized the potential of massive attacks to terrorize a population, the Army Air Corps argued that it would become possible to bomb with sufficient precision for the material effects of the attack to become their principle military value, not the terror achieved by indiscriminate bombing.

  5. 5.

    The performance of the new “5th generation” aircraft (the F-22A and F-35) suggests that what makes an aircraft good for air-to-air may be changing (Schuck 2017).

  6. 6.

    This is the ability to sustain supersonic speeds without needing to use afterburners, which previous US fighters needed to break the sound barrier.

  7. 7.

    Currently, the Air Force plans on keeping the B-52s it has because of their capabilities, low costs, and high availability rates.

  8. 8.

    See Chap. 5 for a discussion of Navy aviation.


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Correspondence to Daniel R. Lake .

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Lake, D.R. (2019). The Air Force and Technology. In: The Pursuit of Technological Superiority and the Shrinking American Military. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, New York

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-137-33062-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-349-78681-7

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