Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Desert Storm, Plus 20

It is really hard for me to believe, but Saturday, Jan. 16, marks the 20th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm. To me, as a military aviation fan, it seems like yesterday. I remember where I was that day, and I remember coming home to watch the war start on live TV. (CNN was actually a news organization back then).

Volumes have been written over the past two decades about that war and its aftermath. Volumes more will be written concerning this 20th anniversary. From that perspective of military aviation fan, I want to explore how the US's air assets have changed in those two decades.

The euphoria we experienced from the success of Desert Storm gave way to massive military cuts in the mid'90s by the Clinton Administration. Whole categories of military aircraft disappeared from the inventory, many of which were not replaced in either function or number. This past decade saw more cuts, in spite of the aftermath of 9/11. Budget problems coupled with aircraft age saw more mass retirements of airframes. What our nation has in military aviation as we enter 2011 is a tiny fraction of what it was just 2 decades ago.

Here are the aircraft types that have been completely removed from the inventory since the end of the Gulf War:

F-15A/B (air superiority)
F-16A/B (general purpose fighter)

F-111A/D/E/F (long range attack)
EF-111A (electronic warfare)
F-117A (long range attack)
F-4E (general purpose fighter)
F-4G (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses)
RF-4C (manned recon)
KC-135A/D/E/Q (aerial refueling)
EC-135L (command and control)
T-37B (basic training)
T-43A (navigator training)
HH-3H (combat rescue)
B-52G (heavy bombardment)
C-29A (airfield calibration)
C-130E (tactical transport)
AC-130A (aerial gunship)
MC-130E (special operations)
C-141B (heavy transport)
MH-53J (special operations)
SR-71 (strategic recon)

F-14A/B/D (air defense, deep attack)
F-18A/B (general purpose fighter/attack)
A-6E (medium attack)
KA-6D (aerial refueling)
A-7E (light attack)
S-3A/B (anti-submarine, aerial refueling)
P-3B (anti-submarine)
EC-130Q (electronic warfare)
SH-3G/H (combat rescue)
SH-2F (anti-submarine)
EA-3B (electronic warfare)
T-2C (trainer)
TA-4J (advanced trainer)

A-4M (light attack)
A-6E (medium attack)
F-4S (general purpose fighter)
RF-4B (manned recon)
OV-10A/D (observation)
KC-130F (tactical transport/aerial refueling)
AH-1J (attack helicopter)
CH-53A (heavy transport helicopter)

UH-1H/V (general purpose helicopter)
OV-1D (electronic warfare)
OH-58A/C (light general purpose helicopter)

The vast majority of these aicraft have not been replaced, and their capabilities lost to the US military for good.

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