In the 1992 film "Iron Eagle III," a retired U.S. Air Force fighter ace is asked by a buxom South American woman to defend her village against narco-terrorists led by a former Nazi. He does the only logical thing: He rounds up some vintage World War II-era propeller planes, updates them with laser-guided bombs and flies down to teach the bad guys a lesson. It is great to see those beautiful old planes in action, but all the nostalgia in the world cannot rescue a bad idea of a movie.
I thought about this recently when the Air Force announced its plan to explore purchasing 100 "light fighters." The planes must be able to cruise 180 knots for at least five hours on mission, carry at least two 500-pound bombs and operate out of rugged bases in the field. The contenders for the potential contract include propeller planes used by Third World militaries and a converted crop-duster.
Supporters argue that, compared with the modern jets we now use in Afghanistan and Iraq, such light planes could fly closer to the ground at slower speeds, giving a better view of what is happening, as well as be used to train and advise foreign partners’ air forces. It is also a symbolic way for the Air Force to show that it is finally buying into the Pentagon’s focus on current counterinsurgencies. It is a good counter to the criticism the Air Force has taken for seeming only to want to fight the next war, such as with its last purchase, the high-priced stealthy F-22 jet fighter.
Reihan, here’s the next ten years of your style. You’re goddamn right I said it.