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Air Force faces turbulent times

July 21, 2014

Demand for Air Force spy planes, fighters and bombers from Eastern Europe to the Far East is spiking, and top generals say they’re scrambling to meet commanders’ needs as they struggle with shrinking budgets and keeping old planes flying.

Juggling those tasks comes as Air Force brass seek to move beyond the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and establish their service as the Pentagon’s preeminent player. But some analysts believe the military would be better served if the Air Force focused on helping other services fight.

“Their primary role in the nation’s defense is actually not about air-to-air combat in sexy fighter planes,” Janine Davidson, a military analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations and former Air Force pilot and Pentagon official, said in an e-mail. Instead, the Air Force should focus on tasks that help troops fight on the ground: spy planes, drones, medical evacuations, space and cyberwarfare, airlift and refueling.

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