"The Death of U.S. Airpower," a commentary by Loren Thompson of UPI, reprinted at the Air Force's "Aimpoints" web site.
In reality, the situation isn't quite as dire as Thompson would have you believe. In terms of tactical proficiency, precision strike, ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and quality of personnel, the U.S. Air Force has no peer. But Mr. Thompson is correct in noting that much of the Air Force's fleet of fighters and support aircraft is getting long in the tooth. That means lower mission-capability rates and high maintenance costs, with less money for other programs, such as recapitalization of the aircraft inventory. Naval aviation is experiencing similar problems; with retirement of the F-14 Tomcat (and no replacement for the A-12 program), the Navy has been forced to use the F/A-18 Super Hornet as an "all purpose" platform. Make no mistake; the Hornet is an exceptionally capable jet, but it's still, at heart, a fourth-generation fighter that (like the F-15 and F-16) no longer has a commanding technological edge over potential opponents.
That because the rest of the world has been closing the technology gap, while the U.S. decided against building the Navy's A-12, and slashed the F-22 program. The latest generation of Russian FLANKERs and the European Typhoon (Eurofighter) are just as capable as our F-15s and F-16s; the active-radar missiles they carry are comparable to our AMRAAM. The IR-missiles they carry are better that similar U.S. models. Fortunately for us, the tactics gap is still relatively wide, but there are examples (India comes to mind) of nations that can employ late-model fighters in a highly effective manner. Other countries--including China--may be able to close the gap as well.
The solution, of course, is finding enough money to fund key programs in the Air Force and the Navy aviation community. That's not to say that aircraft or aviation O&M programs should move ahead of funding for ground forces, or their planned expansion. It's a balancing act, something that's proving difficult--even in an era of $500 billion dollar annual defense budgets.