It's about one thing - a sneak attack against China. And that's just what the United States Air Force had in mind when it conducted Operation Chimichanga. Wired magazine's military correspondents David Axe and Noah Shachtman described what is on American military planners' minds.
"The first sign of the coming U.S. air raid was when the enemy radar and
air-defense missile sites began exploding. The strikers were Air Force F-22
Raptor stealth fighters, flying unseen and faster than the speed of sound,
50,000 feet over the battlefield. Having emptied their weapons bays of
super-accurate, 250-pound Small Diameter Bombs, the Raptors turned to engage
enemy jet fighters rising in defense of their battered allies on the ground.
"That’s when all hell broke loose. As the Raptors smashed the enemy jets with
Amraam and Sidewinder missiles, nimble Air Force F-16s swooped in to reinforce
the F-22s, launching their own air-to-air missiles and firing guns to add to the
"With enemy defenses collapsing, B-1 bombers struck. Several of the 150-ton,
swing-wing warplanes, having flown 10 hours from their base in South Dakota,
launched radar-evading Jassm cruise missiles that slammed into ground targets,
pulverizing them with their 2,000-pound warheads. Its weapons expended, the
strike force streaked away. Behind it, the enemy’s planes and ground forces lay
in smoking ruin.
"The devastating air strike on April 4 involved real warplanes launching a mix
of real and computer-simulated weapons at mock targets scattered across the U.S.
military’s vast Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex near Fort Yukon, a tiny
former fur trading post, population 583. “Operation
Chimichanga,” as the exercise was reportedly designated, was the first-ever
test of a new Air Force long-range strike team combining upgraded Lockheed
Martin F-22s and Boeing B-1s carrying the latest air-launched munitions, along
with old-school fighters, tankers and radar planes for support.
"China is steadily improving its air defenses. To make sure the bombers can
get through, the Air Force plans to send fully-stealthy warplanes in first. The
Northrop Grumman B-2 stealth bomber is the ideal trailblazer, as it proved over
Libya when three B-2s knocked out the bulk of Libya’s radars, missiles and
airfields in a single pass. But the Air Force possesses just 20 B-2s, only a
handful of which are combat-ready at any moment.
"So the F-22 fills in. With the latest Increment 3.1 upgrade, the F-22s can lob 250-pound,
Boeing-built Small Diameter Bombs at least 60 miles with pinpoint accuracy,
a capability apparently tested out during Operation Chimichanga. The Raptor-bomb
combo “was critical to follow-on forces completing their missions,” F-22
commander Kunkel said.
"But even the F-22 is in short supply. So far only one Alaska-based squadron
has the Increment 3.1 Raptors. When the upgrade is complete, around 150 F-22s
will be able to carry the tiny, precise bomb — still a relatively small force
for taking on potentially thousands of Chinese radars, missiles and jet
fighters. The smaller F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is supposed to give the Air
Force stealth capability in large numbers, but the F-35 is tens
of billions of dollars over-budget and five years behind schedule."
Axe and Shachtman are right, you can't wage much of an air war on China with just 150 F-22s. That's a job that's going to require many hundreds, perhaps even thousands of F-35s. That's what the F-35 is, a stealth light bomber, a purely offensive, first-strike weapon. Air defence of Canada? C'mon, please. There's nothing remotely defensive about the F-35. For the first time in our country's history we're going to be left with a purely offensive, first-strike air force. Maybe that doesn't bother you but it should for it says much about the path of Canada's foreign policy into the next thirty years.