The reason Gates has no credibility on air power issues is that little of what he states on the subject is true.
So even as I’ve touted the need to incorporate the lessons of the current conflicts, I have also committed the Department of Defense, and this country, to the most advanced and expensive tactical fighter program in history — the $300 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The department is programmed to buy 2,400 of these aircraft, and the first Air Force training aircraft will arrive at Eglin Air Force Base in just over two months. Having a robust, large quantity of fifth generation tactical air fighters is something I view as a core requirement, and in this era of increasing budget constraints, my goal has been to ensure that core capabilities for all the services are protected. This has meant increasing development funding for the F-35, scaling back or cutting other programs that are not as essential, and intervening directly to get the program back on track, on budget, and on schedule.
The F-35 may be the most expensive but so far has not proven that it is the most advanced program except as possibly the most advanced defense disaster in history when it fails. If the full program is funded (unlikely) it won’t be $300 billion. It will be closer to $400 billion if not more. That is just to procure this obsolete-to-modern-threats fighter. The department may plan to buy 2,400 aircraft but it is unlikely to see that many as the program has already entered the classic procurement death spiral. The DOD also planned to procure 100 B-2 bombers and 750 F-22 fighters. . And, the F-35 is not a fifth-generation fighter. The Gates legacy to America’s air power deterrent is that of a person who does not have a grasp of the topic. Air domination will not win most wars. Without it, most wars cannot be won.