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August, 1931 U. S. AIR SERVICES 23 Air Defense from the Viewpoint of the Aircraft Industry CHARLES L. LAWRANCE President, Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce of America, Inc. Military experts agree that the recent maneuvers of the Army Air Corps were of tremendous tactical value, but the public may have gained an erroneous impression from them. A flight of 672 planes organized as a division makes quite a showing, and there are doubtless many who witnessed the maneuvers over the various midwest and eastern cities that believe the United States is now in a position to whip the combined air forces of the world should the necessity arise. The fact of the matter is that he country now has a small, although highly efficient, military air arm. At present it is too small to defend the nation properly in time of national emergency. When I say that, I mean that the Air Corps as at present constituted is inadequate to stave off an enemy until the reserve strength of the country could be brought to bear. The United States has never been a warlike nation. We have never believed in maintaining large armed forces in times of peace, but have depended for protection upon our inherent strength, our wealth of man-power, and the rapidity with which many of our large industries can be diverted from peacetime activities to the manufacture of war materials. Consequently, the status of our "key" industries, of which the aircraft industry is one, is of great importance to our national defense. Obviously, I can discuss our air defense only from the viewpoint of the aircraft industry. It may well be, however, that this viewpoint is essential in obtaining a proper perspective to the entire question of national defense, for the state of the aircraft industry is so closely allied with that of that of the national air defense as to be literally impossible. Those who are familiar with the situation know that while commercial aviation is growing, its expansion is slow and costly, and that if our production facilities were limited to the strictly commercial market, our military defenses would be deprived of their source of supply. The aircraft industry is as much dependent at present upon military sales as our military air services are depended on the aircraft industry for their equipment. An aircraft industry based wholly upon commercial demands as the exist today would require from six months to a year before it would become a tangible factor in engineering, production and training in the event of a major emergency. One does not have to be a military expert to appreciate the fact that this lack might precipitate our defeat, or at best prolong the conflict, multiply the casualties and tremendously increase the cost. As the five-year aircraft procurement program of the Army approaches completion, the leaders of the industry are looking with some anxiety toward the future. The minimum requirements of the Air Corps, set up in the Army Air Corps Act of 1926, have not fulfilled without further Congressional action. And although the growth of the industry has been aided materially by purchases of military equipment made thus far, the aircraft manufacturers are not yet in a position to fulfil their trust to the nation. They must have further support from the Government in the form of a continuing procurement program that they may be in a position to produce equipment of the type required and in sufficient numbers to meet the demands that will be made of them should a war occur. Let us examine the development of the Air Corps under the five-year construction program, and its relation to the national defense. It is generally conceded by students of modern warfare that the most important contacts of the land forces in the future will be made by their air components, and that superiority must be gained at the outset. The Air Corps Act does not contemplate that the United States shall gain superiority through sheer force of numbers. Rather it appears to be the intention that we shall have a small, highly trained corps using only the most modern equipment, which necessarily would have to be greatly augmented in the least possible time in case of a national emergency. The Air Corps program called for the acquisition of 1,800 serviceable airplanes by the end of the five-year period, the purchases each year not to exceed one-firth of the total number of craft. It also authorized an increased in the Air Corps personnel to 1,650 regular officers, 550 reserve officers on active duty for periods of one and two years, and 15,000 enlisted men. Though the Air Corps Act became a law in 1926, no appropriations were made by Congress for the first year's increment, so the program actually did not start until July 1, 1927. Appropriations for the purchase of equipment, based on the supposition that the Air Corps, the National guard, and the Reserve were to have a grand total of 1,800 planes at the conclusion of the five-year period, have been made annually since that time. It does not seem logical that this was the intention of the Sixty-Ninth Congress. The act specifically state that the 1,800 craft are to be serviceable airplanes. It goes on to say that the total numbers of airplanes and airships herein authorized shall be exclusive of those awaiting salvage or undergoing experiment or service tests, those authorize by the Secretary of War to be placed in museums and those classified by the Secretary of War as obsolete. From this it would appear that it was not intended that planes undergoing major overhauls or repairs are to be classified as serviceable. Certainly a plane being overhauled is no more useful while it is in the shop that one that is in a museum. Record of the War Department show that an average of 12.5 percent of the total number of Army planes are temporarily grounded at all times. If these planes are to be defined as serviceable, then the air force actually will have only 1,575 heavier-than-air aircraft available for use then the five-year program is completed. Both the Secretary of War and the Judge Advocate General have expressed the opinion in the public press that the
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