The Air Force, today renamed with the bombastic name of the Air and Space Army, has precisely a problem with the devices with which it has to fly through the skies. There are planes that have exceeded their hours of life for a flight with the maximum guarantees and anti-aircraft and electronic warfare capabilities are lacking.

There are different examples that the specialists consulted by La Vanguardia have pointed out. Maritime patrol aircraft, such as the P-3 Orion, are an example of how an air fleet has given everything it could give of itself. Their flight hours have been exhausted in missions abroad such as Operation Atalanta, to fight against piracy in the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean and in which Spain has been involved for years under the umbrella of the European Union.

“The Orions have been decommissioned and it is not believed that there will be a replacement for another four years with the arrival of the C-295, with less capacity than the aircraft they will replace”, explains the professor at the University of Granada, Xavier Jordan.

Other needs of an almost strategic nature are pointed out. Specific aircraft for electronic warfare is another of the shortcomings of the Air Force in the understanding of the experts consulted. These are devices that must comply with certain capacities that allow them to intercept and, where appropriate, interrupt communications, radar, navigation systems, and remote monitoring and control of certain targets.

“Airborne electronic warfare capabilities are clearly needed,” stresses Professor Jordán.

Some of the F-18 fighters are also examples that deserve attention, such as those stationed at the Gando Canary Islands base. The 24 devices that monitor the integrity of the archipelago have reached the limit of their operational life.

Gando’s F-18s need replacement as soon as possible, according to the experts’ criteria, but the first Eurofighters that will initiate such relief will not begin to arrive until 2026. It is not difficult to imagine that the perfect condition of this air squadron is a priority for defense and that its fast response ability (alpha scramble) should be 100% guaranteed.

Especially since the start of the war in Ukraine and following the conclusions drawn from all military spheres, what are known as “war reserves” have become necessary, according to a high-ranking Spanish officer, which could easily even count as with more F-18s and their “maintenance kits.” They are still very versatile fourth-generation aircraft, although they were introduced in the air forces of many countries as early as 1983.

Anti-missile defense is another capacity that must be improved in light of the experience of the war in Ukraine, according to the understanding of the consulted technicians. We must face the fight against hypersonic projectiles like the latest generation Russian ones which, despite the fact that their supposed invincibility has been somewhat compromised after many demolitions in the theater of war, are still a new type of threat.

The so-called electromagnetic pulse weapons continue to be another threat, which explode at a certain height and melt all the electronic circuits in a certain radius, depending on the power of the bomb, which could even have a nuclear charge. This type of weapon also requires a defensive system that the Air Force should take into account in its future plans, according to experts.

The military and technicians consulted also agree on the need to “drone” the Air Force in particular and the Armed Forces in general; both powerful devices are needed at the strategic level as well as much smaller and more manageable ones for infantry units. A senior official consulted by La Vanguardia explains that it would be convenient to study the possibility of creating joint Air and Ground units precisely for the opposite of dronification: multiplying the capacities to fight against the unmanned aircraft of the eventual enemy.

Finally, and to honor the “spatial” addition to the official name of this army, to add to the review of the specialists the fact that it would be necessary to achieve special capacities in the optical and electronic plane and have their own reconnaissance satellites in orbit and not depend on the data generated by some allies.