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Flight after the Cold War


Military Planes after Desert Storm
The B-1 Lancer was a supersonic bombing plane designed to replace the venerable B-52 Stratofortress.
The B-1 Lancer was a supersonic bombing plane designed to replace the venerable B-52 Stratofortress.
Peter M. Bowers Collection

Many of those television sets watching the Persian Gulf War were in the Soviet Union, where both military and political leaders were forced to realize that the U.S.S.R. was no longer in any way competitive with the United States and, in its desperate economic situation, never could be again. This important factor hastened the Soviet Union's breakup and, perhaps more importantly, insured that it was a peaceful one.

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In the aftermath of Desert Storm, the United States did what it has always done -- it demobilized and stopped spending on defense. The three greatest air commands in history, SAC, TAC, and ADC were abolished, and in their place came the Air Mobility Command and Air Combat Command.

In the meantime, there was progress on many fronts, including the introduction of the Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit stealth bomber and the new stealth fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. Nor were foreign manufacturers idle, as France produced the Dassault-Breguet Rafale, Great Britain and Germany the Eurofighter, Israel the Lavi, and Sweden the Saab Gripen. The tilt-rotor Bell/Boeing V-22 Osprey flew, and a wave of huge aircraft company mergers began when Lockheed acquired the General Dynamics Military Aircraft Division and the following year merged with Martin Marietta to become Lockheed Martin.

Unfortunately, wars were not going away, they were going to become what was called "asymmetric," and the unfathomable world of terrorism would become the nemesis of the next decade.

Read about the next chapter in the history of flight in Flight at the End of the 20th Century

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