One big success secret from our Mideast military adventures is high-altitude precision bombing. The reason for this could be that it makes the existence of hot-shot fighter jockeys much more precarious. Dropping GPS-guided munitions from a B-52 miles up has all the excitement of driving a school bus.
In the late 1990s, technical trends changed the picture. First, satellite guidance from the global positioning system became effective and inexpensive. A bomb called the JDAM was developed that locates itself in three-dimensional space using GPS signals, and continuously corrects its position via satellite guidance as it falls. First dropped in 1999 during the NATO campaign to force the Yugoslavian army out of Kosovo, the JDAM proved almost eerily accurate, reliably striking within about 10 feet of its target. And because JDAMs have no engines—little fins adjust the bomb's position—these munitions aren't expensive by military standards, about $30,000 each. Other advances, like the development of tracking devices that work at high altitude, made bombers even more attractive. Suddenly lumbering, high-altitude bombers could do what only low-flying fighters with crack pilots had been able to accomplish, putting bombs exactly on the aim point. And the bombers could do it much cheaper, with much less risk of being shot down. [More]
And of course, heaven forbid we should build military hardware to fulfill a mission - the real reason for planes is to add jobs in a congressional district.
For my perspective, fighter pilots were tough guys to be around at the Officers Club. They told wild stories in loud voices:
A military pilot called for a priority landing because his single-engine jet fighter was running "a bit peaked." Air Traffic Control told the fighter pilot that he was number two, behind a B-52 that had one engine shut down. "Ah," the fighter pilot remarked, "The dreaded seven-engine approach." [Way too much more air traffic controller humor]
They rippled with manly muscles and thought they were God's gift to women. In fairness, the women tended to agree. All I know is they made us submarine nukes nervous.
Looking back, I probably shouldn't have worn my pocket protector...