"Nobody had ever done anything like it before - and pretty much nobody has ever done anything like it since. It's something nobody else has, and it's something on which our allies silently rely."They surely do. Canada does, and even Germany depended on it to get its troops into Afghanistan.
In a world where America may have to operate without friendly bases, military airlift is an important issue. In retrospect, the C-17 was a totally visionary program that may have done more to influence America's military punch than any other weapons system in the last 15 years:
"It's not glamorous," retired Gen. Charles T. Robinson Jr., then head of the U.S. Transportation Command, told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee a little over a year ago. "We don't got bombs. It's just that no bombs get dropped until we act first. Nothing happens until something moves."True enough. But airlift alone won't suffice.
Yes, airlift capability needs to be improved... certainly more than the USA needs the F-22 Raptor fighter, for instance. And Army initiatives like the air-transportable Interim Brigade Combat Teams will help them leverage the airlift advantage even more. But America is fundamentally a maritime power, and the volumes that can be moved via sealift are vastly greater than airlift allows. That's why USMC concepts like "seabasing" and pilot programs like Westpac Express are also critically important in America's evolution toward Expeditionary Warfare.