To capture the defense reform debate surrounding the proper application of high technology in military systems, this study focuses on tactical aircraft, an area epitomizing cutting-edge technology. Air combat history is revisited (including the 1991 Persian Gulf War) to confirm, reject, or qualify positions advocating certain technologies in tactical aviation. Emphasis is placed on enduring combat ideas and aircraft design principles. The interaction between mission requirements, inventory composition, and aircraft design is discussed to illustrate the dynamics of constrained choice that enters acquisition decisions. The relevance of reform arguments in the post-Cold War era is assessed, including the impact of political and economic constraints on future force-mix options, the shift from NATO-centered contingencies to Third World Low Intensity Conflict (LIC), and the threat of conventional arms proliferation.