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Two F-22 Raptors perform a fly-by at Holloman AFB, N.M., Oct. 8, 2011. Air Force photo by SrA. DeAndre Curtiss.

Air Combat Command boss Gen. Hawk Carlisle said of all the challenges facing the Air Force’s core missions, air superiority is the “one I am most worried about,” and one of the reasons why USAF is pressing forward with “Air Superiority 2030.” Innovations from countries such as China, with the J-20 and the PL-15 air-to-air missile and electronic warfare tools, reveal that countries have studiously examined US aerial capabilities since the end of the Cold War and are building both a “capability and capacity advantage for the future,” he said during a March 17 McAleese Associates/Credit Suisse conference in Washington, D.C. To prevent this gap from emerging, USAF must pursue several initiatives, the first being to modernize the F-22 fleet and get avionics and systems to “keep up with the threat.” USAF must also keep some of its fourth generation fleet relevant, which means active electronically scanned radars must find a place in USAF’s investment program in the near future as well as investments in improved air-to-air weaponry. Beyond the near-term, the study will examine a wide-range of problems such as how systems engineering work on air superiority will progress and what manufacturing and technology risks exist some two decades down the road.