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Dec. 14, 2010—The Air Force is entering into a tough period to budget for future capabilities, especially in the long-range strike realm, since resources are not keeping up with requirements growth, said Lt. Gen. Christopher Miller, the Air Staff’s head of strategic plans and programs.

The service will have to innovate with new and old tools and platforms in its portfolio to meet evolving threats in target scenarios featuring more sophisticated anti-access and area-denial capabilities, he said during the recent Air Force Global Strike Command Technology and Innovation Symposium in Shreveport, La.

Over the past several years, the emphasis with LRS has been on reinvigorating the nuclear mission. However, going forward, the Air Force is approaching LRS from a "mainly conventional perspective," said Miller. That's a bit of a new approach for a service historically rooted in long-range nuclear deterrence, he noted.

"Getting the balance right . . . so we end up with a competent, fully resourced family of systems is something my team is focused on," he said.

That LRS family-of-systems concept will marry together many Air Force capabilities spread out across a variety of systems, said Miller. Airmen must think critically about how to put all of these elements together to generate the "maximum effect," he said.

The family-of-systems portfolio must possess range and payload to overcome tough anti-access environments and target sets, but also retain the ability to persist in a denied environment in order to have a weapons effect in a "timely fashion," he said.

This means that payloads must be mixed and flexible enough to engage time-sensitive targets when needed, said Miller. Also critical to success will be the ability to conduct "persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in a denied environment," he noted.

The family of systems must also be able to degrade enemy integrated air defenses, particularly with standoff weapons if the environment is too risky, he said.

If an adversary has the ability to hide key targets, then any LRS capability is crippled, said Miller.

In a strategic sense, LRS capabilities must also be visible, since visibility is critical to conventional deterrence, just as it is for nuclear deterrence. That way, potential adversaries "know we can hold targets at risk," explained Miller.

As for a future bomber component of the LRS family, Miller said the Air Force will apply an approach that gradually evolves and develops new capabilities and operations concepts for the platform.

Indeed, any future LRS system must be "adaptable and flexible," said Miller. He added, "Notice I did not say it must be explicitly capable or that it must be fielded from day one with every capability we could imagine it will need."

"We must ask only what we need," he continued. But when it comes to certain components, the engineers will literally say they have to be gold plated, so there, "we can't cut corners," he said.

Miller noted that the B-1B and B-52H bombers evolved in this same manner. They were fielded with "substantial but incomplete capabilities," but have undergone tremendous modification over the years to meet evolving threats and tasks, he said.

For example, "I never saw a conventional bomb or a conventional bomb rack on the B-1," said Miller, discussing his time years back at McConnell AFB, Kan., a former B-1 base. Back then, the B-1's mission was nuclear strike.

Today, B-1s are conventional only platforms, used extensively in Southwest Asia in armed overwatch and close air support roles, he said.

"An intentional approach to being able to upgrade and maintain our platforms over a very long time is an essential part about how we think about a family of [strike] systems," said Miller, who spoke Nov. 16.

(For more on the future LRS platform, see The Bomber Question from the December issue of Air Force Magazine.)