The Balance of Air Superiority in Europe
A veteran airman on the front line in Europe says we must pursue next generation airpower technology and build even more partnerships to counter future threats.
—Marc V. Schanz
Orlando, February 18, 2010—The introduction of the Russian PAK FA stealth fighter has not fundamentally changed the balance of US air superiority, but defense analysts and observers should not be so quick to pronounce major theater conflict dead in light of the advantages that fifth generation aircraft provide, one of USAF’s combatant commanders told the audience at AFA's Air Warfare Symposium.
Gen. Roger Brady, boss of US Air Forces in Europe, said he knew little of the new fighter’s specifications or if it was a true fifth generation aircraft, but he believes that near peers are pushing into the stealth realm. “What I do know is that they are working on fifth generation technology,” he responded to a query from panel moderator Dr. Rebecca Grant.
(Brady appeared with Gen. Gary North, Pacific Air Forces commander, and Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, on a panel titled "Allies and Adversaries.")
Brady noted that the still-in-development F-35 is not an air superiority fighter such as the F-22, but he said, “What’s important is how we maintain air dominance.” Whether that superiority is achieved through a combination of space, air, and manned and unmanned aircraft, the key is to continue to do research on fifth and sixth generation technology because “other people clearly are.”
The new Russian fighter’s affect on the balance of military power in Europe is not clear. However, he observed that four NATO partners live within lethal range of double digit surface-to-air missiles—and said eight fighter squadrons of legacy fighters won’t do much in the face of that threat.
Brady maintained that this makes coalition building and partnership activities even more important to avoid tensions that could lead to high intensity warfare—not the low end, irregular fights many experts have predicted would be the norm in the future.
In fact, Brady acknowledged that the US and its allies haven’t been very good at predicting what type of conflict they would be going into in the past. He said he has very little confidence that irregular conflicts will be the sole future security challenge.
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