USAF Maps Its CourseThe Air Force in midsummer put the finishing touches on a series of “roadmaps” meant to guide its long-range plans, whether they concern development of a new bomber, the revision of airman specialties as the force draws down, or any other significant service initiative.
The expectation was that the roadmaps would be unveiled soon, perhaps as early as this month. Taken together, they will underpin USAF budget plans for years.
The roadmaps are meant to answer the question “How do we—US Air Force and [DOD]—stay in that game and provide the combatant commanders with what they need?” Moseley said. He hopes to speed up the process by which USAF gets new hardware into the field.
Between the two, USAF will identify an investment program with “acceptable risk,” Moseley said.
“We have to somehow lay this in and begin to put money against it,” he said. In turn, the roadmaps will establish what is needed in terms of “basing [and] ... manpower decisions” and define roles for active, Guard, and Reserve forces.
In the specific mission area of space, Moseley said, USAF will take planning guidance directly from US Strategic Command, which has operational control of space systems. The Chief said he has tasked Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of Air Force Space Command, to find out what STRATCOM leadership thinks the service should be doing in various mission areas.
Elder is commander of 8th Air Force, headquartered at Barksdale AFB, La. He was given the job of laying the groundwork for the new command, and, on a June visit to Washington, D.C., he had a bit to say about progress thus far.
In fact, the apparatus is in place and performing the mission already, Elder said. With the filling of some staff slots and designation of a headquarters—expected by summer’s end—the new MAJCOM should be ready to go.
The first priority will be to protect USAF’s systems from enemy information and network attack. This is needed to preserve the Air Force’s existing “asymmetric” advantages in global reach and strike capabilities, Elder said.
“If we have an adversary that can ... take away our domination of cyberspace, then ... for the Air Force it means taking away speed, range, and the flexibility that we offer to the joint force commander.”
Substantial work has been done to identify the schooling and capabilities the Air Force will want from its cyber-warriors, and it has established a clear career path that he believes will be attractive to those skilled in computers, networks, and electrical engineering.
The new command will be set up, to the degree possible, like a weapon system. Operators will not be trained or expected to be able to perform the full range of cyber defense and attacks, but will instead function like “a production line” with interchangeable individuals. They will be “expert on doing their part,” for which they will receive less than six months’ training, and they will expand their repertoire as they mature and gain experience.
Elder said Air Force members must resist hoarding information, which has become hard-to-break habit. The creators of intelligence tend to regard it as “intellectual property” and don’t want to share it.
Elder noted that most nations are involved to some degree in scanning US military networks and looking for weaknesses, naming China as the top threat in this area.
The Spartan ChoiceThe Joint Cargo Aircraft program took a big step in June when the Air Force and Army chose the C-27J Spartan to fill the requirement. However, the program has been a lightning rod for interservice quarrels and may be the catalyst for a fresh shakeout of some roles and missions.
Plans call for production of at least 78 Spartans—24 for the Air Force and 54 for the Army. That may be just the start, though. Army Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Mundt, head of Army aviation, said at a press conference that he would be “surprised” if the ultimate buy was lower than 145 aircraft, split almost evenly between the two services.
The JCA would replace the Army’s old C-23 Sherpa and C-12 Huron light cargo airplanes. For the Air Force, JCA would fill a new niche: supporting ground forces served only by the most rudimentary airstrips, or on missions where the larger C-130 is too big for the job.
The Air Force’s ultimate buy will depend on the results of an intratheater lift analysis, which is to be completed by the end of this year. Moreover, the House 2008 defense authorization bill mandated completion of several lift studies before it would allow JCA production spending.
However, a week after the contract award, Raytheon, whose team offered the nonselected European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. C-295, filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office. The Raytheon team, which also includes CASA North America, did not immediately explain the reason it protested. The GAO should issue a finding before next month as to whether the protest has merit.
The Senate has taken a dim view of the service infighting over the size, mission, and funding of the JCA. In its 2008 authorization bill language, the Senate said it wanted the services to focus on their “core missions,” adding that the Air Force alone should have the duty for fixed-wing airlift.
The C-27J would be a significant new program for the Air National Guard. The Air Force views the aircraft as well suited to domestic disaster relief missions such as those flown after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The aircraft might also restore a flying mission to Guard units that lost one in the last round of base realignments and closures.
“If a country can’t afford the big ... airlifters or even C-130s, the ... C-27 sure seems to be a reasonable way to look at partnering in a mobility game,” Moseley told reporters in June. He has sent out letters to foreign air chiefs suggesting this idea, and Bruce S. Lemkin, deputy undersecretary for international affairs, is hosting a series of meetings with foreign representatives about the idea.
China Plans for Pre-Emption?If China fights a protracted conflict with the US over Taiwan, it would suffer profound economic damage. That may be why China appears to be developing a pre-emptive capability to seize Taiwan in the future, according to the Pentagon.
It is shifting from a military marked by massive numbers of ground troops to “a more modern force with long-range precision strike assets,” and other forces that could enable “military pre-emption (including surprise attack) along its periphery.”
The People’s Liberation Army has collectively made information warfare, computer network attack, and electronic warfare centerpieces of its modernization, openly discussing that these are the tools to offset the “asymmetric” advantages of a well-armed superpower such as the US.
Taking into account China’s advances in submarines, unmanned aircraft, airborne command and control systems, precision guided weapons, and cruise missiles, the Pentagon concluded that the PLA is “generating a greater capacity for military pre-emption.” Its training focuses on “no notice” long-range strike and coordinated air and naval strikes on enemy vessels.
In a Taiwan conflict, the Pentagon said, it would expect an intensive Chinese effort to “to portray third-party intervention as illegitimate under international law.” Beijing has already embarked on a campaign to “shape international opinion in favor of a distorted interpretation” of international laws regarding freedom of navigation. China is trying to extend sovereignty “over the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, the airspace above it, and possibly outer space,” the Defense Department concluded.
Daily Report: The day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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