A Temporal Future for Air Dominance

Senior Air Force officials, analysts, and others are thinking hard about a concept that has received relatively little scrutiny in recent years: air dominance, or air superiority, and how it will apply in future conflicts. Since the end of the Gulf War, America’s adversaries have had some air capability, but the United States was able to dominate them relatively quickly, Gen. Mike Hostage, head of Air Combat Command, said at a recent talk at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. Looking ahead, however, “if we are in an anti-access/area-denial [environment], that’s not necessarily the case,” said Hostage during the April 11 event. He noted that air superiority would become more “temporal” and not necessarily static. “I will be able to concentrate in that area, provide air dominance in that area,” but will not be able to “own” the airspace as US forces grew accustomed to Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. “I won’t be able to take the current fleet of ISR assets I have . . . park them over an adversary, and stare at them over a period of time,” said Hostage. However, the Air Force will have the ability to deal with denied airspace, and provide combatant commanders with the awareness and tools to conduct operations, he said. (For more coverage of Hostage’s talk, see Readiness and Ranges.)