Airmen will continue to play a critical role that is essential to the joint fight and the Defense Department’s emerging strategy, despite looming budget cuts, said Erin Conaton, Air Force undersecretary. “We are a central part of any high-end, anti-access/area denial fight with our fifth generation fighters, penetrating bombers, and a range of advanced weapons and enabling capability,” she said at AFA’s Air & Space Conference Tuesday. “We maintain two legs of the nation’s nuclear triad. Across the spectrum of conflict, our cyber and space enablers along with our command and control, ISR, legacy fighter and bomber fleets, personnel recovery efforts, and tremendous lift and refueling capabilities, pay dividends for the joint force.” However, there are going to be some serious discussions and tough choices about how to properly balance force structure, modernization, and readiness. And, both government and industry will have to work together to make every dollar count.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.